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.
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.