Archive for the ‘News-Maybe-Worthy’ Category

Medical Marijuana for Autism

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Families pose lots of questions, lately, about the use of cannabis products for children who experience signs and symptoms of ASD. This brief review explores the latest available evidence regarding experience, safety and efficacy.

Background
A turn-of-the-century review about the pharmacology of cannabis products revealed two different types of receptors; one affecting neurons, and a second that acts in the immune system. This discovery led to products that are “… already used clinically, as antiemetics or as appetite stimulants… suppression of muscle spasm/spasticity… the relief of chronic pain and the management of glaucoma and bronchial asthma.” Other ingredients, the article proposed, “… may also have clinical applications, e. g. as appetite suppressants and in the management of schizophrenia or disorders of cognition and memory.”

Some useful reviews are available on the web, and even neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta presented his learned point-of-view on a series of CNN special reports, entitled Weed.

Forms
The active ingredients include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the portion that produces euphoria, etc., and CBD (cannabidiol), which appears to have more medicinal effects. Both hemp oil and CBD oil are low in THC. 

For patients who have signs and symptoms of autism, their young age and sensory issues dictate only a few palatable forms of the product, which makes absorption – and blood levels – especially variable.

What improvements?
Anecdotal stories of better seizure control, decreased aggression, and increased communication appear throughout the autism community. The most famous product, Charlotte’s web, takes its name from a child with Dravet syndrome, which causes frequent convulsions, who demonstrated remarkable results that conventional medicines failed to address, and even led to severe complications.

What harm?
Little is known about the effects in children, especially those who are developmentally challenged.

On the other hand, little is really understood about the potential harm of stimulants, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant and antipsychotic preparations, which are often prescribed by the conventional medical community.

What risks?
Parents frequently question whether their child will become addicted to the various supplements and interventions that physicians suggest. The answer to CBD oil may be in the affirmative, but depending on the symptom improvements, that may be of little concern.

Discussion
Researching and reporting this information involves separation of the medical issues from all of the other stuff that surrounds this topic. Political, emotional, social, moral, legal and self-promotional issues are woven throughout the literature.

There are different forms of autism, various strains of hemp, diagnostic differences, and individual metabolism; any or all of which could be expected to produce a myriad of possible behavioral changes.

Even though 3/4 of physicians report being in favor of medical marijuana for needy patients, it is difficult to find practitioners to dispense these substances. Let’s not kid ourselves; we have little knowledge about the individual responses of normal people to psychotropic medications. The ASD population has far less ability to express emotion. This is basically, experimenting on children.

Conclusions
Based on the evidence so far, there is too little scientific evidence that it is of value for the ‘milder’ signs and symptoms of autism. Anecdotally, it appears to be quite helpful for intractable seizures, as suffered by some ASD patients. Any claims of superiority from one manufacturer to another would be difficult to verify.

If the medical community had more complete answers, families wouldn’t seek help elsewhere. For years, governmental interference from disparate agencies has crippled research for problems, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even in adults.

With the explosive increase in the numbers of individuals diagnosed with ASD, it would seem that a well-designed study to assess seizures, aggressive behaviors, anxiety, focus and communication in patients with autism should be in order.

Seven Critical Developmental Milestones for Autism

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

Unless there is a change of heart by the powers-that-be, pediatricians will continue to leave concerns about developing autism in mom’s and dad’s hands. Since ASD is among the most common modern childhood disorders, here is an informal, but well-informed list of similar developmental variations, reported by parents of children who were later found to be ‘on the Spectrum’.

Who is at risk?
There are correlations with a positive family history for speech delays, ADHD, or autoimmune disorders, especially thyroid. Other factors include; being male, born small or prematurely, moms taking certain medications, and other health conditions (diabetes, obesity).

Not much can be done, obviously, for such situations, so parents may want to just keep a closer eye.

4 months
3monthUnusual, unrelenting screaming, or an extremely ‘good’ child – parents have reported both.

Observations about feeding are important. Moms should be concerned about a weak suck, difficulty breastfeeding, or signs of colic or reflux. For formula-fed children, frequent changes due to intolerance may cast a shadow for future development.

A diagnosis of ‘torticollis’ (a condition where the head is turned to one side), or ‘plagiocephaly’ (flattening of the head), may be an early indicator of poor muscle tone.

7 months
6monthUnusual stooling patterns, including constipation and/or diarrhea, may become evident, possibly requiring medical intervention. Persistent skin conditions, such as eczema, or other chronic illness, such as bronchitis, may join other red flags.

By this time, infants should be smiling, making sustained eye contact and turning to their name.

Muscle tone should be increasing and the child should show the ability to sit.

10 months
9monthCrawling is acquired and in a typical fashion, so that ‘army’ moves or asymmetry may be a worry. The child is typically babbling.

There should not be continued, prolonged, repetitive movement, such as rocking back and forth or head banging. Neuro-typical infants are usually watching all of the action.

13 months
12monthSome type of walking should be present and there ought to be 2 or three words.

The youngster should be exploring and showing interest in others.

The introduction of new foods is not a big struggle in most infants. Delays in any of the one-year-milestones demands an exploration by the pediatrician.

16 months
16monthThere should be added suspicion if there are repeated ear infections, or other chronic medical conditions. Also, any requirement for Miralax™ should raise concern.

Staring at wheels, ceiling fans, and other spinning objects is typically only for the briefest period of time.

Any loss of speech, or lack of progress by this age is a red flag.

20 months
20monthsIf a child has required evaluation by more than 3 doctors for medical conditions, a central theme, such as autism should be considered.

Also, parents will want to be on the lookout for children who are stuck on few foods, and/or certain textures. An addiction to Pediasure™ can be an important clue.

Children who do not seem to be keeping up with peers warrant further observation. So, for first-timers, advice from an experienced, nonjudgmental grandparent can be valuable.

24 months
24monthBy now, children are playing appropriately with toys, talking to them, and playing with others.

It would be unusual to observe lining up things, looking to the side, continuing to put their hands over their ears, or excessive toe-walking.

At this age, it should be possible to separate the child from a digital device.

Discussion
Most of these signs, by themselves, are only an indication for increasing watchfulness. As behaviors persist when normal milestones are missed, concerns are heightened.

In our modern world, “Waiting until the child is three,” is not an option. The earlier that appropriate intervention is instituted, the better chance of shedding the diagnosis.

By noticing these variations in childhood development, a parent can speak to their pediatrician about formal testing for this problem.

Seeking More, Better Autism Updates

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Every day there is more information about this enigmatic epidemic. The Newsworthy tab on this site is useful for keeping up with some of the more controversial or confusing topics.

There never seems to be enough reputable, understandable, and useful news for families seeking help for a loved one affected with autism.

As of August, 2015, here is a representation of the most salient research:

Diagnosis
There are multiple reports that the increased number of patients with ASD is mostly the result of diagnostic changes. It’s difficult to understand WHY this is so important to the media. Cancer of the colon and breast is recognized more, as are autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disorders. Plus, there are many medical diseases, such as chronic fatigue and  restless leg syndrome, which weren’t even discovered until this century.

Though such information may be of some importance epidemiologically, it leads to confusion by affected families and skepticism by the general population. At The Child Development Center, there is a steady stream of patients who have no idea about DSM IV or DSM 5.0 criteria. Parents come seeking a trained physician who is willing to assist their non-typically developing child.

Genetics
This is where some of the most important discoveries should appear. It’s not like the ‘olden days’ when ASD was thought to be due to a single, as-yet-undiscovered mutation, infectious or toxic agent.

A myriad of possible genes, on a variety of chromosomes. previously unknown or thought to be of little significance, appear to be related to increased susceptibility in higher risk populations; including males, prematures, or children with immune problems. That situation, plus a toxic environment, creates the perfect storm for our little ‘canaries in the coal mine.’

Treatment
There is woefully little in the way of true new therapeutic interventions for children already affected with developmental delays such as speech apraxia, sensory processing issues, or aggressive behaviors.

Moreover, in spite of recent research indicating improvement with early intervention, the US Preventive Services Task could not recommend routine screening by pediatricians.

Prevention
The variety of studies that link advanced maternal and paternal age, increased maternal weight, and various other conditions of modern life, do little to ease the concern of prospective parents.

In fact, there are NO GoogleScholar.com entries on this subject in the present year.

Conclusion
Scientists can’t help but study this mysterious condition, in order to better understand not only ASD, but neurotypical behaviors, as well.

In spite of all the controversies that surround an autism diagnosis, medical researchers continue to make (slow) progress.

Response to Inaction by US Task Force on Autism

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

August 8, 2015
This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on screening for autism disorder in young children recommended that more research needs to be performed before they can propose the institution of a formal program.

In a 2011 special article in Pediatrics, the authors concluded, “… we believe that we do not have enough sound evidence to support the implementation of a routine population-based screening program for autism.” That same year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended integrating such tools as a preventive measure.

Screening Today
The most popular screening tool, the Denver Scale, was introduced 40 years ago and last revised in 1992. It was invented at a time when the most serious childhood problems were mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

According to one study, “… the test has been criticized to be unreliable in predicting less severe or specific problems.” The author of the DDST has replied, “… it is not a tool of final diagnosis, but a quick method to process large numbers of children in order to identify those that should be further evaluated.” Like the many scientific tools available to screen for autism.

Autism Screening Tools
The CDC has developed a detailed schematic mechanism for diagnostic screening. “Myths About Developmental Screening” included these facts:

… today sound screening measures exist. Many screening measures have sensitivities and specificities greater than 70%.
•Training requirements are not extensive for most screening tools…
•Many screening instruments take less than 15 minutes to administer…
•Parents’ concerns are generally valid and are predictive of developmental delays.

Success of Early Screening
Fifteen years ago, a Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Societystated, “Early identification of children with autism and intensive, early intervention during the toddler and preschool years improves outcome for most young children with autism.”

The effects of intellectual functioning and autism severity on outcome of early behavioral intervention for children with autism, published in 2007, concluded “… These findings emphasize the importance of early intensive intervention in autism and the value of pre-intervention cognitive and social interaction levels for predicting outcome.”

A 2008 study noted, “Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated positive effects in both short-term and longer term studies. The evidence suggests that early intervention programs are indeed beneficial for children with autism, often improving developmental functioning and decreasing maladaptive behaviors and symptom severity at the level of group analysis.”

A Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers With Autism, first published in 2009, demonstrated, “… the efficacy of a comprehensive developmental behavioral intervention for toddlers with ASD for improving cognitive and adaptive behavior and reducing severity of ASD diagnosis. Results of this study underscore the importance of early detection of and intervention in autism.”

A Systematic Review of Early Intensive Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders, in 2011, “… resulted in some improvements in cognitive performance, language skills, and adaptive behavior skills in some young children with ASDs…”

Research in 2014 at UC Davis demonstrated that 6/7 high-risk infants (6 to 15 months old), “…caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3.” Therapy was provided by instructing parents on interventions that could be done at home.

Discussion
Dr. David Grossman, task force vice chairman and pediatrician, said that while early treatment is promising for the more severely affected, that hasn’t been studied in children who have mild symptoms that may be caught only in screening. So – don’t screen at all?

The USPSTF in question lists potential harms as including, “… time, effort, and anxiety associated with further testing after a positive screening result, particularly if confirmatory testing is delayed because of resource limitations. Behavioral treatments are generally thought to not be associated with significant harms but can place a large time and financial burden on the family.”

A common theme among most of the parents who are interviewed about the manner in which their child’s autism diagnosis was handled, is the wish that the pediatrician had been more knowledgeable and forthcoming about developmental red flags. The cost of autism runs into millions of extra dollars over the lifetime of individuals who continue to be affected.

When it comes to all-vaccinations-for-all, anything related to ebola, guns not-under-control, poisons in our environment, etc., the government has rarely demonstrated reluctance to recommend. When it comes to children’s health, what happened to erring on the side of caution?

The task force VP said, “… of course you should screen if the parent is concerned.”
IF THE PARENT IS CONCERNED?

Shouldn’t it be the doctor???

Docs, Glocks and Autism

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

gunMiami Herald
July 28, 2015
Appeals court upholds doctor-patient gun law

According to the article, “The law subjects healthcare providers to possible sanctions, including fines and loss of license, if they discuss or record information in a patient’s chart about firearms safety that a medical board later determined was not “relevant” or was “unnecessarily harassing.” The law did not define these terms.”

The law did not define these terms
It has been reported that U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat, the author of the majority opinion, understands that, in a patient at-risk for suicide, this might be a valid medical concern.

How about this case?

A fifteen year-old male who suffers from moderate-to-severe autism (or any other medical – psychiatric condition), takes Zoloft for aggressive behaviors, perseverates on violent video games, and doesn’t seem to grasp the line between fantasy and reality.

Would it be fair to say that a discussion by the physician with the parents about weapons in the home is appropriate?

The risk factors

  • The patient’s sex.
  • The person’s age.
  • Medication(s) use. There is even a ‘Black Box’ warning on SSRIs about the increased possibility of suicide.
  • The predilection for violent video games related to behaviors.
  • The teen’s inability to discern reality vs. fantasy. When asked, “Who is your best friend,” for example, one patient responded with the name of person who he had never met.
  • Constant bickering with parents over school.
  • A loaded gun in the house.

Discussion
Such a situation might be equally as valid when a patient experiences conditions other than ASD. Indeed, people ‘on the spectrum’ are probably less likely to act with outward aggression. Certainly, a discussion about elopement is absolutely a necessity in the face of autism, as are questions about a pool safety and the ability to swim.

Surely, there are a gaggle of gun-toting attorneys who can poke holes in my case. After all, I’m just a healthcare provider.

The lawyers representing the doctors got it wrong. This is not about the first amendment rights of physicians to discuss the issue of guns. This is about public safety. And, let’s face it, when it comes to vaccinations-for-all, as an example, there’s no problem protecting the herd.

Perhaps just as certain, is the possibility that, should a shooting death occur in this scenario, a lineup of litigators would appear on the radar screen, accusing the (ir)responsible doctor of not taking the obvious and necessary steps to prevent such a tragedy. “An Accident Waiting to Happen,” might be the headline.

Conclusion
This is an insane law that supports the NRA’s unyielding position about the rights of gun ownership. It is proof of how corrupted our system has become, due the superabundance of lobbying money.

Gun control is what we need, in the face all the senseless shooting deaths by too many young men, who obviously have mental challenges. However bizarre, it is a standing law that has now been upheld by the Florida Court of Appeals.

More information will be required to illuminate the holes that are created by this imprecise lawyer-speak.

The Media and Autism

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Emily Willingham, Forbes blogger and self-appointed autism expert, couldn’t let the story about the death of Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet pass without injecting her two cents.

Dr. W commenced her comments with a 2,000 by 1000 pixel, scary picture of a syringe and needle. I never saw that photo at the beginning of one of her ‘Vaccination is Perfectly Safe‘ stories. She went on to detail the nefarious activities of a doctor administering a dangerous serum to unsuspecting patients. Em, have you ever heard of botox?

Conjecture, innuendo and professional jealousy notwithstanding, Dr. Bradstreet was the parent of an autistic son, and an early adopter, researcher, and lecturer of biomedical treatment for the disorder. He popularized medical evaluation and protocols to address metabolic variations at a time when the generally accepted cause of ASD was considered to be bad parenting.

All but the most conventional treatments are presented as kooky at best, harmful to patients at worst, and a waste of time and money. Some of the latest national news headlines regarding autism will illustrate:

  • ABC – Jim Carrey Apologizes for Posting Photo of Autistic Boy
  • CBS – Authorities: Anti-vaccine doctor dead in apparent suicide
  • CNN – Another study finds no link between MMR vaccine and autism
  • NBC – ‘You Don’t Outgrow Autism’
  • Fox – Woman says diet is healing son’s autism

Perhaps this situation, more than any other circumstance, hinders further worthwhile (i.e. causes and treatments) autism research. Headlines are made when a researcher is proven incorrect, statistics are questioned, and even a teen’s murderous rampage is presaged with possible links to Asperger’s Syndrome.

Regardless of the manner in which autism as a medical condition got so far off track, a new attitude needs to accompany the message that academics, practitioners, parents and charities project. Even skeptics who questioned the HIV/AIDS situation abandoned the ‘it’s their own fault’ line of thinking.

What can be done?

Autism foundations need to work together. Autism Speaks, The Autism Foundation, Autism Societies, and Local chapters have to find a way to advance positive publicity and useful information. There is little room for discord at this time. An unpopular stance, perhaps, but it can only help in the search for effective treatments.

Researchers need to get out in front of the media so that the epidemic proportions are clear, and that real work is being done to further study. Disagreements, such as increased incidence only being a perception, have already been addressed by the CDC.

Knowledgeable parents are doing the most effective job of finding professionals and insisting on protocols to help their affected offspring. Doctors need to join in this effort and announce the remarkable improvements that occur when biomedical and conventional treatments are combined.

Neurologists need to get on board. Frequently, parents are admonished that, “Nothing more can be done.” Improvements following biomedical protocols are either dismissed as coincidence, imagination, or magic.

Other specialists need to get on board. This means that allergists, pediatric psychiatrists, immunologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, and pulmonologists, have to broaden their knowledge base and focus on the patient, not their particular subspecialty. Too often, parents are only informed that the problem does not lie in their domain.

Pediatricians and family practitioners need to get on board. This is the childhood epidemic of our time, doctors; embrace it, learn about it, and take the time to talk to your families.

Autism heroes, such as Temple Grandin, Drs. Martha Herbert, Susan Swedo, Robert Naviaux, Richard Frye, and Jill James are modern medical role models for the next generation. The media, including Forbes, needs to highlight these personalities, rather than obfuscating this important issue with titillating stories and dogmatic posturing.

Conclusion
People who have Parkinson’s disease are not Parkinson’s experts, nor are people with cancer oncology specialists. Lorenzo’s oil is the exception, not the rule. Insiders and outsiders alike, need to embrace those who are doing real work to solve this problem.

The autism community includes a large, diverse population of well-meaning, knowledgeable and competent people. Together, we will understand and conquer this devastating scourge on our youngest constituents.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the media extended a helping hand?

What Pediatricians Can Do About the Autism Epidemic

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Pediatricians are the first line of defense against childhood conditions that have lifelong effects. Traditionally, that has included the Denver Developmental Exam, frequent doctor visits in the first few years, and vaccinations to prevent childhood diseases.

News Flash
There is an epidemic of childhood conditions that include ADHD and ASD, conflicting opinions notwithstanding. That means that pediatricians ‘stand at the door’, and are responsible for prevention and treatment, no matter how much they resist this reality.

Stay up to date on pertinent literature. As the HIV epidemic began to emerge, medical science experienced a quantum leap in our knowledge about the immune system. Similarly, the increasing volume of parents who are concerned about their children’s delayed speech, lack of focus, and hyperactivity, demands more research and knowledge and less kindly reassurance, which is based on the experience of the previous century.

Carry a high index of suspicion. Five or ten minutes spent with a parent and child is not enough time to perform a thorough physical examination and elicit pertinent clinical information. The visit should include a documented nutritional summary.

Make a presumptive (if not definitive) diagnosis. Parents need information, and the child’s pediatrician is the expert. It’s fairly simple – delay in communication, repetitive behaviors and lack of socialization demand an explanation and exploration. Loss of language, lack of eye contact, and poor tone are red flags to be explored, not ignored.

Do a proper workup. At least check the blood count, thyroid, liver and kidney function. What is over-kill about exploring vitamin and mineral deficiencies in a picky eater? Then, the doctor could evaluate whether appropriate intervention makes a difference in the signs and symptoms that concern parents.

Make appropriate consultations as early as possible. In a recent UC Davis study, six of seven high-risk children who received therapy alone lost the presumptive diagnosis. Parents will be more upset with the pediatrician who says, “Let’s wait,” and improvement does not occur, than one who advises, “Let’s err on the side of caution,” even if symptoms could have abated without intervention.

 Advise parents to try the gluten free – casein free diet for a few months. What is there to be afraid of? Uneasiness about creating a nutritional deficiency can be easily checked with laboratory evaluation and documentation of proper growth.

Perform an appropriate evaluation for associated signs and symptoms. Explore the cause of frequent infections, rather than responding with the knee-jerk reaction of prescribing antibiotics. Miralax® should only be given for brief periods and for occasional constipation, and isn’t even approved in children. GERD that is treated with antacid preparations can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Steroids may reduce skin rashes, but do not address to the root cause.

When a child has the diagnosis of ASD, the doctor should explore safety issues. Elopement is not uncommon, so family plans should be devised. Although learning to swim is no insurance against a tragedy, acquiring that skill helps provide some peace of mind. Incongruous laws notwithstanding, discussing gun security is a must.

Provide parents with a reading list. TheAutismDoctor.com is a good start, where discussions are presented to address the polarized world of autism diagnosis and treatment. When possible, the essays have hyperlinks to the original research. The Newsworthy tab includes the most recent and pertinent literature.

Become knowledgeable about the variety of protocols. The doctor who has read the literature (both pro and con) about alternative treatments is the only one qualified to give advice. Practitioners who assert, “I’m not aware of this or that treatment,” may be highlighting their ignorance, rather than providing up-to-date info. Therefore, unless the pediatrician knows about a therapy, the patient will surf the ‘net, and listen to the professional who does.

Video Games and Autism – ADHD

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

“Watching that TV is going to make you stupid!” Such has been the advice of older generations since the first Philco screens appeared in our living rooms over a half-century ago.

In 1980, University of Pennsylvania professors wrote in the Journal of Broadcasting, “…television has inhibited intellectual development on a broad social level; it discourages students from reading, fun concentration skills, and impedes the acquisition and practice of scholastic discipline.” Apparently, that advice was not heeded.

tv graph 1In 2004, a paper in the Journal of Genetic Psychology concluded, “In sum, children who watched more television tended to spend less time doing homework, studying, and reading for leisure. In addition, their behaviors became more impulsive, which resulted in an eventual decrease in their academic achievement.” Viewing continued to increase.

“Playing those video games is going to make you stupid!” Again, the advice offered by older generations since Super Mario became popular a quarter-century ago. TIME magazine reported that “… the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013. That’s up from 5.6 hours in 2012, which was up from 5.1 hours in 2011. “

Differences have evolved, however, in society and technology, so that children of all ages may be at risk for impaired neuro-typical abilities, especially in the social domain.

The i-Differences

Ease-of-Use (for those under 40)
Doctors should research how Steve Jobs was able to reach the most basic areas of the brain. Easily managing the user interface is a skill that children barely out of infancy can achieve. It doesn’t make the child “…good with computers.”
Entertainment that comes with so many movements, bells, and whistles is very attractive to developing minds. Non-electronic toys require real imagination and encourage socialization. Previously, dolls and such that talked usually ‘sucked’ because they were boring. With iPhone, there are infinite possibilities.

Variety of Formats
No longer are kids sitting on the same couch doing the same activity. One might be texting her BFF while another is annihilating aliens on the big screen. On personal devices, it is not necessary for another human to be present. And, even if present, it is not necessary for someone to exist in the same room (or country).
This situation adds to the disconnection that already exists in our world. When asked, “Who is your best friend?” patients are frequently stumped.

Games are Violent and Graphic
Similar concerns accompanied the warning about promoting violence in previous technologies. This time, however,  the viewer has control. There are blurred lines determining good and evil, spirituality, or even a sense of humor. A 2007 paper demonstrated, “… a physiological desensitization to violence.”
As 3D and VR improves, there are blurred lines about reality, as well.

Nature of ASD and ADHD
Anger, frustration, anxiety, lack of focus and attention, distractible, short-fuse, non-social, in-their-own-world, bossy, and sensory overload are not characteristics that a parent would ever want to encourage in a child who has developmental difficulties.
Sleep may be disturbed by a teen’s insistence on continuing play. Homework, already a non-preferred activity, may become a major distraction.
A new wrinkle in the video game arena is ‘you-tubing’ another player play. What is that about? Lots of teenage patients spend HOURS each day viewing this. “Why, I ask?” “It’s funny!” is a typical response. One parent offered, “He’s learning techniques.” I never got better at golf by watching golf.

Conclusion
On health-related issues alone, researchers noted, “… while television use was not related to children’s weight status, video game use was.”

The next generation of video experience represents a possible sea change for childhood growth and development. A recent analysis concluded, “The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.

Pathological gaming has been noted in those who, “… spent twice as much time playing as nonpathological gamers and received poorer grades in school; pathological gaming also showed comorbidity with attention problems. Pathological status significantly predicted poorer school performance even after controlling for sex, age, and weekly amount of video-game play.”

Neuro-diversity may take years for understanding, and biases endure. This technological circumstance may be an advantage that encourages certain skills, but could be a deal-killer for others, especially those with academic and social challenges.

 

 

Best Summertime Activities for Children with Autism and ADHD

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

It’s already the end of this school year. Many families (here, in Florida) have been through an IEP to determine services for the next semester. What is best? Often, it will involve some special education, possibly in an ESE classroom or GenEd with pullouts.

Yikes, it’s so complicated! Children are in a constant state of change. Summer activities have already been formulated, but there are many questions about what to do with the unstructured time. So, here is TheAutismDoctor’s top ten list of things to do this summer:

 Leave time for the kids to just be kids. Especially for children under the age of 5 years, academics can take a back seat to socialization.

 Children over that age often have difficulty focusing on non-preferred activities, and so will need to practice some of those skills, in order keep up. Pick the areas that are most challenging, and set aside some regular time for practice.

 Parents are frequently at odds about whether to let a child spend time doing digital ‘stimming’, such as watching favorite Youtube videos, or repeating Angry Birds. A useful compromise is to strictly limit those activities to very specific times. No deviations.

 Children should learn to swim. It may take a professional just to get the child into the water, but eventually, they all learn to love this activity. Although a parent is not assured that acquiring this skill can prevent a tragic accident, it may provide some measure of confidence.

 Together with the child, learn or practice a new, easy, outdoor hobby. This promotes better health and socialization. The experience gets the child on a more equal footing with the parent, as they explore activities such as fishing, boating, surfing, golf, biking, or hiking.

 Children who get to visit the family’s home state/country/old neighborhood thrive. The cousins are usually prepared, so the ASD kid has built-in playmates.

 To the best of your abilities, don’t give up on the diet and supplements.
It’ll be that much more difficult when you go back.

 This is a good time to give some of the alternative treatments, such as Low Dose Naltrexone or glutathione, a try. Negative reactions can be quickly identified, and there may be some surprising results.

 Give the stimulant and anti-anxiety meds a break.
Summertime isn’t that intimidating.

 Families who take vacations together have the best outcomes.

Talking At TACA

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

I had the privilege of speaking at the Talk About Curing Autism Conference, which was held in Philadelphia this weekend (5.1.15).

The topic that I was asked to present was Mast Cells. Dr. T C Theoharides is a world’s expert on this subject, but couldn’t attend, so I was asked to lecture in his absence.

The Talk
Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that exist is various locations throughout the body, and are responsible for protection and healing. They do their work by discharging chemicals, such as histamine, from packets that are contained within the specialized cell.

Dr. ‘Theo’ has published a great deal of the research about these critters, and among his discoveries are the following:
 Mast cells exist in relative abundance in the skin, but also in key areas of the brain that ultimately affect sensory and cognitive function.
 The cells have an intimate physical and chemical relationship with the blood vessels, nerves, and other immune cells inside the brain.
 Mast cells function differently inside the brain than in the skin, releasing their chemical contents in different ways and with a variety of substances other than histamine.
 They could be responsible for ‘brain allergy’ and many of the signs and symptoms of ASD, such as brain ‘fog’ and irrational outbursts.
 Prevention of mast-cell release inside the brain may be a valuable tool in the treatment of autism.

TACA
The organization was founded at the beginning of this century as a parent support group to discuss the growing epidemic about which doctors and other professionals did not seem to have a clue – from diagnosis, to cause, to treatment or prevention.

The mission statement includes a belief “in early diagnosis, intensive therapies and medical intervention for children affected by autism. With early intervention, medical treatment unique to each person’s needs and necessary support services for families many children can improve greatly and some can recover from their autistic symptoms.”

“From a grassroots beginning in Southern California, TACA expanded nationwide and now has a physical presence via our Chapters in 23 states and a virtual presence in the rest of the nation.”

Final thoughts
In the beginning, there was ‘Defeat Autism Now!’  – a group of physicians (DAN! doctors) and parents, searching for answers about how to understand and help patients affected with ASD.

That organization has grown and given rise to the Autism Research Institute and The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. Now, Autism Speaks, The Autism Society of America, Generation Rescue, and many other local organizations have emerged, dedicated to bringing relief to this modern epidemic.

In the medical vacuum that has appeared since the rise of ASD, doctors have yet to really fill the void with solid research or reliable interventions. What the autism community needs is either a cohesion of the disparate charities that already exist, or a new entity that helps to raise dollars for primary and clinical research that yields even more knowledge and hope.

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