Autism

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder

“There Are No Cure, but There Are Many Ways to Treat ASD for A Better Living Outcome for Your Child”

  • According to recent statistics from CDC in the USA, 1 in 7 children have some sort of developmental delay. UK NHS figures indicates that 1 in 15 people in the UK have a so called “rare” disorder. Meanwhile, about 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189).

  • Recent studies have indicated a very strong association between genetics and Autism. A recent study from October 2014 carried out at the world famous Great Ormond Street Hospital in London identified more than 100 genes linked with Autism.

  • However, Autism is beyond genetics as there are other factors such as environment, dietary, and physiological health issues including Increased Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut) and autoantibodies that can be the underlying causes of Autism.

  • “This work is very important as it brings us closer to interpreting genetic data from families affected by autism and using it during genetic counselling to start explaining to families why their child may have the condition and what their likelihood of having further children with ASD might be.” – Prof. David Skuse, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Should I get a formal diagnosis to see if my child is on the spectrum?

  • Diagnosis of ASD usually begins with a developmental screening to test if your child has any delay on their basic skill. Developmental screening can be done via psychological tests conducted by Developmental Pediatricians, Child Neurologists, or Child Psychologists.
  • Besides that, you can also do a genetic test to get a more accurate, objective diagnosis for genetic disorders that identifies developmental delay. Although there has been no specific genes that has been identified as a genetic condition for Autism, you would still be able to get a more detailed information of the root cause for a developmental delay.
  • Sengenics can perform Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), which includes exome sequencing, genome sequencing and targeted gene sequencing, where you will be able to view and identify your child’s gene conditions.
  • It is best to understand the genetic profile of your child. Once the genetic condition has been identified, you will be able to learn more about their unique condition, and target to provide them with a more individualized treatment and care.

Will I be able to detect that my child is autistic while I’m still pregnant?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, you will be able to detect any developmental delay in your fetus by running a preimplantation diagnosis or screening on its chromosome profile. No, the chromosome profile specifically for autism has yet to be identified by specialists and professionals. Click Here for PGD/PGS information on doing a preimplantation genetic screening or diagnosis on your fetus.

How can I provide treatment for my child that is on the spectrum?

To address the treatment and management of individuals with autism specifically and individually, we need to understand all factors including:

  1. Formal diagnosis to understand the severity level of your child’s spectrum.
  2. Genetic testing to identify genetic conditions.
  3. Biomedical testing / blood testing to complement the findings from genetic testing as well as guide diet and supplement choices (Click here for a list of tests)
  4. Gut microbiome sequencing to understand the bacterial composition inside the guts; which includes identifying:
    1. Antibiotics – to get rid of bad bacteria from the gut.
    2. Probiotics – to add in good bacteria to the gut.
    3. Prebiotics – to improve the environment of the gut, such as fibers to improve the functioning of the probiotics itself
  5. Protein Array Test to understand the autoantibody profile of the immune system.
  6. Therapy to help improve social and behavioral deficits.

Does therapy help my autistic child?

Many parents have experienced positive changes and improvements in their child by doing approaching therapies. However, there are no autistic child that is the same as the other. Though they may have similar difficulties, it is important to understand the baseline of deficiency of your child in order to achieve full potential in therapy sessions. There are various types of therapies to approach your child’s needs. Click here for more general reading on therapy and recommendations for improving an autistic child’s social and behavioral deficits

THE TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS: THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH

Are there any other methods for me to help my autistic child besides the therapeutic approach?

Yes. Once you have understood the condition of your child, specialists will be able to develop a more specific treatments to target the results collected from the factors stated above. Some suggested treatments are:

  1. Genetic testing   A genetic diagnosis will help you understand the cause of your child’s symptoms. Thus, you will be able to get seek appropriate medical attention for your child. Through Sengenics’ Next Generation Sequencing, you would be able to compare your child’s gene’s to our huge resource database on the list of genes related to autism, and thus have a reference to the type of treatment you can proceed for your child. Click here for a sample result of genetic and biomedical test.
  1. Dietary Changes and Supplements

a. Dietary Options. These are only general guidelines. Avoid feeding it to your child if you know or suspect that they are allergic to or cannot eat it safely.  (Click here for more info)

Diet Options Description
Elimination Diet Therapy
  • Involves removing certain foods from the diet for a period of time in order to determine whether these particular food are causing symptoms of food allergies and intolerances for the child.
  • It’s hypothesized that ASD patients can’t digest gluten and casein, causing leaky gut syndrome, which cause symptoms such as delayed social and language development, and withdrawn behavior.
LEAP (Lifestyle, Eating, and Performance) Protocol
  • Involves eliminating any known foods or chemicals suspected of triggering symptoms that can be identified by a blood test called the Mediator Release Test.
  • Mediator Release Test may help to identify substances that can be eliminated to improve behavior, communication skills, and other immune-related health issues and allow for more variety in the diet for better nutrition.
  • The immune system of an ASD child identifies these foods and chemicals as foreign invaders, causing the immune system to release mediators or neurotransmitters to fight off the “invaders” which have been shown to cause reactions such as inflammation, diarrhea, intestinal cramping, constipation, and pain receptor changes.
General Healthy Diet
  • High quality sources of proteins such as eggs, legumes, red meat, chicken, fish, nuts (only if there is an absent of allergy and child is old enough to safely eat nuts), high quality protein powders (must not contain additives such as caffeine or green tea extract that are not suitable for children)
  • Fresh vegetables and/or fresh fruit that can be put into part of two meals per day at a minimum
  • None or very minimal amount of processed foods
  • No foods with artificial colorings, flavorings, or preservatives
  • No foods with added or refined sugars
  • Minimum of 30mls of water per 1 kg of body weight (e.g. a 20kg child should drink a minimum of 600mls of water per day)
  • Consume a balanced amount of protein and carbohydrate.

 

b. Supplementations. Genes are known to be the critical determinant of how the body operates, but genes themselves can be regulated by the nutritional factors, thus affecting the way it responds and interacts with the biochemical state of the body. There are evidence from the genetic and biomedical tests conducted that shows which supplements are best to be consumed for maximum functionality. Below are some examples of supplementation schedule according to some of the tests that can be done to identify the condition of your child.

Figure 2 Example of results overview of supplements

requirement of a patient from the biomedical test conducted

Figure 3 Example of a Suggested Supplement Schedule

The targeted use of the nutritional supplements can restore the biochemical balance of the body and facilitate physiological and neurological developments, thus playing a key role in supporting language and development of the child. However, do seek advice of a qualified health practitioner (Doctor, Nutritionist, Naturopath) as children requires a smaller dosage compared to adults, as well as considering the dosage rates of the manufactured supplement products. Below are some general recommendations of supplements.

Supplements

Description

Multivitamins

  • Most ASD children have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They tend to do better with bioactive forms of vitamins and minerals that are more easily absorbed and used by their body.
  • A good-quality multivitamin without artificial colors or flavors can help offset limited dietary preferences and poor nutritional intake.
  • Some vitamins to consider includes Riboflavin (B2), B6, B12, Folinic Acid, D3, K.
  • Some minerals to consider includes Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum (liver sulphation), and Selenium (Selenium cannot be supplemented and must come from food sources only).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

 

  •  Omega-3s are critical for brain development and proper neural function.
  • ASD children who take omega-3 supplements have less anxiety and aggression, decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity, longer attention spans, and improvement in language development, reading, and spelling skills.

Vitamin D

 

  • Several studies suggest a direct link between low vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) levels and the risk of ASD since vitamin D regulates the immune system.
  • Research shows that children are at risk of ASD because of their body’s inability to identify foreign invaders and eliminate toxic substances and have an even higher risk of developing the disorder if they’re vitamin D deficient.
  • Vitamin D protects against DNA damage and can help repair damage once it’s occurred.

Probiotics

  • ASD children often have issues with overgrowths of pathogenic organisms in their intestinal tracts which may produce toxic byproducts.
  • Often found in high levels in the brains ASD children, these toxins interfere with the natural production of vitamins and neurotransmitters in the intestinal tract.
  • Reducing populations of toxin producing pathogens supports optimal immune system and neurological function.
  • Proper probiotics may promote a healthy balance of intestinal organisms. 
  • Some probiotics to consider includes Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Plantarum

Digestive Enzymes

  • Enzymes can break down foods that are typically not completely digested by ASD children, preventing the creation of harmful neuro-toxic molecules, and reducing the amount of undigested food that provides a breeding ground for pathogenic organisms that is harmful for their sensitive system.
  • Some enzymes actively reduce the populations of pathogens by breaking down their cell walls. 
  • Amylase (low) is a digestive enzyme for carbohydrate digestion.

Vitamin B6 and Magnesium

  • Some studies have shown improvements in behaviors with the intake of proper vitamin B6 and magnesium, such as increased speech, decreased aggression/temper issues, better eye contact, increases in IQ, and the ability to interact socially.

Other Supplements

  • Glutathione enables the body to detoxify and protect itself against oxidative damage.
  • Dimethylglycine is touted to improve language skills and the ability to make eye contact.

  1. Microbiome Sequencing
  • The gut microbiome are microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract, which is the largest and most diverse microbial community in the human body.
  • Autistic individuals tend to have an imbalance in their gut flora, where having more of the bad bacteria causes proteins that these bacteria produce effects the body, thus acting out as repressors on certain neuronal pathways (causing changes in behavior or social abilities).
  • By running a gut microbiome sequencing, you will be able to identify every single detail of bacterial species (either good or bad) that is present or absent in the gut flora, as well as quantify the relative amount of bacteria in the gut. When knowing your child’s gut microbiome profile, you will be able to get a comprehensive understanding of their child’s gut microbiota, and how they may address the issues of it, such as giving a scheduled supplement to counter the effect of an imbalanced bacteria count in their child’s gut. Click here to find out more info regarding microbiome sequencing. 
  1. Protein Array Test
  • The immune  system  produces  proteins  called  antibodies  that  act  as  our  defense mechanism to fight against pathogens. However, when a mutation occur in our body, where our own proteins has been mutated and identified as a foreign matter, the immune system will start to produce autoantibodies; a type of protein produced by the immune system to attack the body’s own proteins.
  • Recently there has been an evidence that maternal anti-brain autoantibodies (i.e. the autoantibodies in mother that can harm brain development in fetus), have been identified as one of the risk factors for developing ASD. This  study  had  revealed  a  total  of  seven neurodevelopmental  proteins  that  were  recognized  by  maternal  autoantibodies,  where  the presence of these proteins has been associated with a diagnosis of maternal autoantibody related in autism in their child. This abnormality in development may occur due to an infection while the mother was pregnant in her first or second trimester.
  • By conducting a protein array test, we will be able to find out if there is an overall upregulated/downregulated protein or autoantibody of autism children. In doing  so,  we  will  be  able  to  identify  potential  biomarkers  and  determine  its sensitivity and specificity in differentiating between autism and non-autism. Click here for more info on protein arrays.