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Autism and Gluten: Final Draft

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Autism and Gluten: Final Draft

I've always wondered why people do the things they do, say the things they say, and simply, why they act the way they act. I have a brother who makes me ask questions everyday; why or how can you eat so much? Why do you seem to grow a foot taller every day? Why do you repeat almost everything three times or more? Why is cheese and crackers your favorite thing to eat? For most all of us, the answer to all of these questions would normally be - "I don't know! I just do!" However, my brother is not just any normal person. My brother is autistic. As you can imagine, the answers to the questions I asked earlier cannot, and will not, be as simple as "I don't know!" or "I just do!" Those answers will have science and theory behind them. I believe my brother likes crackers and cheese, or eats like there's no tomorrow, for a more complex reason. Yes, it could just be because he is a teenage boy, but there are, my fellow readers, more possibilities. I, along with the thoughts and ideas of other scientists, have discovered that the things he eats can affect the way he acts. The foods he consumes explains why he does the things he does, says the things he says, and acts the way he acts.

Before divulging into all of the questions I mentioned, I first had to learn more about my brother's disorder. Autism is "A developmental disorder, usually occurring within in the first two and a half years of life. Most have a normal appearance, but have troubles socializing or communicating with others." However, autism is much more than this generic definition. To me, autism is a disorder in which the afflicted person has difficulty functioning in normal society. He or she usually has trouble learning and socializing. The range of difficulty one has ranges from person to person, which is why there are different levels on which one is diagnosed. There are four categories: Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett's Syndrome, Childhood Integrative Disorder (CDD), and Asperger's Syndrome (also known as "high-functioning autism). All of these disorders are under the umbrella, if you will, called the autism spectrum. Under this umbrella, "1 in 110 children are diagnosed with autism every year". Many parents, like mine, go through difficulties when they have an autistic child. It can become frustrating since their mood can be content at one time, then infuriated five minutes later since he or she cannot get his or her favorite snack. Behavioral symptoms or bizarre habits can also range from child to child. Constantly repeating words, or echolalia, tends to be a common autistic symptom. "Echolalia is literally the repetition of words and sounds a person has heard either recently or quite a while ago. Verbal children with autism are often echolalic, which means they do use words (and sometimes even use those words appropriately) - but their word choice is based on a memorized pattern. Sometimes echolalia is immediate. For example, mom says "Johnny, do you want a drink?" and Johnny responds, "You want a drink." Just as often echolalia is delayed. A child hears a line on TV such as "got milk?" and later, when he's thirsty, may say "got milk?" in exactly the same tone and accent as the ad on TV." Echolalia is how my brother could tell you the slogan for "Fruit Gushers" or the newest Wii game. It's not a bad thing in his case at all; it actually helps him remember things like the shark that has the most teeth or what mammal can run at up to 40 miles per hour. However, echolalia can get a bit bothersome at times as well; when he states something, such as, "Mom, I'm hungry", he will say it up to five times within a twenty-second time frame. This is only one symptom of many; others include loss of language skills, coordination problems, and trouble being sociable.

Quick fact for you - Albert Einstein is suspected to have had Asperger's syndrome because he was unable to socialize with people, and was infatuated with science. This took a turn for the best; now we benefit from his multiple science theories: His theory of relativity, the photoelectric effect, and Brownian motion. Just as his scientific developments have improved the modern world today, the diets and therapies scientists have developed, are working hard to benefit the lives of children (and adults) with special needs. There are many therapies available to help people with special needs become a more functioning person in society, but only a few diets have been introduced. Common therapies include speech therapy, which is geared towards autistic children who are non-verbal, or children who have trouble expressing how they feel or what they think (like that of a baby). A couple other common therapies include physical therapy and occupational therapy, used to better the child's overall coordination and skills for the job of living. After a child has been diagnosed with autism, the doctor will usually recommend one or several of these treatments.

From personal experience, I know that mainstream doctors will not usually, recommend a "special diet" to treat an autistic patient. More of the time, they prescribe medicines such as "Adderall" or "Prozac", in order to help the child focus in school, or gain a better appetite. However, I've known a number of parents (including my own) who have gone to a sort of "medical practitioner", or a physician that uses methods of treatment you wouldn't find in a mainstream doctor's office. These therapies typically do not carry much scientific weight - they are based on probable causes of autism. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, (what a mouthful, right?), for example, increases the blood flow in the patient's brain by pumping in pure oxygen into this cylinder-type chamber. The oxygen decreases inflammation in the brain, which supposedly affects the child's brain chemistry. Last year, my brother had a few sessions in the hyperbaric chamber, and it worked wonders; he did not pick at the threads on his clothes, which he did habitually, and his overall behavior was completely improved.

Medical "practitioners" (non-conventional doctors) have recently begun to "prescribe", if you will, diets to improve autistic's behaviors. There is really only one diet, which has grabbed the attention of scientists, nutritionists, and parents across the country. It's called the gluten-free, casein-free diet. As the title blatantly implies, the "GFCF Diet" aims to "free" the patient of gluten and casein. However, this



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