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People have tried several ways to help support and mitigate autism spectrum disorder. From healthcare and pediatrics to psychiatry. There has also been a lot of autism research done on how best to take care of these members of our community.

While autism is hard on the child dealing with it, it can be equally as hard on the parents of that child. Especially when it feels like there’s nothing they can do.

It’s a relief that common doesn’t mean normal. There are ways to not only support people dealing with ASD at the moment but ways to help it get better in the long run.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The CDC1 explains ASD as follows:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop.

Do you see their statement that ‘other causes are not yet known?’ What about ‘there are multiple causes’? These are both true, although for reasons the CDC may not recognize.

The human body is constantly trying to return to homeostasis. The CDC1 says that many different factors can put a child at higher risk of ASD. This includes environmental factors.

Environmental factors like acetaminophen, vaccines, and allergies. Along with an overabundance of things like sugar, food dyes, and other toxins.

Signs and Symptoms

The CDC1 says:

People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.

These are not the only signs and symptoms of someone dealing with autism. People struggling with autism may also struggle to communicate frustration. They might avoid eye contact or have outbursts and developmental delays. It’s also common for people wrestling with autism to do what is called stimming.

Stimming is defined by Merriam-Webster2 as:

a self-stimulatory behavior that is marked by a repetitive action or movement of the body (such as repeatedly tapping on objects or the ears, snapping the fingers, blinking the eyes, rocking from side to side, or grunting) and is typically associated with certain conditions.

These actions can be frustrating to others. Especially if they are not used to communicating with someone who functions in this way. Outbursts and not communicating frustration well can also become dangerous at times. Both to the autistic child and the person they’re trying to communicate with. Family members may know better how to interact with the child. People, as people, can be unpredictable in general, even more so when they’re in pain. And children and adolescents dealing with ASD are. Let’s look at why.

Environmental Factors That Impact ASD

Leaky Gut

At the Wellness Way, most of our patients that deal with autism have a lot of allergies. These allergies can cause many varied immune responses. These responses can range from pain to cognitive, skin to sleep. , which can then be tested.

What is leaky gut? Harvard Health3 explains it this way:

Inside our bellies, we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond.

Allergies happen when something in bloodstream isn’t supposed to be there. The body recognizes this and treats it like an invader. Even if that thing is food, the immune system records it as an intruder and fights it every time it shows up in the future.

If your gut is leaky, this is all the more likely, resulting in more allergies.

A leaky gut can also irritate the gut itself. Why? Because one of the ways the body reacts to allergies is with inflammation. Learn more about the gut here.

Inflammation

Most people don’t look at a child’s autism thinking that inflammation could be a trigger. Or even that it could be exacerbating the situation. But inflammation can have a lot of effects most of us don’t think to attribute to it.

Inflammation is part of the body’s healing mechanisms. It’s when becomes chronic that things go downhill. This inflammation can come from, or worsen because of, a lot of different factors. Things like allergies and mental stress. An overabundance of sugar, food dyes, or preservatives could also be the culprit.

We all have certain levels of stress we can handle—physical, mental, and chemical. In chiropractic, these are called the Three T’s. Traumas, toxins, and thoughts. The body reads all stress as the same. Stress because you’re fleeing a burning house and stress because of family relationships? Handled the same way within the body’s response.

If your child is already at their body’s stress threshold? They’re not going to be as focused on learning new things as surviving the day. This could lead to a child’s development seeming to lag behind their peers.

This is also why harmless stimming behaviors and fidgets aren’t always bad things. If stimming or leaving an overstimulating environment help your little one? Allow your child their coping mechanisms. It’s not any worse for an autistic child than the coping mechanisms we come up with for our stress. Depending on the situation, it might even be more productive.

Family Members Acting as Buffers

People can be rude. Especially when things a child is coping with, or your family dynamics aren’t what they’re used to. Entrust siblings and parents to be a buffer for the child struggling with ASD.

What if someone is pushing the idea that ‘it’s just one piece of cake; it won’t hurt anything’? Allow the family of the child to step between the child’s special needs and the one offering. Encourage both siblings and parents to be able to state firmly, “No. Johnny can’t have a piece of cake. No. It’s not just a treat. It’s a matter of his quality of life, and a child’s needs.”

If it’s to protect your child or sibling, it’s okay to be rude.

Encourage them to let you know if things are getting to be too much. Make sure the child knows that they can step out if they need to, and you’ll go with them. That it’s okay; their well-being is more important than whether they look great-aunt Janet in the eyes. Especially if that causes more mental stress than they can handle.

Remember to have patience with your child or adolescent. They’re struggling with keeping their mental health in a good place. More than likely, they’re in a lot of pain. Remind them that their family supports them. Their family and other caretakers want to help them reclaim their wellness. Sometimes, that means giving them a bit of a break from the ‘expected’ socialization. And that’s fine.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

You are not a robot, and your body doesn’t need metal inside it. When metal is put into the body, it causes an immune response, just like allergies.

The NIH4 explains some of the results of heavy metal toxicity as follows:

Heavy metals generate metal-specific free radicals or reactive oxygen species(ROS) that cause oxidative stress to cells.

  • These result in:
  • DNA damage, impaired DNA repair, cell apoptosis, or carcinogenesis.
  • Peroxidation of cell membrane lipids and cell damage
  • Inactivation of the enzyme proteins.
  • Prevention of protein folding.
  • Protein aggregation.
  • Conformational changes that affect their structure and function and cause cell damage.

Aluminum is one of these heavy metals. Aluminum is frequently used as an adjuvant in vaccines. The CDC5 puts it this way:

Aluminum-containing adjuvants are vaccine ingredients that have been used in vaccines since the 1930s. Small amounts of aluminum are added to some vaccines to help the body build stronger immunity against the germ in the vaccine. Aluminum is one of the most common metals found in nature and is present in air, food, and water. Previous scientific research has shown the amount of aluminum exposure in people who follow the recommended vaccine schedule is low and is not readily absorbed by the body.

Let’s break this down a little bit.

Aluminum Helps the body build stronger immunity

How does this happen? How do aluminum adjuvants help build immunity?

The NIH6 puts it this way:

Aluminium adjuvants potentiate the immune response, thereby ensuring the potency and efficacy of typically sparingly available antigen. Their concomitant critical importance in mass vaccination programmes may have prompted recent intense interest in understanding how they work and their safety. Progress in these areas is stymied, however, by a lack of accessible knowledge pertaining to the bioinorganic chemistry of aluminium adjuvants, and, consequently, the inappropriate application and interpretation of experimental models of their mode of action.” (Emphasis ours)

So, how does it work? They don’t know.

The amount of aluminum exposure is low and not readily absorbed

How many vaccines do children get per visit? According to the vaccine schedule7, it can be anywhere from one to eight vaccines in a single visit. They don’t get that many every well-child visit, granted, but they do get twenty-five before they’re a year old, according to the CDC’s recommendations8. So the amount of aluminum exposure is low? Maybe in a single vaccine. But take that number and multiply it by twenty-five, in a little body, and the exposure isn’t low.

What else does that quote say? The aluminum doesn’t get readily absorbed into the child’s body. And that’s true—not all the pathways for detoxing things like aluminum are fully formed in a young child. So what is all the aluminum of those twenty-five vaccines doing? Just sitting there in baby’s body.

One of the most common metals in our water and air

Maybe the amount of aluminum in the vaccines could be negligible. Maybe, if they were to only get one, and that’s the only source of the exposure. But it’s not. We’re exposed to it in our air and water, as well. The amount of heavy metal toxicity your child may have been exposed to, then, wasn’t negligible. It wasn’t low. It was building up, and sitting there.

The good news is that you can test the amount of heavy metals in your system. You can detox from them. Your body is constantly trying to get back to homeostasis, and it is made to be able to repair itself.

Diminishing the Parental Stress

Developmental disorders can be just as hard on the families of children struggling. Childcare isn’t easy. Period. Family life when that child has unique needs can be even harder.

There is no “you will get autism” gene. The body is constantly trying to return to homeostasis. A child’s diagnosis isn’t the end of the story; it is a sign you need to address something. And, a lot of the time, that something has to do with toxins. Often a starting point is food and how much sugar the child is taking in.

There’s a quote from Chris Guillebeau that says:

The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.

Don’t feel bad because you didn’t do something yesterday or two years ago. Start today so that you and your child will thank you in the future.

Respite Care

We all love our kids. That doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need a break from them. Parents of children with an autism diagnosis, or suspicion, are no exception. Invest in a date night. Join an autism-related support group. Let yourself acknowledge how tired you are. Don’t have anything planned? That’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to hire a babysitter for a night off, anyway.

What Now?

A child with autism, or any health challenge, can be hard on the family dynamic and family stress. Things can always get better. Get your family’s allergies tested, cut the sugar intake, and work on healing their gut. Most of all? Have patience with everyone involved. It’s not an easy situation for anyone.

To learn more about how to do health differently, contact a Wellness Way clinic near you!

 

 

Resources

  1. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?: CDC
  2. Stimming: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  3. Leaky Gut: What is it, and What Does it Mean for You?
  4. Heavy Metal Toxicity: NIH
  5. Adjuvants and Vaccines: CDC
  6. The immunobiology of aluminum adjuvants: how do they really work?: PubMed
  7. 2022 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth Through 6 Years Old: CDC
  8. Vaccines by Age: CDC
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