Archive for the ‘Vaccines’ Category

Your child’s autism – Was it just a coincidence?

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Jodi’s Story

Born 3 weeks prematurely, and weighing only 5+ pounds, this beautiful child was at high risk for a multitude of problems. That might include apnea (periodic breathing), GERD (reflux), other feeding difficulties, a weak immune system, and developmental concerns.

Since Mom is a personal friend, I had already warned against getting the Hepatitis B inoculation prior to hospital discharge. In such a tiny baby, “What’s the rush?” There were absolutely no risk factors, yet the doctors were already irked by the mother’s non-compliance.

For various reasons, Mom’s attempts at breastfeeding were never supported by the medical establishment. However, she worked to save as much of the natural product as she could, and supplement whenever possible. As occurs so frequently lately, oral-motor difficulties did arise, and an inevitable path unfolded.

First, the pediatrician said that the baby, “Isn’t getting enough. Thicken with rice cereal and cut larger holes in the nipple.” When that failed to help, noisy breathing led to an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor checking the airway, which was fine. The ‘special formulas’ merry-go-round was boarded. The gastroenterologist suggested that it was a ‘food allergy’. What, exactly, could a 6-week-old premie be allergic to? Where is the evidence-based medicine on that theory?

Reflux was suspected and Prevacid was prescribed. That was when I stuck my nose back into the case. The upper-GI study actually showed that the baby had very poor esophageal motility, which was causing the noisy breathing and poor feeding. Positioning and a mild medication to foster more effective swallowing were ordered, and the baby thrived for the next few months. “What about the shots?” asked the pediatrician.

BTW, an earlier maternal Vitamin D deficiency had already been diagnosed by the obstetrician, though no intervention or followup had been suggested. With nutritional supplements and an appropriate probiotic, the baby’s eating, stooling and development were proceeding normally.

A couple of months later, Jodi had a temperature elevation. Antibiotics were administered, but when that failed to ameliorate her fever, another round of medications was ordered for a ‘urinary tract infection’. By the third course of meds, the child exhibited a severe penicillin rash, and I said, “Enough!”

Only one week after this, the doctor was badgering the mother to, “Get up-to-date on the childhood vaccination schedule.” A nurse was about to give the usual 1-year cocktail, but Mom called me right before the injection. I told her to pay the bill and shoot the contents into the waste basket. Apparently, none of the office staff or professionals that day were aware of the past month’s complicated medical course. “Sorry,” was their response.

Jodi is now becoming a toddler; walking, talking and acting like any neuro-typical kid. That could be thanks to our mild interventions, in spite of them, or simply a merciful act of God. Regardless, we didn’t play any part in causing harm by making unsubstantiated diagnoses, utilizing potent drugs not really meant for infants, or doubling down on an already-taxed immune system.

And, she is slowly becoming up-to-date on an appropriate vaccination schedule, so the ‘herd’ is protected.

Discussion
As a Special Needs Pediatrician, how many times have I heard the opposite story? The Child Development Center frequently cares for children with gut problems, repeated ear infections, eczema, and/or asthma, etc., who are constantly sick and receive antibiotics for practically every complaint. The vaccinations seem to be more important than a workup for persistent medical problems. The prudent practitioner would do well to delay the recommended schedule, gaining more trust from appreciative parents.

Autism is an epidemic. There is no study on high-risk infants who receive 3 rounds of antibiotics within the first year, display immune intolerance (strange rashes, e.g.), then get inoculated by a concoction of potent antigens, shortly after a (probable) viral illness. There never will be. What committee on human experimentation would let a child take that risk? Don’t tell me about “The studies show…” Doctors, use common sense.

Why is there so much autism? A generally-accepted scientific explanation is that diseases occur when susceptible individuals become exposed to environmental stress. Why doesn’t every child have this issue? Isn’t 1/68 enough? Think of the bubonic plague in 12th Century England. Everyone didn’t die.

Conclusion 
As introduced to a generation through Jenny McCarthy’s books, and recently documented in An Unfortunate Coincidence, there ain’t no such thing as a genetic epidemic.

This very personal journey is followed by too many families. We need more research, proper advice, and most of all, additional well-trained trained professionals for prevention, earlier diagnosis and useful interventions.

For the pediatrician who exclaims, “Well, I don’t know much about autism,” it’s time to pick up a book (or journal).

Early Experience with Helminth Therapy in Autism Treatment

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Gastrointestinal issues are one of the most common co-morbidities in patients who experience signs and symptoms of ASD. Treatments have included prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, cathartics, detoxifying agents, antibiotics, antifungals, human fecal materials, and others. Singly, and in combination, they have resulted in sometimes limited success and frequent relapses.

Furthermore, patients with ASD suffer a variety of allergic and autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, food sensitivities, asthma, and eczema.

Filling that therapeutic void is the coming world of helminths. It is a unique form of gastrointestinal/allergy treatment, now being popularized by a highly respected pediatrician, Dr. Sidney Baker. At The Child Development Center and other Developmental Clinics, treatment with HDC is becoming an additional strategy for patients with autism.

What is helminth therapy?
According to the NCBI, it is “The treatment of immune system diseases by deliberate infestation with helminths. This therapy is partly based on the HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS which states that the absence of parasites increases immune dysregulation because of the lack of stimulation of REGULATORY T-CELLS.”

As researched and reported early in this century in Science, “The induction of a robust anti-inflammatory regulatory network by persistent immune challenge offers a unifying explanation for the observed inverse association of many infections with allergic disorders.”

As unappealing as it may seem, the rat tapeworm, Hymenolepis diminuta cysticerci (HDC), is considered a mutualist, providing benefit to the host without causing longterm harm. Out-of-the-box thinking by a few functional medicine doctors has taken the following course:

Chronic illness is an expression of autoimmunity
Gut problems and allergy in autism are a form of chronic illness and autoimmunity
HDC interferes with autoimmunity
Provide HDC for chronic illness, including autism

The Protocol
In our practice, an email is sent with the parent order form, directions explaining how to administer and store the HDC upon arrival, as well as some background information. I send a request and a summary of the medical history. After reading all of the information provided, the parents contact Dr. Baker, and the product is sent to the home.

How to take the product?
Patients take them by swallowing the supplied liquid (the organisms are barely visible), or adding it to another drink. The Primobiotics dose is 1-60 HDCs, given every 1-4 weeks. The usual plan is to start with a dose of five HDCs – fewer in young children. It may take up to 6 weeks to see positive indicators and six months to fully determine that it hasn’t helped. When found helpful, the length of treatment has yet to be determined.

What are the costs?
The costs (directly from the company) are $100 for 1–10, and an additional $25 for each additional 10. The maximum charge is $175 for 40 HDC. Above that there is no additional increase in charge. Shipping is usually $35-65 but for Western US and Canada, it may be $80-100.

What are the downsides?
Constipation should be taken care of before initiating the use of HDCs. There may be some digestive upset with mild abdominal discomfort and some changes in bowel movements. Hyperactivity or insomnia lasting for a day or two are experienced by less than half of recipients.

If, after the first dose there are no positive or negative effects, the dose is increased as the optimal dose is established. Some individuals may show indications that a dose is ‘too much’ – with a more robust digestive discomfort or hyperactivity/insomnia than is usually felt as part of the initial response, in which case the dose is reduced to the minimal number.

What if a worm doesn’t pass?
According to Dr. Baker, a worm ‘sticking’ is a rare and benign event that can be treated with a dose or two of appropriate medicine.

Discussion
Note that HDC is not an autism ‘cure’. Rather, it can be useful as a treatment for the myriad of co-morbid conditions that can cause signs and symptoms related to ASD. Perhaps that is why Dr. Baker reports a ~50% success rate, after recommending this therapy to nearly all of his chronically ill patients. “What’s the alternative?” he would ask.

Though he eschews fearlessness about his willingness to offer advice, Dr. Baker has assumed a significant amount of responsibility in this endeavor; from cultivating the critters, to teaching others how to breed them, to sending out his own ‘farm-fresh little dudes’. He has personally answered emails, and he even called one of our parents who had concerns.

Interested practitioners are working together to educate and gather experience, in order to optimize this intervention. Specific probiotics are indicated, as well as evaluating progress, and even examining  unusual stools that document the gut ‘reset’. For many, the question will be, “What to discontinue first?”

Conclusion
Doctors who have assumed the challenge of treating patients with autism must remain open to all treatments, and recognize that it is the PATIENT who we are treating, not a specific disease. Some interventions, like GcMAF, were helpful, but are no longer available. Others, like antifungals and antioxidants, have taken time, and we’ve gotten pretty good.

Our patients have been satisfied with the service. Within a couple of months, two of five children have already shown positive responses, with improved behavior and communication. Treatment appears to be a safe, effective and reasonably priced way to assist patients with significant GI and / or allergic challenges.

Published recently in the New York Times:
Too Clean for Our Children’s Good?

For those who wish to read more and utilize another HDC source, here is BiomeRestoration.com

Back to Back to School Issues for Autism and ADHD

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Forget pencils and notebooks. Here is my take on the most important items that children who exhibit signs and symptoms of ASD and ADHD really need to make it through the coming season:

10. A weighted vest, and other such functional products. Neural systems are on overload, so any/all sensory reducing strategies need to be dusted off and utilized. My son, a former Special Ed teacher, reports that one of his favorites was Chewelry.

9. A special request for an IEP meeting to review everything agreed upon in the last IEP, and how the child has progressed. This can be especially important for the children who are losing the diagnosis. Being placed with role models is preferable to being the ‘one’.

8. A written, visible schedule. The previous school year’s busy agenda needs a re-boot. With non-preferred activities about to consume more time, acceptance and self-control become paramount, so clear expectations are a good start.

7. Sleep. Likewise, the body’s internal rhythms have gone on a summer vacation. Warm epsom salt baths are great to pave the way at bedtime. Chamomile is fine, and more difficult problems may be ameliorated with the administration of melatonin. Essential oils on the soles of the feet can be quite effective without the use of medication.

6. Supplements and medications. Children with ADHD are often given drug ‘vacations’ during the break. Appropriate dosing and timing may have changed as the summer progressed, so try getting things started a week or so early.

5. Healthy food. Unfortunately, schools do not often assist in this endeavor. If junior has been slipping off the diet, or eating too much junk, get back to basics.

4. An app to disable the iPhone. Really. The time spent on iPads, computers and video games needs to become severely limited.

3. Playtime. It is very difficult to transition from a season of freedom to one of academic drudgery and endless therapy sessions. Going to the park, ballgames, and other outdoor athletic activities is a basic part of being any kid. Even though physical activity is not as preferable as that smartphone, try to make it happen.

2. Soap. Stress cleanliness and get the child into the habit of washing their hands. To the extent that the school will cooperate, tissue dispensers, hand sanitizers and bathroom etiquette could provide some barrier to the onslaught of cooties.

1. A big dose of time and patience. As students fit into the new school year, so do teachers, administrators and other professionals need time to understand each child’s strengths and weaknesses.

VACCINATIONS?
For parents who are confused about administering childhood vaccinations, consider drawing blood ‘titers’. For those who have already had some inoculations, this is a measurement of how immune the child ALREADY IS to measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, etc. Your doctor can order levels of IgG directed against those diseases. High levels will not be accepted by the Public Health Department, so families will still need a ‘personal’ exemption. However, the already-immune child can be proven safe – as well as protecting their classmates.

Everyone remembers that first day back at school; anxiety, fear, excitation, and dread. The assault on the senses, social stresses and academic expectations are an even more tremendous hurdle for students with challenges in those very areas.

Most of all, parents’ love and understanding gets us all through those first inglorious days and weeks.

The Chronicity of Autism

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Be prepared. Knowledge that recovery from an autism diagnosis is possible should be accompanied by an awareness of the time and resources that must be invested.

The journey is characterized by periods of advancement, stagnation, and sometimes, regression. Success is more likely when professionals diagnose and treat medical issues, and traditional therapists ingrain proper development.

Depending on the degree of difficulty with oro-motor functioning, useful speech may take quite a while. Socialization is encouraged and more play with other children and leads to maturation. Some of autism’s related signs and symptoms, such as sensory issues, repetitive thoughts and behaviors, and gastro-intestinal issues may be at issue for years.

Secondary symptoms that may have been less obvious often come to the fore, such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or anxiety. Medical specialists, such as psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, or endocrinologists are frequently sought to evaluate and treat co-morbid conditions.

The following is a sample of emails that have taken place over the past 6 months with a wonderful family, who are only able to manage yearly visits:

3/10/17 Cameron is on the following medicines…
His speech is great after ENHANSA and b 12 .
Just since last 3 days His focus has gone and is completely disoriented .
Has started repeating his play and is stuck to do the same thing all the time. Movement wise has become slow.
The therapist tells me could be sensory and compliance.
We had done flucanazole full of jan and Feb.
He is totally off sweets and ENHANSA is working great. Just don’t know y the focus has reduced…

3/17/17 Flucanazole again. Been just 25 days?
Wouldn’t it be bad for his liver?
And do I give it along with the ENHANSA or should I discontinue the ENHANSA?

3/22 Will stop the deplin, but I think it’s all after the ENHANSA. So it is yeast related.
He starts school on coming wed. Thus more stress!
ENHANSA has given him speech but now stressed about behaviour.

3/23/17 Cameron suddenly has stopped listening and has started zoning out.
So lethargic in his posture. Wants to lie down on the floor. Sometimes pushes his friends.
Will stopping the ENHANSA help? As it is definitely due to yeast. I don’t want his school to pick up his case in the first month itself.
Have stopped deplin today. Flucanazole is on.

3/23/17 I have got this letter from a well known pediatrician here…
The school has allowed us to send his meals from home. So no stress at that end.
We have already received the digestive enzymes and kept them handy.
The dr here is aware of Cameron’s diagnosis, but has not mentioned it to the school. We will take it as it comes.
Speech is fantastic with ENHANSA. Lot of spontaneous talking all the time. Clarity has come with L-carnosine. Deplin did help a lot with comprehension and there were no tics for 2 months.
Just can’t understand what happened a week after ENHANSA . Cold and a runny nose for a week ’til we started flucanazole…. Stopping ENHANSA hope the speech doesn’t reduce. Cause we won’t be able to start it again ’til vacations then…

3/25/17 Cameron had leakage of stool without even increasing the magnesium.
So I have not given him the extra dose. Today his behaviour was slightly better. Like 10% improvement.

3/28/17 Cameron has calmed down a bit after stopping the ENHANSA and deplin.
Currently he is on… Do let me know if any alterations to be made.
Also he has started repeating sentences and words. From movies. And robotic speech is slightly back.

3/29/17 First day of school.
Keep him in your prayers.

4/7/17 Cameron has calmed down and the tics r also not to be seen in the last 2-3 days.
Melt downs have stopped completely.
Worry :- repeating sentences, and not comprehending questions. Giving weird answers to any question. Focus not there… ENHANSA caused the flare according to me. So I feel we should not start it ’til… school breaks for 2 months. So all trials can happen during that time.
Do let me know about the b 12 shots too. As the speech has diminished by like 50%. He only answers when needed or forced to.

4/23/17 I feel the deplin had helped Cameron a great deal wen we had started it.
His comprehension of language and focus had increased a great deal. So will definitely re-start.
Main concerns :-  Spontaneous speech.  And comprehension of language. Focus.
Nalrexone I am applying religiously every night on his wrist.

4/25/17 Cameron stopped diflucan on 22 nd. And has been complaining of stomach ache.
Stool has been passing once a day .
Deplin is on.
Today the therapist felt that he was not focussing at all and was giving all weird answers. Which was not the case last week. Is all this regression always there after stopping the diflucan? Or is it just one off day.

4/26/17 New Laboratory Results

5/4/17 Cameron’s second round of diflucan is on.
And since yesterday he has started complaining of a stomach ache all the time.
He is passing stool twice a day and quiet loose .
Today he has barely eaten any food and is complaining immediately after 4-5 spoons of his dinner.

5/6/17 Cameron has been complaining on cramps in his stomach.
In a day 2-3 times and at night, too… fever, itching in the pelvic area and sore throath since yesterday nd now constipation.
I have started the fiber today. It’s extreamly hot here…
He’s not eating well since last 2 days and is very lethargic too. Didn’t go to school on Friday.
I have started activated charcoal.
Just worried that I hope this diflucan doesn’t effect him in the wrong way as he is not eating enough. This is something I had read so was thinking would be related to a die off.

6/4/17 Cameron breaks from school in a few days. 
Just yesterday and today I have noticed lack of focus and a few melt downs. Also severe stench in his poop and while passing gas. (for which I gave him activated charcoal today). We r scheduled in 2 weeks and blood tests follow.
Was wondering if I should start the diflucan now (hope it does not effect any Results in the blood test) or should we again give the ENHANSA a try?
Current meds and supplements: D3 2000, Fish oil, Probiotics, Gluthatoine, Deplin, L carnosine, MVIs, Magnesium, Vit c 500, Naltrexone cream…

7/10/17 Cameron has resumed school. Stomach is now fine.
Slight bloated though, but has lost his appetite completely. He is eating half of what he used to eat last to last week. Main issue is chewing. Takes an hour to eat an apple. Seems less energetic. Could be the heat here also but I feel he doesn’t have the strength. As is asking to be carried on steps and even out of bed wants to be carried. (carrying him has come almost after 1.5 yrs , after we met u first)
So I think it’s more related to energy. He seems v lethargic. Inspite of sleeping 10-12 hrs of good sleep. Do u think we need to start the b12 now?

7/11/17 I’ve stopped ENHANSA completely. It’s not for Cameron.
His behaviour is worsening.
I gave him 2 spoons of magnesium yesterday like advised last time by you.
I am out of town for 3 more days. Will go home and start diflucan 6 weeks again.

7/22/17 I started Cameron on 6 weeks of diflucan as he had started flapping and hitting everyone.
It’s been one week and he is much better.
We also started him on 2 capsules of vayarin. I can’t see any major change but it’s not harming in any way. So should we continue with that?

Discussion
Sometimes, such interactions are via phone and/or with our staff, but close attention to change, some patience, and accurate, appropriate interventions are often successful.

Specialists, therapists, and parents get used to what works, what doesn’t, and what hurts their individual child. Intelligent, warrior parents seek to leave no stone unturned. Eventually, the good times outweigh the challenging ones. And the challenging ones get less so.

For many families, the patient no longer meets criteria for ASD.

Conclusion
The most satisfaction comes as we appreciate the affected person’s strengths, and continue to work with those not-yet-acqired social skills.

All the work pays off. The children are loved, and love back. A way through the forest seems to appear. Life settles down, even for the most affected patients. Perhaps the parents’ greatest frustration is the understanding that intelligence is not the issue, and that there is a whole person inside.

Rerun: Autism Apraxia and the Oboe

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Shortly after starting speech therapy, it is not uncommon for our parents to be informed by the professional that their child has speech apraxia. Here’s the thing, the child does not have autism AND an inability to produce words. In the vast majority of cases, it’s part of that child’s presentation of autism, not a separate diagnosis.

This story is my analogy for how this mysterious condition can be best understood:

I can’t play the oboe. I probably never will. But, if I wanted to, it would probably take, like, 6 months just to be able to produce a single note. Then, maybe after 1 year – if I practiced every day – I might be able to play Three Blind Mice. Poorly.

My brain did not come preprogrammed with instructions about the correct embouchure to play a double-reed instrument (or any wind instrument, for that matter). So, I would have to practice that movement of my lips. My lungs were never used to delivering short blasts to fine-tune output. I would have to practice that, also. Then, I would have to figure out some way to combine a number of physical feats at the same time in order to deliver that first squeak.

It wouldn’t matter how many times my teacher told me to play a song. It wouldn’t matter if she raised her voice and implored me to do a better job. Perhaps a different teacher would get me more motivated? I might get frustrated with my lack of ability and stop trying for a while. I could start making horrible sounds just to make something come out, and then the teacher would say that I’m not trying or I’m doing it wrong. Instructors would become very disappointed if I started to bang on surfaces with the oboe – just to make any sound come out.

That is exactly how it must feel for children with ASD who cannot speak. When a neuro-typical infant starts to babble and imitate words, it is because they already have human speech hard-wired into their cerebral cortex. Toddlers don’t think about, or really even practice speaking. It just comes.

Think how much more work it takes for a young child to let the caretaker know that they want juice, if they cannot speak. Infants simply cry and the parent offers a variety of choices until they hit on the correct one. Later, certain cries indicate a desire for food, not a toy. Without speech, a toddler pulls the adult to the refrigerator or opens it himself in order to communicate his wishes.

The child is not simply being lazy. It would be much easier to do it the way the typically-developing sibling does… “JUICE” or “Juice, please” or “Mommy, I want juice!” The parent who says “I know he can speak ’cause he does it when he wants to,” is missing the point. That is what makes the child normal – we all do what we can when we want to, to the extent that our abilities allow. The ASD child speaks when he absolutely must, and then only when every circuit is working correctly.

Likewise, for language to increase, pathways need to be laid down so that the activity can take place as part of a much more complex social environment and therefore more often and (hopefully) appropriately. Then, the electricity has to flow so that the circuit is completed and results in the correct sequence of events. It takes practice, desire, and an ideal set of circumstances. Many times, parents report that their child said some complex combination of words and ask, “Where did he/she learn that?” Well, they are apraxic, not deaf.

By getting a patient in the best physical condition, the routes can be laid down. By supplying enough cellular energy, the circuits fire. By supplying S&L, OT and ABA, the child gets to practice. Parent’s love and encouragement supplies the desire to try. That takes a great deal of work by all parties involved.

I will never play the oboe, but, thankfully, the majority of ASD patients eventually speak (in practice, the number is even higher because of the younger age of diagnosis and appropriate interventions). Of course, that is just one part of their complex story. The goal is not to play solo, but to be part of a symphony.

Fathers and Autism

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

The diagnosis of autism seems more difficult for the Dads. We are simply not wired to easily accept deviations from expected norms. For the entire gestation, through the first 15+ months, it’s mostly Mother who is feeding, going to medical visits, and communicating with the new child. So, when development lags and socialization ceases to flow, there is often an extra bit of frustration and disappointment.

This is an ode that I wrote 5 years ago, updated for today’s families who affected by autism:

Warrior Dads. Concerned Dads. Curious, watchful, insightful. Patience.
Sometimes, not so patient.
 
Hard working Dads. Smart… trying anyway. Good husbands… trying anyway.
Sometimes, it works.
 
Miniature cars. Trains. Crayons. Getting them in just the right order.
Spinning. Wheels. Fans. Is that a ‘stim’?
 
Sleep – please. Poop – ?too little ?too much
Toilet training. Communicate!
 
Catch. Football. Soccer.
Maybe, have to wait a little while.
 
Education. Vacation. Camp.
IEPs.
 
Movies. Computers. iPads. iPad Apps.
Youtube. Too much repetition?
 
Wii. xBox. Video games.
On to another (non-preferred) activity. 
 
Decisions. Schools. Therapists. Drugs.
Opinions. Treatment options. Vaccinations. 
 
Doctors. Specialists. Alternative doctors. Naturopaths.
Homeopaths. Chiropractors. Nutritionists. B12 shots.
 
Appointments. Medications. Therapies. Supplements.
Money. Money. Money. More money.
 
Rare Holidays. Vacations. Exercise. Hobbies.
Planning for Restaurants. Shopping. Errands. 
 
Looking for Smiles. Playing with Toys. Chase.
Bouncing. Lots of bouncing.
 
Swimming. Horseback riding. Pet turtle.
Dr. Udell’s fish tank.
 
Finding activities. Yoga for kids. Summer camp scholarships.
Sensory friendly films. Thanks, Autism Society, and other local organizations.
 
Missing Cheeseburgers. Pizza. Mac & cheese. P&J.
Gluten free/ Casein free – Are these French Fries OK?
 
Sisters, brothers, grandparents, in-laws, cousins.
Peers. Precious few friends. 
 
Homework. Practice. Play. 
Worrying. Teaching. Learning.

 It’s all good. You’re a great Dad.
Happy Fathers Day !

© theautismdoctor.com

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.

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.”

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Brian D. Udell MD
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