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Autism

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.

Communication:
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

Social interaction:
Shows a lack of empathy
Does not make friends
Is withdrawn
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

Treatment for Autism
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.

Autism encompasses 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.

Sometimes people 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 and adults.

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.

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