Autism: Using wisdom with restrictive diets
Research find no link between autism and restrictive diets for children. Stomach problems are not linked to Autism in children.
More common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined is autism. It occurs in 1 out of 150 children in the United States today. For a disorder that was hardly ever heard of in the past, it is exploding today. Autism is extremely complex. No autistic child is the same as another autistic child. Each is unique. Autism is a group of neurobiological disorders commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorders or ASD. The spectrum is a range from the most severe to higher functioning individuals. Rett’s syndrome and child disintegrative disorder, as well as pervasive developmental disorder, are a few examples of autism spectrum disorders.
Autism is sometimes difficult to spot. It is common for the parent who perceives something is not quite right with their child to be told that all children develop at their own pace. But if the provider listens to the parents and remember that usually when the parents suspect something, they are usually correct, autism can be caught earlier. It used to be that recommendations were to catch autism before age 3. However, that has changed recently to catching the disorder as early as 6 months. The earlier it is caught, the more the child can be helped.
Symptoms of autism include developing normally and then losing previous abilities, resisting eye contact, social isolation, failure to reach developmental milestones such as waving or pointing. Other symptoms that are commonly present in autism include rigidity with schedule, and ritualistic behaviors, such as lining shoes up from the largest to smallest continuously. Repetitive behaviors are also observed in autism, such opening and shutting a door for hours at a time. Gastrointestinal symptoms are seen as well, including constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, discomfort or irritability, vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux, and feeding issues, such as sticking with the same food constantly, or ritualistic behaviors with eating. Diet often becomes a concern with these children.
In the past, stomach symptoms such as diarrhea became highly publicized leading people to believe that autistic individuals had a higher rate of GI problems than normal children. As a result, diets that were free of gluten and the milk protein casein were encouraged (not necessarily by medicine, but by other theorists). It was thought that this would lead to more regular bowel patterns and the child’s autistic tendencies would be improved, if not cured. Unfortunately, many theories of how to treat autism circulated around, as parents of autistic children fell into the traps, desperately wanting to help their child. According to AutismSpeaks, currently there are no effective means to prevent, treat, or cure autism.
There are many types of treatments for autism, but most have never been tested through research. Many are potentially hazardous to the child’s health. Diet restrictions can cause a nutrient deficiency and researchers are encouraging parents not to implement diets unless their child has been tested medically for the need to restrict their diet. Constipation and feeding issues are the most different GI problems associated with autism.
It is important to watch research and not fall for just anyone who states they have the cure for autism, or any other disease for that matter. Studying out the problem and what research indicates is extremely important. No one wants to endanger their child. All too often, parents with autistic children fall for the fads simply because they want to help their child. Working together with the child’s physician, parents can find safe treatments for their children with the disorder. Parents can empower themselves by being alert to fads and by being educated about autism and the treatments and research going on for autism and autism spectrum disorders.