Autism is a treatable disorder. Of more than 60 children we have seen with autism, the vast majority have improved, several to the point of attending regular schools.
Autism is a neurological illness beginning in childhood. It is most often evident between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. It is characterized by abnormalities in perception and communication. Speech development is delayed, sometimes for years. Responsiveness to verbal communication is limited. The children are often hyperactive, self-stimulating, with repetitive sounds and actions, and a tendency toward compulsive behavior, such as lining objects up in rows.
Boys with autism outnumber girls 5 to 1. Seizures occur in about 20% of cases. Most often a child develops normally, with a sudden decline of mental functioning noted after a vaccination, a fever or an infection. There may be a loss of speech and eye contact, and the child may seem as if he is living in a separate world. Many autistic children have gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, abdominal distention or pain, or reflux. Although the cause is unknown and probably multi-factorial, evidence points toward adverse vaccine reactions, heavy metal toxicity, viral or bacterial infections, and food allergy as being implicated.
Biomedical treatment for autism is relatively new. Many physicians still believe, wrongly, that no medical treatment is effective, and that autistic children will be locked into their illness permanently. This is decidedly incorrect.
Our approach involves testing for food allergies, vitamin, mineral and fatty acid deficiencies, urine organic acids, stool analysis to evaluate for digestive abnormalities, gut inflammation and abnormal intestinal flora, and heavy metal analysis. We routinely measure blood chemistries, thyroid function, blood count and iron levels.
The most effective treatments have been nutritional, especially elimination of wheat and dairy products, which has resulted in improvements in about one third of children. Usually it is advisable to eliminate wheat and dairy for at least 3-6 months to see if changes occur, although one child began to speak one week after these foods were restricted. We advise elimination of all food additives and preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings, soft drinks, fast foods, and sugars.
We prescribe high doses of vitamin B12 and folic acid for all autistic children, although some may experience temporary hyperactivity. Methyl B12 given by injection is the most effective formulation, usually given three days a week in a dose of 1000-2000 mcg. Some children have responded to intravenous infusions of high dose vitamins and minerals, given every 1-4 weeks. Other important nutrients include omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, trace minerals including zinc and selenium, and specific amino acid supplements.
Heavy metals may impair neurologic function. Chelation therapy removes heavy metals, including mercury, aluminum, lead, arsenic and cadmium. In the last few years mercury has been excluded from most vaccines. Interestingly, the incidence of autism has fallen during that time. Chelation may be performed orally, transdermally, or intravenously.
Neurobehavioral treatment is perhaps the most important intervention, and may include intensive physical, intellectual, and physiological measures.
Other methods have been pursued, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy and secretin injections, with occasional good results. Some prescription medications, such as Actos®, Naltrexone®, and some antibiotics have been useful. These drugs should be employed only under close medical supervision. We do not prescribe any psychiatric drugs for these children, as we believe they may impair neurologic development.