Treating Autism

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GETTING STARTED

If you suspect your child is in the spectrum or has any kind of developmental delay the first thing to do is to make an appt. with your pediatrician. In our case, he did blood work, referred us to a neurologist to rule out any genetic disorders, then sent us to a pediatric neuro psychologist who gave us the diagnosis of Aspergers and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. The psychologist will give you a plan of action and refer you to the proper places for therapy.

Special Help Online is a good resource for finding doctors, therapists, hospitals, financial aid, activities, and products in the state of Oklahoma.

DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS IN VERY YOUNG CHILDREN

Our son Lance was developmentally delayed from the get-go. It was noticed right away at routine check-ups. He was enrolled in a program called soonerstart (what it’s called in OK) through DHS that is free to any child who qualifies under age 3. He received in-home physical, occupational, and speech therapy several times a week. After age 3 he was transitioned to receive treatment through the school district.

If your child is over age 3 and you believe he needs therapy, the school districts are required by law to offer free services (at least in OK). Call your school district and ask for an evaluation. Lance still receives physical, occupational, and speech therapy in school.

WHAT IS LEAKY GUT?

This is where gaps are formed between the intestinal cells, allowing contents of the intestines to leak into the body. This can happen from toxic overload, Celiac disease, excessive exercise, chronic stress, poor diet, or too much harmful bacteria and not enough good bacteria.  When this happens, our bodies launch an attack against the “invaders” (which can be food particles, toxins, yeast, viruses, or different kinds of waste) and causes the immune system to attack them leading to food sensitives because the food that is being leaked has now been “red flagged” by the immune system. This not only causes the immune system to act up and can eventually lead to all kinds of auto-immune disorders, but now you can also have a build up of toxins and yeast in your body along with not absorbing the nutrients from the food that you need.

Leaky gut can be healed by removing foods that damage the gut such as gluten and dairy which have proteins that are hard to digest as talked about below, along with grains, sugar, and GMO’s. Also, I recently learned that nightshades (which include tomatoes, peppers, and paprika) can also lead to leaky gut – see THIS POST. Other ways to help heal leaky gut is to take a high quality probiotic to restore the good bacteria, quit taking antibiotics that kill good bacteria (essentail oils are a good alternative), reduce the amount of medications you take such as Asprin and NSAIDs that damage the lining of the intestines, work with your doctor to find the proper supplements (supplements such as glutamine are helpful) , and eat healing foods. HERE is a good article explaining leaky gut and how to combat it. Also, gelatin is VERY healing to the gut. I give my son about 1 tsp. of gelatin in a SMALL amount of coffee in the mornings and it keeps him regular 🙂 You can buy gelatin for cold drinks as well on Amazon.

 *Many people, not just kids in the spectrum, have leaky gut. Some symptoms that go hand in hand with leaky gut include:

  • digestive issues such as gas, bloating or IBS
  • seasonal allergies or asthma
  • hormonal imbalances
  • an autoimmune disease such as Hashimotos (which I have), Celiac disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Psoriasis
  • fatigue and achy joints
  • mood issues such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD
  • skin issues such as acne or eczema 
  • candida
  • food sensitivities, headaches, and brain fog
WHY BE GLUTEN & DAIRY FREE?

The proteins in gluten and dairy that are commonly hard to digest and get “leaked” out of the gut are called peptides. The peptides react with opiate receptors in the brain and mimic the effects of opiate drugs like heroine and morphine, which block pain and cause our kids to act “out of it” or “high”. They are not necessarily allergic to these foods, but they cannot digest them and they cause a morphine-like effect on the brain. Opiates also cause constipation, which is why many kids in the spectrum have constipation.  If you are skeptical of starting your child on a gluten and dairy free diet and you want to know for sure that you child is unable to digest peptides, you can have their urine checked for gliadorphin (or gluteomorphin), which is a peptide derived from gluten and casomorphin, which is a peptide derived from casein. If your child is unable to digest peptides, these levels will be high.

WHAT IS THE PALEO DIET?

The Paleo diet consists of avoiding all processed foods, refined sugars, grains (like rice or millet even thought it’s gluten free), dairy, and beans.  It focuses on plant-rich foods and healthy meats. For those who have severe intestinal imbalances, they may not be able to digest complex carbohydrates and therefore these foods can cause further damage to the intestines since they are not properly digested.  While we are not 100% Paleo, when I cook I try to make my food Paleo compliant. The GAPS diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet are 2 other diets to help get your digestion on track. Also, the Elimination Diet can help you find out what foods you are reacting to so you can eliminate them.

WILL MY CHILD HAVE TO BE GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREE FOREVER?

I don’t know. I’ve looked everywhere and cannot find an answer to this question. But it makes since to me that if you can heal leaky gut, you can eventually eat small amounts of gluten and dairy again as long as you weren’t born with an allergy. In our case, Lance has been 100% gluten and dairy free for 5 years outside of a VERY SMALL amount we give him once or twice a year to see if he still has a reaction. And after 5 years we have found that his reaction to gluten is now minimal and he only has a reaction to dairy if he eats a moderate amount! To me this means that his gut is well on it’s way to being healed! I don’t imagine him ever drinking dairy milk and having wheat bread every day, but hopefully we can keep his gut in good enough shape that he can eventually tolerate a small amount of both gluten and dairy!!!

FINDING THE RIGHT DOCTOR

While a pediatrician is important for insurance purposes, surgeries, common childhood illnesses, or referrals – to really heal your child you need to find the right alternative doctor. Many children in the spectrum have leaky gut, a build up of heavy metals and chemicals, and many vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  I recommend finding a good Naturopathic Doctor or Homeopathic Doctor to address these issues, especially one who does Nutrition Response Testing. My son and I both see a doctor who does Nutrition Response Testing and have seen dramatic results!

SEIZURES

I was blindsided when during nap my 8 year old son suddenly starting having a grand-mal seizure, it was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. The seizure lasted about 4 1/2 minutes then he was unresponsive for at least an hour and a half. The next week he had another one. Within a week and a half he was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on seizure medication.  Since then he has had 2 more grand-mal seizures and several smaller, less noticeable ones but we’ve found a medication that seems to be working and they are now under control.

I knew some children with autism had seizures but since my son was 8 and his autism was very mild I thought it would never happen to us. Turns out it is very common for children to develop epilepsy at the onset of adolescence. I was shocked to learn that up to 40% of children in the spectrum develop epilepsy. So just know that it is a possibility and if it happens to you know that your child will be OK. There is no permanent damage unless the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes and it can be controlled with medication.

*Note- My son also has Tic Disorder. I was informed that if your child has autism and epilepsy that they are at a much greater risk for developing tic disorder and visa versa.

THERAPEUTIC LISTENING

Lance saw an occupational therapist who was trained in therapeutic listening for 2 years. It involved listening to special earphones using specially recorded music that targets specific areas of the brain to mainly help with sensory problems. We saw tremendous progress while Lance was in this program. This article helps explain therapeutic listening

EQUINE THERAPY

Equine therapy, or horse therapy as we call it, has been very beneficial. The rhythmic motion is calming, stimulates the senses, helps with social skills, and is great for strength. They do many exercises that target the core, upper body, and legs. They also have Lance brush and saddle the horse which helps with fine motor skills. You can read about it here, this is where we take our son.

CHIROPRACTIC CARE

Have you ever noticed the large horizontal ridge on the top of many children’s heads who are in the spectrum? That is because the bones that form the skull are not aligned right. My doctor explained to me that the bones forming the skull are suppose to meet at the edges, but not overlap. But with many kids in the spectrum this is not the case and some of the bones wedge under other bones which causes pressure on the brain. In lance’s case, he had about 5 of these “pressure points.”

The appointment is very easy and there is no popping involved. It just looks as if he is getting a head massage! But he is actually ever so slightly re-positioning the bones. Any pediatric chiropractor should know how to do this. *Note- Some children also need spinal alignment to help with the nervous system but we hove no experience with this.

FINANCIAL AID
  • If you are low income head to your local DHS and ask for a medicaid application to see if you qualify for medical assistance. Medicaid covers 100% of autism related expenses. In OK this program is called Soonercare. I think you can now also apply online. You can also apply for SSI by calling 1-800-772-1213. If you do not qualify based on income request a denial letter.

 

  • If you do not qualify for Medicaid or  Social Security Income. there are 2 programs called  Developmental Disability Services Division (DDSD) and TEFRA,  which are both available through DHS that can help with autism related expenses. DDSD is supplementary income but the waiting list is quite long and TEFRA is medical insurance. Click here (OK) to find out how to apply for TEFRA.

 

17 responses to “Treating Autism

  1. Amy Atkinson

    Hi
    I was looking up some new healthy cookie recipes and found your site. I am a neurodevelopmental therapist and have 5 children , the second of which is Down Syndrome.
    Have you ever heard of the GAPS diet? It is definately worth trying as your son has gut issues and will probably help with the seizures.
    It is called the Gut and Psychology syndrome and the it there is a book and a recipe book. The author who healed her child’s autism is Dr Natasha Campbell Mc.Bride.

    Will explore your site more…..ll the best for your son

    Amy

    • Cassidy

      Thanks for the nice comment Amy!

      I’ve heard of the GAPS diet but haven’t really look into it. I will for sure look up Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride and her book. I wish all the best to you and your family 🙂

      Thanks again,
      Cassidy

    • Ruth

      The GAPS diet works wonders. It’s not just for kids either. I live in the Pasadena, CA area and there are a couple of GAPS practitioners in the area. There’s a strong Weston A. Price chapter too, so there are a lot of people in the area on the GAPS diet. This has been great support for everyone. If you can get some kind of network, even one other person in the area to talk to and share ideas or meals, it’s very helpful.

      However, gluten is very persistent. IF you avoid gluten products for 2 weeks you might not see a change because it’s still in your body. It may take AT LEAST 6 weeks before it is totally removed from your body. Wheat has been hybridized to the point that modern strains may not be healthy for anyone to eat. Maybe someday, after some healing, some of the older strains may be OK to eat, but I look at it this way. Repairing the damage done by eating wheat (or any gluten containing grains) while having gluten sensitivity with the aim to eventually be able to eat gluten containing grains is like an addict repairing the damage done by a cocaine addiction so they will eventually be able to handle a little cocaine once in a while. This is the mentality of a true addict, whether the addiction is to food or drugs.

  2. What a beautiful boy you have. Thanks for sharing your story. We are a spectrum family as well and have worked hard to get this far. I wish you nothing but the best in your journey.

  3. Jodie

    Thanks for sharing this. My son was just diagnosed with ADHD and from what I have found many of the treatment remedies are the same. Gluten affects him, I suspect casein too but it is really hard trying to avoid it completely!

    • Cassidy

      I’ve found that gluten is easier to avoid than casein! You can always test casein by not having it for just a week a two and see how it affects him. And if he does need to be off of it maybe he will be able to be mostly dairy free without staying away 100%??? I understand, it is hard. Lance is 100% gluten free but I let some dairy slide every now and then.

      -Cassidy

  4. Regena

    I love the update Cassidy and love knowing that you do everything within your ability to make sure that Lance has the best health, life, and opportunities possible for him.
    Thank You,
    Lances Nana

  5. Nafia

    What about extremely picky eaters? I would LOVE for our son to have a gluten free casein free diet, but he won’t try ANYTHING! He won’t eat fruit (not even really sweet ones). I used to be able to almost purify meat and veggies and hide them in spaghetti, but he won’t even eat that anymore. I don’t want to force feed him anymore, because when i did, he would just go into defense mode. But I don’t want my child to eat unhealthy, especially since my husband and I have taken such strides in changing our diets. Help! 🙁

    • Hi Nafia, that’s a tough one! Luckily both of my kids are fairly good eaters, but I know that it is really frustrating when you want your kids to eat healthy but they don’t want to eat anything you give them. I’m not an expert and don’t know if my advice will work or not… but with me and my kids I try not to make a big deal about what they eat or don’t eat and just kept offering the healthy foods to them, and make the less-healthy foods unavailable. Also, if the kids are used to eating sweets and chicken nuggets it will be really hard to get them to eat chicken and broccoli with no dessert, so if you could find any alternatives that he does like (like gluten free nuggets made with healthy oils or a Paleo treat that he likes) start with that. Just make small changes to start with. It takes time to change your taste buds and not want unhealthy, processed food all the time. So I recommend just not giving up, start with replacing some of what he’s used to eating with healthier alternatives, keep offering the good stuff without making a big deal of it, very gradually get him used to eating healthier alternatives, and don’t make the foods that are just terrible for you (like store-bought cakes, cookies, etc) available. If your child is hungry enough he will eat and he won’t starve to death! If you don’t make a big deal of it and just provide alternatives of something you know he likes like gluten free nuggets, apples with caramel. and a healthy dessert every night eventually he will decide to eat it because he gave up on going to McDonalds and your food starts looking good! I don’t know if any of this will work or not but this is the approach I take with my family and I hope it might help you at least a little bit! Let me know how it goes!!!!

      -Cassidy

  6. carol

    Dear Nafia:
    Many of the recipes Cassidy shares are soooo good no one would notice they are GF, DF, and grain free….just put it on the table and do not describe it to your son. Also Casdidy was wise to say eliminate other foods from availability in your home. Then when your son is hungry, he will eat what you have in your house. Also the Feingold Diet has A Lot of information, resesrch, easy to use grocery lists and food suppliers that help make maintaining this life style change easier. Do not feel like you are mean if it takes a while for your son to come around. You are Doing what is Best FOR HIM. He is just a kid and doesn’t understand now, but in later yesrs he will Thank you!

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