Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Brain Connection
If you were to profile two children who were diagnosed with “autism,” chances are each case would look very different. Some children with autism are verbal, others are not. Some have hyperactivity or obsessive compulsive tendencies, others do not. What is it that makes this condition appear similar, yet so different in children? All of the conditions on the autism spectrum have one similarity: functionally the child’s brain is not operating correctly. It would be like having all of the appropriate hardware to run a computer, yet not all of the software has been downloaded correctly.
The brain is the only organ not fully formed at birth. Children are born with only about 25% of their total brain volume. (Otherwise babies wouldn’t fit out of the birth canal!) Most of that volume is made up of neurons, which are the cells that make up our brain. As babies start to grow and learn new skills, they are not forming new neurons … they are making connections between their existing neurons! This is known as neuroplasticity. This phenomenon is what allows us to constantly learn new skills throughout our lifetime. However, in the early stages of development, babies are in hyper-drive as far as developing connections in their brains. Children will develop 90% of the connections between the two hemispheres of their brain by the age of 5. This is an extremely important time, developmentally, and the most important time to be vigilant in providing the proper diet and nutrition, stimulation, and activity, as well as avoiding toxins for children.
So what happens if the brain doesn’t connect correctly? The connections our brain makes are extremely important. In fact, 85% of our genetic code is responsible for how our brain connects … it’s that important! For children who are on the autism spectrum, the “hardware” of their brain is completely normal, but they haven’t downloaded the appropriate software or “connections” to operate it appropriately. Each child’s brain connects a little bit differently. This is why there are a wide variety of combinations of symptoms associated with autism.
Since the idea of neuroplasticity holds true for everyone, the good news is, there are always things you can do to stimulate a child’s brain to form those connections appropriately. The first step is to prepare the environment of the brain to heal. This includes identifying and eliminating any neurotoxic and/or inflammatory triggers and supplementing with the right doses of nutrients to support the body to heal. The next step would be to work with a healthcare provider who can give the child brainbased activities that will stimulate the brain to form the appropriate connections. The combination of these two things will put the child on track to achieve a more functionally balanced brain, which can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder.
For more information on nutrient testing, toxic metal testing, food allergies and brainbased exercises, contact Dr. Anne Zauderer at the Riordan Clinic. 316-682-3100 Watch Dr. Anne’s lecture, Brain Health: Managing ADD and ADHD without Medication, from the Riordan Clinic website (www.riordanclinic.org) or our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/healthhunter1).