What is Autism?

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders which include classical Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Rett's Disorder.

Thirty years ago, autism was considered a rare disorder, affecting only 1 in 2,500 children. Prevalence more than quadrupled in the 1990's alone, and by 1999, it had jumped to 1 in 285. When you include the milder forms of autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's Syndrome, it appears that as many as 1 in 150 children may be affected.


People are talking about an autism epidemic and rightly so, given these statistics - a recent review of data by John Hopkins University researchers has concluded that this epidemic of autism is real, and not due to increased awareness and better reporting on the part of health care professionals.

The ABC's of Autism

Autism is a disorder which is marked by impairments in social skills, behavior, and speech. Children with autism are often withdrawn, lack emotion and speech, and are extremely sensitive to sound and touch. They may engage in repetitive behaviors, have a hard time reading emotional states, and are often intensely precoccupied with a single activity or subject.

So what is causing this huge and sudden increase in autistic spectrum disorders? Controversies rage about whether environmental factors – such as mercury found in vaccinations (called thimerosal) and/or dental amalgams, lead, copper and other heavy metals and chemicals, industrial pollutants in air and water, additives and preservatives, and even certain foods – acts as catalysts that can trigger these disorders.

As well, many doctors suspect a genetic link in these disorders. Drs. William Walsh and Anjum Usman in Chicago have done an amazing study on patients in the autistic spectrum which found that more than 99 percent of his 503 autistic subjects, which included Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD, exhibited evidence of a metal-metabolism disorder. Their findings suggest that an inborn (genetic) error of metal metabolism may be a fundamental cause of autism and autistic spectrum disorders,and may be affecting those with ADD as well.

What these doctors have found is that neurodevelopmentally challenged children are missing an enzyme (called metallothionein) that breaks down heavy metals. Without this enzyme, heavy metals accumulate in the body, resulting in an increased vulnerability to these toxins and in an impaired immune system. These scientists are presently engaged in an experimental investigation of metal-metabolism genetics in an attempt to find the "autism gene(s)".

An Interplay Between Genes and the Environment?

So what does this mean for the neurodevelopmentally challenged patient? Certainly it has been well documented that autism, autistic spectrum disorders and ADD run in families, and are related to other disorders such as PKU, Tourette’s Syndrome and the Fragile X Syndrome (a disorder of the X chromosome). The link of a genetic predisposition to neurodevelopmental disorders has been clearly established.

In addition, many scientists feel that the recent ten-fold increase in autism must be the result of something in the environment that children are exposed to after birth. What is interesting to note is that fifteen years ago, two out of three autistic children were born that way; now, three out of four develop normally until sometime between their first and second birthdays. There is even a term called "late onset autistic", which describes a child that hits all the usual milestones and then, suddenly and abruptly, begin to regress.

Recommendations for Parents

Here are some recommendations currently espoused by DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctors and other health care practitioners:

Inform Yourself.

Read as much information as you can about autism and natural therapies, read the articles and visit the web sites recommended on this site.

Reduce the Load of Toxins on Your Child's Body.

This means eliminating preservatives, additives, food colorings, artificial sweeteners, MSG and artificial flavorings. It also means reducing exposure to airborne chemicals such as perfumes and tobacco smoke, household chemicals, and pesticides and insecticides.

Drink only pure filtered water and store foods in inert containers (not plastics).

Try Gluten and Casein Free Diets.

Many autistic patients have malabsorption problems related to leaky gut syndrome, and improve when these foods are eliminated from the diet. Visit our page on Diets for Autism and GFCF Products.

Detoxify Heavy Metals and Chemicals.

Use safe and easy ways to detoxify your child.

Take Special Supplements.

Supplements that are often recommended for autistic spectrum disorder patients include extra calcium, extra magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, fish oil, DMG, digestive enzymes, probiotics, candida yeast fighters, and colostrum.

Recommended: One thing we recommend for anyone who is has a child on the autism spectrum is to have a hair mineral analysis test done.

How can a hair analysis help one achieve better health? If we consider that diet is what we consume and nutrition is what we retain, then we can see that discovering what the body needs when it needs it is a valuable tool in creating health.

Hair Analysis test report

A hair analysis can determine which essential minerals the body is needing more of and which toxic elements it needs to eliminate. It also provides valuable insight into the body's metaoblism and what dietary changes would be most helpful for recovery.

For more information on the hair tissue mineral analysis, please click here.

View our Signs and Symptoms of Autism page.

Visit or return to our page on Natural Therapies for Autism .

Additional Useful Information for Parents of
Children on The Autism Spectrum

Test Your Child for Toxic Metals
Testing your child for heavy and toxic metals is extremely important, and highly recommended. It will give you much needed info about your child's body. 
More info on heavy metal testing

The ABCs of Autism
Autism is a disorder which is marked by impairments in social skills, behavior, and speech. Children with autism are often withdrawn, lack emotion and speech, and are extremely sensitive to sound and touch. 
More info on what is autism

Signs & Symptoms of Autism
Since autism is a disorder and not a disease, it is not entirely accurate to refer to "symptoms" of autism. Instead, there is a range of signs and behavior patterns that indicate autism. 
More info on signs of autism

Diets for Autism
Find out what diets can help your child in their recovery process.
Click for details


Asperger’s Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) that was first identified by physician Hans Asperger in 1944, but was only added to the DSM-IV in 1994.

As a result, many children have been misdiagnosed with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and even Schizophrenia. 
More info on Asperger's Syndrome

Autism & Mercury Poisoning
There is now a great deal of information available that tells us in no uncertain terms that toxic metals and chemicals are a causative factor in many cases of autistic spectrum disorders.  These would include harmful toxins such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, insecticides and pesticides
More info on Autism and
mercury poisoning

Resources for Parents
A list of autism resources for parents and caregivers of an Autistic, Asperger's Syndrome, or PDD child: 
More resources for Autism, Asperger's, and PDD

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