What Is The Autism Diet?

Encouraging research has found a link between autism and diet, providing hope for children with the condition. A study conducted by Autism Speaks, has shown that certain gastrointestinal disorders are also present in nearly half of all children with autism.

Typically the gastrointestinal disorders involved are related to gluten or casein intolerance. These two proteins can trigger an immune response in the body, which causes inflammation in the GI tract.  Research has found that adjusting the diet of autistic children can avoid the complications resulting from GI inflammation, and vastly improve their condition.

Autism Diet

The Autism diet is based on eliminating foods which contain the proteins gluten and casein, the biggest culprits of gastrointestinal inflammation.  Gluten is found in grains like barley, wheat (flour) and rye. Dairy products contain casein. Removing foods like bread, cereals, yogurt, milk, and cheese is what the autism diet is structured around. Also, these proteins are hidden in many processed and packaged foods as fillers.

How the Autism Diet Works

Gastrointestinal disorders aggravated by casein and gluten result in a condition informally known as leaky gut, an inflammatory condition where intestinal permeability is greater than normal, allowing undigested proteins to pass into the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream, these proteins can affect certain brain functions in relation to speech, social skills, behavior, and even sleep patterns. By removing these proteins from the diet they don’t have the opportunity to affect brain function.

A survey conducted by Penn State provided evidence that a diet of gluten-free, casein-free foods abated many autism symptoms. The study showed that the autism diet greatly reduced hyperactivity and sudden outbursts of temper. Speech and social skills improved.  Even physical symptoms such as seizures showed improvement. The most drastic results were evidenced in children who stayed on the diet for at least six months.  The more closely the diet was followed, the better the results.

Trying the Autism Diet

Simply removing gluten and casein rich foods from a child’s diet may sound easy but it can be challenging at the start. If you are parent of an autistic child you already know your child can often be a finicky eater, sensitive to certain food smells, appearances, or changes.  Plus, many of the foods that have to be removed are staples, providing daily nutrients essential to good health.  Also, it’s important to read every label of every food you give your child every day to make sure they don’t contain these proteins.

Seeking the help of a nutritionist is helpful.  They can suggest foods to replace the ones you are eliminating and give advice about supplements so your child’s daily nutritional needs are met. They can also give a comprehensive list of foods to avoid.

A period of adjustment, and a time of trial and error can be expected when finding substitute foods your child likes. These challenges are small, though, in comparison to the benefits the autism diet can give.

The Types of Intellectual Disabilities

Intellectual disability is a widely used term in America today. There are over 6.5 million people in the United States alone who are affected by intellectual disabilities, and there are many different forms of them. There are certain common similarities between one intellectual disability and the next, of course, but one thing to understand about these disabilities is that no two cases are exactly the same. The easiest way to figure out the difference is to understand the different disorders and syndromes that are considered to be intellectual disabilities.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder- A complex developmental and neurological disorder.
    • Autism has been estimated to occur in over 36,500 of every 4 million babies born each year.
    •  Autism is also known as a developmental disability because it directly affects the development.
    • People who are autistic generally have difficulty interacting with other people in social situations, have issues communicating, display repetitive behaviors, and focus on a restricted amount of interests.
    • Autism can last throughout a person’s entire life.
  • Down syndrome- A chromosomal disorder caused by too many or too few chromosomes, specifically having an extra part or an extra copy of chromosome 21.
    • Occurs in each and every economic and ethnic group.
    • The most frequently occurring chromosomal cause of mild to moderate intellectual disability.
    • The severity of intellectual disability in people with Down syndrome varies greatly.
    • Children with Down syndrome may reach developmental milestones later than children without.
  • Fragile X Syndrome- A genetic disorder that effects development, especially behavior and the ability to learn.
    • Can affect physical appearance and communication skills.
    • May cause sensitivity to noise and light.
    • Fragile X is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability.
    • May not have noticeable symptoms.
    • May have symptoms that are serious, ranging from learning disabilities to cognitive behavioral problems.

Intellectual disabilities have many types. Some types affect the person’s intellectual functionality. This has to do with their I.Q., the ability to problem solve, make decisions, see reason, and their overall ability to learn new things.

Another type of intellectual disability affects a person’s adaptive behavior. This part of the disability will make it very difficult to adapt to a changing environment. The person affected by this intellectual disability may have difficulty displaying the skills necessary to be independent in everyday life. Most people who have intellectual disabilities will have very significant limitations in at least two areas of adaptive behavior.

Learning the symptoms of different intellectual disabilities can help you recognize them early on. Getting help for these disabilities as early as possible will greatly increase a child’s chances of overcoming some of the more debilitating aspects of their symptoms.  There may not be a cure-all for intellectual disabilities, but there is definitely help out there.

Signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome In Infants

During pregnancy if you drink alcohol this could have extremely harmful effects on your infant. Alcohol very easily crosses the placenta barrier and enters the fetus. You would never give a child or infant alcohol and especially, you would never want a developing fetus to come into contact with alcohol. This could affect development in a number of ways and even cause birth defects. It is important to remember that there really is no safe level of alcohol that you can consume during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a real risk and some signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants include:

In Utero

While the child is still in the mother’s womb a number of problems can occur if alcohol is consumed. This can include stunted fetal growth, heart defects and physical feature issues such as narrowed eyes, small eyes, small head, small jaw, thin upper lip and more.

Post Birth

After a child has been born there may be some other problems that surface including developmental delays in the areas of speech, movement, thought, social skills, etc. The infant may also have very poor muscle tone and poor muscle control. More often than not, the child grows up to have a much lower IQ than your average child of that age group. Joints can be misshapen and misplaced on the child; causing a number of skeletal issues and pain.


In order to determine if there is a problem, a doctor will look at a number of signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants to officially diagnose a condition. If it is suspected that a mother who is in labor or has just given birth is potentially intoxicated, medical personnel may request that the mother have her blood alcohol level tested. Brain scans on the baby such as a CT or MRI, can also give some insight when signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in infants is suspected. If the child is still inside the mother’s womb then a pregnancy ultrasound may be able to diagnose a number of problems associated with this condition. While tests are in place to diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome and its related conditions, nobody wants to be in the place of having to put their child through unnecessary testing.

Obviously, drinking to excess when pregnant is extremely dangerous to both the mother and the baby. So, leave the wine bottle opener in the drawer and abstain from drinking when out at restaurants. Because, even the smallest amount of alcohol can be harmful. The period of time where alcohol is the most dangerous is during the first trimester of pregnancy (months one through three). Get more information here.

Understanding Intellectual Disabilities

Between 1-3% of Americans have some form of an intellectual disability. What are intellectual disabilities? Where do they come from? How can you recognize them? What should you look for? All of these are great questions and there seem to be different answers to each one of them. The thing about intellectual disability is that no two cases are the same. Two people displaying characteristics of intellectual disability could have completely different issues. Those same two people could have very similar issues, but at a completely different severity. There is, however, a common ground of characteristics.

  • I.Q. – most people suffering from an intellectual disability have an I.Q. lower than 70-75. This can affect their ability to plan, problem solve, learn quickly or from experience, think abstractly, and see reason.
  • Adaptation- many people who have some degree of intellectual disabilities have significant limitations in at least two areas of adaptive behavior. These behaviors could be anything from socializing to skills required for living independent lives.  Some people with intellectual disabilities have severe issues with changing environments. Consistency is the key to keeping comfort levels high.
  • Early Onset- around 87% of all cases of intellectual disabilities are in mild form. What this means is that the child will have an I.Q. of 50-70 and will not be diagnosed until they are in school. The other 13% of cases are more severe. These children could have difficulty learning basic skills such as talking, walking, and eating on their own. Almost all cases of intellectual disability occur before the age of 18.

There are many factors which can cause intellectual disabilities.

  • Physical- many issues during pregnancy can cause intellectual disabilities.
    • FAS-Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    • Drugs- Illicit drug exposure
    • Maternal Malnutrition or infection
    • Exposure to radiation (X-Rays)
    • Rubella- German measles
    • Lead exposure
  • Genetic- Some factors that cause intellectual disabilities are actually genes passed down from one or both parents. Other genetic factors can occur due to an error when genes combine. Common disorders linked to intellectual disabilities are:
    • PKU- phenylketonuria is a single gene disorder from a missing or defective enzyme
    • Down Syndrome- a chromosomal disorder caused by too many or too few chromosomes
    • Fragile X Syndrome- a single gene disorder located on the X chromosome
      • This disorder is the most commonly inherited cause of intellectual disabilities.
  • Psychological and Environmental- Some children can develop intellectual disabilities due to the environment in which they are raised. Psychological and Environmental factors that can cause intellectual disabilities may include but are not limited to:
    • Inadequate health care
    • Malnutrition
    • Lack of cognitive stimulation early on
    • Adverse living conditions

Intellectual disabilities are a challenge to deal with no matter how mild or sever the case. Patience and understanding are essential. There are many places you can go to find more information about intellectual disabilities. Rest assured that there is help out there for you.

Video Games And Kids With Intellectual Disabilities

medical breakthroughsIf you have a child at home with intellectual disabilities, then you might be wondering what to do about letting him or her play video games like his or her peers do. There seems to be no harm at all in letting your child play video games. In fact, some studies show that frequent gamers end up with better cognitive abilities than the rest of us. So, playing the games might actually benefit your child a little bit. This means that you no longer have a good reason to keep denying your kid that new Xbox or Playstation.

Of course, some kids have disabilities that are bit more debilitating than others. And that means that getting them on the video game playing path is not as simple as going out shopping for the best 5.1 gaming headset and gaming console for them. Nope, some kids need special equipment in order to be able to get any enjoyment out of those gaming consoles and cool games.

There is something cool called the Emotiv EPOC that is making it easier for those kids with more severe disabilities to get a little enjoyment from video gaming like their peers. This revolutionary new device is perfect for those with disabilities that make it next to impossible for communication to take place. You see, it actually work to intercept all the various electrical brain fluctuations that are going on in that little head and then works quickly to interpret them so that they make sense of what the person is actually thinking. Pretty cool device, eh?

Of course the uses of this device go far beyond something as simple as a gaming headset. And, it can be used with both kids and adults. Think about it – what if someone is in an accident that leaves them unable to speak and communicate with friends and family, despite being perfectly okay otherwise. With a device like this around, communication becomes a reality and no longer just a dream or wish.

Granted, just because such a gadget is out there and works in such a manner that it could be a miracle for lots of people across the world, it is sadly not that simple. The price of new devices like these are typically so incredibly high that only the wealthy can afford them in the first place. And that usually means that a health insurance plan will not cover the cost of such a thing, especially if you are on Medicare or a state based health insurance assistance plan. But knowing that something like this is available out there gives you a good place to start work lobbying insurance companies and doctors so that you can get such a thing available to your child and all the others out there like him. And who knows, maybe at some point in the near future these types of gadgets will be cheaper and more available on a mass scale so that anyone who needs such as thing has easy access to it for their family members who need it.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a broad term for different disorders that are connect to the development of the brain. These disorders have certain characteristics such as:

  • Difficulties in social interaction
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive behaviors

Doctors first categorized Autism characteristics into multiple subtypes that covered autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Then in May of 2013 the disorders where merged together under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One of the classic signs of Autism is impaired social interaction. A baby can be unresponsive to people or may focus solely on one particular item for long periods of time. They may seem to be developing normally except when it comes to social interactions.

The child will then fail to respond to their name and will generally avoid eye contact. They have a hard time figuring out what people are thinking or feeling because they lack the understanding that comes with voice tones or facial expressions. They may also lack empathy.

Some of the early symptoms that doctors and parents can look for in a child that they suspect has ASD are:

  • The child does not babble by age 1
  • The child does not speak in single word from by 16 months or in two word phrases by age 2
  • The child does not respond to their name
  • The child has a loss in language
  • The child has poor eye contact
  • The child does not smile

Some of the later clues that a child has autism are:

  • The child has a difficult time making friends
  • The child struggles to make or keep conversation going with others
  • The child does not have imaginative or social play
  • The child uses unusual or repetitive language
  • The child is extremely preoccupied with certain objects or subjects
  • The child has a strict routine

As of right know doctors are not sure what causes autism. Doctors and scientists that genetic and environmental conditions are the likely causes of ASD.  They have found a number of genes that are associated with Autism. Some studies have shown that there are irregularities in several areas of the brain in people with ASD. Other studies have shown that ASD is linked to having abnormal levels or serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. All these studies have suggested that ASD may be caused by a disruption in normal brain development, but it still requires further study.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 88 children have ASD in America and that this has increased in the past 40 years. They have also found that Autism is about 5 times more common in boys, 1 in 54 boys compared to 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed every year.

Best Sports for Kids with Autism

Exercising and sports are not only good for our bodies, but they are also good for our minds as well. Team sports help children to work as a team and gain some social skills as well as confidence. However, these team sports aren’t the best for kids with autism because of the coordination that is required. With that said, there are several sports that are perfect for kids with autism. Here are three examples:

1) Swimming

If your child doesn’t have particularly good ball-handling skills, then swimming could be the perfect sport for them. Learning how to swim could be challenging, but in the end it could be very rewarding for the child. Teaching them simple strokes and playing typical water games would give them a great amount of exercise and also strengthen their body and mind. Participating in a swim team organization could also be valuable because the child could interact with others, but still perform individually. Or maybe another watersport like stand up paddleboarding is a good option.

2) Track and Field

There are many events in track and field that could be perfect for children with autism. The training can be as calm or as intense as you think your child can handle. Like swimming, track and field is a team sport, but kids compete individually. Events like running and jumping could give a child with autism a great amount of confidence while also stimulating their mind. Since there are several events that can be trained on, your child will have a better chance of remaining engaged in activities rather than getting bored at the repetitiveness.

3) Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a great therapeutic activity for children with autism. Autistic children seem to be able to communicate better with animals than other humans so this is the perfect opportunity to allow them to bond with their horse. Aside from the fact that horseback riding can be a little expensive, making multiple trips to take your child could be beneficial to them. Since human interaction is not their strength, allowing them to bond with a horse could enhance their social skills and would be very rewarding and relaxing for your child.

Having your autistic child being involved with one of these three sports could be very important in their development. Not only will it give them something to work toward achieving, but it could also increase their social skills. Of course, if you find out that your child doesn’t like any of these sports, then don’t force them to continue on. As many people say, the best sport for your child is the one that they love the most. You may discover that your autistic child is not a fan of any type of outdoor sports but thrives in a home gym or workout room on something like an indoor rowing machine or treadmill.

Experiment with your child to see what they respond the best to and encourage them to set goals and try to reach them. Set a specific training program so they have something to fall back on and know exactly what they have to do to achieve their goals. This could end up being one of the most rewarding experiences that you and your autistic child have together.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Info

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is the condition that describes what happens to a child whose mother who drank alcohol during the pregnancy. The effects of this can be long term and plenty of things can show up as an effect of it. It includes things like physical, behavioral, mental and/or learning disabilities that show up in the child. Sometimes these things are temporary and other times they are life long effects.

Some of the common effects that you will see include:

  • abnormal facial features
  • slowness of growth
  • central nervous system problems

How this happens is that pregnant women drink alcohol when they should not be, since they are pregnant. By doing this, they pass the alcohol along to their unborn babies through the blood stream. The end result of this behavior is physical and mental disabilities that are collectively known as FASD.

The numbers are not available when it comes to the prevalence of FASD in the United States. However, it is known that FASD seems to occur more often in certain tribes of Native Americans and Alaska natives. The important take away here is that any time a pregnant women drinks alcohol, she is increasing the risk of FASD with the child that she is carrying.

Doctors can diagnose FASD with the following criteria:

  1. Growth deficiency in height and/or weight either prenatally or postnatally.
  2. Specific pattern of facial anomalies: short eye slits, smooth or indistinct philtrum (the ridges running vertically between the nose and lips) and a thin upper lip.
  3. Some brain damage to the central nervous system demonstrated through microcephaly (small size of the brain), tremors, hyperactivity, fine or gross motor problems, attention deficits, learning disabilities, intellectual impairments and possible intellectual disability.
  4. Evidence of alcohol use by the birth mother during pregnancy (however, some diagnoses are made without this criteria).

If this diagnosis is given, know that there is no cure and that it does usually get worse with age. That being said, early identification is better for the child so that they can get help to live up to their potential.


On February 1, OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes sent a memo to the Commissioners of DDS, DMHAS, DCF, DOC, DPH & DSS directing them to make important reforms within their Purchase of Service contracting systems and that action was in response to the hard work initiated and advocated for by Nonprofit Liaison Deb Heinrich, the work of the Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes, the Commission on Nonprofit Health and Human Services and the Governor’s Transition Team Human Services workgroup.

The changes are listed below for your review. One of the most important points within Secretary Barnes’ memo is Governor Malloy’s commitment to partner with private providers. He also addresses his priority to ensure that human services are contracted for in a manner that is cost-effective and efficient for both the private providers as well as the State.

Each agency is to submit an action plan to OPM by March 31, outlining how they will implement the following directives:

• Timely Execution of Contracts:  Agencies need to take the necessary steps to ensure that 95% or more of contracts are executed no fewer than 15 days prior to the commencement of services. Secretary Barnes notes that “the late execution of contracts imposes costs on nonprofit providers and is not an acceptable business practice for either the State or its providers.”

• Multi-Year and Consolidated Contracts:  By having contracts of an appropriate term and by consolidating the number of contracts an agency has with the same provider, the State can reduce the overall administrative burden imposed on both State agencies and nonprofits.

The memo also calls for the creation of a Multi-Agency Group to Streamline and Standardize Contracting Systems. This group will be led by Deb Heinrich and Bob Dakers, Executive Finance Officer at OPM (and co-chair of the Commission on Nonprofit Health & Human Services). The group has 60 days to report back and will work on the following issues:

• timely payments and electronic payments/fund transfers

• budget flexibility

• reporting requirements and systems

The Governor also requests that a liaison or work group be established and designated in each agency to address these issues and to be able speak on behalf of the agency.


Three new bills came out February 2 regarding DDS and the people we advocate for and support. Please note that H.B. 6279 is right in line with Rosa’s Law, which was signed into law by President Obama last year. We will be monitoring the progress of all of these bills and will be sure to alert you when they are up for Public Hearings.


To ensure that individuals with substantiated abuse or neglect allegations against persons receiving services from the Department of Developmental Services are not permitted to serve as volunteers for charitable organizations such as the Special Olympics.


To make technical changes to statutes that include autism related terminology and repeal a statute concerning the autism spectrum disorder pilot program which terminated on June 30, 2009.


To: (1) Utilize person first, respectful language in statutes relating to the Department of Developmental Services that refer to persons with intellectual disability, (2) eliminate obsolete statutes and reporting requirements, and (3) have the statutes accurately reflect the department’s responsibilities for licensing community companion homes and community living arrangements.