Understanding Autism: Past, Present, and Future


Sesame Street recently introduced it’s newest muppet, Julia, a four-year-old with autism. The news was met with praise and seen as another step in improving awareness around autism, however, little is still known about the disorder.

The origin of autism is a question that has been around for more than 100 years. Back in 1908, it was first described as a severe type of schizophrenia, which they called autism. It is widely believed that Dr. Leo Kanner came up with the first descriptions of children with typical autism behavior in 1943. By the 1960s, Dr. Bruno Bettleheim along with Dr. Kanner assumed the condition was caused by parent’s neglect and frigid mothers, leading to a troubling time period for parents accused of causing the condition.

Fortunately for these accused parents, psychologist Dr. Bernard Rimland, strongly disagreed with this targeted assumption. Dr. Rimland, the father of an autistic child, started to investigate the causes of the condition and subsequently went on to found the Autism Research Institute.

Until the 1980s, autism was thought to be a behavioral problem not a medical condition. Now an autistic diagnosis is made if the patient presents exhibits problems in socialization, speech, and involuntary movements. It is categorized depending on severity from I to III. Other considerations like intellectual disability and genetic syndromes are added.

The incidence of autism has skyrocketed in the last 30 years. In the 1960s, 1 in 2500 persons had autism; now 1 in 45 in the United States with updated numbers expected soon. The increase has puzzled scientists from all around the world and hundreds of studies are published every year looking for the cause and treatment. A 25-fold increase in 50 years should alarm us all and if it continues, it is expected that 1 in 2 children will be on the autistic spectrum by 2025.

Although medical professionals acknowledge increased awareness and earlier diagnosis are contributing factors to the incidence increasing, it does not explain the exponential increase. More and more studies support the theory that it is associated to environmental factors like increases in exposure to toxins, genetically modified food, and food that has less nutrients. Despite the many theories about the cause of autism, a single one has not been established.

In my experience and after treating thousands of children and adults with autism, I suspect the following: autism is a genetic problem that causes the body to have problems with detoxification, which leads to an abnormal response on the immunologic and metabolic system. This response affects the production of energy at the cellular level (Krebs cycle), causing an inflammatory response that affects multiple systems including, the gastrointestinal system (neurotransmitters, nutrient absorption, Dysbiosis, Leaky Gut Syndrome, etc.), neurological system (astroglia inflammation, neurons communication, brain development in general, etc.), and problems with thyroid and glucose.

Treatment can be challenging because it is based on the way our body metabolizes or breaks down chemicals. We have trillions of chemical reactions in our body that are run by proteins that are dependent on our genes. We do not have genetic testing yet that has a high yield in demonstrating where is the specific problem, so it is very hard to determine the perfect treatment.

From my experience, the best results in treatment are going to be achieved by being able to identify the medical problems utilizing the tools we have available at the present day. After identification, a patient can  start an aggressive protocol of individualized neuro-stimulation.

If treated appropriately, the patient can improve significantly to the point that symptoms regress. It is very important to understand that what works in one patient with autism does not necessarily work in another. The key to success for all patients is a team approach – knowledgeable, experienced professionals teamed with persistent and organized parents or caregivers.

You can find Dr. Baez Franceschi on her weekly Facebook Live event.

This information is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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