Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term used to describe a group of neuro developmental disorders. These disorders are characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. People with ASD often demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped interests or patterns of behaviour. ASD is found in individuals around the world, regardless of race, culture, or economic background. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism does occur more often in boys than in girls, with a 4 to 1 male-to-female ratio. The CDC estimated in 2014 that nearly 1 in 59 children have been identified with ASD. There are indications that instances of ASD are on the rise. Some attribute this increase to environmental factors. However, experts debate whether there’s an actual increase in cases or just more frequent diagnoses.
People may experience:
Behavioural: inappropriate social interaction, poor eye contact, compulsive behaviour, impulsivity, repetitive movements, self-harm, or persistent repetition of words or actions
Developmental: learning disability or speech delay in a child
Cognitive: intense interest in a limited number of things or problem paying attention
Psychological: unaware of others' emotions or depression
Also common: anxiety, change in voice, sensitivity to sound, or tic
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is used by clinicians to diagnose a variety of psychiatric disorders. The fifth and most recent edition of the DSM was released in 2013. The DSM-5 currently recognizes five different ASD subtypes, or specifies. They are:
Someone can be diagnosed with one or more specifiers. Prior to the DSM-5, people on the autism spectrum may have been diagnosed with one of the following disorders:
It’s important to note that a person who received one of these earlier diagnoses hasn’t lost their diagnosis and won’t need to be reevaluated. According to the DSM-5, the broader diagnosis of ASD encompasses disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome.
Autism symptoms typically become clearly evident during early childhood, between 12 and 24 months of age. However, symptoms may also appear earlier or later.
Early symptoms may include a marked delay in language or social development.
The DSM-5 divides symptoms of autism into two categories: problems with communication and social interaction, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities.
Problems with communication and social interaction include:
Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities include:
Individuals are evaluated within each category and the severity of their symptoms is noted. In order to receive an ASD diagnosis, a person must display all three symptoms in the first category and at least two symptoms in the second category.
The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates that there’s no single cause.
Some of the suspected risk factors for autism include:
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), both genetics and environment may determine whether a person develops autism. Multiple sources, old and new, have concluded that the disorder isn’t caused by vaccines, however. A controversial 1998 study proposed a link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, that study has been debunked by other research and was eventually retracted in 2010.
An ASD diagnosis involves several different screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children undergo screening for ASD at the ages of 18 and 24 months. Screening can help with early identification of children who could have ASD. These children may benefit from early diagnosis and intervention. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is a common screening tool used by many pediatric offices. This 23-question survey is filled out by parents. Pediatricians can then use the responses provided to identify children that may be at risk of having ASD. It’s important to note that screening isn’t a diagnosis. Children who screen positively for ASD don’t necessarily have the disorder. Additionally, screenings sometimes don’t detect every child that has ASD.
Your child’s physician may recommend a combination of tests for autism, including:
Diagnoses are typically made by a team of specialists. This team may include child psychologists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists.
Modern science / allopathy says that there are no “cures” for autism, but therapies and other treatment considerations can help people feel better or alleviate their symptoms. Many treatment approaches involve therapies such as:
Massages, weighted blankets and clothing, and meditation techniques may also induce relaxing effects. However, treatment results will vary. Some people on the spectrum may respond well to certain approaches, while others may not.
How far can an autistic child progress under the care of a homeopath? This depends on where the child falls on the autistic spectrum to begin with, how clear an understanding the homeopath can attain of the child, and how well the homeopathic remedy fits the child.
With more severely autistic children, I have found homeopathy to be especially effective for physical and behavioral complaints. A significant improvement in seizures and bowel problems, for example, along with a decrease in outbursts can thrill the parents of such children, as can even small increments of improvement in language and social interaction.
Some children in the mid-range of autism can experience more dramatic changes in all of these areas.
I have seen the most far-reaching success with children with Asperger's Disorder, a group of kids who can be highly articulate, verbal, and more socially interactive than others on the autistic spectrum. A few such cases appear in our book, Ritalin-Free Kids. Although these children will always have their own endearing individuality, with successful homeopathic treatment they can become quite normal academically, behaviorally, and socially. I have seen many of these patients end up happily in a mainstream classroom with a more than adequate ability to establish and maintain friendships.
Obsessiveness and quirky habits diminish, desire to engage in age-appropriate activities normalizes, and communication skills improve enough that these kids are not noticeably different from their peers. The parents are overjoyed to have their children back.
How to find the best remedy for autistic kids
There is no recipe book for which homeopathic remedy to give to a child. Absolutely any homeopathic remedy—polychrest or small, from the animal, plant, or mineral kingdom—may be needed in an individual case. This is how I approach these cases.
1) First I speak with the parent(s) to get as clear a picture as possible about the child's problems, health, academic performance, behavior, social interactions, habits, nature. Highly observant, articulate parents can be extremely helpful in providing information. If the child is too young, unable, or unwilling to speak with me, the parent's report is even more essential. I try as best I can to get the child's case rather than the parent's, trying to sift out any projections of the parent that may not be a totally accurate, objective perception or impression.
2) I assess how much the child can communicate with me and, vice versa, how much I can communicate with him. Most of the time parents are good judges of how likely it is that the child will spend half an hour to an hour and a half engaging in conversation with me. They may be able to correctly predict how long their child will be willing to engage in conversation or they may be pleasantly surprised at how beautifully the kids can communicate. Youngsters can express their feelings in a fresh, spontaneous, and honest way that parents can't match, providing images and glimpses into their inner world. If the child is unable or unwilling to talk to me directly, a type of bypass is to interview the child with the parent(s) as intermediary or translator. It takes more time but is much better than not getting the child's point of view directly. Whatever works!
3) The more expressive and open the child, the greater the possibility of finding an exact remedy match based on the child's specific descriptions of symptoms, sensations, hobbies, fascinations, fantasies, images, and dreams. Once the child starts talking, regardless of the subject matter, he reveals himself and starts giving clues about which remedy he needs. No matter whether he is explaining the intricacies of his favorite video game or describing in detail how it feels when he can't get out the words that he wants. It is all reflective of him and of the remedy he needs.
4) When a child is not able to communicate verbally, the case is more challenging. Out of necessity I depend more on the parents understanding of their child's experience, behaviors, reactions, physical symptoms, history, any traumas during pregnancy, traumas to the child, and observations of interactions with family members and other children. Sometimes the child is unique enough that the correct remedy can be found without his direct input. But the case is far richer and the prescription much more certain if I have a chance to enter and experience the world of the child.
How parents of autistic children can best support homeopathic treatment
• Find a homeopath you feel you can trust who has experience treating autistic kids.
• Continue treatment with that practitioner for at least one year. It may be challenging to find the right remedy and may take some time.
• If you want to use other therapies in addition to homeopathy, consult with your homeopath first. This is particularly true at the beginning of treatment while your homeopath is trying to find the best remedy for your child.
• If your child suffers acute illnesses during the course of treatment, call your homeopath before administering conventional medications except in emergency situations.
• Become an astute, impartial observer so you can report symptoms and changes objectively to your homeopath.
• Raising an autistic child, especially if he has siblings, can be high-maintenance. Make sure that you as parents and the rest of the family get plenty of attention so that everyone's needs get met. The demands of a youngster with autism may seem pressing and urgent, but it is important to maintain balance and harmony in the whole family.
• Breathe deeply, take one step at a time, and remember both you and your child are doing the best you can!
Alternative treatments for managing autism may include:
Research on alternative treatments is mixed, and some of these treatments can be dangerous. Before investing in any of them, parents and caregivers should weigh the research and financial costs against any possible benefits. Learn more about alternative treatments for autism.
There’s no specific diet designed for people with ASD. Nevertheless, some autism advocates are exploring dietary changes as a way to help minimize behavioral issues and increase overall quality of life.
A foundation of the autism diet is the avoidance of artificial additives. These include preservatives, colors, and sweeteners.
An autism diet may instead focus on whole foods, such as:
Some autism advocates also endorse a gluten-free diet. The protein gluten is found in wheat, barley, and other grains. Those advocates believe that gluten creates inflammation and adverse bodily reactions in certain people with ASD. However, scientific research is inconclusive on the relationship between autism, gluten, and another protein known as casein. Some studies, and anecdotal evidence, have suggested that diet can help improve symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition similar to autism. Find out more about the ADHD diet.
Children with autism may not reach the same developmental milestones as their peers, or they may demonstrate loss of social or language skills previously developed. For instance, a 2 year old without autism may show interest in simple games of make-believe. A 4 year old without autism may enjoy engaging in activities with other children. A child with autism may have trouble interacting with others or dislike it altogether. Children with autism may also engage in repetitive behaviors, have difficulty sleeping, or compulsively eat nonfood items. They may find it hard to thrive without a structured environment or consistent routine.
If your child has autism, you may have to work closely with their teachers to ensure they succeed in the classroom. Many resources are available to help children with autism as well as their loved ones. Local support groups can be found through the national nonprofit The Autism Society. The organization Autism Speaks also provides targeted toolkits intended for the parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends of children with autism.
Children with autism may find that certain exercises can play a role in alleviating frustrations and promoting overall well-being. Any type of exercise that your child enjoys can be beneficial. Walking and simply having fun on the playground are both ideal. Swimming and being in water can serve as both exercise and a sensory play activity. Sensory play activities can help people with autism who may have trouble processing signals from their senses. Sometimes contact sports can be difficult for children with autism. You can instead encourage other forms of challenging yet strengthening exercises. Get started with these tips on arm circles, star jumps, and other autism exercises for kids.
Because of its gender-specific prevalence, autism is often stereotyped as a boys’ disease. According to the CDC, ASDs are about 4 times more common in boys than in girls. However, this doesn’t mean that autism doesn’t occur in girls. In fact, the CDC estimates that 0.66 percent, or around 1 in every 152 girls, have autism. Autism may even present differently in women. In comparison to recent decades, autism is being tested earlier and more often now. This leads to higher reported rates in both boys and girls.
Families who have loved ones with ASD may worry about what life with autism looks like for an adult. A minority of adults with ASD may go on to live or work independently. However, many adults with ASD require continued aid or intervention throughout their lives. Introducing therapies and other treatments early in life can help lead to more independence and better quality of life. Sometimes people who are on the spectrum aren’t diagnosed until much later in life. This is due, in part, to a previous lack of awareness among medical practitioners. Seek help if you suspect you have adult autism. It’s not too late to be diagnosed.
April is World Autism Month. It’s also been deemed National Autism Awareness Month in the United States. However, many advocates have rightly called for the need to increase awareness about ASDs year-round, and not just during 30 select days. Autism awareness also requires empathy and an understanding that ASDs are different for everyone. Certain treatments and therapies can work for some people but not others. Parents and caregivers can also have differing opinions on the best way to advocate for a child with autism.
Autism and ADHD are sometimes confused with one another. Children diagnosed with ADHD consistently have issues with fidgeting, concentrating, and maintaining eye contact with others. These symptoms are also seen in some people on the spectrum. Despite some similarities, ADHD isn’t considered a spectrum disorder. One major difference between the two is that people with ADHD don’t tend to lack socio-communicative skills. If you think your child has symptoms of hyperactivity, talk to their doctor about possible ADHD testing. Getting a clear diagnosis is essential to ensure that your child is receiving the correct treatment. It’s also possible for a person to have both autism and ADHD. Check out this article, which explores the relationship between autism and ADHD.
There are no cures for ASDs. The most effective treatments involve early and intensive behavioral interventions. The earlier a child is enrolled in these programs, the better their outlook will be. Remember that autism is complex, and that it takes time for a person with ASD to find the program best suited for them.
· Keep a detailed notebook. Record conversations and meetings with health care providers and teachers. This information helps when its time to make decisions.
· Record doctors' reports and evaluations in the notebook. This information may help an individual qualify for special programs.
· Contact the local health department, school, or autism advocacy groups to learn about their special programs.
· Talk with a pediatrician, school official, or physician to find a local autism expert who can help develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.
· Find an autism support group. Sharing information and experiences can help individuals with ASD and/or their care givers learn about options, make decisions, and reduce stress
Internationally renound Homoeopath & nutritionist.