What Autism Symptoms Mean

February 6th, 2011


I. Medical Treatment Basics Overview
II. Why Does My Child Do THAT?
III. Definition of Terms Used

I. Medical Treatment Basics Overview

What is Medical Treatment?

Children with autism almost always have medical conditions that cause or make the symptoms of autism worse. Treating those conditions makes the child healthier and when they are in less pain, they learn better, have less aggression, communicate, and learn coping skills among many other improvements. Some children even recover from autism through the use of medical treatments used alongside traditional therapies.

What is a MAPS Doctor?

MAPS is Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. These doctors are trained to treat the underlying causes of the medical conditions, rather than treat the symptoms. To learn more and find a list of doctors, visit www.medmaps.org

It is recommended that parents get recommendations from other parents (visit TACA’s Yahoo! Group here) before hiring a MAPS doctor.

What are the basic Medical Treatments?

  1. Dietary Intervention – including GFCFSF, organic, allergies, carbohydrates and yeast.
  2. Supplements and Vitamins- ASD kids commonly have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
    • Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D3, E, magnesium, zinc, calcium, glutathione, essential fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, multivitamin, enzymes and probiotics can help sleep, hyperactivity, speech, immune system, gastrointestinal pain and function, behavior, attention, skin, social skills, eye contact, aggression, allergies and overall health.
  3. Gut – the AAP says at least 70% of ASD kids have gut problemsthat should be treated.
    • Scoping for disease, such as reflux, colitis, Chron’s and inflammatory bowel diseases by a gastroenterologist; and stool testing for good and bad bacteria levels and problems with absorption and digestion.
  4. Immune – ASD kids commonly have immune system dysfunction.
    • Allergies can be tested with IgG and IgE blood tests. The best test is rotation diet.
    • Weak or hyper-immune systems are equally bad.
  5. Viral – ASD kids don’t seem to handle some viruses properly and can have off the chart viral titers(the level of immunity to a disease) to some diseases, particularly measles.
    • Other viruses like herpes and CMV are common and treatable with antivirals like Valtrex.
    • Testing viral titers is also good information to have if your child is due to have future vaccinations as a positive titer for a disease, then you can get a medical exemption for that vaccine. These are simple blood tests called viral titers, or titres.
  6. Metals – Many ASD kids test high for heavy metalssuch as mercury, lead, tin, nickel and many others. It is believed that ASD kids have problems with the chemical pathway that allows them to detoxify metals.
    • Running provoked urine testing is the best measure of heavy metal toxicity. Provoking means giving a dose of a chelating medication, like DMSA, DMPS or EDTA and then doing a urine test. Studies do not back up blood, hair or unprovoked urine tests as an accurate method of measuring a person’s current metal load.

Please see our Autism Journey Blueprints (PDF file) for a visual guide of the Autism Journey.

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II. Why Does My Child Do THAT?

Why Does My Child Do THAT?

There are a lot of symptoms of autism that may be written off as “just autism” but everything that is “just autism” can have a biological reason and a treatment. In an effort to explain some typical “just autism” behaviors, we offer the following which all comes directly from recovered children, parent and medical experiences.

Why does my child wake up at night?

  • Reflux is the most common cause of night waking. A diagnosis of reflux requires a scope by a gastroenterologist. Treatment is medications as well as removal of acidic foods such as tomatoes, ketchup and citrus.
  • Phenols. Phenol overload looks like dark circles under the eyes, laughing at inappropriate times – especially at night, extra self-stimulatory behaviors, and other issues. Treat with removal of phenolic foods, Epsom salts baths and phenol-targeting enzymes. Phenols are in foods like bananas, apples, red grapes, artificial colors, tomatoes, peanuts, oranges and chocolate.
  • If a child wet or soiled himself.
  • Seizures. Get a 24-hour non-medicated EEG.
  • Once the medical reason is resolved, you may have a lingering behavioral issue where they are conditioned to stay up late. You may have to retrain this behavior.

Why doesn’t my child talk?

  • Autism affects communication but there are many things parents report that helps spur on speech such as GFCFSF diet and supplements like TMG (trimethylglycine), P-5-P (Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate, Vitamin B-6 Metabolite), flax seed and Omegas (Essential Fatty Acids).
  • Parents report treating yeast spurs speech on.
  • A combination of speech and behavioral therapies will help. Look into Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices and techniques too.
  • Children with verbal apraxia – a motor disorder – can have trouble talking.

Why does my child say or do the same thing over and over and over?

Repetitive behaviors are a part of autism. Stimming, or self-stimulatory behaviors, is common and serves as a source of comfort to the child. Adults with ASD say stimming calms them down and is necessary. If it’s not interfering with the child’s work or is inappropriate for the setting, teach the child an acceptable substitute stim that they can use when they need it.

Why does my child have body and diaper rashes?

  • Eczema is a yeast infection that looks like a skin rash and is due to a weakened immune system. Yeast is fed by sugar and carbs. Remove/reduce sugar, juice and carbs, treat with probiotics, colostrum, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract and others homeopathics, and medications like diflucan, nizoral, nystatin, etc.
  • Rashes due to allergy, especially dairy, are very common. Run IgG and IgE allergy tests.
  • Psoriasis is usually triggered by an infection and shows as thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales. It generally responds to antibiotics.
  • Please read labels on creams and ointments as they may not be GFCFSF or contain toxins.

Why does my child have dark circles under his eyes?

These are due to allergy and are called “allergic shiners”. Run IgG and IgE blood food allergy panels and remove offending items. Yeast and Phenols may also cause shiners, but test foods first.

Why does my child climb furniture?

  • Gluten intolerance is the most common cause of this. Remove gluten from the diet.
  • Sensory Integration dysfunction can cause this. Work with an OT with a sensory program.

Why does my child have a bloated/swollen belly?

“Ethiopian belly” is a sign of gastrointestinal problems. A child can have an impaction of stool in his intestines and it needs to be removed. A gut cleanout is needed.

Why does my child have undigested food in his poop?

  • Maldigestion (undigested food in poop) occurs when the gut cannot break down the foods. Digestive enzymes will help.
  • Inborn error of metabolisms can cause this lack of natural enzymes. In babies, you may see lethargy, jaundice, failure to thrive and repeated vomiting. Get blood work done.

Why does my child not poop for days?

  • Constipation is common in ASD children. Putting your child on the GFCFSF diet will resolve a lot of it, but also treating for yeast and allergies will help.
  • Treatments like Oxypowder or Fruit-eze in addition to making sure you child is getting enough water, exercise, fiber, fruits and vegetables will help the issue and get his bowels moving. Avoid sugar as it binds the intestine.
  • You can use larger doses of magnesium, Vitamin C or probiotics to induce bowel movement.
  • A gut clean out will empty the bowel. This can includes liquid magnesium citrate, enemas and stool softeners.
  • Children who have large-sized bowel movements that have torn tissue before and caused pain, can have a fear of pain when pooping and try to hold it in. Use stool softeners.

Why does my child eat all day long and not gain any weight?

  • Gut disorders can cause a slick inside the intestines, coating the walls so that any food will pass right by, rather than have its nutrients and vitamins absorbed. The gut tells the brain that it didn’t get anything from the food, so keep eating. Malabsorption is treatable. Getting your child on the GFCFSF diet is a good start and getting your child scoped by a gastroenterologist will show the problems and allow for treatment to begin.
  • Check for malic acid deficiency. Treatment is fat-absorbing enzymes and Mag malate.

Why does my child only want to drink juice and eat fries, chips and cookies, (even if they are GFCFSF)?

All children, autism or not, would like to just eat tasty junk food all day long. Your job, as the parent, however, is to feed them a nutritious diet. ASD children prefer these foods as they feed their addictions to gluten and casein, but they offer little to no nutrients, feed yeast and supplant calories. If you don’t provide these foods, they cannot eat them.

Why does my child have diarrhea?

Why does my child never get sick?

Hyperimmunity is common and means your child’s immune system is working overtime. This is not necessarily a good thing. Having an immunologist run tests will let you know what’s happening with your child’s immune system so you can treat them.

Why does my child have ammonia-smelling pee?

  • Concentrated urine is caused by not enough liquid intake and can cause urine to smell like ammonia. Increase liquid, particularly water, intake.
  • Bacteria causes ammonia smelling urine and can be treated with a gut cleanout, and lots of probiotics. Consider reducing protein intake as well.

Why does my child hit me or others?

  • Frustration due to lack of ability to communicate and pain, generally gut-related. Getting them on the GFCFSF diet and scoped by a gastroenterologist will help resolve the pain and will help spur on speech.
  • Finding alternative methods of communication will give your child an outlet to be able to tell you what he wants or needs. Learn about Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Why does my child bang his head or hurt himself?

  • When children can’t regulate their sensory system, they often seek deep pressure by banging their heads or engaging in self-injurious behavior.
  • Children with gut pain also do these things. Get a gastroenterologist to scope.

Why can’t my child go out with us to the store / mall / movie with his family?

  • ASD children can get overstimulated very easily as they cannot process all the sights, smells, sounds, and crowds well. Try going when the mall is quiet and the crowd is small, and get in and out fast, no lingering or window shopping.
  • A good tip is rent (they are free from the mall information booth) a wheelchair to push them around in, make sure they have their favorite book or toy and consider an iPod to help block out the noises.
  • Movie theaters turn the sound up very loud and ASD children have a hard time with it. Sitting still for 1-1/2 to 2 hours is hard too. AMC theaters plays “Sensory Friendly” movies with lower volumes, check for a theater near you. www.amcentertainment.com

Why does my child seem deaf?

  • Some children seem to not hear you no matter how loudly you speak but can hear you if you whisper about a cookie from 3 rooms away.
  • It is very common for a family to be concerned their child is deaf and visit an audiologist for a hearing test. These hearing tests almost always come out normal when a child has autism.
  • Children with sensory integration dysfunction may not be able to process sounds and sights at the same time and block one or more out.
  • Find out if it’s a true delay in hearing or speech milestones, and if so, how big of a delay.

Why does my child bruise easily?

Easy bruising generally means a deficiency in Essential Fatty Acids. Supplement with EFA, DPA, Cod Liver Oil and flax seed.

Why does my child get mad when we drive a different way home?

ASD children like routine but giving them routine is not always a good thing because then they have no coping skills when things happen out of routine. You cannot control everything that happens in your child’s life 24/7 so teaching them the skills for a routine change is crucial. A tip is to take different routes when going places so your child doesn’t become too rigid in expectation. Include a “change” in a visual schedule.

Why does my child watch the same movies, or parts of movies, over and over again.

  • ASD children like sameness and routine. Routines are comforting. If you can, supply them with their own area and TV during allotted TV times so they don’t drive you crazy watching 101 Dalmatians for the 9,000th time!
  • Scripting may be helped with high-dose Inositol, Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) and yeast treatment.

Why does my child memorize lines from movies/books and repeats them all the time?

  • Perseveration and echolalia is a common issue in ASD children. They “parrot” back what they hear.
  • Using a “functional language” approach to speech will help.

Now that my child talks, why can’t we have a conversation or answer a question?

Speaking and conversation are different. Being able to produce speech is the first step and then using it functionally is next. Use a language therapist to work on conversational skills.

Why does my child line up his toys or spin the wheels of his car for hours?

  • This is be a mix of OCD, self-calming and self-stimulatory behavior.
  • GFCFSF diet and yeast treatment helps this!
  • ABA or Floortime-type approaches can help kids learn how to use their toys appropriately.

Why does my child insist on a routine and is not flexible?

Children with ASD like sameness and routine. Routines are comforting and some are ok, but when they stop him from being able to work or interact, endanger him or others, or cause other serious problems, you need to work on stopping them and building in some flexibility. Because you cannot control your child’s environment 24/7, you need to make HIM the flexible one by teaching him coping skills to regulate himself when unexpected change occurs.

Why does my child not liked to be hugged?

Children with ASD have sensory defensiveness and it’s hard for them to tolerate some types of touching. Work with an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration to help your child learn to regulate his sensory system.

Why does my child look at objects from the corner of his eye?

Hyperperipheral vision is a stim. It’s worse when yeast overgrowth is present.

Why does my child prefer to be alone then with his family or friends?

  • Many children “Watch, Observe, Listen” but cannot “move in” to a situation like typical peers. It isn’t always choice, they may want to, but they don’t know how, it needs to be taught.
  • Sensory overstimulation may be a cause too. Setting up a calmer opportunity to engage with others should help.

Why does my child eat things that are not food?

PICA is the eating of non-food stuff, like hair, wood, drywall, and is caused by a mineral deficiency. Have his mineral levels tested and adjust.

Why does my child act so hyper?

  • ASD children have to be taught to regulate their vestibular system. Use a sensory-trained occupational therapist.
  • Many studies show that food colorings and preservatives cause hyperactivity. Remove colors and preservatives from the diet.
  • Yeast overgrowth is a common cause of hyperactivity. Treat the yeast.

Why can’t my child pay attention?

ASD children have difficulty staying on task for a number of reasons. Things that help are GFCFSF diet, yeast treatment, vitamins and supplements and chelation to remove heavy metals.

Why doesn’t my child sleep at night?

  • A child who has problems falling asleep may benefit from GFCFSF diet, phenolic food removal, artificial colors and preservative removal, yeast treatment, melatonin, and neurotransmitters like GABA, taurine, magnesium and 5HTP.
  • Set and maintain a calm, quiet bedtime routine.

Why does my child only want to have milk, macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches?

These are the foods that feed their opioid addiction, therefore they crave them, and only want those foods. These foods also have little to no nutrients. Removing these foods will help them start to eat a wider variety of foods.

Why can’t I get my child potty trained?

  • Children with ASD usually potty train later but putting them on the GFCFSF diet helps a lot. If the child cannot feel the need to go until it’s too late, they cannot successfully potty train. The GFCFSF seems to clear up this inability to feel the urge to go for most children.
  • Parents also report that after they treated yeast, their child trained almost immediately.

Why is my child always sick?

Children with ASD are often immunocompromised and may get sick a lot. Products like colostrum, zinc, Vitamin C, cranberry extract, Grapefruit seed extract, and others will boost the immune system. Remember that sugar lowers the immune system. Don’t forget a good GFCFSF multivitamin.

Why does he look away when I talk to him?

It can be very difficult for a child with ASD to maintain eye contact. Do not ever assume your child can’t hear and understand everything you say though. They can. They just may not show it, but they hear and understand everything, so be careful of what you say around them.

Why does my child lean over the couch/chair all the time?

Leaning and pushing their belly on something to push it in is called posturing. ASD children use this to relieve gut pain.

Why does my child laugh/cry for no reason?

  • Yeast overgrowth is the most common reason. Putting your child on the GFCFSF diet, treating yeast and watching for reactions to phenols will solve this problem.
  • Phenols can cause this reaction too. Remove phenols.

Why does my child pick at his lips until they bleed?

Yeast overgrowth is the cause. Putting your child on the GFCFSF diet and treating yeast will solve this problem.

Why does my child grind his teeth at night?

Mineral deficiency is the most common cause. Supplementing with Calcium, Magnesium and zinc will help. Also check for parasites.

Why does my child have a red ring around his anus?

Yeast overgrowth is the cause. Putting your child on the GFCFSF diet and treating yeast will solve this problem.

Why does my child tantrum when we can’t find the exact brand of cookies or crackers he likes?

These are the foods that feed their addiction, therefore they crave them, and only want those foods. These foods also have little to no nutrients. Removing these foods will help them start to eat a wider variety of foods. Do the GFCFSF diet.

Why does my child walk on his toes?

  • This is a form of posturing for a lot of children. See gut cleanout.
  • Some children do this when given food colors or preservatives. Try removing these from the diet.

Why does my child have to touch every pole on the way somewhere?

OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder – can be a sign of PANDAS, or a strep infection. PANDAS means “Pediatric Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep. It is treated with antibiotics and steroids.

Why does my child plug his ears?

Hearing sensitivity is common in ASD. Check bacteria, minerals and yeast first. Consider listening therapies like AIT and use noise-cancelling headphones or Ipod to drown out the noise.

Why does my child scream bloody murder when we go into a bank?

Banks, and other stores, have security systems or lights that make very high frequency noises that most people cannot hear, but some ASD children can. Use the drive-thru or leave your child at home. Noise cancelling headphones may help too.

Why does my child rip/bite his shirts to pieces?

  • Yeast overgrowth can cause this.
  • Sensory integration issue. Seek out an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration and get a sensory diet that includes something to chew on, in place of his shirt. Every single time he attempts to chew his shirt, give him the chew toy instead.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency. Test for vitamin deficiencies.
  • Allergy. Parents report treating environmental allergies stops shirt ripping.
  • Check your detergent for gluten.

Why can’t my child wear normal shirts and pants with tags?

Children with autism commonly have sensory integration issues and cannot tolerate collars, tags and stiff fabrics. Buy tagless (or remove the tags) and soft material clothing.

Why does my child press his head into my stomach or chest?

Headaches may cause your child to dig his head into your body seeking pressure to relieve the pain. These are usually food related so get IgG and IgE food allergy testing done as remove the offending foods.

Why does a diagnosis of PDD-NOS disqualify my child for help?

  • A PDD-NOS diagnosis may disqualify your child for services. PDD (we say PDD means “Pediatrician Didn’t Decide!”) is autism. A diagnosis of Autism is needed in most states.
  • HFA or High-Functioning Autism is not a diagnosis. There is Aspergers and Autism. That’s all. In 2012, Asperger’s will be removed from the DSM as a diagnosis, leaving only Autism.

Why does my child stare off into space and is non-responsive for a minute or two?

That may be an “absence” seizure, also known as a petit mal seizure. Get a 24-hour non-medicated EEG done to find out if your child is having seizures.

Why can my child read at a much higher level than his age but not seem to understand anything I say?

  • Comprehension and reading ability are different things. Hyperlexia is the ability to read at an advanced level for their age but have great difficulty in understanding what they can read. Hyperlexia can be diagnosed by a Speech therapist or Neuropsychologist.
  • Understanding verbal language and being able to answer are different things. Most ASD children can understand what is said to, or around them (so watch what you say within earshot of your child, especially if it’s about them!), this is called receptive language. Expressive language is when the child needs to communicate with you, verbally, in writing or through actions.

Why can’t my child follow directions?

ASD children don’t learn through assimilation as non-ASD children do. They have to be taught all the steps in any process, over and over again, until they get it. This usually requires visual and verbal cues. ASD children can be taught to follow directions after first learning all the steps in each task.

Why does my child drool?

Children with low muscle tone, aka hypotonia, can drool. Children who get a palsy from a vaccine, infection or a birth injury can drool too. Low muscle tone can be treatable once you find out what caused it. Autoimmune disorders can cause hypotonia. Hypotonia can be a result of a metabolic disorder and be treated with carnitine.

Why does my child have no fear?

ASD children have trouble with cause and effect as well as have a poor sense of spatial awareness. It is very hard to teach things like “if you run out in to the road, you will be hit by a car and that would hurt” without actually letting them run into the road and be hit by a car to feel what it feels like. Video modeling helps teach a lot of things, but fear is not intrinsic in ASD children.

Why does my child not seem to feel pain, or hot and cold?

Children who are not on the GFCFSF diet often cannot feel pain or distinguish hot or cold temperatures because the gluten and casein act as opioids in their bodies and disguises the pain. Putting your child on the GFCFSF diet solves this problem.

Why is my child fascinated with water?

Water is a total sensory experience for children with ASD. It provides them with total sensory input. Unfortunately, ASD kids are both drawn to water and not afraid of it. We see many stories of ASD kids drowning and recommend ASD kids be taught to swim!

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III. Definitions of Terms Used

Absence Seizure: Also know as Petit Mal Seizure. In absence seizures, the person may appear to be staring into space with or without jerking or twitching movements of the eye muscles. These periods last for seconds, or even tens of seconds. Those experiencing absence seizures sometimes move from one location to another without any purpose.

Apraxia: a disorder of voluntary movement, consisting in partial or complete incapacity to carry out deliberate movements, without impairment of muscular power, ability to feel, or coordination. May be specific to speech.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): a style of teaching that uses a series of trials to shape a desired Behavior or response. Skills are broken down into their simplest components and then taught to the child using a system of reinforcement.

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS): a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum defined by impairments in communication and social development, and by narrow interests and repetitive Behaviors. Unlike typical autism, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have no significant delay in language or cognitive development.

Autistic spectrum disorders: term that encompasses autism and similar disorders. More specifically, the following five disorders listed in the DSM-IV: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – not otherwise specified, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Retts Disorder.

Dysfunction: failure to function normally.

Echolalia: repeating words or phrases heard previously. The echoing may occur immediately after hearing the word or phrase, or much later. Delayed echolalia can occur days or weeks after hearing the word or phrase.

Expressive language: the ability to express one’s needs through speech, communication devices, sign language or others

Gut cleanout: This is a standard pediatric gut clean out protocol that has worked for us for many years:

  • Fleet enema
  • Magnesium Citrate drink
  • Lots of water
  • Dulcolax: Give first according to package directions, and start hydrating with water. The next day, do enema, then give the magnesium citrate.Keep your child hydrated with water.

High Functioning Autism (HFA): individuals with autism who are not cognitively impaired are called ‘high functioning’. Please note there is no such diagnosis as HFA, but its used as a shortcut to explain the functioning level of a child.

Hyper: Having too much of something such as hyperactivity which refers to extremely energetic activity

Hyperlexia: the ability to read at an early age. To be hyperlexic, a child does not need to understand what he or she is reading.

Hypo: Having too little of something such as hyperactivity which refers to not being very active

Hypotonia: low muscle tone.

Inborn error of metabolism: the cause in multiple diseases and due to the lack of, or poor functioning, of an enzyme.

Neurotypical (NT): a term used for persons with typical neurological development and function.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): having a tendency to perform certain repetitive acts or ritualistic Behavior to relieve anxiety.

Opioids: Opioids can produce a feeling of euphoria, constipation, pain tolerance and decreased reactions to heat or cold and are habit-forming.

Perseveration: repetitive movement or speech, or sticking to one idea or task that has a compulsive quality to it.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD): a group of developmental disabilities which are neurological disorders of unknown cause. The symptoms include diminished ability to understand language and to communicate with and to interact with others. Children with a PDD usually have limited interests and engage in repetitive activities. There may be sensory problems related to perception of sound (hypersensitivity or lowered response)

Phenols: Phenols are in foods like bananas, apples, red grapes, artificial colors, tomatoes, peanuts, oranges and chocolate.

Proprioceptive: capable of receiving stimuli originating in muscles, tendons, and other internal tissues.

Receptive language: What language you can understand being said to you

Sensorimotor: Pertaining to brain activity other than automatic functions (respiration, circulation, sleep) or cognition. Sensorimotor activity includes voluntary movement and senses like sight touch and hearing.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID): Sensory Integration Dysfunction is the inability of the brain to correctly process information brought in by the senses (sight, sound, taste, smell and touch).

Stim: short for ‘self-stimulation’, a term for Behaviors whose sole purpose appears to be to stimulate ones senses. Many people with autism report that some ‘self-stims’ may serve a regulatory function for them (i.e., calming, increasing concentration, or shutting out an overwhelming sound).

Titers/Titres: A blood test to measure immunity to any particular disease. Two types of tests include postive/negative or quantitative.

For more definitions and abbreviations, click here.

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