Archive for the ‘News-Maybe-Worthy’ Category

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

The measles outbreak that started in Disneyland has generated a fair amount of activity at The Child Development Center lately.

Many of our patients are either un- or under- vaccinated, according to the Vaccine Gods, so an increase in a preventable childhood disease in the U.S. is a very important healthcare issue.

In response to the media stories, and with the intention of addressing parents’ concerns, The Center emailed our patients.

The advice that was offered:
a. If the child has never had a vaccination, it is best to “bite the bullet” and go ahead with an MMR. We’re in the middle of an outbreak and it’s a very small world.

b. If the child has been previously vaccinated for MMR, you could get  “measles-mumps-rubella titers”. This is a blood test to determine if the child is still immune to the diseases, so it may be OK to hold off for now.

There were a variety of interesting responses.
Parent: “Thanks, Dr. Udell, for the heads up.”
Dr. U: You’re welcome. I’m just a messenger. Parents are the ones who have to make the final decision.

Parent: “What if the child has antibodies to eggs (allergy)?”
Dr. U: That is a big problem. I would look over the most recent laboratory tests and, depending on the child’s present state of health, and other findings, possibly still have to recommend. For what it’s worth, two of the products are actually grown on chick embryo, and almost all of our yolk-and/or-white-positive patients are negative to chicken. The German measles strain is grown on lung tissue derived from human fetus. We don’t test for that.

Parent: “Can’t you break up the shots?
Dr. U: No, the company that used to produce separates stopped years ago.

Parent: “My child was severely damaged by that shot. I’m surprised that you made this recommendation.”
Dr. U: It’s situational ethics, in a medical setting. I sympathize with your plight. Not only is there conflicting research; cases, such as yours, are completely ignored. Nevertheless, measles carries a 1/1000 chance of encephalitis (brain infection). 

Discussion:
After listening to so many complaints of proximate injury to an inoculation, it seemed that the best advice was to hold off vaccinating until the child improved, and/or the cause(s) of inflammation was discovered. There was little evidence of a rise in disease, so I felt less concern for the ‘herd’ than the family sitting in my office. The plan was to vaccinate a healthier child in 1-2 years, utilizing a judicious make-up protocol, if the parents agreed.

Each family will address this news differently, and act on their decision based upon what they consider as their child’s best interest. Questions and concerns persist. An epidemiologist just published a York Times editorial suggesting that there would be increased compliance if it were more difficult to obtain an exemption.

The line between the ‘good of the many’ and the ‘good of the one’ has shifted. Once the seal is broken, so to speak, and fewer than ~90% of the susceptible population is protected, there can be no accurate prediction of whether/where/when/how severe another outbreak will occur. The choice returns to the ‘good of the one’, so prevention is paramount.

The reality is that, if the AMA, AAP, FDA and CDC would express less dogma, become more sympathetic to those who claim injury, make fewer errors, and perform prospective studies to demonstrate efficacy and universal safety, parents wouldn’t be forced to make such a crucial decision on their own.

Ten Noteworthy Observations about People with Asperger’s

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

reitman1Recently, I had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Hackie Reitman, an orthopedic surgeon, ex-prize fighter, and now author and producer. My role was to provide additional clinical information about his newest endeavor to address the difficult challenges met by people with Asperger’s syndrome.

The eclectic doctor has written and produced a soon-to-be-released movie entitled The Square Root of 2. Plus, he is in the process of publishing his enlightening book, “Aspertools: The Practical Guide to Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity,” to assist patients, families, and the public in understanding what it is like to live with Asperger’s, and helpful strategies for success.

Notwithstanding the official demise of the oft-used moniker describing a like-group of individuals, this compilation covers some frequent questions and observations:

10. As with autism, which is due to a variety of causes with varying presentations, there isn’t one kind of Asperger’s syndrome.

9. The appearance of any lack of cognition or empathy often does not reflect the affected individual’s reality. They experience emotions, like the rest of us, but do not necessarily exhibit them in a typical manner. Sometimes their frustration can boil over into extreme anger.

8. People ‘on the Spectrum’, who are able to communicate and aren’t aggressive, are considered ‘high functioning’. When Dr. Asperger described the first cases, however, earlier cognition and language differentiated his patients from ‘regular’ ASD.

7. Everyone who doesn’t get a joke doesn’t have Asperger’s, and many Asperger’s patients have a sense of humor.

6. Eye contact can be fairly difficult in Asperger’s. Patients often complain, “Do you want me to talk-listen to you, or look at you?”

5. Sensory issues are a major problem, and difficult for the neuro-typical individual to appreciate. Fluorescent bulbs are a distraction, certain sounds can be like chalk-on-a-blackboard, perfume may be nauseating, taste can be very picky, and just the thought of touch may become frightening.

4. Individuals can learn from a trusted friend, family member, or teacher.  However, many educational environments produce a distracting cacophony of sensory issues. Knowing that a highly social situation will be very anxiety producing makes the sufferer easily distractible and leads to poor focus. It’s not necessarily ADHD.

3. A narrow range of interests and repetitive behaviors are not always obsessive-compulsive behaviors, they are part of the condition. That is why the usual psycho-schizo-antianxiety medications are often ineffective in Asperger’s patients.

2. This is not a diagnosis ‘du jour’. People who experience this condition know it, and are usually relieved when they find out the reason(s) for their differences.

1. As with other ‘Spectrum’ patients, there are often additional somatic issues involving the gut, allergies, and nutritional deficiencies. A thorough medical workup with appropriate medical intervention is frequently quite helpful in relieving some core signs and symptoms.

Dr. Reitman, who is the father of an Aspie, is helping to design a better understanding and treatment of this mysterious condition. It’s comforting to know that, like Dan Marino, Ernie Els, and Jim Kelly, the autism community has another true champion on our side.

Autism, ADHD and Circumcision

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

New information has been forthcoming from a Danish database lately, specifically involving autism. This study represents data involving more than 1/3 million children, entered from 1994 to 2003 .

As might be expected, an eye-catching array of media headlines followed the paper entitled, “Ritual circumcision and risk of autism spectrum disorder in 0- to 9-year-old boys: national cohort study in Denmark”.

The Results:
In both the older and younger groups of circumcised boys, there was an increased relationship to ASD. Some adjustments (birthweight, APGAR score, etc.) were accounted for, while other known, possible associations were not (pain relief, living near pollution, diet, e.g.).

Additionally, circumcised boys in non-Muslim families were also more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis.

Other Research:
A 2013 study looked at the increasing incidence of ASD since acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been routinely used for pain relief during circumcision. The authors suggested “… the need for formal study of the role of paracetamol in autism.” In other words, they looked at the problem from the other direction; and when pain relief was provided, autism increased.

Discussion:
The Danish investigation contains a most glaring conclusion that makes the data-in-question eminently quotable, “We confirmed our hypothesis that boys who undergo ritual circumcision may run a greater risk of developing ASD.” I wrote to ask the principle author, Dr. Morten Frisch, about this.

The doctor took the time to respond to a number of questions about the information. He seemed to be somewhat sensitive that such controversy has surrounded these (admittedly) two highly emotional topics, and he is taking plenty of outside criticism. Furthermore, Dr. Frisch has assumed an “I’m-just-the-messenger” attitude about the conclusion.

For me, a major sticking point is a design anomaly which brings the entire report into question. Specifically, children who hadn’t been circumcised but were autistic were considered as not autistic until they got the operation, for the purposes of the data analysis.

For example, a seven-year-old who already had autism didn’t get classified that way, until he was circumcised at 7, (which is clinically impossible).
My question, “If a study shows that I am an architect, not a doctor, isn’t the study flawed?”
Dr. Frisch’s response, “No, in your example the methods would not be ’flawed’, but ‘imprecise’.” Either word – it’s inaccurate. The product only represents a mathematical reality.

Conclusion:
Male circumcision and autism are both very controversial issues. Supporters for various points-of-view will use self-selected segment(s) of the data to fit their particular pro or con argument.

The practice of male foreskin removal is decided according to family, friends, folklore, culture, customs, and cosmetics. The present medical evidence is far from conclusive.

Regarding the cause and prevention of autism, the more significant medical information is that vigorous scrutiny and intervention in a young infant’s nutritional and developmental status is the most successful means to fend off possible delays.

As for the present study? “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” (Mark Twain)

What Causes Autism – 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

A question and an answer. This is number two on the list of most-asked questions of this pediatrician. Number one = “Is there really more autism?” Number 3 = “It isn’t connected to the vaccinations, right?”

Here is this year’s evidence implicating our polluted environment:

Pesticides – One expert said, “Until about five years ago, virtually all research on autism assumed that the disease was entirely genetic in origin, and that environmental exposures did not play a role… Rising rates of autism and failure to find genetic causes despite a multitude of very large genetic studies have led to a major shift in focus in the field. … These chemicals are a solid lead that needs to be followed.”

In June, Scientific American published an article entitled, Autism Risk Higher Near Pesticide-Treated Fields.

Glyphosates (Roundup, by Monsanto) – Not only could the ubiquitous use of this toxin, used to increase the yield of harvested wheat, contribute to a dangerous load for susceptible fetuses, newborns and toddlers, it could explain the reason that so many feel improvement from a “gluten-free” diet.

Genetically Modified Foodstuffs received a stamp of approval, on the other hand, from the Genetic Literacy Project.

Environmental Factors, in general, have shown a relationship to autism in a recent research.

Electromagnetic Fields and Radio Frequency Radiation  – Based on the recent information provided by the remarkable Dr. Martha Herbert, these international authors felt compelled to write to the Pediatric Journal of Neurosciences, “An epidemiological study is warranted in order to explore the possible link between the prevalence of autism and the extent of electromagnetic pollution.”

The overuse and injudicious use of antibiotics continues to raise concern. Gastrointestinal health is being actively studied as a key cause of autistic signs and symptoms.

Exposure to steroids continues to make its way into the literature. Our offspring did not recently mutate, and there are a myriad of reasons why there has been increased pre- and post- natal exposure.

Prenatal exposure to anti-seizure medication was reported as a cause of autism.

Childhood Vaccinations – The controversy regarding the pros (they DO) and cons (they DON’T) rages. The most compelling answer would be provided by a prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind, cross-over study. Who wants to put their child in the control group?

Heavy metals were reported as an environmental toxin associated with ASD in Dr. Rossignol’s thorough literature review.

This epidemic is due to the perfect storm of susceptible individuals in a poisoned environment. Now, if we could just figure out who carries the highest susceptibility and which agents are the most toxic.

When Professionals Disagree about Autism

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Parents strive to do their best for all their children, and this is especially challenging for those with special needs. So, families seek assistance from assorted channels; including books, other parents, therapists, teachers, professional practitioners, and of course, the Internet.

Inevitably, discussions arise about the ‘best way’ to handle specific situations, including the core domain difficulties of social isolation, repetitive motions (‘stims’) and communication.

Due to the enigmatic combination of signs and symptoms that presently fall under an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, there are usually more opinions than the number of authorities involved.

Conflicting information emanates from various sources:
Often, child neurologists are negative about practitioners who offer alternative medical interventions. There has been little change in the advice that they have offered for the past 25 years. Their information is based upon children who were previously put into mental institutions with other ‘retarded’ individuals.
What is the parent of a 5-year-old with apraxia to do? “Get more therapy!” Really? That’s all you’ve got, doc?

Likewise, pediatricians are generally clueless regarding ASD. Whenever a professional concludes, “We should wait for 6 months or so, to give a diagnosis,” parents should seek more substantial advice. What other medical condition is assigned this situation? Certainly not ear, throat or sinus problems, which appear to require immediate antibiotic intervention, regardless of a fever or other confirmatory signs.

Specialists, such as gastroenterologists, allergists, immunologists, pulmonologists and dermatologists seem to have tunnel vision, when it comes to autism. ‘Constipation’ and ‘eczema’ are descriptive terms, not astute diagnoses. Steroids are short-lived band-aids. Miralax® and Prilosec® are downright dangerous.

Psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and psychologists are considered experts in assigning an accurate diagnosis. However, RisperdalAbilify, and Adderall never made any child speak. Plus, there are a multitude of negative side effects.

Speech and Language Therapists are the authorities who have been on the front line of the autism epidemic. Children who do not speak are apraxic – period! Advice, such as, “He doesn’t want to speak,” is meaningless. “Mommy, I want juice,” is easier than dragging a parent to the refrigerator. The child would say it, if the circuits worked correctly.

Occupational and physical therapists should be a mainstay, until fine motor skills become age-appropriate. If there were a supplement or medication for such abilities, we would all take a pill and get piano lessons. In the meantime, it takes practice, practice, practice. Children who avoid handwriting lessons are not ‘easily distracted'; they simply don’t wish to ‘suck’ in another activity that other kids tolerate or even enjoy.

Behavioral therapists who claim that a young child is too disruptive and requires medication should seek other employment. Similarly, assigning blame to the family for inconsistent or incorrect responses is not helpful. The more challenging the behavior, the more that a professional should seek the cause and treatments.

The Internet is a collection of stories, with little supporting information. Parents should seek sites that use hyperlinks to actual studies and avoid those with quick fixes or magic remedies. If it worked, we would know about it.

Other families are helpful, for sure. However, their experience is limited to the number of children, their ages, and their condition. No matter how well-meaning, the information needs to be taken with a great deal of salt.

The solution to all of these various expert opinions, is aided by an experienced medical practitioner who has cared for many patients and listens. By taking into account the history, physical, laboratory findings, and previous treatment regimes, a framework for real progress can be constructed.

Ten Ways Pediatric Neurologists Can Help Autistic Patients

Monday, December 8th, 2014

With all due respect to the intelligence of physicians who take specialized training in child neurology, it appears that there is often some disconnect between their knowledge about autism and the approach to the families and patients affected by this modern epidemic.

10•Making the diagnosis and giving some tickets for therapies is not enough. Questions such as, “How did my child get this? How many get better? What other things can we do? Are there any tests? Where can I go for more information?” are sure to follow the diagnostic impression. At least, provide useful answers for those interrogatories.

9•The child neurologist has the opportunity to assess the risk of anesthesia versus the poor yield of an MRI. Likewise, assisting in the consideration of a short-term EEG, when there is no indication of seizure activity. Those technologies are not a diagnostic workup.

8•There is more than one kind of autism. There should be careful exploration about specific difficulties with the skin, gastrointestinal system, or frequent infections.

7•Neurologists are in a position to provide valuable assistance regarding various alternative treatments’ risks and expense. An off-hand dismissal about therapies to address other co-morbid conditions does not enhance that specialist’s stature in the eyes of the parents.

6•It might be helpful to suggest simple, possibly helpful treatments, such as dietary restrictions. What is there to lose? For the physician who is truly concerned about key deficiencies, this would be a good opportunity to check the child’s nutritional status with some blood work.

5•Doctors who continue to repeat, “You are doing a great job,” at each visit, with little documentation of change, are less likely to experience further visits.

4•In addition to the usual Fragile X-boy-test and Rett’s-girl-test, the neurologist can order a ‘chromosomal microarray’. Copy number variation affects up to 15% of ASD patients. Insurance companies pay for this. Although the results may not be valuable today, that knowledge may be quite important as our understanding about autism evolves.

3•A screening laboratory evaluation for anemia, kidney, thyroid, and liver status may yield a great deal of information. Even if the busy doctor cannot act upon abnormalities, they can be conveyed to the pediatrician.

2•Expressions such as, “I’m willing to say developmental delay,” or “We have to wait to give you a diagnosis,” are for the previous century. In young toddlers, communication is in its most formative stage. “Let’s err on the side of caution, and make sure that you get S&L, OT, ABA, right away.”

1•There are studies to show that patients can recover. Knowledge about that research and successful outcomes provides real hope for bewildered parents.

Autism, Parkinson’s and Research

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

11.23.14
This past weekend, a lavish fundraiser, benefitting the Michael J. Fox Research Foundation for Parkinson’s disease, was held in NYC.

Earlier in the day, there was a roundtable of directors, doctors, researchers, patients, families, and philanthropists. They all shared the common goals of preventing and treating this affliction.

It became clear how many similarities, and few significant differences, there were between this condition and autism, regarding the efforts to understand and resolve it.

By noting the strengths of successful organizations, other disease-specific foundations can find ways and means to improve their efforts. Ice-poured-on-the-head, a recent and somewhat successful fundraising gimmick, is not sustainable.

 Similarities:
•Numbers of affected patients ~1 million (US)
•Many more unrecognized
•Multifactorial etiology – genetic and environmental
•Diversity of presentations
•Recent increases in incidence and prevalence
•Large effect on CNS
•Large effect on bowel
•Poorly understood
•Lack of biomarkers
•Lack of specific treatment, mostly addressing signs and symptoms (with limited and varying results)
•Inability to generate enough big Pharma financial interest
•Both affect social condition and activities of daily living
•Chronic conditions

Differences:
♦Age of presentation
♦Number of genes implicated so far (multiple in ASD)
♦Solidarity of fundraising organizations

Research:
Last year, the Michael J. Fox organization spent nearly $69M on funding various projects. Summing up 2013 financial reports, it appears that Autism Speaks, Brain and Behavior Research Institute, Simons Foundation for Autism Research, and the National Institutes of Health generate nearly twice that budget.

Conclusions:
Funding-wise, perhaps our knowledge about ASD diagnosis, treatment, and prevention ought to be more advanced. This could be due to the situation in which more disparate theories about ASD than there are about Parkinson’s, so funding sources are more schizophrenic diverse. After all, it’s still being called “Autism,” as if it is only one discreet entity.

One of the most significant difficulties in furthering studies for Parkinson’s is the entry of patients into study protocols, which doesn’t seem as problematic in the autism community. (At least, the Namenda, secretin, and stem cell trials seemed to fill up quickly.)

An important weakness that was brought up in the afternoon roundtable was the lack of sharing among all the CNS-specific organizations. It appears that, with all the present computer-processing power, a great deal can be learned by amassing and understanding conditions such as diverse as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s, Restless Leg Syndrome, and the rest.

Perhaps fifty years from now, but hopefully sooner, a more complete understanding of the brain will provide the framework for eliminating conditions such as Parkinson’s and autism.

The last event of the gala evening was Paul Simon playing “Me and Julio” on stage with Mr. Fox. It was truly amazing.

The War on Autism

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan declared a ‘War on Drugs‘. The Global War on Terrorism was pronounced after 09/11/01. Early in this century, Bush 2 joined the war on HIV/Aids. This week, Obama named an Ebola Czar.

For some time now, the U.S. has only had an acting Surgeon General (Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak), because the nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, had the temerity to say that, “Guns are a health care issue.”

Is it any wonder that ASD has taken a backseat to other matters in our healthcare system?

More than forty years ago, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop challenged the tobacco industry juggernaut that assaulted the population of 20th century earth. He raised numerous warnings (including the dangers of second-hand smoke), and even changed the paradigms for advertising and labeling the product. In spite of some unpopular conservative views, especially regarding abortion, Dr. K was still considered America’s Doctor.

What does ‘declaring war’ mean?
It implies urgency. Somehow, more resources appear; including funding, infrastructure, media, etc. Priorities change. For ASD, a medical condition, personnel and materials would become focused on research to elucidate etiology, test treatments and evaluate prevention.

The ‘enemy’ is put on notice that the entire weight of the U.S. government is behind an effort to solve the problem. It worked when we landed a man on the moon, figured out the HIV epidemic, and Bin Laden. Autism is trickier because, like terrorism, it’s difficult to identify the opposition.

A ‘Czar’ is usually named. The Big Kahuna avoids Senate confirmation. Hopes are raised. There would be a commander to unify the disparate autism organizations.

How would the appointment of an Autism Czar help?
There would be instant recognition, finally, that there is an epidemic. Apparently, “ASD now affecting 1/42 males,” does not sound dire enough.

A true understanding of the costs should enlighten the prudent potentate about the enormous savings produced by early diagnosis and effective intervention.

There would be a respected leader to delegate resources to the areas of most need. This individual also has ultimate responsibility for education, caring for older patients, and the most affected.

More medical specialists would get involved in the search for answers. Gastroenterologists, dermatologists, immunologists, child neurologists, and pediatricians would find increased incentives to join the autism battle.

Research leading to effective medications would speed up. The major complaint by drug manufacturers is that it costs >$ 1B to develop any new drug. Perhaps, as in other crusades, the ASD maven could cut through the red tape to get things moving.

Vaccination research would take a new direction. Increased resources should include the formulation of controlled, prospective, randomized, double-blind studies about the various components of the present childhood immunization schedule, dose and timing. This would go a long way to clearing up the many lingering concerns in this area.

Unification would provide a national infrastructure for tackling the situation. The evaluation of genetic, environmental, bacteriological, nutritional, and other important disciplines by the Boss and Joint Chiefs of Autism Medicine may be the best way to gain ground on the enemy.

The Czar would be responsible for making a difference in the autism epidemic.

There is no ‘War on Autism’.
But patients, families and practitioners – those who live and fight in the trenches – could certainly benefit from some reinforcements.

Five Steps to Improving Vaccination Compliance

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, “The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic”, Dr. Paul I-never-met-a-vaccine-I-didn’t-like Offit whined about the ignorant public, The Wakefield Effect, “fringe” doctors, foolish families and the “inaccurate” media. The subtitle, Whooping cough, mumps and measles are making an alarming comeback, thanks to seriously misguided parents, sums up the position of Dr. He-ain’t-Jonas-Salk.

The mainstream approach to the childhood vaccination-autism controversy is that there is no blame on the part of the ‘experts’ or the doctors who follow the pharmaceutical industry’s dogma. The logic that says,”If you knew how bad those diseases were, you would believe,” doesn’t work on me. I have lived through many previous epidemics.

The major problem is trust. Confidence in the government is at an all-time low. More than half of the population doesn’t trust the FDA. That bureaucracy can’t manage to stop antibiotics in our food, even when there is evidence of negative effects.

The CDC has similar problems. The current whistle-blower incident, involving questionable data inclusion/exclusion affecting an association with MMR and autism in African-American males, hardly discourages vaccine skeptics. Furthermore, the present viral epidemics appear to reinforce public fear about the competence of that prestigious organization. It was media scrutiny that prompted investigators to secure the living quarters of the Texas ebola patient!

How to Improve Vaccine Compliance:

1. It is difficult to believe that an agency has ‘learned from its mistakes’ when they don’t even own up to them. There have been problems in the past. A neurologic illness has been related to some vaccines, and the Swine Flu ‘epidemics’ were debacles. Public trust would best be furthered by declaring, “We understand what happened and those issues are behind us,” if it’s true. If it isn’t, caution is warranted.

2. Pediatricians need to give better advice. Often, the doctor who professes vaccine safety also missed the child’s ASD diagnosis. Parents are not “bad”, “ignorant”, or misinformed. They simply don’t agree, and professionals should be armed with the facts, not paternalistic warnings.

3. Doctors need to listen. A previous sibling or relative with autism is cause for concern. Fevers or illness that followed other vaccinations should be highlighted in the chart, not dismissed. Co-morbidities, such as eczema or asthma need to be controlled, before adding to the immunologic load.

4. Research that challenges the norm warrants evaluation, not immediate dismissal. Instead of proclaiming the autism-vaccination question a dead issue, confidence would be elevated by experts who calmly declare, “That study deserves further attention.”

5. A practitioner’s willingness to agree to an individual family’s reasonable request to adjust the number and frequency of ‘shots’ will be met with more, not less, compliance. Furthermore, kicking an insubordinate family out of the practice is neither ethical nor helpful.

The present strategy of threats and intimidation is not working to decrease the number of families who either choose an alternative schedule, or the risky position of total noncompliance.

Further understanding and kindness is the best prescription for a more successful approach.

Early Intervention Reverses Autism

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

reverse autism2More than occasional skepticism has been voiced about my lead essay, “Reversing Autism“. However, because of recent research, the major media sites, at least, seem to have picked up on this paradigm.

CBS news asked, “Could early intervention reverse autism?” NBC news announced, “Treating Infants for Autism May Eliminate Symptoms.” U.S. News and World Report: “Spotting, Treating Autism Symptoms in Infancy May Prevent Delays,” and USA Today was the most optimistic, by reporting “Study: Autism signs in babies can be erased.”

What was the study?
Researchers from the University of California, Davis MIND Institute provided intervention to seven ‘symptomatic’ infants (5 male, 7-15 months) and results were compared with 3 control groups:
1. High-risk infants who were younger siblings of an ASD child, but never developed it.
2. Low-risk infants who were younger sibs of a neuro-typical child.
3. High-risk infants who were younger sibs and diagnosed with ASD by 3 years.

What was the intervention?
Twelve ~1-hour sessions were provided. In the first one, 5-6 measurable objectives were developed. Afterwards, parents were instructed on skills to address those concerns. “… Therapists also provided parents with specific interventions for other delays, which were individualized for each child to address weaknesses identified during the curriculum assessment…”

What was the result?
U.C Davis’ Dr. Sally Rogers, et.al. reported that, “Most of the children in the study, six out of seven, caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3… Most children with ASD are barely even getting diagnosed by then.

Conclusions:
I was a bit disappointed that no medical problems were noted in any of the children. Perhaps it will be addressed in future research. Furthermore, the child who did not improve might have had an undiagnosed physical ailment, which would have made the intervention more effective.

In many cases, autism is something that can be reversed. That is simply the way that I perceive the condition. ASD seems to present as some sort of injury; before, or up to three years after birth, from which a child may recover. As in any physical insult, there can be complete, partial, functional, little or no improvement. Also, it may take months or years to achieve significant gains. The earlier the condition is treated, the higher the chance of recovery.

Pediatricians, neurologists, geneticists, psychiatrists, psychologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, immunologists, family practitioners – are you listening?

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