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.
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 🙂
*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
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.