Natural Remedies Offer Hope For Autistic Children
Baffling. Exasperating. Overwhelming. Heartbreaking. All of those adjectives have been used to describe autism, a developmental disorder that affects as many as one out of every 150 children in this country. Autism is a lifelong disorder that causes abnormal neurological development and typically manifests itself by the age of 3.
According to the Autism Society of America, autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects social interaction and communication. As early as infancy, a child with autism may be unresponsive to people and focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time.
Many children with autism engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head banging. For reasons that are still not understood, about 20 to 30 percent of children with autism develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. Children with autism have a tremendous amount of social anxiety, which can make attending school very difficult.
Although the symptoms will differ from child to child, following are some of the most common traits of autism:
- Does not socially interact well with others, including parents
- Shows a lack of interest in, or rejection of physical contact
- Avoids making eye contact with others, including parents
- Fails to develop friends or interact with other children
- Is delayed or does not develop language
- Once language is developed, does not use language to communicate with others
- Repeats same words or phrases over and over
- Has repetitive motor movements, such as rocking and hand or finger flapping
- Does not like noises
- Has rituals
- Requires routines
Although experts disagree on the exact cause of the disorder, many researchers believe that it is somehow related to the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR). That is because many parents report that their children were developing normally until they received the vaccine.
Because traditional medicine provides only limited treatment for autism, many parents turn to natural or alternative treatments. Although the average pediatrician may not be familiar with alternative treatments such as facilitated communication, secretin therapy, auditory integration training or nutritional supplements, they can usually provide you with the name of a doctor who is.
Aromatherapy can help awaken the senses and also relax autistic children. Some holistic practitioners recommend giving the child a bath with invigorating oils in the morning (eucalyptus, bergamot, lemon, peppermint or rosemary). In the evening, oils such as chamomile, juniper, lavender, marjoram and sandalwood may help the child relax so that they can get a good night’s sleep.
Massage is another alternative therapy that may be helpful for autistic children. Massage is well known for its relaxing effects but regular massages go a step further and improve overall health. Although many people with autism find light touching uncomfortable, they may enjoy the deep pressure of massage. Massage has been shown to decrease self-injury and other challenging behaviors in people with autism.
There are several supplements that holistic practitioners sometimes recommend for autistic children. Vitamin B-6, DMG, Magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids and others have been used to help manage autism symptoms. Studies have shown that autistic children benefit from a diet that is free from gluten and casein. In other words, autistic children should not eat wheat gluten or dairy products. You might also experiment with removing corn and avoid food colors as much as possible.
It is common for parents with autistic children to become despondent. Parents cannot give in to despair. Try as hard as you can to be loving, accepting and patient. Treating a child with autism is a group effort involving many professionals and non-professionals. The world of autism is dynamic. It is critical that parents continue to educate themselves and monitor, maintain and direct the goals of the team for the benefit of their children.