Ultrasound Exposure and Autism

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One possible source of autistic disorders might be the ultrasounds that expectant mothers undergo during their pregnancy. Previous generations would do one or two ultrasounds, if that many. The number now is much greater. Improving technology, including the ability to see the ultrasound in real time and to adjust the sonic rays so as to create a more three dimensional view, and the dropping prices that come with common adoption of technology, mean that mothers are sometimes getting twenty or thirty ultrasounds over the course of their pregnancy. Although this does much to set their minds at ease, there is serious concern that these ultrasounds are affecting fetal brain development.

Ultrasound sonograms use concentrated, high frequency sound waves to create pictures of the fetus in the womb. These sonic vibrations, delivered at low volume but at very high frequency, pass through the entire body of the fetus, including the brain. It is not known precisely what changes these sound waves may cause, but a 2006 study on laboratory mice proved that ultrasonic exposure changes the way that neurons distribute themselves in developing brains. Multiple exposures showed progressively greater migrations of neurons. Although the precise ramifications of these changes are not known, it is reasonable to surmise that this may have a deleterious effect on the fetal neural system.

No correlation between ultrasound exposure and any other disorder has yet been proven, but scientists are working hard to gather evidence and test this hypothesis. If there is a connection between ultrasound and autism, then there will certainly be major changes made to prenatal treatment across the world.

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 1

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As a health care practitioner who specializes in autism, the relationship between autism spectrum disorder, genetics and environmental toxicity is first in my mind always and this has also been the subject of research for many years.  What we do know now is that one of the key reasons for the dramatic rise in autism rates in the last 15-20 years can be attributed to environmental toxicity.

Children with autism are more susceptible to oxidative damage and environmental toxins than other children. Autism research has shown that oxidative stress levels are high and antioxidant levels are low.  Antioxidants protect our bodies from harmful chemicals and substances circulating in food, air, water and soil.  They are essential for normal development.  Environmental toxins such as heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances lower a person’s antioxidant status.

In each of our bodies there are 7 detoxification pathways that are supported by antioxidants.  There is a relationship between normal development and detoxification that is necessary to be in balance for children to grow, thrive, and learn new skills.

Research has shown that children with autism have depleted stores of glutathione, one of the body’s most important antioxidants that support detoxification of toxic substances. Researchers have identified that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) had up to 80% of this important compound depleted.  The brain relies 100% on glutathione to support development, therefore as glutathione levels decrease, so does the “fuel” needed for development.

Promising New Environmental Links Surface as Science Continues to Search for Autism’s Roots

200114153-001Many disorders of the mind and the majority of bodily illnesses are now considered to be “caused” by some combination of a genetic predisposition or marker and some type of environmental “trigger”. A more specific version of the classic “Nature vs. Nurture” argument. Even diseases and disorders that go beyond manageable to the realm of being progressively treatable or even in some cases curable often have pathologies or beginnings that are not completely understood or not verifiable in the strict scientific sense.

One previously hotly debated environmental factor thought by some to be related to autism and specifically the rise in its prevalency is immunizations. The decade from 1993-2003 saw an 800% increase in the Autism rate. In the 1980′s children by the age of 6 were given a maximum of 10 vaccines and the incidence of Autism was roughly 1 in every 10,000 children. Based on data from 2006, the current official rate of children with Autism is 1 in 110 and the CDC’s official recommendation totals 36 vaccines by age 6.However during this same period of time two indisputable factors contributed to the apparent dramatic increase. Both parents and doctors are now much more likely to notice and diagnose Autism and the diagnostic criteria have also been expanded to a more inclusive spectrum.

Regardless of whether Autism is on the rise, the most recent study released by esteemed Harvard University points to the environmental factor of the mother’s nutrition (specifically Iron)just before and early on in pregnancy as a link to lowering risk of the disease occurring. Another new report finds specific types of air pollution to cause an increased risk of having an Autistic child. These latest study findings are very exciting because of course if environmental factors are found to be a direct cause for Autism, then there are ways intervene or change the environment and prevent this disease from developing and save countless future children form a difficult or unfullfilled life.

Three Genetic Aberrations Linked To Development Of Autism

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The mutations of three genes have been linked to autism in a new series of studies published in the journal Nature. The genetic aberrations linked to autism spectrum disorders were announced by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The mutated genes were identified as CHD8, SNC2A, and KATNAL2.

The genetic aberrations were discovered using new state of the art technology called exome sequencing. This technology analyzes all protein coding regions of the genome, allowing researchers to characterize and sequence genes. The study used data from over 500 families to sequence the protein enriched areas of the genome, searching for aberrations that appeared in multiple affected children, but not in children without autism.

Using large-scale next-generation sequencing, the Autism Sequencing Consortium, a worldwide group of autism genetics researchers, is working to classify other genetic causes of autism. Researchers believe that more genetic mutations on other genes will also be linked to the development of autism eventually. There are a large number of genes involved in the development of autism and researchers believed that they have discovered around 10% of them so far. Researchers are studying children affected by autism and their parents to uncover the genes that result in the development of autism spectrum disorders.

Researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of autism, but it is believed that autism is influenced by environmental conditions and genetic aberrations. The results of the new series of studies will provide future researchers with a good direction for future studies and valuable insight into the nature of the condition. Researchers say that with further research, they will be able to develop preventative measures and novel treatments for autism.

What is Chelation and How Can it Help My Child with Autism? Part 1

Chelation is the process utilized to remove damaging heavy metals from the body. Mercury, iron, and other metals are often found in the Autistic body and can have negative effects on the brain making Autism symptoms even worse. Another source of damaging metals is Thimerosal, which is found in many childhood vaccines. Chelation Therapy includes the administering of chelating agents to remove heavy metals. Chelation has been proven to remove excess or toxic metals before they can damage the body and was first used in the 1940s by the Navy to treat lead poisoning.

Our bodies have natural methods of eliminating these toxins from our bodies. In the very young and the very old, it can be more difficult to rid the body of heavy metals, which can therefore accumulate faster than they can be removed.

Heavy metals are tested in various regions of the body depending on which heavy metal it is. One of the most sensitive tests available at most labs is called a Porphyrin Profile.

Obese Mothers More Likely to Have Children with Autism

According to recent findings, obese mothers are twice as likely to have children with autism. Researchers found that women who were obese, or had conditions associated with being overweight such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or gestational diabetes were more likely to have children with problems.

This study looked at nearly 1000 children 2-5 years of age, two thirds of whom had autism or other developmental delays, and matched them against the third who had developed normally.

Researchers found that obese women were almost 70% more likely to have a child with autism and more than twice as likely to have a child with a developmental delay.

To read the full story, click here.

Do You Know the Difference between Autism and Asperger’s Disorder?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to recognizing the difference between autism and Asperger’s Disorder. As a parent or caregiver, you may be wondering if they are the same or similar conditions. Don’t be ashamed to not understand the difference as many medical professionals have difficulty determining a clear line between the two conditions.

Often, Asperger’s Disorder is described as a less severe version of autism or a high-functioning form of autism. Children with Asperger’s have the desire to fit in and have interaction with others, but lack the social skills to do so easily. They have excellent language skills, but their speech patterns may be unusual and may be hard for them to understand concepts such as humor or irony. They sometimes lack the ability to pick up on social cues that come naturally to others, like how to interpret body language or how to engage in a conversation. Most with Asperger’s possess average or above average intelligence.

Autistic individuals may play in a way that is considered odd and show obsessive attachments to certain objects. They may act as if they are deaf, ignore verbal cues, repeat certain words over and over again, or be entirely non-verbal. There is a tendency to throw tantrums, shake, flap or move their bodies in odd ways and laugh or cry for what seems like no reason. In those who are verbal, a lack of ability to start a conversation is often evident.

The main difference between these two may be that children with autism have language impairment, whereas children with Asperger’s syndrome do not. However, children with Asperger’s syndrome may have difficulty with the attributes of language, such as making eye contact, initiating conversations, or maintaining conversations. Also, these children don’t have deficits in cognitive skills, whereas some children with autism may have cognitive deficits.

Although there are some defining lines, they may not seem all that clear.  This is the reason that the medical profession has had much difficulty in separating them and tend to lump them together. It may be frustrating to be given a diagnosis which has yet to be clearly defined, it is worth remembering that the presentation of the two conditions is largely the same. Therefore treatments, therapies and educational approaches will also be largely similar. It’s important to remember that all people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome are unique and deserve as much recognition as the areas they have difficulty in.