Autism is a complex
developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, although
it is sometimes diagnosed much later. It affects the brain's normal
development of social and communication skills.
Most parents of autistic
children suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18
months old and seek help by the time the child is 2. Children with autism
typically have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social
interactions, and pretend play. In some, aggression -- toward others
or self -- may be present.
People with autism
may perform repeated body movements, show unusual attachments to objects
or have unusual distress when routines are changed. Individuals may
also experience sensitivities in the senses of sight, hearing, touch,
smell, or taste. Such children, for example, will refuse to wear "itchy"
clothes and become unduly distressed if forced because of the sensitivity
of their skin. Some combination of the following areas may be affected
in varying degrees.
Is unable to start or sustain a social conversation
Develops language slowly or not at all
Repeats words or memorized passages, like commercials
Doesn't refer to self correctly (for example, says "you want water"
when the child means "I want water")
Uses nonsense rhyming
Communicates with gestures instead of words
Shows a lack of empathy
Does not make friends
Prefers to spend time alone, rather than with others
May not respond to eye contact or smiles
May actually avoid eye contact
May treat others as if they are objects
Does not play interactive games
A health care provider
experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of autism is usually necessary
for the actual diagnosis. Because there is no biological test for autism,
the diagnosis will often be based on very specific criteria laid out
in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV.
a broad spectrum of symptoms. Therefore, a single, brief evaluation
cannot predict a child's true abilities. Ideally, a team of different
specialists will evaluate the child. They might evaluate speech, language,
communication, thinking abilities, motor skills, success at school,
and other factors.
are reluctant to have a child diagnosed because of concerns about labeling
the child. However, failure to make a diagnosis can lead to failure
to get the treatment and services the child needs.
An early, intensive,
appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most
young children with autism. Most programs will build on the interests
of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities.
Visual aids are often helpful.
Treatment is most
successful when geared toward the child's particular needs. An experienced
specialist or team should design the individualized program. A variety
of effective therapies are available, including applied behavior analysis
(ABA), speech-language therapy, medications, occupational therapy, and
physical therapy. Sensory integration and vision therapy are also common,
but there is little research supporting their effectiveness.
Some children with
autism appear to respond to a gluten-free or a casein-free diet. Gluten
is found in foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. Casein is found
in milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Not all experts agree that
dietary changes will make a difference, and not all reports studying
this method have shown positive results.
DMG is another nutrient
that, according to reports from thousands of families, is quite beneficial
to many autistic individuals. Similar to vitamin B6 and magnesium, DMG
is safe, relatively inexpensive, and helps about half of autistic children
Research on humans
and laboratory animals have shown that DMG strengthens the immune system.
The immune system is dysfunctional in many autistic individuals. Some
autistic children and adults have seizures, and there are two published
reports of decreases in seizure activity as a result of DMG (New England
Journal of Medicine, 1982, 307, 1081-1082; Epilepsia, 1989, 30, 90-93).
The recommended daily
dose of DMG is between one to four 125 mg tablets for a child, and between
two and eight tablets for an adult. Initially, a person should begin
with one 125 mg tablet (a ½ tablet for a small child), and then
increase the amount by one tablet every 2 to 3 days. DMG is also available
in capsule, liquid, and sweet-tasting dissolving tablets.