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Can Autism Be Cured?

By October 9, 2009

A new study suggests that 38% of children who were once labeled autistic no longer have that label.  The study doesn't make it clear how many of those children were professionally evaluated and diagnosed - nor does it dig into the question of how parents know their child is no longer autistic.

What the study does do, though, is raise the question - were at least some of those children actually cured?

The question of whether autism can be cured is a tricky one. Underlying that question are other, even trickier questions:

  • What causes autism?
  • What does a cure look like (is it a behavioral change, or a change in the way the brain works)?
  • Does it "count" as a cure if a child is no longer labeled autistic but still has diagnoses such as social anxiety, speech delay and sensory dysfunction -- which look an awful lot like autism?
  • What if a child's autistic-like symptoms were caused by an underlying physical problem (food allergies, for example) - and that physical problem was effectively treated?  Was the child cured of autism -- or is he just avoiding gluten?

Tricky stuff.

Comments
October 10, 2009 at 12:12 am
(1) barbaraj says:

It does seem likely that much of what is originally diagnosed as autism is the brain involvement of other conditions. It’s possible, as well, that all autism is the effect on the brain of some underlying illness. I will not pretend to have an answer because I don’t, and while my curiosity would lead me toward finding out the reason for so many out of whack labs on autistic children. ..copper..glutathione..even yes, vitamin d..and b12..and others that were so foreign to me that I can’t begin to address them. It would seem that since the onset of diagnosis started with the introduction of combined shots, like dtp, and the rise coincided with very early administration of hepb, that the clues should be there, yet they are avoided. Starting with the dpt which we know contains a toxin in the pertussis portion, find out where exactly these toxins can travel, and what kinds of physical damage they can cause. Anytime we introduce a live virus into a child, we can’t think that there isn’t a sublevel of illness that ellicits that wanted immune response. When we are ill with natural disease, we don’t have a boost of alluminum to enhance the illnes, yet we throw toxic poisons at our children with some kind of “it’s good for them” mindset that in any other part of their care would seem ridiculous and dangerous. Don’t trust the pediatricians to know what’s best because they are no more than sponges for the propaganda of pharmaceuticals. Ask questions, I remember taking my child in with the first ear infection, and telling my doctor it was from the recently received mmr, my doctor said, let’s look, and pulled out a huge book, fully expecting to “teach” me, then said, oh my, this is interesting, then we talked about the mmr causing a temporary immune deficiency that in some cases wasn’t so temporary, as it has lasted up to FIVE years in certain formulations. Maybe our children are experiencing autoimmune disease,with symptoms so varied on the side of physical that there can’t be any uniform criteria, yet on the developmental side it’s clearly a,b,c,.etc. I do however search daily for clues, not the anecdotal stories like JM’s, clues that show things that can happen within the body by certain chemicals viruses, and toxins. Release something so foreign into the body and guess where it’s going to land, that’s medicine of the fifties, and that’s medicine of today. Yet no one has a good guess, they haven’t looked, with the exception of Wakefield who was likely heading in the right direction. Surely not all are going to have bowel disturbances, perhaps they will have exzema, or overgrowth of yeast, but while denying this is physical almost everyone can look and say, oh yep, he has ….., but that’s not related to his autism. We do have documented proof , for example that certain viruses can induce developmental delays, such as rubella, we know that if our children develop encephalitis from their dpt, we shouldn’t get him another ,if we develop guillian barre from our flu shot we will never get another, these things aren’t that rare, they are varied in severity and likely only reported as worst case. My sis was treated for over a year after her mmr with prednisone, her limbs burned so badly she couldn’t function, I had a child that had total body inflamation after a dpt with a 104 temp for seven full days, and again that wasn’t considered severe, just a nuisance. Most of us accept the sore throats, the shakiness, the mild fevers, the sore arms, as normal, we accept these things as minor side effects, not knowing what else could be going on in our bodies, what set up we may be creating for future cancers and autoimmune problems. another explosion btw..Some of what we are injecting into our kids have not been proven to NOT BE carcinogens, and while we know that measles, hpv, and simian 40 can all be responsible for lung cancer we targeted the tobacco companies and never brought up the bad vaccines,instead when our friend who smoked a year or two in college dies at 40 we feel confident that he was a doomed smoker. . We aren’t very bright, at least I’m not, I had these things injected in me, and in my kids, yet in my gut I never felt it was right. These things don’t even prevent disease. Sure we say their histories are correctable, like the introduction of the HIB shot that caused HIB. The Sabin that caused paralytic polio. So many that caused loss of life through bacterial contamination, the mmr that killed one of two aborigines that received it during Kaiser’s testing. oops..maybe they were vitamin A deficient. It isn’t an evolving science , it’s locked into an era of errors, and we are just now seeing what can happen when so many strange and foreign mixtures are directly inserted into our babies’ little bodies. I don’t think it’s a fluke that in a quiet little class with everyone well that two days after the flu mist was given that my little asthmatic got the flu. It was rushed to market , and it’s live. Myself, I’m tired of my kids being the collateral damage of bad medicine. I can never get my Nathan to hug, I doubt I can bring him “back”, I believe his obesity started with a dpt shot, as did his loss of language, both, one physical one developmental were caused by some morphology that never had to take place. I remember when he ate spinach salad, now he gags if he smells food, and eats the typical “white”. I don’t think his exposure to toxins would be as high as most children, because I have always made an attempt to live green. I can’t control some things, however I worked very hard at removing neurotoxic pesticides from use in schools, before these children were born as well as working with NCAMP over the years to promote safe playgrounds and play equiptment, again before these children were born. I would think because of my awareness ,their toxic exposures are a bit less than other kids. It’s hard to fight chemical companies, but it seems no one has really taken on vaccine manufacturers, they keep gaining federal protection, and we keep losing our kids minds and health to them, and worse we help by denying the facts as they come up. Kids are sicker today than ever, seriously ill , with brain tumors, (thanks to grandma or mom’s polio shots) , with leukemia, with everyday viruses and bacteria , even overgrowth of normal flora that can overwhelm them. Their immune systems are damaged.

October 10, 2009 at 2:01 am
(2) Twyla says:

To put it simply, a cure of autism means the following:

Before: meets criteria spelled out in DSM-IV

After: no longer meets DSM-IV criteria

“What causes autism?”
There are probably many causes. Immune system disruption appears to play a role in much autism. It’s possible that some autism is purely genetic. It’s possible that genes play a role in susceptibility to harm from environmental toxins and/or vaccines. Specific causes and effective treatments appear to vary considerably from one individual to another.

“What does a cure look like (is it a behavioral change, or a change in the way the brain works)?”
It is most likely both. But the changes in the brain may be hard to observe. Behavior is much more observable (even without an MRI). The changes in the brain may not be structural changes but, for example, a reduction in inflammation.

“Does it ‘count’ as a cure if a child is no longer labeled autistic but still has [other] diagnoses …”
It’s a matter of degree. Certainly there could be cases in the middle where if the same child were evaluated by two experts the experts might disagree on whether the child is still on the spectrum. But if a child changes from sitting in the corner stimming, screeching, and hitting his/her head against the wall, to talking and participating in a mainstream class with some ADD and social skills deficits, that is tremendous improvement which should not be overlooked based on still having some residual issues.

“What if a child’s autistic-like symptoms were caused by an underlying physical problem (food allergies, for example) – and that physical problem was effectively treated? Was the child cured of autism — or is he just avoiding gluten?”
Of course if a child goes from meeting DSM-IV criteria for autism to not meeting the criteria, the child has recovered, regardless of what caused the autism. Autism is defined by behavior, not etiology. And if this child’s parents had never tried the GFCF diet — like so many parents — the child’s potential would never have been developed and the cause of the autism would not have been known.

Most importantly, “Can Autism be Cured?” The answer is, yes. Many people prefer the word “recover” because “cure” implies a total and complete getting better. You can recover from injuries sustained in a car accident and yet still have some issues — ongoing pain, decreased strength & range of motion — so you are not really “cured” of the injury, not completely restored to the person you would have been without the accident.

Some parent try every treatment imaginable and yet their child remains autistic.

But I have seen evidence of recovery, including parent lectures and videos. Some children with autism have recovered with vitamin B-12 injections, GFCF diet, chelation. Some do not recover from one specific treatment but make tremendous gradual progress from a combination of treatments — including both medical and ABA, floortime, speech, OT, etc.

There does not seem to be a good understanding at this point of which children will respond to which treatments. There seems to be a lot of trial & error. There also don’t seem to be studies giving an idea of what percentage of people with autism can benefit from various treatments. Perhaps some practitioners have a sense of this.

The magazine Autism File has appointed a Scientific Editor, Dr. Carol Stott, and has put out a call for papers. Per their current issue, “From January 2010 forward, The Autism File magazine will begin publication of a series of peer-reviewed case reports from leadding practitioners in the field.” In addition, they will be publishing “systematic reviews of the existing literature”. Should be interesting!

At any rate, there is so much that is not being studied. Surprisingly, reports of recovery (or tremendous improvements in language, behavior, cognition, etc.) are met with a type of skepticism that goes something like this: “We don’t believe it so we’re not even interested in finding out anything more about these children,” instead of, “It may not be true but let’s study them and find out. We should leave no stone unturned.”

I know children who were evaluated by reliable experts as having autism, and then re-evaluated and the diagnosis removed some time later. It can happen.

October 10, 2009 at 10:01 am
(3) AutismNewsBeat says:

What if autism spectrum disorders were actually developmental disorders? If that was so, then what some perceive as “recovery” may be nothing more than the types of growth one would expect in an NT child.

October 10, 2009 at 11:56 am
(4) Twyla says:

ANB, the top 3 kneejerk reactions to stories of recovered kids are:

- The child was never autistic to begin with.

- The child is still autistic now, but the parent is delusional, just seeing what s/he wishes were true.

- The child would have recovered anyway because sometimes people with autism spontaneously grow out of it even without treatment.

These are all reasonable hypotheses worthy of investigation, but instead these hypotheses are used as reasons not to investigate any further, as if this speculation without any evidence somehow closes the door to gathering evidence.

In many of the stories of recovery that I am familiar with:

- The initial diagnosis of autism is confirmed by diagnostic reports from respected professionals, by home videos showing autistic behaviors, by reports from schools and therapists, as well as by the parents’ own accounts.

- The child’s current condition is verifiable through meeting the child, from school report cards, by videos, and often on reports from the same professionals who initially diagnosed the child (or from other professionals) — now saying that the child no longer meets the criteria for autism. These are children who speak fluently, play with friends, and do well at school. They are not perfet, but they are not autistic.

- Many parents report that when their child was first diagnosed with autism the “experts” told them that the condition is lifelong, and that they would have to consider institutionalization. Then when the child recovers, the same “experts” say that recovery sometimes just happens spontaneously. This is inconsistent.

Moreover, parents report that their kids’ behavior, communication, social interaction, and cognition respond to various treatments. They see the timing of getting better or worse with and without certain treatments — whether diets, supplements, chelation, etc. There is too much response to be just coincidence.

October 10, 2009 at 12:33 pm
(5) Sandy says:

With so much complexity, it is difficult to draw conclusions from big studies. You can say that about the Genome-wide Autism Study and this parent study.

Every one can draw their own “kneejerk” conclusions but there’s no backing it.

October 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm
(6) AutismNewsBeat says:

Let’s look more carefully at what you call knee jerk reactions.

1. The child was never autistic to begin with. We know for a fact that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the more likely the diagnosis is to be in error. We also know many children receive administrative diagnoses in order to secure services. So it’s more than reasonable to assume that some anecdotes about recovery are due to misdiagnosis.

2. The child is still autistic now, but the parent is delusional, just seeing what s/he wishes were true. Parents who see improvement in their autistic children are not delusional in the clinical sense. It’s called acceptance and accommodation.

3. The child would have recovered anyway because sometimes people with autism spontaneously grow out of it even without treatment. aka “development.

There’s nothing radical or hypothetical about any of these supposed knee-jerk reactions. They are, as you say, reasonable explanations for why some children make more progress than others.

If unproven bio-medical treatments are curing autism, then why have we not seen a single confirmed case in the traditional medical literature? Or do you think it’s possible, as you put it, that some parents “are just seeing what s/he wishes were true?”

October 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm
(7) Samantha says:
October 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm
(8) autism says:

ANB – I agree. One myth about autism (ooh – an article in the making!) is that kids with autism don’t progress or develop at all without some kind of intensive treatment.

October 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm
(9) Twyla says:

ANB, your comment proves my points. You say, “it’s more than reasonable to assume…” You are basing opinions on generalizations and assumptions. Without any knowledge or experience or evidence regarding the specific children whose parents say that they have recovered, your opinions are indeed completely speculative.

That appears to be what our government is doing as well, rather than studying the children — or maybe they just don’t want to know. I have heard parents of recovered kids express dismay that they cannot get mainstream medical researchers or government agencies interested in learning about their kids. We hear over and over again, “Autism is such as mystery, and there’s no cure. Maybe we’ll find a cure after another 10 years and another billion dollars worth of research on the brain and genes.” Meanwhile there are indeed children in our midst who have recovered from autism.

There will be peer reviewed articles, and the biomedical paradigm of autism will become common knowledge.

October 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm
(10) Twyla says:

P.S. The reason I call these “knee-jerk reactions” is because I am refering to judgements formed immediately, without study, without knowing the families involved or reviewing any evidence.

October 10, 2009 at 7:58 pm
(11) Sandy says:

“knee-jerk reactions” goes both ways. Parents proclaim cure judgements formed immediately, without study, without knowing the families involved or reviewing any evidence.

I thought there was a recent study released that stated 10 percent do recover. That recovery is attributed to massive behavioral intervention and those children no longer fit the clinical criteria of autism. Strangely in this study, there’s a general age group in which this happens which would lead one to wonder about that ‘development’.

If people wont listen to do studies about those others parents, it doesn’t really matter since for those 10 percent in a recent study, there’s no way yet to predict who will recover from that same therapy at this point.

October 10, 2009 at 8:03 pm
(12) autism says:

Sandy – great point.

While the suggestion is that “brighter,” “milder” kids do better overall, there’s not even a reliable test to determine which kids are actually “brighter.” That’s because kids with autism may flunk standard IQ tests as a result of compromised verbal skills – yet plainly show great ability or intelligence through non-verbal means.

Meanwhile, the question of which kids should be receiving which therapy remains wide open.

Frustrating, to say the least!

Lisa

October 10, 2009 at 11:46 pm
(13) Twyla says:

Sandy said, “If people wont listen to do studies about those others parents, it doesn’t really matter since for those 10 percent in a recent study, there’s no way yet to predict who will recover from that same therapy at this point.”

If there were more study of children going through various treatments — including biomedical — and tracking who responds to treatments and who does not — maybe we could learn more about subsets and about which treatments benefit which kids.

October 11, 2009 at 9:54 am
(14) Sandy says:

Maybe, but maybe not. Most kids don’t just have one intervention going on, they have many different things going on all at the same time. More than likely it isn’t just one single thing but the combination of many things that helps that child progress. Just as those 10 percent that seemed to progess with many hours of behavorial intevention, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the only intervention that child had.

It’s pretty hard to pin point just what helps kids the most or of it isn’t just natural development and that child’s rate with many interventions.

October 11, 2009 at 12:03 pm
(15) Sally Pacholok, R.N., BSN says:

Every child diagnosed on the autism spectrum needs vitamin B12 deficiency ruled out. Serum B12, urine methylmalonic acid, homocysteine tests must be run before giving B12 to the child. We need to document the true incidence of B12 deficiency causing brain injury and autistic like symptoms. B12 deficiency causing developmental delay and brain injury is well described in the medical literature. The medical community must become reeducated and held accountable for missing this easy diagnosis. This is well described in “Could It Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses” Quill Driver Books/Linden Publishing 2005. There is an entire children’s chapter and the autism B12 connection. This is not to say that every child with autism has a B12 deficiency, but they certainly deserve to have it ruled out. Some physicians who use B12 therapy are blindly doing a disservice by not testing the child first. Again, we need to know the true incidence to help the medical community realize this overlooked epidemic.

How is it that the public and media have not caught on yet?

October 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm
(16) Sandy says:

Sally Pacholok~ you are correct. B12 deficiency has many symptom’s like autism and can also cause sensory disorder’s as well. Of course, what ever causes the disorder of low B12, or impaired absorption, there is a cure. Only in serious cases deficiency can potentially cause severe and irreversible damage to the nervous system.
Framingham Offspring Study found 39 percent with plasma B12 levels in the “low normal” range, and this being more wide spread than once thought.

The public and media should catch this, but it would then go against the idea autism can have recovery. One wonders how many medical issues kids actually have that mimic autism?

October 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm
(17) Twyla says:

Vitamin B-12 is used by DAN! practitioners and has been found to have dramatic effects for some people with autism.

See Dr. James Neubrander’s web site at http://www.drneubrander.com/page1old.html

Stan Kurts has developed some B-12 lollipops which I have not tried yet but I have heard they have good effects.

Autism is not defined by causation/etiology. If a person with autism benefits from vitamin B-12 that does not mean they were misdiagnosed.

This certainly does not go against the idea of recovery from autism. Although vitamin B-12 does not have dramatic benefits for everyone with autism, some children have recovered from autism with methyl B-12. I saw one woman (who happenned to be a speech therapist) speak about her daughter’s regression into autism and recovery with methyl B-12 shots, accompanied by before and after videos and medical documentation.

Although this has not caught on with the media and mainstream medicine (who mostly ignore the biomedical “alternative” treatments for autism) it is very big within the biomedical community.

October 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm
(18) Twyla says:

Also see http://www.autism.com/ari/editorials/ed_b12.htm
for an essay by Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless on Methyl B-12 therapy.

October 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm
(19) Twyla says:
October 11, 2009 at 5:06 pm
(20) Sandy says:

Twyla~ You some what mised the point. How many with in that biomedical community has had the child tested prior to the use of B12?

October 11, 2009 at 5:19 pm
(21) Twyla says:

No, Sandy, I’m not missing the point. You apparently did not read the information I linked to. There is considerable research now on the roles Methyl B-12 plays in chemical processes in the body including methylation and transulferation, detoxification, oxidative stress…

Dr. McCandless wrote, “There is no way to test who will be a responder to methyl-B12. Blood B12 levels are high-normal in almost all children documented to be responders. Though there may be a high level in the blood, it is in an oxidized form that cannot be reduced and recycled. Genomic testing is not yet advanced enough to reliably predict response, as these tests may miss the majority of children who clinically respond and should be treated. “

October 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm
(22) Sandy says:

So is McCandles suggesting you cant test a child for B12 levels? She says there is no way to test who will be a responder to methyl-B12, but what about prior testing? Methyl-B12 coenzyme form of vitamin B12. Also, nobody knows the long-term effects of such huge doses which is generally what’s given to children.

October 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm
(23) AutismNewsBeat says:

What are McCandless’ medical qualifications?

October 15, 2009 at 2:03 am
(24) Twyla says:

Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless received her Doctorate in Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

October 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm
(25) barbaraj says:

My sister used a doc here, Brenner, he gave my nephew b12 shots, if that’s any clue as to why he’s better, however, he’s always given him b12 shots, for years, and nothing seemed to happen. I believe magnesium was given as well.

October 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm
(26) Confused says:

What would be the downside to a B12 shot? If there isn’t a downside why not try it?

October 22, 2009 at 9:47 am
(27) AutismNewsBeat says:

That’s like asking “What is the downside to seeing a psychic astrologer?”

October 27, 2009 at 9:38 am
(28) In The Trenches says:

Hey AutismNewsBeat. For someone having a name like that, you’d think you would actually be bringing some positive news on autism treatments. From your comments it is impossible to conclude anything but that you practice traditional medicine. Therefore in your “expert” opinion there is no possible link between vaccinations and ASD. Because admitting any benefits from wholistic or biomedical medicine would be tantamount to admitting that traditional medicine is completely clueless about treatments that don’t include Ritalin or other drugs that can be prescribed for kickbacks from the pharmaceutical industry… From someone who is raising an autistic son who sees the benefits of these non-traditional treatments, I would like to tell you to keep you head in the sand (or somewhere else less PC).

May 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm
(29) Abdul Rahim says:

The problem is not to cure but reather dealing with autism.When dealing with autism, just as in most other disorders, you will be faced with a number of treatment options for yourself or your child. These include treatments that are educational, behavioral, biomedical, nutritional, and sensory. Unfortunately, for patients who are not affluent or who do not have good medical insurance, the cost of these treatments can be pricier than what they can afford. One way to ensure that you or your child receives the best possible treatment for autism is to carefully monitor the effects a treatment has over time. By finding out which treatments work and which do not, you can stop paying for the ineffective methods and put more of your money into those which are creating a positive difference.

July 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm
(30) Rose Rich says:

I hate to say it – because I know there are real families with real problems with their children, but when I hear a family brag about getting the $700 a month for their child – I never hear them tell us what services they plan to pay for to help the child improve or gain independence. (A tenant just told me HIS income went up $7,000 a year thanks to SSI for his son they have been trying to get this for a year!!!! And a taxpayer just donated money to his cause with no expectations the child’s life will improve and with no accountability of how the money is used.) They use the money for their rent, utilities and car payments – and the child remains without treatments, therapy or improvement. In the welfare world, parents are elated to hear their child “qualifies” for SSI & Medicaid. Between the doctors, drug companies, and welfare do-gooders & the NEA, we won’t see a cure anytime soon for ADD, ADHD, or Autism. These ‘diseases” are the new gravy train for the working poor. The checks provide the extra EITC payments for families to use and not for the benefit of the child. I’m sure there are exceptions……but SSI has become the second tier of welfare…..for those who can jump through the hoops. I’ve stepped on enough toes for today.

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