Posts Tagged ‘autism’

When Mom and Dad Disagree About Autism Intervention

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Undoubtedly, the most stressful challenge that any family might face is illness in their child. Even in cases where treatment is established, e.g. acute leukemia, there are bound to be differences of opinion about which doctor, or hospital will do the best job.

When it comes to ASD however, even the diagnosis can remain in doubt. One parent, or a sibling, may have experienced “the same” symptoms, such as late speech or inattentiveness. So, the ‘watchful waiting’ advice from the pediatrician appears most prudent. A neurologist who observed your toddler for 70 seconds may have declared a normal – or dire – outcome. Who to believe? Then, there is the conventional medical community that continues to debate the condition and the ability of earlier recognition to alter the course.

Differences about the diagnosis
 Take an online questionnaire, such as the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist or Modified Autism Checklist for Toddlers. Although ‘experts’ may deem such surveying as ineffective, it is certainly a start. And, parents shouldn’t bother quibbling over whether Junior should get a “1” or “2” for any single answer. Observing suspicious tendencies may help convince a spouse, or doctor, that there could be real reason for concern.

 Listen to the advice of grandma or grandpa. They have raised other children, even if it was a different century. Try not to listen to advisors who have no responsibility for their opinions.

 If a therapist is already involved, ask what signs and symptoms they view as worrisome. It’s not their labels that you seek, but another professional opinion regarding suspect behavior.

 Don’t be afraid to ask the child’s teacher, or the school personnel, what they think might be different about your child. Academic staff are frequently the first to postulate a problem.

 Take videos of unusual behaviors. One parent may simply not have gotten to spend enough time to have observed a ‘stim’, or recognize activity as repetitive.

 Have the child evaluated by a trained professional. Then, insist on a precise diagnosis. Children with sensory processing, executive functioning disorder, and speech apraxia have autism.

Discrepancies about the next steps
So much inertia must be overcome to establish that first step, simply embracing traditional treatments can offer parents glimpses of improved development. OT (occupational therapy), PT (physical therapy), S&L (speech and language therapy), and ABA (behavioral therapies), must be given the time to reveal results.

At the very least, however, ask your pediatrician to make sure to perform some basic laboratory testing. Even if there is disagreement, how could it hurt to obtain a complete blood count, evaluation of nutritional status (calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, iron), and thyroid screening?

Opposition about biomedical interventions
Although the pull of the Internet is great, children are best served by contacting a physician who is involved in The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. Unfortunately, there are too few to adequately staff the burgeoning number of affected children, but, we practice state-of-the-art, evidence-based medical intervention.

By continuing our education within such a medical fellowship, and achieving a thorough knowledge of the science that appears in peer-reviewed journals, doctors have developed protocols that have been proven safe and effective. Although the costs are rarely adequately covered by medical insurance, the investment will last a lifetime. Literally.

Conclusion
Denial and delay is not in your child’s best interests. Doctors who are satisfied with the status quo will achieve that end. Modern thinking is that earlier intervention results in improved outcomes.

At The Child Development Center, our experienced and knowledgeable Practice Manager, Karen, has observed that families who seem to have the most success, “May not be on the same page, but are at least in the same book!”

Finally, An Anti-Anti Reflux Study

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Perhaps my theory is full of water, but this seasoned pediatrician’s belief is that the price that modern society has paid for the successful ‘back to sleep‘ campaign has been an increased incidence of gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). The practice was introduced to Western medicine at the end of the last century, to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

When newborns are kept solely on their backs, acid, mucus and food may be more likely to slosh all the way up to the back of the throat, eventually leading to the tubes that are supposed to drain to the middle ear. That has led to an increasing number of infections (otitis media), and an explosion of antibiotic use in very young children.

So, is it the reflux, the treatment of the reflux, the consequences of the reflux, or the treatment of those consequences that increases an infant’s risk of developing signs and symptoms? Aggressive behaviors, hyperactivity, lack of focus, sensory issues, and various gut disorders are commonly ascribed to ASD. Such are the complications woven into the stories of many parents interviewed at The Child Development Center.

The Literature
The practice of placing children on their back was based on observations in other countries, and theories about characteristic electro-encephalographic patterns characterizing those with increased risk of SIDS. Studies in the Netherlands confirmed the observation, and led to the AAP recommendations. No doubt, this strategy has worked for SIDS. However, could the emphasis on alteration of those sleep patterns – related to breathing – have a non-intended effect on other CNS development, as well?

Subsequent research has confirmed the increase in reflux related to infant positioning. The knee-jerk reaction by modern pediatricians has been the issuance of an Rx for antacids, in some form, from Tums to Nexium. Vitamin and mineral absorption becomes impaired. I have previously documented the pitfalls of this intervention.

This week, JAMA reported that, “… infants prescribed antacids to manage acid reflux, or spitting up, under age 1 had more bone fractures later in childhood.” Calcium absorption is believed to be the culprit. “There was a dose-response relationship between fracture hazard and duration of treatment with PPIs. Those taking them for a month or less were at a 19% greater hazard of bone breakage than infants who did not take the suppressors. Those taking the drugs for 60 days to 150 days were at 23% greater hazard and those taking them longer than 150 days were at 42% increased hazard.”

Discussion
The medical establishment altered the environment in the 1990s when we repositioned babies. Consequences have included plagiocephaly (flat head), torticollis (tight neck), and feeding difficulties. Then, we re-set the field again with antacid preparations. Present literature warning about these pharmaceuticals is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Environmental change + Susceptible Individual = Alteration from Expected Norm

As a practicing neonatologist, nearly all of our ‘premies’ suffered up-chucking of some sort. I never ordered Prevacid, Zantac, Pantaprozole, etc. in the last century – it wasn’t available. Assiduous positioning and a small amount of Bethanecol (a drug to increase gastric tone) worked great. Ear infections in the first years of life were rare, and doctors seldom resorted to antibiotics. And, we didn’t see much autism in the follow-up clinics.

Conclusions
The Safe to Sleep® campaign offers lots of useful advice. SIDS has decreased by 50%. Some common sense is needed, however. For example, it probably is not necessary to stress the ‘supine position only’. Babies will usually drift to their sides, anyway, especially as they get older. And, if a responsible person is close, it’s pretty safe.

When reflux is diagnosed, simple positioning and an appropriate evaluation should precede any intervention that involves medication. If recurrent infections appear, the placement of ears tubes can mitigate the requirement for further rounds of drugs.

Is it really necessary to keep all infants on their back, all of the time? The ramifications of this policy need to be re-examined, as they may apply to the epidemic number of children with autism.

Recognizing The Signs of Autism Recovery

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

As the autism epidemic has grown, so too, has the knowledge of professionals who shepherd treatment, and our recognition of success. It is helpful to offer predictive signs that reflect steady improvement. Due to the variations in autism presentation, there is no authoritative information about how long recovery takes.

However, it can be quite useful and encouraging for a parent to know that it is great news when a child who, after 9 months of treatment, is finally repeating words. It is just as important to understand that the lack of questions, or comprehension, is not pertinent at such a stage.

Patience is key – all affected families have already learned that virtue. But proper acknowledgement that the chid IS getting better should reassure families, hopefully adding a touch more perseverance to their storehouse of solutions.

The journey begins as the ‘fog’ lifts. Wandering should become exploration. New diagnoses do not suddenly ensue, they rise to the top of parental concerns.

It’s not apraxia AND autism. The lack of verbal communication ought to define that phase of autism. Speech arises as sounds, often verbal tics or ‘stims’, teeth-grinding, or screeching, progresses to occasional single words, more consistency, then more dependable expression.

At first, merely hearing the speech therapist say that your child is trying is a very positive sign. There is a pattern. Speak to yourself. Speak to toys. Speak to family. Sometimes, it make sense. Juice. Want juice. I want juice. Observe other children. Speak to safe children – older, younger, more docile. Sometimes, inappropriate.

The same arrangement can emerge with shorter, then longer, sentences. During this phase, parents may fear that the child doesn’t doesn’t comprehend, or is lazy. “He can do it if he wants to!” I think of it as paving newer, progressively wider, neural roadways. The quantum leaps in the appearance of knowledge, such as letters or numbers, are a result of the newfound ability to perform expressive language.

Repetition of words or phrases (echolalia, scripting) seems to be part of the fabric of the acquisition of this ‘skill’. If a child is supposed to say 1000 terms, e.g., and only has 300, they may say the same thing 3 times just to make up the difference, or repeat the last words that were spoken. (Neurotypical adults often do this, as well.)

Socialization will rarely ensue if these milestones, in some form, haven’t appeared.

Children who have repetitive behaviors and restricted interests do not develop obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yes, a youngster may appear to have OCD, but it’s the same problem they exhibited at 2 years of age. And, no pediatrician called it OCD back then. Furthermore, adult drugs for this ‘condition’ are dangerous and rarely perform as expected.

Sensory processing issues that involve hearing, vision, etc., do not develop into SPD. They may become highlighted at various points in the child’s recovery process as the cause of distraction or aggression. Stimming is frequently a symptom. Occupational therapy and other appropriate neural interventions can be quite helpful.

Likewise, lack of attention and focus, overactivity, and distractibility aren’t really a newly acquired ADHD diagnosis. This represents the remnants of an earlier autism. Signs and symptoms are only as subject to pharmacologic remedy as the resulting, appropriate anxiety.

Proper recognition of the challenging behaviors is key.
Does anyone know of a drug that would enable a 5 year-old to perform in a 2nd grade classroom?

Immaturity, tantrums, and difficult transitioning do not warrant a separate condition. Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a description. Behavioral interventions have proven value.

Conclusion
Some might be confused by my use of the word ‘recovery’. It depends on the definition. Subject to the age at the initiation of therapies (and a million other factors), The Child Development Center generally aims for a 3-to-6 year window, in order for a ‘typical’ patient to enter the general educational environment. There may be plenty of leftover challenging behaviors, as occurs in many of the other students in this century.

My point-of-view is that, 10 years after a crippling auto accident, the appearance of normalcy doesn’t erase the prior event. Five years following, however, the patient may experience muscle weakness and/or ‘pins and needles’. Such is the state-of-being for many of the children experiencing recovery in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Return of the Yeast Issue

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

It has become a ‘given’ lately, in the ASD-alternative-medicine world, that successful treatment protocols often involve antifungal medications. So, when the Child Development Center offers our advice, too often we assume that parents have a thorough knowledge of this common complication in patients with autism.

What is the evidence for this form of medical intervention for ASD?
TheAutismDoctor.com has presented a variety of stories about how overgrowth of yeast can interfere with typical development:

In a two part series, A Yeast Story, 6 years ago, The Autism Yeast Connection highlighted the mechanism by which the critters take over the intestinal flora. The symptoms appear to start with increased ‘fog’ (not attending), then progress to include increase in ‘stimming’, sensory processing disorders, silly behaviors, regression in speech, disturbed sleep, increased ‘OCDs’, and reduced gastrointestinal health.

In the second part of that piece, I offered my view that, the major cause of fungal overgrowth appears to be more of a poorly digested food problem than simple sugars (not to be confused with the observation that too much sugar heightens hyperactive behaviors). However, the overuse and ubiquitous use of antibiotics must be an overwhelming contributor to this phenomenon.

Get Your Child Off the Couch and Out of the House pointed out how constipation leads to slowing down the entire body ecosystem, making outdoor play a chore. Less activity can further deteriorate the situation. Warm, wet, dark, stationary places (a non-motile gut) make an excellent home for yeast, which robs nutrition, alters the immune system, and creates toxic byproducts. In addition to probiotics, healthier foods, and anti fungal preparations, adequate muscle activity will push the food along.

Poor motility in the smooth muscles in the gut that could lead to reflux, or constipation, and possible yeast overgrowth, was discussed in A Brief Discussion of Mitochondrial Function and Autism.

I have written about complicated treatments, such as Stem Cell infusions, Fecal Transplants or Hyperbaric Oxygen chambers, where patients can still benefit from the recognition and treatment of recurring signs and symptoms of yeast – the extreme therapy notwithstanding.

Even standard protocols, such as B12 ‘shots’ can go awry when fungus has overtaken the gastrointestinal tract, as discussed in When Methyl B12 Doesn’t Work for Autism.

Earlier this year, in The Challenge of Challenging Behaviors, I warned that disruptive, aggressive, or self-injurious behaviors first needed to be evaluated from a GI point of view, lest the patient end up on multiple anti-psychotic medications that merely mask the underlying problem.

‘Die-Off’ in Autism Treatment detailed the journey that ensues when pharmaceutical medications are administered to deter the fungus. Complications can be addressed with the judicious use of activated charcoal. Furthermore, the use of nystatin and saccharomyces boulardii may be considered, or needed, if liver function is not optimal. Plus, natural antifungals, probiotics, and probiotics can be of value for prevention.

The Chronicity of Autism, presented documentation of one family’s journey to a successful outcome, by paying very close attention to GI health, and treating yeast when the symptoms suggested.

My 2014 holiday salute to the condition concluded with, “Yeast in the G-I system is one of the few causes of the signs and symptoms of autism that CAN be successfully treated with safe and effective supplements, diet and medication. This is a great time to provide natural anti-fungals, such as apple cider vinegar, garlic oil, olive leaf, etc., to the extent that products are palatable and well tolerated.”

Our experience with antifungal treatment was documented in Anti-fungal Treatment for Autism? The conclusion was that medications can have serious side effects and drug interactions. Present practitioners should follow a written, rigorous protocol and document progress. Appropriate followup laboratory testing should be performed. Other sources of inflammation should be explored and addressed, as well. Under a physician’s care, with the parents’ full understanding and consent, within 2 or 3 short courses, a simple, oral, antifungal medication was well-tolerated, and effective in reducing many symptoms that are generally assumed to be ‘autistic’.

Conclusion
This list is provided to document our experience with thousands of patients. There is solid scientific and clinical evidence for those who are new to the diagnosis, or parents who wish to explore the possibilities that yeast may be affecting your child’s development,

The hyperlinks (and hyperlinks to hyperlinks) should help convince even the most skeptical of professionals that this is a safe, effective treatment for signs and symptoms associated with ASD.

The Challenge of Challenging Behaviors

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

The Child Development Center has been experiencing a rash (dare I say, “Epidemic”?) of children who present with poor socialization, decreased attention requiring prompting and redirection, sensory and/or oppositional issues, extreme rudeness, dark thoughts and threats, obsessive activities, immaturity, and aggressiveness (physical, verbal or both). The children are not ‘autistic’. And, it’s not ‘just ADHD’.

One parent of such a child recently wrote that he was saddened by these disturbing developmental conditions in his otherwise amazing kid. When children do not ‘come out’ the way that we had anticipated, it brings heartbreak and disappointment.

Extremely disruptive displays are not merely frustrating.
They can be embarrassing and even cause depression.
In today’s world, that has become the journey of (too) many parents.

What Doesn’t Work
Corporal punishment was the traditional mainstay for ‘making children behave’. Thus, grandparents often complain that today’s parents are not firm enough. First, the price that is paid by utilization of either verbal or physical punishment is self-esteem – by both parties. Abusive actions, offhandedly employed in the last century, may prompt a Child Protective Services visit in this one. Second, affected youth appear to experience increased pain resistance. Eventually, that form of discipline goes unnoticed. Third, such a reaction is the exact opposite what we are trying to instill.

In the past months, we have examined a number of children whose medical pharmacopeia appeared proportional to their age. There was a 7 year-old taking three medications, and one teen was already getting Abilify, Risperidone, Geodon, Valproic acid, and Lamectal, among other pharmaceuticals. And, her psychiatrist was suggesting more. When does it stop?

I am certain that parents and doctors arrive at such multiple combinations of drugs honestly. Each symptom is met with another medicine. The patient is then drowning in chemical soup. What is the plan?

What Can Work
A medical workup is required. The prescribing physician is obliged to follow levels of anticonvulsants (for symptom adjustment), liver and kidney function (for drug elimination), blood count, and nutritional status.

In given patients, practitioners should consider fungal overgrowth, PANDAS, or Lyme disease. Screening for toxic substances has been a recent addition to our armamentarium. So new, perhaps, that such data is not necessarily that helpful, yet. Likewise, genetic technology has become available that better determines how patients metabolize various pharmaceutical preparations, but usefulness in clinical practice remains limited. To the extent that an astute clinician determines an underlying problem(s), great strides can be made toward amelioration of some disturbances.

Behavioral interventions are the proven treatment. It takes a professional therapist to get challenging children to display self-control. Common sense dictates that such juveniles require absolute consistency. One pre-adolescent demonstrated an uncanny ability to mock my consultation. Perhaps, the parents were thinking, “Now, you see how rude he is!” when they laughed it off. Regardless, their response validated the child’s disrespect.

One parent has developed her own form of pre-vigilance. Mom is able to ‘sense’ when her kids aren’t able to concentrate, and provides relief at the earliest sign of distractibility.

Rather than additional pharmaceutical preparations, doctors should consider which ones to decrease or discontinue. The list often contains drugs that were instituted for behaviors that are no longer at issue. Additionally, it can be helpful to consider less toxic medications or even supplements when the status quo is not doing the job.

Conclusions
My diagnosis is that such challenging children have escaped ‘traditional’ autism. It’s not obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette’s, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, sensory/visual/auditory processing disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, etc.
It’s processing disturbances caused by our toxic environment acting on susceptible individuals.

Finding relief may be exasperating, with periods of improvement and regression. This is when patience and the knowledge that the child has the capacity to achieve necessary skills to ‘make it’ need to take precedence. Some parents choose home-schooling, special schooling, and less-than-hoped-for academic situations. Some must resort to medications.

This alteration in childhood development is not FUN. For many, it’s parenthood in the 21st Century. Consider that the best course is to ‘first, cause no harm’.

Sleeping Sickness Medicine for Autism?

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

‘Game-changer for autism’:
100-year-old drug reverses symptoms, study finds

Recent headlines, such as those, have stimulated the submission of a fair number of emails that went something like this…

Dear Dr. Udell,
I saw this study on the internet.
I would like to try this medicine for my child. What do you think?

Dear Parents,
After further consideration, here are my observations about this serious pharmaceutical intervention:

1. What is suramin?
It is a chemical that was invented to cure parasitic diseases. The dosage used for autism has been significantly reduced.

2. What was the actual paper?
This treatment is based on a unique approach to autism, and it represents a preliminary test of whether this drug might be safe and effective for common signs and symptoms of this emerging epidemic.

There were 5 patients in each group of 4-17 year-old boys, who were either given a single dose of the medication, or placebo. Outcomes were measured in the first week, and 6 weeks later. There were generalized improvements in many areas. As blood levels decreased over time, so did some advances. Surprisingly, progress was seen in speech apraxia, even in 2 older children.

The drug was well-tolerated, except for “a short-lived, self-limiting rash.”

3. How does the drug work?
The authors explained, “One approach to addressing the challenge of many etiologies of ASD is to define a common pathophysiology that can contribute to the core diagnostic symptoms, regardless of the initiating genetic and environmental triggers. We hypothesized that there is a conserved cellular response to metabolic perturbation or danger that is shared by all children with ASD… in mice produced a treatable metabolic syndrome…” The administration of a medicine that adjusts for an alteration in RNA and DNA manufacture, and energy production, “…corrected both the behavioral and metabolic features of these genetic and environmental mouse models of ASD.”

4.  How is it administered?
INTRAVENOUS PUSH. From the results of this research, it would appear that doses may be required every ? 1-2 months for ?? months? This is not for the faint of heart.

5. How much would it cost?
The drug, alone, appears to cost less than $50, depending on the source. If it is found to be successful, let’s see how the powers-that-be jack up the price. Plus, there would be additional charges of IV administration and followup testing.

6. What labs must be followed?
That remains to be discovered with increasing experience and research.

7. What are the long term effects?
Ditto #6.

Conclusion
This medicine may simply share many of the same properties as the myriad of other gut-altering treatments. Positive results require frequent administration, and ‘tolerance’ to therapy sometimes makes them less effective.

However, the use of suramin is based on a different paradigm (how cells respond to stress) that takes into account the diversity of possible causes of autism, both environmental and genetic. That such a new direction in research is being explored is exciting and hopeful.

For now, families need to continue to be patient. Especially in children, interventions that are so invasive and potentially harmful require more study and followup, in order for parents to make a truly informed decision.

Stem Cell Therapy for Autism… cont’d

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Real Autism Awareness

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A(nother) Laboratory Test(s) for Autism

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Research about MRIs for Autism

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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