Autism Spectrum Program
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD)
Whole-Child Naturopathic Program
By Dr. Rahim Habib ND – Naturopathic Doctor
The whole-child naturopathic approach works at improving the individual child’s mental, emotional, social, behavioural, sensorimotor development, and all-round health by addressing a variety of imbalances, such as in the digestive and immune systems, nutrition, toxicity, self-regulatory and structural aspects. In addition to my training, experience and traditional knowledge, up-to-date medical research (see below) is incorporated to guide my naturopathic therapies and treatments to provide a well-rounded and effective program.
Step 1 – Initial Assessment
This includes an in-depth naturopathic consultation with the parent/guardians of the child. In this visit, details of the early influences of the child are discussed, also including family medical history, as well as the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A detailed environmental and nutritional history is gathered by the naturopathic doctor, including digestive and immune system related history, together with assessment for allergies and intolerances.
Step 2 – Objective Testing
Samples are collected from the child to test for nutritional deficiencies (eg: vitamins, minerals), toxicological status, detailed digestion and absorption indicators including microbial state of the digestive tract (yeast, bacteria, parasites, etc), food intolerances (eg: wheat, dairy, others), metabolic indicators (eg: free radicals) and genetics in some cases. Samples may include urine/blood/hair/stool/saliva. Previous medical and psychological test reports are also reviewed. Others involved in the child’s life may be consulted such as teachers, assistants, health practitioners, etc. The first two steps are meant to understand the etiology and aggravating factors in the particular ASD child’s situation.
Step 3 – Examination
A physical examination is performed and will also include observation of physical signs of nutrition, allergy, & energy balance. An assessment of primitive reflexes will also be conducted.
Step 4 – Interventional Program
Based on the first three steps, a whole-child naturopathic interventional program is presented, outlining recommended therapies, duration, monitoring and retesting, including costs.
Types of treatment and therapy may include:
- Dietary changes
- Nutritional supplements (eg: vitamin D, zinc, etc.) or injections (eg: vitamin B12)
- Therapeutic exercises to allow for healthy sensorimotor and cognitive development
- Organ-strengthening (eg: digestion)
- Homeopathic medicine (promotes self-regulation)
- Physical-based therapies (eg: acupressure, osteopathy, craniosacral, Bowen, massage, hydrotherapy, chiropractic)
- Herbal medicines and essential oils
- Environmental medicine & therapeutic cleansing
- Adjusting routines and rhythms of the child
- Adjusting home and school environments
- Integrate care with existing therapists and physicians
Overview of Experience and Selected Research
I have found that intestinal dysfunction in children with ASD is associated with increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behaviour, and sleep disturbances. Seventy percent of children with autism have intestinal symptoms, and many have a “leaky” intestinal lining, which leads to intestinal and immune dysfunction. Micro-organisms in the intestines can be out of balance, and in keeping with the “Bacterial Theory” of Autism, it is important to put the intestinal microbial environment back into balance, in addition to restoring proper digestion and absorption.
The potential role of probiotics in the management of childhood autism spectrum disorders. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. JW Critchfield, et al. Oct 2011.
Alterations of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degree relatives. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. L. de Magistris et al. Oct 2010.
Impaired carbohydrate digestion and transport and mucosal dysbiosis in the intestines of children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances.
PLoS One. BL Williams, et al. Sept 2011.
Food and Nutrition-Related
Specific nutrients are fundamental for proper neurodevelopment and immune function. I often find that when the ASD child’s specific nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies are corrected, a number of benefits can manifest quite quickly and other therapies generate more effective responses. Note emerging nutrition-related theories of Autism including the “Vitamin D Theory.”
Pilot study of the effect of methyl B12 treatment on behavioral and biomarker measures in children with autism. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. K. Bertoglio, et al. May 2010.
Epidemiologic evidence supporting the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development of infantile autism. Dermato-endocrinology. WB Grant, CM Soles. July 2009.
Understanding and determining the etiology of autism. Cellular and molecular neurobiology. S.A. Currenti. Mar 2010.
Analysis of Copper and Zinc Plasma Concentration and the Efficacy of Zinc Therapy in Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and Autism.
Biomarker Insights. AJ Russo, R Devito. Nov. 2011
The immune system plays a large role in the self-regulatory functions of the whole body, and affects and connects everything in the body, including the digestion, nervous system and can have cognitive-behavioural and developmental impact. Auto-immunity and inflammation can be important factors to address, and can be useful indicators to track.
Immune dysfunction in autism: a pathway to treatment.
Neurotherapeutics. July 2010. M. Careaga, J. Van de Water, P. Ashwood.
The immune system’s role in the biology of autism. Current Opinion in Neurology. Apr 2010. P. Goines, J. Van de Water.
Increased immune reactivity and sensitivity to even residential/domestic pollutants can affect cognitive-behavioural-social development. Infants and toddlers may also be neurologically sensitive to medications and their by-products, such as from acetaminophen/paracetamol. Testing and addressing chemical exposures can be useful in the care of ASD children. Options for fever and pain management are also important.
A cleanroom sleeping environment’s impact on markers of oxidative stress, immune dysregulation, and behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. S. Faber et al. Mar 2015.
Environmental toxicants and autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. DA Rossignol, SJ Genuis, RE Frye. Feb 2014.
Acetaminophen may mediate oxidative stress and neurotoxicity in autism. Medical Hypotheses. A Ghanizadeh. Feb 2012.
Preliminary evidence of the in vitro effects of BDE-47 on innate immune responses in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Neuroimmunology. P Ashwood et al. Mar 2009.
Prenatal exposure to residential air pollution and infant mental development: modulation by antioxidants and detoxification factors. Environmental Health Perspectives. M Guxens et al. Jan 2012.
Other Important References