06 November, 2018
Naturally Healing Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Why is improving the health of children with ASD overlooked?
There's a lot of controversy around the subject of healing a child with Autism. A variety of words are used, such as 'cure' and 'treatment' which evoke strong emotions and arguments. So much so that we lose sight of the most important thing, the wellbeing of our family.
I believe that all of our children deserve to be healthy and happy. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. In many cases, there is strong resistance to promoting health in people with Autism. The idea of providing nutrient dense food and food to improve gut health is frowned upon because Autism is not a disease, and Autism can't be cured.
A parent that is vigilant in providing a healthy lifestyle to their neurotypical child takes them to sports training and provides everything they can to help them reach their dream of being an Olympic gold medalist, is honoured. However, a parent of a child with ASD that provides a healthy lifestyle is often met with anger and indeed not honoured, despite their love, time and dedication to their family.
How did we get here? Why are so many so aggressively resistant to providing a healthy lifestyle for out Autistic child? Just because our child is wonderful and we love him the way he is doesn't mean we he should' t be fed healthy food. Just because there is no cure doesn't mean he can't be happier and develop further.
"Being unable to make the Olympics is not a disease, and there is no cure, but true athletes still strive to be an Olympic champion."
Just as any person can improve their life through things such as improving health, meditation, self-reflection, reading, learning and receiving coaching, people on the spectrum can also improve their lives. Why do so many people resist helping our children with common tools used by successful people to improve their lives? Children diagnosed with Autism deserve the same access to tools that many of us use to enhance our lives?
The good thing about lifestyle strategies that promote health, is that they can improve peoples lives without negative side effects. Brain function and social skills can be improved with lifestyle changes and alternative medine aimed at imroving health and the immune system. Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal, particularly of the body and the immune system are supplied with what they need to function well.
Unfortunately, in todays world, treatments or even lifestyle changes aren't considered scientific unless they show benefit using a clinical trial. Alternative medicine recomendations based on scientific studies and observation don't often progress to clinical trial as funding is hard to come by, unless there's potential for a large enough return on investment. Another obstacle is that wholistic methods often involve combinations of strategies, which doesn't lend itself well to the clinical trial method of controlling everything and studying the effect of just one thing at a time.
A medical treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder may never come since there is no one cause of Autism. We, as parents must do what we can do now to help our children. I'd love there to be a natural cure for Autism, a simple tablet that we could give to treat Autism, but, it's not so simple. We can, however, implement changes to our lifestyle that will have a significant impact on their signs of Autism. We, as parents, need to take the lead and use what tools are available to us to help ourselves and our children. There are many tools available to use based on research and experience that we can use.
Our role at Natural Autism Support is to add to the help that you already receive. We do this by broadening your thinking on the Autism spectrum, and offering new ideas that you have not considered, or heard about from your current support network. By opening peoples minds, we head towards an established natural treatment for Autism that walks families through natural autism recovery of normal functioning. A natural Autism treatment plan can be seen as more of a healthy lifestyle change to improve life, rather than a treatment.
You would be very aware of the current symptoms of Autism, and some of the early signs, but have you considered what they mean? There may be clues hidden in those signs that offer information that you can use to improve the life of your child further.
Thinking about your child's current situation, and remembering back to when it all started, write down any signs and symptoms that come to mind. Was your child anxious in unfamiliar environments? Were the environments noisy? Did your child start seeking specific sensory inputs? Did they seem to be less observant, and less likely to make eye contact with people to get a smile?
Their first challenges seem to be the ones closest to the root of the Autism, and if helped, will have the most significant impact on quality of like. For example, if anxiety in noisy environments were the first signs of Autism, maybe you could seek to help his noise sensitivity. In our case, this was one of our early focusses, and we chose Tomatis for our child.
I want to stress, however, that because so many systems in the body rely on a healthy gut, please establish a healthy eating lifestyle before embarking on these interventions. You will get much more value for money if your child improves their health, and reduce some of their brain inflammation before spending money on these interventions. Even modern science is showing that anxiety is significantly reduced after improving gut health. The gut-brain connection is more important that we previously understood. For more information on gut health, you could read more in our blog.
Here is an example that I like about observing your child.
At the end of a positive occupational therapy session, the therapist says to the parent "Before you go, we need to discuss your son's new tick". The parent looks a little confused, and the therapist continues, "Haven't you noticed the mouth and tongue twitching?". The parent answers, "No, I hadn't noticed that, but now you mention it, I can see it." It's weird that I hadn't noticed it before". The therapist continues, "This is the first time for me too. It's important that we get straight onto any new symptoms so that we can minimise them. We can cover some strategies in our next session."
Now the parent a little concerned, and she notices the tick a lot and continues to observe. Then she sees something strange inside her child's mouth. There's some food caught between his teeth. She removes the food, and the 'new tick' is gone.
This is an obvious case, but this type of thinking is rarely used in Autism. We don't look for simple reasons that may explain a symptom or behaviour. Even unwanted and unexpected behaviour is a symptom that has a cause. If we as parents have a mindset of looking for a reason behind a sign or behaviour, we can better support them.
It's essential that you consider adding a natural autism treatment plan to your list of interventions. At the very least, your child will become more healthy. Beyond that, your child will likely improve well beyond your's and your professional support team's expectations.
List of some common early signs of Autism
When your child no longer;
- uses eye contact in an attempt to connect with you and make you smile.
- makes noises to connect with you and gain your attention
- tracks objects around the room visually or looks at abject that you point out
- points things out in a room or environment
- responds to your attempts to connect with him. He no longer responds well to his name.
- imitates facial expressions and body language of others.
- looks to connect with other children in play together with sharing ideas
I prefer to not look at these signs of Autism to mean your child is on the spectrum yet. These signs can be a signpost that guides your areas of focus. Don't let them scare you! You can use these signs to motivate you to improve their lifestyle and seek skilful help to address these signs before the symptoms of Autism worsen.
Autism Spectrum Disorders vary widely from person to person. Each person needs to be treated as an individual and helped according to their own symptoms. Early intervention should not be a cooky cutter approach but rather tailored to each child. One of your roles as a parent is to make sure this happens. Make sure that the focus of early intervention is more relevant to your child.
For your child to thrive, their body must receive the nutrients it needs to carry out its functions. Two main ways we get nutrients into the bloodstream and used by the body are;
When you provide a diet, environment and lifestyle to promote health in your child, the signs of Autism reduce.
- Nutrients gained directly from the consumed food.
- Nutrients generated by the bacteria in the large intestine.
The diet must also be free of agents that cause inflammation and other harmful effects. Some foods cause inflammation and adverse effects in most people. Other foods cause issues with just some people. It is safe to say that children on the spectrum will be consuming at least one food that causes inflammation, and in most cases, the foods will contain gluten or dairy. It is wise to remove these foods from the diet as a first step and monitor progress throughout two months or longer. Ultimately the best way to determine if a food is causing issues for the child is to remove the most commonly problematic foods from the diet for two months. Re-introduce the foods slowly one by one, spaced out over at least three days and monitor effects on mood, skin and any other symptoms.
It's essential to add foods that are nutrient-dense. These are foods that are not necessarily geared towards calories and feeling full. They are foods that are natural and full of nutrients. These foods help us to feel good. We should feel energised after eating.
Vegetables and low fructose fruits are a great source of nutrients. As such, you and your child's diet should be predominantly these foods. Quality proteins and fats are also vital.
Fats should include essential fatty acids with Omega 3 oils, saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter and other animal fats. Avoid most vegetable oils, particularly for cooking. Some good vegetable oils apart from coconut oil are olive oil and avocado oil. It's a great pity that there's confusion about the importance of fats, and which fats are best. This confusion has added many health problems to our modern society. Saturated fats have been demonised because of the belief that they cause heart disease (I say belief because there is still no quality evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease). Saturated fats are the most stable fats and are great building blocks for our body.
Saturated fats and essential fatty acids are vital components of every cell in our body. They are particularly crucial for the brain. Many people have experienced what quality saturated fats, and essential fatty acids can do for the brain because a sharp intellect is one of the first things you will notice when applying this knowledge to your diet.
When it comes to the Autism spectrum, most research involving fats study the effects of omega 3 fatty acids. The research tends to look at improving the performance of children with ADHD. As a result, many doctors seeking to improve the lives of children with ADHD recommend fish oils supplements.
Many parents experiment with other supplements, including vitamins and minerals. In my opinion, tread cautiously in this area. Without the support of a trained professional and appropriate testing, adverse outcomes are possible. As a parent, it's better to focus on providing quality foods. This way, you're working more naturally with your child's body. Diets full of nutrition offer more benefits than trying to compensate for a poor diet with supplements. Providing a whole food diet can also prevent future ill-health in your child while enhancing their growth and development.
To help with finding recipes, there are many options for resources. Some recipe creators that I recommend seeking recipes from are Quirky Cooking, Dr David Perlmutter and Pete Evans. They tend to provide recipes without the common sources of inflammation, yet deliver recipes adding balance to your diet.
Many children with Autism improve their development when eliminating sources of inflammation. Under the supervision of a healthcare professional, many undergo an elimination diet, whereby foods are eliminated from the diet for a period of time, then later re-introduced as a challenge. Parent observe any developmental improvements while the food is removed, and any issues when the food is re-introduced. From this test, a problem food may be identified. Common problem foods are gluten and milk. Often the issue with the milk is the casein amino acid in the A1 protein. Since ghee and butter are low in protein, often parents decide to re-introduce their child to dairy with ghee or butter. A2 milk could also be considered.
Work on core skills and primitive reflexes that enhance the development of your child.
There are core skills and reflexes that need to be developed to allow other skills to be learnt and mastered. The first training for the body should be the development of the primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are involved in many skills and brain development. Other important aspects to be developed are core and hand strength.
Work on emotional regulation and behaviour.
It's crucial to address behaviours and emotional regulation from multiple angles;
- Gut health
- Having a nutrient dense diet supplying everything that the child’s body needs to stay regulated
- Physical movement and exercise.
- Strategies for the child to use to help regulate emotions and behaviours
- Introduce meditation or some sort of minfulness practice
- Creating an environment for the child to feel safe and comfortable
- encourage social interaction
Parents need to gain tools and techniques to effectively implement diet and lifestyle changes
Lifestyle change is a significant and often overlooked subject. Parents are vital in helping their child regain health. Supporting parents in various ways helps to set their child on the path of having a great life.
Parents need to;
- Regain their health by eating a healthy diet.
- Engage in exercise that enhances their health and wellbeing. Exercise to feel good and without overdoing it (minimum effective dose of exercise).
- Someone to talk to who is willing to listen, try and understand and offer support
- Maintain their social life
- Walking, yoga or meditation etc. to help clear the mind
- Optimise sleep
Find a skilled Integrated Health Practitioner (MD) that can target key health concerns and reverse or manage them.
To find a doctor skilled in treating the disorders that contribute to a diagnosis on the spectrum isn’t easy, and they have a long waiting list. It's unlikely to be your local family doctor. For this reason, I recommend implementing diet and lifestyle improvements before seeing a doctor skilled in integrative medicine. It isn’t wise to waste your time and money, and the practitioners time and skills for basic things.
Get the diet cleaned up, even consider taking some blood tests results with you before seeing them (ask in advance for what they want). Having cleaned up your diet and lifestyle, and being prepared with results of blood tests could save you a lot of time and money.
An integrated Health Care Practitioner can do wonders for the health of your child. These doctors skillfully analyse nutritional statuses, biochemical pathway performance and DNA mutations that can affect the functioning of the body. They then recommend therapy based on all of the information they have gathered.
Take the time to find an integrated Health Practitioner in your area as soon as possible, and get on the waiting list. Remember to ask if there are any blood tests that you could do in advance.