Tuesday, May 1, 2012
More children in the United States than ever before are being diagnosed with some form of autism.
Take a look at the skyrocketing numbers from the Centers for Disease Control:
•2000: 1 out of every 150 kids had autism
•2006: 1 out of every 110 kids had the disorder
•2008 (most recent numbers): 1 out of every 88 kids has autism. It's even higher for boys, 1 out of 54
While experts continue to research and debate the cause, many frustrated families are left wondering what they can do to lower their risk.
A board-certified Tampa pediatrician has created an experimental prevention program that includes three ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
"I think every mother is concerned about how their child is going to turn out," says newly pregnant mother Orel Zwiebel.
Some parents in the Tampa Bay area, like Orel, are taking a proactive approach. They're looking for ways to prevent autism BEFORE pregnancy.
Even with one healthy child, Orel took extra steps the second time around. She turned to Tampa pediatrician Dr. David Berger from Wholistic Pediatrics for suggestions. He admits this is a controversial area. Dr. Berger specializes in kids with autism and, over the past decade, developed a pre-pregnancy testing program to check for vitamin deficiencies and toxins.
10 News Anchor Heather Van Nest recently interviewed the doctor to find out if his methods are effective.
Heather Van Nest: Can you REALLY prevent autism?
Dr. Berger: So far, we have had a tremendous amount of success. In over 10 years and hundreds of children born into our practice, we know of no children who have gone on to develop autism, even in families who have had one child already.
Those high risk families already have a one-in-seven chance of having another child with autism.
Heather: So how did you come up with these suggestions?
Dr. Berger: It was really out of necessity. Families who had a child with autism, who started nutritional and toxin testing, we found these things in the child, so the family started asking, "Is it possible that the mom could have these types of findings?"
Heather: There are a lot of doctors out there who would say this is controversial. "How can he say autism can be prevented?" What do you say to them?
Dr. Berger: I would say yes, we need more research, but the experience we've had a lot of success with, the types of things that we're talking about are nutritional things that are well known and should be done to support pregnancy in the first place. However, it's not common for doctors to proactively check for these things ahead of time.
Here are three things Dr. Berger checks and corrects BEFORE pregnancy:
#1 NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES:
Including Iron, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D levels.
Dr. Berger says low levels of vitamin D in the mother have been linked to delayed language development and weaker immune systems.
#2 THYROID HEALTH:
Untreated Hypothyroidism is a known cause of developmental delays in children.
Including pesticides, lead, and mercury, which have been linked to learning disorders.
For moms like Orel, the early testing motivated her to make changes. "Mentally, it gives me peace of mind and physically my pregnancy is a lot easier. I don't feel drained or tired and I feel like I have good energy, and that's an important factor," she says.
Dr. Berger wrote an article that includes all of his nutritional and environmental strategies to lower the risk of autism in Autism Science Digest. Click here to read.
Many researchers suspect autism may have genetic and environmental triggers.
The Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine created a research-based list of the "Top 10 Toxic Chemicals suspected of causing autism and other learning disabilities." Click here to read.