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What We Know About Autism Today


Today, we know that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) demonstrate deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or interests.

Many possible causes of autism symptoms have been theorized over the years, resulting in a broad range of treatments for autism. However, the literature does agree on the possible indicators of ASD.

A child with autism symptoms:

  • Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
  • Does not speak one word by 16 months
  • Does not combine two words by 2 years
  • Does not respond to his/her name
  • Loses language or social skills

Other indicators of autism symptoms include:

  • Maintains poor eye contact
  • Does not seem to know how to play with toys
  • Exhibits repetitive behaviors
  • Excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • Needs and demands absolute consistency in the environment
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object
  • Does not smile
  • Shows sensory problems
    (may be painfully sensitive to certain sounds, textures, tastes, and smells)

Most children with ASD seem to have tremendous difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Children with ASD also are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Although not universal, it is common for people with ASD to have difficulty regulating their emotions.

Causes of Autism and Autism Symptoms

There is no official medical cause or cure for autism and autism symptoms. Autism foundations often focus on discovering a genetic cause, but have yet to succeed. However, it is possible to piece together a number of contributing factors. The following is known:

  • 93% of the cases of autism begin after children are vaccinated.
    The timing of infant and toddler vaccines with mercury corresponds to critical periods of neuronal development. The blood brain barrier is not fully developed in the infant or toddler.
  • About 80% of autistic children have auto-antibodies in their blood that are present in only about 5% of normal children.
    These auto-antibodies are related to viruses such as measles, mumps, and cytomegalovirus. Some are specifically related to the MMR vaccine.
  • The symptoms of autism are very similar to the symptoms of mercury poisoning.
    Many vaccines (though not the MMR) contain thimerosal, which is 49.5% mercury. Children today receive over 100 times the safe dose of mercury for 6-month-olds due to vaccines. (See mercury poisoning.)
  • 99% of autistic children in a recent study have dysfunctional metallothionein metabolism.
    Metallothionein is a carrier protein required for mercury, copper, and other metal detoxification.
  • Many autistic children are highly allergic to milk protein.
    Strict avoidance of all milk products is beneficial for many of these children. Avoiding wheat and sugar also helps many autistic children.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, Autism Symptoms, and Toxins

Most autistic children's hair analyses reveal a slow oxidation pattern, often a low sodium/potassium ratio, and often copper imbalance. Other toxic metals such as mercury may be present, although they are not always revealed on the first hair test.

We know that many mothers today are nutritionally deficient and many have copper toxicity, whether overt or hidden. These imbalances can be passed on to the children. Copper, mercury and other metals pass through the placenta from the mother to child. The influence of the father is less clear, although there obviously is a genetic influence.

Low sodium/potassium ratios on hair analyses often are associated with digestive disturbance. Soy-based infant formulas, the use of antibiotics, and other medications can damage the normal bowel flora. Antibiotics alone, with other chemicals found in foods, also can disrupt the intestinal flora.

Genetic problems cannot account for the staggering increase in autism and autism symptoms in the past 20 years. However, genes are activated by nutrients. In our experience, mothers and children are more poorly nourished today than twenty years ago, thanks to poor eating habits and changes in our food supply.

Stress from other sources also may play a role. The hair mineral tests often reveal chronic stress patterns. In addition to the stress due to vaccines, poor diets, and medications, stress may be related to the family and the child's environment.

How to Address Autism and Autism Symptoms

Treatment protocols used for the symptoms of autism in the past were customized to treat the specific needs of each individual child, which is still important. However, there are several basic nutrient supplements that can be applied to most children, which result in fairly consistent improvements in cognitive function and relief from autism symptoms.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is a Simple and Inexpensive Way to Determine Heavy Metal Toxicity and Mineral Patterns

The accumulation of heavy metals and altered mineral patterns can have a profound effect on mental function and the unusual behaviors seen in autistic children with autism symptoms.

By understanding a child's mineral and/or heavy metal content using hair analysis one can determine a specific nutritional and detoxification protocol.

Consider Improving the Condition of the Gut

Most autistic children with autism symptoms have gastro-intestinal (GI) problems. Many children are unable to verbally express the pain or discomfort they may feel, yet diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain with bloating, or abnormally appearing stools persist. When GI ailments are treated successfully, most autistic/ASD children respond favorably not only with improved digestive health and function, but also by exhibiting improved behavioral and developmental responses.

In many cases, there are parasites and excess yeast in the gut that contributes to the mental dysfunction associated with autism symptoms. Yeast over-growth will interfere with the absorption of nutrients. The yeasts take the nutrients, especially sugars, for their own growth. This is often the cause of diarrhea and/or constipation. Treating these organisms usually is not successful unless dietary changes are made, since an inappropriate diet creates the environment necessary for these organisms to thrive.

A good place to begin improvement of the GI tract is with a gluten free, casein free diet. The proteins found in dairy and gluten (wheat) has been implicated in many problems associated with autism symptoms because these proteins can break down into morphine-like substances. Many children with autism symptoms need to be both gluten and casein free, and some will tolerate one or the other.

Along with a dietary restriction of gluten and casein, the addition of digestive enzymes is important. They diminish both the number and size of inappropriate molecules, which in turn tends to reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation helps heal the leaky gut that was initiated by yeast-excreted enzymes that allow the organisms to burrow deeply into intestinal tissue. Impaired digestion and absorption will lead to impaired nutritional status, which can be seen on the results of a hair analysis. Also impaired digestion and absorption will negatively affect immunity, detoxification, and brain function. See digestive enzymes.

Incorporating probiotic supplements helps prevent or counteract the overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, and parasites in the gut. The probiotics "crowd out" the bad gut bugs with large numbers of beneficial ones to help the diseased gut get back to better health. Some parents report an adverse reaction to probiotics, particularly when the gut is severely inflamed. It is a case of trial and error, so start with small doses and gradually build up. See About Probiotics.

Detoxification of Heavy Metals

Once you have addressed the child’s diet and intestinal tract; incorporated a specific nutritional protocol; and discovered metal toxicities through a hair tissue mineral analysis, a detoxification/chelation therapy should be considered next. Choose from different approaches based on the technique you want or the amount you can afford.

Approaches include:

Click to return to the Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders page.

To contact Dr. Akin with comments or questions about autism symptoms, please click here.

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