What is Autism?

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders which include classical Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Rett's Disorder. Thirty years ago, autism was considered a rare disorder, affecting only 1 in 2,500 children. Prevalence more than quadrupled in the 1990's alone, and by 1999, it had jumped to 1 in 285.

When you include the milder forms of autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's Syndrome, it appears that as many as 1 in 150 children may be affected. In fact, the most recent CDC statistics were indicating that 1 in 90 children (1 in 45 boys) have an autism spectrum disorder. People are talking about an autism epidemic and rightly so, given these statistics - a recent review of data by John Hopkins University researchers has concluded that this epidemic of autism is real, and not due to increased awareness and better reporting on the part of health care professionals.

The ABC's of Autism

Autism is a disorder which is marked by impairments in social skills, behavior, and speech.

Children with autism are often withdrawn, lack emotion and speech, and are extremely sensitive to sound and touch. They may engage in repetitive behaviors, have a hard time reading emotional states, and are often intensely precoccupied with a single activity or subject. So what is causing this huge and sudden increase in autistic spectrum disorders?

Controversies rage about whether environmental factors – such as mercury found in vaccinations (called thimerosal) and/or dental amalgams, lead, copper and other heavy metals and chemicals, industrial pollutants in air and water, additives and preservatives, and even certain foods – acts as catalysts that can trigger these disorders. As well, many doctors suspect a genetic link in these disorders. Drs. William Walsh and Anjum Usman in Chicago have done an amazing study on patients in the autistic spectrum which found that more than 99 percent of his 503 autistic subjects, which included Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD, exhibited evidence of a metal-metabolism disorder.

Their findings suggest that an inborn (genetic) error of metal metabolism may be a fundamental cause of autism and autistic spectrum disorders, and may be affecting those with ADD as well. What these doctors have found is that neurodevelopmentally challenged children are missing an enzyme (called metallothionein) that breaks down heavy metals. Without this enzyme, heavy metals accumulate in the body, resulting in an increased vulnerability to these toxins and in an impaired immune system. These scientists are presently engaged in an experimental investigation of metal-metabolism genetics in an attempt to find the "autism gene(s)".

An Interplay Between Genes and the Environment?

So what does this mean for the neurodevelopmentally challenged patient? Certainly it has been well documented that autism, autistic spectrum disorders and ADD run in families, and are related to other disorders such as PKU, Tourette’s Syndrome and the Fragile X Syndrome (a disorder of the X chromosome). The link of a genetic predisposition to neurodevelopmental disorders has been clearly established. In addition, many scientists feel that the recent ten-fold increase in autism must be the result of something in the environment that children are exposed to after birth.

What is interesting to note is that fifteen years ago, two out of three autistic children were born that way; now, three out of four develop normally until sometime between their first and second birthdays. There is even a term called "late onset autistic", which describes a child that hits all the usual milestones and then, suddenly and abruptly, begin to regress.

Recommendations for Parents:

Here are some recommendations currently espoused by DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctors and other health care practitioners:

1. Inform Yourself

Read as much information as you can about autism and natural therapies, read the articles and visit the web sites recommended on this site.

2. Reduce the Load of Toxins on Your Child's Body

This means eliminating preservatives, additives, food colorings, artificial sweeteners, MSG and artificial flavorings. It also means reducing exposure to airborne chemicals such as perfumes and tobacco smoke, household chemicals, and pesticides and insecticides. Drink only pure filtered water and store foods in inert containers (not plastics).

3. Try Gluten and Casein Free Diets

Many autistic patients have malabsorption problems related to leaky gut syndrome, and improve when these foods are eliminated from the diet. Visit our page on Diets for Autism and GFCF Products.

4. Detoxify Heavy Metals and Chemicals

Use a safe detoxification and chelation alternative product like Kids Clear™ Clay Baths.

5. Take Special Supplements

Supplements that are often recommended for autistic spectrum disorder patients include extra calcium, extra magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, fish oil, DMG, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and colostrum.

Visit or return to our page on Safe Detoxification for Children.

View our Signs and Symptoms of Autism page.