Students with Autism: Are We Asking Them to Do Their Best While They Feel Their Worst?By Janet Lintala
It is shocking what a few specific dietary changes can do for the brains of these children (see www.feingold.org). The brain in Figure 1 is ready to learn, play and have a good day. The brain in Figure 2 is not. I’m sure Peter would have been placed on ADHD medication, and given some occupational therapy at the very least had these common food sensitivities not been discovered. And yet, the brain in Figure 2 is what is most likely to be sitting in your classroom each day, and you are tasked with teaching through this mess of brain fog and agitation.
Polypharmacy and “Side Effect Hell”
Who could possibly do their best while experiencing even half of the things on this list? Both sides of the desk, students and teachers alike, are working through this fog of medical issues:
What can be done?
What is the key that unlocks the cage of fog? We need a seismic shift in the conventional medical approach to ASD.
Medications are useful, but only if they are aimed at the right problem. In the clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it is stated, “Medications have not been proven to address the core deficits of ASDs, and are not the primary treatment.” When medications are used for irritability and difficult behaviors, as they are now, it may be like washing the car instead of changing the oil. We need to address underlying medical issues first, and stop targeting just the irritability or brain fog that results from them.
Once health has been supported with digestive enzymes, probiotics and basic nutritional support, many of these health challenges will fall out of the picture, and there is usually less need for medications. I have seen some of my patients go from a classroom placement based more on difficult behaviors than their academic abilities, to a mainstream classroom where they are more appropriately academically challenged. Nothing cures, treats, prevents or “fixes” ASD, but the correct health approach can greatly enhance function and cognition.
I understand why teachers might thoughtfully suggest a student will benefit from various medications. And I also understand why teachers would like for a student to be able to sit still and quiet down. But now that you understand why autistic children might not be able to sit still or learn at their best, or why they may be irritable, you can suggest they see a physician who understands their unique health challenges (www.medmaps.org), or look into the suggestions I share in my book, The Un-Prescription for Autism.
© 2016 Janet Lintala, author of The Un-Prescription for Autism
Janet Lintala, author of The Un-Prescription for Autism, founded and heads Autism Health!, which serves children and adults in 12 states. Her advice integrates the clinical expertise of a nonprescription autism practice with the firsthand experience only an autism parent can deliver.