The most leverage that any person has regarding the development of chronic illness like autism, is before it begins. In my opinion and the opinion of many others, prevention begins the womb, and perhaps even pre-conception, both for mom and for dad. Once the symptoms of autism have begun detective work is beneficial in determining root causes to the condition. Autism is not just a condition that affects the brain. We often find many coexisting medical issues, including gastrointestinal tract inflammation, allergies, autoimmune conditions, food intolerances, infections and others. Autism from reversible causes does exist, especially if we are able to identify the triggers and if they are amenable to treatment. For example, autism linked to food sensitivities or celiac disease can be improved with the removal of the offending foods, or if Autism is due to an underlying vitamin deficiency and the nutrients are restored, or if an infection is identified and treated this can also improve symptoms.
Sometimes as clinicians we can unlock pieces of the puzzle to improve outcomes, including methylation defects, issues with detoxification and nutrient deficiency. Perhaps an infectious process is identified and needs to be treated. For most individuals, progress is made on a gradual course, with children developing in their own time, and especially when particular environmental, nutritional and therapeutic supports are provided.
Unfortunately, today we are living in an increasingly toxic environment and often times the condition of autism is multifaceted. At the Center for Holistic Medicine we take a functional medicine style approach. We do the detective work, exploring the history of each child, from preconception to early years including exposures and symptoms. We do a thorough physical exam and run conventional labs and even specialty labs to dive a little deeper into the problem at hand. With this information, we are able to work towards your child's individual nutritional, detoxification, immune, structural and energetic needs to give them the best opportunity for optimal health.
Dr. Kathy ( Katarzyna Ferraro MD FACEP ABIOM) is trained and experienced in emergency medicine, and is double boarded by the American Board of Integrative and Holistic medicine as well as in Emergency Medicine. She has received extensive training through the Autism Research Institute and now is active with the Med Advancement for Pediatcric Special Needs(MAPS) program. Dr. Kathy's other training and offerings include medical acupuncture, frequency specific microcurrent and craniosacral therapy.
If you are new to the autism community or are exploring the integrative options for your child, there are many things that you can do on your own, even before you see an integrative practitioner.
First and most important, if you are pregnant or looking to become pregnant, keep this time sacred for you and your future child. Avoid stressful situations and manage stress as it arises, nourish yourself well, including an organic diet rich in healthy fruits and vegetables. Eat healthy fats and be sure to take a quality prenatal multivitamin and omega 3 fatty acid supplement containing both EPA and especially DHA (as this is helpful for neurologic health for you and your developing baby). Consider a gluten free/dairy free diet especially if there are digestive issues, as this can greatly impact digestive tract inflammation. Finally get daily exercise, sunlight and surround yourself with people that are a great support to you.
If you are challenged with a child on the autism spectrum, the recommendations are quite similar. I always recommend beginning with nutrition. Start with a healthy organic diet rich in vegetables and fruits. This may be challenging for parents as our children are often selective eaters. Be deceptive in your cooking (grind up the vegetables that may have problematic textures). Get appropriate help and confirm your “diagnosis” or conditions early. The earlier the identification and services begin the better the outcome.
Discuss developmental concerns with your doctors, and get basic lab testing like lead levels, thyroid levels, vitamin D, iron levels and lyme testing( Most pediatricians are very comfortable with this basic screening approach). Enlist the services of Early Intervention or in our state the Capital Area Intermediate Unit. Be proactive, if there is a speech issue obtain speech therapy sessions, and ask your child's therapist what you can specifically do in your home to help with your child's speech development. Look into occupational therapy and other services like ABA therapy or verbal behavior therapy.
Basic nutritional supplementation is often of value, discuss supplements like multivitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics with your doctor.
Get to know the expert moms in your area. I find that parent support groups like TACA (Talk about Curing Autism www.tacanow.org) are very valuable in offering many resources for parents that are new to the autism community. TACA a group of strong parents that are empowering other parents with resources that have been valuable for the autism journey of their children. TACA has a great website and also a free “Journey Guide” book for all parents with a child affected with autism. Finally, you are your child's number one advocate, educate yourself on the condition of autism and explore all of the resources that are available. I am constantly amazed by the information that is available at this time as well as the novel approaches to the condition that are evolving. As the autism rates increase in this country I strongly believe that we must do more than just be aware, we must take action!
If you are ready for an integrative medicine evaluation contact our office at 717-243-0616.