Friday, October 30, 2009

Clinic Notes: What Has More Research on Autism Told Us?

A decade or so back, when it became apparent that we were in the midst of an "autism epidemic" the call was repeatedly made for more research into the potential causes of autism and effective treatment options. Now so much autism research is being done I have trouble keeping up with it. Well, I think it is time to ask the question, "What have we learned?" from all of the research. Of course trying to answer this question will generate a lot of arguments--some very volatile, but I have no agenda and will try to answer these questions as I see them.
I think the evidence is compelling that in most cases of autism mercury is not involved. When mercury was taken out of vaccines rates did not drop and in countries where vaccinations are not mandatory the rates of autism are the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups.
Secondly, I don't think in most cases of autism gastrointestinal disorders are a factor. Most of the children with autism who have come to my clinic over the years do not have gastrointestinal problems. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic confirmed this. Gastrointestinal disorders do not occur at a higher rate in children with autism.
Chelation therapy, gluten free diets, and hyperbaric chambers do not cure or even improve the lives of children with autism. All evidence to the contrary is anecdotal and has not been confirmed in double-blind studies. I realize this will not set easy with many people. But I am in the trenches, treating autism daily and I just don't see progress in children who have had these therapies and I think the research is as conclusive as research can be. Research should continue, but it is time to move on to areas of research that have more potential.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Clinic Notes: Mercury Levels in Children with Autism

Science is a slow process and sometimes it's not a discovery that is made in a study that is important, but a study or studies that can rule out something as a cause. No one knows what causes autism but several recent studies, combined with previous studies, in my judgment have gone a long way in ruling out two causes of autism. Previously, I wrote a blog on a large Mayo Clinic study that found no differences in the frequency of gastrointestinal disorders in children with autism and normal controls. And now from the Mind Institute at UC Davis we have a large sample study that finds that there was no differences between mercury levels in the blood levels of children with autism and a control group. This study, combined with previous studies that found no relationship, tells me that it is time to move on and investigate other variables that have more potential.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Clinic Notes: There's an App for That

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the most effective treatment for autism. Unfortunately, well-trained ABA therapists are expensive and hard to find. On my website ( I offer an online ABA course for caregivers as well as ABA eBooks, ABA Case Histories, and individual ABA programs. Many parents and other caregivers who have not been able to find and/or pay for an ABA therapist have told me how helpful my website has been for their child with autism. I was watching an iPhone commercial the other day that was talking about all of the apps that could downloaded to the iPhone--apps for everything imaginable and I got to thinking. Why not iPhone apps for ABA? I'm working on it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Clinic Notes: Autism in Adults

As I have mentioned in previous blogs the incidence of autism is rising. This is well documented by stats put out by the CDC and I see many more children in my clinic now with an autism diagnosis then I did in the past. In the last decade or so many researchers label the rise as an explosion. Well autism is a lifelong disorder and one question that has not been answered is where are the adults with autism now? And how are they functioning? Are we going to have to have massive programs to aid adults with autism when the children we are seeing now grow up? A recent study in England attempts to answer some of these questions. England's National Health Service conducted surveys on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in adults. In regard to autism, the finding of interest was how many adults with autism there were. Most were unmarried males and the frequency was 1 in 100 adults, which was in line with the stats reported for children. Furthermore, the study did not look at adults with autism living in institutions, which would have raised the incidence of adults with autism even higher. This was a small study, but if it is replicated with a larger sample it is hard to argue that an autism epidemic is taking place.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Clinic Notes: Body Language and Autism

Several years ago I published an article titled, "What Horses Tell Us About Autism." (Available at In my clinic I had noticed that when given directions children with autism seem to respond much like horses to body language and tone of voice. If the caregiver is hesitant or indicates nonverbally that they do not expect the child to follow directions then the child does not. And vice versa. A recent study in the UK at Durham University investigated the way adults with autism see and/or process body language and then infer inner feeling and emotions. When shown video clips without sound or facial movements the adults had difficulty interpreting emotion even when it was "obvious" such as shaking a fist. As the authors point out this could greatly effect daily social interactions.