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Treating Autism: Overview of an Holistic Approach

by Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D
(Copyrighted 2000)

Autism is a mental health disorder that is characterized by impaired social relations, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Autistic children develop these symptoms prior to three years of age. Seventy to ninety percent of the causes of autism today remain unexplained. While no one is exactly sure what causes Autism in most children, many believe it is from immunizations.

Obviously not everyone who is immunized becomes autistic. A current theory suggest that only children with a genetic predisposition will develop autism following DPT, Hib, and Hep B vaccines. It is estimated that one out of every 250 children have an abnormal gene pattern. The evidence suggests that the above mentioned vaccines are made with mercury. When these children (1 of every 250) are injected with the vaccines, their bodies process the vaccine differently than other children and are poisoned by the mercury within the vaccinations.

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are very similar if not identical to the symptoms of autism. However medical tests for mercury poisoning often do not reveal that the autistic children have mercury in their body. Testing for mercury toxicity is not straight forward because mercury clears relatively quickly from biological samples (e.g., blood and urine samples). Standard medical laboratory tests are often ineffective in finding mercury toxicity unless it is a recent event in the person's life. Mercury in children with autism is usually "tightly bound" to proteins and are not easily eliminated from the body and thus not detected with laboratory tests. It is these "tightly bound" mercury combinations that are believed responsible for the autistic symptoms in children.

Hair analysis is suggested as one of the best methods to test for mercury toxicity in Autistic children. Often the first hair analysis will reveal elevated levels of other heavy metals (e.g., lead, aluminum), a scattered pattern of essential elements, high calcium and high selenium levels. Following chelation therapy and other methods of removing mercury from the body, subsequent hair analysis results will usually indicate the presence of mercury in the body.

Treatment

We view treatment as a two fold process. First is to eliminate the mercury and other toxins from the body. The second process involves repairing the neurological and physiological damage to the body.

Eliminating mercury from the body is not as easy as it sounds. It involves medical treatment uncommon to many physicians. It may be difficult to find a physician willing to remove toxic metals from the body through chelation and other techniques. The method of mercury removal involves stopping the existing sources of mercury exposure, clearing out the "loose" body mercury, and clearing out "tightly bound" mercury from the body and brain. This is done in a two step method. Step one involves using DMSA (a chelating drug) every four hours for three days, taking a four day drug holiday and then repeating the procedure. This often takes one to four months and is believed to remove the loosely-bound mercury. Step two involves the use of DMSA and lipoic acid (LA) every three to four hours for three days and off for four days and repeating this cycle. During this time it is good to take treatment vacations every two or three months. This procedure is followed until all the mercury has left the body. It may take as long as two years to finish step two. Hair analysis is useful in monitoring progress of chelation therapy. This therapy must be monitored by a physician to insure that uncommon side effects are kept to a minimum.

During treatment, improvements in behaviors and functioning do not usually occur during the first step of treatment. Improvements are not commonly seen until two or three months of step 2. Removing all the tightly bound mercury from the body and brain will greatly improve autistic symptoms.

The second process of treatment involves improving cognitive functioning. Again some improvement will be gained by removal of toxic substances. However, the goal is to repair or restore cognitive functioning as much as possible. We recommend cognitive remediation to achieve this goal. Cognitive remediation is physical therapy to the senses and brain.

There are various ways to provide cognitive remediation. Our two favorite methods are EEG biofeedback and the SOI program. EEG biofeedback or sometimes referred to as neuro-feedback involves allowing the child to view their brain waves via a computer and change them. Specific brain wave patterns are associated with increase focus and attention, raising intelligence, and improving memory. Neuro-feedback treatment can occur at any time of the treatment process, but we recommend starting neuro-feedback when much of the mercury and other heavy metals have left the body as indicated by the hair analysis. Usually this would be during the third month of step 2. Neuro-feedback has no known negative side effects and most children enjoy doing it.

SOI stands for the Structure of Intellect and is a program that provides testing of twenty six cognitive abilities necessary for learning. Many states have SOI programs and twenty states have SOI programs within the school system. Using our model, after neuro-feedback treatment, Autistic children are given a four hour pencil and paper test to determine which cognitive abilities will need improving. Other tests are given to measure sensory motor functioning. For example, most autistic children have a slight esotropia or "cross-eyed" which interferes with reading and reading comprehension. An examination from a developmental optometrist can measure the extent of the near point vision problems. Near point vision is the vision necessary to read well. Some children have perfect 20/20 vision but lack effective near point vision. Following the SOI and sensory tests an individualized treatment plan is developed to remediate all identified cognitive problems. The goal of the treatment plan is to obtain normal functioning on all abilities. While normal functioning may not be possible for all autistic children, any improvement in cognitive functioning translates to a higher quality of life for the individual.

Conclusion

The above treatment recommendations are new and in some circles controversial. We hope that in the near future, these recommendations will be standard. Whatever the cause of autism, ridding the body of harmful and toxic chemicals and improving cognitive functioning cannot hurt an individual. While there may be negative side effects of chelation therapy, there are no known harmful side effects to EEG biofeedback and the SOI program. Chelation therapy and cognitive remediation can be used together to treat autism's negative symptoms. For more information please feel free to contact us via E-mail at drdan@netdoor.com or follow the links provided in this article. If you choose to follow these recommendations, please let us know of your progress.

Links

Dr. Amy Holmes' Article on Mercury Detox for Autism
Much information about Autism
Information on EEG Biofeedback
Information on the SOI Program
Information on Near Point Vision Therapy as it relates to inattention.


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