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Autism: A Dr. Oz Primer


Autism: A Dr. Oz Primer

Throughout our lives as parents, we’ll serve many roles—everything from feeder to teacher, from chef to chauffeur, from buddy to banker. Ultimately—no matter what we do day-to-day (or minute-to-minute)—we see our primary role as protector. We’ll do anything we need to do to shield our kids from the world’s dangers. And that’s why our latest health crisis—autism—hits us so hard. We really don’t know how to protect our children, because, as of now, we don’t know why we’re seeing such an increase in a disorder that can change the lives of children, and their entire families as well. Here, a quick look at the major issues, obstacles, and action steps.

The Basics

Simply, autism is a neurological disorder that robs a child of his or her emotional foundation, making it difficult for the child to communicate, even smile. That’s because there’s an issue with certain connections in the brain from neuron to neuron. It’s often associated with repetitive motor movements or obsessive behaviors.

The Stats

About 1 in 110 children born today are autistic (1 in 70 boys are). In 1980, it was 1 in 5,000.

The Cause

Nobody knows exactly why we’re seeing an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. Some of it has to do with the fact that we have a broader definition of what’s on the spectrum of autism disorders than we did, but that’s not the only reason. Today, there are three main theories as to what has contributed to the increase. They are:

    • Vaccines: There are studies showing there are no links between vaccine and autism, though a minority medical professionals also believe that the evidence isn’t conclusive.

 

    • Environmental factors: The theory is that a variety of things could play a role, such as exposure to pesticides and car toxins.

 

  • Age of parents: Studies have shown that with all other factors being equal, the risk of autism is greater when either parent is older. We’re not sure of a reason, but it could be due to hormones or even changes to the egg or sperm.

If You’re Thinking of Getting Pregnant

    • Start taking a multivitamin containing 400 mg of folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of having a child with autism. B vitamins help improve neural connections.

 

  • Try to avoid polluted communities and environments.

How to Identify Autism

Each child on the autism spectrum is unique, so every child cannot expect to be exactly like another autistic child you may know. Nevertheless, parents often notice that their child doesn’t make eye contact or doesn’t respond to his or her name. Many parents don’t notice issues until after the one-year milestone, when there may language or other developmental delays. A professional with experience in evaluating children should look at intellectual function, speech-language, hearing, behavioral history, as well as use direct observation.

Early Intervention

If you do have an autistic child, it’s recommended that you get early intervention with an educational-behavioral specialist. One-on-one therapies and “floor time,” which focuses on engaging young children in social interactions, may help. Some also advocate a gluten-free diet. More information

A New York Times #1 best-selling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. is also professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Dr. Oz, check out You: Raising Your Child and You: Having a Baby, both co-authored with Michael F. Roizen, M.D.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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