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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Autism numbers on the rise

Author: Priscilla Chalke
One in six children has a developmental disability, according to new figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the research, published in June issue of the journal Pediatrics, cases of developmental disabilities in children – such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – has increased by 17 percent since 1997.

The figures suggest that “three or four children in a typical elementary school classroom have development disabilities,” according to study author Sheree Boulet, Dr.P.H., an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.Boulet and her co-authors said the increase is largely due to “surges in the number of children found to have autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

This latest study falls on the heels of recent research suggesting that a 24-item questionnaire, given to children by their pediatrician, may be able to identify autism in children as young as one.  According to researchers, the questionnaire tests children’s communication abilities through eye contact, sounds, and gestures.  Detecting as early as possible is important so that those children can start getting the treatment that they need at the earliest age possible.

Researchers have reason to believe that treating autism earlier may be able to manipulate how connections between neurons are being made in the brain, which could significantly improve an autistic child’s development.  Children diagnosed with autism by this questionnaire were able to start treatment at an average age of 19 months, whereas the average age of ASD diagnosis now is around five years old according to the CDC.“We are more aware that early intervention is the key to the greatest success in these kids,” Alan Hilfer, Ph.D., the director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center, in New York City, told CNN.com. “[But] we need the resources to do that.”

Finding the Right Treatment
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, the options can be overwhelming.  There are over 400 different treatments currently in use for children with autism, and it can be hard to discern which ones will benefit your child.  Adding even more confusion is the fact that most of these treatments have never been proven to be effective or safe.  Since Autism refers to a spectrum of disorders, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat since these disorders may turn out to have different causes and different cures.

A treatment gaining popularity and media attention recently is the idea that autistic children may be more sensitive than others to certain foods, specifically those that contain gluten and casein.  According to this theory, autistic children process the peptides and proteins in gluten and casein rich foods differently that other people, which is believed to aggravate their symptoms.  Researchers have found that some autistic people do in fact have abnormal levels of peptides in their bodily fluids.

A big drawback to eating gluten- and casein-free, however, is that it is incredibly difficult to maintain.  Since most grain products and all dairy products are off-limits, it is important to make sure your child is getting enough fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and minerals.  Supplements are essential when using this treatment.

When it comes to supplements for children with autistic disorders, these children have slightly different requirements. Due to the fact that most of these children also suffer from digestive issues, it is hard for them to absorb the nutrients they need properly. Autistic children are often very particular in what they eat, increasing the need to remedy their limited diet with supplements. Parents might want to consider a supplement that offers digestive support and contain active forms of vitamins in order to ease the absorption process so that their child can reap the full benefits of their supplements.

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