When I first began my training as a developmental pediatrician back in the 1980's, autism was a rare disorder affecting approximately 1:2500 children. Over time, I have witnessed an epidemic rise in children being diagnosed with a range of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) now collected under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Children on the spectrum share symptoms that derive from difficulty with "social communication," the natural give-and-take of verbal and body language that is fundamental to their development of inter-personal relationships. When this does not emerge, a child becomes isolated (auto-ism) and is prone to unusual behaviors that reflect his or her state of extreme stress. It is important to remember, however, that Autism Spectrum Disorder is a collection of symptoms. It is not a single disease.
Since genetic disorders cannot occur in epidemics, some forms of autism appear to be triggered by the environment fueling fears of possible causes ranging from vaccines, perinatal interventions, heavy metals, electromagnetic radiation and a host of other exposures. The truth is that we do not yet know whether a single cause or a mix of stressors play a role in the rise of autism.
The good news is that recovery from certain forms of autism is possible. In particular, children who have what is known as "regressive autism" (normal development until a certain age) seem to have a significant potential for recovery. The approach I use grew out my early experiences with the Autism Research Institute, examining environmental and nutritional factors that may be interfering with a child's development. Dissatisfied with an impersonal protocol-driven model, I have created a holistic approach to treating autism that relies on my experience with Chinese medicine.