Autism, ADHD, anxiety, conduct disorders, learning disabilities, and other developmental disabilities continue to rise in US children, and in kids in industrialized nations around the globe. These trends began decades ago. So why are we here now, with nothing to show for turning the tide the other way? Why are so many more kids saddled with autism compared to five, ten, or fifteen years ago? Why are there chronic conditions that were virtually non-existent for people under the age of 18 or 25, just one generation ago? When obesity is included, over half of US kids have a chronic health condition and/or disability (a not so reassuring 43% do if we exclude obese kids). Why has their health worsened? Do we call it “diversity” and call it good? Nothing at all causes these problems, except better diagnosis, and some genes yet to be consistently identified? And nothing can fix them but prescription drugs?
This I do not believe, and never have. In my quarter century in private clinical nutrition practice, I have yet to witness that this narrative is valid.
The following is the Foreword to one of my e books, Five Essential Lab Tests For Kids With Autism. What I’ve placed in this e book goes for kids with autism as much as it does for kids with any chronic condition, developmental diagnosis, growth impairment or growth failure, GI disorders, conduct disorder, learning disability, frequent infections and illnesses, and so on. Want a healthier, happier kid? Read on, and then pick up the e book here to get started on how to turn the tide for your child.
Foreword from Five Essential Lab Tests – Why This Book
Over the last twenty-five years, thousands of families of kids on the autism spectrum have reached out to me looking for help. In that time, I’ve observed some big shifts.
Here’s what has changed:
First: Kids are exposed to a cocktail of toxins and stress never seen before. And their parents – parents born since 1980 – are more loaded with toxins than the generation before them. Unless parents take pointed steps to avoid and purge toxic burdens prior to conception, and plan ahead to avoid them for their babies, odds are increasing that their offspring will be affected. The problem is compounding, and concentrating up the food chain if you will. Moms are now carrying babies in the context of more intense, more diverse toxicity than ever. These toxins have synergy; they can exaggerate each other’s effects. Parents are passing toxins in their own bodies on to their unborn kids, along with whatever injury those toxins inflict on either parent’s DNA.
Second: Another change is how many kids are affected, and you will read more about this in this e-book.
Third: As a clinician, I notice that kids have become harder and harder to restore. The cases are more complex. The abrupt regressive autism picture of twenty five years ago – where a child goes from shining, blissful, typical development to a sudden abyss of lost milestones somewhere around age 1 and 2 years – this is less common, at least in my cohort of families. What seems more common is a non-appearance of normal development to begin with: Later communication skills, slower motor skills, inability to sleep well, sustained primitive reflexes, more gut and bowel problems at very early ages, sensory dysregulation from the get go… followed eventually by the inevitable autism spectrum diagnosis by age four or five. In these cases, the window of normal development never quite shows up. Instead, it’s a slow, bumpy slog forward, dragging babies and toddlers into engagement with the world: More babies needing protective head gear for noise or for seizures. More babies needing occupational therapy to learn how to eat, crawl, sit, or walk. More babies not growing as expected, more with severe inflammatory bowel features like Crohns disease by age 2 or 3, or eosinophilic gastroenteritis by 18 months. More toddlers with anxiety so bad, they are given psychiatric drugs. More babies reaching 12 or 18 months with no words at all. More babies who can’t fall asleep readily, or get deep restful sleep.
This is what it looks like when generational toxicity is in play. Babies are conceived in a new context of higher toxicity, they gestate in higher toxicity, and the are exposed to higher toxicity on arrival. Mom’s breast milk concentrates her toxins too. In the industrialized world, our babies don’t get a moment without toxic exposure anymore, from conception forward. Can this be injurious to the brain and to developmental trajectories in humans? I believe the answer is yes. We are losing the “normal” babies of yore. This is different than what I saw in my client families twenty five years ago.
What else is different? The parents. For parents born since 1980 or so, and certainly for those born after 1995, this might sting a little: Younger parents are less inquisitive than the generation I worked with around the year 2000. Parents today are more obedient. They are more inclined to go along with societal rhetoric to normalize or “celebrate” chronic illness, developmental delay, or disability. Their natural instincts for inquiry seem to have been social-media’d out of them. We all use optimism to navigate life’s hardships. But celebration for debility is a peculiar form of public betrayal.
Here are examples of this that have occurred in my practice, often: If a pediatrician says it’s normal for kids to have fainting spells or chronic fatigue, or to have nothing more than two-word sentences as late as age 3 years, or have rolling fevers that never quite resolve, or live month after month with wet mucousy stool or painful fecal impaction, or have three kids in one family who fall on the spectrum and need special services for life, I have observed that parents say “okay” more often today. Off they go to the specialist referral for medications and procedures that don’t seem all that effective. I encounter this week after week when I speak with young families. I am startled that I now live in a society which sanctions kids having chronic conditions or disability. In the US more than half of our children are afflicted with a chronic condition or disability. More kids are unwell, than not. And this is sanctioned now.
There is a slippery slope between acceptance and kindness for these variations in kids, and gaslighting. I witness a lot of gaslighting. What parents share with me often now is that if they have a problem with the sanctioned narrative, then they are the problem, they are intolerant, they are “helicopter” parents. Parents share with me every day what their doctors have said: Chronic debility, weak growth, frequent illness and infections, uneven development, learning disabilities, severe underweight, insomnia, anxiety, life threatening food allergies, never-formed stools, fecal impactions, bloating, stomach pain …. are “normal”, as is life long dependence on medications to manage these.
These conditions might be common in children now. But they are not normal. When I completed my training in 1988, none of these were considered “normal”, or healthy. Our children deserve better health and well-being than this. Over the last twenty five years, pediatrics has moved the goal posts. We have been taught to have lower expectations for our kids’ health, to expect drug dependency for their faltering well being or functioning, and to “celebrate” it lest we be accused of intolerance.
We can do better. Chronic debility or fatigue, shortened life span, more autoimmune disease, higher mortality, lack of employment or employability, or loneliness and isolation are not okay – for anyone, with or without autism or ADHD. All of these are more common in persons with those conditions. My mantra is that your kids get to be healthy, no matter what challenges they have. Kids get to feel well physically and emotionally, engage as much as they are able, and live a good life. We can reach for that.
Meanwhile, here is what has not changed: Physicians still don’t study nutrition. It’s not requried, and they don’t have time. They not only lack training, they lack awareness of its power and potential, and of the evidence base in nutrition. Mechanisms of our for-profit health care system also make it nearly impossible for physicians to address nutrition, even if they would like to. In my decades of practice as a licensed registered dietitian/nutritionist, per feedback from families I work with, many of their doctors actually believe nutrition is non-science, others are patently misinformed about it, while still others give it cursory nod at best. This means that on a population scale, kids miss opportunity to feel and fuction a lot better. Prescription drugs can’t fix nutrition problems. Nutrition fixes nutrition problems
Hence this book. This book shows you and your doctor how to capture critical gaps in nutrition that impair learning, development, growth, behavior, and more. Your MD care team may have no inkling that these tests can be useful in the context of autism, how to use them, or why. That’s okay. Read on. This book lays it out for you, so you can work with your team to identify the fixable obstacles that impede a child’s progress.
This book also reminds you that ultimately, as a parent, you are in charge of your child’s well being. You are the CEO of that project. There is no doctor, teacher, provider, or anyone else who can fill your shoes. You are the one responsible for their care. If they reach adulthood with deep special needs, it will be you who must sort where and how they live. Doctors, teachers, therapists, and respite providers are your child’s helpers. Work with the ones who help – and avoid the naysayers. Have high standards. As the percentage of children affected by autism and other chronic disabilities and conditions continues to climb, they need every possible support to reach adulthood as functional members of society. Don’t settle. Your kids get to be healthy.