Autism and ASD
What is Autism?
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder generally appearing in children within the first 2-3 years of life. There is no conclusive set of symptoms which is why current research refers to it as a spectrum rather than a definitive condition. ASD affects the brain’s development with regard to social interaction and communication and often manifests as long-term learning disabilities and/or emotional difficulties. It is usually accompanied by physical comorbidities of immune, neuromotor and digestive dysfunction.
The many genetic and environmental factors that lead to autism are not yet fully understood. The leading experts and researchers in the field have found ASD to be primarily a function of individual genetic vulnerability coupled with an increase in toxic burden, mitochondrial dysfunction, gut dysbiosis, and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that 50% of autistic children have mitochondrial dysfunction, 80% have sleep disorders and 70% have a nutritional deficiency or increased nutrient requirement.
Children with ASD are highly misunderstood but great progress is being made to support them. However, as ASD children are very different from one another, each one requires a treatment program designed to their individual needs. Treatments to address the many biomedical abnormalities may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy, and medication. Naturopathic care, osteopathy and physiotherapy can be important elements in this toolkit.
Naturopathic Care for Autism
A naturopathic treatment plan is a combination of food sensitivity testing, toxin testing and then dietary counselling, nutritional supplementation, detoxification techniques and herbal medicine designed to treat and manage symptoms of autism.
Why use Naturopathic Care to treat ASD?
It is well documented that there is a connection between gut and brain health. A disruption of normal gut flora can lead to inflammation in the brain, potentially triggering or exacerbating autistic behaviours. Almost all children with ASD have gastrointestinal comorbidities, including poor digestion, multiple food intolerances/sensitivities and inadequate breakdown of proteins, fats and, especially, carbohydrates, leading to gut inflammation and increased gut permeability.
Non-invasive lab testing for food allergies, hormonal imbalances or vitamin deficiencies can benefit children with ASD as it enables the development of treatments targeted at particular areas of need. Specific nutritional and herbal supplements can be tailored to meet the unique needs of the individual.
By following the testing and treatment plans many individuals improve, usually slowly and steadily over months and years. Sometimes one treatment shows great benefit, but it is more common that each treatment helps a small amount. The cumulative effect of multiple treatments can be substantial. Parents should be prepared to commit to long-term lifestyle changes in order to achieve and maintain long-term results. Changes should be made gradually, over a few days or weeks, to help ease the transition and evaluate the effects of supplements and altered diet.
Osteopathy & Physiotherapy for Autism
Sessions with our team of experienced osteopaths and physiotherapists may complement the benefits of naturopathic care. ASD can interfere with cranial nerve function and thus cranial osteopathy, which is thought to help regulate and balance the autonomic nervous system, can have a positive effect on a child’s well-being. Additionally, any co-existing conditions which involve musculoskeletal tensions and limitations will benefit from being addressed.