Autism has become quite a news sensation nowadays, with significantly higher statistics supporting its rise today than in recent years. A pervasive developmental disorder, Autism highly affects the brain and developmental skills of a child’s first few years of life. From difficulties in verbal to social, emotional, physical and intellectual functions, the impact of autism lies in wide-ranging spectrum with overlapping symptoms making each case unique and distinctive than others. One of the prevalent issues, however, in children with autism is their high selectivity for food (or picky eating).
Autism is all over the news these days, with significantly more children being diagnosed with this condition today than in recent generations. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects the brain, develops within a child’s first few years of life and affects verbal, social, emotional, physical and intellectual functioning. The causes of autism are not fully understood, and its severity and responsiveness to various treatments vary widely from child to child. Some autism experts believe a healthy diet might help children with autism function more successfully.
Tips to Healthy Eating
Before engaging in any special diet meant for children with ASD, it is imperative that you consult with your child’s physician to ensure that underlying gastric disorders are addressed. Be reminded that in addition to their behavioral and neurological symptoms, children with autism often suffer from digestive and allergy issues. The help of a registered physician or dietitian with experience in treating autism can be of great help to ensure that the food they take will not trigger symptoms, as well as proper nutrition and caloric intake are provided for.
When it comes to food choices, organic and unprocessed foods are ideal choices. Packaged and/or processed foods provide minimal nutrition and inadequate caloric content that will hinder weight development among children. Building a child-with-autism’s diet around these fresh and healthy foods ensure zero nutritional deficiencies and other prevalent digestive risks.
Gluten-Free, Casein-Free diet is considered one of the special diets that can help “treat” autism. This diet, though not scientifically proven, has been going on for quite some time. Parents to children with autism have continually backed the efficiency of this claim that it can help manage, if not minimize the symptoms. Some diets that are also free of allergens as well as yeast can be helpful.
The use of supplements and vitamins is also an important key in ensuring adequate nutritional intake of your child. Supplements like probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6 and C, are just some of the typically recommended ones. Keep in mind that diets like CFGF Diet can make kids lose out on some of the necessary vitamins and minerals prohibited on its food list. To guarantee that necessary nutrition is in your child’s system, the addition of these supplements can be added BUT with the approval of your child’s physician, of course.
All in all, this complex developmental disability called Autism Spectrum Disorders may not be curable but can be managed and controlled with proper intervention and healthy dietary factors. When done with the guidance of an Autism-accredited physician or dietitian, keeping your child’s symptoms under control while maintaining his healthy physique can be attained.
With the school opening looming up ahead, the idea of transitioning your child with autism can prove to be daunting. Starting school can be a difficult time even for normal kids, more so with a child who has limited cognitive, social, and other developmental skills. Like normal kids, children on the spectrum also feel the same excitement and anxiety. This change can be difficult for them— the scenery, the people, their responsibility as students, co-existing with others, and so on. This often leads to sudden (and somehow negative) changes in behavior.
By now, you must have already looked into a number of schools in your area and have found the right one for your child. To gear your child for the so-called “first day high,” try looking into these helpful tips and see if any of these can work with his or her level of ASD.
1. Try creating a social story to go along with the preparation. Pictures and video presentation prove to be effective channels to show them what school is like, how to go with the usual morning/afternoon routine, and other school activities.
2. Create creatively the list of daily activities he or she will have to take from waking up to brushing, walking/riding to school, entering the classroom, and so on. If possible, try to ask the school administration if it is okay for you and your child to look around.
3. Prepare a calendar complete with pictures. Indicate lunch with the picture of the school cafeteria or toilet time with the comfort room or playtime with a picture of the school playground with children playing.
4. Before school officially starts, ask if it is okay for your child to meet his or her new teacher. Let the teacher and the school’s guidance counselor know about certain “obsessions” that your child may have. Often, visiting school ahead of time and meeting the people he or she will encounter head-on can ease their way into transition.
5. Communicate, communicate. Whatever your child’s ASD level, it is imperative that you ask about what he or she feels. Engage him or her in the whole process. His or her feelings should come first and foremost on this journey. Make him or her feel secured and assured, that school is a safe haven. Instill happy thoughts in meeting new friends. He or she may be socially challenged, but this does not negate the thought of feeling the same level of excitement in meeting new acquaintances.
6. Reassure your child that school is his or her second home. While “Mommy” or “Daddy” help resolves problems for him at home, he or she now has an extra set of helping hands with “teacher” (be specific with the name of the teacher to make him familiar) around.
7. Try to check if there are kids in the neighborhood who will be going on the same classes with your child. Sometimes, letting them connect to others before school starts can greatly eliminate unforeseen circumstances during transition.
8. Make sure to find out what after-school activities can your child join. Some sports activities are excellent activities for children with ASDs.
9. Include your child’s therapist on this process. It is imperative that you are fully guided on every endeavor you pursue to ensure zero meltdown.
10. Be extra attentive. Some kids on the spectrum have a hard time coping with these sudden changes. Make sure to prioritize your child’s welfare before anything else.
Each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a different way of dealing with changes in their environment. These tips may prove to be effective to others but, in everything else, you alone know what works best for him or her.
Autism has no known cure. Over the years, a lot of behavioral treatment and therapies as well as medical prescriptions have been given to children with autism but, still the idea of a cure seems farfetched. Apart from having no known causes, Autism Spectrum Disorders can be as complicated as it gets.
GFCF diet stands for gluten-free and casein-free diet wherein children and adults with autism removes two groups of proteins from their diet completely – with no cheat days! Casein is found in all milk and dairy products, while gluten can be found on wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. Some of the most common foods usually consumed by children are milk, yogurt, ice cream, bread, cereal, pasta, hotdogs, and bottled and jarred sauces or salad dressings are known to contain gluten or casein.
The GFCF diet revolves around the idea that children with autism cannot fully digest or break down gluten and casein. With leaky guts, some of these undigested or partially digested proteins can leak through the intestinal walls and passes through the bloodstream into the brain leading to heightened issues with speech, social, and behavioral skills. According to reports, kids with autism on a strict GFCF Diet tend to have less temper tantrums or meltdowns, hyperactivity, speech and eye contact issues, and sometimes, physical diseases like seizures, allergies, and skin rashes. Kids with autism eating gluten-free and casein-free foods are known to be more relaxed and have the tendency to sleep better than those who are not.
Though the fame of the GFCF Diet is rising over the years and half of the kids with ASD suffer some kind of gastrointestinal issues, it is important to note that it does not work for everyone. Working closely with an accredited health practitioner (see LivingAutismNow’s accredited nutritionist and dietitian) and a physician with hands-on experience on the GFCF Diets can be of great help. These two can assess your child’s gastrointestinal condition and current diet, assess if there’s a need for other nutritional supplements, and help prepare meal plans for your child. Be aware that by eliminating both protein groups- casein and gluten to your child’s diet can compromise his other nutritional requirement so delving into this diet requires expert assistance. Not only will this ensure your child’s progress but also to guarantee that he is in tip-top shape.
Autism numbers are rising. As several disorders on the spectrum are grouped collectively to fall under a single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, the number of children and adults alike are also rising. Nonetheless, it remains a complex neurological disorder with equally complex diagnosis, causes, and therapies or treatments. The feeling of being a parent to one with ASD, however, remains the same. Overwhelmed, frightened, confused? These feelings are nothing new. It is normal to have apprehensions and more questions than answers.
So, what to do to become your own child’s autism advocate? Here are some ways how:
Enroll in Parenting Classes
Look up your local yellow pages for a nearby autism institute and research center. These institutions always provide parent- education classes, seminars, and symposium catered specifically for parents whose son or daughter is diagnosed with ASD. Some classes regularly meet on a weekly or twice-a-week basis for several weeks or months to teach you how to set realistic and doable short- and long-term goals. It has a set of curriculum to follow that allows parents to learn practical skills, techniques and strategies on how to go-about your child’s disorder and improve his/her skills. Some research centers also tackle collaborative initiatives with educators and professionals in a way of developing tactics for school and home.
Attend Community Outreach Programs
Another low-cost option in learning about autism and is by joining community-based training. Most programs initiated in communities are sponsored by experts in the field of autism. These programs usually follow the same core curriculum as that of institute-based classes. In some, groups engaging in open discussion and usually facilitated by parents to autism children provide lectures on ASD tapping awareness, life skills, social skills, and other specific aspects of autism. This parents’ forum are often considered the very tie that binds autism communities across regions providing valuable knowledge and support to families with members on the spectrum.
Online Tool Kits
The internet continually proves to be an indispensable part of raising autism awareness and in providing support to families dealing with ASD across nations. Free online tool kits are available for families in various websites. These kits usually provide important and relevant information on the disorder, treatment options, coping strategies and techniques, and goal-setting. Some websites, like Living Autism Now (www.livingautismnow.com), provides a portal that connects families to the best professional help and services in their localities. It also provides ample information and links to resources as well as a space dedicated to answering questions and for sharing experiences with others.
Primarily targeted to parents with school-age children, this program type usually deals on how parents and teachers can best met the educational needs of children with autism. The program usually consists of lectures, forums, seminars, open-discussion groups, and one-on-one engagement initiatives. Each school has its set of curriculum to follow, and to best gauge which will work best with your child is to check with its special education teacher or its guidance counselor.
Some religious communities have also set-up its own outreach program to aid in the growing need for autism awareness and acceptance. If you belong to a certain religious congregation, try checking with the local parish priest, catechists or lay ministers for any open discussion groups or counseling care. These programs often tap on providing families with emotional and spiritual support.
There are many resources available nowadays for you to choose from. As parents, we only want what is best for our children. Each autism case is unique. Finding one that will best suit your child and your expectations solely depend on your choices.
Not everything is positive though as there are those who remains to be passive and nonchalant about the whole concept of Autism Spectrum Disorders, a range of complex neuro-developmental disorders characterized by communication difficulties, social impairments, and often restricted, stereotyped, and repetitive behavioral patterns. It is a joy to note though that public awareness is rising via this annual event.
Importance of Autism Awareness
But why raise awareness? You see, heightening the public’s level of understanding on the background and implications of Autism is the very gateway for people to understand what it is like to be living in the spectrum. It is not about telling people what to do but simply, in explaining to them the issues involving ASD and in disseminating useful information to guide them when interacting with an individual who has autism. Awareness, however, should be two-way—public awareness and self-awareness. Self-awareness occurs to both the individual with autism and to the individual’s understanding on how his/her actions or inactions affect another individual who is living autism day by day. General public awareness, on the other hand, tackles widespread acknowledgement and understanding of the issues revolving around autism on a societal level. Both levels of awareness are of utmost importance. By having a common understanding on what ASD is all about can lead to how individuals relate to it in their respective communities. Through autism awareness campaigns, a shared belief and values can become important issues in the community hence, ushering to a wider acceptance level.
Learn how to teach your community about Autism the positive way.
The Road to Autism Acceptance
In human psychology, acceptance is an individual’s assent to reality. It is the very recognition of autism in all its glory and flaws without protesting. It is important to note that up to this day, the road to autism acceptance is bumpy. A lot of controversies continually hound the realm of autism, from vaccines to therapies, treatments, researches, and what-have-you – and this virtually creates a tug-of-war from within hindering the very acceptance it hopes to pursue.
If only we can find that common ground about autism as it is, the level of awareness raised year after year could have pushed a higher level of public acceptance. Not only will this open huge opportunities on autism care, safety, and research but, also in encouraging individuals who are still in the dark to come forward and be heard. Without raising awareness, the drive for autism acceptance will prove to be futile – and vice-versa.
More research suggests that obesity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has also been rising over the years, and has been noted as high as that of developing children. This statistical data is quite staggering. Children with ASD are not only exposed to the same risk factors as that of typical developing children, they are also more susceptible and vulnerable to more adverse effects such as genetic issues, sleeping and eating disorders, physiological challenges, and so on. For all individuals with ASD, obesity poses a huge threat to their overall health and quality of life.
Likely Causes of Obesity to ASD
Three of the likely causes of obesity among children with ASD are genetics, delayed/impaired motor skills development, and psychopharmacological after-effects. Obesity in children with autism is biological in nature. Children with ASD born to parents with obese patterns are more susceptible to such growing up. Genetic determinants, however, are not specifically and fully identified.
The use of psychotropic medications is quite common among individuals with ASD, particularly to those who have severe symptoms. Medications such as stimulants, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are usually prescribed to individuals with Autism as well as to those with behavioral and developmental needs. Some 35% to 65% are prescribed with one of these medications while, approximately 10% are prescribed with more than 3 medications. These medications are often used not as a cure but as a means to control and manage the symptoms. Though known to be effective, these medications can result in weight gain as they increase appetite and lessen physical activity. In addition, metabolic syndrome such as raised blood pressure, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance, abdominal obesity, and many more are also noted to be caused by these medications among children with Autism.
Delayed or impaired motor development usually limits the physical activity among children with autism. Most kids with severe autism have sedentary behavior due to low muscle tone, postural instability, and motor-skills impairment. These conditions often lead to involvement in physical activities difficult as these children struggle for balance, endurance, and motor planning.
Other Risk Factors
Autism with obesity are known to be associated with other risk factors such as sleep issues, and picky eating. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is quite common among children with ASD. Sleep issues usually affect appetite and metabolic functions leading to weight gain. Children with ASD are also known to be highly selective eaters and have the tendency to be indisposed to specific smells, colors, textures, temperatures, and so on. This “picky” eating routine leaves children to choose unhealthy foods and/or energy-dense foods which are often “more attractive” and much tastier than organic/fresh foods.
The Role of the Family
Most issues concerning dietary, sleep patterns, and physical activity are usually affected by family dynamics. Mealtime routines, feeding styles, and other parental practices relating to food and activities at home directly impact obesity clauses among children with ASD. By developing a healthy family environment and proper dietary management while infusing effective intervention, obesity among children with ASD can be prevented.
Autism is a wide spectrum of disorders that overlap among each other yet, has distinct characteristics making each case unique even among siblings. Collectively, they are called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Any of these disorders can affect both children and adults. Currently, it has NO known cures. They are also genetic in nature. According to recent data from CDC, this developmental disorder affects 1 out of every 68 children in the US alone. Though it is known to affect more boys than girls, grouping together a child’s symptoms can be tough. To understand ASD better, here are some basic markers to consider:
Simply referred to as “autism,” it is also recently being described as “mind-blindness” or the lack of Theory of Mind creating major barriers in communication and socialization. This collection of neurological and developmental disorders is usually diagnosed in the first 3 years of life. A child with autistic disorder engages in repetitive behaviors, appears to have a world of his own, shows little or no interest in others, and has obvious lack of social awareness. A child with autism is often focused on consistent routine with interest transfixed in repetitively odd or peculiar behavior. Almost always, children with autism have communication issues, avoid direct eye contact, and manifests limited attachment to others.
Regressive ASD is sometimes referred to as autistic regression or autism with regression, or acquired autistic syndrome and setback-type autism. It usually occurs when a seemingly normal child starts to lose speech and social skills from 15-30 months of age. Amid researches and studies done over the years, however, there is still no definite distinction between autism with- and without regression. Some believe that this type of autism is just an early-onset autism diagnosed at a later date. Some features early delays while others are diagnosed after later losses. This is believed to affect approximately 20-30% of children in the spectrum.
Called PDD-NOS or atypical personality development, this type of autism refers to the “sub-threshold” condition wherein some, but not all, features of ASD or other explicitly identified PDD are identified in a child. PDD-NOS is a diagnosis which covers cases marking impairment of communication, social interaction, stereotyped behavioral patterns and interest—but does not include autism’s full features or explicitly defined pervasive personality disorder/PDD. Take note that most of those in PDD-NOS have less impaired social skills than those in “classical” autism.
Also known simply as Asperger’s or Asperger Disorder, this ASD is usually diagnosed between the ages 2-6. A child with Asperger’s manifests good verbal skills and good cognitive skills but is rather clumsy, socially awkward, and often engages in odd, repetitive behaviors and interests. This is named after Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who conducted a study on a group of children in 1944.
Known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis, this type of ASD is very rare. Children with seemingly normal development suddenly lose motor, social, and language skills around the ages 2 to 4. This severe regression usually presents a dramatic loss of skills and can develop later than autism does.
Coined after Dr. Andreas Rett’s study, Rett’s Syndrome or Rett’s Disorder is a condition that used to be called cerebroatrophic hyperammonemia. This is an extreme form of ASD characterized by zero verbal skills with 50% not being able to walk. Most of those who have Rett’s have small hands and feet, with notable deceleration of head growth, repetitive stereotypical hand movements, and some 80% experience seizures. Scoliosis, growth failure, and other gastrointestinal disorders are also common for children with Rett’s Syndrome. Almost all of the cases reported under this spectrum occur in girls, but studies reveal that this can also affect boys.
As more and more research is being conducted on Autism Spectrum Disorders, we can only surmise that more type of autism will come out soon. Geneticists recently pointed out that the right term to be used is “autisms”(plural) rather than “autism” due to the variety of genetic forms the developmental disorder represents.
When diagnosing Autism, parents should seek professional diagnoses from specially trained professional, including pediatricians, psychologists, and others. List can be found at http://livingautismnow.com/directory/ for Canada, http://www.autism.org.uk/directory.aspx for the UK, and http://www.autism-society.org/ for the US.
Pamela Bryson-Weaver is the author of Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage, a #1 bestseller on amazon.com. A staunch advocate for autism, she is also the mind behind the powerful website—www.livingautismnow.com—an online portal for parents, caregivers, individuals with ASD, service providers, and experts to interact with each other, to raise awareness, and locate the best possible services for them. Bryson-Weaver is uniquely qualified to speak on autism as she is the past president of the Autism Society in New Brunswick, and has promoted a resolution on autism that was presented locally, provincially and nationally, and was passed nationally in Canada 2004. To date, all children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in her province receive S20k per year for treatment. Married with 3 children, the main driving force in this advocacy is her youngest son, John, who has autism.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Yale School of Medicine
It is a common occurrence among many communities across the globe for people to not instantly understand what your child is going through with this ordeal. However, you, as one who has direct knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorders, have all the power in your hand to make people understand about it. The challenge is how to do it nicely without offending the other party.
As we all know, some people that those living in the spectrum are dysfunctional and live in their own world. These observations, however, are but a minute part of the spectrum of disorders that the autism genome carries. If your child or a sibling has ASD, educating those around you can be done in a positive manner. You can start talking to neighbors about it. If you have community forums, joining in one and making your intentions known can also elicit awareness among those who surround your loved one with Autism.
Start by educating them on the nature of the disorder, that is, Autism is neurological and not psychological as what others believe it to be. Add the fact that it is a spectrum of disorders meaning, ASDs have different levels of severity and not necessarily like Simon Lynch on Mercury Rising or Dustin Hoffman in Rain Main. Before you do this, it is imperative that you harness your knowledge about the spectrum of disorders that Autism carries to ensure that you get your point across as factually as possible. This could mean researching about your child’s diagnosis, interacting with medical professionals assessing his or her cognitive, language, developmental and social skills, and so on.
It is important to point out the challenging ways like making eye contact, showing appropriate emotions, and other manifestations affecting their social skills. Most kids with autism also has trouble accepting change and when faced with such, they can easily feel stressed and agitated making it hard for them to reach out and be understood. It is like being in the South of France with nary any idea about the language. It is how their brain works and they cannot help it, one puzzle no one has the obvious answer as to why. It is important to let people understand that an autistic’s reaction or lack thereof to certain stimuli is part and parcel of the disorder. Some manifests differently than others but, all the same, this neurological condition can bring in different reactions.
Be as factual as possible in your points. If talking to neighbors or friends, make them understand the diagnosis provided by your child’s doctor and the observations you have gathered over time. Along with facts, your attitude also plays a big role in making people that surrounds your child or sibling with autism understand what you and your child/sibling is going through. Not will this improve their interaction to people with ASDs, this will also increase their awareness and be able to relay this to others. Besides, word of mouth has always been an effective manner of raising awareness.
Photo credit: http://www.4-roads.com/Social/Blog/social-networks-vs-online-communities
There is no boring day to parents with autism kids. The worst days, however, are those that involve a meltdown. Now, that’s what you call a nightmare! One moment your child is perfectly settled on his routine and the next minute, he turns into a Godzilla with no one to block his path. The scary part is that, you have no idea what upsets him or what triggered the reaction.
Not to be confused for temper tantrums, meltdowns can easily turn from bad to worse when parents do not know what to do or how to deal with it. This could be tough to a first-time parent. Thus, equipping oneself with the necessary preparation for that eventual meltdown will help prevent unnecessary circumstances inimical to the welfare of the child and the people surrounding him.
Dissecting Likely Causes
Not to be mistaken for a temper tantrum, children with autism when facing a meltdown can be much tougher to handle. One of most likely causes is sensory, information, and emotional overload. Take note of the word: OVERLOAD. Kids with ASD can only take so much and all things in excess can push their panic button. This overly sensitive characteristics usually trigger their brain to be overwhelmed resulting in panic. Another common cause is sudden changes. Living in the spectrum often makes children live a life filled with routines. They love basking in a life that is filled with predictability. Sudden changes in their environment or in their expectations can easily jolt and tear them apart. Some parents also mentioned that fatigue is another likely cause in some children’s meltdown. As the brain cannot process fatigue or its consequences, this can be intensely frustrating leading to turmoil deep in their core.
Preventing and Managing Meltdowns
As meltdowns can come and go freely to any child with autism, it is imperative for parents to proactively learn how to handle and manage such before it even manifests in actuality. You can discuss management techniques with your paediatrician, caregiver, SpEd teacher, or counselor to give you handy information on how to best approach when this occurs. Be sensitive to their needs. Many said that parents to kids with autism need special powers to know when and what causes a meltdown. Paying special attention to your child won’t hurt. Keeping a timetable and be always on the close guard on what makes them comfortable/uncomfortable to prevent frustration leading to panic.
It is also important to set boundaries with your child. In the same way as toddlers, children living on the spectrum often have meltdowns because they can’t have their own way. If you believe the answer is a “no”, be firm and stand by it. You can choose to ignore it, redirect him to another activity, or infuse discipline by way of simple “punishments” like timeouts or withholding of special treats. Most kids living on the spectrum have high intelligence level. They do understand more than you expect them to be.
Some children, however, are prone to hurting themselves or those around them. Learn the proper way to restrain them and make sure to eliminate possible hazards in your home. You might be surprised how strong or violent these little kids can be up until you have a blackened eye or a bruised leg. For their safety and yours, learn how to address possible hazards ahead of time.