A Starting Point - What Can I Do?

Author // Michael A. Gruttadauria, DC, DACAN

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What Can I Do?

Mainstream vs. ‘Alternative’ Therapies Therapies are usually considered ‘mainstream’ when they are recommended by a medical doctor and have research behind them. Due to the aforementioned situation that outlined the classification of autism and the mental characteristics associated with it, any therapy outside of psychological intervention and learning and behavioral approaches are considered ‘alternative.’ This way of thinking must change immediately, because anything designed to treat the cause of the problem is not considered a mainstream therapy.

Most intervention approaches for autism are education-based and teach scripted behaviors that have limited value in many real-life interactions. For example, a child may be taught a strategy for how to approach another child to engage in play. However, rehearsed strategies do not give a child the ability to participate in the spontaneous, highly fluid peer interactions of even a simple playground environment. While they clearly have benefit, even the most widely used and most intensive ‘mainstream’ intervention methods have not demonstrated what is needed most: the ability to produce independence and a high quality of life for people with autism. Having language and intelligence are critically important, but they are not enough. Unfortunately, even those children who speak well and do well in school are at high risk for failure in life.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) of Great Britain conducted a study of high functioning adults with Aspergers Syndrome and autism in 2001. The researchers followed hundreds of young adults on the autism spectrum who had high IQs and good language skills. Fifty percent of these bright individuals went on to higher education after high school.

Yet, at the time of the study:

  • Only 12% were employed

  • Only 3% could live independently

  • More than 65% had almost no social contact outside of their family

  • None were married or involved in a significant emotional relationship

In my opinion, ‘mainstream’ evaluation and treatment of ASDs are archaic, and the prognosis for quality of life for people on the spectrum continues to remain poor. The only acceptable approach involves a clinical intervention program that addresses the debilitating core deficits of autism. If you can resolve the bio-neuro dysfunction, more normal neurological organization happens. 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 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. With early, appropriate, and intensive intervention most children experience improvement ranging from mild changes to complete recovery. The degree of recovery a child experiences depends primarily on his or her unique potential, combined with the parents’ willingness to do whatever it takes.

In conclusion, there is a lot that you can do to help your child. First, align yourself with a healthcare professional that understands the spectrum and be aggressive. Surround yourself with a group of like-minded people. Read and learn everything you can about autism. Never give up.

What Should You Do Immediately?

This is very straight forward: you have to increase the things that your child is not getting enough of and reduces the things that your child has too much of.

Things that usually need to increase:

  • Overall nutritional content in food

  • Specific B vitamins

  • Antioxidants

  • Healthy fats (Omega fatty acids)

  • Amino acids

  • Probiotics

  • Methylation co-factors

  • Specific sensory stimulation

  • Multi-sensory stimulation

  • Gross motor training

  • Core muscle strengthening

  • Vestibular (balance) exercise

  • Fine motor training

  • Activities of daily living

  • Socialization with other children of different abilities

  • Exposure to new environments

  • Needs-based educational programs

Things that usually need to decrease:

  • Environmental toxins

  • Conventional household cleaners

  • Wheat in the diet

  • Dairy products

  • Other potential food allergens

  • Excess sugar

  • Excitotoxins in diet

  • Hydrogenated fats

  • Exposure to construction materials

Pathways Issue 21 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #21.

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