This baffling and often heartbreaking condition is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of 2007, 1 in 150 children is now autistic. Autism is more common in boys than in girls; boys are four times as likely to be autistic.
To date, no one knows the exact cause of autism, but many experts believe there is most likely a genetic predisposition. One theory is that when this is compounded by other environmental factors, like vaccines, autism can develop. Until 1992, childhood vaccines contained the heavy metal thimerosal as a preservative. Thimerosal is a form of mercury, a neurotoxin that is harmful to the brain.
According to the National Autism Association, which analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education, from 1992-1993 to 2000- 2001, there was an average increase of 644 percent among all U.S.
What Is Happening to My Child?
According to Mary Ann Block, D.O., of the Block Center in the Dallas, Texas, area, autistic children often develop symptoms after receiving a series of vaccines on or about the age of 2. “You don’t notice a child becoming autistic at 5. You notice it when the nervous system is still fragile and developing and putting down the nervous system pathways for speech,” Dr. Block says.
Parents may start to notice speech delay or regression. Often a child is developing normally, and then after a vaccination series, parents have videotapes that show this reversal in speech and development. Other symptoms include engaging in hand slapping, being in their own world, and not making eye contact.
Bryan Jepson, M.D., a physician at Thoughtful House, in Austin, Texas, and author of Changing the Course of Autism, says he often hears from parents that they thought their child was deaf because he didn’t respond to his name.
Don’t Wait to Take Action
Whatever the reason a child becomes autistic, parents often wait too long to take action after they notice a problem with their child. But it may be because they are getting the wrong advice. According to Dr. Jepson, often parents take their child to the pediatrician and hear, “He’s a boy. Some boys talk late. Let’s wait for a while and see what happens.” Says Dr. Jepson, “They put it off until things become more readily apparent. This is the wrong answer. The right answer is, ‘Let’s check it out immediately and start treatment.’ Early intervention is key because the brain is still pretty malleable. If you can get rid of some of the toxicity and support children’s immune systems, they are more likely to recover more quickly. They don’t have as far to catch up if you can get to them early.”
Along with medical treatments, Dr. Block recommends putting children in a program for auditory, visual, and sensory integration to “retrain the brain” and help autistic kids function at a higher level.
Most autistic kids are deficient in nervous system vitamins like vitamin B12 and other B vitamins, so it’s important to supplement with these nutrients. Dr. Block says in a double-blind crossover study published in Biological Psychiatry, vitamin B6 was found to be more effective than methylphenidate (Ritalin) in a group of hyperactive children.
Magnesium is also very beneficial for the nervous system. When kids don’t have enough, they can be fidgety, anxious, and restless, and have learning difficulties. Zinc deficiency may make children irritable, tearful, and sullen. DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), a neurotransmitter precursor, helps to improve behaviors, mental concentration, puzzle-solving ability, and organization.
Since children’s weight varies, it’s important to see a nutritionally oriented doctor for the right dosages. Certain nutrients work better for some children than others, too.