July 2009 Archives

July 28, 2009

Gluten Free and Casein Free Diets: Why They Don't Work for Real Autism

A year ago, when my wife and I found out about my son's Autism, we heard that Gluten and Casein can aggravate the condition, and the removal of those proteins from his diet would "cure" him.  Without looking into it like the worried, scared parents we were, we tried it.  We removed as much as we could from his diet, and waited for any results.  Months went by, and nothing changed.  His behavior was actually worse, as now he could no longer have is favorite foods (i.e., cottage cheese).  So we gave it up as snake oil medicine, and started doing real research. 

The diet was made popular by Jenny McCarthy as a method of "treating" her son's Autism, and who declared that Autism "cured".  Regardless of the veracity of this declaration, media heavyweights like Oprah have encouraged her and now the method has become a popular tool to "manage" Autism in children.  Until recently no one has said one thing against the method, but now the Mayo Clinic has released a study that has blown the method out of the water as a fraud and potentially dangerous for the Autistic child. 

Several months back, in my treatise against glutamate as a cause of Autism, I mentioned the gluten-casein connection, what it was, and why it doesn't work for real Autism.  Keep in mind that I identify autism as an enlargement of the brain through overgrowth in neurons and therefore increased synapses.  I do not identify Autism as a temporary state of behavior, but a prolonged, constant behavior linked to a genetic predisposition for increased brain growth and/or lack of pruning in the brain. 

Both gluten and casein are proteins, and in this case molecularly similar proteins.  The body metabolizes both proteins into propionic acid, which causes inflammation within the brain if allowed to remain in the blood stream.  Most people metabolize the propionic acid into succinyl-CoA through a very long process.  A few could have a natural inability to process propionic acid, which could be the cause of Autistic behavior through inflammation to the brain.  But it would be temporary, and only occur within regular intervals identified by the ingestion of gluten or casein products (grain or dairy products).  So for this particular condition, a gluten and casein free diet would be appropriate. 

The problem is, most people seem to believe the hype around this diet as a sure-fire "autism cure" that they place their children on the diet without consulting a doctor.  Then, as behavior changes through the placebo effect, they think it's working, and keep it up.  The expense is huge, the results minimal for those without the problem of metabolizing propionic acid, and the danger nutritionally to the autistic child is very real. 

If you are a parent with an autistic child, please consult a doctor to see if any change of diet would be advisable.  Don't try a new and potentially dangerous diet (any diet, for that matter) on the advice of a celebrity.  They may be great at their chosen field, but most are not, by any stretch of the imagination, doctors, and therefore are not qualified to give you health advice. 

July 23, 2009

Social Networking In Action: Help for a Friend

Today I heard about a tragedy amongst my friends:  Jared Perry, a friend of mine from as far back as Elementary School, has suffered a terrible accident and is on a long road to recovery.  His family and friends are gathering items to sell for the benefit of the family, and set up an account at Cyprus Credit Union for any cash donations for those who want to help the family. 

The news I got from my good friend Joseph, who contacted me through AIM.  I heard that Jared had an accident, and the family needed assistance.  I didn't know the details, so I posted on Twitter to ask any of my friends there if they have heard anything.  Since Twitter posts to my Facebook page where most of my school friends are, I heard from Erin that Jared survived the accident, is getting better, but has a long road to recovery. 

I've often wondered why social networking was of any use.  Mostly I use my Blog to post my opinions, use Twitter to communicate my daily boring routine, and use Facebook to make fun of family members and waste time when bored. Never before have I had to use the tools I often neglect to follow a tragedy or disaster.  But with this new experience, I have come to respect the tools I have at my disposal. 

If any of you know Jared Perry and have anything you can donate to help the family, contact Shelby at shelbyahudson at msn dot com.

July 20, 2009

Vacations, Traveling, and Autism

Summer is a fun time for most, a time when vacations are common and people spend a lot of time traveling.  But as I've found, traveling with an autistic child can be a bit harrowing if not approached correctly.  Vacation plans can also be just a stressful if not more so than day to day life.  But that's why planning is so important, as outlined in this Examiner article. 

First, make sure you have everything planned.  You need to know how you are to travel, where you are staying, how long it will be, and even when you will be eating.  For my son, we need to have regular meal times to keep his schedule as normal as possible.  But also remember to keep your plans realistic.  Don't spend a lot of time running between each attraction and show, trying to take in as much as you can.  It will most likely end up being a complete sensory overload for your autistic child, and cause a melt down or two.  Moderation is key, and makes the vacation more enjoyable. 

Second, make sure you have entertainment available during waits.  My son likes to use the iPod Touch for various applications with which he enjoys playing and learning.  We also try to make any wait time a chance to interact, in order to keep his social skills sharpened.  We play counting games and sing softly, both of which he enjoys. 

Third, keep some snacks handy.  Some places will let you bring your own food and drinks, others will not.  Most of the time I've found that having a bag of popcorn does wonders for my son who will get cranky when hungry, and I always have water or a hydration pack from which to drink. 

Fourth, explain to family what your limitations are, and what is to be expected.  My wife has a family that loves to do everything together, though it can be a frustrating experience for some of the family members.  By explaining what we expect from the trip and we are not hurt if they want to do something on their own or even as a group without us, we find the family understanding. 

Lastly, take advantage of the location you are visiting.  For instance, some theme parks like Disneyland have special disability passes for rides which can often bypass the longer lines in order to move through more quickly.  Of course, don't abuse the pass by riding the same ride several times in a row and angering those who have been waiting patiently.  Courtesy always goes a long way when in large crowds. 

Also, look for less structured and more relaxed vacation opportunities.  My son loves the water, so a trip to the beach or the lake is a treat he doesn't ever want to pass up.  As long as he is within view, it's a good experience for him and a great experience for us as parents.  Focus on what your autistic child likes to do and encourage it instead of trying to force an experience that he may or may not find interesting. 

So those are my travel tips for a vacation with an autistic child.  As long as you know what is happening and your child knows what is happening, there is no reason why you all shouldn't have a great vacation.

July 16, 2009

iPod Touch and Mobile Writing: Document 2 App

My trip to and from work takes a good long time, generally about an hour and a half.  I don't mind the commute so much, because it's about twice what it was with a car, and I get a lot of reading time in this way.  I can also do some writing, and work on my novel that I have had planned for the past couple of years.  The long commute is perfect because I have the time, the room, and the energy to get some real writing in:  except I can't write on paper and typing on a laptop gets a little scary for the laptop when bouncing on the roads. 

So, I started to think about what I could do for mobile writing.  One solution is to get a mobile device with a keyboard, much like a Palm Pre or a Blackberry.  Both of these devices have a keyboard that is physical, allowing for quick typing with your thumbs as you go.  And there are some concerns:  the software I use to write needs to either sync with the computer for storage or ideally sync with Google Docs, and I would need to shell out money for another expensive device similar to my iPod Touch. 

Well, I decided to check the iTunes App Store to see what apps are there for document editing, and found several, all of which were not there 6 months ago when I first checked.  One in particular that I found to be interesting:  Document 2. 

Document 2 can read just about any format of document from standard text files to Office 2007 Word documents.  When you compose a file, it's a text file, and can be uploaded to your Google Docs account.  You can also access and edit (yes!) Google Docs files from your iPod Touch.  And not only Documents!  You can create and edit spreadsheets and presentations as well.  It was $3.99 for the app (there is a lite one for free, but it was crippled), so I thought I would take the plunge. 

The interface is well designed, making it easy to locate and manage your documents.  I didn't have any trouble writing a 1018 word document (the first half of my first chapter of the 3rd revision of my novel), and uploading it to Google Docs for more editing on the desktop.  Typing is easy, and I am becoming quite proficient with my iPod Touch's virtual keyboard, more so than I have been in the past with tiny physical keyboards.  Of course it's all because of practice, and has nothing to do with the actual type of keyboard. 

The first problem I noticed was typing speed.  While I may be getting better at using the keyboard on the iPod Touch, I can type a lot faster using a keyboard for a desktop.  But it turns out this problem is actually a blessing:  I think more about what I am going to type instead of just filling words in as they pop into my head.  It means the scenes are better in the chapters, the grammar more correct, and the Fleischmann reading index is higher (not sure if that is a pro or a con).  Details are more vivid in the story, because I take the time to think about what I really want to say, how I actually see the scene, and what is going through the minds of each character. 

Another problem is it's lack of a spell-check.  It relies on the built-in iPod spell-checker, which is very limited.  I find myself misspelling more words than I care to admit while using it.  It also has some trouble using quotes and punctuation, and grammar is not even a consideration.  But then, what can I really expect with something built for a tiny computer?  Finally, memory.  When I first used it, I ran out of memory after 1018 words, and had to save and start a new document.  I think it has more to do with some residual items, because the issue was cleared up once I had rebooted my iPod Touch. 

So to date I have written my entire first chapter, a total of 3,000 words, all Document 2 on the iPod.  I am now working on chapter two, and my commute is far more productive towards my writing goals than I had previously hoped.  I can even use the spreadsheet tool to crunch numbers if I need to, and all at the touch of a button.  No more stabbing the device with a stylus when I hit a bump, a problem I always had with my Pocket PC.

July 8, 2009

The Stress of Autism: Parents, Behaviors, and Psychological Distress

Science Daily had an interesting article today regarding the impact Autism is having on mothers vs. mothers of children with developmental delays.  It seems that parents with Autistic children have a higher level of stress and psychological distress than those parents of children with developmental delays. 

It's interesting also to note that high care-giving needs are not the cause of stress.  Even though some parents of children with developmental disorders need to focus more on care giving than parents of autistic children, autistic children still increased the stress of the mother and family. 

Why?  It all comes down to the behavior of the autistic child.  Autistic children have meltdowns more often than normal children with a lot of irritability, agitation, crying, inappropriate speech, and so on, and on top of that they have a hard time following rules.  For instance, let's say in your house you have a rule that your child is not to go outside after a specific time of day.  Most children will obey that rule after one or two attempts and failures (meaning they are punished in some fashion).  The autistic child will not follow that rule, even if they are punished.  If they have it in their mind they want to go outside, they will. 

So what does this mean?  It means that family life becomes even more stressed than a "normal" family, and as such the parents have a greater strain on their relationship.  Many parents of autistic children tend to have higher rates of divorce than those without autistic children.  The stress of the child's behavior needs to be relieved, and sometimes parents take it out on each other. 

What can we do about it?  Keep in mind the stress, and find ways to release it in a healthy way.  The best way is to develop a family adaptive functioning technique that allows you to adapt to the stress in a safe environment.  As a family, parents need to support each other, and feel support from other avenues.  Because if the parents feel like they are getting support, they are more able to support their children with early intervention and therapy. 

This is why it is so important for parents to have politicians that really get it, and know what the Autistic community needs.  It isn't about who is right or wrong, it's about understanding the need of parents and addressing that need for the sake of the entire family.

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