Plus Strategies for Prevention
In The Autism Revolution, Pediatric Neurologist and Neuroscientist Martha Herbert approaches autism as a whole-body condition that can improve, rather than be a static, lifelong genetic brain disorder.
“It’s the way the brain is shifted into acting when faced with a combination of stressors—some, but not all of which are genetic—at a vulnerable point in development,” says Herbert. Non-genetic challenges can come from the immune system, nutrition, the environment and stress. “Addressing them can make a profound difference in the condition; maybe even turning it around.”
Herbert directs the Treatment Research and Neuroscience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (TRANSCEND) program at a joint Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Imaging facility.
“While autism is often thought of as a genetic disorder, it’s the result of a gene-environment interaction where genes are corrupted,” explains Psychiatrist Robert Hendren, who is currently partnering in developing the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of California, San Francisco.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, now affecting one in 68 children and one in 42 boys. Autism Speaks (AutismSpeaks.org) defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a group of complex brain development disorders characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Many experts agree that in some cases, autism can be prevented. “Prevention needs to start early—preconception is ideal,” says Dr. Kenneth A. Bock, of Bock Integrative Medicine, in New York, and author ofHealing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies.
Emphasizing omega-3 essential fatty acids, folic acid and probiotics during pregnancy can be beneficial, and it’s important to avoid iron deficiency, which has been tied to higher rates of autism, Hendren counsels. READ MORE