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“Neurodiversity” is a word that splinters the autism community.

Many persons with high functioning autism diagnoses resent the idea that an autism diagnosis is a problem that needs fixing. They are lucky individuals for whom a spectrum diagnosis gives more gifts than losses; they self-identify as “neuro-diverse”, not handicapped. No one is claiming this is an easy go, but many persons with autism lead independent and fulfilling lives, and don’t want “fixing” or a cure.

Biomedical and nutrition interventions are treatments for the often debilitating physical problems – the comorbidities – seen with autism. These are framed by many as caused by multiple blows either in utero or very early:  Toxic exposures, infection, autoimmunity, and malnutrition in these moments of life are unquestionably devastating to a developing brain.

Variations in the timing, duration, and severity of these blows can make the outcome light for some and utterly devastating for others. Whether or not a person has an autism diagnosis, there are diagnostics and treatments for these comorbidities. Common comorbidities for people with autism are encopresis, constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies or sensitivities, picky eating, or nutrition impairments.

These comorbidities may be relatively physically asymptomatic. If that suits you and you are a successful, independent and functional adult with high functioning autism, well, fabulous.

If you are an autistic ten year old in diapers who struggles to speak, not so fine. Maybe you’d like to feel and function better, and you can, with appropriate medical treatment (instead of stronger doses of Risperdal and Miralax that just mask and band-aid while the physical health problems get worse). Maybe you can even join a regular classroom with typical peers, once you are more well. I have see nutrition intervention do this for kids with many times, in my pediatric nutrition practice.

This respects neurodiversity, not the other way around. There’s no reason why a child with an autism diagnosis should be expected to struggle with gut pain, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and the behavior outbursts that ensue because of all three.

If you are a forty year old man with bowel impaction looking at losing your colon, secondary to undiagnosed, life long inflammatory bowel disease, but you don’t even know that because you’re institutionalized with an autism diagnosis, can’t speak, and no one told you,  well…definitely not fine.

Or, if you are an Asperger’s teen who seems to feel well enough, can you assuredly say you are happily expressing your potential? In that sense, having an autism diagnosis has nothing to do with anything. It’s simply about an individual’s potential, and the right to feel well, and get the care, remediation, support, or intervention one would choose, in order to lead an independent and fulfilling life. With or without autism.

In any case, the question is not “do you have autism?” The question is “do you have untreated nutritional, gastrointestinal, autoimmune, or other medical pieces that need attention?” If you don’t look, the problem isn’t there.

In my profession, there are simply people who need nutrition support. There are children with nutrition deficits that impede the brain’s ability to learn, organize, talk, understand, sleep, socialize, process their surroundings, manage overwhelming emotions, or calm down. When you support and replenish brains and bodies with the nutrients that are meant to be there, and when you take out the inflammation and the infection and the toxicity that is not supposed to be there, a person begin to experience and realize their potential, because their brains and bodies function better. Are they “cured” of autism? Who cares? I care that they are learning, growing, happy, and thriving, period.

Whether your child has a developmental diagnosis of autism, or other learning or functional challenges, those diagnostic labels don’t matter. They can help your child tap some great services, so don’t hesitate to obtain them if need be. Most of all, what matters is kids get to be healthy, feel good, play, rest, learn, and enjoy.