Vision Therapy for Autism, ADHD and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Vision Therapy for Autism, ADHD and Other Neurodevelopmental DisordersI am fortunate to have Dr. Randy Schulman, MS, OD, FCOVD, as my sons’ behavioral optometrist.  Dr. Schulman wrote the chapters on the role of vision therapy and optometry in Patty Lemer’s book, “Envisioning a Bright Future:  Interventions that Work for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders“, which I reviewed earlier.  Patty was the one who recommended Dr. Schulman to me, and she practices in my area.

Patty has always talked about the importance of vision therapy for people with autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder (SPD), learning disabilities and other neurological disorders.  Now I know why.  In fact, Patty’s book was published by the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, which should give you a clue as to the importance of vision in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Vision Problems a Cause of Many ASD Symptoms

I was astounded to learn that vision problems are a CAUSE of, not a by-product of, many ASD symptoms.  “Poor eye contact, repetitive stimulatory behaviors and practically every other behavioral symptom (such as staring at lights or spinning objects, side viewing and head tilting) could be caused by poor fixation, accommodation, or eye teaming abilities.”

Vision Therapy Can Bring Gains in Social and/or Language Ability

Dr. Schulman writes that, “visual problems affect cognitive, speech-language, social-emotional and perpetual development”, and she relates many cases in these chapters of children who showed great gains in social or language ability after beginning vision therapy.  One child made eye contact for the first time, another spoke (in full sentences) for the first time.

However, only about a third of patients see immediate gains on the first visit, but many more see big gains after weekly vision therapy sessions.  Dr. Schulman points out that, “Most children do not outgrow delays in visual development without intervention”.

Understanding the Development of the Sensory System

To understand why children can see gains in these seemingly unrelated areas, you need to understand how the sensory system develops and how it is affected by primitive reflexes.  Dr. Schulman does an excellent job of laying this out, while revealing, to me at least, some surprising findings.

I had known that gross-motor delays are common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially if they skip or move too quickly through a developmental phase.  I experienced this with my own two sons:  my older son didn’t walk until he was 20 months old, my younger son when he was 16 months.  My older son never cross-crawled, which is imperative for wiring the brain for correct vision as it is the same ratio as an older child looking at his desk.  Remember that vision is not seeing.  Vision is what happens inside the brain once the eyes have seen.

I’ve recovered them from sensory processing disorder, but there are still residual issues that remain.  In fact, my older son just got bifocals from Dr. Schulman; the top part is for distance because he’s nearsighted and the bottom part is blank.  I’m betting that 99% of most optometrists would’ve given him regular glasses to correct for his nearsightedness and left it at that.  Having bifocals gives his eyes a chance to develop further without completely relying on corrective lenses.

Vision at the Top of the Hierarchy of Senses

In any case, there is a hierarchy of senses, and vision is at the top, meaning that other senses must develop first before proper vision occurs.  As babies get older, a neurotypical child inhibits primitive reflexes that are necessary to integrate the senses and provide the ability to sit up straight, cross crawl, walk, etc.  Dr. Schulman writes, “Vision develops according to a hierarchy, and vision development will be delayed by immature oral and motor development”.

Retention of these reflexes is common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, which is why they may appear, to the unknowing person, to be more clumsy and/or to have poor gross- and fine-motor skills, which can ultimately lead to poor social skills.

She writes that, “Postural warps can mirror visual dysfunctions and asymmetries – either caused by or causing them.”  The timing of reading this could not be more coincidental to me, as I just posted a blog written by an OT, Sonia Story, for Epidemic Answers called, “Children Thrive with Neurodevelopmental Movement“.  In the blog, Ms. Story shows us that it’s fairly easy to spot a child, even a baby, with a developmental delay:  they’re typically the ones with poor posture.

Dr. Schulman also points out that, “Children who have poor oral motor skills such as sucking, blowing or swallowing abiltity often have convergence problems that can improve once the oral concerns have been addressed”.  This is due to a poor rooting reflex, which causes a baby to turn its head and open its mouth in preparation for nursing.  And what does a baby do when she’s nursing?  She looks at her mom!  This is how babies learn to focus their eyes.

Children with vision problems typically also have hypersensitive hearing, and now I know why.  Dr. Schulman writes that, “Many patients rely heavily on their auditory systems because the visual systems are so inefficient and unreliable”.  Huh.  So, correcting vision would reduce the stress load on the hearing system.  Interesting!

These children typically also have acute senses of taste and smell, which makes them picky eaters.  They “often prefer less typically used senses of taste and smell to gain information.  They smell or taste inedible objects, and use touch instead of vision to gain information”.  I wonder if the same logic holds true:  that if vision were corrected, these children might become less picky in their eating?

Factors Affecting Vision Development

Even though I’ve read a lot about developmental delays, primitive reflexes and neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Schulman pointed out some things that were interesting to me, and of which I’d never heard or read, especially as it relates to vision.  The most outstanding point is that, “Inadequate or inappropriate sensory stimulation and health problems, ranging from food allergies to ear infections and asthma can all disrupt vision development”.

She also writes that, “Risk factors for visual problems include frequent illness, particularly ear and strep infections, and their treatment with antibiotics.”  I betcha very few pediatricians know about this risk, despite the fact that they hand out antibiotic prescriptions as if they were candy.  Ugh.

Strabismus

Many children on the spectrum have an eye turn, called a “strabismus”.  An opthamologist would typically recommend surgery, but Dr. Schulman points out that, in many cases, this condition can be corrected with vision therapy.  Besides, fixing the eye with surgery is only a cosmetic patch and does nothing to fix the incorrect vision that causes the strabismus.  “It’s not …an ‘eyeball’ problem, but rather… a brain dysfunction”.

Vision Therapy

If your child has a neurodevelopmental disorder, I urge you to seek out care from a behavioral optometrist as one of your first choices for therapy, as the vision correction he or she provides can head off some of the other sensory issues that these children have and potentially lead to better social interaction.

Reading Patty’s book and Dr. Schulman’s chapters in it will give you a very clear understanding of how these practitioners use prisms, yoked prisms, visual arousal activities and more to improve vision.  You can also check out the website of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development to find a practitioner near you as well as to learn more.

 

Lyme Disease Symptoms in Children

A few months ago, my then-6-year-old son had a definite change in his typically sweet personality for the worst.

Given that he already been recovered from sensory processing disorder, I was confused.

This time, instead of crying at loud sounds, bright lights, fast motions, etc., he was ANGRY.  In fact, every time I would ask him to do something, he would yell back at me and say that I hated him and that I was yelling, when in fact I wasn’t yelling at all.

Almost every day he would look at me with total hatred and anger, stomp out the front door and tell me he was running away from home.

I was really confused because these are supposed to be the “golden” years of childhood when there’s not so much hands-on work to do with children this age and they are happy to be with their family.

I kept thinking “If he’s like this as a child, what the heck is he going to be like as a teenager?”

Could It Be Lyme?

This went on for a few months until I remembered about Lyme disease; this blog is about Lyme disease symptoms in children..  Lyme disease can cause sudden changes in behavior, and we live in tick-ridden Connecticut, so this wasn’t a far-out hypothesis.

Lymedisease.org lists the following common symptoms of children with Lyme:

  • “severe fatigue unrelieved by rest
  • insomnia
  • headaches
  • nausea, abdominal pain
  • impaired concentration
  • poor short-term memory
  • inability to sustain attention
  • difficulty thinking and expressing thoughts
  • difficulty reading and writing
  • being overwhelmed by schoolwork
  • difficulty making decisions
  • confusion
  • uncharacteristic behavior
  • outbursts and mood swings
  • fevers/chills
  • joint pain
  • dizziness
  • noise and light sensitivity”

Here a few other symptoms in children:

  • Low tone
  • Clumsiness
  • Learning disabilities
  • Vision problems
  • Fear of heights
  • Rages
  • OCD
  • Heartburn
  • Achiness, especially in the knees

Uncharacteristic Behavior

It was the uncharacteristic behavior, outbursts and mood swings that really made me suspect that it might be Lyme.

I did more research on it, especially about Dr. Charles Ray Jones, a Lyme pediatric specialist who practices near my town.  I had heard him speak before at Dietrich Klinghardt’s Klinghardt Academy in New York City a few months prior; Dr. Klinghardt also specializes in difficult-to-treat disorders, like Lyme, autism and autoimmune diseases.

I had brought a friend who suffers from possible Lyme disease with me to the Academy’s workshops, and she knew of Dr. Jones and his amazing work.

Dr. Jones is fairly famous in the Lyme disease community for recovering children from what is thought to be autism, ADHD, SPD, OCD, ODD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.  It turns out that in MANY of these cases, these children actually had Lyme disease. 

Dr. Jones has recovered over 10,000 children from these disorders.  He prescribes various antibiotics for a course of many years, whereas if you were to go to a typical doctor for treatment of Lyme, he or she would prescribe antibiotics for a few weeks or months.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to subject myself or my children to antibiotics for any amount of time these days, knowing what I know about how they destroy the immune system.  But, hey, the man gets results, and the results show that many of these disorders are, in fact, from Lyme infections.

In his presentation, he gave a few examples of children.  One of them was a young boy who at a very young age (5 or 6) had already been in and out of juvenile detention for things like harming animals, which is a known sign of a child or person on the road to becoming a hardened criminal.  After a few months of treatment from Dr. Jones, this same boy had become the sweetest, most likeable child.

Dr. Jones typically suspects Lyme if the child has any of the following conditions:

  • “frequent fevers
  • increased incidence of ear and throat infections
  • increased incidence of pneumonia
  • irritability
  • joint and body pain
  • poor muscle tone
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • small windpipe (tracheomalacia)
  • cataracts and other eye problems
  • developmental delay
  • learning disabilities
  • psychiatric problems”

What’s interesting is that 50% of Dr. Jones’ patients have no known history of being bitten by a deer tick and fewer than 10% have a history the classic Lyme bull’s-eye rash (erythema migrans).  In fact, many times the mother unknowingly passes the infection on to the child during pregnancy or childbirth.

Lyme Co-Infections

Lyme disease isn’t just infection from the Lyme spirochete bacterium.  There are also co-infections (bartanella, babesia and erlichia) that typically occur at the same time.  Or someone could just get one of the co-infections without having any of the other co-infections of Lyme.

Lyme disease and its co-infections are difficult to test for.  One reason is due to the corkscrew shape of the bacteria, which allows them to burrow in without being easily detected.

Spirochetes (see the word “spiral” in there?) are one of the most ancient forms of life on this Earth, and they know to survive and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

The Great Masquerader

Lyme can masquerade not only as autism and development delays but also as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and neurological damage.  In my mind, it should be one of the first things tested for when an autoimmune disease or neurological dysfunction has a sudden onset.  It’s becoming a hidden epidemic, as not a lot of doctors know to test for it.

There’s an excellent documentary about Lyme called, “Under Our Skin”.  I specifically remember a beautiful woman documented in the film who became increasingly contorted.  She gradually lost control of many of her muscles, and doctors, of course, thought she had multiple sclerosis (MS).

The reason that we know it wasn’t MS is that she regained her strength and control after a very long course of antibiotics, so it was obviously an infection.  How many people that have MS, RA, fibromyalgia, autism or developmental delays simply have Lyme?  It’s a real shame they’re not getting proper treatment.

Lyme is not just limited to the Northeastern U.S. anymore; it’s now spreading west to places where you wouldn’t think deer ticks are.  Deer ticks are not the only means of transmission:  mosquitoes, fleas and ticks can also carry the infection.

Given that there is an increasing number of people with gut dysbiosis and toxicity, and thus, a compromised immune system, it’s not surprising that their weakened state allows for such an infection.

Testing for Lyme

Most doctors will run a Western blot test, but it’s not always accurate.  An IgG test would show elevated levels when fighting an infection for a long time, and an IgM test shows if an illness has been reactivated.

Given the confusion surrounding the issue of detecting Lyme, I asked our naturopath to test my son for Lyme with his ASYRA (yes, it’s a little “woo woo”).  Sure enough, my son was infected with bartonella, also known as cat-scratch fever.

Rather than going the antibiotic route, our naturopath prescribed a super-strong herbal remedy.  Ever since treatment began a couple of months, my son hasn’t been hateful or hurtful and is now the super-sweet boy I remember.  His favorite words now are, “I’m so happy I could cry.”  Me, too!

 

ARE YOU USING ANTIFREEZE FOR CONSTIPATION?

Antifreeze bottle being poured

Antifreeze bottle being poured

Say what?  Antifreeze?  If you’re taking Miralax or any other laxative that contains polyethylene glycol, you (or your KIDS!) are essentially ingesting antifreeze, which is ethylene glycol.

Chemically speaking, polyethylene glycol is made from stringing ethylene glycols together.

Once again, I was furious at the lack of knowledge (and condescending attitude) of my former pediatrician for prescribing Miralax for my sons’ constant constipation when they were toddlers.

[Read more…]

HEAVY-METAL TOXICITY AND NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS

mercury

mercury

The CDC now estimates that one in 50 American children has autism.  That’s 2% of the pediatric population.

The American average was 1 in 166 just a few years ago.

Why is there such an explosion of autism these days?  It’s not from better diagnosis; epidemiological studies have shown that this is a real phenomenon.

The exponential increase is due, in large part, to the pervasiveness of toxins in our environment.  It’s not just autism that’s snowballing.  [Read more…]

TOTAL LOAD THEORY: HOW TOXINS CONTRIBUTE TO AUTISM, ADHD AND MORE

smokestacksLearn how toxins and lifestyle factors contribute to autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, hypotonia, retained reflexes and developmental delays.

In this video presentation, Patty Lemer, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Developmental Delay Resources, explains the top toxins and their effect on the health and development of fetuses, babies and children.

Patty shows us how endocrine disruptors like soy, fluoride, chlorine and flame retardants as well as heavy metals like mercury contribute to these disorders.

Patty also tells us how to enhance our body’s ability to detoxify as well as how to avoid exposure to toxins.

 

MOST DOCTORS DON’T ADVISE PREGNANT WOMEN ABOUT TOXINS

Most obstetricians do not warn their pregnant patients about toxins like pesticides in food, like phthalates or endocrine disruptors in consumer products, or like heavy metals in the environment that could harm their unborn child.

A great resource on toxins that harm the neurodevelopment of fetuses, babies and children is the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health CenterRead more…

SOURCE:  Environmental Health News

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ENVISIONING A BRIGHT FUTURE

If you could buy only ONE book about how to recover your child from autism, PDD-NOS, sensory processing disorder, learning disabilities, developmental delays or ADHD, I would recommend it be my friend Patty Lemer’s, “Envisioning a Bright Future:  Interventions That Work for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Patty is the Executive Director and co-founder of the non-profit Developmental Delay Resources, and she has been working with these kinds of kids for over 40 years.  She’s seen it all; she knows what works.

The way she told me to read the book was to read the last chapter first:  “Prioritizing Therapies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”.  She’s in process of writing another book that expands on this chapter, but I’ll give you the short version of it here:  [Read more…]

HOW MY HEAVY-METAL POISONING DAMAGED MY SONS

After finding out that I had heavy-metal poisoning, I immediately thought about my sons.  Was it possible that I had passed any of this on to them?

Could this be responsible for their sensory processing disorder (SPD), asthma, allergies, eczema, acid reflux, and developmental delays?

Would I finally find the common thread that I had been looking for all along that tied all of these conditions together?

Yes, unfortunately.

My Sons’ Heavy-Metal Toxicity

After finding out about my toxicity, I had both sons tested with a heavy-metal hair test because it’s not invasive.

My older son was in the 97th percentile for heavy-metal toxicity; my younger at the 90th. [Read more…]

PLASTICS AND BREAST CANCER

A new study strengthens the tie between breast cancer and toxic exposures to plastics and carcinogens in the workplace.

Specific industrial sectors with elevated risk included: agriculture, bars-gambling, automotive plastics manufacturing, food canning, and metalworking.

Premenopausal breast cancer risk was highest for automotive plastics and food canning.  Read more…

SOURCE:  Environmental Health Journal

EARLY-ONSET PUBERTY

It’s common these days for girls to enter puberty before discovering “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”.

“Over the second half of the 20th century, the average age for girls to begin breast development has dropped by a year or more in the industrialized world.

And the age of first menstruation, generally around 12, has advanced by a matter of months. Hispanic and black girls may be experiencing an age shift much more pronounced.”  Read more…

SOURCE:  ScienceNews

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