Archive for July, 2008

A Diet that Helps Autism

There are many ideas regarding how to treat autism, and since each individual with autism is unique, the treatments that work on each individual are unique and different for them only.

There is one treatment that has been getting quite a bit of attention lately.  This treatment is called the autism diet and it is basically a wheat-free and casein-free diet.  What proponents of the diet say is that since they have used this diet to deal with their children’s autism symptoms, the children have become calmer, less hyper and have experienced less meltdowns.

Gluten is a protein that is found in various grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats, and it also holds breads together and softens them.  Casein is also a protein and it is found in dairy foods, for example, it is found in cheese and it makes the cheese melt.

Many doctors feel that these two proteins help calm the brain of an individual with autism, the way an opiate would calm a person who took it for pain.  For some reason it seems that these proteins do not get totally digested and, as a result, can have an effect on the brain, very possibly changing how some children with autism think and how they act and react.

When studies were done on laboratory animals and the animals were injected with these proteins – casein and gluten – the laboratory animals behaved like and showed symptoms of autism and/or schizophrenia. 

The idea that diet can have an effect on the symptoms of autism has been around for quite a while, however not many mainstream physicians have supported or believed it.  Biomedical experts now believe that autism is not just a behavioral issue, but also a medical and biological one, which would explain how diet could help control the symptoms.

The idea that diet can help autism is beginning to be embraced by more and more parents and physicians.  There are classes that can help parents with everything from research to recipes.  Most of all, parents are seeing changes in their kids who have autism.

Just as Lamaze took some time to be accepted and embraced some years ago, the gluten free and casein free “autism diet” may take some time, as well, however, acceptance is growing and results are favorable.  We seem to be learning more about autism and moving forward toward new discoveries every day.

Add comment July 31st, 2008

Autism Still on the Rise but Is There a Cure?

We have heard about various diseases and illnesses that affect our children.  We are aware of maladies such as pediatric aids, childhood diabetes, cancer and other diseases that children and their families are fighting. 

Many of these diseases are being researched and controlled well, and some of them have at least been “arrested” so to speak.  These are terrible and hard hitting diseases awaiting a cure.

As interesting and unbelievable as it may seem, there is another disease that is affecting more children than all of these other diseases that we have mentioned – combined.  It is hard to believe, but Autism has topped all these diseases, yet there is still much mystery surrounding its symptoms and treatment.

Consider the fact that about 1 in every 150 children are affected by autism to some degree.  There are various degrees of autism from very high functioning individuals who do not show the signs and symptoms of the disease a tremendous amount to individuals whose symptoms, such as lack of socialization, inability to maintain eye contact, repetitive motions and other affects, are very obvious. 

Autism can affect many things including how children learn, how they interact with others and what sensations they feel, as well as how they feel those sensations.  There are many theories as to how a child becomes autistic and how autism affects the brain and thus, the child.  However, these are mostly theories and researchers are still trying to find more concrete information.

Recently, studies have shown some genetic links and some promise in isolating some of the causes of autism, however, studies are still being conducted.  There is more information available that helps parents work with their children and help them through therapy and learning assistance to overcome some of the symptoms of autism at a young age.  Research is beginning to show that if autism is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible the results are better as far as social interaction and learning.

For now there is no cure for autism, however, it is hopeful that research is being continued to try and help children and their families overcome the issues and symptoms surrounding autism.

Add comment July 29th, 2008

Michelin and International Rugby Benefit Autism Research

When you think of autism there are probably a few things that come to mind depending upon your knowledge and experience.  Most likely, what comes to mind has noting to do with Michelin Tires or International Rugby.

That is about to change because the Michelin Company, sponsor of an International Rugby match between the United States national rugby team, the U.S. Eagles and France’s top rugby team, ASM Clermont-Auvergne, will be held August 9th with part of the proceeds from each ticket going to autism research at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).  The match will be televised on ESPN.

During the past decade, information about autism has come to the fore and during the past year or two there have been new discoveries through research efforts regarding what autism is and how it works. 

There is still much information that has not been discovered about autism, so research is very necessary.  Having part of the proceeds from this international rugby match go toward funding autism can bring much needed national and international attention to this widespread health issue and help the international medical and research community be aware that there is a long way to go in order to come up with the answers needed to adequately address the causes, symptoms and treatment of autism.

There have been incredible discoveries lately regarding genetics and their role in autism and there have been yet other ideas that have come to light about the role of certain treatment and therapy in helping even the youngest children with autism progress and overcome some of their symptoms. 

With more money for research advancement can be built on the most recent discoveries.  Michelin, along with the U.S. and French rugby teams and the Medical University of South Carolina are to be applauded for their contribution to research about this debilitating disease.  

Add comment July 24th, 2008

How Do You Know if Autism Treatment Works?

Autism is a complex disorder.  It has some specific symptoms and there are some specific accepted treatments available to treat autism.  However, not all healthcare professionals who deal with autism agree on what treatments work best and which treatments should be tried for which symptoms and which children.  With such a variety of ideas and opinions, many parents have asked how do you know if treatment is working or if it works?

The answer is that with so many interventions available, there are certain things to look for.  For starters, it is important for parents to be as objective as possible when trying to determine the answer to the question as to how successful treatment was.  We all want our children to be a healthy and happy as possible, but in trying to assist them, it is important that we be as realistic as possible in our efforts and in our analysis.

It is important to do as much research as possible regarding any treatment you are considering for your child to find out if you feel it has been tried and tested enough and if you feel it is appropriate for your child.  Not only should you research whatever information is available, but also speak to doctors and other professionals – including programs for families with children that have autism, plus other parents with children who have autism – to find out what the real information is regarding such treatment.

Once you have determined that a particular treatment or combination of treatments are right for your child, give them long enough to work.  Sometimes that might be a few months – long enough to notice even minor changes or improvements starting to take place.  Sometimes, however, it may take a year or two – or even a few more – to see marked improvement.  It is a matter of watching carefully to see even the smallest of developments.

It is important to remember that not every treatment will help every individual with autism.  Even in children with similar symptoms, a treatment can help one child improve tremendously, while the other child shows no change. 

The good news is that where there was once little or no hope for improvement in children with autism, there are now choices in treatment and many treatments are yielding results for an amazing number of children.  It is often a matter of working until the right treatment can be connected with the right child.

Add comment July 23rd, 2008

Autism Can Improve with Age

There are many theories and ideas regarding care and treatment of autism.  Some treatment has become standard practice.  After years of research, other, newer ideas have begun to take hold regarding care and treatment of autism.  New treatment ideas have brought positive results, and even some experimental treatments have helped alleviate the symptoms of autism.

Some of the more accepted treatments of autism include:

• Education and behavior – Therapists use specific interventions to help improve language and social skills, as well as working with parents to help children develop and strengthen those skills.
• Use of medication – Medication to deal with symptoms of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other issues can be prescribed to treat children with autism who have these and other secondary symptoms.
• Other therapies, such as chelation therapy – which is not FDA approved and is only in experimental stages – have been used by parents and holistic practitioners to treat children with autism.  A variety of results have been reported, most of them being positive.

Though there is no known cure for autism, specific treatments are designed to work on specific symptoms.  There have been many advancements when it comes to treating autism, and there is evidence that substantial improvement can be made with the appropriate treatment for the right symptoms.  Healthcare professionals agree that if a child has intervention and treatment as early as possible they have a greater chance of maximum improvement.

Many children experience dramatic improvement through treatment, especially as they get older, and especially if the treatment was initiated when they were young enough.  Many children with autism grow up to live normal lives.

Add comment July 17th, 2008

New Information Discovered Regarding Autism & Genetics

Autism is a disorder which is part of a spectrum of disorders of the brain.  It is a congenital mental disorder that affects about 1 of every 150 children born in the United States, and can affect children with any IQ, whether high or low, but usually affects more children in combination with mental retardation.  Autism affects a child’s socialization and communication and is usually discovered by age two or three in most children.

Autism has usually been blamed on many things including bad reactions to immunizations, however more recent studies have confirmed that it is most likely a genetic disorder.  How the genetic mutations work to disrupt the brain is not totally understood.

The newest information regarding autism has been discovered by studying 100 families with a high incidence of autism.  Researchers found that there are at least 6 genes that contribute to or cause autism.  They have determined that autism is not just a simple disorder, and that it can be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors or a combination of both.  There appear to be many different genetic mutations involved with each family having different and distinct mutations.

The study is groundbreaking in that it changes previous thinking that autism is usually caused by just a few genetic mutations.  Because of the study researchers now feel that there are unique causes to autism and depending on the cause, autism can be treated in many cases.  In fact, researchers now feel that if they can isolate and figure out how to compensate for some of the deficiencies with medication or behavioral therapy and treatment, doctors may be able to help the brain develop more normally in the future.

Add comment July 17th, 2008

Who Covers the High Costs of Autism?

In the past decade the amount of money spent on treatment for Autism has jumped from $50 million annually to $320 million annual – in the state of California alone.  This is over 600% and rising!  Throughout the U.S. the amount is hovering at about $90 billion and is expected to double within the decade.  Research is on the rise – with NIH looking at testing non-traditional treatment to see what might work.

While autism is seemingly getting attention, there is a huge runaround occurring between parents of autistic children, insurance companies and the states.  This runaround is being played out throughout the country in the majority of states.  With autism having become more prevalent over the past ten to fifteen years, the demand for services has risen substantially.

Parents are doing what they can, but it is estimated that the cost to treat a child with autism for one year is often over $70,000.  Most families cannot afford this amount, so they rely on their insurance to offset these costs.  Unfortunately, many insurance companies and PPO’s will diagnose autism, but will not cover the cost or provide most of the treatment that they suggest when diagnosing the issue. 

Insurance companies say that this is because they can only provide services that are medically necessary, and they do not cover services that can be obtained elsewhere, such as through schools and other community programs.  Insurance companies also say that they do not cover procedures and services that are considered experimental, and that a lot of the proposed treatments for autism are still in the experimental stages.

As far as the states go, it has been charged that they are not doing their job either because they are handing care for individuals with autism over to the insurance companies.  As a result, while parents – especially those not covered by state benefits and other resources – continue to pay premiums and not receive services they need, the state and the insurance companies continue to go back and forth.

Enough parents are frustrated with the situation that some class action law suits have been filed in an effort to force the state and the insurance companies to take action and help families with autistic children.  While this issue plays out, children are not getting enough care and parents are not getting enough help.  Hopefully these law suits will help stop the debate and help families who need it.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

Conroversial Autism Treatment Could Merit NIH Study

Autism, which is a group of disorders that impedes a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, has long been considered to have no cure.  This fact, coupled with the concern and sometimes desperation of parents whose child suffers from autism,   has created a sort of underground market for testing for cures – or at least, help – that is not exactly in the medical books or supported by most doctors and practitioners who deal with the help and care of children with autism.

One treatment that until now has stayed under the radar, yet has reportedly helped many children with autism is called chelation. This treatment is not considered a proven treatment for autism, in fact many scientists, doctors and other practitioners feel that it is not a safe treatment and will not actually help children battling with the disorder.

Many patents feel quite differently. They have tried other treatments – both talk and behavior therapy and medication – without results.  When they have tried non-traditional treatments – especially chelation – they say the results are much different and much more positive. 

The process of chelation which is already in use to help children and adults with lead poisoning and to work on other issues in adults, is considered an effective treatment for the purposes it is used for.   The argument on one side is that it is dangerous to kids with autism and it can redistribute the metals throughout the body, possibly depositing them into the central nervous system.  In addition, the medications and compounds used in chelation are said to lower the white blood cell count and cause rashes which are sometimes severe.

The argument on the parents’ side is that with very few other options and nothing else that has worked, it is worth trying anything to help their child.  Besides, in the sort of underground portion of the world of parents of kids with autism, there are a lot of reports of children who have improved a great deal through this process.

While the debate continues, the National Institutes of Health feels it is worth looking into and tests are warranted to see how well chelation works on autism, as long as the tests are safe and the guidelines are clear.  Many parents are holding their breaths and hoping that research and testing will get approved and funded.

Time will tell whether the testing will be authorized.  In the meanwhile, it might be important to take the phrase “father knows best” and bend it a little to state that parents know their child best.  Hopefully parents and their children with autism will get some answers and some relief soon.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

What Are Important Ways to Treat Autism?

This is an essential and often asked question.  Of course, medical treatment is important, as well as mental health treatment, education and various other types of treatment depending on the individual. 

One of the most important areas of treatment for individuals with autism is the area of social interaction.  This is a difficult issue because if a person struggles with autism, it can be extremely difficult for them to interact socially with others, partially because they become overwhelmed due to over-stimulation.  With practice and gradual increase of interaction, many individuals with autism improve their sociability a great deal.

Some essential information regarding initiating and increasing communication and social interactions include helping the family and the community understand what to do and how to do it.  People need to know what the family is going through and how the community and the family can work together.

Determine what the individual – whether a child or adult – with autism is able to do.  Abilities are very important, especially so that the person is not pushed beyond what they can do and does not be overwhelmed.  On the other hand, if the person or child wants to try an activity, as long as it is not unsafe, they should be encouraged to do so.  If they can’t succeed at the activity at this time, at least they have tried and can try again at another time.  If they do succeed at the activity, it will help them grow and become more confident, possibly diminishing the amount of times they are overwhelmed.

If the child is going to be in a place or situation where a large group is expected, arrive early and allow the child to explore and become acclimated and comfortable before the group arrives. 

When giving directions or instructions, try to say them with positive words.  For instance, if you want to tell the individual not to go outside (negative version), instead, tell them to stay inside.  This is more direct and less confusing.  Speak clearly and do so as you would speak to any other person, not talking down to them.

There are many things that can be done to help a person with autism expand their world.  Remembering that a big part of autism is that the individual process information differently is something that will help in communicating with them.  There have been huge strides made in dealing with autism, especially during the past decade or two.  Some of the ideas we have discussed here can assist you in making positive strides with an individual dealing with autism who happens to be in your life.

Add comment July 7th, 2008

Treating Autism at Home

There are various sides to treating autism and they are all important.  The two most important are working with physicians and other medical professionals and educational professionals to treat autism on a continuous basis.  The other of the two is treating and working with autism at home. 

If you have a child with autism, it is important that you learn all you can about autism in general and about your child’s specific symptoms and situation so that you can care for them in the most effective and efficient way possible.  It is also important that you learn what you need to be able to take care of yourself, so that you can do a good job of taking care of your child. 

Taking care of yourself includes determining how much sleep and rest you need and trying to get as close to that as possible, eating healthy foods daily and making sure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals and protein regularly and trying to create some personal time during which you can read, exercise, visit with friends, go out for a cup of coffee or a meal or something else that you enjoy and that will take you away from being a caregiver, even if only for an hour.  There are respite services available, or you may be able to ask a close friend or family member to cover for you for a short time.  The better condition you are in, the better you will be able to care for your child.  In most cases reducing family stress helps a child dealing with autism function better.

When dealing with your child’s autism, find out about their educational rights.  According to the federal government, all children have the right to an education including those with disabilities under which autism is included.  In addition to federal rights, there are often state and local types of assistance for children with autism, and this assistance can include various forms of treatment, education and other benefits.

Treating your child’s autism at home goes hand in hand with any other treatment they are receiving.  The more you learn about treatment and assistance for them as well as taking care of yourself, the more successful you – and they – will be.

Add comment July 7th, 2008


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