Autism: A Global Epidemic?
What is Autism?
Autism comes from the Greek word autos - meaning self, because the children being observed seemed to withdraw into an iron-walled universe of their own, void of social interaction with others. Autism along with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Asperger’s syndrome are together categorized as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is 4 to 5 times more common among boys than girls.
Development of Autistic Traits
Most autistics seem to develop normally for the first year, then between ages 12 to 18 months they begin to digress, losing even language they may have already acquired. This time coincides with the administration of the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine, thus explaining the erroneous association. Autistic children in general display poor eye contact, impaired interaction with peers, poor verbal and non-verbal communication. Symptoms may include hand flapping, twiddling fingers, rocking, pacing, tics, twirling, and unusual repetitive actions and may exhibit self-injurious behaviour. Symptoms generally appear before the age of 3 years.
Epidemic Increase in Autism Worldwide
Most experts agree that autism is on the rise. Autism is more prevalent than previously thought. A recent editorial in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that the condition "appears to be undergoing, an almost epidemic increase." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report one in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with ASD as of 2010, a 30% increase from one in 88 as of 2008. Since the earliest studies 40 – 50 years ago, global prevalence of autism has increased 2,000% to 3,000%.
Autistics: Retarded vs. Gifted
Autistic children are not considered retarded. Some functions may be diminished, while others are heightened or exceptional. About 46% of children with ASD had average or above average intellectual ability and 10% are gifted “savants”. Some savants have been known to possess almost perfect photographic memory, able to perform extremely large mathematical computations in their heads or even possess exceptional musical or artistic ability. The most popular autistic savant, Kim Peek, portrayed in the movie “Rain Man” by Dustin Hoffman, was able to memorize extraordinary amounts of information. He read approximately eight books per day with almost 98% perfect and permanent recollection. He has memorized numerous telephone books and even the Bible.
Vaccinations do not cause Autism
It has been erroneously reported that vaccinations cause autism. Concerns that the MMR shot could cause autism were first raised a decade ago by British physician Andrew Wakefield, who, based on a study of 12 children, proposed that there was a link between the vaccine and bowel disease as well as autism.
That research has since been widely discredited, and numerous international studies have failed to find a connection between MMR vaccination and autism.
Behavioural therapy and early stimulation, though important, yield limited success in reversing autistic traits, due largely to a lack of understanding of the functional disconnection that occurs within the brains of children with autism. There are only few early intervention programmes for autistic children, which may be very costly and time consuming.
Brain Balance Therapy Succeeds Where Others Fail
Studies have shown that children with ASD excel in left brain skills, while faltering in right brain tasks. Although speech is a left brain activity, non-verbal communication, which is a right brain skill, is usually more impaired. The successes seen in treatment outcomes using brain balance therapy for children with ASD is largely due to an understanding of this “asymmetry of skill”. Brain balance therapy focuses on stimulating the weaker right brain, in order to restore brain balance. Many chiropractic neurologists have specific training in brain balance therapies.
Chiropractic Neurologists address neurological conditions like autism, ADHD, learning disability, cerebral palsy, non-medicinally and non-surgically. These specialists may be an invaluable addition to your team of health care professionals for the treatment of your child with special needs.
Early Action through Early Detection
Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving "bye-bye" are called developmental milestones and indicated the stability of the nervous system. Being ahead or behind in these milestones may indicate a potential problem. Have your infant assessed by your paediatrician or other qualified professional for autism. An excellent checklist that you can use at home can be found at “www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly” and click on “milestones”. Early, appropriate action may prove transformational to your child’s neurological health.
The Gleaner , Monday | April 28, 2014