It is now estimated that one out of 110 children has autism, a bio-neurological developmental disability that impacts normal brain development in young children. People with autism have difficulties with communication, cognitive function, and social skills. They often suffer from other medical issues such as allergies, asthma, sleeping disorders, epilepsy, digestive problems, and more.
Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than girls, and race plays no role. Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism. However, much scientific progress is being made. With early intervention and treatment, the symptoms of autism can be greatly reduced.
Along with the rising prevalence of this disorder has come much misinformation and myths surrounding this condition. Here are four common misperceptions concerning autism and the truths behind each one.
For some years it was thought that the mercury in thimerosal, the preservative found in some multi-dose vaccines, was a cause of autism. However, after much scientific study, there is no data to support such a link. At first this theory seemed plausible since the number of children being diagnosed with autism was increasing at the same time that the number of vaccinations children received was also increasing. Research compared the vaccinated children with unvaccinated children or those who received the vaccine in a different, slower form. There was no difference in outcomes. In fact, autism rates have continued to rise since vaccines removed the thimerosal preservative. After much study, it was determined that there is no relationship between autism and vaccines.
While it would be wonderful if a specialized diet could cure autism, the fact is there is no cure. It has been speculated that a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet may lessen autistic symptoms in some children. Gluten is found in foods containing wheat, barley, and rye. Casein is found in dairy products like milk and cheese. The theory behind this diet is that autistic children may have a high sensitivity or allergy to gluten or casein. The way their bodies process these proteins may exacerbate their symptoms and lead them to act the way they do. Many parents have reported noticeable improvements in their child's autistic symptoms of speech and behavior while on this strict diet. However, studies have been inconclusive, and more research is needed in this area before the medical world deems there to be any concrete findings.
It is true that children with autism have difficulty interacting socially. This fact is possibly the defining feature of autism. There are three categories of social problems: socially awkward, socially avoidant, and socially indifferent. The good news is that with special therapy and individualized attention, autistic children can learn to communicate with others and react properly in social situations.
All parents of autistic children want to try every possible treatment for their children. Unfortunately, this may mean trying methods that aren't scientifically proven or that may even be dangerous. A couple examples include holding therapy and chelation therapy. With holding therapy, the parent holds the child for a long period of time with the hopes of bonding with them. The chelation therapy seeks to remove heavy metals such as mercury from the child's body.
This process has been associated with liver and kidney damage, which can be fatal. Whatever treatment or therapy you choose, talk with your child's doctor beforehand and carefully weigh the pros and cons.