December 22, 2010

Too Much Information

And I'm not talking about the good kind of TMI where you get to hear some juicy secret of mine. You see, I've been home a lot lately. I mean a lot. We've all been sick and that means I've had a lot of time to surf the internet. I've also been writing a little for Technorati, so I've been researching autism and paying attention to autism news a lot more, and there's just so much of it.

Just this week, I've learned that autism may be caused by: mitochondrial dysfunction, living too close to freeways, and living near a cement plant. In the past, I've also read that autism is caused by: heredity, other genetic mutations, vaccines, bad parenting, heavy metals in the bloodstream, premature birth, and allergies. The list goes on. (Read this great summary of the flaws in some of the recent research.)

Within autism, there are so many diagnoses and co-morbid conditions: high functioning to severe, Asperger's, apraxia, sensory processing disorder, hypotonia, hyperlexia, and echolalia to name a few.

And then there are the plethora of therapies out there, including but not limited to: ABA, Floortime, SonRise, Pivotal Response Training, Relationship Development Intervention, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, sensory integration therapy, music therapy, recreation therapy, riding horses, surfing, gluten free casein free diets, chelation, B12 shots, other vitamin and mineral supplements, essential fatty acids, fish oil supplements, gut treatments including probiotics and antifungals, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

It is enough to make a person crazy.

Our approach has always been:
  • Let the science guide us.
  • Go to trusted professionals for guidance.
  • Do no harm.
  • Do what works for our family.
And because of that, we've gone what might be considered a fairly conservative route for Moe's autism therapies. We started with individual ABA, speech therapy and occupational therapy, and gradually added a group component. Now Moe is in our school's program (which is excellent), a small class based on the Competent Learner Model, but taking cues from traditional ABA and developmentally-based techniques. He gets group OT and both group and individual speech at school.

We recently added some music therapy, which is also a lot like ABA but using music (instruments, musically based games, singing, etc.). This is not "traditional" but because Moe is so musically inclined, we thought at the very least it could be fun for him. Our music therapist also teaches older spectrum kids to play instruments so my hope is we are building a basis for that in the future as well.

We've recently decided to add in some more OT. It's not going to be strictly sensory integration therapy but we will focus a lot on Moe's sensory-seeking needs. He has a lot of them (chewing, spinning, swinging, etc.). We've had to delay starting because of all our illnesses but I hope we can give Moe some of that extra input he needs to help keep himself more regulated and focused throughout the day.

I am not advocating this approach for everyone, but it is what we can handle. I do think it makes a lot of sense to start small and add in as you go, both in terms of keeping some sanity and for tracking progress. But every day I question whether we're doing the right things, too much or too little. Jeff seems more confident in our approach, and that's good, because I'm sure I'd be all over the map if these decisions were mine alone.

Autism may be a puzzle, but its really the maze of options for parents that is so confounding.


  1. Lots and lots o' puzzing information. I think I would get lost.

  2. That's the never know if what you're doing is the right thing or not. I think a good rule of thumb is if you're seeing progress, you're doing the right thing!

  3. I read once that autism was caused by watching TV. Please.

  4. Our kiddo is musically inclined too....considering adding that component at some point. I've found that swimming also has a huge theraptutic benefit!

  5. Oh wow, I'm tired just reading this post. There is so much to consider and a million different ways to wonder if you are doing the right thing, the best thing and enough of it. Very true, sounds like you are doing great things for Moe.


I love comments! Respectful disagreement always encouraged.


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