Fastest-growing developmental disability; 1,148% growth rate. (Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Changes in the California Caseload, An Update June 1987 June 2007.” Cavagnaro, Andre T., California Health and Human Services Agency. State of California 2003 survey of developmental disabilities)

One in 45 children in Katy has been identified with
an autism spectrum disorder;

there is hope.
Autism Basics:
What is Autism?

What we see on the outside . . .

Autism is a disorder that is diagnosed based on behaviors we see on the outside.  Currently, there are no medical tests, such as laboratory tests for biomarkers, which lead to a diagnosis of autism.  Atypical behaviors or developmental delays in speech, learning and the ability to play and interact with others are hallmarks of autism. Here are some of the warning signs of autism according to the National Autism Association:

Some early signs of autism include the following:

  • Poor or limited eye contact
  • Does not gesture (point, wave) by 12 months of age
  • Does not say single words by 16 months of age
  • Becomes unusually upset with changes in routine
  • Appears hard of hearing, despite normal hearing
  • Lines up toys or objects rather than playing with them imaginatively
  • Does not play or interact with other children
  • Has unusual and restrictive eating patterns
  • Has poor sleep habits

Any loss of previously acquired skills can signal regressive autism and should not be ignored.  Not all signs need to be present for a diagnosis of autism, and signs are often not present from birth.

 

But what’s going on inside?

Children with autism have been found to have underlying medical problems that often require testing and clever detective work to uncover.  Good information about these medical issues and their relationship to autism is just emerging, so you will need to find an open-minded physician willing to properly investigate symptoms.  These issues, though they might not be present in all children with autism, can have serious health consequences and should not be ignored.

Medical Issues to Test for by a Physician

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Immune system problems
  • Neuro-inflammation
  • Seizure disorders
  • Mitochondrial  dysfunction
  • Oxidative stress
  • Cerebral Folate Deficiency

Unfortunately, many times medical symptoms that would be taken seriously for another child are dismissed or overlooked for a child diagnosed with autism.  For instance, a child with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms may not get the same medical workup as another child presenting with the same symptoms because it is assumed GI problems are just “part of the autism”. 

Treating medical issues associated with autism can result in significant improvements in outward symptoms and result in behavior improvement and developmental progression.  Whether or not treating these medical issues improves outward symptoms of autism, though, they should be addressed for the health and well-being of the child.

 

How common is autism?

In Katy ISD, one in 50 students has autism. There are approximately 1,400 students who have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder in Katy ISD during the 2015/2016 school year. This is cause for concern.  According to the CDC, one in 68 American children has an autism diagnosis (among 8 year olds in 2010).   There are over 25,000 students with autism in Texas’ public schools.  There is significant variability in prevalence reported across regions. 

 

What causes autism?

Unfortunately, very little has been learned about what causes autism since the first cases were reported in the early 1940’s.  In the space of one man’s lifetime, autism has grown from a vanishingly rare disorder to one that affects nearly one percent of American children.  From the first identified cases until the late 1980’s autism remained very rare.  There is a great deal of controversy surrounding how much of the recent explosion in autism rates represents a true increase, but studies have shown and government agencies now report that a significant portion of the increase is real.

One thing we know is that diseases that are purely genetic do not increase in prevalence rapidly, as has occurred with autism.  This astonishing increase in cases indicates environmental triggers are at play. 

It is likely that autism is caused by a combination of factors, including the following:
  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Environmental exposures to toxins, viruses, bacteria or unknown agents
  • Timing of the environmental exposures (prenatal and early exposures may be riskier than exposures later in life)
  • Child’s health status at the time of the insult (illness at time of environmental exposure may increase risk of adverse outcomes)

 

Do vaccines cause autism?

In our view, this question has not been answered.  Katy Autism Support joins with autism advocacy organizations worldwide calling for more research into vaccine safety.  Particularly troubling is the lack of any study comparing fully vaccinated children with children not vaccinated looking at all health outcomes, not just autism.  The way we administer vaccines in the real world -- many shots given simultaneously at frequent intervals early in life -- has not been assessed for safety.  This is fact, not opinion.  Public health officials readily acknowledge this type of study has not been done. 

Clearly, there are other potential environmental triggers that could result in autism.  We support research into any potential causes.  However, most resources have thus far been directed at finding purely genetic causes of autism and have yielded little, if any, information that can help families prevent or treat the disorder.   We therefore call for a shift to studying potential environmental triggers and how they might interact with genes and timing to contribute to the onset of autism, and how this information can guide treatment.

Treatment

Because every child with autism experiences a different set of symptoms, and with different degrees of severity (and likely different causes), treatment is a complex matter.

There are many therapies and strategies used to treat autism spectrum disorders.  Very few have peer-reviewed science behind them.  This makes it difficult to determine what will help any given individual.  Most parents find that they need to research various therapies, consider carefully their own child’s strengths and challenges, and use some degree of trial and error to see what helps.  Financial considerations certainly come into play, since many therapies are costly and often not covered by insurance. 

You must be persistent and resourceful in choosing strategies to help your child.  Almost always, parents will need to learn skills to use at home to help.  This may be as simple as creating picture schedules or as complicated as administering therapies yourself.  While you’ll need professional guidance to carry out therapies, it is likely the one-to-one therapy you pay the big bucks for on an hourly basis will not be sufficient for your child.  Don’t wait for – or expect – experts to step in and “fix” your child.  Discover your child’s gifts, figure out what is hardest for them, and get to work.  Learn all you can and integrate helpful strategies into your daily living.  Bath time, mealtime, bedtime, community outings – every experience is an opportunity for learning.  It’s not easy, but patience and perseverance will pay off.

Common Therapies:

  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • Auditory Integration Training
  • Biofeedback
  • Feeding Therapy
  • Floortime (formally called Developmental Individual Relationship-based or DIR therapy)
  • Hippotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Interactive Metronome 
  • Kaufman Approach for Apraxia
  • Music Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • QEEG Biofeedback
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
  • Sensory Integration Therapy (usually formulated by an Occupational Therapist)
  • Son-Rise
  • Speech Therapy
  • Service Dogs
  • Various Listening Therapies and ear training for sound desensitization
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Vision Therapies
Communication Tools to help Individuals with Autism who are Non or Pre-Verbal 
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • iPad, iPod, and Smart Phone applications
  • Rapid Prompting Method
  • Story Boards
  • Sign Language
  • Social Stories
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices

Biomedical Interventions  

Biomedical Interventions are strategies to address nutritional deficiencies, metabolic issues, food allergies and intolerance, inflammation, and heavy metal toxicity.  A doctor specializing in these treatments -- which should include regular testing, close observation and frequent follow-up --should guide you in this process. These treatments include:

Nutritional Interventions:
  • Gluten Free/Casein Free diet (some also restrict soy)
  • Specific Carbohydrate Diet
  • Feingold Diet
  • Testing for food allergies and intolerance and avoiding offending foods
  • Vitamin, minerals, and herbal supplementation to treat nutritional deficiencies
  • Probiotics and enzymes to aid in digestion and maintain a healthy GI tract
  • Herbal supplementation to treat bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in the GI tract
  • BioSET™  allergy elimination
  • NAET®     allergy elimination
  • Non-psychoactive Cannabidiol (CBD) rich hemp oil (anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-spasmodic, and anti-oxidant properties, according to research published in scientific and medical journalsReferencesZuardi, A.W. (2008) Cannabidiol: from an inactive Cannabidoid to a drug with wide spectrum of action. Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. 30, 271- 280Jones, N.A. et al. Cannabidiol exerts anti-convulsing effects in animal models of temporal lobe and partial seizures. Seizure: Eur. J. Epilepsy (2011), doi:10.1016/j.seizure.2010.12.002. Carrier, E.J. et al. Inhibition of an equilibrative nucleoside transporter by Cannabidiol: a mechanism of Cannabidiol immuniosupression. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2006; 103:7895-900. Boison, D. Adenosine kinase, epilepsy and stroke: mechanism and therapies. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 2006; 27: 652-8.

Medical Interventions Preformed by MD's who are not considered Mainstream:

  • Chelation Therapy (the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body)
  • Medication, Diets and Testing to treat bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in the GI tract
  • Medication and Testing for Cerebral Folate Deficiency 
  • Testing and Supplementation for Mitochondrial Dysfunction
  • Sensory-View
  • IVIG
  • MB12 Injections
  • GcMAF
  • Stem Cell Therapy and Transplant
  • IV Glutathione
  • Hyperberic Oxygen Therapy 
  • Magnetic Resonance Therapy™ (MRT™)
  • Medication and Testing to treat P.A.N.D.A.S.
  •  

Mainstream Medical Interventions:

  • Medication for mood, hyperactivity and ADD
  • Medication, Diets and Testing for GI Dysfunction
  • Medication and Testing for Seizure Disorder
  • Testing for Visual Problems and Specialized Corrective Lenses
  • Orthotics for toe walking
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