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.

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.

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.