Autism Spectrum Disorders – (ASD)

Mother and Son huggingAutism is a developmental disorder that can cause a complex range of behavioural symptoms and may be mild, moderate or severe. The main features of autism are difficulty in social interactions and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests.

People with ASD display a wide range of cognitive ability. This can range from mental retardation to high functioning adults with an above average IQ.

There are three main categories of ASD:

Autism disorder – Individuals with significant impairments in social interaction and communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours which are generally evident prior to three years of age.

There are subtypes of autism:

Regressive Autism: When a child appears to develop normally but then starts to lose speech and social skills. This is typically between the ages of 15 and 30 months.

Infantile Autism: When a child does not achieve developmental milestones and if effectively determined to have had autism from infancy.

Asperger’s disorder or syndrome – Asperger’s syndrome is defined as a part of one of the autism spectrum disorders. It is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Individuals with Asperger’s disorder have some difficulties with social interaction and social communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours. However, those with Asperger’s disorder do not have a significant delay in early language acquisition, cognitive abilities or self-help skills. The condition is often detected later than autism. Mainly this is due to the fact that speech usually develops without any problems at the expected age.

Some of the symptoms may include:

  • lack of social awareness;
  • lack of interest in socializing/making friends;
  • difficulty making and sustaining friendships;
  • inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others;
  • either gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – (Also called atypical autism)

The individual has a marked social impairment but fails to meet the full criteria for either autism disorder or Asperger’s disorder. These individuals may also have some communication impairments and/or restricted or repetitive interests, activities and behaviours.

The finding of ASD has no quantitative biochemical tests available to confirm the disorder. Confirmation is based on a particular development pattern and observation of symptoms.

Risk factors

There are now indications about the relevance and influence in this disorder of biochemical abnormalities such as oxidative stress, decreased methylation capacity, heavy metal accumulation, gut issues including inflammatory bowel disease, mitochondrial dysfunction and immune regulation issues.

  • Factors influencing detoxification, methylation and dopamine signalling.
  • More prevalent in males :(4:1 male to female ratio)
  • Heavy metal exposure – mercury perhaps being the most common
  • Immune dysfunction – Severe maternal inflammation, infections, allergy or autoimmune issues during pregnancy may lead to a ‘cytokine storm’ an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds (cytokines), causing microglial activation (a type of neuroglia – glial cell located throughout the brain and spinal cord) and central nervous system inflammation, influencing neurodevelopment.

Signs and Symptoms

Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least 2 of the following:

  • Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviours such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interests)
  • Lack of social or emotional reciprocity

Qualitative impairments in communication, as manifested by at least 1 of the following:

  • Delay in, or total lack of, development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gestures or mime)
  • In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain conversation with others
  • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
  • Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

  • Preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or in focus
  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals
  • Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole body movements)
  • Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  • Characteristic deviant communication features in autism include a lack of social chat, pragmatic deficits, pronoun reversal, delayed echolalia, neologisms, lack of emotion in speech, phrase repetitions, and idiosyncratic use of language. Behavioural manifestations frequently involve repetitive, self-stimulatory behaviour, especially in more severely affected individuals. This behaviour can be self-injurious in some, such as arm biting, head slapping, and skin picking.

Some useful tests

Serum vitamin D (25-OH D)

ASD patients are commonly significantly deficient in 25-OH-vitamin D.

Homocysteine

Elevated homocysteine levels occur during a failure of methylation and transsulfuration metabolism. (A metabolic pathway involving the interconversion of cysteine and homocysteine, through the intermediate cystathionine).

Ferritin Nutritional deficiencies, especially iron, need to be monitored in people with restrictive diets and neurologic impairment

Gliadin IgG

Positive test results for deamidated gliadin antibodies, IgA or IgG, are consistent with the diagnosis of celiac disease.

Hs CRP A sensitive marker of inflammation

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein that the liver makes when there is inflammation in the body. It’s also called a marker of inflammation and can be measured with an hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) test, sometimes also called a CRP test.

CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis)

A functional test useful for screening digestive capacity, microflora and potential pathogens

Organic Acids

A functional test useful for screening amino acid metabolism to give indicators of mitochondrial function, detoxification capacity and toxicity.

Hair analysis

Screening for metal toxicity, which may be a triggering factor

Urinary porphyrins

A pathology test that provides functional evidence of mercury toxicity.

Porphyrins are produced and excreted as a result of mercury interfering with heme metabolism

Hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2- one (HPL) or Mauve Factor

The Mauve factor test is a urinary test which analyses the level of hPL, a neurotoxic substance found in high levels in schizophrenia, autism, ADHA, alcoholism and other mental disorders. High levels of mauve factor are associated with vitamin B6 and zinc deficiency – treatment with these nutrients could result in the resolution in symptoms and lowered levels of the urinary mauve factor.

Assistance with Natural therapies

As we always mention assistance for improvement is complex and needs a health professional to administer and monitor. However, the examples below will provide you with a general idea – your health practitioner will be able to guide you better for an individual case.

  • A combination of nutrients such s folinic acid, B6, and some others to help cognition, memory, learning and concentration.
  • Nutrients and herbs to assist healthy methylation and neurotransmitter communication
  • Herbs and nutrients to assist detoxification of the liver and support intestinal health.
  • Omega 3 and Vitamin D may be indicated and useful with other supplements.
  • Herbs and nutrients to support gastric acid production for efficient digestion of proteins and improve immune regulation sometimes associated with autism.
  • Specific probiotics are also indicated and can form part of the treatment for assistance in autism.

These are a few of the options that we may utilise to assist and it is important to keep in mind that your health practitioner would be the best person to advise you as each individual case can vary considerably in requirements.

The information provided on this website is for educational purposes. It is not intended to replace advice from your health practitioner. Do not embark on any treatment without proper supervision from your health professional.