Preventing School Illness in Autistic Children

The cooties are coming! The cooties are coming! Children who are ‘on the Spectrum’ are less likely to notice and / or complain about aches and pains, and are certainly less capable of expressing such discomfort. So, here are some tips about how to help your special kids, and prevent that ‘sick all year’ experience.

Many of the children have not been fully (or, for some, ever) vaccinated. That means that parents should be extra careful about sending ‘possibly’ sick kids to school, or even sending the children when there are other students or teachers who are sick. Yes, this is a big inconvenience, but it is the price to pay for the lack of immunity.

While ASD children are on the road to improvement, I am not a fan of influenza vaccinations. The shots produce 100% chance of extra inflammation, but only reduce, rather than prevent, the chance of getting disease. Therefore, it is prudent to make sure that the rest of the family – parents, grandparents, and healthy siblings – gets vaccinated, in order to decrease the chance that they may catch the flu and pass it on to a special-needs child.

ASD patients are usually finicky eaters, and many suffer from gastrointestinal problems. Many of our patients have been found to have very low levels of nutrients and vitamins that are important in handling inflammation and reducing the severity or length of an infection. Accordingly, make sure that multivitamins are included in the diet in order to optimize nutrition.

Many patients have significant food allergies that cause inflammation and interfere with neurologic improvement. Parents need to stay the course and resist the temptation to let the child eat junk foods or the usual fare that gets served at school. Older children are prone to cheat, lie and steal the foods that they should not ingest. Our office provides notes to teachers and administrators requesting their support to achieve the goal of optimizing outcome in special-needs children.

It is not unusual for ASD children to drink fewer liquids and become dehydrated. Their ability to flush bacteria and viruses is therefore, less and could result in more infections, or a decreased ability to clear any illness. Make sure that they have plenty to drink while at school, and ask the teachers to encourage this simple task.

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. It has been demonstrated that ASD patients are less likely to have enough hours of sleep, and especially REM sleep, which is the time when the memories of the previous day are supposedly solidified in the CNS. Therefore, we recommend the use of warm nighttime baths (epson salts are fine, also), melatonin and other natural supplements in order to optimize the benefits of this activity. Waking up refreshed and happy is sure to help anyone have better focus, attitude and attention for the rest of the day.

Check the backpack and other school supplies and clean them thoroughly. Also, if the school is not providing hand sanitizers, families can help by providing it for the classroom and asking the teachers to use it themselves and to demonstrate to the children. By visiting the classroom from time to time, parents may get a sense of where the cooties are most likely to hide, and to provide some suggestions for improved cleanliness.

Finally, make an effort to allow your children only to return to school when they have a normal temperature and are symptom-free. “Easier said than done,” you may claim, but re-infections and lingering illness will only prolong the suffering and decrease the number of productive school days.

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Brian D. Udell MD
6974 Griffin Road
Davie
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