A Starting Point
"For healthcare providers, we have a message that's pretty direct about autism.
And the message is: The 4-year-old with autism was once a 3-year-old with autism,
which was once a 2-year-old with autism."
- Dr. Jose Cordero, Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and
Developmental Disabilities, part of the CDC
We all need a place to start. If you have a child with Autism, this is a pretty good place.
There is (and always has been) a lot of confusion as to what Autism and the Autistic Spectrum Disorders are. This starts with a significant problem with the way Autism is classified; Autism is considered a ‘mental disorder’. Since it has been classified as such since the 1940s, most physicians learn little to nothing about it. Its classification further breaks down Autism to be impairment in social interaction, repetitive behaviors and problems communicating. With these ‘defining characteristics’, it is no wonder that these children are placed into a structured special learning environment accompanied by behavior modification with little to no medical intervention.
I understand Autism to be a biochemical and neurological problem that alters the way the brain and body develop, and eventually results in the social, behavioral and communication problems that these individuals experience. These characteristics are symptoms, and the result of a multi-system breakdown that went undiagnosed! We have let an entire generation of children slip through our fingertips and it is time to mobilize and get them back.
If the top three defining characteristics were; under-connected brain circuitry, chronic metabolic dysfunction and underlying autoimmune/inflammatory processes, we would see a very different treatment criteria established for Autism! In fact, based on the research, these three things are the true problems of Autism which eventually lead to the cognitive impairments.
Spectrum of Extremes
People on the autistic spectrum are so individually different. Some are ‘high-functioning’; some are ‘low-functioning’. Some cannot talk at all, while some talk early. Some exhibit extreme sensory-based behaviors (stims) and some don't. Some are highly intelligent; while others may have I.Q.s under 50. Some are considered ‘mildly affected’, and some are ‘severely affected’. Some have vestibular or motor planning problems, and some are athletic. The list goes on.
With all of the differences between individuals, what do people with Autism have in common?
All people with autistic spectrum disorders seem to have one thing in common; a core deficit. Autistic spectrum disorders arise from a bio-neurological condition; a weakness in a child’s biochemical and neurological development. They seem to go hand-in-hand and both need to be evaluated for and treated as early as possible! All individuals with Autism have these weaknesses in varying degrees.
Science-based Functional Medicine Approach
There is a completely new approach to evaluating patients with chronic illness that is neither Mainstream nor Alternative. It is a 3rd type of medicine called Functional Medicine.
“Functional medicine differs from conventional or alternative medicine because it conforms to a far more rigid code of scientific method. Like their conventional or alternative medicine counterparts, a functional medicine practitioner begins by making a presumptive diagnosis based on the initial examination. But unlike their conventional or alternative medicine colleagues, a functional medicine practitioner bases their next inquiry on hundreds of thousands of amassed, peer-reviewed studies, which have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that toxicological, biochemical, structural, physiological and genetic abnormalities are the root cause of their patient’s presumptive diagnosis and/or symptoms. An extensive battery of laboratory and/or radiological tests is then typically ordered to determine if the expected causative abnormalities are present or not. Guesswork is thus avoided, intuition is unnecessary and factual evidence is gathered.” – Charles Gant, MD, PhD
By casting a wide net and looking for underlying problems in the child’s physical environment, nervous system and metabolism, we can try to identify underlying issues that can be causing or adding to the symptoms that a child with autism exhibits.
I have amassed thousands of medical journal articles that outline several issues that are common to kids on the spectrum; gastrointestinal issues, eating challenges, food allergies, thyroid problems, methylation defects, detoxification problems, motor planning challenges, balance and coordination issues, sensory defensiveness, skin issues, changes in the way the body deals with sunlight and emf exposure and more. These problems are the Core Deficits, and they are not always apparent without specific testing!
Neurological organization is a physiological condition that describes the maturing connections and activities of the brain. This orderly progression begins around the 12th week of embryological life and reaches its maximum potential at approximately 6 to 7 years of age.
The highest center in the brain, the cerebral cortex, will eventually develop laterally and create responsibilities for each of its hemispheres. This laterality is critical to sensory function and language, and supersedes all other neurological development. When it occurs properly, the left or right cortical hemisphere becomes dominant and a person demonstrates handedness—a preference for using his/her right or left hand. This usually signifies that all lower neural requirements have been met. It is no wonder that most children with Autism have mixed-handedness! The process of neural organization is an interdependent continuum: if lower levels are incomplete, all succeeding higher levels are affected. Getting this process “on track” can allow for better cognitive and behavioral development to take place.
Your child has his or her own unique potential.
You and everyone who works with your child must believe in his ability to learn, grow and have a bright future. This is a fight for your child between you and Autism. Combining an aggressive educational and therapeutic approach with a nutritional and lifestyle management approach can help most children experience improvement, ranging from mild changes to significant improvement.
The degree of recovery a child experiences depends primarily on his/her unique potential, combined with their parent’s willingness to do whatever it takes.