Posts Tagged ‘remove toxins’

A Tale of Two Studies – About Autism

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

June 2017
Two quite different papers were published recently, which together directly address important aspects regarding our understanding about diagnosis, prevention and treatment of autism.

The first article is entitled, “Functional neuroimaging of high-risk 6-month-old infants predicts a diagnosis of autism at 24 months of age.” An earlier diagnosis – much earlier – might be on the horizon if this interesting MRI study holds true.

The algorithms are very dense. In fact, I had to ask my neuro-radio-pathologist friend to help me interpret the data, and he said the math gave him a headache! For example, “… a total of 974 functional connections in the 6-month- old brain that showed a relationship with behavior at 24 months and were different between groups. Together, these functional connections constituted <4% of the potential 26,335 total functional connections studied…”

It’s not anatomy, i.e. structure that was evaluated, but the workings of neural pathways, implying that autism (some forms of it, anyway) is present in the brain at a very early age. Autistic behaviors that could be predicted and, possibly successfully prevented or reduced, included social interaction, expressive language, and repetition, among a number of other important parameters.

This evaluation represents a new generation of ‘machine-based learning’, which itself begs further scrutiny. There was a small sample size, and questions remain about the reliably of testing an infant’s thoughts, while inside a moving, noisy environment. The bottom line is, there was high sensitivity and specificity for predicting signs and symptoms at 2 years.

A complementary investigation, published elsewhere, happened to appear this month. It is entitled, “Randomised trial of a parent-mediated intervention for infants at high risk for autism: longitudinal outcomes to age 3 years.” As in the other paper, younger siblings were chosen as subjects, due to their 20 times increased risk of developmental challenges. In similarly aged infants and toddlers, there were improved overall outcomes in the treatment group.

The authors wrote,”… that a very early intervention for at-risk infants has produced a sustained alteration of subsequent child developmental trajectory; reducing prodromal autism symptoms into the second and third years of life to a total of 24 months following end of the intervention.
(Possibly useful data in response to beneficiaries’ requests for insurance coverage?)

Discussion
It is reassuring to observe that, “Earlier diagnosis can lead to appropriate preemptive treatment with improved outcomes,” has become a model of research. Authors of the MRI piece wrote, “Given the known plasticity of the brain and behavior during the first year of life, together with the absence of the defining features of the disorder, intervention during this presymptomatic phase, before consolidation of the full syndrome of ASD, is likely to show considerably stronger benefits compared with later treatments.”

Conclusion
Such analyses ought to shape new treatment paradigms for this exploding epidemic. As similar attitudes become more commonplace, it ought to behoove conventional medicine to look at this evidence-based approach, and start doing more appropriate assessments for patients diagnosed with ASD.

Of course, “further study is required.” In the meantime, information is accumulating that, even a pre-emptive diagnosis seems prudent.

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’.

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.

Getting a Special Needs Break

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Parents of children with developmental disabilities rarely get a break. Sometimes, it is not even possible to have a child watched for a couple of hours while shopping, taking care of your own health, seeing to the needs of other children, or running household errands.

As a practitioner who cares for patients with special needs, I often find myself with no one to care for my practice, when I’m attending a meeting or taking a rare vacation. The wedding of a dear friend in California recently highlighted this issue. Patients still get fevers, rashes, diarrhea and even seizures. Medications may not be working, or causing untoward side effects. Parents from all over continue to experience the frustration of dealing with the autism epidemic as it emerges in their part of the world.

Acute illness can be addressed locally by pediatricians, hospital emergency rooms, or urgent care centers. The main difficulty is that doctors are not trained in special needs care. Although they may be able to correctly diagnose and treat an ear infection, they are usually way too quick to prescribe antibiotics or fail to perform appropriate laboratory testing. With the increasing popularity of group practices, continuity of care is compromised. Often, children go from one doctor (or nurse practitioner) to another, further increasing confusion, and rarely getting to the underlying problem(s).

The Child Development Center of America
It would not be possible to keep up with all of the patients’ problems if it were not for a digital connection and web communication. Many mornings start with a picture of poop or an unusual skin lesion. It may not be as precise as touching and feeling the actual patient, but I have been able to handle a multitude of problems because of the Internet.

More importantly, I enjoy a great staff, led by our practice administrator Karen Vossen, herself the parent of two children with a diversity of medical problems, including autism. Ashly, at the front desk, speaks fluent Spanish, which is a must in such a diverse South Florida population. Likewise, Isabella, who interacts with the children, speaks additional foreign languages. Lisa, who handles the books (among her other duties), has four boys, including one who is doing great with his ASD. Leilani, our newest member, has experience with autistic children and hopes to become a speech therapist.

Most assuredly, I have a great family who understands my life’s passion. I am encouraged by my beautiful and patient wife, Jacqueline. She is the person who mused me into this amazing journey and constantly reminds me that my physical and mental health matter, as well.

Useful Strategies
First, in times of extreme stress and exhaustion, take a long, deep breath and congratulate yourselves on the ability to deal with so much constant pressure. We are all doing the best that we can for the children. Let’s not forget that maintaining our own wellbeing is paramount to assisting others.

Recharging the batteries by exercising, personal pampering, date nights and hobbies that take our focus elsewhere, even if only for a brief period, is a necessity.

Depending on the degree of a family member’s difficulties, respite care may be essential. In some states, the National Respite Network may be able to provide some necessary assistance.

The Autism Society and local chapters may provide a great source of support. Joining such networks can be especially helpful for parents of newly diagnosed children, letting families know that they are not alone in this journey. Local organizations, such as your state’s Developmental Disabilities Council or Family Services Agency (Broward 211 in Florida, e.g.), may be a useful choice.

Finally, try to find a good Special Needs practitioner and stay away from Dr. Google.

Conclusion
Although it’s not exactly the same problem, the challenge of finding help in this age of an increasing number of developmentally demanding children, complicated by a paucity of available resources, is shared by parents and professionals, alike.

FDA Warning About Autism Treatment

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

The FDA took the time, this week (4/2017), to sound an alarm about their notion of potentially dangerous off-label ASD treatments, by issuing, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products“.

The consumer update begins, “One thing that is important to know about autism up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism or autism-related symptoms. Some may carry significant health risks.” Really?

What are the approved therapies?
According to the document, the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal (risperidone) and Abilify (aripiprazole) are apparently not considered to be that dangerous. Increased death rates are noted in the Physicians Desk Reference, due to the the former medication. The latter pharmaceutical agent contains this caution, “A causal role has been demonstrated with antidepressant use and emergence of suicidality in pediatric patients and young adults…”

Clinically, patients who have taken these drugs have shown markedly increased appetites (leading to obesity), exhibited new tics, demonstrated a ‘zombie-like’ affect, and have been very difficult to dose correctly. Breast enlargement and lactation have been reported with these meds, as well.

What does the FDA consider dangerous?
About metal-removing therapy, “FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only.” So, this government organization has determined that environmental poisoning is not a cause of autism.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been cleared by the “FDA only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers.” The document failed to mention that it has been proven effective for non-healing wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well.

Clay baths, and “… various products, including raw camel milk and essential oils. These products have been marketed as a treatment for autism or autism-related symptoms, but have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.” Don’t expect millions of dollars to be poured into research about the effectiveness of these innocuous interventions.

If you wish to utilize essential oils,
do so at your own peril !

Discussion
The medical literature continues to question the usefulness of Abilify or Risperdal for the treatment of signs and symptoms of ASD. But it is perfectly clear that, even the supporting literature never makes any statement about apraxic children. Stopping the banging doesn’t produce speech. Plus, socialization only improves to the extent that these ‘safe’ drugs reduce unusual behaviors or decrease aggression.

Moreover, the body systems that are in need of repair and optimization do not get addressed – indeed, are even masked – by such a pharmacological bandaid, which leads to further complications. Often, this makes the child with increased resistance to pain even more stuck with their autistic behaviors. Difficulties in the gastrointestinal, immune, and nervous systems, go unrecognized. Mitochondrial functioning is affected, compounding metabolic challenges in this vicious cycle.

Parents seek ‘risky’ therapies because of the inadequacies of the medical profession in just about every aspect of autism diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care. Rather than elevating autism anxiety over the dangers of mostly mild, possibly helpful, but unproven interventions, we would be better served by an honest evaluation about the overuse of the ‘on-label’ products. This is especially true in disadvantaged populations. When functional medicine doctors, such as myself, utilize these drugs, it is usually as a last resort, after explaining risks/benefits to parents, with close follow-up of the patients’ condition.

Conclusion
TV commercials tout incredibly risky medications, for diseases that range from restless leg syndrome to cancer. “Ask your doctor,” we are told, “if this is a good drug for you!” Then, a list of very scary side effects is enumerated. Well, you could just ‘ask your doctor’ if camel milk will cause seizures or death.

Parents of children with developmental challenges have plenty of work to do, just getting through each day. This useless memorandum will, most probably, simply be ignored. For those who feel that the consumer update was produced to pursue some financial and/or political motivation, and/or is another example of bureaucratic waste, you may feel compelled to address the (ir)responsible organization (click here).

Getting the Most from Behavioral Therapies

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

The ever-increasing number of children who experience significant developmental problems requires a proportional addition of skilled professionals for assessment and intervention.

At The Child Development Center, we have noted the emergence of certain patterns of treatment choices. Intelligent, involved parents express their concern about the paucity of well-trained professionals, the cost of treatment, the lack of insurance, and frustration with the speed or course of their child’s progress.

Applied Behavioral Analysis
The general consensus is that the proven protocols of behavioral intervention are most likely to result in significant symptom reduction in patients with ASD. As reported in the 2001 publicationEducating Children with Autism, “teaching parents how to use pivotal response training as part of their applied behavioral analysis instruction resulted in happier parent-child interactions, more interest by the parents in the interaction, less stress, and a more positive communication style. The use of effective teaching methods for a child with autism can have a measurable positive impact on family stress. As a child’s behavior improves and his or her skills become more adaptive, families have a wider range of leisure options and more time for one another… To realize these gains, parents must continue to learn specialized skills enabling them to meet their child’s needs.”

Why does utilization of ABA lag behind other treatments
in so many regions around the country?

The prevalence of children with autism is outstripping the number of qualified, interested therapists. Economic pressures appear to dictate direct provision of services by paraprofessionals who are properly supervised. Therefore, the most efficient providers frequently observe, evaluate, and mentor the less-experienced staff. For-profit companies may find such practice difficult to maintain.

Insurance companies regularly find a way to weasel out of their commitments, many times in spite of outside mandates or even advertised benefits. Denial of payment for services may take the form of incorrect coding, credentialing, and timeliness of payment. Providers are, therefore, less likely to accept their (lack of) coverage.

There are a variety of types of behavioral intervention; including DTT, EIBI, PRT, VBI, DIR, TEACCH, OT, Sensory Integration Therapy, Speech Therapy, and PECS. Devotees of each claim superiority of their strategy. Such a smorgasbord may confuse even the most attentive parent.

Discussion
Recovery from the major challenges that accompany an autism diagnosis is an exhausting journey for the whole family. Traditional therapies are the proven tools to enable a successful transformation. They are an important consideration that must be offered to every patient. Parents should use their common sense, plus their unique understanding of the child, to assess whether the plan of action really applies. Does the suggested intervention make sense? Does the child ‘click’ with the therapist(s)?

When professionals continue to insist that 1) you are not doing the right thing at home or 2) your child can’t improve in some particular function, it’s imperative to seek additional assistance. Maybe the provider is correct, but little progress will occur if the parties continue to debate.

I often advise parents who are concerned about some ‘magic’ 25-40 hour ABA requirement, that a good OT, or PT, etc., has learned to be effective by utilizing a variety of techniques. Therefore, you can add up the various interventions, and will frequently find that you don’t need to feel guilty about that numeric stipulation.

As children improve, the challenges of proper socialization and self-control become the most difficult and lingering concern. This may require an entirely new and unique skill-set to come to the fore.

Conclusion
All interested professionals; including chiropractors, acupuncturists, alternative and traditional practitioners, can be important members of the village trying to get your child on the right track. Because the present state-of-the-art is in such flux, the correct combination of traditional and alternative protocols provides the best chance for a successful outcome.

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.

Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs Spring 2017 Conference

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

At the conference with Yale prof Dr. Sid Baker – one of the originators of biomedical treatment

If practitioners wish to become more effective in the diagnosis and treatment of children who suffer developmental challenges, it will require a new paradigm. Therefore, attending conferences, such as the Simons Foundation for Autism Research, the Autism Research Institute, and the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs, is essential to acquiring that knowledge.

This year’s advanced sessions introduced a completely new functional medicine topic – Hormones from Pregnancy to Teens. Dr. Cindy Schneider examined the differences between the brain anatomy, physiology, and chemistry that might explain how ASD affects males vs. females, and the consequences as we age. Additionally, there are the special complications incurred throughout puberty, with important implications regarding effective treatments.

Dr. Stephen Genuis‘ presentations, Hormone Disrupting Agents, provided a fascinating complement to that lecture. He highlighted the chronic nature of ASD, and the disrupting effects of toxic agents in our modern environment. A key component is the toxic load; if topical agents represent ounces, ingested compounds represent pounds, and the air that we breathe can be expressed in tons of potential poisonous compounds. And, it takes months or years to eliminate what takes days or weeks to ingest. He also pointed out that medical school curricula and training in toxicology is woefully inadequate.

Dr. Lynne Mielke rounded out the day by submitting actual case histories of young people with mysterious medical problems. Her background includes personal experience, extensive knowledge and patient care. This physician’s psychiatric/neurological point-of-view was especially insightful and provided valuable material that directly applied to the audience’s practice population.

Day 2
Another novel and exciting topic was Preconception Care: A New Standard of Care in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Dr. Genuis discussed the increased risks of preterm birth, Caesarian section delivery, and chronic childhood illness, such as cancers, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, autism and  ADHD.
He presented the emerging research of toxicant exposures and nutritional deficiencies that continue to escalate. Metabolic disruptions may easily ensue, leading to many of the persistent disorders that are now experienced by an increasing number of children, although they may look perfectly normal at birth.

Such difficulties seem imminently preventable in the population, and there appears to be a lack of awareness in the majority of obstetricians. Even fathers who are exposed to toxic agents may become a vector for such later difficulties. Dr. Genuis then discussed the means to eliminate the myriad of  toxins – mostly by sweating, but some by other means, such as fasting or medication.

Dr. Elizabeth Mumper followed with an in-depth discussion about the lack of awareness of proper nutrition, environmental factors, the hazards of indiscriminate use of antibiotics, and poorly researched vaccinations, which appear to be significant factors leading to autism. She even offered another alternative schedule for high-risk infants and toddlers.

Nutritionist Robert Miller presented a very dense lecture, attempting to answer the complicated question, “What can be done about all of those new-fangled genetics tests?” Suffice it to say, that offering will take some time to digest.

Day 3
The lectures consisted of an assortment of the faculty’s most difficult cases. Experts included Drs. Baker, Frye, and Neuenschwander; and the audience wasn’t too shabby, either. Case histories were offered about families who experience unimaginable, incomprehensible challenges; from self-mutilation, to children attempting suicide (sometimes, successfully), to attacks on their caregivers.

The take-home items from such discussions are simply, “How can we prevent this, and successfully treat our population?”

Conclusion
It’s fortuitous that Dr. Ratajczek’s article, which examined the research about vaccine safety, was published at the time of this seminar. Participants have been wringing our hands about the ‘disconnect’ between what we (and many parents) experience every day, and conventional medicine’s dogma. The article might act as fuel-to-the-fire for some, be ignored by the majority, but represents some slight measure of vindication for our hard-working tribe.

We are getting only marginally closer to our understanding about the cause(s), treatment(s), and prevention(s) for autism. Much more research is needed. The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs provides a valuable platform for presenting, evaluating, and disseminating such expertise.

Observations on an Autism Workshop

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

March 5, 2017.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be part of a panel for the South Florida Autism Charter Schools‘ medical workshop. In attendance were ~50 parents, and a group of 9 professionals; including dentists, a pediatric neurologist, an Ob-Gyn, a pediatrician, a psychologist and behavioral therapist.

My role was to answer questions regarding the biomedical approach to ASD.
Here are some of the things that I learned:

Parents are extremely frustrated by the lack of available services for special needs patients. “He’s too big for our MRI machine,” or “They do not know how to handle her aggression,” were common complaints. Frankly, the presenters had few useful suggestions that the families hadn’t already attempted.

Therapists and administrators wanted to be sure that parents take advantage of all available means for relief, such as following up with a medication schedule, and notifying appropriate personnel about serious issues in a timely manner.

There was a general dissatisfaction about the medical community’s lack of understanding regarding special needs families. Since the panel was composed of busy professionals willing to give up a Saturday morning, they were basically ‘preachin’ to the choir’.

Everyone agreed that the ideal situation would be a ‘one-stop shop’ for patients to get all necessary testing and treatment. Cancer Treatment Centers of America, for example, advertises that availability, and many facilities now afford such service. It may be some time before supply catches up to the demand, for special needs children, however.

I enjoyed an in-depth discussion with Dr. Jose Berthe about the proper time, types of evaluation, and medical interventions, as girls with developmental challenges get older.

Dr. Yadira Martinez-Fernandez contributed her comprehensive knowledge of autism and cardiac health. Affected children who suffer genetic or other complicated disorders, or who take certain medications, may be at an increased risk, which can be ascertained by appropriate evaluation, such as blood pressure monitoring, or an EKG.

The dental experts reviewed their approach to oral health; from how to get a successful visit, to evaluation and treatment of the common symptom of teeth grinding.

Dr. Carrie Landess provided her unique perspective and valuable insights, as a pediatric neurologist who is also the parent of a child with ASD.

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Linda Colon, offered several practical solutions for the challenged families’ concerns. The general pediatric community would find a great deal more cooperation from families, were they to adopt her thoughtful and empathetic point-of-view toward the autism epidemic.

Dr. Moodie, the Executive Director, is a fireball. Her experience, knowledge, insight, and dedication is leading to tangible changes in the care of children with developmental difficulties.

Conclusion
Parents want – and deserve – more answers, better service, and faster roads to improvement for their special needs children. The South Florida Autism Charter School is doing a great job in providing a tangible means toward those ends.

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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