In the 1980’s the incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000. When I was in residency at Loma Linda University Medical Center in the early 1990’s, I never saw a child with autism. Two years later I saw my first child with autism. Following what I learned from my teacher, Dr. Frymann, I applied osteopathic manual medicine principles, helped the parents with some dietary suggestions and natural medicines and HOPED. And the child improved.
Presently the incidence of autism is about 1 in 45. Before 1960, most cases of autism were apparent early, usually before 6 months. These days, most cases are regressive autism, where development appears to be progressing normally until around 15-24 months. The question has been asked, are genetics causing this epidemic? Although genes may create a susceptibility, they don’t create epidemics and rapid changes. Recent literature suggests that ever increasing environmental toxins are implicated. Genetic weaknesses increase vulnerability to environmental toxins which can change gene expression by damaging DNA and affecting epigenetic pathways.
The good news that we are beginning to understand the science of epigenetics which means “above genetics”. This means we can influence our genes in a positive way through diet and life style choices. Epigenetic factors influence development from conception and throughout life. Early intervention for these children is crucial. Supporting their metabolic pathways where glitches have occurred can reverse some of the damage.
No two children on the autistic spectrum or have the same symptoms. It’s important that the parents and physicians work as a detective team to track when symptoms began, and note which areas the majority of symptoms are in to find the best treatment. There are many interventions that are very important. Core fundational issues such as diet, neurologic integration and treatment of birth trauma must be addressed. Additionally many children need testing for food allergies, heavy metal toxicity, intestinal flora imbalance or other issues. Osteopathic manipulation, including working with the cranial sacral system can improve blood flow to the brain as well as support the free flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid which protects and “housecleans” the brain as well as carries many messenger molecules, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Helping these children reach their potential requires an integrative approach. We can help parents find solutions for their special children.
Prevention is key for protecting the health of future children. By improving their health before pregnancy and reducing toxic exposures, parents have the best chance of having a healthy child.