In recent years there has been a large increase in childhood health issues and this is particularly true for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In the year 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 1 in 150 children had an autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. In just 14 years that number has almost tripled to 1 in 59 children. Prevalence went from 6.7 per 1,000 children to 16.8 per 1,000 children.This is an alarming increase! In light of this epidemic, it is important to understand what autism is, how to know if your child might have autism, and what treatments are available.
What is Autism?
Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, encompasses a wide range of symptoms and is a broad range of conditions that present as difficulty communicating with speech or non-verbally, challenges with social skills, sensory issues, and repetitive behaviors. In addition, children with autism usually also have gastrointestinal issues, seizures, or sleep disturbances (Autism Speaks).
No two people have the same symptoms, although they may be very similar, and autism usually shows up early in childhood around ages two or three, but sometimes earlier. In addition autism is 4 times more prevalent in boys than in girls (CDC).
What Are Signs My Child Might Have Autism?
Babies and young children typically meet certain milestones in the months of early childhood. Given the rapidly increasing nature of ASD, knowing these milestones can help parents watch for early signs their child may have autism. For example, by about age one a baby should be able to drink from a sippy cup, babble, engage with others by mimicking, repeating basic sounds, smiling, and babbling. In addition a baby starts to engage in games like peek-a-boo, learns to sit up without support, and learns to roll over and pull herself up on furniture.
Not displaying such behaviors or reaching these certain milestones may be early warning signs that your baby may have autism, and early intervention is critical in the development of autistic children. In particular, signs of autism are often associated with social engagement, including lack of expressions, words, gestures such as pointing and giving hugs, and interacting. It’s almost as though your child may not be hearing you or seeing you, but this is not necessarily the case. With autism, it’s more like they’re in their own world and aren’t able to engage with the world around them. They may not respond to you or engage with you as a baby or child who does not have autism.
In addition autistic children may become easily frustrated or angry, and act out by hitting, biting, scratching, screaming, or other forceful behaviors. This may be because they are super-sensitive to noises, stimulation, and touch. In addition they may be frightened, but cannot express their feelings.
Here are some early signs to watch for from Autism Speaks:
- By 6 months: No big smiles or other joyful expressions.
- By 9 months: No engaging interactions including back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Child doesn’t respond to his/her name. No babbling. No gestures such as pointing, reaching for things, or waving.
- By 16 months: No words.
- By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases.
Note that a sudden loss of these abilities at any age is also a sign that something is amiss.
How Can I Help My Child?
If you notice that your child doesn’t seem to be meeting the typical milestones as mentioned above, you should schedule an evaluation right away. Many parents don’t realize that a child under the age of three, can start getting behavioral help even without an evaluation, so you don’t have to sit by and do nothing while you wait for your child’s evaluation. Early intervention can be a key to reduction or even elimination of autistic symptoms.
Conventional treatments for autism spectrum disorder may include:
- Behavior therapies
- Communication therapies
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Specifically structured educational therapies
- Therapy with the family to teach them how to play with, interact with, and take care of the child with autism
- Antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants
Certainly early intervention is key and behavior oriented therapies of a mild nature are the preferred forms of treatment which can be very helpful in reducing autism symptoms, especially when used early in the child’s development.
At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we have found that there is much more that can be done, without ever having to revert to antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants.
How We Treat Autism at LifeWorks
In evaluating and treating patients with autism we have found several causes or contributors to the condition:
- Environmental toxic overload
- Food allergies
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Yeast overgrowth
- Bacterial overgrowth
- Deficiency in good bacteria
- Slow detoxification system in the body (leads to heavy metal toxicity)
Nearly all the children we treat have inflammation in the gut leading to increased food sensitivity and leaky gut syndrome. In reality, much of the issue appears to be digestive or due to some type of overload in the body, and when righted, causes a marked improvement in the child. The prevalence of these issues can cause damage to the brain, central nervous system, and other systems in the body. This is why early intervention such as finding and correcting digestive issues and nutritional deficiencies, is key to a healthy child, and prevents prolonged exposure and damage.
At LifeWorks, our doctors will first listen to the unique symptoms of each child. Then functional tests and labs will be done to find the underlying problems causing the autism, including evaluation of the child’s neurotransmitters. From there an individualized plan is created which may include diet modification, heavy metal detoxification, gut flora restoration, homeopathy, and whatever else the child may need to restore them to healthy development.
Videos about Autism
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At LifeWorks, we believe it is vital to find the underlying causes rather than addressing the symptoms of autism, because addressing the cause will reduce or eliminate the symptoms.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, we can help you find a solution at our Clearwater clinic.
For an appointment or more information, call (727) 466-6789 or submit an online patient inquiry.