Autism Spectrum Disorders
6 Case Studies
38 Research

What is ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can bring about significant social, communication, and behavioral difficulties. It's a chronic and often severe disorder of brain function that starts during childhood. It is indicated by problems with social contact, intelligence, and speech, coupled with ritualistic or compulsive behavior, sensory integration and processing difficulties, and strange ecological responses. Autism is a lifelong disorder that interferes with the ability to comprehend what can be seen, heard, and touched.

The exact cause of autism isn't yet fully understood.

According to WHO, It is estimated that worldwide 1 in 160 children has an ASD. The CDC estimates are higher in the US - about 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD does not discriminate – it affects all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASD is also about 4 times more common among boys than among girls.

See: Successful Case of Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment in Ayurveda

Causes of autism (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disease, and the fact that symptoms and severity change, there are likely many causes. Both environment and genetics may play a role.

- Genetics: Several unique genes seem to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For many children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disease, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For additional children, genetic changes (mutations) can raise the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Still, other genes may impact brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or else they might ascertain the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, but others occur spontaneously.

- Environmental: Researchers are currently exploring whether factors like viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a part in triggering autism spectrum disorder.

The number and combinations of those factors probably differ from person to person. Research points to such precipitating conditions as fetal alcohol syndrome, hereditary connections (as with identical twins), brain stem defects, lead poisoning, a nervous system defect, infections, food and inhalant allergies, infant disease reactions, and digestive tract deficiencies. Further research points to major disturbances within the body chemistry of kids with autism. Disruption is most often seen in fatty acid metabolism, electrolyte accounts, problems with digestive functioning, production of red and white blood cells, and the body's balance of nutritional supplements.

There also seems to be a strong genetic basis for autism. Genetically identical twins are much more likely than fraternal twins to both have autism if one is affected. In a family with one autistic child, the possibility of having another child with disabilities is about one in 20, much higher than in the normal population. Sometimes, relatives of an autistic child have mild behaviors that look very much like glaucoma, such as repetitive behaviors and social or communication issues.

Research also has found that some emotional disorders, such as manic depression, occur more frequently in families of a child with autism. At least one group of researchers has also found a link between an abnormal gene and autism. The gene might be one of at least three to five genes that interact in some way to cause the problem. Scientists suspect a faulty gene or genes might make a person vulnerable to develop autism in the existence of other factors, such as chemical imbalance, disease, or a lack of oxygen at birth.

See: [Effect of acupuncture on rehabilitation training of child's autism].

Symptoms of ASD

Autism impacts the way in which the brain uses or transmits information. Studies have found abnormalities in many components of the brains of those with autism that almost certainly occurred during embryonic growth. The problem could possibly be based in the parts of the brain responsible for processing speech and data in the senses. Profound problems with social interactions are the most common signs of autism. Infants with the disease will not cuddle, keep eye contact, and in general don't appear to like or need physical contact or attachment. Often, the child will not form attachments to parents or the remainder of the family. The child may not speak in any way, or speak very little and may reveal bizarre patterns of speech, like endlessly repeating phrases or words. 

Approximately 10% of those with autism have an exceptional skill in particular areas, like mathematics, memory, art, or music. Most autistic children appear to be mentally retarded to some degree. Bizarre behavior patterns are extremely common and might include repeated mimicking of these actions of many others, complicated rituals, screaming fits, rhythmic rocking, arm flapping, finger twiddling, and crying with no tears. Some less influenced autistic adults who have written books about their childhood experiences report that noises were more often excruciatingly painful to them, forcing them to withdraw from the surroundings or to try to cope by withdrawing into their own invented globe. A common characteristic of individuals with disabilities is an insistence on sameness. There may be powerful reactions to changes in food, clothes, and routines.

See: [Effects of electroacupuncture combined with behavior therapy on intelligence and behavior of children of autism].

Diagnosis of ASD

Autism is diagnosed by obtaining a developmental history of the child and observing and assessing the child's behavior, communication skills, and social interactions. Because the symptoms of autism are so varied, the condition may go undiagnosed for a while. There's not any medical test for autism. The condition is often overlooked, especially in mild cases or when additional handicaps are found. Particular screening tools help doctors diagnose the condition. Medical evaluations are sometimes utilized to rule out other potential causes of autistic symptoms.

See: Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children.

Types of autism spectrum disorders

There are three types of ASD:

- Autistic Disorder

This is also called "classic" autism. It is what most people today think of when hearing the term "autism". This autistic disorder is characterized by important speech delays, social interaction and communication challenges, and other strange behaviors and interests. This is accompanied by an intellectual handicap for many with this sort of ASD.

- Asperger Syndrome

People with Asperger syndrome usually have a lesser grade of symptoms of autistic disorder outlined above. They might also face social challenges and different behaviors and interests. They typically have less of an issue with language or intellectual disability.

- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified

This is also known as “atypical autism”. People who meet some of the criteria for the autistic disorder may be diagnosed with atypical autism. These are even lesser of a grade of symptoms than those with autistic disorder. This might result in only social and communication challenges.

See: Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder.

Natural Therapies for ASD

Early intervention proves critical in handling autism. Many parents have chosen alternative therapies when more conventional therapies do not produce the desired results. 

a)  Diet Therapy: There is often a powerful nutritional dysfunction involved with autism. A significant overhaul of the child's diet should be done, but very gradually. A wholesome diet of whole foods for Autistic children is key. The first step should be to transition your child onto a diet consisting of healthy foods and eliminate all unnecessary artificial ingredients. They may have particular difficulty managing Nutrasweet and monosodium glutamate (MSG), as these compounds may interfere with already disrupted nerve impulses. Processed foods like white flour, white sugar, margarine, and hydrogenated fats should be avoided because they interfere with the stability of blood chemistry.

Many autistic children might not be able to efficiently break down the protein in grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, called gluten, as well as the protein in milk called casein. Overgrowths of Candida albicans may be present and should be tested for and treated. Testing should also be performed for food, chemical, and inhalant allergies.

- Digestive functioning should be analyzed and monitored. Extensive testing should be done for blood levels of chemicals in the human body also. Allergens should be then removed from the diet and environment; added dietary modifications should be made to correct chemical imbalances. Studies have shown that supplementation with mega doses of vitamin B6 together with calcium enhances eye contact, speech, and behavior issues. Vitamin B6 causes fewer side effects than other drugs, but mega doses should only be given under the supervision of a health care provider. A B-complex vitamin may be the best way to give B6, due to the interdependent operation of the B vitamins.

- Zinc and vitamin C supplementation can also be advised. Furthermore, dimethylglycine (DMG) has been reported to increase speech in certain children with autism as little as a week's time. 

b)  Naturopathic Medicine: Naturopathic treatment choices include diet modifications and removing any possible allergies and sensitivities. Lifestyle modifications, nutritional, and immune support is a must. Homeopathy is an efficacious, noninvasive, non-contraindicated, non-medication interacting system of medicine that takes the individual's psychological, physical, and emotional pieces of the puzzles to match to a specific homeopathic remedy to treat all the symptoms and issues simultaneously.

Other naturopathic treatments would include treating the gastrointestinal dysbiosis and restoring the gastrointestinal tract to optimum digestion and health. Improving the person's ability to detoxify in addition to removing any possible heavy metals, as these are known neuroendocrine disruptors, can significantly improve health and behavioral effects. Physical medicine modalities may be utilized like hydrotherapy, soft tissue manipulation (massage), craniosacral therapy, spinal acupuncture, or manipulation.

c)  Ayurveda & Yoga Therapy: An integrative approach under the supervision of an Ayurveda expert for Autism can encompass the following protocol: Panchkarma, diet, herbs, and massage When Medhya Rasayana or brain tonics used collectively, they have a pacifying effect on all Doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha). Brain tonics reduce stress and anxiety, enhance resistance, and mental ability. They prove helpful in treating the physical and mental challenges in autistic patients.

d)  Traditional Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture may also help in treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, the University of Hong Kong researchers reveal that electro-acupuncture enhances core functions in children with ASD, particularly language understanding and self-care ability. Based on the evidence, the University of Hong Kong researchers conclude that acupuncture may be a useful adjunctive treatment in early interventional programs for children with ASD. 

The study is among the earliest double-blind randomized clinical trials investigating the efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture for the treatment of ASD. Earlier trials primarily focused on manual or tongue scalp acupuncture. In this investigation, the University of Hong Kong researchers implemented acupuncture using electric stimulation. The research team decided on electro-acupuncture based on the findings of Chen et al., whose study suggests that a short, intensive course of electro-acupuncture potentially enhances some particular characteristics in children with ASD. 

f) Homeopathy: While research for homeopathic treatment for autism is limited, the homeopathic approach to handling chronic disorders is holistic.  It aims at treating the genetic tendencies with an integrative treatment for autism and related disorders.

The homeopathic case evaluation of the person with disorder comprises the detailed study of the family history of severe diseases, which are known to form the genetic ground for autism. The case analysis also takes into account impaired functions in terms of behavior, social skills, communication, speech, tantrums, etc.. There are about 20 homeopathic medicines indicated for autism. The precise medicine, its combination with other support medications, its dose, and repetition depend on the case history and the experience the expert has had with ASD. 

Autism is a complex condition. A practitioner who has worked with cases of autism successfully will have the ability to offer a comprehensive treatment plan.

See: Case of Autism, Symptoms Improving Under Classical Homeopathic Prescription

Prevention of autism

Studies show that individuals with autism can improve with appropriate therapy. While there is no cure, the unwanted behaviors of autism could be made to improve. Earlier generations placed autistic children in institutions; today, even seriously disabled children can be helped to finally become more receptive to others. Children with autism usually can learn how to understand and handle the world around them. Some may even lead virtually mainstream lives. 

The mechanics of autism are poorly known. Unfortunately, there's currently no known way of prevention for the condition. 

See: Clinicians' perceptions of the benefits of aquatic therapy for young children with autism: a preliminary study.

References

1. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

3. dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Pages/autism/spectrum.aspx

4. How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet? (n.d.)

autismspeaks.org/node/112986

5. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). (2014, March 13). Retrieved from

cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html

6. Soloway, R. G. (n.d.). Chelation: Therapy or “therapy”? Retrieved from

poison.org/articles/2011-mar/chelation-therapy

7. Stress and anxiety reduction. (n.d.)

autism.com/treating_grodin

8. Treatment options. (n.d.)

autism-society.org/living-with-autism/treatment-options/

9. Hyman, S., Stewart P., Foley, F., Cain, U., Peck, R., Morris, D. D., . . . Smith, T. (2015, September). The gluten-free/casein-free diet: A double-blind challenge in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(1), 205-220 link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-015-2564-9

10. Complementary approaches for treating autism. (n.d.). autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/complementary-treatments-autism

11. How does gluten and casein relate to the problem of autism? (n.d.)

peds.ufl.edu/divisions/genetics/programs/autism_card/casein.htm

12. Mankad, D., Dupuis, A., Smile, S., Roberts, W., Brian, J., Lui, T., . . . Anagnostou, E. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of young children with autism. (2015). molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-015-0010-7

13. Adkins, K. W., Burnette, C., Fawkes, D., Goldman, S., Malow, B., McGrew, S., & Wang, L. (2012 August). Melatonin for sleep in children with autism: A controlled trial examining dose, tolerability, and outcomes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(8), 1729-1737 link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-011-1418-3

14. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatments/nutritional-therapy

15. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/autism/nutrition-for-your-child-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd

16. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/139/6/e20170346

17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151379/ 

See: Clinicians' perceptions of the benefits of aquatic therapy for young children with autism: a preliminary study.

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