By Catherine O’Hara
The autism paradigm is shifting.
What was once referred to as childhood schizophrenia and infantile autism, medical professionals are starting to take a different approach to understanding autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neuro-developmental disorder that impedes a person’s progress, communication and socialization skills.
“It is a really interesting time for autism,” said The Natural Care Clinic’s Dr. Sonya Doherty, a licensed and board certified naturopathic doctor in Burlington.
The local professional works directly with families caught in autism’s fog by implementing biomedical therapies that aim to replenish the body’s metabolic function and biochemistry.
Medical research, through this different lens, is gaining momentum, according to Doherty – so much so that the world’s leading researchers “are kind of banging on the biomedical bell saying, ‘This is biological; this is treatable,’” she said.
At its foundation, the non-conventional approach to treating ASD looks at the body’s methylation, a key process in human development that sees babies grow from only a few cells, explained Doherty. Impairment in this important cycle, however, can adversely affect the production of neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain, impacting development.
Methylation, noted Doherty, is hypersensitive to environmental toxicity. As a result, exposure to toxins can stimulate changes in genetic expressions. These modifications can then be passed down from one generation to the next, slowing development.
“If you can identify that there is a methylation impairment, then giving a child methyl B12 injections will speed and enhance their development,” said the naturopathic doctor.
The biomedical approach is comprehensive and can also include drastic changes in lifestyle, such as following a gluten- and ciesin-free diet and complementing it with supplements, like fatty and essential oils.
“It’s a grind,” acknowledged Doherty. “It’s a very hard treatment.”
Parents, however, have witnessed results, claimed the ND.
“When I did do some of these biomedical treatments, I saw dramatic shifts with kids’ ability to communicate,” she said, adding that in other cases children made great strides in becoming more aware of their surroundings and interacting with others.
“There’s hope. Kids are getting better; other parents are doing it; professionals are doing it,” said Doherty.
Many physicians, however, don’t think there’s any validity to these types of treatments. And, at times, the Burlington professional’s approach and the theory behind it are received with some resistance.
But Doherty maintains that, through research, there are enough indicators that support the claim that ASD is biological.
So what’s it going to take to shift the thinking within the medical community?
“This is a bit tongue and cheek, but I think it takes physicians having children with autism, unfortunately,” said Doherty. “I think when a physician has children with autism…it changes everything.”