Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Parents Helping Other Parents Battling Autism and ADHD

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

The First Warrior Parent
More than 5 decades ago, Dr. Bernard Rimland observed his son’s unusual development, and was determined to understand the cause and treatment of a rare condition called autism. So began a more modern view of the condition, which addressed the tide of children who began appearing with similar challenges. His work started a movement that has ultimately morphed into The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs.

At that time, the predominant cause of autism, promulgated by self-taught psychologist and media darling, Bruno Bettleheim, was the ‘refrigeratory mom’ theory. His experiences in Nazi concentration camps led him to believe that a lack of love in their environment could cause a child to turn off the road to typical human development. Dr. Rimland said, “No way,” and along with other like-minded professionals created biomedical workups with useful interventions.

It took another three decades until Jenny McCarthy popularized that viewpoint, with her outspoken experiences, fighting the medical profession to get proper care for her son. What progress has science made since that battle? Only a few brave professional parent practitioners, such as Drs. Dan Rossignol, Julie Buckley, Anju Usman and Nancy O’Hara, have taken up the slack.

Advancing the Combat
So, in that vacuum has arisen a number of other parent warriors. These are intelligent, dedicated, caring individuals, who have researched the data and applied various treatments to their children, often, trying it out on themselves first. They have observed various amounts of success, depending on their child’s specific difficulties. Some achieve remarkable results, and wish to pay it forward.

One day recently, I got into an interesting email discussion about Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Therapy. That determined Dad found a difference in his own clarity by moving the light from front to back. Wasn’t that OK to try on his child?

Just a few hours later, I had a conversation with a Mom who has been witnessing positive results using Ionized water. Her child was making significant progress, and this generous lady wanted to offer the product – for free – to other parents. “We can help so many more!”

One father has observed improvement with a particular form of Acai berry. Other parents have found good results with MMS, CBD, THC+CBD, Sauna, and Essential Oils, among other treatments.

Few Victors, So Far
I was telling this story to an experienced Mom, and she declared, “See how desperate we are!” Those who vilify Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s heresy over the possible danger of some childhood vaccination protocols ought to consider Dr. Leo Kanner’s role 80 years ago, which established a misguided psychological point of view.

Modern medicine has implicated genetic problems, but doctors fail to order appropriate testing; brain abnormalities, without getting diagnostic labs; and environmental factors, yet there exists little research to establish therapeutic strategies.

New Strategies
The reality is that, both professionals and parents, are experimenting on the children. Without proper studies we cannot know eventual outcomes, of even the most ‘benign’ interventions. We are now learning about conditions that are not only carried from one generation to the next, but 2 generations away. Real science takes time.

A common factor among many of the treatments that I encounter is some form of gut adjustment. Many of the specific supplements help while they are being administered and do not appear to be toxic. However, much of the research has been documented only in other species or conditions, and requires additional scrutiny.

Advice to Medics
Parents, who see progress in their own child, then in others, simply want to guide more families in the same boat. But, you are all NOT in the same boat. Some kids are older or younger, some girls or boys, others with metabolic, genetic, immunologic, gut conditions and various combinations that are different from child to child. SAFE is not SAFE for all, as we have learned from the vaccination dogma.

Even those strategies that work may require additional patient evaluation and testing. If a parent sees untoward effects, watch closely for such important signs, such as dehydration or an extensive rash. By discussing these interventions with a functional doctor, a child stands the best chance for advancement.

‘Alternative medicine’ strives to be inclusive, but the response by professionals to adopt non-conventional strategies may take a bit longer to take hold, as evidence becomes more clear. We are fighting on the same side.

Speech Apraxia and Autism Misbehavior

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

This week (May ’17), Penn State researchers claimed to have disproven a generally-accepted premise with an article is entitled, Tantrums are Not Associated with Speech or Language Deficits in Preschool Children with Autism.

The Study
The authors retrieved information from a previous data collection, which was not intended for this purpose, and reviewed 240 cases. Children, who were 15 to 71 months old, “… whose mental age was sufficient for verbal communication but who lacked speech did not have more tantrums than children with adequate speech. In fact, children with an expressive language age at or above 24 months had more tantrums than children whose speech skills were below 24 months.

Their conclusion is the exact opposite of what we all suspect. “Our findings and those of others do not support the belief that preschool children with autism have tantrums because they cannot speak or because their speech is difficult to understand.”

Discussion
In autism, THE toughest sign to successfully ameliorate is a patient’s inability to produce spoken language. Indeed, professionals who have chosen this undertaking will attest to significant challenges. Proven medical protocols are few, though anecdotal ones abound.

The second most difficult expression of ASD is immature conduct, including tantrums. Behavioral intervention is the proven successful treatment. Conventional medical protocols invoke potent pharmaceuticals with significant side effects and variable results, so alternative strategies have emerged.

For years, parents and professionals, alike, have accepted a direct relationship between these two disturbing symptoms. There appears to be general agreement that, as children get older and smarter, they are increasingly frustrated by their failure to adequately communicate. There is a 30-year body of literature that supports this position.

Why were the findings of this paper
so counterintuitive?

This perspective is supported by substantial research, as well. The authors argue, “The reason may in part be because of the effectiveness of interventions… which use behavioral techniques to teach children to use words, and not inappropriate behaviors, to communicate.”

In other words, if language improves through successful therapy, a child may still have tantrums if that issue is not addressed, per se, as well. Those patients who do not get adequate socialization skills continue to resort to outbursts, in order to get needs met.

The publication lacks several key elements. ‘Tantrum’ is used as an outcome measure, begging the question of whether more serious issues, such as self-injury or aggression, were considered in the definition. Medication usage was not documented. Perhaps, patients who were most disruptive received more drugs without relief or even negative side effects? Additional medical issues were, likewise, omitted from the data. In the diverse ASD population, this could be a highly significant variable.

Conclusion
The outcome of this paper could have been that children who have better language skills are more likely to have tantrums! The authors were careful to leave that out. Plus, the closing sentence includes, “Our findings do not diminish the importance of evidence-based interventions…”

If, as the paper asserts, the reason for fewer tantrums was an individual’s type of intervention, then the conclusion seems to be that Functional Communication Therapy is useful for tantrums due to autism.

Or, one might deduce that each individual diagnosed with ASD is so different in their physical and mental state, that there is no certainty, at this time, to explain why this group showed a null relationship.

Is it true? Could tantrums, “… in large part be intrinsic to autism and not driven by developmental processes, such as language.” Is it important? Why? Perhaps, such insight could provide a more effective and efficient window of treatment options. Furthermore, there is general agreement that traditional measures can play an important role in remediation.

An Autism Doctor’s Earliest Signs

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

In spite of an ever-increasing number of atypically developing children, and in the face of a plethora of evidence demonstrating that early intervention results in quicker resolution of problems, pediatricians continue to appear to be more concerned about whether the vaccination schedule is current.

Every day, parents relate stories about a doctor who said, “The child is NOT autistic. He has sensory processing disorder and speech apraxia.””Give it some time,” seems to be a common mantra. Are universities teaching this wait-and-see strategy?

What other medical condition is dealt with in such a fashion? No abnormal mole is considered too tiny to dissect. A small amount of blood coming from any orifice warrants the swiftest investigation. Furthermore, it is generally espoused that early identification and treatment is the best remedial policy, stimulating the appearance of screening programs for cancer and heart disease, for example.

I have examined thousands of high-risk infants, and the younger siblings of many ASD patients over the years. This is my top ten list of physical signs in the first 18 months that should raise suspicion, and demand answers, rather than a dismissive pat on the head, accompanied by a professional’s proclamation, “I wouldn’t worry!”

Your mother thinks that the baby, “… isn’t doing alright.”

There is an inability to successfully breastfeed, especially in highly motived or experienced women. La Leche League has promoted and instructed us all in better ways to get the milk flowing, but a new era of poor suck on the side of the infant has emerged. This could either be the initial sign of a problem, and/or part of a vicious cycle leading to unusual behaviors.

A child who exhibits gastro-esophageal reflux (heartburn), persistent colic, inconsolable crying, and/or severely interrupted sleep patterns may be displaying a red flag. Of course, mild cases could be due to individuality, parental indulgence or ‘milk intolerance’. In this century, think: a condition that deserves investigation, and thoughtful intervention. Prescribing Prevacid is not a workup.

Signs of poor core tone may include a twisted neck, flat head, or delays in motor milestones. In the previous century, doctors were worried about cerebral palsy. Now, it should be considered as a possible earliest sign of autism.

Likewise, the absence of crawling, or persistent ‘army crawl’ has been a documented occurrence in infants who later show ASD.

A breast-fed infant who poops less than twice per day, or a formula fed child who ‘goes’ more than 4 times should raise concern. Unusual stooling often indicates abnormal gut flora, causing direct inflammation and/or additional bacterial changes, and possibly further alters nutrition.

A very early ear infection, or any recurrent medical condition is notable. At the beginning of my 40-year experience with at-risk children, antibiotic use in the first year of life was only a fraction of the exposure that occurs in this century. Investigation of immune competence has everything to do with the modern epidemic, I am certain.

The likelihood of ‘food allergy’ in the first year of life is actually very low. When a pediatrician assigns noisy breathing or fussiness to this presumed ‘diagnosis’, beware that they are not practicing real evidence-based medicine.

After the first few months, infants will look at faces, follow, and later, begin to imitate. If social interactions, such as rolling a ball back-and-forth, do not emerge – and certainly if they disappear – the child needs to have a thorough medical evaluation.

Speech that begins, but does not progress is a worry. When language fades, it is never normal. Period.

Conclusion
Any of these signs could just be a benign variation of normal development. A few are reason for real concern, exploration, and early intervention.

I have presented similar information in previous posts. In addition to these physical signs, I have written about other high-risk situations, and associated factors that assist a physician in ascertaining a specific diagnosis. It sometimes helps to provide regular updates for parents to show their child’s doctor, in order to get things moving on the right track.

FDA Warning About Autism Treatment

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

The FDA took the time, this week (4/2017), to sound an alarm about their notion of potentially dangerous off-label ASD treatments, by issuing, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products“.

The consumer update begins, “One thing that is important to know about autism up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism or autism-related symptoms. Some may carry significant health risks.” Really?

What are the approved therapies?
According to the document, the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal (risperidone) and Abilify (aripiprazole) are apparently not considered to be that dangerous. Increased death rates are noted in the Physicians Desk Reference, due to the the former medication. The latter pharmaceutical agent contains this caution, “A causal role has been demonstrated with antidepressant use and emergence of suicidality in pediatric patients and young adults…”

Clinically, patients who have taken these drugs have shown markedly increased appetites (leading to obesity), exhibited new tics, demonstrated a ‘zombie-like’ affect, and have been very difficult to dose correctly. Breast enlargement and lactation have been reported with these meds, as well.

What does the FDA consider dangerous?
About metal-removing therapy, “FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only.” So, this government organization has determined that environmental poisoning is not a cause of autism.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been cleared by the “FDA only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers.” The document failed to mention that it has been proven effective for non-healing wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well.

Clay baths, and “… various products, including raw camel milk and essential oils. These products have been marketed as a treatment for autism or autism-related symptoms, but have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.” Don’t expect millions of dollars to be poured into research about the effectiveness of these innocuous interventions.

If you wish to utilize essential oils,
do so at your own peril !

Discussion
The medical literature continues to question the usefulness of Abilify or Risperdal for the treatment of signs and symptoms of ASD. But it is perfectly clear that, even the supporting literature never makes any statement about apraxic children. Stopping the banging doesn’t produce speech. Plus, socialization only improves to the extent that these ‘safe’ drugs reduce unusual behaviors or decrease aggression.

Moreover, the body systems that are in need of repair and optimization do not get addressed – indeed, are even masked – by such a pharmacological bandaid, which leads to further complications. Often, this makes the child with increased resistance to pain even more stuck with their autistic behaviors. Difficulties in the gastrointestinal, immune, and nervous systems, go unrecognized. Mitochondrial functioning is affected, compounding metabolic challenges in this vicious cycle.

Parents seek ‘risky’ therapies because of the inadequacies of the medical profession in just about every aspect of autism diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care. Rather than elevating autism anxiety over the dangers of mostly mild, possibly helpful, but unproven interventions, we would be better served by an honest evaluation about the overuse of the ‘on-label’ products. This is especially true in disadvantaged populations. When functional medicine doctors, such as myself, utilize these drugs, it is usually as a last resort, after explaining risks/benefits to parents, with close follow-up of the patients’ condition.

Conclusion
TV commercials tout incredibly risky medications, for diseases that range from restless leg syndrome to cancer. “Ask your doctor,” we are told, “if this is a good drug for you!” Then, a list of very scary side effects is enumerated. Well, you could just ‘ask your doctor’ if camel milk will cause seizures or death.

Parents of children with developmental challenges have plenty of work to do, just getting through each day. This useless memorandum will, most probably, simply be ignored. For those who feel that the consumer update was produced to pursue some financial and/or political motivation, and/or is another example of bureaucratic waste, you may feel compelled to address the (ir)responsible organization (click here).

Stem Cell Therapy for Autism… cont’d

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

As doctors try to understand and consider various emerging therapies for patients experiencing signs and symptoms of autism, the question of Stem Cell therapy has come to the fore. A Duke University professor barreled onto the scene, recently, with a pronouncement that sounds like a cure, even though it’s not.

Understanding the study
The project is Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Efficacy of Umbilical Cord Blood to Improve Outcomes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was the first phase. The goals were to determine safety, and to evaluate the usefulness of a variety of tests to assess whether the treatment works.

Does giving a child’s own cells, which were collected from the umbilical cord at birth, back into their bloodstream, result in any adverse events? The report broadcast on CNN focused on a 7 year-old who seemed nearly OK, playing with her older, neurotypical sister. The treatment had taken place a couple of years earlier.

Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, one of the researchers, proclaimed, “We saw improvements in 6 months…” She used the word curative twice in the same sentence, even though her point was ignorance of that outcome. She concluded the interview with, “of course we have to do a placebo controlled randomized trial to answer the question…” The Dad was more realistic, as he commented, “The autism is still there…”

The research involved 25 children, 2 – 6 years old, who had banked cord blood available. “Significant improvements in children’s behavior were observed,” in the majority of children, and “were greater in children with higher baseline nonverbal intelligence quotients.”

“Assessment of adverse events across the 12-month period indicated that the treatment was safe and well tolerated,” claims the abstract. In fact, agitation was a common complaint, requiring additional medications, as the infusion was administered. The authors admitted, “As an uncontrolled open-label study, it is not possible to determine whether the observed behavioral changes were due to the treatment or reflect the natural course of development during the preschool period.”

Discussion
When considering such an extreme treatment, the primary driving force should be the child’s degree of involvement with their developmental challenges. If your youngster is proceeding on an acceptable trajectory, 1) Is it worth the known, and unknown, risks? and, 2) What improvements are you actually seeking? In this study, as in other successful biomedical protocols, the less-affected patients showed the best improvement.

This investigation was done under rigorous conditions by highly trained university personnel, and utilized the patients’ own cord blood. Do stem cell centers around the world offer a similar degree of confidence as regards cleanliness, safety, follow-up, or the ability to handle emergencies? Are outcomes the same when using fat cells that have been turned into stem cells (explained in my previous blogs on this topic)?

The type of autism has got to be a factor, as well. Would a patient with a significant chromosomal variation or metabolic disease, for example, experience the same improvement?

On a positive note, it is encouraging to observe that the conventional research community implicitly concurs that successful treatment involves “modulating inflammatory processes in the brain addressing the reduction of body inflammation to improve ASD.”

Conclusion
We all wish to see a real breakthrough in autism treatment. It appears that stem cell therapy may represent a significant advance. But, that is all that it will represent. Children will still have yeast, and need follow-up labs, and ABA, and Speech therapy. Stem cell intervention seems to represent another, maybe better, certainly more costly, alternative protocol.

Thankfully, Phase II, a randomized, controlled study to assess efficacy, is now underway.

Seeking Real Autism Awareness

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

It’s the time of year for Spring walks, fundraisers, and other events to promote autism awareness. Heartwarming stories are featured in social and news media.

This is my wish list for true mindfulness of this 21st century childhood disorder.

A good start would be general acceptance that ASD is not ‘retardation’ dressed in modern nomenclature. Intellectual Disability is an even less precise diagnosis. And, most autistic people possess normal intelligence.

The public demonstrates increased understanding, and empathy, for families who experience this disability. There is no need to chastise the mom of a kid who is experiencing a meltdown at Walmart.

There should be general agreement that Hollywood’s interpretation of people with ASD is one-sided, at best.

We’ll know that we’re at the ‘next step’ when people stop asking, “Can you really get better from autism?” This is especially true for professionals.

Doctors need to buckle down, get their heads out of the sand, and take the time to learn about this condition. As the population ages, general practitioners, specialists, and sub-specialists will all need to understand how to care for such patients.

Research institutions recognize awareness by fulfilling their obligation to expand into every area of this epidemic. Professors willing to employ twenty-first century thinking can make a big difference.

Schools, already admittedly taxed by the demands of an evolving neuro-diverse student body, make a point of searching for improved means to address this growing population of our special needs population, as well.

Public servants can display their understanding by offering courses, services and information regarding appropriate response to citizens who react in an unfamiliar, or unexpected manner.

Choosing a career in one of the occupations that addresses the specific issues experienced by so many peers (or, even their own family) would be a worthy indication that young people are getting the message. Occupational, physical, speech, and behavioral skills are already valuable, sought-after professions.

From this doctor’s examining chair, real autism awareness is when my patients actually become aware. It is difficult to adequately express my satisfaction, and appreciation, when a mom writes about her kid who munched his first French fry, a toddler taking her first steps, or a child who says, “I love you.”

A(nother) Laboratory Test(s) for Autism

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

A key piece of the autism puzzle appears to have been confirmed in an article published this week in the Public Library of Science Open Access Journal, Computational Biology. The title of the article is Classification and adaptive behavior prediction of children with autism spectrum disorder based upon multivariate data analysis of markers of oxidative stress and DNA methylation.

The news has already been reported in popular media as “A Blood Test for Autism“. Here is my clinical interpretation.

The Study
The data was collected from patients in previous studies, and included 83 children, aged 3-10 years, with ASD. Utilizing very dense, complicated statistics that were based on biochemical laboratory data, researchers identified neurotypical vs. autistic individuals, who already had the diagnosis, based on conventional developmental testing.

The chosen pathways evaluated abnormalities in methylation, an epigenetic function, and detoxification.

Specificity and sensitivity were very reliable, “96.1% of all neurotypical participants being correctly identified as such while still correctly identifying 97.6% of the ASD cohort.”

Discussion
Contrary to what the headlines proclaim, this is not a single test; it’s research material that is based on a number of not-yet-readily-available laboratory findings.

The biomarkers represent a final common pathway, not necessarily a cause. Although the data correlated with autism ‘scores’, it really wasn’t meant to discriminate for the various kinds of developmental challenges, such as those children who are mostly aggressive, immune, apraxic, or suffer gastrointestinal abnormalities.

Such an analysis begs the question, “Can it be used for prospective improvement – to follow course of the condition?”

Conclusion
The modern epidemic of childhood autism is extremely complicated and difficult to pin down for research purposes. This study renders a modern means to evaluate a myriad of variables. The metabolic pathways under scrutiny represent a confirmation of the roles of genes and toxins.

As with other ‘earliest diagnosis’ studies, this paper serves to solidify the concept that earlier diagnosis should lead to earlier interventions, with improved outcomes.

For those of us who are practicing ‘alternative’ medicine, it is comforting to rediscover that the treatments included in our modern arsenal of biomedical protocols are consistent with these findings.

Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs Spring 2017 Conference

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

At the conference with Yale prof Dr. Sid Baker – one of the originators of biomedical treatment

If practitioners wish to become more effective in the diagnosis and treatment of children who suffer developmental challenges, it will require a new paradigm. Therefore, attending conferences, such as the Simons Foundation for Autism Research, the Autism Research Institute, and the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs, is essential to acquiring that knowledge.

This year’s advanced sessions introduced a completely new functional medicine topic – Hormones from Pregnancy to Teens. Dr. Cindy Schneider examined the differences between the brain anatomy, physiology, and chemistry that might explain how ASD affects males vs. females, and the consequences as we age. Additionally, there are the special complications incurred throughout puberty, with important implications regarding effective treatments.

Dr. Stephen Genuis‘ presentations, Hormone Disrupting Agents, provided a fascinating complement to that lecture. He highlighted the chronic nature of ASD, and the disrupting effects of toxic agents in our modern environment. A key component is the toxic load; if topical agents represent ounces, ingested compounds represent pounds, and the air that we breathe can be expressed in tons of potential poisonous compounds. And, it takes months or years to eliminate what takes days or weeks to ingest. He also pointed out that medical school curricula and training in toxicology is woefully inadequate.

Dr. Lynne Mielke rounded out the day by submitting actual case histories of young people with mysterious medical problems. Her background includes personal experience, extensive knowledge and patient care. This physician’s psychiatric/neurological point-of-view was especially insightful and provided valuable material that directly applied to the audience’s practice population.

Day 2
Another novel and exciting topic was Preconception Care: A New Standard of Care in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Dr. Genuis discussed the increased risks of preterm birth, Caesarian section delivery, and chronic childhood illness, such as cancers, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, autism and  ADHD.
He presented the emerging research of toxicant exposures and nutritional deficiencies that continue to escalate. Metabolic disruptions may easily ensue, leading to many of the persistent disorders that are now experienced by an increasing number of children, although they may look perfectly normal at birth.

Such difficulties seem imminently preventable in the population, and there appears to be a lack of awareness in the majority of obstetricians. Even fathers who are exposed to toxic agents may become a vector for such later difficulties. Dr. Genuis then discussed the means to eliminate the myriad of  toxins – mostly by sweating, but some by other means, such as fasting or medication.

Dr. Elizabeth Mumper followed with an in-depth discussion about the lack of awareness of proper nutrition, environmental factors, the hazards of indiscriminate use of antibiotics, and poorly researched vaccinations, which appear to be significant factors leading to autism. She even offered another alternative schedule for high-risk infants and toddlers.

Nutritionist Robert Miller presented a very dense lecture, attempting to answer the complicated question, “What can be done about all of those new-fangled genetics tests?” Suffice it to say, that offering will take some time to digest.

Day 3
The lectures consisted of an assortment of the faculty’s most difficult cases. Experts included Drs. Baker, Frye, and Neuenschwander; and the audience wasn’t too shabby, either. Case histories were offered about families who experience unimaginable, incomprehensible challenges; from self-mutilation, to children attempting suicide (sometimes, successfully), to attacks on their caregivers.

The take-home items from such discussions are simply, “How can we prevent this, and successfully treat our population?”

Conclusion
It’s fortuitous that Dr. Ratajczek’s article, which examined the research about vaccine safety, was published at the time of this seminar. Participants have been wringing our hands about the ‘disconnect’ between what we (and many parents) experience every day, and conventional medicine’s dogma. The article might act as fuel-to-the-fire for some, be ignored by the majority, but represents some slight measure of vindication for our hard-working tribe.

We are getting only marginally closer to our understanding about the cause(s), treatment(s), and prevention(s) for autism. Much more research is needed. The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs provides a valuable platform for presenting, evaluating, and disseminating such expertise.

Observations on an Autism Workshop

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

March 5, 2017.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be part of a panel for the South Florida Autism Charter Schools‘ medical workshop. In attendance were ~50 parents, and a group of 9 professionals; including dentists, a pediatric neurologist, an Ob-Gyn, a pediatrician, a psychologist and behavioral therapist.

My role was to answer questions regarding the biomedical approach to ASD.
Here are some of the things that I learned:

Parents are extremely frustrated by the lack of available services for special needs patients. “He’s too big for our MRI machine,” or “They do not know how to handle her aggression,” were common complaints. Frankly, the presenters had few useful suggestions that the families hadn’t already attempted.

Therapists and administrators wanted to be sure that parents take advantage of all available means for relief, such as following up with a medication schedule, and notifying appropriate personnel about serious issues in a timely manner.

There was a general dissatisfaction about the medical community’s lack of understanding regarding special needs families. Since the panel was composed of busy professionals willing to give up a Saturday morning, they were basically ‘preachin’ to the choir’.

Everyone agreed that the ideal situation would be a ‘one-stop shop’ for patients to get all necessary testing and treatment. Cancer Treatment Centers of America, for example, advertises that availability, and many facilities now afford such service. It may be some time before supply catches up to the demand, for special needs children, however.

I enjoyed an in-depth discussion with Dr. Jose Berthe about the proper time, types of evaluation, and medical interventions, as girls with developmental challenges get older.

Dr. Yadira Martinez-Fernandez contributed her comprehensive knowledge of autism and cardiac health. Affected children who suffer genetic or other complicated disorders, or who take certain medications, may be at an increased risk, which can be ascertained by appropriate evaluation, such as blood pressure monitoring, or an EKG.

The dental experts reviewed their approach to oral health; from how to get a successful visit, to evaluation and treatment of the common symptom of teeth grinding.

Dr. Carrie Landess provided her unique perspective and valuable insights, as a pediatric neurologist who is also the parent of a child with ASD.

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Linda Colon, offered several practical solutions for the challenged families’ concerns. The general pediatric community would find a great deal more cooperation from families, were they to adopt her thoughtful and empathetic point-of-view toward the autism epidemic.

Dr. Moodie, the Executive Director, is a fireball. Her experience, knowledge, insight, and dedication is leading to tangible changes in the care of children with developmental difficulties.

Conclusion
Parents want – and deserve – more answers, better service, and faster roads to improvement for their special needs children. The South Florida Autism Charter School is doing a great job in providing a tangible means toward those ends.

Recent Research about MRIs for Autism

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Since the outbreak of autism, various attempts have been made to utilize modern imaging techniques to provide a more precise diagnosis. Here are two recent stories that warrant recognition and comment.

Relationship between brain stem volume and aggression in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is not the first of its kind to describe an inverse correlation between the size of that part of the central nervous system and ASD. However, it is the first to possibly relate increased aggression with a measurable parameter.

One expert describes, “The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. All the fibers that go from the body to the brain and vice versa go through the brain stem. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain… handles basic functions like breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, sleeping and vomiting. The brain stem does not play a part in higher cognitive functions…”

The authors concluded, “Understanding brain differences in individuals with ASD who engage in aggressive behavior from those with ASD who do not can inform treatment approaches.” Indeed, disruptive behaviors describe a type of autism that is particularly difficult to address, and may even require potent medications.

The second article was Early brain development in infants at high risk for autism spectrum disorder, in Nature. The research revealed that surface area enlargement between 6 and 12 months precedes brain volume overgrowth observed between 12 and 24 months, which was linked to the emergence and severity of autistic social deficits. “These findings demonstrate that early brain changes occur during the period in which autistic behaviors are first emerging.”

The good
Both investigations serve to encourage the idea that timely detection leads to earlier intervention, which leads to improved outcomes. Even that obvious fact continues to be debated in some forums.

The bad
These studies are descriptive, and so they do not provide answers about cause and effect, form as relates to function, underlying genetic, nutritional or toxic states. There are many presentations of the condition, and research generally tries to get as homogeneous a group as possible – perhaps not representative of a larger group. More information is required to deduce practicality or therapeutic intervention.

The ugly
Emily Willingham, ‘science’ writer at Forbes.com, used the latter study to ‘prove’ and promote her vaccines-are-safe-for-all-kids campaign. Not a word about ‘shots’ was mentioned in the entire article, and this pro-inoculation zealot found a way to insert that thought into unsuspecting readers, in her piece entitled, “An Unexpected Takeaway From The Early Autism Diagnosis Study”. Yep, Em, that was unexpected!

Conclusion
One investigation delineated decreased brain size in one region, and the other demonstrated increased overall brain volume. A recent paper about neuro-imaging technology offered this advice: “… heterogeneous and definitive neural correlates in ASD have yet to be identified… findings from multiple independent neuroimaging meta-analyses in ASD appear discrepant…”

Such research represents further attempts to explain the medical issues. This should encourage other universities and research institutions to explore these topics, as well.

As is frequently the case, for now, the use of MRI technology to elucidate the pathophysiology and diagnosis of ASD deserves further study.

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