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Autism: A Common Diagnosis

Dec 26, 2007
When a baby is born, the parents look it over, making sure all ten fingers and toes are in their place. Finding comfort and breathing a sigh of relief, the parents know that their new baby is "healthy". A few months down the road, when the colic doesn't subside or when the baby doesn't look when it's name is called, a little voice inside the mother's head might begin to question what is happening. She knows something is not right, but can't quite put her finger on it.


Autism is a disorder that affects nearly 1 in 150 children each year, 75% of which are boys. Classic symptoms of the disorder include lack of eye contact, extreme sensitivity to sound, touch, or light, impaired communication and social skills, and repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping or obsession with spinning objects. Symptoms can be recognized as early as a few months or begin as late as age 3.


Autism is called a spectrum disorder, meaning there are different levels of severity and different intricacies with regard to symptoms. When the diagnosis is made that a child is autistic, parents are sent off into an unfamiliar world of confusion and heartache. That perfect baby they brought home from the hospital is no longer the child they thought it was. Their dreams of seeing their daughter walk down the aisle or their son play football are shattered by the label that is "special needs".

What physicians and educators many times fail to express to parents during this sensitive time is that this child is a wonderful human being capable of experiencing love, laughter, pain, confusion and all of the other emotions we all feel. The difference is that people on the autistic spectrum do not communicate the same way others do. But, this does not mean that autistic children cannot grow up to be highly functioning citizens.

There are many schools of thought about why children become autistic and what can be done to help alleviate some of their symptoms. Theories about the causes of autism range from speculation about mercury used in childhood immunizations to genetic predisposition triggered by environmental factors, pesticides, antibiotics, Candida in the mother's birth canal and the list goes on. Treatments range from behavioral to physiological with the ultimate goal being a higher functioning child.


The Defeat Autism Now organization believes that autism can be alleviated through chelation techniques used to draw out toxic metals and chemicals from the child's system. Doctors in the DAN network use supplements, vitamin and mineral creams and other techniques under supervision to help stabilize the child's toxin and mineral levels and lessen the severity of symptoms.

An example of a behavioral approach to treating autism is the ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis method. In this method, the child goes through intensive individualized behavioral work. Sometimes upwards of 40 hours a week, an autistic child will work with therapists to increase functioning by developing social skills and decreasing problem behaviors. The overall goal of ABA, as with many of these methods, is to help the child to be as independent and socially successful as possible.

There are other controversial therapies that many parents try in an effort to find what works for their child. These treatments include Gluten and Casein Free Diets, Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy, Secretin Therapy, Facilitated Communication, Pancreatic Enzymes, Human Growth Factor, Stem Cell Therapy, Anti-fungal Treatment, IV Immunoglobulin Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Play Therapy, Music Therapy, and many more. The key to all of these therapies is to pay attention to what helps the child and what doesn't. Each autistic child is different from the next, so what works for one child, might have little or no impact on another.


Parents of autistic children often feel helpless when trying to navigate the educational system with an autistic child. While they believe one educational method would benefit their child, schools, teachers, administrators and therapists might have differing opinions. Parents can run the gamut of emotions in this situation from being complacent to being enraged and frustrated as school systems tend to focus more on financial constrictions rather than advocating for what is best for the child.

A diagnosis of autism is not a life sentence for parents or children, it is simply a different course in life than one might have expected. It is not an easy course by any means and requires a tremendous amount of time and motivation, but the rewards are worth the fight.

What are the rewards? Knowing that you are being an advocate for someone that cannot advocate for him or herself. Knowing that you will have done everything you could to help give this child the life they deserve to live. Knowing that in their own way, they really appreciate your love and support and need it every day. Knowing that you are doing what is best for you and your family.

If your child is autistic, find a network of friends who have autistic family members, communicate with them about your experiences, treatments, doctors, therapies, books, films and other media that can help you chart your course. You are not alone even though you might feel it sometimes. Don't be afraid to reach out to others.

There are many people out there just like you who are looking for answers, so be active in the community around you and you will find the strength to cope. Fight for your child to be happy, but don't forget about your own happiness. Your child may not be the one you once dreamed of, but they have gifts to share with you. It is your job to see them for who they are and not what you wish they had been.
About the Author
Britt Michaelian, MA is a family safety expert and CEO of Responsible Family Company, designed to educate and empower families in the areas of safety, health and responsible living. Sign up for the newsletter, order a Safety Consultation and award winning DVD at http://responsiblefamily.com
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