Autism Advice From A Naturopathic Perspective

Published Categorized as Naturopathy
Society’s Voice advocates for Naturopathic treatments for a variety of physical and mental disabilities.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects 1 out of 68 children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism rates rose by 119% from 2002 through 2008. Since then, there has been no significant change in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis numbers . There continues to be an average of 1 in 68 children diagnosed with ASD ranging from 1 in 42 boys to 1 in 189 girls.

There is no one cause for autism, but research suggests that there may be a combination of environmental and genetic factors involved. Genetics can play a role as children with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has autism have a 5% chance of being on the spectrum themselves . Autism rates are higher among Caucasian children than African American children, however the CDC notes that these numbers could be due to lack of screening outside of Caucasian communities. While there is no cure for autism, there are treatments that can help improve symptoms.

Common Treatments Used For Autism And Naturopathic Perspectives

  • Behavioral therapy

Studies suggest that early intervention is key when treating ASD. Behavioral therapy helps to improve communication skills, social interactions, and reduce undesirable behaviors associated with autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends behavioral therapies for children diagnosed before the age of 2 while also suggesting speech or occupational therapy for older children . A study conducted in 2009 found that up to 50% of parents reported using one form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which included vitamins/minerals/supplements, diets/nutrition, and homeopathy . It should be noted that there are no randomized clinical trials supporting any specific CAM treatment for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This means it’s unclear if CAM remedies actually help autistic patients.

  • Non-medical treatments

Using essential oils with young children can be tricky. I recommend checking for respiratory sensitivities prior to use and avoiding very hot oils, which can cause tissue damage when undiluted. I typically advise my families to use frankincense , copaiba or lavender when possible. These are gentler options that also have calming properties. For example, in 2009 researchers found that eucalyptus oil helped improve sleep in adults with autism spectrum disorders . Other research suggests that inhaling lavender helps reduce agitation in autistic adult patients . I would recommend using essential oils twice daily at the most. It’s important not to just diffuse the oils in an effort to calm your child; this won’t work since most of the oils are absorbed through the skin. I usually recommend diluting the oils with a carrier oil (coconut, almond, avocado) in order to keep them on the skin for 30 minutes or more.

A study conducted in 2005 found that children who were exposed to dim light at night had increased sleep latency, longer periods of wakefulness and reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep . For this reason, it is important to get rooms as dark as possible before bedtime. It may also be helpful to use blue-blocking glasses two hours prior to bedtime , which block out blue light. Blue light affects melatonin production so these glasses can help cue your body that it’s time for bed. You want melatonin levels to be high while you sleep so melatonin supplements are another option. With melatonin, you want to find the lowest dose that works for your child without causing him/her to wake up groggy.

  • Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies can be very helpful with children on the spectrum. I usually do not recommend single homeopathic remedies since they only tend to target one symptom at a time. However, by using the 30c potency, you can get overall symptom relief without making your child feel sedated or extra drowsy like pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medications . If your child is sensitive to taste (e.g., picks up things and puts them in his/her mouth), these remedies may need to be administered by placing them under the tongue instead of giving them with a dropper. If you notice your child is more calm after playing outside, you can give him/her the homeopathic remedy Natrum muriaticum . This helps to boost mood and energy levels, both of which are typically low in autistic children.

There are many options that may support an ASD patient through their daily challenges. While it’s important not to rely solely on CAM treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), I believe they can help provide overall symptom relief without worrying about unwanted side effects like those associated with pharmaceuticals . With one in 68 American children diagnosed with autism , there is no harm in using non-pharmaceutical therapies as part of your treatment plan . It is also worth noting that some medications can actually worsen ASD symptoms, so non-pharmaceutical treatments may be a safer option.

About the Authors 

Society’s Voice advocates for Naturopathic treatments for a variety of physical and mental disabilities.  Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. We know that the efficacy of naturopathic medicine dates back to the 1890s, and are heartened to see naturopathic medicine undergo a rapid increase in public interest in recent years as a result of the  growing consumer movement to solve the healthcare puzzle using prevention, wellness and respect for nature’s inherent healing ability. 

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