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Category: Autism and learning

Medical Marijuana and Autism

Medical Marijuana and Autism

Medical marijuana has been touted to cure everything from pain to cancer, but how about as an autism treatment? There is anecdotal evidence that marijuana’s main non-psychoactive compound — cannabidiol or CBD — helps children in ways no other medication has. Now a first-of-its-kind scientific study is trying to determine if the link is real. A clinical trial is underway in Israel to test the benefits of medicinal marijuana for young people with autism. The study began in January at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The study involves 120 children and young adults, ages 5 to 29, who have mild to severe autism, and it will last through the end of 2018.

Adi Aran, the pediatric neurologist leading the study, said nearly all the participants in the study previously took antipsychotics and nearly half responded negatively. Currently, only two medications have been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of autism. Both are antipsychotic drugs that are not always effective and carry serious side effects.

One major concern is the long-term impact of prescribing cannabis to young patients is the possibility of causing harm to the developing brain; although antipsychotic drugs currently prescribed to autistic children are certainly not without serious side effects.

The strain of CBD that is being used in the study led by Dr. Aran is a high CBD strain or ‘clean 98 percent CBD’. Some anecdotal evidence from other families that have used medical marijuana to treat autism symptoms found that the high CBD strains weren’t necessarily working for those with behavioral issues and found greater success with other strains.

Additional studies will have to be approved to be conducted in the United States before medical marijuana will be sanctioned as a treatment for symptoms of autism and Dr. Aran’s study may be the starting point for additional studies in other countries

Is There a Connection Between Sugar and Autism?

Is There a Connection Between Sugar and Autism?

Most elementary school teachers will confirm that there is a link between sugar and behavior but now scientists are looking deeper into that correlation.

Researchers at The California Salk Institute observed behaviors in pregnant mice that were fed a diet of high glycemic foods versus a diet of low glycemic foods. The mice in the study were specifically bred to demonstrate symptoms of autism.

High-glycemic foods produce a rapid rise in blood sugar and tend to be rich in simple carbohydrates such as sugar (potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice). Low-glycemic foods don’t produce such a blood-sugar spike. They include foods high in protein (nuts, beans and meat) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables). Low-glycemic diets have long been recommended for people with diabetes, to help keep blood sugar on an even level.

Though their diets differed, the two groups of mice consumed the same amount of calories and maintained similar weights. After the pregnancy and the pups were weaned, the groups were maintained on the same diet and researchers tested the behavior and brain development between the two groups.

All the mice in the high-glycemic diet group demonstrated autism-like behaviors. They avoided contact with new mice placed near their chambers. They repeated actions with no apparent purpose and groomed excessively. By contrast, the mice in the low-glycemic group showed an overall reduction in their autism-like behaviors. They spent more time near new mice and less time performing repetitive behaviors such as excessive self-grooming.

Researchers continued to look for the differences between the two groups and found that the mice fed the high-glycemic diet had far lower levels of doublecortin- a protein associated with newly developing neurons. In addition, the mice on the high-glycemic diet showed more evidence of gene activity associated with inflammation and higher numbers of microglia (immune cells in the brain).

There is a great deal of research in support of sugar producing chronic low levels of inflammation and more recent studies have implicated inflammation during pregnancy with an increased risk of autism, although most of these studies focused on inflammation during pregnancy. Some researchers have proposed that the chronic inflammation produced by sugar is why diabetes during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in offspring.

Although much research still needs to be continued, a low-glycemic diet is generally considered healthful. Focus Formulations products address this issue by having very little if any sugar added to their products and they are engineered to address nutritionally deficient needs in autistic children. Autistic children often have nutrient imbalances either due to metabolic deficiencies or limited diets and it is prudent for families to work with a nutritionist for the optimal health of your child.

Can People on the Spectrum Communicate Better with Animals?

Can People on the Spectrum Communicate Better with Animals?

“I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”

Are dogs more sensitive to human nature or do they simply perceive the world in a different manner such as those with autism? In the book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, by Temple Grandin, Grandin examines the surprising similarities between an animal’s mind and an autistic mind. Autism is a neurological disorder with various theories on causation. Scientists who study autism believe that the disorder is caused by under development of certain brain circuits, and over development of other brain circuits. The imbalance of the nervous system results in the common symptoms you see in autism such as speech delays, sound and texture sensitivities and developmental delays. Grandin observes that people with autism, ‘are closer to animals than normal people are.’ Grandin contributes the differences between typical human mentality and animal mentality, not as a matter of IQ but as a matter of perception and emotion.

Grandin, autistic herself, states that she has no language based thoughts; all of her thoughts are in pictures. Since animals do not have verbal language and many children with autism are non-verbal, memories and thoughts are stored as pictures, sounds, or other sensory impressions. Sensory-based information by its very nature is more detailed than word-based memories; therefore animals may understand intentions, emotions, images, or thoughts behind the words, even if the words themselves aren’t totally understood. You may also observe an animal “sensing” something way before a human and can even be trained to alert others to seizures and illness. Primarily, animals and people with autism are visual thinkers; while most people use a combination of verbal and visual skills for communication.

We would all love to communicate better with our pets and that communication strengthens our bond with them. Grandin, who is an expert in animal behavior, claims that her autism helps her understand and empathize with animals. Grandin is also a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, an advocate in the autism community and an activist for the humane treatment of animals.

Find out more about theories on autism and treatments at: www.focusformulations.com

How Will Your Autistic Child Look as an Adult?

How Will Your Autistic Child Look as an Adult?

You may feel frustrated right now that your child is not hitting the milestones that you see other children reaching. Will my child ever sleep through the night? Will my child ever speak? Will my child make connections with other peers? Rest assured that your child will not be the same down the road as he/she is today. Age two is vastly different from age 12 and age 12 is very different from 24.

We all grow and change with maturity and autism does not prevent a child from developing and changing over time; they simply may not do it as quickly as a neurotypical child. Autism involves several developmental delays; delay does not mean it will not happen but simply not on the “normal” developmental time frame.

Developmental delays in verbal communication can be especially frustrating. The National Center of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities states that 25 to 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism will speak some words by 12 to 18 months. However, those children may have a diminished capacity for, or lose the ability altogether, to communicate verbally. Nearly 40 percent of children diagnosed will never be able to speak at all. The remaining percentage of children may be able to communicate verbally at a much later age. Keep in mind that verbal challenges seen at age 3 will look very different at age 15 and will also look very different as an adult.

Connecting socially is also important and we want our children to connect with peers. Children with autism often times do not have the social skills to make connections and developmental delays can compound the problem. Children with autism are often socially and emotionally at a much younger age than their peers. At a young age this divide can be huge but as they age this gap gets smaller.

Be patient, being in the “waiting room” is never easy but continue to relish your child’s victories and continue to encourage and support them.

A Natural Alternative to Adderall

A Natural Alternative to Adderall

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood neurobiological disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of July 2015, close to 6 million, American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetimes. Symptoms of ADHD include: aggression, excitability, fidgeting, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, lack of restraint, or persistent repetition of words or actions.

Despite the risk of using amphetamines in children, Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for children diagnosed with ADHD. Side effects of Adderall include:

Nervousness                              Fear
Restlessness                              Anxiety
Excitability                                Agitation
Irritability                                 Tremor
Agitation                                   Weakness
Dizziness                                  Blurred vision
Headache                                 Sleep problems

Stimulant drugs like Adderall are addictive and using them recreationally may increase the chances of developing a psychological and physical dependence on them. Long term use of Adderall may also include physical damage to the brain and internal organs.

Adderall increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, but what if there was a way to do that naturally without any harmful side effects? Cognition Focus works by providing the key precursors that are involved in memory and cognitive processes. They cross the blood brain barrier and produce the neurotransmitters that are vital in this process.

The major ingredients in Cognition Focus are L-glutamic acid which is a major neurotransmitter that provides fuel for the brain and stimulates mental alertness and memory. It also contains choline bitartrate and N-acetyl L-carnitine which are able to cross the blood brain barrier and work at the level of the neural synapse. Calm Focus works by providing the key precursors that are involved in the sleep process. Calm Focus also helps to combat the effects of oxidative stress which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects.

Using Cognition Focus during the day and Calm Focus at night provides a synergistic balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), allowing you to stay focused and calm for a productive day.

Looking for an Autism Friendly Summer Camp?

Looking for an Autism Friendly Summer Camp?

A common right of passage for many children is the experience of summer camp and for children with autism that may not be an easy task. Fortunately, there are many camps that are specifically geared for children on the spectrum.

Here are a few items to consider in finding a camp that is the right fit for your child:

1. Is your child ready for camp? Is it just for the day, weekend or a sleep away camp?
2. What is the age range of the campers?
3. Does the camp have special needs standards?
4. What is the safety policy?
5. Are there any therapeutics activities such as equestrian therapy, behavior management, social skills groups or sensory integration?
6. What percentage of the campers have autism?
7. What is the camper to staff ratio?
8. Is an aide permitted to accompany a camper?
9. Are medical professionals available on site?
10. What are the fees and are scholarships available?

Check out the link below for camps in your area and start preparing for a fun and relaxing summer with your family.

https://www.mysummercamps.com/camps/Special_Needs_Camps/Autism/

Improving Classroom Focus for Students with Autism

Improving Classroom Focus for Students with Autism

Most children and adults find that paying attention can be hard work at times. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be a big challenge. Paying attention uses particular networks in the brain and it is a skill that can be improved and developed over time. To pay attention effectively, we need to be alert, so that we can filter distractions from important information within our surroundings.

Children with autism quite often also have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which further compounds the difficulty of keeping on task.
Keeping focus and attention is critical for school age children as it is expected that they sit for extended periods of time and listen to the teacher. With preparation your child can make the most of their classroom time.

So what can you do to best prepare your child for success in the classroom?

1) Get out excess energy
A child will have difficulty sustaining attention on a task if they are too over stimulated. Allowing additional time prior to school for your child to engage in physical activities that they enjoy such as riding their bike or jumping on a trampoline will help them to respond appropriately to a more sedentary task. Discreet finger and foot fidget tools are also helpful.

2) Consider an appropriate environment
A noisy, over-stimulating place will simply add to the distractions. Find a quiet place for homework and study and build in “break” time dependent upon your child’s attention span and age. Try and set a goal for longer “focus” times.

3) Adequate sleep
If your body needs sleep you will not be able to focus and learn. Sleep quality has a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Additionally, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

4) Proper Diet
Several studies show that nutritional status can directly affect mental capacity among school-aged children. For example, deficiencies in iron, thiamine, vitamin E, vitamin B, iodine, and zinc, are shown to inhibit cognitive abilities and mental concentration. Additionally, amino acid supplementation can improve perception, intuition, and reasoning. Several studies also demonstrate that improvements in nutrient intake can influence the cognitive ability and intelligence levels of school-aged children. As many children with autism have limited diets, dietary deficiencies are not uncommon.

Cognition Focus and Calm Focus support healthy sleep and concentration, both of which are needed for success in the classroom. Cognition Focus stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which is involved in learning and memory. Calm Focus stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which initiates sleep. Cognition Focus and Calm Focus also provide the nutrients that are often found to be deficient in autistic children, and are needed for your child to reach their maximum potential.