Category Archives: autism resources

Impact of ASDs on Parent Mental Health

Impact of ASDs on Parent Mental Health

A study by the York University, Department of Psychology in Toronto examined the impact of children problem behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) on parent mental health.

Raising a child with an ASD has often been associated with higher levels of parenting stress and psychological distress.

The study looked at relations among child problem behavior, parent mental health, psychological acceptance, and parent empowerment. Participants included 228 parents of children diagnosed with ASD, 6–21 years of age.

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Families Frustrated by Funding Cuts

In what is becoming an all too familiar story for families affected by autism, funding for programs for children has been slashed.

Parents of children with autism in Regina, Canada are disappointed and concerned as a number of popular summer programs have been scaled back or cut altogether.

“You fight every day for services, and the summer program is the one time a year you get intensive services for five weeks, and then you really have nothing for the rest of the year,” Rip Smith said, whose son Max enjoyed the summer program.

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Researchers find Uncommon Bacteria in Digestive System of Children with Autism

Researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University have found that an uncommon bacterium exists in the walls of intestines of children with autism, but not those who do not have autism.The study, led by Brent Williams, tested 23 tissue biopsy samples from children with autism and found that a large portion (12 of the 23) contained the bacteria belonging to the group Sutterella. Even so, the bacteria are generally uncommon, not being found in any of the tissue samples from  children without autism.

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Treating Autism with Special Diets

1400 West 22nd Street • Sioux Falls, SD 57105-1570 • 605-357-1439 • 800-658-3080 (V/TTY) •

Treating Autism with Special Diets

Amy Eisenbeisz, RD, LN, and Marcie Kemnitz, MS, RD, LN

Does following a certain diet or eliminating certain foods from a child’s diet help treat autism symptoms? This is a common question that parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) ask. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.  Several studies show some improvement with these various diets, while other studies show minimal effect.  We put together information on the three most common diets used for treating ASD symptoms to help you better understand them.

Elimination Diet
This diet is used to determine if a child has a potential allergy to certain foods by starting with a very basic diet low in potential allergenic foods and then gradually adding back in these foods to see what type of reaction occurs.  We might expect to see an allergic reaction such as hives or runny nose or we might see gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.

These foods tend to be responsible for 90% of all allergic reactions:  milk*, wheat*, egg*, soy*, peanuts*, tree nuts*, fish and shellfish (*more commonly seen in children).  There are multiple tests for food allergies including blood and skin prick tests.  However, there may be false negatives or positives with these tests.  The ELISA test is sometimes recommended, but it is not a validated food allergy test and many not indicate accurate results.

We know that, according to Elizabeth Strickland, children with food allergies are at a higher risk for nutrition related problems and decreased growth.  Also, children with autism are more likely to be more negatively affected by problems with food allergies because of their issues with sensory dysfunction.

Gluten Free/Casein Free (GF/CF Diet)

With this diet, the child must avoid all sources of gluten (the protein found in wheat-based foods) and casein (the protein found in milk and dairy foods).  There are two theories as to why this diet might work:
1. The protein found in gluten and casein may cause disruption in normal brain activity resulting in the symptoms seen in autism.
2. These same proteins may cause an inflammatory response resulting in the symptoms seen in autism. While this diet is considered to be experimental, many families have found a positive response to the diet. This response is more commonly seen in younger children.  Reichelt recommends trying this diet for a minimum of three months to see the full benefit.  However, to see the benefit of this diet, strict adherence is required.  Adherence is often difficult because of the complexity of the diet, and even minute amounts of gluten or casein will affect the outcome and you may not see any benefit.  The diet has to be followed
at home, school, and wherever the child eats.  Even eating a small graham cracker (which contains gluten) could throw off the outcome of this diet.

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

This diet is considered the last resort and is not commonly used.  It is based on a belief that certain carbohydrates can cause gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation, which causes pain and discomfort.  By removing these carbohydrates (mainly lactose, sucrose and maltose), these symptoms are lessened and the bowel can heal.

Should this diet be recommended?  Current studies show that many children with autism have a lot of GI problems and a child presenting with these problems should be referred to a gastroenterologist for an appropriate diagnosis before starting this restrictive diet.

Problems with the above diets
• These diets are quite restrictive in terms of the types and categories of foods that need to be avoided; therefore, if not done correctly, a child can become deficient in many nutrients such as protein, B- complex vitamins, iron, and calcium.  We recommend visiting with a registered dietitian before beginning any of these to receive guidance as to how to follow these properly.

• Foods required by the diets can be quite expensive.  For example, a normal brownie mix costs around $2.00, but a GF/CF brownie mix is going to cost about $4.00-$5.00.  Generally, most GF/CF foods will cost 50%-100% more than their regular counterpart.

• Strict adherence to these particular diets is required.  Often it is difficult for families to adhere to the diet for the three months required to see any benefit.  Many parents think that they don’t have to follow the diet every day or all day and eventually give in and allow their child to eat foods not allowed on the diet.  This is especially noted in families where other siblings are eating regular food items.

While many of these diets might seem to be the answer to helping deal with the aspects of autism, they are rather difficult to follow and can be expensive.  Several studies have shown that these diets may improve ASD symptoms, but the overall results are inconclusive.  We recommend visiting with a registered dietitian and getting a full nutritional assessment of the child before starting any diet changes or modification.

If you have questions about the above information, please feel free to contact us at 800-658-3080 and we
would be glad to answer your questions.

Strickland, Elizabeth; Nutrition Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism, Asperger’s, PDD, and Other Related Disorders, 2005.

Reichelt K. et al.  Gluten, milk proteins and autism: Dietary intervention effects on behavior and peptide secretion.  J Appl Nutr, 1990; 42:1-11.

Reaching the Top of the Hill

From Santa Maria Times–When Jason Christenberry first learned to use the Santa Maria Area Transit bus, his mother Janet said she felt “scared to death.”

That’s because Jason has Asperger’s Syndrome, a communication disorder on the Autism spectrum.

But thanks to HILL House, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s two-year transition program for intellectually disabled students ages 18-22, Janet Christenberry no longer worries about her son taking public transportation.

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Erasing Autism: Scientists are closing in on the genes linked to autism. So why is Ari Ne’eman so worried?

Erasing Autism

Erasing Autism

From Newsweek, It’s spring in Washington, and Ari Ne’e-man, with his navy suit and leather brief-case on wheels, is in between his usual flurry of meetings. Ne’eman is a master networker, a guy you’d think was born in a campaign office and bred in the halls of the Capitol. He’s fluent in policy-speak and interacts seamlessly with high-level officials (he’s just had lunch with the acting vice chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and inquisitive reporters alike. He’s formal but sociable and has a well-timed sense of humor. He also has a problem with velvet. I knew this about Ne’eman—he’d mentioned it when we first started talking more than a year ago—but now, in a D.C. coffee shop, he gets into the sensory details. His father used to drive a car that had fuzzy velvet-like cushioning, and it made Ne’eman crazy to sit in it. “I’d wince because I’d think about how it would feel to get that under your fingernails,” he says. I think I see him shudder at the memory.

Ari Ne’eman is 21 years old and has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning diag-nosis on the wide-ranging autism spectrum. Ne’eman’s velvet aversion is triggered somewhere deep in his brain, a brain that he happens to relish. He doesn’t want anybody to mess with or, God forbid, cure his Asperger’s. It’s who he is, who he’s always been. It’s why he’s had ob-sessive interests since toddlerhood. At 2½, he saw a dinosaur skeleton at New York’s American Museum of Natural History and announced, “That’s a pterodactyl.” From there he fixated on baseball, reciting players’ names and stats ad nauseam, whether or not anyone was listening—a behavior experts call perseveration. Later it was constitutional law. His friend Ben DeMarzo remembers driving with Ne’eman and two other classmates one high-school weekend. DeMarzo and the others wanted to listen to music—the Beatles were a favorite—but Ne’eman had other plans. “Ari made us listen to Supreme Court oral arguments. It was brutal,” DeMarzo tells me. He was outnumbered—how’d he win? I ask. DeMarzo laughs. “Ari always wins,” he says.

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Scientists Reaching Consensus On How Brain Processes Speech

How the Brain Processes Speech

How the Brain Processes Speech

From ScienceDaily, Neuroscientists feel they are much closer to an accepted unified theory about how the brain processes speech and language, according to a scientist at Georgetown University Medical Center who first laid the concepts a decade ago and who has now published a review article confirming the theory.

In the June issue of Nature Neuroscience, the investigator, Josef Rauschecker, PhD, and his co-author, Sophie Scott, PhD, a neuroscientist at University College, London, say that both human and non-human primate studies have confirmed that speech, one important facet of language, is processed in the brain along two parallel pathways, each of which run from lower- to higher-functioning neural regions.

These pathways are dubbed the “what” and “where” streams and are roughly analogous to how the brain processes sight, but are located in different regions, says Rauschecker, a professor in the department of physiology and biophysics and a member of the Georgetown Institute for Cognitive and Computational Sciences.

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