The numbers are staggering: 1 in 68 were being diagnosed with Autism (that was back in 2016), 2018 the numbers were at 1 in 36. The NIH seems to be predicting that by 2030 Autism rates may be as high as 1 in 2! WHAT?? It’s time the world take note…something is very wrong, and not only do all of us need to get educated about this issue, but it will take all of us to find healing and reversal of this condition. We are a family that has an ASD child, whose life has completely changed through this journey. Here, we will explore:
What Autism Is
What Family and Friends Need to Know
How to support the brain’s Neuroplasticity: transformational change
How to support the GI system, for transformational change
What other factors impact this issue
Want to know more about Autism? Want to help others with Autism? Want to grow your heart and mind? Want to seek to understand? Need encouragement as a family with ASD? Need Resources? Tired? Emotionally Drained? Mentally Wrecked? Start here!
What is Autism?
Autism is NOT a behavioral disorder, although all kinds of unwanted behaviors are observed. Autism is a social-relational challenge.
According to the CDC, “ASD is a neuro-developmental disability that typically becomes evident during the first 3 years of life. (But many children are not properly diagnosed until much later, sometimes not until adulthood). Autism Spectrum Disorder is the umbrella term that now includes those previously identified with autistic disorders, pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome. Within this confusing unspecified range of issues, children (and adults) are often mis- or over-labeled with an additional myriad of issues such as ODD, OCD, ADD, ADHD, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenic, and the list goes on endlessly! Long term medications are proving not to be effective for far too many people. But the encouragement and hope continues to lie in the fact that the brain is always reinventing itself, as millions of connections are being rewired constantly!
The range of ability within Autism for individuals is immense, and runs the spectrum from highly functioning (where it’s hard or impossible to know something isn’t right, unless you are close to the individual), to severely Autistic, where the child or person does not seem to be participating in our world at all. At one point there was a separate diagnosis of Asperger, for highly functioning, however, diagnosis is no longer being given, and simply placed in the full spectrum of Autism. Contrary to the belief of Conventional medicine, Autism is fully curable. This is not opinion, this is proven and repeatable. Our son is on that road, as we speak!
Before I go on, for those wanting to find that lifeline of truth and hope, please check out the following organization (they have amazing parent training):
Autism Treatment Center of America
For those with HFA individuals, the following is a truly helpful “How To”:
If you want to grow as a human being and have a loved one, family member, friend, neighbor, or simply come across people in public who are different, consider the challenges that ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) presents, and work on being part of the needed blessing in understanding and support for these families. Learn how to speak with, and help ASD families heal! WE NEED YOUR HELP!
What us families with ASD children DON’T need is: judgement, based on your lack of education on the subject, condemnation, based on how you think YOU could do better with a child who is struggling with these limitations, or uneducated advice, based on your fully functioning belief system.
What us families with ASD children DO need is:
compassion- no matter how much you read or educate yourself on, you cannot know what it is like to live with a family member who has ASD, so kindness and love needs to trump everything you say and do.
Forgiveness- our family member is struggling deeply, often feels hurt, alone, unaccepted and “weird”…they will often do and say things that they don’t really want or mean to do or say…and that is, if they are able to be verbal. If they are not verbal, they are often a prisoner in their body and mind, wishing we could understand them. No matter the behavior, it is not because we haven’t trained them enough, because we aren’t good parents, or because they are rude, or ill-mannered, though it may seem that way. Our ASD family member is NOT in need of discipline. Someone with ASD is simply UNABLE to think, act and speak in the same way that you, with a neurotypical brain can. This is not an excuse, it is a fact.
Flexibility- although our ASD family members are not socially flexible themselves (one of the hallmark symptoms), if you love us, we NEED you to be flexible with us! We can often be ready to go and do something, and have to change our plans as we are walking out the door, because our ASD loved one is simply unable to go, or we ourselves are just so emotionally or physically spent or wrecked, because of what we are having to walk through. Again, this is not because our ASD children are ill mannered or spoiled. They are in a world of pain, and we are walking it with them, as best we can. Why don’t you consider coming to us? Changing your plans? Giving grace? What we could REALLY use is some respite! We need to get away, have dates, take time for ourselves. We usually don’t get to do that EVER! Do you see how much harder this road is to walk, when we don’t have regular or any breaks at all?
Acceptance– even for those of us who believe in, and are walking the road to healing (some of us have lost hope for healing, or find it kinder to not “raise our hopes up”…that’s because we’ve come across so much negativity, and so much pain, or have ventured to try a seemingly endless number of ideas or products that simply didn’t work, and we dare not hope…please share possible resources with us, but don’t push us and don’t judge us for not being ready to hear, understand, or believe. Please accept us. Accept our children, with their repetitive behavior, their awkwardness, their silence, their outbursts, their challenging or even ugly words, their seemingly “strange” outlook, or inability to connect with you. Accept our whole family and our ASD family members completely, right now, as they are. This matters tremendously, because this is actually one of the two emotional keys to healing. Our families need YOU, and quite frankly, you need us to grow your love and understanding outside of yourself.
Love– our world would be a completely different place, if you would just choose to love us. Love our family, and include our ASD member in that love. Love is not a fuzzy feeling, or a mutually agreed upon equal transaction. Love is a choice…you either choose to love, or you choose not to. Love is not based on anyone returning it to you, or earning it. Love is an ACTION which includes what we already listed as well as:
Being Patient…if your patience isn’t being tried, there’s nothing to display or grow your patience.
Being Kind…true kindness shows itself when you feel attacked or disrespected, otherwise you are really just returning niceties.
Not Envying or Boasting...we don’t have a lot of the answers. Sometimes we feel like we have NO answers. We don’t need you to try or wish to change us. Don’t shove your ideas down our throats. God is giving us answers in just the right time. Your ideas can be answers too, but leave your ideas with us, and let us check them out. Maybe we don’t want to hear any ideas right now. Respect. Stop bragging that you could do better, trust me, you can not. No amount of explanation can possibly help you understand what we are dealing with. NONE.
Not Insisting on your own way…goes along with other things above
Not becoming Irritated or resentful… ASD kids may or may not be able to talk, but I promise you, they can FEEL your irritation and/or resentfulness from miles away, and it breaks their hearts, and confuses their emotional state and mental well being! Stop being petty and downright selfish. The world does not revolve around you, and you are either bringing answers and healing to us, or you are part of what’s keeping us stuck.
Does not rejoice in wrong-doing… don’t ever tell an ASD family “I told you so”. We are unbelievably heart-broken. We are doing our very best. We need help. Many of us are walking through what feels like hell on earth. Some days we wonder whether we can possibly keep going on. Other days we are convinced we’re about to break, and won’t be able to keep going. The toxic stress is so great, that we often forget what we have done or said. We feel broken, abandoned, forgotten, and unloved. Our hearts are broken. Watch your own attitudes, and teach your children (and anyone you may see in public that seems to lack understanding), to be kind to our ASD family members. Feel the gratitude and blessing of your own abilities, then see how you multiply your significance on earth by extending kindness and love to others not as fortunate. If you see others or catch yourself with a mean or ugly attitude, are taunting, gossiping about, or making fun of anyone with ASD challenges, now is your chance to grow as a person. Want to make a difference in the world? This would make a huge difference! Our kids are very smart, but they are stuck in a body that cannot express and communicate as most people do. We could use your compassion. Your kindness. Your good attitude. Your help.
DOES rejoice with the truth…there’s too much here to unpack. Basically, rejoice with us whenever our family or ASD family member has victories. Sometimes these victories seem few and far in between, sometimes they seem very small to you, but they are HUGE to our families…we could use all the encouragement we can get! WE WOULD LOVE IT IF YOU CARED ENOUGH TO CALL US, VISIT US, AND INVITE US…INVITE OUR KIDS, AND ASK THEM TO JOIN! THEY ARE HURTING, THEY ARE LONELY, THEY NEED OTHERS TO SHOW THEM LOVE, COMPASSION, AND CARING. THEY NEED FRIENDS, LIKE EVERYONE DOES! WANT TO SAVE A LIFE? HERE’S YOUR CHANCE!
Love DOES also:
Bear all things, believe all (good) things, hopes (the full, eventual expectation of positive outcomes) all things, and endures all things. Ask yourself what that might mean in practice, or look like in your world, and maybe how you could apply that to families you know with ASD challenges.
BTW, you can find the full explanation of what love is, by searching multiple versions of the Biblical Scripture in 1 Corinthians 13.
What Makes It be Called Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Every person with Autism is unique, and there is a very wide range of abilities within Autism. So while on one end of the spectrum, Autism seems almost indistinguishable to outsiders (now called High functioning, formerly diagnosed as Asperger), on the other side of the spectrum, individuals struggle with immense challenges (referred to as “Low Functioning”, or “Pervasively Developmentally Disordered”, and is generally marked by non-verbal or seemingly non-existent communication). This very wide range of behaviors and abilities makes for lots of confusion, but if you love someone with Autism, or have friends that are or have Autism in their families, reading this to gain greater understanding can be one of the most loving things you can do.
High Functioning Autism (formerly Aspergers)
On the outside, with high functioning Autism, what you might observe are some or all of the following:
Low eye contact
Speaking with great intensity, and/or very fast
Saying “No” to many things
Being greatly agitated
Asking lots of questions without waiting for answers
Requiring/looking for/wanting specific responses
Speaking out of turn/ continually turning back to their own topic
Having challenges with what or how others say something
Coming right out and saying whatever they see or think
Being unable to understand or process social cues
Complete sensory overload and overwhelm
Speaking about only one topic continuously (STIM)
Doing very repetitive motions (STIM)
“Checking out”, “Zoning off”, or “Blank Stares” (STIM)
Emotional and mental inflexibility
Low to no interactive attention span
Completely unique perspectives, that often don’t seem to make sense
Seemingly disorganized or confusing train of thought: hard to follow
Jumps in logical thinking that do not seem to go together
Sensory Issues (imagine feeling pain, itchiness or aggravation from touch, clothing, or anything the senses perceive)
RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)
High Functioning Autism has and continues to frequently be misdiagnosed with one or more of the last eight items or diagnoses listed, starting with Sensory Issues. Far too many children and adults are labeled with other diagnoses, or never discovered as ASD.
In short, as with everyone on the Autism Spectrum, the Asperger or high functioning individuals have challenges socializing, interacting, relating and connecting with others. If you suspect there is anything atypical about how your child processes the world, start seeking help immediately! The sooner you start your child on helpful therapies, the more your child will benefit, being able to grow into a fully functioning adult, able to be part of and contribute greatly to society.
A MAJOR WORD OF WARNING: when puberty hits, the effects of Autism challenges can increase exponentially! Therefore, the sooner you start employing helpful therapies that calm the nervous system, the better it will be for your child, and your entire family!! This applies to entire range of ASD!
Moderate to Severe Autism
For those on the lower functioning portion of the spectrum, even more challenges arise, as moderate to severe Autism will show greater severity and additional challenges above and beyond those just listed for HFA. This means one, a few, or many of the above can apply, along with one, a few, or many of additional challenges, with varying severity:
Often being non-verbal (being silent or making grunting screeching or squealing noises)
Repetitive motions including, but not limited to:
*Rocking back and forth
*Hitting head or other parts of self repeatedly
*Lashing out or thrashing
Endless possibilities for different motions exist: often called Stimming
Extreme mood swings, and/or complete disconnectedness
Uncontrollable behavioral actions
Inability to sleep
A possible long list of psychiatric labels
Single-minded, obsessive thinking, (speaking, and asking, if verbal) or doing, centered around one particular topic
Again, the sooner you start your child on helpful therapies, the more your child will benefit, being able to grow into a fully functioning adult, able to be part of and contribute greatly to society.
Now, you may think I may have mis-typed that last statement, regarding medium to severe Autism issues. I have not. My stance on this comes from a set of parents who raised a severely Autistic child in the 70’s. You can find their story, made into a movie titled: Son Rise, A Miracle of Love.
Thankfully, they didn’t just have a movie made about their family, and how they brought their severely Autistic child out of that diagnosis. They have been running the Autism Treatment Center of America since 1983, and have brought hope and healing to untold numbers of families all over the world.
So, while Conventional medicine may not believe in a cure for Autism, many families are seeing their children’s lives transformed by not only that parenting program, but many additional helpful therapies! We are one of those families! Having said that, please be kind to yourself, a neighbor, friend, or family member, who may have lost hope, or may not believe in the possibility of healing. This journey is unlike anything one could ever explain…the pain, the sorrow, the fear, desperation, isolation, judgment, condemnation and devastation that families walk through due to the ignorance of others, as well as the lack of helpful, loving advice and support is immense. For those of you walking through this, if you are not yet a person of Faith, I pray that you consider and seek the truth that will bring your spirit to life, and will grow you in an area that can sustain you, through this very painful journey. So much more comes to light, once your spirit is alive!
Why There is Hope for Healing:
The body heals itself, to the most optimum health possible. Optimum health is very individualized. It is the individual ability for the body to be the very healthiest it can be. And health is defined by the body’s ability to work exactly as it is supposed to: where every cell, tissue, organ, and organ system is receiving and processing proper, needed nutrients in order to work, and is detoxifying on a regular basis, of things it doesn’t need, in order for it to work properly. So the culprit for optimum health is lack of the good stuff the body requires, and/or too much of the bad stuff the body doesn’t need. That’s the basics of all wellness and all healing, put in its simplest form.
When it comes to Autism, here are some common threads, and root causes for brain’s current state of processing:
Accumulation of toxic materials in brain and/or nervous system
Lack of specific brain-building nutrients
Inability for body to absorb needed nutrients, and
Society’s wrongful way of trying to address outward Autism behaviors.
Our society has historically tried to eliminate or reduce typically Autistic outward behavior, such as repetitive motions or speech, which is the exact opposite of what it takes to change the way the brain needs to rewire, to achieve healing.
Brain NeuroPlasticity: The Best News Ever!
Science has discovered that the brain never stops working at making new connections! For our entire lives, neural pathways are built…whether they build towards better brain function or worse brain function, is entirely up to the individual, and the input being given to and received by the brain.
Positive neural connections are built by:
Positive experiences of all kinds, including, but not limited to:
Appropriate Physical Touch
Spiritual Faith and Prayer
In other words, positive neural connections are built by ALL input into the body, from every single sense: hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, speaking, thinking, and feeling.
As Part of the Body, Wellness for the Brain Requires:
Specific brain-building foods, including fresh, clean and filtered water, as well as nourishing, uplifting and positive music, relationships, entertainment, school, work and home environments, a solid and positive spiritual faith based on truth, and positive mental and emotional states of mind (which ultimately flow out of what an individual is exposed to positively or negatively, AND how an individual processes things…which by the way, is changeable, due to Neuroplasticity throughout life, no matter the diagnosis).
What the body DOESN’T need is toxicity, in terms of not only man made toxic ingredients found in foods, cosmetics, body care, cleaning, laundry care, and any man made product surrounding you, but also the toxicity of negative music and entertainment, toxic relationships, school, work and home environment, or toxic spiritual beliefs, as well as negative mental and emotional states of mind. Most, if not all Autistic children deal with heavy metal toxicity and/or other chemical toxicity that has settled in the brain. All of these are obstacles to building positive neurological networks in the brain!
Therefore, ultimately, the only thing that stands in the way of anyone’s optimum health is either the lack of what the body needs to get the job done, and/ or the overabundance of toxicity that the body doesn’t need. So lifestyle, which includes your relationships, what you eat, your exercise/movement level, your stress levels (how you choose to deal with these stressors/whether you are taking in and absorbing that stress, or letting it go), how much you sleep and quality of that sleep, and even what you think about, how you process what happens to you, what you focus on, the music you listen to, and the things you choose to watch, as well as your spiritual faith…EVERYTHING that you think, do, apply, breathe in, hear/listen to, eat and drink and believe…EVERYTHING, brings you either closer to your optimum health, or takes you farther away from it!
Again, I cannot stress this enough: For every person, optimum health is different, but it is about being the healthiest possible, and developing to the fullest potential possible for that person. With Autism in particular (but honesty, this applies to EVERYTHING), it is most important to be diligent in both nutritional/nourishing excellence and in continuing detoxification! Remembering that the whole person is body, mind and spirit, and we need nourishment in all three, as well as detoxification in all three! These three parts cannot be separated. So suffering in one area will cause suffering of all areas. The mental, emotional and spiritual portions will be discussed in more detail on separate blog articles.
Optimal health will show in reduction of symptoms and increased overall wellness of ANY health issue, no matter what it is, and that includes ASD. Nourishing the body, and detoxifying it can have astounding outcomes!