Autism natural treatment
April is Autism Awareness month and the focus is on increasing our awareness about this disorder that is rising at an alarming rate worldwide. The recently published American rates are show that 1 in 68 children have autism, which is a 30% increase over 2010 figures of 1 in 88. Australia’s first autism prevalence study in 2012 found one in 160 young people have autism spectrum disorder. This represents a massive increase from about one in 2000 in the 1960’s and is consistent with international statistics. Let’s look at autism and natural treatments.
The term ‘autistic spectrum disorders’ (ASD) has replaced ‘autism’, as it is now understood that it is a complex condition with a wide range of severity and symptoms. ASD generally include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS). Affected people have problems with social understanding, behaviour and communication. ASD is often associated with emotional instability, difficulty concentrating, strong reactions to sensory experiences, impulsiveness, aggressiveness and other learning difficulties. However, in some cases such as Asperger’s syndrome, intellectual abilities are usually normal or often advanced.
The exact cause of ASD is unknown, and researchers continue to investigate and come up with new theories. Much of the research has been focussing on looking at genetic factors, however environmental issues are increasingly in the spotlight. Environmental culprits include everything from heavy metals such as mercury and aluminium (found for example in vaccines and some foods) to food additives and electromagnetic radiation from wireless technology. The difficulty for researchers is that environmental factors are very hard to control for as there are so many of them that can potentially interact with genes. The cause of autism is most likely multi factorial with the possibility for a number of environmental factors to act as stressors for the genetically at-risk child and thus trigger ASD.
Treatment for autism is now looking more holistically at the disorder, even in more mainstream settings. For example, food intolerance and digestive disorders are now recognised as a common factor in ASD. I have certainly found positive results in my practice when dietary and nutritional interventions are undertaken. Clearly, children need optimal nutrition to function well and deficiencies of nutrients can contribute to or exacerbate ASD symptoms. A thorough assessment of a child’s diet is a good way of determining whether allergenic foods or nutritional deficiencies are a factor. In many cases it can be worth doing an IgG food intolerance test to get a clearer picture.
Specific tests that assess whether a child has genetic issues that affect their ability to detoxify are also essential in developing a strategic treatment plan. Supplementing with key nutrients, herbs and homoeopathics often brings about real changes in behaviour, social development and learning. Other aspects of holistic treatment may include improving the immune function, treating the gut with probiotics and undertaking social and cognitive therapies.
ASD is a complex disorder both in terms of the causative factors and the need for a holistic approach to treatment. These children deserve to be seen as unique individuals and offered understanding alongside a healthy environment where they can thrive and reach their true potential.