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Category: Autism

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.

A Salute to Special Needs Fathers

A Salute to Special Needs Fathers

So much is written on the mother-child bond, but what is a father’s role in this equation? Fathers are also essential to the healthy development of a child and have a great impact on the emotional and intellectual growth of the child. Father’s bring a different style to parenting to the family from communication styles to more active play and help to prepare our children for the reality of the world.

When a family has a special needs child, having two parents is even more essential as each partner looks to the other for support. Parenting stress can not only affect the psychological well being of an individual, but it can also affect the marital relationship between spouses. It is a sad reality that couples of children with special needs face a much higher divorce rate than the rest of the married population and it has been noted that more than 30 percent of fathers of special needs children experience symptoms of depression so severe that they warrant clinical attention.

Support groups provide a safe environment to bond and share experiences with others that are sharing your same struggle and while there are many support groups for mothers of special needs children, there is only a small number of support groups focused on fathers. Attending a support group or even starting your own can be an empowering tool to help fathers feel like they have a community of support and provide a source of strategizing and gaining support for challenges.

So what can we do to help our special needs children? Parents report feeling closer to their children when they focus on positive behaviors that their child engages in and providing positive reinforcement rather than focus on negative behaviors. These parents are often more likely to act in ways that encourage those positive behaviors to occur again. It is also important to remember that special needs children are beautifully unique and it is important to focus on your child’s strengths and positive behaviors and help to promote these qualities and strengths. So on Father’s Day, we want to say thank you to all of the fathers that hung in through the tough times and are still hanging in there….you are greatly appreciated.

Can Chiropractic Care Help Autism Symptoms?

Can Chiropractic Care Help Autism Symptoms?

We all know about chiropractic care for a bad back but what about for a child with autism? A recently published study in the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research, focused on a three year old child recently diagnosed with autism. The child suffered from delayed motor, cognitive, and speech skills and also suffered from frequent headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. During the study, the child received subluxation-based specific chiropractic care to assess the benefits, if any, the treatment would supply. After one month of treatment, the child appeared to have reduced headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. Her autism-related issues also appeared to improve, including her eye contact, attitude, and language development.

Spinal adjustments are often used on other parts of the body and are often known for treating common illness such as headaches and allergies. Chiropractors call certain misalignments vertebral subluxations, which result in problems with the spine and nervous system. Autism symptoms are intimately involved in the reaction of the nervous system and some autism researchers believe that the nerve damage could lead to neuroendocrine events that exacerbate autism symptoms.

Although much more research needs to be done concerning chiropractic alignment and autism, a multi-disciplinary approach to treating your child’s symptoms is encouraged. Working together with your primary care physician, chiropractors, occupational therapists, and other health care providers will often provide the best overall support for 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/

Do You Know the Early Signs of Autism?

Do You Know the Early Signs of Autism?

No one wants to receive the diagnosis of autism and recent statistics reveal that autism is on the rise with 1 in 68 children now being diagnosed with autism. While diagnosis is on the rise, most children are not diagnosed until age 2. All evidence points to early detection and intervention as the most successful treatment option, but do you know the early signs of autism? Below are common signs that may indicate your child may be autistic and require further observation.

1. Delayed motor development – Parents love the milestones that their children achieve such as rolling over, crawling and walking. Any delays may warrant further investigation.

2. Repetitive or obsessive behavior – watch for unusual body movements with the hands or arms and unusual body postures.

3. Disinterest in other family members – Does your child look to you for comfort (eye contact) and extend their arms to be picked up? Lack of interest in bonding at an early age may lead to difficulty relating to others as they mature.

4. Unresponsiveness to their name and environment– Is your baby hard of hearing or simply not responding to verbal cues? Is your baby imitating sounds, smiles and facial expressions?

5. Lack of smiling – Does your child smile back and laugh? This should be normal behavior by six months of age.

With any condition, your physician or a specialist can help you determine if further care is needed. With early detection and treatment children on the autism spectrum have the potential to lead full and rewarding lives.

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.

Allergies and Autism

Allergies and Autism

Springtime brings warmer temperatures, longer days and beautiful blooming flowers and trees; but along with all of nature’s beauty springtime is often the time when we see a rise in pollen and a rise in the sneezing and runny noses. Allergens send the body’s immune system into overdrive, leading to allergy symptoms such as sneezing, and itching when exposed to environmental allergens. Food allergies or sensitivities usually result in GI symptoms. Allergies are also frequently seen in children with autism; could there be a link between allergies and autism?

First, let’s make the distinction between intolerance and an allergy. An allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a wide range of symptoms and in severe cases it can be life-threatening. In contrast, intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems. A classic example of intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (milk sugar) resulting in GI distress including stomach pain, bloating and diarrhea. Anaphylaxis is an extreme example of an allergy where there is a whole-body response that can be life-threatening and must be treated quickly.

Food allergies are extremely common in children with autism with approximately 1 in 13 children having a food allergy and 1 in 40 reporting a life threatening food allergy. Food allergies are one of the main causes of ADHD according to a 2001 study in the Lancet. It is also recognized that allergies to chemicals, molds and other environmental agents can also cause behavioral changes.

Food allergies can, in fact, produce inflammation throughout the body. Food allergies result from a strong immune response to a food, and the resulting inflammation can involve multiple body systems. With classic food allergies, this immune response involves a particular antibody, IgE (immunoglobulin type E). Another inflammatory food response that is appearing more frequently is eosinophilic esophagitis. Eosinophilic esophagitis is not a classic food allergy but the resulting inflammation produces changes in the cell lining of the esophagus which can lead to a difficulty is swallowing. Avoiding the offending foods allows the esophagus to heal, along with the rest of the GI tract.

The gut is integral to the immune system and the brain and will react immediately when exposed to an offending agent. Avoidance of the allergen and incorporating antioxidants into the diet may assist in decreasing inflammation associated with food intolerances in children with autism. Focus Formulations products can help with dietary deficiencies associated with autism. Our products contain antioxidants to calm inflammation and combat the effects of oxidative stress while supplying the needed nutrients for healthy learning and sleep.