Archive for the ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ Category

Flu Shots in Pregnancy May Increase Autism Risk

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

jamaThe Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study entitled, Association Between Influenza Infection and Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Whispering Down the Lane
Health News from NPR, Fox News, Medscape.com and even the American Academy of Pediatrics echoed each other, claiming the paper offers proof of the flu vaccine’s ‘safety’ when given during pregnancy.

Do these reporters really read the research? I reviewed the same literature, and decided that the title of this post should highlight the opposite position.

Results
1. “…maternal influenza infection during pregnancy was not associated with increased autism risk.”
If a pregnant woman gets the flu, the child is considered safe from the standpoint of developing ASD. This is not necessarily supported by other research (1 , 2, 3, 4), but this finding provides some level of comfort.

2. “There was a suggestion of increased risk of autism spectrum disorders among children whose mothers received an influenza vaccination during their first trimester…”
At the earliest time in gestation, many women may not be aware of a pregnancy, which might be risky, if they receive the ‘shot’. Fudge factor: “…the association was statistically insignificant after adjusting for multiple comparisons, indicating that the finding could be due to chance.”

3. “Our findings do not call for vaccine policy or practice changes but do suggest the need for additional studies.”
Is that explanation supposed to make that make families feel more comfortable about this issue? How about this? One of the principle authors “…received research grant support from GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, Merck, Pfizer, Protein Science, MedImmune, and Novartis.”

Other literature
Research demonstrating effectiveness of the vaccine, especially in the face of a specific epidemic is the principle motivation for the recommendation to vaccinate in pregnancy. The publications from the beginning of this century have demonstrated efficacy and safety for the mother and the baby. Previous studies have also shown an increase in small or preterm infants associated with influenza during pregnancy.

However, there is a lack of research regarding ASD outcome when flu vaccine is administered, and pharmaceutical industry funding is ubiquitous.

The flu shot is not recommended for children under the age of 6 months. It is advocated for pregnant women. So, it’s OK if you are a fetus? The use of acetaminophen for a fever, which is certainly a known complication of ‘shots’, has been identified as a possible contributor to ASD.

Conclusion
Whose interests are being served by the widespread use of these vaccinations? For the very old or infirm, it seems a reasonable option. Concerning the immunocompromised, even if herd immunity could be achieved (~90% vaccinated), that would only cover only a handful of the possible viral pathogens that exist – with new ones popping up every day.

The product generates billions of dollars for the drug makers. Money used to fund studies, such as these, needs to come from completely independent sources.

The present study indicates a slightly increased risk of autism from a flu vaccination given early in pregnancy. Since there is less evidence that the flu, itself, leads to significant developmental disorders, it appears that more information needs to be made available in the face of the modern autism epidemic.

Curcumin for Autism and ADHD

Sunday, November 27th, 2016
Turmeric plant

Turmeric plant

Over the past year, The Child Development Center has been successfully utilizing a natural supplement (Enhansa®) that appears to be improving the health of our patients’ gastrointestinal system, body and mind.

The turmeric plant and its product, curcumin, have been the subject of a number of media reports, lately. How can the preparation help patients with ADHD and ASD?

Turmeric subsoil stems>powder>curcumin molecule

Turmeric subsoil stems>powder>curcumin molecule

What it is
Turmeric is part of the ginger family, mostly known for its role as the main spice in curry. Curcuminoid compounds are utilized to treat a variety of medical conditions; including auto-immunity in the blood, rashes in the skin, problems with the gut, parasites within the body, and disorders of the liver, kidney, and brain.

Why it works
Many doctors ask, “How can one chemical help so many diverse conditions?”
An emerging theme in the practice of modern medicine is the ability of an affected body part to heal itself. Such a belief has been central to other therapeutic sciences for a long time. In that paradigm, natural substances that promote repair are at least as important as medicines that attack a presumed cause.

Turmeric contains curcumin, which possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Given that the compound successfully accomplishes those tasks, improvements in the efficiency and function of any organ throughout the body should be understandable.

How it is administered
Various preparations have been marketed as the ‘best’ formulation; including pills, crushed, with/without taste, and offerings from numerous manufacturers. Powder with black pepper is popular.

Similar to most medications, it is best to go ‘low and slow’. As the patient displays individual tolerance to a given pattern, the dose and/or frequency can be adjusted.

Effects
We have received lots of emails describing a variety of results – mostly positive, some negative, all instructive:
I have noticed great improvements in cognition and language with your suggested supplement. She seems a little more irritable, but the the gains are so good.
-The curcumin has been amazing. Improved language and cognition. Significant improvements.
-He felt warm for two days, but never registered a fever. He is doing amazing in school! He is now sitting with the other kids and doing his seat work. According to the school staff, they have witnessed attempts to talk and word approximations. The ABA therapist visited him at school yesterday, and reported the same. She is extremely pleased with his progress, and we are as well. I’m going to send you a picture.
-Our child reacted well to the turmeric and LDN compound. At first we thought he had a reaction to it, but he was getting sick. We have continued on the path and he seems to be reacting nicely. He is babbling much more and mood has improved…
-This supplement has been amazing so far at 75 mg bid. Her focus and sustained attention and receptive language are much improved and all her therapists across the board have noticed!
-It has been amazing. Improved language and cognition. Significant improvements.

Side Effects
I also wanted to ask, his poop has turned yellowish, it used to be dark brown. Is this normal with the supplements?
Changes in the color of urine and stool are due to the intense yellow color.
Our child was on the product for two days and an intense rash developed around his eyes! I stopped giving it, and it is slowly getting better.
Rashes are the most common side effect, so far. Reducing the dose often improves the problem, but close medical supervision is paramount.

Conclusion
As with all medical interventions, your child should be under the care of an experienced practitioner who can make specific recommendations. It is impossible to test all brands. Patients and problems are so diverse that, generally, doctors stick with the supplements with which we become most familiar.

When given to the appropriate population, with close followup of the clinical course, adding curcumin to the treatment protocol appears safe, and can provide significant improvement for patients with ASD.

cumin

Cumin plant, powder, seeds

By the way
Curcumin is not cumin, which is a different spice that is derived from seeds. Both products are used in curry. They share many similar flavoring and medicinal properties.

 

Autism vs. Insurance

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

insurance4If insurance is a wager to cover the expenses incurred due to some rare, catastrophic event, then health insurance is only a distant cousin. It’s betting how much you will owe hospitals and doctors when you are un-well. For people who will never get sick or injured, medical coverage is unnecessary.

However, for an increasing number of modern families, an autism diagnosis will become a reality. The lifetime costs range from ~$1.5M – $2.5M, or more. Actuaries know this, of course. Presently, and for the foreseeable future, to the extent that is ‘allowed’, coverage will be significantly limited for medical conditions that fall under the ASD banner. It’s the insurance business.

How Not to Cover an Autism Claim
An underlying principle is that, the longer it takes to pay, the more interest is generated on a company’s reserve dollars. Any excuse to deny, therefore, can improve profitability.

Since coverage is provided based on the type of diagnosis, the more specific and verifiable, the less likely likelihood of a disagreement about expected costs. Autism is neither a precise entity, nor can it be confirmed with scientific instruments.

Even the usual and customary therapies, such as ABA, OT, PT, and Speech&Language are disputed. Insurance plans have gone kicking and screaming into paying for those proven services. Plus, the practitioner must possess the credentials that are acceptable to the payor. Barriers are erected at each step along the way.

Getting reimbursed for a proper workup can be difficult. An MRI or EEG may be customary, but not a genetic test or food allergy panel. Successful patient outcomes are not as convincing as university research. Funding for a study on dietary effects on behavior based on laboratory evidence carries little profit motive.

For ASD, the primary on-label medications are very potent and potentially harmful. Due to formulary limitations based on cost, practitioners are even instructed to prescribe a more dangerous drug over others that might be better tolerated. More effective and less expensive supplements are not even considered.

The Folate Example
For over a decade, variations in the genes that propel an important metabolic pathway have been tied to problems in patients with autism. That has not deterred insurers from denying reimbursement to the accepted testing laboratories – and increasing charges for out-of-pocket expense.

Utilizing a relatively inexpensive supplement, a recent study has demonstrated, “…treatment with high-dose folinic acid for 12 weeks resulted in improvement in verbal communication as compared with placebo…”

Not surprisingly, insurance companies refuse to pay for this medicine, either.

Conclusions
Families of patients with ASD already know that they must pay out of pocket for many of the treatments. If they work great, it’s worth it.

As new insurance products take shape, it may be a good opportunity to lobby nascent companies for improved coverage of all autism treatments that show validity. Showing a cost savings matters more to companies that intend to stick with an insured.

Measuring markers of autism, such as folic acid metabolites, for diagnosis and results of treatment, will go a long way toward discovering – and getting reimbursed for – newer interventions.

The role of prevention cannot be overemphasized. Our external and internal environments must be scrutinized. More appropriate standards created and implemented for safe food, air, and water, should reduce the cost of all health insurance.

Pediatricians and Autism

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

“I think that your toddler may have some signs of autism. That’s a complicated subject. I’ll give you a referral for…”

Sound familiar? Was that the first time that you heard what you (or your spouse) had suspected from a medical professional?

This story is not meant merely to ventilate. Education is the goal. The challenge is how to get an uninterested, overworked, under-reimbursed, skeptical group of intelligent individuals to pay attention. We are standing in the middle of the childhood epidemic of our time, and the professionals continue to worry that there aren’t enough vaccinated kids! It’s insane.

That was the ventilation part.

Education
At the first sign of a thyroid problem, e.g., a doctor doesn’t just send a patient straight to the endocrinologist. Rather, a baseline blood level is ordered, the results are evaluated in the light of the patient’s signs and symptoms. Next, the clinician is expected to explain all pertinent information, and refer to the most relevant specialist.

In the case of developmental delay, it seems that such a protocol is rarely followed. Even the expert (neurologist, or developmental pediatrician) seldom follows a prescribed course of action. An EEG and MRI? That depends on the family’s insurance status. Chromosomes or genetic testing? The usual advice is, if you aren’t having any more children, that won’t be necessary. Or, “The results won’t matter, anyway.”

External factors such as these should not be the determining factor in the 21st century workup of any patient, let alone a child whose growth is not proceeding in a normal fashion. A previous post details the top ten things all pediatricians should know about ASD. There is a workup to be done.

After a visit with the neuro-developmental doctor, a follow-up examination should take place with the ‘main’ practitioner, who ought to become the child’s medical advocate, rather than the parent. Pediatricians who believe that a family is ignorant or ill informed about the use of an off-label treatment need to learn more about all of the options, in order to assist the family in such decisions.

Discussion
This year (Jan-Nov, 2016), there were eight articles in The Journal of Pediatrics specifically about ASD. That is less than one significant article per month in our major pediatric publication.

Autism Spectrum Disorders and Metabolic Complications of Obesity
Autism and antidepressant use in pregnancy
New rapid autism screening test
Applied Behavior Analysis as Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder
To Screen or Not to Screen Universally for Autism is not the Question: Why the Task Force Got It Wrong
Predictive Validity of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) Born Very Preterm
Reported Wandering Behavior among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or Intellectual Disability
Comorbidity of Atopic Disorders with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The best way to address this present state of outworn medical attention is to fund and publish more research. This involves a paradigm shift in the diagnosis and therapy of ASD. The condition is of multifactorial origins and consists of a variety of signs and symptoms that can be ameliorated.

Pediatric residencies must adopt a new clinical rotation for this important malady. Practitioners who do not believe that, in complicated medical conditions, their role should be ‘captain of the ship’, might consider other medical specialties that do not carry this type of obligation.

Conclusion
It is simply not enough for a present-day pediatric clinician to exclaim, “Well, I don’t know much about autism.” The preferable, and intelligent answer should be, “I’m going to have to do a bit of study about this condition. They didn’t teach us about this in med school, but it seems important.”

Perhaps parents can use this essay to inspire/challenge your doctors to develop a modern attitude toward this medical mystery.

Getting Children to Take Their Supplements & Medications

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

take-medA common feature among children who suffer from sensory processing issues is their reluctance to take the very preparations that would help attenuate such disturbances, and the will to get their way.

Here are some tips and observations, gathered over the years at the Child Development Center of America, that may be of some use as a parent attempts to cajole junior into ‘taking his medicine.’

B-twelve lollipops simply don’t cut it. There are various strategies for those who won’t take subcutaneously administered methyl-B12, from a middle-of-the-night sneak attack, to an early morning assault. Expensive topical anesthetic agents are rarely required or helpful. Squeamish parents may hire a nurse, or ask a friend or relative. In school, we practiced on fruit. Occasionally, there have been parents who take their child to the doctor, until they become more comfortable.

Dermal creams can be an excellent alternative. Naltrexone administered in this manner may alleviate sensory issues and enable more generalized compliance. Magnesium, epsom salt baths and other agents may be quite helpful. On the other hand, every supplement does not work in a cream form, due to its composition and absorption.
This is a propitious time to mention the use of essential oils. Calming to the mind and body, these may be just the ticket for getting a mildly oppositional youngster to comply.

Many families mix preparations with preferred liquids and foods. Should a parent risk a small volume of casein or other forbidden fare? Frankly, occasionally, that may be the better option. On the other hand, some children may then refuse taking even that ONE liquid that they consider acceptable. Starting with very low doses of the offending agent may work.
We recommend oil-based products for the like; e.g. almond butter or mustard, if the supplement comes in that form. Applesauce is good for gloppy goodies.

Some children may respond to mechanical strategies, such as practicing with candy, drinking fluid first, or placing the pill in just the right part of the tongue. Another strategy involves the use of a pill swallowing cup. A non-scientific review of our experience at The Center has not found those of any real value. They look scary, and we couldn’t give them away.

Ask the occupational, behavioral or physical therapist to assist in the learning process. To the extent that the professional recognizes – and believes in – the accompanying improvements for their job, they should embrace their role in assisting the process. In a similar vein, alternative techniques practiced by chiropractors and reflexologists might include their additional expertise in helping a child acquire this skill.

Social stories may be a great aid for certain children. An artistic parent may even be able to create one (digital or analog) with your child’s pictures and voices, enabling the child to view the process and diminish anxiety. The propensity for affected children to perseverate on youtube videos might provide an opportunity to encourage an understanding and acceptance of this technique.

Most parents have already exhausted the role of bribery. Often, families have found this strategy of limited benefit after a lifelong pursuit of compliance in one or another less-daunting behaviors. From this perspective, and towards this end, this could be utilized as one of the ONLY times that your child gets the iThing.

Make sure that the child is on the most healthful diet. For parents who believe that the foods their children eat have little to affect on behavior, you should at least give a try. The end point might be as ‘simple’ as your child’s understanding and compliance.

For certain preparations, there is always the rectal route. The child may accept that oral is preferable, if they don’t bite and run for the hills (and lock the door).
Sometimes this one can backfire – literally.

Develop the right attitude. With autism, the senses of smell, taste and texture are involved. Oral-motor functioning is weak. There are medical reasons for patient refusal. One inconsequential substance may be misperceived as awful, however another foul-smelling product may not even be noticed. Plus, some therapeutic protocols may increase aggressive behaviors for brief periods. For most children, reasoning is of little value. “Because mommy says so!”

Truth be told, only ~1% refuse just about everything. Such children won’t be told, taught, or tricked. The parent has to decide how important the supplement, how likely it is to work, and weigh the consequences of continued non-compliance. But, getting a child to accept only one or two of these preparations may jump start a pathway to increased compliance in other endeavors, as well.

I never had a juvenile arthritis patient, or child with diabetes or other significant malady, where the parent didn’t bite the bullet and do whatever is necessary. To the extent that the practitioner and parent believes in results, the deed will be done.

As always, knowledgeable and experienced parents are invited to offer their stellar suggestions…

Signs of Autism in an Infant’s First Year

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

neighborsAs a neonatal-perinatal specialist, I have been responsible for the health of tens of thousands of the smallest, sickest, and most vulnerable patients. Plus, in the past decade, I have focused on learning about, diagnosing, and treating children who are affected with the newest childhood developmental epidemic, Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It is fair to say, then, that my observations have a degree of validity not necessarily found by simply shopping around town, when parents seek answers about their child’s condition. Special needs pediatric medicine is my natural state. little-leoSo, while walking our Yorkie recently, as I was exchanging pleasantries with a neighbor, I couldn’t help but ‘examine’ the infant in the carriage. “Is this kid developing correctly?” I thought. “Are there red flags? What further questions would I want to know, short of becoming a nuisance, to help the family?”

Here is my list of key questions to best assess whether I should encourage a parent to further explore their infant’s development:

Pregnancy:
What is the age of mother and father?
Perhaps it isn’t the assisted pregnancy (in-vitro fertilization, etc.) that is the problem, since that has not been scientifically proven. But, an advanced maternal or paternal age have been shown to represent a significant association.
little-thought-cloudNo need to ask, however; I can ascertain that information by checking with my wife.

Has there been any medication use, but especially tylenol and psychoactive substances, even if they were prescribed by a doctor.
little-thought-cloudMaybe that’s too nosy.

Labor & Delivery:
Was it a full term pregnancy?
Contrary to some theories, I do not believe that pitocin (intravenous medicine given to enhance contractions) is a related issue. Rather, the fact that labor is prolonged may be due to hypotonia in the fetus, and he/she is not contributing in the tug of war. So, ‘Failure to Progress’, and late deliveries are a particular concern. Conversely, if the child was preterm, that is a significant risk factor, as well.

Did the child go home from the hospital with Mom?
This information could open up a host of possible associations, from the early use of antibiotics to birth defects.
“Why are you asking so many questions, Doc?”

Newborn:
“Well, I’m just interested. Did the child breast feed?”
Answers in the negative that are due to ‘poor suck’, breast milk ‘intolerance’, or GERD definitely increase the number of red flags related to those children who demonstrate future developmental concerns.

Infant:
Does the child have to go to the doctor often?
Numerous visits to the pediatrician or specialists imply an underlying medical problem, including asthma, eczema, feeding and stooling problems, which are frequently associated in children with autism.

Did the baby have plagiocephaly (flat head), torticollis (wry neck), or a large head size? Does he make good eye contact and follow a moving human face? In the second half of the first year, does the baby crawl/walk OK? Is there vocalization?
little-thought-cloudSkip the interrogation, I can observe many of those signs for myself.

Conclusion:
When the majority of answers are of concern, there may be enough warning signs to warrant further exploration. On one single day last week, I took care of 16 children who had criteria consistent with ASD. We don’t need more patients with autism. Something is just wrong.

Your neighbor should not be making developmental assessments, even if he is TheAutismDoctor. Pediatricians can, and must, do more to examine your infant’s development and help stem the tide. The only question should be, “What does your doctor think?”

For the clinician who may complain that this line of questioning causes unnecessary apprehension for Mom and Dad, my reply is that they are worried, anyway. Rather than help, a practitioner’s cavalier dismissal that, “I wouldn’t be concerned about that,” carries little substance in the face of this wide-ranging malady known as ASD.

The AMAZING Siblings of Patients with Autism

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

siblingAt the Child Development Center of America, it is our custom to request that parents bring the patient’s neurotypical siblings. Staff and interns can learn to appreciate the differences. I get a sense of the challenges faced by the children who are affected. An added bonus has been our observation that some of the most heroic family members are child’s brothers and sisters.

It never ceases to amaze me that even the youngest sibling will play with, fight with, endure – and teach – their affected friend. There is no correction, no repetition, and no prompting. It’s true love – even if they take each other’s stuff.

Brothers and sisters demonstrate patience and perception about the other’s wants and needs. It is a constant reminder of the important role these sometimes forgotten family members play in the affected child’s development. Their maturity frequently exceeds their chronological age.

One parent recently provided this beautiful essay written by the 11 year-old sister of a very affected patient, who has only recently begun to seek and interact with others and with his environment. Without being asked, here is what Jillie wrote:

jillie-barton   An autistic kid’s brain is like a computer keyboard. A keyboard has a chip that sends signals to the other keys. A fixed one sends a message to the keyed it gets there. When you press the key a letter appears on the screen.
  But a broken one doesn’t. The chip sends a message down the right route. But the right route isn’t working right, so the message tries to find another way.
   But the message doesn’t get there. So when you hit the key nothing happens.
   It’s sort of like an autistic kid’s brain. the brain sends a message down the nervous system. But the route isn’t working correctly. So the message tries to find a new way. But sometimes it works.

Discussion
Siblings of children with autism are the subject of a number of scientific studies. Twenty years ago, one paper described, “Sibling encounters provide a unique opportunity for such children to learn about social relationships.”

A decade ago, another study demonstrated …”strong and positive changes in joint attention and modest changes in social behavior for the latter…” but lamented, “however, the results did not provide strong evidence for generalization of increased social interactions to different settings.” Who cares? A buddy is a buddy. Another paper that year, Teaching Pretend Play Skills concluded, “… the child with autism may benefit from sibling-oriented interventions

In 2007, Sibling Interaction of Children with Autism: Development Over 12 Months showed, “… social interaction and imitation in children with autism and the special role that sibling interactions can play.”

Literature describing family challenges followed. One study summarized, “When siblings were dissatisfied with differential parenting, quality of the sibling relationship was compromised.” Another concluded, “treatment programs may need to address parental stress, which in turn will help optimize treatment outcome for the child and the family.” In Siblings of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder, the authors wrote, “Adolescents engaged in more shared activities and reported more positive affect in their sibling relationship when their sibling with ASD had fewer behavior problems… For adults, more shared activities were observed when the sibling with ASD was younger in age and had fewer behavior problems; greater positive affect in sibling relationships was predicted by greater parental support.

This year, several papers arrive at similar conclusions involving, “contradiction. Participants recognized difficulties (decreased parental attention, extra responsibility, bothersome behaviors, communication difficulties) and positive aspects (became empathetic, loved and appreciated the child, realized the experience was life-changing) of living with a young person with ASD. Younger siblings frequently reflected on childhood experiences, wished they could play together… Adolescent siblings learned life lessons from the experience, talked about life changes when ASD was diagnosed, and seemed introspective and protective toward the young person with ASD. Male siblings often wished they played more often while growing up with the young person, and frequently mentioned the child/adolescent’s aggressive behaviors; female siblings focused on relationship and communication difficulties of the young person ASD.”

Conclusion
Brothers and sisters get it. Preteen Jillie gets it! Her description of processing difficulties is spot on. Perhaps, one day, it will be the sibling of an affected child who will make the key discoveries for effective remediation of the signs and symptoms displayed in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Staffing for the Autism Epidemic

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

The Child Development Center has been blessed to experience a stream of wonderful, young, eager students wishing to learn about caring for special needs pediatric patients. Some go into ‘the business’, while others have gone on to a variety of great life adventures. We are also lucky to have our superb Practice Manager, Karen Vossen, who is an exemplary role model, teaching parents and staff alike, how to handle the patients.

gabiskywalker

The Force is strong with this one

Our latest graduate, Gabriella Tabib, has chosen to pursue this line of work. Here is what she wrote about her time here at The Center:

I started working with Dr. Udell during my final year of undergraduate training. After listening to many of my peers discuss their volunteering experience, I wished to intern, as well. I could see a passion in their eyes and I wanted that, too. But where was I going to start? Fortunately, I had an idea about what I wanted to do.

First, I wanted to work with children. Children are amazing. They are imagination unhindered. They are bottled potential. The ‘abnormal’ side of child psychology is just as fascinating. In high school, I had volunteered on a horse therapy ranch, working with children who had ASD, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. For my internship, I wanted to work in a similar setting.

I found a place at the Child Development Center of America. My job included interacting with the children while their parents spoke with Dr. Udell about the child’s diagnosis and treatment plan. My responsibilities included measuring the child’s height and weight, conducting ATEC scores when needed, and keeping them engaged for the hour. Dr. Udell used my observations to gauge their progress.

I came to realize that I had knack for connecting with children on the autism spectrum. I began to understand how they interact in, and with, the world. I saw stimming – not as an unhindered, reflexive process – but a means of communication. I saw double swirls and single palmar creases as signs of genetic links to that patient’s condition. I also learned what it meant to have a child with special needs.

Whether your child is neurotypical or not, parenting is a monumental undertaking. It is a full-time job filled with changing diapers, answering hundreds of questions, and chasing after them as they grow up right before your eyes. But what if toilet training takes longer than necessary? What happens when the ‘whys?’ never come? Learning that your child has autism is life changing.

I watched Dr. Udell guide many parents through understanding autism and innovative treatment options. He truly cared about every patient that came through his doorway. He treated each condition on an individual basis. His first question is not, “What helped all the other children?” Rather, he asks, “What seems to be ailing this child?” It opened my eyes to the true nature of psychotherapy and medical treatment. Considering each patient individually may be more time consuming, but it offers the best results.

I am truly thankful for the time I spent with Dr. Udell. I met so many amazing children and their families. I learned so much about the future of autism diagnosis and treatment, and how I can personally make a difference. I look to the future full of hope and inspiration.

Working at the Child Development Center has solidified my passion for working with children, especially those whose diagnoses lie ‘on the spectrum’. I can proudly move forward in my career, knowing that I gained such a wealth of knowledge and support. This experience will enable me to become a top-notch mental healthcare professional for all of my present and future clients.

Many thanks to you, Gabi.
Your intelligence, optimistic personality and inquisitive nature has helped our practice, as well!

I Watched Vaxxed

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

I am not against childhood vaccinations.

I have expressed that opinion in more than a few blogposts. Nonetheless, it appears that more information is needed, and controversies must be addressed, before the gods of modern medicine can simply dismiss the thousands of parents who feel that their child developed autism shortly after one of the childhood inoculations.

genrescue2016

(L-R) Jenny, Jacqueline&Chris Laurita (housewives of NJ), Nico&Davida LaHood, Del Bigtree, Dawn&Ryan Neufeld, Jodi Gomes

This week, at the Autism Summit, Jenny McCarthy expressed that same opinion in her opening video, and throughout the panel discussion. Frankly, I would not have even written this story if there wasn’t a controversy when an Express-News reporter was prevented from attending the conference. He wrote, “The summit is being put on by Generation Rescue, a non-profit led by Jenny McCarthy, an anti-vaccine activist.”

One of the panelists was San Antonio area District Attorney, Nico LaHood. “In a promotional video filmed in his office, LaHood said “vaccines can and do cause autism,” and has made clear he doesn’t accept scientific evidence as proof to the contrary.” Another celebrity was Del Bigtree, the producer of Vaxxed.

So, I paid my four bucks, and watched the movie. Del Bigtree presents a compelling story surrounding the information supplied by CDC whistleblower, William Thompson, who claims that data that would have implicated vaccinations as a cause of autism was altered, so that the MMR would appear safe.

There is a fair amount of anecdotal and perhaps, overly dramatic presentations of individual case histories, which will turn off the ‘real’ scientists. Mr. Bigtree describes that as the conundrum as we, “…study the disconnect between science and parents.”

Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, founder of CARD, appears as a credible expert. A nobel prize winner weighs in, adding validity to the story. After reviewing the data, a traditional pediatrician and family practitioner seem truly amazed – and changed their opinion about the safety studies. Cool, calm, and well-spoken, Wakefield looks to be anything but a raving zealot. His conclusion is that if the MMR were separated, that would be best solution and the issue of ‘herd immunity’ would not be breached.

I’m not against childhood vaccinations.
Hillary has declared, “The sky is blue and vaccinations work.” She doesn’t know, for sure, if they are safe for all, however. Why deliver an increasing number of antigens to an immature immune system? Why do we have a vaccine compensation fund? Why does the package insert say ‘seizures‘?

If such a movie only adds fuel to the fire, why not just refute the questions that are raised with a prospective, randomized, double blind study, considered to be the gold standard for proving efficacy and safety? Rather, people who even view the film are marginalized and considered kooky, conspiratorist, poorly informed, and ignorant.

The movie is considered to be the problem. Andrew Wakefield is the problem. Leo Kanner, a Freudian from the first half of the last century, assigned the diagnosis to the realm of psychiatry. Bruno Bettleheim, a media darling at the time, popularized the ‘refrigerator mom’ theory that persisted for another 30 years. We are still arguing if there even IS an epidemic. There is plenty of blame to go around regarding our confusion about this mysterious illness.

I’m old enough to have experienced neighbors, relatives and patients who have suffered serious consequences from childhood diseases, such as polio, measles, and congenital rubella. Furthermore, I am aware of the mountain of ‘scientific evidence’ that documents a lack of association to Autism Spectrum Disorder. In my own practice, the majority of parents do not feel that vaccines caused their child’s autism, and there are many children with ASD who never received any inoculation.

However, great concern is raised when there are stories, such as the mismanagement of vaccines in public clinics, and issues with government oversight connected to Big Pharma (documented in this movie).

This is one of the most polarizing issues that impedes real progress in our understanding of the epidemic of childhood autism. In the present circumstance, perhaps it was the fault of the conference organizers, not allowing a possibly negative story to emerge. This highlights the need for both sides to step back and listen to each other in order to uncover the truth.

Finally, I want to document that, I’m not against childhood vaccinations.

Recess is Important for Special Needs Students, Too

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

An Open Letter to School Officials

There are developmental states between having autism and having had it. It’s analogous to the ‘pins-and-needles’ feeling following a limb injury, for example, but preceding a more complete recovery.

During that healing phase, there may be muscle weakness and nervous incoordination; dysfunction about which little can be done, other than being patient. So it appears to be with children who have achieved useful speech and a degree of socialization that enables them to join the general student body.

Leftover signs and symptoms may include immaturity (difficulty transitioning to non-preferred work, impatience, non-compliance, etc.), ADHD conduct, and aggression. It is not uncommon for pupils affected with residual ASD, therefore, to display unacceptable behavior. In a Gen-Ed setting, meltdowns may tax and even infuriate staff.

When asked about their favorite activity at school, most children answer, “Lunch,” or “Recess.” Since students can’t be denied the former, personnel may turn to withholding the latter from those who misbehave, in order to instill respect and compliance. That may be a big mistake.

Indoor activities and distractions have become the norm and consume large chunks of time. iStuff, therapies, homework, tutoring, etc. all keep youngsters out of the sun and fresh air. Physical isolation with limited calorie-burning is the last thing that children with language delay and difficulty sitting still need. Who gains from such punishment? Some kids prefer to avoid the anxiety of outside play. Perhaps, bullying is precipitating a breakdown? Others do not appear to object, at all, by such censure.

Techniques to instill self control that may have been successful in previous centuries no longer apply to a neuro-diverse student body. Parents and professionals must collaborate to make sure that a proper and appropriate plan of action follows a display of maladaptive behaviors. Strategies that are more likely to be successful – and less detrimental – can be developed. Methods should be individualized, with the help of appropriate staff. Such an approach helps assure a more productive academic season.

Access to recess should be as important as lunch; maybe even more so, since so many children with challenging behaviors are on special diets and picky eaters, anyway. Just kidding, of course (but not really).just-kidding-jpeg

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