Posts Tagged ‘thyroid’

Preventing Autism

November 28, 2014

Researchers have learned SO much in the past 10 years about risk factors for autism and other developmental delays that I included the word “prevention” in the title, and devoted a chapter to this subject in Outsmarting Autism. I was thus thrilled when a friend introduced me to a mother who runs a parent support group for families with members on the spectrum. She thought the group a good match as a host for me on my year-long book tour.

What a surprise when I received the following response: “Thank you so much for reaching out to me. To me, autism is not something that needs to be healed or prevented. I truly believe with all my heart that it is just as much a part of my boy as him having brown hair and hazel eyes, and I want folks to accept my boy and his neurology the way it is. I respect the fact that you have dedicated your life to what you believe in. But as you can see, I may not be the best person to help you reach your readers. Respectfully yours,”

At least she was civil; the next “push back” was not. The Executive Director of an autism support group cancelled an already scheduled and promoted book signing and talk, because I use the word “prevention” in the title.  She accused me of attempting to eliminate individuals with autism. Those who have followed my 40-plus-year career of counseling families of children with disabilities know that my goal is neither annihilation nor elimination, but rather rehabilitation.

Clearly, as British homeopath Alan Freestone points out, there are two very divided camps on autism:  Those who believe we can only increase autism awareness, but not function, and those whose goal is healing.  I belong to the second contingent. Parents know that their children with autism are medically sick, not just quirky.  Any parent whose autistic child has chronic diarrhea, sleep issues or unremitting epilepsy wants more than awareness.  Haven’t the awareness folks read the desperate Facebook posts from moms who have been up every two hours bathing a child covered in feces or are sitting a vigil at a hospital where doctors are trying to stop a young boy from constant grand mal seizures?  Maybe not. Well, I believe in prevention.  My beliefs in prevention are not the same as believing in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  They are based in science and I will continue to educate couples who are interested.  I do not need the naysayers in my ear. And here is what I tell them:

PRECONCEPTION

A year before conception, couples should start thinking about cleaning up their environments, changing their lifestyles, and getting rid of their body burdens. A full year out? Yes, because that’s how long it takes to replace the bad stuff, to   learn about the good stuff, and for the body to detoxify safely. The steps I recommend not only improve fertility, discourage complications of pregnancy, miscarriage, and problems during delivery, but also improve the chances of having a healthy baby. Run Laboratory Tests I love tests. For over 30 years I administered diagnostic tests to help parents understand and make informed decisions about their children’s education, health and functioning. Tests only give you information; what makes information powerful is your freedom to decide what to do with it. Here are some tests to consider BEFORE becoming pregnant.  None are routine; in most cases, you must discuss them with your doctor. If your doctor refuses to order them, you can also work with Life Extension Foundation, a membership organization.  This is a wonderful Florida-based company sells both lab tests and high quality supplements.  You have the blood work done at a local lab and one of their doctors interprets the results.  They make money by selling supplements, but their prices are good, and a bonus is a periodic magazine of research that is worth the price of membership.

  • Identify toxic elements – The earlier in gestation toxic exposures occur, the more detrimental they can be to development. Every woman should know what toxins her body is holding before she gets pregnant, and detox appropriately, to assure that her baby isn’t exposed in those early weeks before a positive pregnancy test.

Doctor’s Data Lab offers a hair analysis of over 30 potentially toxic elements, including lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum, copper, antimony and cadmium to which we are all exposed.  According to Phillipe Granjean MD, internationally recognized environmental health expert, and author of the extraordinary book Only One Chance:  How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development- and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation, this inexpensive test is very predictive of the toxic load a pregnant woman dumps into her unborn baby.  Shouldn’t EVERY woman have this test?

  • Screen thyroid function – Low levels of T4 or marginally elevated levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) can affect the unborn baby.  Environmental toxins are endocrine disrupters. Insufficient levels or even a mild drop of thyroid hormone in the mother at critical stages of brain development can affect cognitive function in the fetus. Have complete thyroid testing done. Once you know your levels, take natural measures, such as adding iodine to normalize thyroid function.
  • Measure vitamin D levelsEvery day we are learning about the importance of Vitamin D in health.  In 2009 researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiencies in pregnant women should be considered a risk factor for neuro-developmental disorders such as autism. Vitamin D regulates thousands of genes in the human genome. The importance of prenatal, neonatal, and postnatal vitamin D supplementation cannot be underestimated. Vitamin D during gestation and early infancy is essential for normal brain functioning.

Insufficient vitamin D is a universal problem. You want your number to be over 30, even though 25 is considered “normal.”  40 is even better!  If your level is low, start taking supplements at 2000-5000 units of D3 per day, preferably in more absorbable liposomal drops available from Biotics.  Recheck in 3 months. High doses are sometimes necessary for a short time to elevate levels. To learn more about vitamin D, check out the Vitamin D Council.

  • Run an ELISA IgG test for food sensitivities – Your doctor can order this from a local lab. Look for gluten, casein, soy, egg, garlic, and other intolerances.  Rotate mildly problematic foods and eliminate those with moderate to severe reactions. 
  • Know your genetic profile Go to 23andME and do a quick gene screening to pinpoint possible difficulties with detoxification. Work with a health-care professional to identify supplements that can remediate glitches called single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs . 
  • Run antibody titers Find out which diseases you are already immune to by running blood titers.  Make sure that you are not a hepatitis carrier.  Put that in writing to prevent your baby from getting the Hep B shot at birth.
  • Remove any mercury-containing amalgams – Even one or two “silver” fillings off-gas into the mouth with brushing, chewing and drinking hot liquids. Mother’s mercury load crosses the placenta, landing in the liver and kidneys of the fetus. Infants’ levels correlate with the number of amalgams in the mother. Later, mercury shows up in the breast milk, which may provide better absorption of mercury in the nursing infant.  Be certain to have amalgams removed safely by a biological dentist.
  • Detoxify the bodyMothers dump a good part of their body burden into their unborn babies. Consider a homeopathic detox program that clears out chemicals, metals, parasites, bacteria, viruses and radiation. The lower your toxic load, the lower the baby’s.
  • Check for retained reflexesThe Spinal Galant and Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) assist the baby in maneuvering through the birth canal.  Mothers who retain either of both of these reflexes may have difficulty giving birth naturally. The baby may not “drop,” be breech, or require a Cesarean section. Simple reflex integration activities for a month prior to birth can help the birth be smoother.

While Pregnant increase input in several areas:

  • FoodThe old saying that goes, “Eating for two,” is correct.  Make nutrient rich, not high caloric choices. Say “yes” to 75-100 grams of protein, organic fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, nuts and free-range, antibiotic-free animals. Say “no” to sugar and its substitutes, wheat, dairy and hydrogenated fats.  Say “once-in-a-while” to small, cold water fish and soy products.  Take the time to sit down and eat slowly, chewing well.
  • Supplements While the right, good quality foods can provide much needed nutrition, eating adequate amounts of some nutrients is simply impossible. Contraceptives and other medications can deplete minerals. Calcium, mercury-free fish oils, iron, folate and B vitamins are essential for growing babies.  Work with a health care professional to determine the right amount for you.
  • Drinks At least eight cups of good quality water. No alcohol, sodas (especially diet), caffeinated tea or coffee.
  • Relaxation & SleepLearn meditation. Take a yoga class for expectant mothers. Practice daily, breathing deeply. Oxygenation of cells enhances their function. Releasing stress allows the body to put its energy into growing a healthy baby. Turn in before 10:00 pm and sleep at least nine hours.
  • ExerciseStretch to increase flexibility. Walk or attend a class two or three times a week.

How many sonograms do you need? It is really exciting to see a baby in utero, know whether it is a boy or girl, and then call it by name. But, no one knows the long-term effect of sonograms on the unborn baby. A sonogram is sound…sound as loud as a plane’s engines revving up in a baby’s ears. One study showed, the more sonograms, the more likely the baby is to have ear infections.  Another showed that babies later diagnosed with autism had endured three or more sonograms.  Consider limiting them unless medically necessary, and not do them just out of curiosity.

TAKE HOME POINTS

Know the risk factors for autism.  Limit exposures to toxins, while maximizing nutrition and health during preconception and pregnancy. Understand how your lifestyle choices support a baby’s health!  Every child deserves to be healthy, have the opportunities to develop language, have friends and learn! Autism is preventable! Let’s start now!  

My Kuwait Adventure

June 7, 2012

It all started with an innocent email on April 12th.  “Hi Patricia. We are Lamia and Nabil from Kuwait. We have an autistic son. We met you in 1996 in Washington, DC. Do you remember us?  Our son was 5 at that time; he is 21 now. Awaiting your kind reply.”

Did I remember them?  Are they kidding? How could I forget this wonderful couple and their adorable non-verbal son and toddler daughter.  I fired back an instant reply:  “Of course I remember you!”

Minutes later, another email:  “Wow, nice hearing from you. Hope you are fine. We and a group of parents who are working to establish a center for special needs kids age 21 and above. The center was approved by the government a week ago.  It’s a big project. Therefore, we are requesting that you and other consultants whom you recommend, visit us by end of May to discuss the preliminary stages of development. We want to contact you on Skype for further details.”  I was trembling with excitement!

On Skype, we got down to business after laughing about what 15 years had done to our hair and figures.  I was given a carte blanche to put together a team.  Less than a month later, we hopped onto a United airbus, and in the middle of one of those famous desert sandstorms, landed in Kuwait.

Catching Up

Since Lamia, Nabil and I had had NO contact since 1996, they were unaware that I had run a non-profit organization for the past 15 years, written a book, or that exciting new therapeutic options existed for their son and others. They confessed that they had thought about trying to find me in the past, but only now did they ask their 17-year-old son to “Google” me.  They described their pleasure when my photo appeared on the computer monitor; their delight could hardly have equaled mine.

When I decided to wind down DDR several years ago, many asked, “Patty, what will you do now?’  I responded, “I don’t know; something will come up!” Was Kuwait where my boundless energy was headed?  To a country the size of New Jersey, over 6000 miles away, where over 3000 children born in 1991 were affected by the devastating oil fires?  All I could think of was what horrendous damage breathing all those toxic fumes did to pregnant mothers and their babies.

My Team

I asked for a week to choose my team. After making many contacts, I was really fortunate to be accompanied by two amazing women: my long-time friend, occupational therapist Aubrey Lande, and a new acquaintance, special education teacher and art therapist, Becky Rutherford. Aubrey is a Boulder-based sensory processing expert, award winning composer and musician, expert horsewoman and Watsu (a combination of aquatic bodywork, massage, joint compression, shiatsu, muscle stretching and dance) instructor. Becky, a sixth grade teacher at Beaver Run Special School in Kimberton, PA, is an expert in Curative Education and the Camphill movement, both aimed at nurturing individuals with special needs toward leading full lives. She and I met at the Camphill Symposium a year ago.  She still carried my business card in her purse, even though she was sure she would never see me again!

Our Assignment

Our mission was multi-faceted.  We were to advise Kuwaiti professionals, officials and parents on all aspects of the proposed center, including curriculum, architecture and engineering, meet and consult with a dozen families, put on a conference, and visit every government agency and non-profit organization having anything to do with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, genetic disorders and other developmental disabilities.  In a week, in 110 degree heat, with a mandatory siesta each afternoon! We hit the scorching pavement running!

Our gracious hosts accompanied us to about a half dozen schools and centers, including ones for early intervention.  In Kuwait, children are separated by disability, and the approaches are ones that go way back to the seventies. We observed toddlers sitting in hard, unforgiving chairs trying to match colors and shapes and teachers intent upon extinguishing unacceptable behaviors.

It’s a Small World After All

One of Kuwait’s top SLPs joined us and served as our unofficial interpreter.  “Dr. Lulu” trained at the University of Cincinnati, where she shared that she lived with a Jewish family.  “What was their name?” I asked, taking a stab.  Would you believe they were good friends of my family?

One family shared a file folder of reports on their daughter, including a summary from a consultant in Baltimore who had met with them in 1994 when the parents sought medical advice at Johns Hopkins.  The consultant had not seen the child, but took a history and wrote out her recommendations: 1) Begin a gluten-free, casein-free (GF/CF) diet. 2) Use supplements, including omega 3 and probiotics, 3) Have the child evaluated by  an occupational therapist with background in sensory issues, 4) Get an evaluation by a developmental optometrist, and 5) Contact Patricia Lemer and join Developmental Delay Resources!  I nearly feel off my chair!  Although the report was dated May, 1994, it could easily have been written today.  The same recommendations were appropriate!

Vision

Almost every individual with a disability we met had an untreated vision problem. Many had a strabismus, some a nystagmus.   Almost none wore lenses, and those who did were over-prescribed (Yes, I’m practicing optometry without a license again!).  One father told us that the eye doctor anesthetized his 15-year-old, non-verbal daughter with autism to determine her Rx.  At least once a week she rips her glasses off her face and breaks them.  He buys frames by the dozen and every weekend, combines usable components to make new pairs until he runs out of spare parts and has to buy another dozen.  I muscle-tested different strengths of plus lenses on her and recommended one that was half strength.  I’m waiting to hear the results!

Oil Rich, Resource Poor

Many think of Kuwait as a place where the streets are paved with gold and everyone wears Rolex watches; that’s a myth.  Yes, the COUNTRY is rich and takes excellent care of its citizens, but the PEOPLE are just like us.  While they do not have to pay taxes or worry about the cost of gasoline, they work hard to make a living.  They are lawyers, accountants, computer specialists, investment bankers, and business owners. If they decide to go out of the country to seek help for their children with disabilities, it’s on their own nickel.

Occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) are both emerging fields, with new master’s degrees just becoming available at Kuwait University.  Until the first classes graduate this year, like almost all other commodities, including food, cars and clothing, therapists are imported.

Multiple Disabilities

Few families have a single child with issues.  Because they live with large, loving, extended families, many homes have several children with delays, including autism, Down’s and some rare genetic syndromes I never heard of.  Obviously the chemical soup from the Gulf Wars, unknown viruses and bacteria, and combinations of heavy metals including depleted uranium, mercury and who knows what else, tweaked their genes in a unique way. I could not help but wonder if the deer tick that carries Lyme disease has a cousin who lives in date palms. Add an incomprehensible vaccination schedule that starts with tetanus shots for the pregnant mother at the fifth and seventh month, a hepatitis B shot at birth for the baby, and monthly boosters containing up to ten pathogens, and you have an immunological nightmare!

And the pattern of birth order defies everything we thought we knew about “toxic load.”  The first couple of children may be neuro-typical, then one or more with autism, and then a couple more without delays.  We also saw many females with disabilities.  What’s that all about? Are estrogen levels low?

Parents Everywhere Have the Same Concerns

Our conference attracted over 100 parents and professionals who carefully wrote out questions and waited over an hour to query us in person. “Will my child ever lead a ‘normal’ life?”  “How can I calm my two non-verbal adult sons with autism sufficiently so they can fly out of the country?”  “How can I stop my son from masturbating?”  “Two of my five children have autism and my wife is pregnant.  How can I prevent my new baby from becoming autistic?” I really struggled to find solutions that were compatible with Kuwaiti culture, religious beliefs and family values.

Center 21

Lamia and Nabil and their friends are extremely concerned about what their son will do all day now that he has no school, no program, nothing to get up for in the morning.  So they took the bull by the horns and petitioned the government for help. After a year of hard work, Center 21 was born. Kuwait is no different than the rest of the world, where those babies born at the beginning of the autism epidemic are turning 21 this year. The need is prodigious.

Center 21 will launch this summer with a small camp of a dozen or so individuals who have autism, cerebral palsy and variety of other special needs. It will gradually grow to 30 or so, and in the fall be housed in a villa. By 2013, hopefully it will expand to accommodate 100, and relocate to a renovated school building.  Hiring will begin soon for bilingual Arabic-English speaking special educators, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and recreational therapists.

While no statistics exist on numbers who are aging out of schools, the plan is to serve 1000 young adults with special needs by 2015 on a lively mall-like campus that includes villas, shops, cafes, a medical center, therapy rooms, art studios, a sports complex and more.  A huge undertaking?  You bet!  And if anyone can accomplish this enormous feat it is these dedicated, determined parents!

For now my team’s job is to help the Kuwaitis understand the relationships between health, sensory processing and behavior.  I think if we can accomplish that, our work will be rewarded by seeing these beautiful young adults become more functional.

Next Steps

I cannot wait to set up a testing program to evaluate, identify and prescribe treatments for the underlying biomedical issues. Thyroid problems, vitamin D, essential fat and other nutritional deficiencies are clearly rampant.  We have already started working with Great Plains Laboratory and New Beginnings Nutritionals in this regard.  A Kuwaiti pharmacy is prepared to import whatever supplements are necessary to treat underlying problems.

I hope to return to Kuwait in the fall, as the Kuwaiti’s say often, “In sha Allah.” Lamia, Nabil and their extended families were such generous hosts. We parted in tears with promises to stay in touch.  Putting together a team of developmental vision experts is my next goal.  Some lenses, prisms and simple visual therapy activities can make a HUGE difference for these young adults.  I believe we can “buy” 10-15 IQ points with these measures that take stress off the nervous system and free up energy for other functions.   Is it too late?  Never!

I am heartened by one touching “thank you” I received from a father, who told us that all he wanted was for his 21-year-old daughter to be happy.   “You taught me so much, and believe me, if I had the chance, I would be your house boy to learn from you. Friends come into our lives and go out of our sight, but they are always in our hearts.  You will be always with us here in Kuwait. You are a second family and country, and if you are in this part of the world again, please come and see us.”

It doesn’t get much better than that!