Top 10 Tips for Understanding and Managing Your Autistic Child's Behavior
From Lisa Jo Rudy,
Your Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Children with autism are LESS likely to misbehave intentionally than typical children. Their apparent bad behaviors -- such as bolting from the room, whacking a peer, refusing to take part in circle time, climbing the fridge -- are often caused by external problems that can be solved by calm, creative parents. These hints and tips, provided in part by About.com readers, may make for a calmer family life.
1) Know Your Child
Few autistic children are intentionally "bad." Many have difficult behaviors. So what's going on? Each child is different, and knowing your own child is key to taking action. Is your child extra-sensitive to sound and light? Does she need lots of sensory input? Is he likely to misunderstand a close approach? The more you know, the easier it is to troubleshoot a situation.
2) Modify Your Expectations
Your mother may have expected you to sit still through a full dinner hour. But that's not a reasonable expectation for most children with autism. Consider starting with a smaller goal -- sitting still for three minutes, eating with a fork, or whatever you think he can handle -- and building toward the larger goal of sitting through a full meal.
3) Modify the Environment
Safety is key. And for autistic children, creating a safe environment is a challenge. Since so many of your child's behaviors may have the potential to be dangerous, it's important to take precautions such as bolting shelves to the walls and floor, putting a dead bolt on the front door, and latching cabinets securely. One About.com reader even put plexiglass on the fronts of bookshelves to keep her child from climbing.
4) Consider the Possible Sources of the Behavior
Many children on the autism spectrum either crave or over-respond to sensory input. Some alternate between the two extremes. Very often, "bad" behavior is actually a reaction to too much or too little sensory input. By carefully observing your child, you may be able to figure out what's setting him off.
5) Remove Overwhelming Sensory Input
If your child is over-reacting to sensory input, there are many ways to change the situation. Of course, the first option is to simply avoid overwhelming sensory settings such as parades, amusement parks and the like. When that's not an option, consider ear plugs, distracting sensory toys, or plain old bribery to get through difficult moments.
6) Provide Sensory Input
If your child is crashing into couches, climbing the walls or spinning in circles, chances are she's craving sensory input. You can provide that in any number of more appropriate ways. Some people recommend bear hugs; other suggest squeezing youngsters between sofa cushions, rolling them up like "hot dogs" in blankets, or providing them with weighted vests or quilts.
7) Look for Positive Outlets for Unusual Behaviors
While climbing the entertainment center may be "bad" behavior, climbing at a rock gym can be a great way to build muscles and friendships at the same time. While spinning at the grocery store may be odd, it's ok to twirl on a tire swing. What's a problem in one place may be a virtue in another!
8) Enjoy Your Child's Successes
We were the only parents on the block to cheer at our son's first intentional fib. We're thrilled when he says "yes" to a playdate, completes a full sentence, or kicks a ball back and forth a few times. He's not likely to captain the soccer team -- but he is successfully becoming himself.
9) Worry Less About Others' Opinions
Your child is really doing a fine job in the grocery store. He may be flapping a bit, but it's no big deal. Until you catch the eye of the mom with the perfect little girl -- staring at your son. Suddenly his flapping seems like a very big deal, and you find yourself snapping at your son to "just put his hands down!" It's not easy, but it's important to remember that he's autistic -- not intentionally embarrassing!
10) Find Ways to Have Fun Together
It's not always easy to associate autism and fun. But if you think about it, rolling your child up like a hot dog, bouncing on a trampoline or even sitting and cuddling together can be a lot of fun. Instead of worrying about the therapeutic value of each action, try just enjoying the silliness, the tickling, the cuddling...and the child. At least for a little while!
Industrial chemicals have caused a "silent pandemic" of brain disorders, according to a study published Tuesday in the British medical journal, the Lancet.
One in every six children has some kind of developmental disability, and most of these affect the nervous system.
Exposure to toxic chemicals during fetal development can be linked to autism, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy and developmental delays, say the study's authors.
"The human brain is a precious and vulnerable organ. And because optimal brain function depends on the integrity of the organ, even limited damage may have serious consequences," said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author.
Grandjean and his team described how industrial chemicals like lead, mercury, PCBs, arsenic and toluene are causing brain injury in developing babies.
The largest groups of chemicals that cause such problems are metals, solvents and pesticides. The team identifies 201 chemcials with toxic effects.
Developing babies are much more susceptible to brain injury caused by toxic agents than adults are. During the nine months of prenatal life, the human brain is developing from a strip of very sensitive cells.
The blood-brain barrier, which protects the adult brain from many toxic chemicals, is not fully formed until an infant is six months old.
Also, certain pesticides and industrial compounds accumulate in breast tissue. They are passed to an infant through its mother's breast milk. The result is infant exposure to these chemicals is 100 times the mother's exposure levels.
The study points out that damage caused by industrial chemicals is preventable; however the toxic effects of industrial chemicals are not regulated in a way that protects children.
Research showed preschool children living in agricultural communities and exposed to pesticides had more brain development problems than kids in urban communities.
Toxic exposure can also have delayed consequences as well, including Parkinson's disease or other neurodegenerative diseases in adults.
Recognizing the sensitivity of the developing brain has led to successful prevention programs in the past, such as eliminating lead additives in gasoline.
The study identifies roadblocks to more of such prevention programs.
Grandjean and his team say regulators need to test commonly used chemicals for their effects on the developing brain. The study says of the thousands of chemicals on the market, "fewer than half have been subjected to even token laboratory testing for toxicity."
The study also says new chemicals should be tested specifically for neural effects before they are allowed to be sold. Finally, the researchers say too much proof is required to demonstrate a chemical is risky.
Many scientists are speaking out in support of the research. One critic, however, says it does not take into account that many children affected by chemicals are exposed to much higher than average amounts of toxins, and that safe amounts do exist.
Warren Foster, director of the Centre of Reproductive Care at Ontario's McMaster University, cautions that these findings do not mean a ban on chemicals is necessary or helpful.
"We still need coolants, we still need plasticizers, we still need flame retardants, we still need solvents,'' Foster said. "So if we ban these, they're going to be replaced with something else. And just because something else comes along that we know nothing about doesn't mean it's safer.''
Recent peer-reviewed scientific/medical studies by Nataf et al. (2006) and by Geier and Geier (2006) leave little doubt that many autistic children are indeed mercury poisoned. These studies utilized urinary porphyrin profile analysis (UPPA) to assess the body-burden and magnitude of physiological effects of mercury in children.
UPPA is a highly accurate, inexpensive, non-invasive, and routinely available method for estimating body-burden and toxicity of mercury. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific/medical papers published over the past 40 years, many of them supported by the US NIH, have proven the validity of using UPPA to identify mercury poisoning.
UPPA profiling, unlike attempts to directly measure mercury in the blood, urine or feces, or in tissues (e.g., hair and nail), is a proven indirect method for assessing mercury toxicity.
Using UPPA, Nataf et al. (2006) studied the urinary porphyrin patterns in French children using the results reported by Laboratoire Philippe Auguste. Similarly, Geier and Geier (2006) studied the patterns in US children using the results reported by the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp).
Both published studies:
-- Clearly demonstrated that non-chelated autistic children had porphyrin patterns indicative of clinical mercury toxicity, while normal children and normal sibling controls did not.
-- Found that the more severely affected the ASD children were the higher their evidence of mercury toxicity.
-- Established that treating autistic children with chelating agents resulted in lower mercury-specific urinary porphyrins, which tracked the apparent reduction in mercury body-burden in these children.
Many other physicians who take care of ASD patients have ordered UPPA testing and confirmed the observations made by Nataf et al. (2006) and Geier and Geier (2006).
Thus, urinary porphyrin profile testing is being successfully used to:
-- Demonstrate the role of mercury in populations of autistic children,
-- Identify those children and adults who are mercury poisoned, and
-- Track the progress of the removal of mercury from mercury-poisoned individuals.
For the past several years, there has been a raging controversy as to whether or not the mercury in medicines, especially in vaccines, has caused the dramatic rise in the rate of children diagnosed with an ASD. Many experts have insisted ASDs are caused by some yet-to-be-identified genetic cause. A paper recently published in Nature Genetics described the results of multi-million-dollar genetics study (which studied a thousand-plus families with at least two autistic children using in-depth genetic screening). Tellingly, the authors reported, "None of our linkage results can be interpreted as 'statistically significant'…"(The Autism Genome Project Consortium, 2007). This makes it unlikely that purely genetic aberrations are the root cause of most ASD cases.
With the current porphyrin study results, public health officials should now publicly admit what they have been saying in their private transcripts and memos all along: Mercury from Thimerosal-containing vaccines and other medicines has been a major cause of ASD cases, which, according to recent CDC estimates (CDC 2007), may exceed a rate of one in 94 children (in NJ).
Today, any healthcare provider or parent can easily confirm whether a non-chelated autistic child is mercury poisoned by having UPPA testing run at LabCorp (CLIA-certified, test#120980) or Laboratoire Philippe Auguste (ISO-certified, 119 Philippe Auguste Avenue, Paris, France 75011).
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