Wednesday, May 30, 2012
There are numerous interventions parents can undertake with a child who has autism and diet is one area that is particularly important. There is anecdotal evidence from parents that certain diets have resulted in improvement with people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Scientific research is not as definitive as some reviews and reports support this notion while others don’t.
There is some great information in the article titled Diet and autistic spectrum disorder and we’ve extracted some suggestions here for you.
• Gluten free and casein free: Gluten is a protein contained in many types of breads, pastas, biscuits and breakfast cereals. Casein is a protein in cow’s milk that is contained in cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt and milk chocolate biscuits. It is suggested that people with ASD have an abnormally leaky gut that creates an intolerance to these proteins which affects mental function and behaviour.
• Food additives: People with ASD are intolerant to many food additives such as colourings, flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners and preservatives as they can affect their behaviour.
• Phenolic compounds and salicylates: The suggestion is that foods such as cheese, tomatoes, oranges, bananas and chocolate contain enzymes that some people lack that are needed to break down the compounds in these foods and as a result affect the symptoms of people with ASD.
• Yeast free: Eating less foods such as natural and refined sugars, breads, vinegar, cheese, soy sauce, alcohol, coffee and processed meats reduces the growth of yeasts in the gut and avoids the leaky gut scenario that is similar with the gluten free and casein free diets.
Again, as noted at the start, the scientific research is not definitive on this issue and importantly working with your doctor or a dietician from a community health service can provide more information and support in this important area.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
As a result of the increased awareness of autism spectrum disorders, there has also been an increase in myths associated with them too. They are myths for a reason – most are wildly untrue. It’s important to weed out these myths and help educate people about ASD so we can all live together in understanding.
Some of the myths often raised are:
1. Autistic people can’t show emotions: Autistic people have the same range of emotions including empathy, sympathy, compassion and love as anyone else but the main issue for other people is to identify, recognise and interpret when these emotions are being shown.
2. Autistic people cannot learn or continue to improve: Learning can occur in the same way and pace as for anyone else but the main issue is providing the correct type of support and intervention as early as possible. As with anyone else this can continue throughout their lives.
3. Autistic people have some special skill – the “savant syndrome”: In some cases autistic people can have unique and highly developed skills but that can lead to the overuse of the tag of savant or in extreme cases where these skills appear to be at the expense of other skills, “idiot savant”. This belief has been popularised by films such as “Rainman”. More often than not they are like any other person who is able to excel at something because they are simply good at it and have a strong interest and passion to achieve.
4. Autistic people can’t develop relationships: Autistic people are often portrayed as not able to maintain eye contact or look away when talking. In addition, they often like solitude and isolating themselves and when you add to this the difficulty they may have in reading body language and nonverbal signals, it leads to the perception that they can’t develop a relationship. While these are real issues they are not indicators or mean they don’t want to develop a relationship. As with anyone, autistic people often have the desire to develop the relationship and the people who they are trying to interact with need to have the patience and understanding to recognise this.
5. Autism is as a result of poor parenting: As autism is linked to development and learning issues, parents often blame themselves for the onset of autism. Autism is linked to genetic and biological issues and as such the parenting involvement plays no role.
In addition to these myths, there are countless others that can at times, and unfairly, paint an adverse and negative picture of people with ASD. Together, we can help raise awareness and understanding of the disorder and eliminate these myths.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
All children can feel and express emotions but children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty expressing emotions in a way that are understood. As a parent there is a need to understand their body language and even learning styles to make it easier for your child to express these emotions.
For example, if your child is unhappy they may stand with their arms crossed and look away from you, if in pain they may draw a picture of a sad face or if they are expressing their love for you they may try to give you something. The item in itself is not important but the act of giving is.
Once you understand how your child uses pictures, words or actions to express their emotions then you can assist and reinforce this through repetitive actions. For instance, if your child likes to draw pictures then when something happy or fun occurs you can draw a picture of a smiley face. In their younger years you may even have pictures of a happy and sad face on the fridge door that they can point out or bring to you when happy or sad.
Constant repetition and reinforcement of these steps is important, as over time and as they grow, they will be able to connect the physical act or feeling so they understand these emotions and how to express them.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Recently there have been two incidents reported in the media relating to the poor treatment of people with autism. One occurred in a Subway store where a mother and her autistic child were not treated well as her son was making noises as they waited to be served. It was alleged that a staff member said to the mother that her child shouldn’t come to a venue like this. The second incident occurred at an aquarium in Moscow where it was alleged a group of autistic children were refused entry because “visitors do not like to see people with disabilities”.
Subway management has taken action on the incident, including reviewing its training processes to ensure that customer service is always of a high standard. That is a very positive response to a delicate situation.
Irrespective of this, is there more that can be done to address the ignorance the general public may have of autism and raise the level of understanding?
There has been a lot done to accommodate people into mainstream environments such as education, employment and public transport but should more be done? When inclusion is done well it will lead to a positive and uplifting experience but done poorly it can be quite devastating.
What are your views on raising the awareness of autism so there is not only a better understanding but greater acceptance? What ideas do you have?