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ASD -Symptoms, Diagnoses, Help and Hope

What is ASD, how do we diagnose it and is there hope? Read more below:

More than two decades ago, autism was a mysterious and somewhat obscure disorder, commonly associated with the movie Rain Man (1988), and savantism. It affected an estimated 1 in 5,000 children then. Times have changed. Today, thanks to awareness and advocacy efforts, people now have a much better understanding of autism.

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) though, now estimates that a staggering 1 in 88 children, including 1 in 54 boys, in the United States has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Another recent federal report presented data that autism prevalence among school-aged children, as reported by parents, is 1 in 50. An Autism Speaks-funded South Korean study, which used a more rigorous methodology, found a prevalence of 1 in 38 students.

With the increase in reported prevalence and overall awareness has come a significant expansion in the field of autism research. Piece by piece, we are starting to get a much better picture of what this disorder is and the extent of its complexity. We now know there is not one/single autism, but rather, a spectrum of disorders that have different causes and different manifestations. We also know that both genetic and environmental factors are involved.

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Your Solution Compounding Pharmacy and ASD

ASD by its very nature needs careful diagnosis and the treatment may be very complex. Should you wish to become more familiar with regards to biological or chemical terminology, or want more information, please do not hesitate to immediately e-mail, fax or phone us.

Autism is a disorder that can in many instances, be reversed through bio-medical intervention. Addressing autism involves a holistic approach which is more than prescription drugs alone can achieve. Your Solution Compounding Pharmacy has created a one-stop resource for quality products, support and information to help defeat autism. (See also our dedicated page of Autism/ASD Compounding to Cope and to Heal) We have made it our goal to stay abreast of new medical research and to share significant new treatment ideas and information with physicians and parents.

Autistic children (and adults), diagnosed at any point of the spectrum, can impose severe sacrifices from various parties. Your Solution Compounding Pharmacy offers the content of these pages as assistance and guidelines to parents and family of autistic, or recently diagnosed autistic, children. We do not presume to make any diagnosis, nor do we offer any treatment.

Your Solution Compounding Pharmacy however, is committed to use the full extent of our knowledge and facilities to assist our patients in the treatment prescribed by the patient’s physician. We can offer innovative compounding solutions and will, if required, consult on a professional level with the physician to ensure that our patients do receive the best treatment, thus ensuring optimal therapeutic outcomes.

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Overview of ASD

There are various definitions and descriptions of the disorder. Actually, Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms.

For the more scientifically minded we have included the following definition:

  • It may be said that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, whole body, multi-system, metabolic disorder that affects the brain
  • More specific, Systemic Imbalances of the gastro-intestinal system (leaky gut, yeast overgrowth etc.), as well as the immune, neurological, endocrine, and ecosystems, with poor biotransformation (chemical modification/s made by an organism on a chemical compound), and imbalances of the detoxification and respiratory systems are noted.
  • There are also Metabolic Imbalances affecting the patient’s methylation, trans-sulfuration, detoxification and redox (reduction-oxidation) status/ability, mitochondrial aerobic energy metabolism, with inflammation and oxidative stress manifested.
  • Cellular Imbalances with regards to cell membrane integrity and receptor sensitivity, cell to cell communication, and excitatory/inhibitory neurochemistry also occurs.

Bio-medical intervention attempts to restore these out of balance conditions.

Autism spectrum disorders appear in infancy and early childhood, causing delays in many basic areas of development such as learning to talk, play and interacting with others.

Presently, the medical fraternity don’t have a precise medical test that can diagnose autism based on physiological symptoms; instead specially trained physicians as well as psychologists administer autism-specific behavioural evaluations. The presence of Autism and the severity of the condition are thus expressed on a severity or functioning spectrum. (Asperger's syndrome is now considered to be a high-functioning form of autism and no longer diagnosed separately. Today ASD also includes ADHD and PDD.)

Often parents are the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviours such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways. We therefore encourage parents to trust their instincts and find a doctor who will listen and refer their child to appropriate specialists for diagnosis.

Unfortunately, it has happened that doctors unfamiliar with diagnosing autism sometimes dismiss parent concerns, delaying diagnosis and the opportunity for early intervention therapies. Australia has a high Autism awareness and these incidences are therefore low.

A typical diagnostic evaluation involves a multi-disciplinary team of doctors including a paediatrician, psychologist, speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist. Genetic testing may also be recommended, as well as screening for related medical issues such as sleep difficulties.

Autistic children usually have specific dietary requirements, and meeting their nutritional needs may be challenging. We recommend that you discuss this with the physician that treats the ASD patient. Nutritional therapy such as the GAPS diet is an option that seems to be integral with the treatment of ASD patients.

Sometimes an autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed later in life, frequently in relation to learning, social or emotional difficulties. Just as with young children, diagnosis of adolescents and adults involves personal observation and interview by a trained specialist. Often, a diagnosis brings relief to those who have long struggled with difficulties in relating socially, while not understanding the source of their difficulties.

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ASD -Symptoms leading to, and confirming a diagnosis.

A diagnosis is the formal identification of autism and can be given either in childhood or in adulthood.

The signs and symptoms of autism vary widely, as do its effects. Some autistic children have only mild impairments, while others have more obstacles to overcome. However, every child on the autism spectrum has problems, at least to some degree, in the following three areas:
• Communicating verbally and non-verbally
• Relating to others and the world around them
• Thinking and behaving flexibly


Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers
  • Does not make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
• Does not smile when smiled at.
• Does not respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
• Does not follow objects visually.
• Does not point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
• Does not follow the gesture when you point things out.
• Does not make noises to get your attention.
• Does not initiate or respond to cuddling.
• Does not imitate your movements and facial expressions.
• Does not reach out to be picked up.
• Does not play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
• Does not ask for help or make other basic requests.

 

The following developmental delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s paediatrician
  • By 6 months:    No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
• By 9 months:    No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
• By 12 months:  Lack of response to name.
• By 12 months:  No babbling or “baby talk”.
• By 12 months:  No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
• By 16 months:  No spoken words.
• By 24 months:  No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.

 

Signs and symptoms of autism in older children
  • As children get older, the warning signals for autism become more diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, and these typically revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal communication difficulties and inflexible or even “obsessive compulsive” behaviour. (See more below)

 

Signs and symptoms of social interaction difficulties in autism
  • Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.
• They appear disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them.
• They do not really know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
• They prefer not to be touched, held or cuddled.
• They do not play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
• They have trouble understanding or talking about feelings.
• They seem not to hear when others talk to him or her.
• They do not share interests or achievements with others (such as drawings, toys etc.)

 

Signs and symptoms of speech and language difficulties in autism
  • Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with speech and language. Often, they start talking late.
• They in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch (e.g. ends every sentence as if asking a question).
• They repeat the same words or phrases over and over.
• They respond to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it.
• They refer to themselves in the third person.
• They use language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words).
• They have difficulty communicating needs or desires.
• They have difficulty to understand simple directions, statements or questions.
• They take what is said too literally (misses undertones of humour, irony, and sarcasm).

 

Signs and symptoms of nonverbal communication difficulties in autism
  • Children with autism spectrum disorders have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and using body language. This makes the "give-and-take" of social interaction very difficult for them.
• They avoid eye contact.
• They frequently use facial expressions that don't match what he or she is saying.
• They do not pick up on (understand) other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures.
• They make very few gestures (such as pointing) and often come across as cold or “robot-like”.
• They react unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sound, and may be especially sensitive to loud noises.
• They have abnormal postures and exhibit clumsiness or eccentric ways of moving (e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe).

 

Signs and symptoms of inflexibility in autism
  • Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, inflexible, and even obsessive in their behaviours, activities and interests.
• They follow a rigid routine (e.g. insist on taking a specific route to school)
• They have difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g. throw a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or if bedtime is at a different time than usual).
• They have unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches or rubber bands.
• They obsessively line things up or arrange them in a certain order or stack them.
• They may have a preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (e.g. memorizing and reciting facts about maps, train schedules or sports statistics).
• They may spend long periods of time arranging toys in specific ways, watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car.
• They may repeat the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behaviour, or “stimming”). Some researchers and clinicians believe that these behaviours may soothe children with autism, rather than stimulate them.

 

Common self-stimulatory behaviours
  • Hand flapping
• Rocking back and forth
• Spinning in a circle
• Finger flicking
• Head banging
• Staring at lights
• Moving fingers in front of the eyes
• Snapping fingers
• Tapping ears
• Scratching
• Lining up toys
• Spinning objects
• Wheel spinning
• Watching moving objects
• Flicking light switches on and off
• Repeating words or noises

 

Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign
Some children with autism spectrum disorders start to develop communication skills and then regress, usually between 12 and 24 months. For example, a child who was communicating with words such as “mommy” or “up” may stop using language entirely, or a child may stop playing social games he or she used to enjoy such as peek-a-boo, patty cake, or waving “bye-bye”.
Any loss of speech, babbling, gestures or social skills should be taken very seriously, as regression is a major warning for autism.

Coping with adult diagnosis of autism
A diagnosis of autism can present great challenges to a family. It may cause the person diagnosed to feel confused, upset, angry and even guilty. It will affect every member of the family in different ways and it is important to acknowledge that they will require access to particular sources of information, help and support.

Why is adult diagnosis important?
  For adults with autism, receiving a proper explanation of their condition can:
•   bring a sense of relief (for both the individual and their family)
•   allow access to services they would otherwise not be entitled to, or aware of
•   bring about a better understanding of how to deal with any problems they may have
•   may give their families access to a range of financial help
•   get them directed to a range of therapies and approaches that may help them to cope and learn

 

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Hope

There are different opinions among doctors, parents and experts about what causes autism and how best to treat it and there is much that we still do not know. But on one fact everyone agrees; early and intensive intervention helps. For children at risk and children who show early signs, it can make all the difference.

If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brain’s remarkable “plasticity”. Although autism could be hard to diagnose before 24 months*, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
* Researchers are regularly using MRI scans to reveal differences in the brain’s white matter in infants as young as 6 months.

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April is Autism Month

10 Things About Autism That Was not Known even 18 months Ago
April is Autism Awareness Month, a good opportunity to reflect on the notable progress made by researchers, as well as the critical importance of building on this success and advancing the science much further.

Here are ten important things learnt about ASD in the past 18 months that not only hold interest for researchers and clinicians, but also offer new insights and actionable information for parents:

  1. High-quality early intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can do more than improve behaviours, it can improve brain function.
  2. Being nonverbal at age 4 does NOT mean children with autism will never speak. Research shows that most will in fact learn to use words, and nearly half will learn to speak fluently.
  3. Though autism tends to be life long, some children with ASD make so much progress that they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. High quality early-intervention may be key.
  4. Many younger siblings of children with ASD have developmental delays and symptoms that fall short of an autism diagnosis, but still warrant early intervention.
  5. Research confirms what parents have been saying about wandering and bolting by children with autism: It's common, it's scary and it doesn't result from careless parenting.
  6. Prenatal folic acid, taken in the weeks before and after a woman becomes pregnant, may reduce the risk of autism.
  7. One of the best ways to promote social skills in grade-schoolers with autism is to teach their classmates how to befriend a person with developmental disabilities.
  8. Researchers can detect pre-symptom markers of autism as early as 6 months -- a discovery that may lead to earlier intervention to improve outcomes.
  9. The first medicines for treating autism's core symptoms are showing promise in early clinical trials.
  10. Investors and product developers respond to a call to develop products and services to address the unmet needs of the autism community.
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