In typically-developing children, the second year of life ushers in socialization and mobility. Eye contact becomes more sustained. Babbling precedes talking. Motor skills lead to physical independence. That gives rise to play, and achieving the skills that will be required later, in school.
The treatments that are utilized in successful alternative and complementary techniques are meant to improve youngsters’ overall health. This approach, combined with appropriate traditional therapies, often leads to the necessary communication skills and maturity that enables escape from the most devastating effects of ASD.
Altering the Course
Understanding this revised trajectory is important for recognizing the positive and negative changes that accompany recovery. Speaking at 3 years of age is now a ‘smarter’ individual, who displays the ability to repeat words seemingly without fatigue (echolalia) and can remember entire phrases (scripting).
- Words. There are a few to start, plus some that are only occasional. Then, more consistent speech ensues. Two word sentences materialize, again, only sporadically at first. Gibberish precedes understandable language. Self-talking and whispering proceed to talking to toys, then parents and siblings, older and younger children, finally leading to age-appropriate play.
- Socialization. Turning to voices and the child’s name signals more awareness. Eye contact is a skill that engenders joint attention and learning by looking. Pointing is the earliest sign that this skill is emerging.
- Strength. As core tone improves some remarkable changes can take place, from better posture and ambulation, to the ability to climb monkey bars and push bicycle pedals. Improved mitochondrial function leads to better energy efficiency and less gastro-esophageal reflux, and even decreased strabismus (eyes crossing).
- Sensory processing. Pain thresholds decrease, resulting in a more normal response to getting hurt. Self injurious behaviors and toilet training can respond to reasonable remedial efforts.
The good – A modern ASD protocol encourages the awakening of a toddlers’ neural pathways. This enables better oral-motor functioning; from proper chewing, to sensory improvement and the ability to tolerate a more varied diet, to words, and eventually, functioning speech and language.
The bad – Improvement initially results in increased self-stimulatory behaviors. Especially annoying signs, however, are teeth grinding, screaming and screeching, verbal tics, decreased focus and attention, and even aggression. Therapists’ attempts to ‘control’ these behaviors would be better served by redirection, rather than employing strategies to extinguish such symptoms.
The ugly – Calling restricted interests and repetitive behaviors ‘Obsessive-Compulsive’ is imprecise at best and destructive at worst, especially when doctors try to pharmacologically ‘fix’ the situation. The anxiety that naturally accompanies a child’s awkward development should not reflexly signal a psychiatrist to prescribe strong central nervous system remedies. And, the impression by a neurologist that lack of focus and increased activity may be addressed with stimulant medications is likewise, unwise.
There are multiple causes and presentations that fall under the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. So far, the myriad of treatments – both conventional and alternative – reflect the lack of specificity in understanding the epidemic.
It is not readily apparent exactly which therapy sets off that quantum leap in development in each individual child that enables a parent to observe some glimpse of intellect that indicates neuro-typical processing.
By correctly recognizing those moments of clarity and capitalizing on realized gains, professionals and parents can maximize the chances for a more complete reversal.