Yesterday, I examined a beautiful little 32 month-old girl who appeared moderately challenged by her autism. By watching the child and listening to the parents’ story, I became fairly certain that there were biomedical interventions that would have a positive effect on improving the youngster’s health which would ultimately lead to changing her behavior for the better. That’s a mouthful, however I’m not so certain that the complex information that I’m trying to impart is always coming out of my mouth correctly.
So, there I was, defending my protocols and remedies (which the father had already acknowledged as leading the family to my practice) and I wondered, “Why do I feel so uncomfortable with my usual explanations?” The answer? Because modern views about autism, its cause, and cure, and even the epidemic proportions of the problem itself remain under question. When a patient is given protocol A or B to follow at home, it involves some very serious discussions. The conclusions should lead to an understanding that we are all on the same page. Or, I won’t be as successful.
A physician is responsible for educating the parents of a juvenile diabetic about sugar levels, insulin injections, lab results, diet and activity. Complicated problems sometimes require complicated explanations. The family won’t be able to ask their local pediatrician about this type of therapy. ASD is a complete mystery to many of those guys and gals. The neurologist claims that all complementary and alternative interventions for such a “genetic” disorder are useless. That might be true if the epidemic that we call Autism was the same disease that they read about in medical school. The Internet represents a tangled web about ASD, for sure.
Here are some facts about the present state-of-the-art regarding medical autism interventions:
Fact: If autism is a medical condition, a medical doctor should be in charge of the recovery.
Fact: Just because “there is no literature to support” a given treatment protocol, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile.
Fact: Conventional therapies (especially behavioral) are the most proven methods of assisting recovery. We need to combine the various traditional and biomedical interventions in order to produce the best results. Any treatment that automatically excludes another – at this time of great ignorance – is, well, ignorant.
Fact: Some medicines don’t taste or smell very good. In fact, they’re darn horrendous. Kids don’t always know what’s best for them.
Fact: No one wants to give their child a ‘shot’. Parents do what we have to do.
Fact: There are negative behaviors that may initially result from many of the biomedical interventions. These include bowel and/or bladder problems, rashes, unusual or more disruptive behaviors, sleep disturbances or interference with traditional therapies or school. A competent practitioner can help the family through such trying times.
Fact: Once on the path to recovery, patients do not just ‘regress’ back into autism. When symptoms arise, the doctor should perform a thorough examination in order to understand the reason for the change in behavior.
Fact: It takes time to get your child on the path to improvement. The older and/or sicker the child is at the time of treatment, the longer and more difficult the journey. This is no mere platitude, rather an exhortation to work even harder to get help. I have found that patience really helps the older patients improve more than you think.
Fact: Curing your child is best discussed with a competent physician, not your neighbor. Not that your friends or co-workers aren’t well-meaning, knowledgeable or possibly even experienced, rather that they don’t carry the responsibility of their advice.
Fact: Speech acquisition is a great thing, not the only thing. Reading and mathematics should take a back seat to behavior and understanding as the most significant skill set leading to a productive outcome.
Fact: There are presently no autism pills, sure-fire protocols, chambers, IV fluids, secret potions or electronic devices that cure autism. Some of those therapies may offer profound improvements, some may carry more risk than others and some may drain your resources. That doesn’t mean that we can’t reverse autism.
Fact: Autism can be best managed by parents who find and listen to a trusted doctor who has proven results and who shows interest in your child’s progress.