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Autism 6 Known Issues – Webinar Extract
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What is going on?We know that there are six known issues, six known factors, that lead to the underlying autism spectrum disorders. They are neurodevelopmental disorders meaning that the brain of children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders we now understand is maturing differently and that’s what neurodevelopmental means. There isn’t an injury. There isn’t any brain damage but the brain of these children are maturing in a different way than the brains of children who don’t have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. What we know about that: –
- The cortex has patches of tissue that are different then occur in children without an autism diagnosis.
- We also know that there’s a problem with the way the brain regions connect with each other and I’ll explain that a little further but the good news about that especially, is that that the brain is plastic and especially brain connectivity is plastic. That means that the brain can change. Any child who is an issue with one part of the brain communicating or connecting with another that is remediable and that is the good news, in this whole discussion.
- Third we know that children on the autism spectrum tend to have problems inhibiting information both within their own body and inhibiting information that’s not relevant to them from the outside world. What that means then is a way to think about this imbalance of excitation and inhibition because that’s kind of a technical term. The way to think about that is their brains are noisy so from the standpoint of what we want to do with a child on the autism spectrum one of the main things we want to do is establish a homeostasis so that the brain is responding to appropriate stimuli and ignoring the child is able to ignore stimuli that is not relevant to learning or isn’t relevant to behavior in general and that’s important because it means therapy needs to be repetitive and consistent. We’ll talk about that.
- This fourth way the brain matures differently in children on the autism spectrum is what are called pruning deficits. I’ll explain that a little further but since you’re interested in therapy, I want to talk about this from a therapeutic standpoint or an intervention standpoint. The brain as we said, is plastic meaning it’s changing its changing in your brain it’s changing in my brain all the time. The way the brain changes is based on experience, so we say that the brain is an experience dependent organ. Now what is happening when you’re experiencing anything like new learning today for example when you’re learning some new information that you didn’t know before your brain is prioritizing the information. It’s in a way getting rid of information or details that you don’t need for example you don’t need the detail of the phone number that you had to call in to join this session, you don’t need to have the link memorized that got to into the video into the slide portion of this. So, your brain will eliminate that it will prune that away. You can think of pruning like you do with, here it is spring in the United States and a big part of pruning that’s going on is people are pruning their bushes there rose bushes and their other flowering bushes and when you prune a bush what you do is you cut back the stems so that the bush is the energy to produce beautiful flowers so you can think of that same thing happening in the brain. You want to eliminate unnecessary connections, unnecessary synapses so the brain can flower, so it can be good at the things you want it to be good at. And some of the genes that interfere here with the development of children with brain development and children with autism cause these pruning deficits and we will talk about that.
- Fifth there may be core regions that get the problem started, and this is very important from a standpoint of intervention. Let’s say one of the genes they found and we’ll talk about this as a gene, that in some infant causes problems with sleep and attention, and so the baby is prone to not sleeping well and then having temper tantrums and having other experiences that interfere with their abilities to attend to what’s important in the world around them like their mother’s voice and their mother’s face and the language that’s going on. And there may be some new drugs on the market in the next few years that will be able to identify those early factors that cause a cascade of effects later on if is a little baby is having trouble sleeping and having trouble paying attention, and so the brain isn’t having the same experiences as another baby if we can attack that in a very early stage when the baby is a month of age or a few weeks of age, then we might be able to prevent some of the symptoms of autism later on.
- Finally, there are genetically based issues with metabolism that we’re now starting to identify where it looks like some of the genes that cause autism spectrum disorders associated with autism spectrum disorder caused problems with the brain metabolizing protein. And the human brain needs protein it needs amino acids for it to develop. Again, those kinds of genes might be able to be identified in some children and the metabolic disorders addressed through medical intervention.
So just summarizing this then, autism spectrum disorders are neuro developmental problems but they’re also poly genetic. What that means is there’s a complex mix of inherited genes that run in families that we all probably have a few of these that would predispose a child to having communication issues or having attentional issues or perhaps having metabolic issues. But then there are also what are called de novo mutations and those are occurring and the research is trying to determine what causes that but those occur in either the germ cell that is the first the cell, when the father sperm and the mother’s egg are fertilized and that cell starts to replicate itself then some errors can occur in the replication of those cells and in the genes and those cause mutations.
Understanding that autism spectrum disorder is not caused by diet, it is not caused by vaccinations it is caused by genes that interfere with various aspects of development of the brain long before the baby is even born and in many cases, it looks like long before the brain even starts to develop.