To those who’ve inquired about my resources and thoughts regarding autism:
Firstly, a large caveat: I do not have a child with autism. I don’t know a child with autism. I haven’t even read a book on the subject. I am in no sense an expert. If you have a child with autism, you must become the expert—not in autism as such, perhaps, but in your child and his particular case. You must discover, as best as you can, the causes and the solutions. I hope the few ideas I outline below will give you some additional avenues of inquiry to those you’re no doubt already pursuing. I have some background in natural health, and some of that touches on autism, so I’ll share what I know. It’s not prescriptive, professional, expert, or based in personal experience. But I hope it helps.
Diet & General Health
It’s my understanding that autism is commonly (not always) attended by other, less mental, forms of unhealth: asthma, allergies, reflux or other gut issues, possibly adrenal issues, etc. Correlation is not causation, so it’s up for grabs, in my mind, whether autism causes gut issues, or vice versa, or both, or whether both have a common cause. But regardless, I think it’s clear that (at least in terms of behavior, if not physiology and pathology) the physical issues exacerbate the mental issues. So it makes sense to me to treat any GI problems first, for instance, which seems a simpler and more straightforward project than attacking something huge and multifaceted like autism. If this ameliorates the autism and/or its symptoms, great: you now have less work to do on that front, and you have a also better health platform from which to begin the assault.
In the experience of many people, diet is a big factor in managing/treating/curing autism-spectrum disorders and the associated problems mentioned above. This is principally true of diet’s effects on gastrointestinal health, because poor digestion results in (a) diminished nutrient uptake, and (b) increased toxin release in the gut; these toxins often have a direct impact, via the bloodstream, upon the brain. See http://gaps.me/ or just do a Google search on “GAPS diet” (GAPS = “Gut And Psychology Syndrome”) for plenty of material about this. Also the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle and its author’s website. There are lots of other similar resources out there.
Since lots of even “perfectly healthy” kids are fairly picky eaters, dietary supplements will likely play an important role in maintaining good health, and (probably) a critical role in addressing any serious health issues. You *can* (and should, as much as possible), get most of the nutrients you need from food, but, frankly, in our industrialized culture, this is incredibly hard to do; and it involves traditional and/or labor-intensive food preparation that may not fit well with atypical child-training issues; also the foods you need may not suit the child’s tastes just yet. Hence, supplements. When evaluating any supplement, consider:
- Is it sourced from whole food, with no synthetics? Vitamin E is a good “touchstone”:
- best = “mixed tocopherols & tocotrienols” [there are four tocopherols and four tocotrienols, alpha though delta: all eight are important]
- decent = “mixed tocopherols”
- passable = “d-alpha-tocopherol”
- poor = “d-alpha-tocopheryl (acetate)”
- synthetic (bad) = “dl-alpha-tocopherol/yl.”
- The “dl-” form is not from real food and is at least 50% unusable and/or toxic. Any manufacturer who uses it is considering cost above quality in this and probably all of his other ingredients. Avoid the whole brand.
- Does it have artificial colors? (All are bad, but “Red 40” is particularly notorious and there’s no end to the [mostly anecdotal] evidence that it affects mood/concentration/behavior in a significant subset of children. Eliminate these from your kid’s diet and see if it makes a difference.)
- Does it have artificial sweeteners (aspartame, a neurotoxin; Splenda/sucralose; etc.), OR high levels of sugar or other “natural” sweeteners? A little fructose is ok, but if a sugar is the first ingredient, you probably want to be leery.
- Is it just vitamins & minerals, or does it include a range of phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, cruciferous compounds, inositol, herbal extracts, etc.)? You want all this stuff.
- Does it have significant, or just token, levels of the important nutrients?
- Personally we use the children’s vitamins from NeoLife: there’s both a liquid and a couple of chewables. Tastes good, meets the criteria. Vitamin Shoppe has a similar liquid (not as potent) that’s ok, judging by the label, but I don’t trust their manufacturing standards as much as NeoLife’s: they’re pretty much my gold standard for all supplements.
- Aside from vitamins/minerals, both high-quality protein (pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, etc.) and whole-food healthy fats are crucial. For lots of reasons, but partly because the brain is made mostly of fat, and the functions of memory-recording always require protein. Also because protein and fat help keep a stable blood sugar, which is important for everyone but especially for diabetics and folks with attention challenges.
- Fats: Omega-3 oils are of particular importance. Flax seed and some other plants containt omega-3s, but not the most useful ones. You need a high-quality fish oil. This one is probably the best on the market, but in any case make sure whatever you get is tested for mercury and the other toxins that accumulate in salmon and similar carnivorous fish. You also want coconut oil, which is being increasingly studied as a help for Alzheimer’s, among its manifold other benefits.
Shun Tylenol or any other form of acetaminophen, especially within a week of any vaccination. This article is technical, but the introduction and conclusion are easy enough to read, the theoretical model is persuasive, and the take-away action points are plenty clear.
Research the connection between vaccines and autism. Needless to say this is controversial and hotly disputed, and conclusive data or even objective reporting is hard-won though a smog of propaganda and hazy arguments from both sides (any time Big Pharmaceutical Money butts heads with Mother Bear Instincts, you pretty much get a firestorm). Still, there’s enough out there to suggest that some vaccines (or some vaccine ingredients), in some cases, are at least a contributing factor to autism and a host of other disorders-on-the-rise.
Counsel: if you should come to the conclusion that your child’s autism was caused/exacerbated by a vaccine, or Tylenol, or some other medical intervention, (a) don’t guilt yourself: you did the best you knew at the time; and (b) take heart: the cause isn’t unalterable genes, it’s a toxin and/or a pathogen. Toxins can be de-toxed, and pathogens can be killed; and the damage they’ve caused can often, with time and hard work, be healed. (All this is of course speaking in general terms. Every individual case will vary.)
Discipline & Training
All parenting requires grace; in cases of autism, I’m sure this is only increased. Grace is not only spiritual, and it is more than mercy. Showing grace to a child with autism-spectrum or any other disability should, obviously, take deeply *physical* forms, and other forms as well. It’s bigger than discipline; even bigger than training. http://givethemgrace.com/ may prove helpful here.
Resources are out there. A Google search on “autism discipline strategies” turns up plenty of articles, including this one, basic but solid. Christian resources are available too, e.g., this audio from the National Center for Biblical Parenting (a good group).
Research hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in relation to autism. Here is one metastudy to get you started.
As I come across new resources, I’ll likely add them to this post via edits. So if you’re interested, leave a comment or follow the post in some other fashion that lets you get the updates.
To my mother: I know you’ll have some excellent additional resources as well, so please list them in the comments, when you have time.