Every child is unique and their developmental patterns are also unique. Accepting an individual with autism is a challenge for many families. Acceptance is crucial and has to begin at home and should extend to the society.
Autism is coming under the broad range of conditions challenges with social skills, repetitive
behaviors, speech, non-verbal communication, etc. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the new semantic for Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). ASD is characterized by severe pervasive impairment in several areas of development including deficit in reciprocal, social-emotional functioning, atypical language and communication, and unusual behaviors including stereotypic behavior and or restricted interests. It is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities, medical issues like gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, attention issues, etc. But some people with autism show extraordinary skills in the field of music, arts, maths, etc… Every child on the autism spectrum has unique abilities, symptoms, and challenges. Two kids with the same diagnosis may look very different when it comes to their abilities and behaviors. Autism is central to ASD and is developed before 30 months of age and is common in boys. (Boy : Girl= 5:1). The signs and symptoms start at the age of 2-3.
The following criteria are used for diagnosis
i- A total lack of responsiveness to people
ii- Language disorder and delay in language development.
iii- Abnormal response to external environmental stimuli.
In USA prevalence is approximately 1 in 88, whereas in South Korea it is as high as 1 in 38
children. In India, the prevalence rate is 1 in 250. Currently, India appears to be having 10 million people with autism.
No exact cause is not yet identified, but some hypotheses pointing towards its cause are given below. A strong biologic basis with minimal contribution of psychological factors is noticed.
1. Genetic predisposition
2. Neurologic theory- Damage to reticular formation of brain stem about the 5th week of intrauterine life.
3. Organic theory- Based on abnormal brain rhythms in EEG in herpes simplex, infantile spasms, etc.
5. Vaccine related
6. Food allergy and toxicity
- Family history
- Chromosomal aberrations
- Genetic diseases
- High childbearing age
- Maternal stress
Cardinal features of autism are three in number
1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction
2. Qualitative impairment in communication
3. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors
The associated features of autistic are also listed below
- Language disability
- Poor eye contact
- Poor interpersonal interactions
- Sleep deficits
- Mood changes
- Intellectual disability
- Abnormalities in the cerebral cortex especially in prefrontal and temporal lobe areas.
- 10-23% cases show abnormalities on EEG
- 20-25% cases show ventricular enlargement o CT scan
- The increased volume of the brain especially in occipital, parietal, and temporal lobes.
- Cerebellar hypoplasia with loss of cerebellar granule cells and Purkinje neuronal loss.
- Abnormalities of dopamine, catecholamine, and serotonin pathways.
Diagnosis is clinical, guided by the application of diagnostic tools (screening, diagnosis,
- Autism Diagnostic Interview
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
- The Childhood Autism rating scale
- Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist
Diagnostic tests- No tests are confirmatory
- Neuro biological analysis
- Chromosome analysis
- Epigenetic studies
- Testing for heavy metal poisoning
A multidisciplinary team approach is needed
- Behavioral intervention
- Communication intervention
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Sleep training and therapy
- Early intensive behavioral therapy based on applied behavioral analysis
- Play therapy
- Enzyme therapy
- Music therapy
To control epilepsy, hyperkinesis, stereotypes
Dopamine suppressing drugs like
- Risperidone (0.5-2mg),
- Clonidine (50-100 mcg)
- The intervention provided before the age of 3 has a much greater impact than intervention provided after 5.
- Early detection with intensive treatment results in a better prognosis.
Ayurveda Concept of AUTISM Disorders
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects communication and behavior. Even though one cannot find a disease called Autism mentioned in Ayurveda texts, this is a disease that can be managed and controlled very well if treatment is started from a very early stage by following an ayurvedic regime. If followed properly as prescribed, the patient will be able to live well and progress in life without requiring anyone’s assistance.
Reasons for the cause of autism according to Ayurveda
Although specific reasons cannot be assigned for the cause of Autism, there are a few factors that are said to play a big part in causing the disease. These include:
- Mithyaahaaram (Improper diet)
- Mithyaachaaram (Improper habits)
- Virudhaahaaram (Consumption of incompatible food)
- Beejadosham (Abnormal genes)
- Mental stress /Bodily diseases/Apathyaseva during pregnancy
- Regular alcohol consumption and/or smoking by parents
Whatever the reasons for the disease, when it is caused, it fundamentally affects the digestive system. This is validated by the Gut-Brain Theory that is being put forward by the modern medicine stream. The symptoms caused due to the presence of toxins in the body are also seen in such diseases. The progression of the disease is observed to be based on the toxins and impaired digestion.
General weakness ( Ojasakshaya) symptoms which affect the seven tissues in the body is seen in such patients along with other symptoms.
The following are the symptoms of being in Ojasakshaya:
- Aggressive nature
- Uncontrollable hunger
- Dryness of the skin
- The tiredness of the body
- Absence of live feeling.
The other symptoms of the disease affecting the Samgnanavaha Srothas are the following:
- Causing harm and hurt to self
- Behavioral abnormalities
- Abnormal speech
- Deficient intelligence
The reason for autism, like in all other diseases, is mainly due to improper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract in the digestive system. In other words, Mandagni (slow digestion) causes vitiation of the doshas leading to the manifestation of the disease and its progression if it is not treated in time. The damaged digestion caused due to the external and internal reasons mentioned above becomes an impediment for the various tissues and parts of the body not getting the required nourishment. This, in turn, impedes the proper functioning of various parts of the body.
The damaged digestive system thus is unable to ward off the poisonous toxins in the body and produce the nourishing fluid causing impediments in all the critical pathways in the body. This also prevents the production of Ojas which is the main substance that supports the proper functioning of bodily tissues and the immune system. These reasons cause the malfunction of the various systems in the body like blood flow channels, enzyme and hormone production, the conveyance route of the nerves, etc.
The functioning of the system whose pathways are impaired thus becomes dysfunctional. This causes these children to exhibit various symptoms.
- It is very important to make the parents aware of the nature of the disease
- The reasons and symptoms of the disease vary from child to child. Accordingly, there will be variations in the treatment prescribed
The treatment will be based on three factors:
- Lifestyle changes
Food has to work as a medicine. Hence it is very important to give special attention to the food. It has been found that some aspects of food cause difficulties in children with autism, especially substances like gluten, casein, etc. which are commonly found in food.
The following have to be taken care while giving food:
- The children should be given only food that is hygienically prepared at home
- Do not intermittently feed if it is not required
- If it is observed that after consuming some foods, it causes allergy or hyperactivity in the child, then avoid giving these foods
Food ingredients to be avoided:
- Wheat and its byproducts like atta, maida, Rava, etc.
- All types of biscuits, cakes, pastry, and other bakery items
- Chocolate, ice cream
- Milk and milk products (Horlicks, Pediasure)
- Oats, corn, soya bean, soya milk, popcorn, cornflakes, etc.
- Food fermented by yeast, baking soda
- Apple, Banana
- Excessive use of tamarind
Food ingredients that can be used:
- Homemade gluten-free, casein-free food ingredients
- Dough fermented using coconut water instead of yeast and baking soda
- Pure honey and palm brown sugar (sharkara)
- Rice, ragi, bajra, chama, cholam, varaku, etc.
- Small quantities of pista, badam, and walnut
- Small quantities of meat in curry form and soups.
- Organic egg
- Normally ripened fruits (papaya, watermelon, etc.)
Medicinal treatment is done in four stages
- Agnideepanam (Enhancing the digestive fire)
- Makes digestion correctly operational
- Makes tissue nourishment happen
- Reduces recurring infections
- Reduces hyperactivity
- Gandharvahasthari Kashayam
- Guluchyadhi Kashayam
- Kalashakadhi Kashayam, etc.
- Vishaharam/Krimiharam (Toxin Removal)
- The first and second stages will be given almost at the same time
- Reduces hyperactivity in the children
- Creates conditions for the medicines to work in the body
- Vilwadi Gulika – to be given by mixing with turmeric powder and dissolving in honey
- Vidamgasaradhi Kashayam
- Vishalveradhi Kashayam
- Krimishodhini Gulika
- Dhathushodhanam (Body Tissue Cleansing)
- This third stage of the treatment is performed after the completion of the first and second stages
- Body tissue cleansing is done in two ways
- Anthaparimarchana Chikithsa ( Internal Cleansing Treatments)
- Vasthi (Detoxification Therapy)
- Virechanam (Detoxifying through purgation)
- Nasyam (Cleansing through the nostrils)
- Bahiparimarchana Chikithsa ( External Applications)
- Dhara (Relaxation therapy where medicated oil is poured on specific parts of the body)
- Abhyangam (Oil massage)
- Shastika application, etc.
- Ojhovardhakam (Immunity Enhancing Therapy)
- Medicines that enlivens the intellect and mind are given in the last stage
- Capability to speak will improve
- Social interaction skills will improve
- Learning-related abilities will improve
Medicines that are given:
- Brahmi swarasam
- Kalyanakavaleham, etc.
- Viharam (Lifestyle Change)
- The child should not indulge in any activities that will increase the severity of the disease
- Parents and society should be very careful in handling children with hyperactivity
- Doing small exercises and yoga regularly will help in the development of the mind and body and will help in yielding good results
- The asanas and pranayamas of yoga that is prescribed to each patient will vary
- Children with autism, unlike other people, will find it difficult to start practicing yoga immediately. It is important to develop a good relationship between the children and the instructor.
- Practicing yoga will make the children capable of handling their minds, bodies, and surroundings
- The relaxation that the mind and body gains through yoga make the children capable of correctly behaving in social situations
- It makes the body strong
- It makes the mind strong
- It helps to expel irritable stimuli
The asanas that could be practiced:
- Suryanamaskaram, etc.
- Bhasthrika, etc.
- Based on the condition of the disease, music in various ragas should be made to hear
- Children who are showing hyperactivity should be made to hear mellow music
- Children who have an inactive condition will benefit from dance music
Even though it is a very complicated situation to handle, early diagnosis and immediate and correct treatment will separate the pathology of the disease and help in bringing the patient back to normalcy. Food and lifestyle changes are equally important as medicine in Ayurvedic treatment. The effectiveness of the treatment will improve further if this is augmented with occupational therapy, yoga, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, support of the parents, relatives, and society.
Treatments that help in brain development by making the Dhahanvyavastha accurate may be unknown to modern science but are plenty in Ayurveda. The correct use of these present golden rays of hope to patients who are affected by autism.