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Autism is a mental health and developmental disorder.  It is characterised by things such as difficulty or an inability to create normal social relationships, compulsive and/or ritualistic behaviour, and sometimes a failure to develop normal levels of intelligence.  It is more common in males than in females.  Symptoms do vary greatly, but they always manifest no later than the age of three.  If your child has been diagnosed with autism, there is no need to worry.  There are natural and nutritional treatments that you can turn to for help.

Health Problems Commonly Exhibited by Autism Sufferers

Some of the health problems that are exhibited by autism sufferers include:

  • an inability or difficulty to absorb gluten or casein
  • low levels of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes
  • high levels of toxins
  • high levels of Candida, Aspergillus, and parasites
  • high levels of heavy metals

This is why the initial treatment of any person suffering from autism is to change the diet and detox the body. The younger the person is when the treatment is undertaken, the more likely it is to succeed.

Nutrition and Autism – an Overview

Protein is essential in people that suffer from autism as it is necessary to supply the body with amino acids – which help to build neurotransmitters and many other key elements in the body.  Reducing the amount of sugar that an autistic person has can help to stop rapid changes in blood sugar levels which can contribute to problems such as irritability and difficulty concentrating.  People that are sensitive to artificial colours and flavourings may find that they suffer from more behavioral problems.  Pesticides, which can be found on fruits and vegetables that have not been washed correctly, can contain toxic metals and are suspected of being one of the causes of autism. See nutrition for more information.

Essential Fatty Acids and Autism

Essential fatty acids or EFAs are vital for humans, as they are found in every cell.  Also, twenty percent of a child’s brain is made up of EFAs.  Breastfeeding is ideal for children as the breast milk is rich in the EFAs that the child needs, but if you are feeding your baby on formula, note that most formulas do not contain EFAs.

The two most common types of EFAs are omega 3 and omega 6.  The body cannot make these so they must be gotten from a dietary source.  If the diet is low in EFAs, psychological problems such as Rett’s syndrome, depression, and bipolar disorder may result.  Studies have shown that children with autism have less omega 3 fatty acids than the normal population.  Thus it is recommended that children eat fish that are high in EFAs such as salmon, or take a supplement of fish oil.

A Gluten and Casein Free Diet for Autism

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, and casein is a protein that is found in all dairy products.  These two proteins are common food allergens – especially amongst people that suffer from autism.  Certain peptides that come from the gluten and casein can have a significant effect on a person’s behaviour, causing things such as sleepiness, a person not paying attention, aggression, and self-abuse.

To treat this, all gluten and dairy products will need to be avoided.  Even the smallest amount can cause problems in a sensitive individual.  Digestive enzymes may be useful but they will not be as effective as avoiding gluten and casein altogether.  If you are following a dairy free diet, remember to include a calcium supplement or ensure that the person is gaining adequate calcium from other sources.

Food Allergies and Autism

Many people that suffer from autism also suffer from food allergies, due to abnormalities in either their digestive or immune systems, if not both.  If the food is not broken down correctly into its individual components such as sugars and amino acids, the partially digested food may pass into the bloodstream and cause an allergic reaction.  Some ways of testing for food allergies include an elimination diet, skin testing, and blood tests.  Once the food responsible for the allergy has been identified, it is a simple matter of avoiding the food.  Digestive enzymes may be useful in order to help the person to digest the food more fully.

Autism and Visual Problems 

Eye movement control is the basic skill that is needed for effective vision.  This is because it is vital to eye contact which, in turn, is vital to the interaction between people.  People with autism commonly use a tool called “gaze avoidance” in order to stop their brains from becoming overloaded with information.

Eye movements show where a person is directing their visual attention.  In autism, if you improve the efficiency of the sufferer’s eye movements, you can help to train their brain to pay attention. Autistic people may not be able to express when they are suffering from visual problems such as sore eyes, blurred vision and so forth.  Therefore, it is up to the carer to look for the visual signs of such problems which may include:

  • squinting or eye closing
  • staring at things
  • looking at things sideways
  • sensitivity to light
  • rubbing or pushing the eye
  • bumping into things
  • looking at things quickly
  • makes their way around more by feeling things than seeing them

Because most people with autism are able to see clearly but cannot get meaning from the world, it is possible to use tools such as lenses and prisms to help to alter their perception of space.  Used correctly, these tools can help to bring together a world that previously appeared fragmented.

Syntonics is another visual tool that can be used.  This is where coloured light is applied through the eyes.  Hypersensitivity is one of the hallmarks of autism and syntonics can be used to help reduce this.  Specific colours have calming effects on a person and using these colours can help other therapies to become more effective.

Visual Cognitive Therapy or VCT helps a person to change their perception of the world through a safe room.  VCT uses tools such as lenses, prisms, and balance movement to direct attention and change awareness.  The main goals of VCT are feedback, self-awareness, and attention.

Other Therapies that are Useful for Autism

There are several other therapies that can be useful in the treatment and management of autism. These include:

  • Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) – this is the oldest treatment for autism and it is a system of reward-based training that focuses on teaching particular skills.
  • Speech Therapy – this is used as almost all people with autism have problems with speech and language.  Many autistic people are non-verbal or have trouble using speech, while others have trouble using speech in order to build social relationships.
  • Occupational Therapy – this helps the sufferer to improve their daily living skills.  Many autistic people have delays in their fine motor skills and this therapy can improve that.
  • Social Skills Therapy – one of the hallmarks of autism is the lack of social and communication skills.  This form of therapy aims to improve these skills so that sufferers can do things such as connecting with people and having a conversation.
  • Play Therapy – children that suffer from autism need help in learning how to play.  By focusing therapy on this area, it can help with building speech, communication, and social skills.
  • Behavioural Therapy – people with autism are often frustrated and misunderstood as they have difficulty in communicating their needs.  Behavioural therapists work out what is behind the negative behaviours and suggest ways to improve this.

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