What Causes Autism?
There is no known single cause of autism.
It is known that autism is a neurological disorder and that there are differences in the shape and the structure of the brain of autistic children as opposed to non-autistic children – although this is not always the case.
While it is not known whether autism has a genetic link, the exact genes involved are unclear. Families with one autistic child have 3% – 5% chance of having a second autistic child (this differs to the 0.5% risk of the general population).
Certain ‘triggers’ have been implicated as possible precipitators of the disorder. These could include problems in pregnancy and birth, viral infections, exposure to certain environmental chemicals or pollutants, or even allergies to certain foods (i.e. gluten or dairy products).
There are also suggestions that autism may be caused by a reaction to childhood vaccines, especially those containing high amounts of mercury. Obviously, more research is needed in this area.
It is important for parents to note that autism is not a mental illness and is NOT caused by bad parenting or problems in the home.
Help for Autism
While there are many different theories about the best course of treatment for autism, most professionals agree that the earlier treatment begins, the better the chances are that the child will be helped.
While there is a place for prescription medication in certain cases of autism, careful consideration and caution should be taken due to possible side effects.
There are also natural calming treatments for autism, including herbal and homeopathic remedies which can help maintain harmony, health, and systemic balance in the brain and nervous system, without side effects or sedation.
The best results are usually achieved by using a multidisciplinary approach and combining different therapies. It may take some time and experimentation to find the right combination of therapies for the individual.
Approaches to Autism Treatment
The following is merely an overview of some of the treatment approaches. As the signs of autism vary, in addition to different causes and manifestations in people, treatment will differ from person to person and often needs to be tailor-made for the individual.
Educational and Therapeutic Approaches
This includes specialized education as well as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, sensory integration, behavior modification, and speech therapy. Depending on the symptoms and the areas of developmental delay, these therapies can be extremely effective and combined into the overall treatment plan.
The earlier they are begun, the better the chances of improvement. It is important to realize that none of these therapies are ‘quick fixes’, and require perseverance over a long period of time.
There are indications that certain vitamins and mineral supplements may improve functioning in autistic people. While there is some disagreement regarding this amongst medical professionals, many parents have reported marked improvements after a program of nutritional supplements.
There are also a number of clinical studies which strongly support the use of vitamin and mineral supplementation in the treatment of autism, and have demonstrated significant improvement.
As nutrition is such a vital ingredient in brain development, it stands to reason that supplementation may have a positive benefit, although this would vary from individual to individual. Some experts have gone as far as to suggest that certain cases of autism could be as a result of nutritional deficiencies or malabsorption of nutrients from the diet.
This subject is a very complex one and outside the scope of this discussion. However, it is strongly suggested that parents consult a physician, homeopath, or nutritional expert who specializes in using supplements in the treatment of autism and that this approach can be integrated into the intervention program.
There are also suggestions that autistic symptoms can be caused as a result of malabsorption and intolerances to certain foodstuffs, especially dairy products, sugar, and gluten contained in wheat and grain products.
Some parents have reported remarkable changes after the elimination of these foodstuffs from the diets of their autistic children. It is recommended that a nutritionist should be consulted to assist with ensuring a balanced diet to compensate for the removal of foodstuffs containing dairy and gluten.
There are many different medications that are prescribed to treat the symptoms of autism. While no drugs exist that can cure autism, certain drugs may be prescribed to treat the symptoms.
Whether or not to use prescription drugs is a personal choice that needs to be made on the basis of an informed decision as to the benefits and disadvantages involved. It is always important to balance symptomatic relief of symptoms with possible side effects and health disadvantages.
If prescription drugs are used, it is essential that these are prescribed and regularly monitored by an experienced professional to prevent dosage problems as well as adverse drug interactions.
It is also important to realize that there are effective natural treatments for autism using herbal and homeopathic remedies instead of prescription drugs. As with any medication, it is always best to consult your doctor before changing or discontinuing any prescribed medicines.