2. Artficial Symptoms are Introduced
Not only can interventions remove symptoms from the case; they can also introduce new ones by way of their own side-effects. This can pose problems for the practitioner, who must then decide whether the new symptoms are:
· an aggravation produced by the remedy, in which case the remedy should be immediately suspended. If the aggravation is similar to the child’s existing symptoms, and these symptoms improve once the aggravation settles, the remedy should be recommenced at a reduced frequency, or in a smaller dose if the child is hypersensitive, as soon as any improvement stalls or symptoms return. If the aggravation is dissimilar to the symptoms, the wrong remedy has been chosen, and it will not be followed by an improvement. In this event, the symptoms should be re-examined and another prescription made as soon as possible. Hahnemann advised to combine the pre-existing symptoms with the symptoms of the aggravation in this instance to prescribe a more appropriate remedy18;
· side-effects of the biomedical treatment. Though suspected, they can be difficult to confirm due to a lack of comprehensive data on the side-effects of many biomedical supplements and treatments, especially when used in combination. If the suspected side-effects of a particular treatment cannot be confirmed by established sources of information, the homeopath’s best recourse is to enquire on the biomedical Internet forums whether other parents have encountered a similar problem. If an association between the biomedical treatment and the side-effect can be established, the child’s parents should be advised as much, with a view to modifying or suspending that treatment. Parents should also be warned that side-effects of once-helpful biomedical treatments – even vitamins or minerals – can occur as homeopathy moves their child to better state of health. This aspect has already been commented on in Alex’s story (part one, Case 1) and has been seen on numerous occasions in the author’s practice. If biomedical side-effects are suspected, parents should be asked to suspend the most likely intervention for a period. If symptoms improve, the intervention can be omitted altogether or reintroduced in a smaller measure. Unfortunately, many parents will be reluctant to suspend interventions for fear of delaying their child’s progress, especially if the biomedical treatments have been trouble-free up to this point in time. Some may even choose to stop homeopathic treatment itself in the erroneous belief that it, rather than one of the biomedical interventions, is the cause of their child’s symptoms. If it later becomes obvious that this was not so, these parents often return their child to homeopathic treatment with renewed commitment;
· nutritional deficiencies produced by a restrictive diet, or by the leaching effects of chelation. If either is suspected, the parents should be alerted and the necessary tests and investigations conducted.
2. The Biomedical Family
The parents of a child with autism are frequently under enormous social, financial, and treatment-related stresses, all of which may affect their capacity to give homeopathic treatment the same opportunity to help their child as they’ve given the treatments in which they have invested much more time and money. The search for elusive ingredients for organic home-cooked meals and snacks; expensive treatments; three-hourly dosing schedules, day and night; coping with the inevitable but often unjustified guilt of not doing enough for their child; and juggling the needs of other family members, just to mention some of the pressures, will at times turn even the most well-adjusted parent into an emotional and behavioural wreck. All of these dynamics feed into homeopathic management and need to be recognised and accommodated if the child is to be treated well. Perhaps the biggest hurdle the homeopath will have to overcome, though, is that of parents mistaking biomedicine for the “serious stuff” and homeopathy as an “add-on” treatment. In this regard, homeopathy can be a victim of its own gentleness and simplicity. Parents can easily attribute the gains made by it to the more obvious rigours of concurrent biomedical treatments. Sometimes it is only when scarce resources are directed away from homeopathic treatment toward more biomedical interventions that it becomes clear to parents which therapy has done what as improvements gained over previous months slip away before their eyes. Parents will then often return to homeopathy with renewed commitment and confidence. Finally, in the world of autism, the practitioner may have to accept that it is not just other biomedical or orthodox practitioners whose treatments are complicating the child’s symptom picture. Parents may be frequently initiating their own interventions and treatments according to what is being discussed and advised within parent self-help groups. In treating the A.S.D. child, it is certainly true that we will rarely be alone.
Making the Transition
In an ideal world, parents would suspend most, if not all, biomedical interventions when commencing homeopathic treatment. Case management would then be clearer and less complex for both practitioner and patient. In reality, this rarely happens. Initially, most parents remain highly dependent on biomedical treatments until their confidence in homeopathy has grown. Only then is it possible for them to consider discontinuing some or all of its interventions. Reasons for this dependence include the following.
Biomedicine’s Sophisticated and Impressive Appearance
Biomedicine’s treatments are complex, expensive, and embraced by highly educated doctors, pÃ¦diatricians, specialists, and allied therapists. In contrast, homeopathy, with its infrequent water doses or sugar pills prescribed by a limited number of professional homeopaths, appears too subtle or gentle in the eyes of some to achieve the improvements promised by biomedicine. For this reason, parents can easily attribute the gains from early homeopathic treatment to rigorous simultaneous biomedical treatment.
Parents trying to “recover” their ASD-affected children are frequently dealing with:
· fear of missing the window period of early childhood in which biomedicine has the potential to make the greatest difference
· fear that valuable gains will be lost if their child regresses because biomedicine was suspended in favour of an unknown homeopathy
· fear of offending professionals who may currently be helping their child
· fear of being without the support, understanding, and friendship of a biomedical community when much of society still struggles to understand or accept their child’s confronting behaviours
· fear that aggravations arising from homeopathic treatment (or high doses of the supplements or medicines that become unnecessary with successful treatment) may really be the reactivation of gut dysbiosis or a sign of regression.
Misidentification of Homeopathy
Homeopathy is generally understood poorly and represented inaccurately by biomedical proponents and on biomedical forums. It is often wrongly identified as the use of nosodes*, isodes?, human symbiodes[h], or complexesâ€¡, used in a “this for that” manner, or as a series of routine remedies prescribed according to a causal history. Parents whose children have been treated in this inadequate manner (by homeopathic and non-homeopathic practitioners) have a limited appreciation of homeopathy and report variable results. As a consequence, seasoned members of biomedical forums generally advise that, whilst “homeopathy” is sometimes helpful, it is also unreliable; and that its practitioners usually know too little of A.S.D. issues or biomedical treatments for parents to entrust them with the complete care of their child.
Biomedicine is a field in which the ground rules are still being laid, and it is not unusual to find highly motivated parents who are better informed about biomedical treatment options and expected responses than many professionals. These parents are often solely responsible for their child’s biomedical treatment, and because of their experience in this area, may be sought out by newer or less-knowledgeable parents for the information they can share – something that is obviously flattering and gratifying. In other instances, parents may confuse any success from their child’s biomedical treatment with their own success as parents. Either way, a lot more than time and money may be invested by parents in their children’s biomedical treatment than is likely with homeopathy.
Assisting in the Transition
Short of refusing to accept a child for treatment, the best course of action for the homeopath is to address the above issues with time, patience, education, and a preparedness to support parents in the difficult transition from an allopathic to a homeopathic mode of treatment. If homeopathy’s potential is to be fully realised by countless numbers of ASD-affected children, then we as practitioners also have to present clear, accurate, and consistent information on its principles and practice to the biomedical community. Now, that’s a challenge worth picking up.
* Nosode: a potentised preparation of diseased tissue or disease product.
â€ Isode: a potentised preparation of diseased tissue or disease product from the patient him- or herself.
â€¡Complex: a mixture of potentised medicines.
Biomedicine or Homeopathy?
In summary, what can be said about biomedical treatment? It’s my belief that, in the absence of homeopathy, safe dietary modifications are the treatment of choice for A.S.D.-affected children, and that the benefits of other biomedical approaches should be judiciously weighed against their risks. As already mentioned, depending on the symptoms involved and the treatment employed, biomedicine has been shown to improve some symptoms of some children who until recently have had very few treatment options open to them. Its overall success rate is higher than that of its cousin, orthodox medicine, and in comparison it is generally safer. This information is displayed in a simple but comprehensive treatment chart compiled by the Autism Research Institute from the treatment reports from more than 26,000 parents19 that compares and contrasts the results of 53 orthodox medicines, 29 biomedical/”non-drug” medications, and ten special diets.
It is good practice for homeopaths to remove “obstacles to cure”, allowing the body to heal itself,20 but some biomedical treatments that may initially seem to do this can actually produce their own adverse effects in the process. Chelation, for example, as already discussed, may produce liver damage or gut dysbiosis. Anti-fungals such as fluconazole (e.g. Diflucan) and itraconazole (e.g. Sporanox) can produce the previously mentioned Herxheimer reaction or disorders such as deafness, hypertension, hepatotoxicity, or anaphylaxis.21 22 Obviously, “removal” by these means is not consistent with the homeopathic ideal of rapid, gentle, and permanent cure.23 In addition, if improvements occur through symptom palliation or suppression, then any short-term relief will have to be weighed against future deterioration or development of new symptoms.[p]
In comparison with homeopathy, biomedicine is found wanting. It does not, for instance, produce the rapidity of response or the consistency and breadth of improvement that is possible with homeopathic treatment.[q] It is associated with significant side-effects and compliance issues, and its interventions are costly and disruptive. Finally, many of its treatments have to be continued indefinitely if symptoms are not to return. For these reasons alone, homeopathy deserves to be at the forefront of treatment options for children with autism, not to be used merely as an ancillary therapy; it is safe and effective and able to produce the long-term results parents are looking for. All that is required for its success is for practitioners to apply its core principles consistently and clearly in the A.S.D. cases that come before them.
Along with biomedicine, parents may frequently be using a number of non-biomedical approaches in the treatment of their child’s autism. I will not elaborate on these to the degree I have on biomedical interventions, as, with the exception of the orthodox pharmaceutical approach, they are generally nowhere near as disruptive to homeopathic treatment.
These approaches include the following.
Orthodox Pharmaceutical Approach
Orthodox medicine relies on neuroleptic, antidepressant, and stimulant medications to treat the symptoms of autism. This approach has been shown to be least effective and the most dangerous of all the medicinal and supplemental treatments, as the data compiled by the Autism Research Institute reveal.24
Neuroleptic medications such as risperidone (e.g. Risperdal) are used to manage the behavioural symptoms associated with autism, such as aggression, self-injury, obsessive-compulsive symptomatology, hyperactivity, anxiety, agitation, aggression, rigidity and inflexibility, and mood lability. Weight gain is one of their known short-term side-effects. There is also the risk of tardive dyskinesia (involuntary tics and movements that continue even upon cessation of the drug) from long-term usage.25 As illustrated in part one with Ben (Case 3), homeopathy is capable of successfully correcting the symptoms that these allopathic medications suppress, with none of the risks or side-effects associated with those medications.
Antidepressants may be used to reduce compulsions and repetitive behaviours such as stims. Their known side-effects of agitation and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-induced behavioural activation26 and a lack of adequate research on their effects on the autistic child make their use precarious in the face of relatively minor improvements. In contrast, homeopathy has a long history of treating repetitive behaviours and obsessions without the risks associated with these medicines.
The use of stimulant medication such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) to treat autism-related hyperactivity has a clear (if inexact) homeopathic relationship. On the basis of “like treats like”, a medicine that would normally overstimulate a healthy child has the potential to calm a hyperactive one. The problems associated with medicines such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) are that their constituent chemicals produce side-effects, some of which are life-threatening,27 and that their results are variable, as the medication is not matched to the unique symptoms of the sufferer. In contrast, homeopathy individualises on symptoms to exploit the entirety of the law of similars and prescribes non-toxic, chemical-free remedies.
Of these therapies, applied behavioural analysis (A.B.A.) is the most frequently used intervention for autism, and geographically the most widespread. It proposes that a “learning blockage” makes it impossible for many children with autism to learn from their environment in the way neurotypical children do. As a result, inappropriate behaviours and responses develop. Behavioural therapists provide intensive teaching in a structured environment, often in the form of exercises and rewards, to overcome these learning blockages. The children are drilled to modify their behaviour and to respond appropriately to the different social cues or contexts of their surroundings.
Behavioural therapy is allopathic in approach, as there is no disease relationship between therapy and symptoms. In most instances, the child’s natural responses will be either modified or suppressed through intensive drilling and reinforcement, making it difficult for the homeopath to obtain a clear symptom picture. In these instances, it is important to ask what the child was like before the therapy commenced, especially if treatment has been in place for some time.
One particularly striking type of behavioural therapy is the use of an “aversive” such as mildly painful electric shocks. For obvious reasons, aversive therapy has been embroiled in controversy. Surprisingly, some parents report that for many children with severe self-harming behaviours, the “aversive” has been a literal lifesaver, reducing or eliminating practices such as self-mutilation, violent head-banging, and self-biting when no other approach or medication has helped. Self-injuring children reportedly appear happier on the treatment and have on occasion requested it themselves when no longer able to control their behaviour. Parents also report that the intensity of the shock needed to stop their child from engaging in what would be a severely painful self-injury is surprisingly mild.28 This may all be true, but it’s also the case that several remedies exist within the homeopathic materia medica that have traditionally treated these self-injuring behaviours in a more pleasant manner.
Sensory-processing disorders, often known as sensory integration dysfunction (SID) or sensory processing disorder (SPD), are common in autism. With SID, the child is unable to appropriately process information from one or more of the five special senses of vision, hearing, touch, olfaction, and taste; the vestibular system that provides a sense of motion; or proprioception, which brings a sense of position in space. The information received through these senses is analysed abnormally by the brain, resulting in confusion or distress. Techniques to correct or minimise SIDs are frequently used by paediatric occupational therapists in Australia and include sensorial integration, patterning, auditory training, facilitated communication, and daily life therapy. The Irlen approach; prism lenses designed to improve visual-processing difficulties; and the reduction of sensitivity to different sound frequencies by Auditory Integration Training (AIT) also fall into this category. These techniques have no serious side-effects and in some instances may act by removing maintaining causes or obstacles to cure. More often, though, gains are achieved through compensation or palliation while the underlying predisposition to these problems remains uncorrected. Homeopathy is frequently successful at alleviating processing problems; in my practice, distress from noise or odours, and poor gross motor skills, are often amongst the first things to improve following an appropriate remedy.
This approach rests on the assumption that autism is an anxiety-driven emotional imbalance that leads to social withdrawal. Because autism develops early in life, the now discredited “refrigerator mother” concept29 and inadequate maternal-infant bonding have been postulated as triggers by this school of thinking. Therapies include pheraplay and “holding therapy”.30 Pheraplay is designed to produce highly stimulating and intense interpersonal experiences that are strong enough to overcome the child’s sensory impairments. Holding therapy is more specific: the child is looked at in the eyes and held closely to trigger distress until he or she finally accepts comfort, or at least no longer resists. Obviously, these approaches are traumatic and allopathic. There is no empirical evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness. With autism now widely regarded as a developmental rather than emotional disorder, the psychodynamic approach, including psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, is rarely used by therapists. Two exceptions to its allopathic nature, however, can be seen in the “flooding” approach and some aspects of the Son-Rise program31. Flooding, in a “like treats like” manner, exposes the sufferer to intense and similar experiences of the stimuli that cause the child’s unwanted emotional or behavioural response.32 A fear of rubber bands, for instance, will be treated by a series of exposures to large numbers of rubber bands, upon which that fear lessens and then disappears. The Son-Rise program, instead of suppressing or replacing the child’s stims, teaches parents to enter the child’s world by mimicking their child’s repetitive behaviours. In doing so, parents report that their child begins to interact more appropriately with his or her environment. Their stims, rather than escalating, often reduce in incidence. Nijhof33 posits that these repetitive behaviours may be the body’s attempt to achieve homeostasis; their suppression does not, contrary to popular belief, result in desirable behaviours and may in fact be counterproductive.
A mix of other therapies and approaches that cannot be easily be placed elsewhere fall into this category. They include, but are not limited to, cranio-sacral, chiropractic, and osteopathic approaches; weighted items; hyperbaric chamber treatment; kinesiology; and animal and music therapies. To show the extent of services and treatments that are gathering in A.S.D. treatment, Research Autism provides a descriptive list, which is by no means exhaustive, of more than 70 therapies and interventions.34 Of interest and concern is that homeopathy is not included.
a. Suppression: the suppression (Hahnemann’s term, Unterdrückung: under pressing) of symptoms refers to the concealment of perceptible manifestations of a disease condition without the cure of the disease (Hahnemann CS. Organon of the Medical Art [6th ed] [trans. O’Reilly]. Redmond, Washington: Birdcage, 1996 , p. 354). Homoeopaths hold that continual suppression of symptoms leads to worsening health.
b. Allopathy: The treatment of disease with substances that produce effects different to the symptoms of that disease. Often used as a term for orthodox medicine. (In contrast, homoeopathy treats disease with substances that produce effects similar to those of the disease).
c. Palliation: To palliate is to cause to appear less grave [L. palliatus covered with a cloak]. Macquarie Dictionary.
d. In contrast, homeopathy’s development into a fully holistic method of treatment was a response to the observation that full health is restored only when symptom totality, including those symptoms unrelated to the autism, has been fully removed.
e. “Stims” and “stimming” are colloquialisms for self stimulation. A stim is a repetitive behaviour that either stimulates, calms, or aids concentration.
f. Common sources of exposure to mercury are: environmental, such as with broken fluorescent tubes or mercury thermometers; maternal, leaching from dental amalgams into the bloodstream and then crossing the placental barrier or entering breastmilk; and vaccinial, such as RhoGAM or the increasingly numerous childhood vaccines that contain mercury, listed as either thiomersal or thimerosal (limited in quantity by legislative action in 1999).
g. Obstacle to cure: an occasioning or maintaining cause (introducing or maintaining a condition) or impediment to an otherwise curative medicine. See Hahnemann CS. Organon of the Medical Art [6th ed] [trans. O’Reilly]. Redmond, Washington: Birdcage, 1996 (1842), §§ 7, 260.
h. Symbiode: A potentised preparation of a microorganism symbiotic with an animal, e.g., in humans, Candida albicans. Prescription of a symbiode that does not correspond to the sufferer’s individualising symptoms will generally be of little to no benefit.
i. Eye contact; reduced sensitivity to external stimuli; improvement in behaviour; increase in expressive language; acceptance of touch; and desire for interaction are all improvements that have been noted in some children within hours after being prescribed a single dose of a similar remedy. In others, these improvements have occurred in one to three days (still with one dose of the remedy).
j. The law of similars is a natural law that underpins homoeopathic action: the “like cures like” phenomenon. Homoeopaths observe that the correct remedy for a patient’s disease is that substance that will produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the disease.
k. In order to address health problems without producing toxic chemical effects, homoeopathy most commonly uses submolecular preparations of medicines. The process by which these medicines are prepared involves their serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking), a process called potentisation.
l. For example, cure of deafness, dyspnoea, and chronic ophthalmia can occur through smallpox, which causes all three; the pain and inflammation of a burn can be relieved by stinging nettle.
m. Alex’s story (Case 1, part one) is one such example from many in my fi les. In other cases, parents repeatedly report substantial and rapid improvements in their child’s progress following the prescription of an appropriate homoeopathic remedy even though that child may already have been on biomedical treatment for a long time.
n. Of the children I have treated during the last two years (more than 100), there has not been a single case in which biomedical treatment has further improved the progress of a child already doing well on homoeopathic treatment. In contrast, I have several cases in which children regressed substantially when homoeopathic treatment was suspended in favour of biomedical treatment, only to rapidly improve again upon return to homoeopathic treatment. A large percentage of my remaining cases have been treated both biomedically (not by me) and homoeopathically as parents unfamiliar or underconfi dent with the homoeopathic approach have chosen to combine both methods of treatment in an effort to help their children. These children progress no more rapidly than those children who are receiving homoeopathic treatment only. Frequently, their progress has been slowed as biomedical treatments complicated or hindered homeopathic management.
o. A review of the more than 100 A.S.D. cases in my clinic shows improvement in 98%. Their speed of improvement has varied from slow but consistent to startling. The three cases discussed in part one of this article provide a guide to what can be expected in general practice. The more I practise homoeopathy, the more I am convinced that the law does not fail the practitioner: the practitioner fails the law.
p. On at least one biomedical discussion list with an emphasis on chelation, it is frequently stated that initial improvements of many months’ duration can be followed by a regression back into autism with symptoms worse than when treatment began. When this happens, parents are told that little can then be done to help their child.
q. This is repeatedly evidenced in the author’s own clinic when the results of homoeopathic treatment are compared with the results clients report of previous biomedical treatment, or compared with results reported by parents on biomedical Internet forums.
To be continued
Part three will discuss:
· How to take the case of an A.S.D. child
· The significance of miasms in A.S.D.s
· “Homeopathic” approaches such as bowel nosodes and sequential therapy: do they have a role to play?
· The uncertainties inherent in combination homeopathics, used by non-homeopaths as part of their therapy and the treatment of autism
· Adults with autism: can homeopathy help or has irreversible damage been done?
· Correction of vaccine injury: is it possible, and what can homeopathy do?
Attention: Homeopathy for Autism is looking for homeopaths around the world who treat according to the principles outlined in this article. If that sounds like you, please visit http://www.homeopathy4autism.com to submit your location and contact details as parents are currently looking for someone just like you.
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3. Gut and Psychology Syndrome and the Body Ecology Diet books provide a good introduction to the dietary treatment of the metabolic problems that confront A.S.D. children. Natasha Campbell-McBride N. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Schizophrenia. Cambridge: Medinform Publishing, 2004; Gates D (with Schatz, L.) The Body Ecology Diet (10th Ed). Florida: Healthful Communications Inc, 2008.
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17. http://www.autism.com/treatable/form34qr.htm#biomedical (last accessed 18 Jun 2008). A table on the Autism Research Institute website, compiled from the reports of 26,000 parents, breaks down the effectiveness or otherwise of various Defeat Autism Now (DAN) orthodox and biomedical treatments. Individual treatments (excluding dietary changes) produced behavioural improvement for only 16 to 74% of the children taking part. Dietary changes proved to be the most consistently helpful; conventional-drug options were the least. Chelation had the highest success rate for all the therapies (74%) but also carries considerable risks and side-effects. Many children, frequently more than half, had no improvement with each treatment; others worsened.
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