Autism: Prevention, Detection and Medication

It's become one of the most widespread childhood epidemics in recorded history. So, what exactly is autism? How can your pediatrician help with early detection? And are there ways to prevent it altogether? Pediatrician and well-known author, Bob Sears, joins us for the first episode in our series exploring autism.

View Episode Transcript

Featured Expert

Featured Segments

  • Parenting Headlines

    What are the top news headlines for new parents? We’ll comb through all the articles and discuss the main issues impacting families around the world. Have a topic you want us to discuss? Post them to our facebook page!

  • Ask Parenting Experts

    Our team of experts are here to help you throughout your parenting journey. View the experts section on our homepage and learn more them. Submit your questions through email, or through our website voicemail, and allow our experts to ease your concerns!

Episode Transcript

Parent Savers
Autism: Prevention, Detection and Medication


Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: Autism has become one of the most wide spread childhood epidemic in recorded history. It affects one in eighty eight children, it’s on the rise and more common in boys. Why is early detection important? What are some of the ways we can treat autism? We are here with Dr. Bob Sears, author of the autism book and this is Parent Savers episode 34.

[Theme Music/Intro]

KC WILT: Welcome to Parents Savers, broadcasting from the Birth Education Centre of San Diego, I am your host KC Wilt. Parent Savers is all about helping new parents from the baby years to the toddler years. We are so lucky to have amazing experts on our show, so shoot us an e-mail or call our hotline and we will get your questions answer. We also have a free app, a free newsletter, you can like us on Facebook, send us an e-mail or call our hotline. So many ways to be a part of our show. Did you miss an episode that have been archive? Or you want to keep talking to an expert once the show stop? We have a Parent Savers club where you can download the archive episode and get exclusive content and more. So I’m a new parent myself, my son Carson just turn two last week and I’m joined by two new parents here in the studio.

JODI ROBERTS: I’m Jodi Roberts I’m a high school teacher and I have a twenty two month old name Tara.

CARLIN KOWALSKIE: Hi I’m Carlin Kowalskie and I’m an elementary special head teacher and I have a two year old daughter as well.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: And today for our headlines, we don’t normally do this but this headline kind of relates to our topic at hand today. So there was an article that was release this week and this is what the article is about, it says autism risk tie to exposure to traffic pollution. And it just basically talked about the increase autism diagnoses has been accompanied by research on the disorder and they have been linking it to parent, baby who is expose to traffic in the womb in the first year of life, they are more likely to become autistic so that’s what the study is about. What do you know about this Dr. Sears?

Dr. BOB SEARS: Well we have know for many years that autism is related to environmental toxicity, pollution, chemical, heavy metals in the environment these are getting into the mom, getting into the unborn baby and getting into the young children and those metal are having a toxic on the brain. And it’s also having a toxic affect on our genetics causing some minor mutation that then contributes to the developmental problems. And infact there are those mutations that actually interfere with the child’s inability to detoxify the metals in the first place. So it’s like the metals are causing genetic problems which then makes kids you know even more acceptable to heavy metals and pollution and toxic in the environment. So the vicious cycle and this new report just kind of confirm what we known for many years.

KC WILT: So do we all, what do you guys think that we all need to move out into the country and live where there is lots of land and no cars?

JODI ROBERTS: Well when it said in the article somewhere that mother’s who are pregnant if they are being expose to pollution and traffic, that mean that if your pregnant you shouldn’t be in traffic? Or is that like being out and walking around when there is traffic?

KC WILT: Yea good point.

JODI ROBERTS: And then could you

KC WILT: It’s the stress level in being in the car right?

JODI ROBERTS: And then is there a way to prevent that from like you know how you can push that little button that air cycles?

KC WILT: Oh in your car.

JODI ROBERTS: Yea I mean should we make sure that air is not coming from the outside then if we are sitting in traffic and pregnant, would that help?

DR. BOB SEARS: Yea I think you only use common sense during pregnancy, if you’re going to take long walks don’t do it along a busy road.

KC WILT: Right.

DR. BOB SEARS: Walk somewhere you know in nature, away from traffics, you’re not inhaling the exhaustion of all the car driving by. And then yes if you commute and drive a lot while you’re pregnant, you would want to have the best filtration system on your car that you possibly can. And then not just the little practical things we can do, but speak to a global problem that we might not be able to get a handle on eliminating autism and so we clean up the planet and you know we are so many decades away to achieving that.

JODI ROBERTS: You know they have done study on allergy and they found that kids who have grew up on dairy farms and rural areas, they have better immune system? They have few allergies, so I think this is kind of along the same line. The fewer toxic you’re getting into your body the more naturals things that are meant to be in your body that you can get in there during pregnancy and in those really important first years of life, the better off you’re going to be long term.

KC WILT: Maybe we should all take notes from the ancient cultures and wear mask’s everywhere.


KC WILT: Because if we all did it as a society, would it look weird?

JODI ROBERTS: That’s true.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: For our first of two shows about autism we have Dr. Bob Sears author of the autism book, back with us today to talk about autism, causes and treatments. So let’s for the newsy with new parents who heard this word being thrown around, what is autism? What is on the spectrum means? Dr. Sears.

DR. BOB SEARS: Well you know autism is a Nero development disorder with this kind of classification but essentially what is going on, is various section child with autism brain is not working properly. The part of the brain that deals with language, understanding language and processing words and then the output of that language that’s not working properly. So part of the brain that senses things, senses touch and sound and body position and that part of the brain is not working properly. The part of the brain that control mood and behavior and outburst and that’s not working properly and the reason why these part of the brains are not working properly, is that the brain hormones and the brain chemical that controls all those part of the brain are not working properly. And you ask why that is happening? Because essentially we know the kids with autism their brains are inflame and a lot of immune problems. The immune system is basically attacking part of the brain and giving out all kinds of inflammatory chemical that are just eating away at some of the nerve cells and some of the support structure of the brain. Then finally we also know that the whole body is affected by this inflammation and then the immune system is causing deaf problems and attack other organs in the body which really is a whole body disorder which is essentially affecting how the brain chemicals are working within the brain and then manifest itself and these are symptoms of autism.

JODI ROBERTS: I have heard autism and asperger’s those are types of autism?

DR.BOB SEARS: Yes it’s all a spectrum of the disorder. You have severe autism, moderate autism, mild autism, then next you have asperger, next to that you might have speech delay. I think pretty much any developmental or social type of disorder can fall in the same spectrum; just different degree base on how much your brain and body is affected by it.

JODI ROBERTS: In the article it says that the spectrum can range from the profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to milder symptoms seen in asperger. And there is such a wide range, why do you think I mean there is such a wide spectrum?

DR. BOB SEARS: Yea well you see the bigger picture is why is that happening? And what is going on in the brain? And to me no matter what we call it, not matter what we label it, these kids’ brains are in flame and they are being affected by the immune system and toxicant and we want to try and find ways to improve that. So when I’m seeing patient in the office and their diagnoses is questionable and we are not sure what exactly what their delay is, I will treat them all the same. I will say we are going explore every possible medical reason that your brain maybe be functioning this way, so we are going to see how we can get you on the road to recovery.

JODI ROBERTS: So the brains are in flame? Because I didn’t know what.

KC WILT: Yea I didn’t know that either.

JODI ROBERTS: So that’s a commonality, a common occurring thing that we can tell biologically.

DR. BOB SEARS: It is, there are hundreds of research articles that demonstrate brain inflammation in kids. I mean whatever is causing this, it’s many different factors.


KC WILT: That was the next question.

CARLIN KOWALSKIE: What are the causes of autism?

JODI ROBERTS: What causes them to be inflamed?

DR. BOB SEARS: You know that continue to elude us honestly that sort of the big question I think number one we know that it’s probably multiple causes and that is why we receive a spectrum of that disorder. There are many different causes and different causes might be affecting different kids and in various ways. We know and we are pretty sure it’s environmental toxics and we are pretty sure part of it is genetic. We also think that in some kids that they might be certain infections that will get within the body and the brain causing more inflammation.
We know certain, you know pretty much anything in environmental that is unnatural can invades the body and causes an unusual immune response or an auto immune response or inflammation can contribute to autism. But I will say overall we still do not know the cause, why is this escalated so quickly in the recent decades and what is underlying all that really continue to elude us in the research setting.

JODI ROBERTS: So you were saying that if you see a child that no matter what the label is, you would treat them all the same. So what is the role you pediatrician can play and helping you detect these issue at an early age and why is it so important to get the diagnoses as early as possible?

DR. BOB SEARS: That is the key and I will also say I treat them all the same from a medical stand point so what I might investigate as far as their medical problems. But from a therapy stand point these kids certainly need an individualize therapy program that is tailored to their unique situation. So we don’t just always treat them the same when it comes to all the round of therapy but just to clarify that but yea diagnoses as a pediatrician, I am always on the lookout for autism or any developmental delays. And they are something specifically every pediatrician should do number 1.

At age one every parents should be filing out a developmental questionnaire and the doctor should be making some developmental observation that specifically look for autism sign and they should also do this at age eighteen months and as well as two years and then three, four and five years. At pretty much every check up there should be some sort of formal developmental questionnaire that infact the parents doesn’t even know they are filling out a questionnaire relating to autism, they just feel that they just feel that they are filling out a developmental questionnaire because you wanted to be more objective.

There are dozens of different test; I don’t even know which one is the best. I have use a variety of them over the years and the problem with time is that the pediatrician doesn’t have a half an hour to put kids through developmental testing and we are talking five minutes of screening at each of these checks up. But you also want to look for it earlier than that look for babies with poor eye contact, babies that aren’t started to babble, babies that aren’t smiling and laughing. And you want us to identify these babies early and you ask me why is that important?
The key is the earlier you identify a developmental delay and the earlier you begin therapy, the quicker the child recovers the less of year the problem becomes and the more chance of recovery. You can even prevent the eventual diagnoses of autism is you start developmental therapy early on during infancy or early toddler so that has it’s so keen.

KC WILT: You say there is way to cure it but is there way to prevent it?

DR. BOB SEARS: Absolutely yea prevention is well I can’t say absolutely but there is definitely some prevention measures that some of the pediatrician are looking at. To be really safe early-early diagnoses and early treatment are not prevention, you know same thing if you have cancer early diagnoses isn’t prevention, it’s just early diagnoses. But early-early diagnoses definitely help aid recovery but how can you prevent it in the first place? What we are looking at number 1.

Before women get pregnant, before you even conceive, you can look at a number of things like get that mercury filling remove your teeth, you can start eating organically, you can reduce your exposure to pollution, you can investigate your own health for autoimmune disorder like fibroid disease and other autoimmune disease and get those under control prior to pregnancy so your immune system is healthier. You want to make sure you have healthy levels of various vitamins like folic acid and zinc and make sure your vitamin indeed is at a nice healthy level.
Make sure you’re not anemic. Basically you want to help get your body healthy as possible prior to pregnancy and the same hold through during pregnancy. Stay as healthy as you can, as natural as you can and pay attention to those medical problems I just discuss. And I will highlight fibroid disease, we know mom with fibroid disease have a higher rate of kids with autism and so I just say untreated fibroid disease. So get you fibroid disease under control and get it treated.

Gluten sensitive, we know moms who are gluten sensitive or who have zodiac disease are likely to have a child with autism. So you want to explore and make sure your not gluten sensitive and get some testing done and go gluten free if you need to. That’s a lot of before pregnancy and during pregnancy prevented this stuff and I don’t like to cancel any of my patient through and we don’t how preventive all these measures are because there haven’t been thoroughly research done yet on all these preventive measures yet. But theoretically these are a lot of measure that may help.

KC WILT: When we come back, we will talk about other medical problems that arise in autistic kids as well as ways to treat autism. We will be right back.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: Welcome back we have DR. Bob Sears author of the autism book, back with us to talk about autism causes and treatments. So Dr. Sears what type of medical testing should parents seek out after a child have been diagnose with autism spectrum disorder?

DR. BOB SEARS: Well that is a very complicated question; you know we basically like to look for medical problems that a child with autism can have that might make their autism worst. And I will say from a main stream medicine perspective most pediatrician wouldn’t do any medical testing with kids with autism. They just call it autism and they feel that it’s just psychiatric disorder and there is really nothing medically we can do. Which is very far from the truth.

Doctor simply weren’t train in autism, you know going back into medical school during their training so doctor like myself who do deal with autism frequently and like treat it, here is what we look for we basically look for thyroid problems in these kids, we would look for lead poisoning, we would look for anemia, we would look for intestinal problem, yeast overgrown in the intestine, certain types of bacterial overgrowth, we will look for parasites, anything in the intestine that might be flaming it.

We look for food allergies, gluten sensitivity; we also look for certain mineral and vitamin deficiency like vitamin D, zinc, calcium, vitamin A deficiency. What else we look for, we look for various problems with genetics even though genetic disorders aren’t treatable. There are certain genetics problems that we can provide some vitamins therapy for this sometimes help improve symptoms and then some are very complicated metabolic problems and some might call mitochondrial disorder which are part of the cell that generate energy. Sometimes at a cellular level your body just is not generating enough energy for your cell to use so it is call mitochondrial disorder.

KC WILT: Do you think if you have a child diagnose with autism from you pediatrician that you should seek out a pediatrician who maybe specialize in autism so they will check all rounds of this type of stuff?

DR. BOB SEARS: Yes I do recommend, not to say anything bad about pediatricians, I am a pediatrician and I most of my days as general pediatric we are just not train in this. Unless a pediatrician takes a special interest in treating autism. You’re not going to get this kind of testing from your pediatrician unless he or she is open to that. Yea you do want to seek out a pediatrician who specializes in autism if you’re going to get a thorough evolution and therapy.

CARLIN KOWALSKIE: What are some of other diagnoses other disorder that might have some more comorbidity or might be kind of connected to autism like we are looking at hyper activity or anxiety disorder, is that part of it too?

DR. BOB SEARS: Yes you know kids with autism typically automatically have ADHD and commonly have what you can call anxiety disorder. There are so many other psychiatric or development types of disorder that kids might have. But when you’re dealing with autism, there is really need to distinguish all those other labels or all those other diagnoses because it’s all part of the autism. So often I see patient they have had dozen of evaluation by different therapist and they have five different labels. What we really need to know if you have autism and we are going to treat it and it’s going to encompass all the different labels that you have been given. In fact one goal of therapy with autism is to eventually only be diagnose with ADHD or ADD and if you’re going to achieve that, then you have come a long way of getting rid of your autism.

KC WILT: So understanding that if they have anxiety disorder and ADHD and ADD and things like that which typically are treated with medications, can you treat those individual differences with medication to lessen the effects of autism or what type of medication can you treat with autism?

DR. BOB SEARS: Well absolutely you can give medication that will certainly help with anxiety. You know ADD medication typically react very poorly in kids with autism. You know when you’re dealing only with ADD or ADHD medication actually works very well. But when you’re dealing with autism, the brain is significantly different and the brain is many more problems and just child with ADHD. Medication typically causes lot more hyper activity, aggressiveness, tantrums; you feel a lot of negative reaction to these meds in autism. So in my experience very few kids with autism are on ADD meds, they might be on meds for anxiety, sometimes the antidepressant meds help certain symptoms but we usually don’t go with the ADD meds.

KC WILT: Do you think there is going to be eventually a cure or a pill or drug you can take for autism? Like bipolar, lithium or you think we will ever figure out the neural paths ways or neural transmitter that are more specially affected by autism?

DR. BOB SEARS: You know to do that, we would have to basically find that only one thing is actually wrong with these kids brain. That there is only one main cause and I don’t think we are going to find that.

KC WILT: Right.

DR. BOB SEARS: I doubt we are going to find something that specific for everyone unless it’s many years from now and it really deals with genetics of it and everything but who knows what we are going to find. But we do know right now a real important message to know that autism is treatable and these kids can recover and there is so many things we can do to help them recover. Not just medications, not just prescriptions, so many natural things we can give these kids from time to help improve their behavior and their symptoms.

KC WILT: You talked about more pharmaceutical things, are there more natural approaches that parents can attempt to try to help treat autism?

DR. BOB SEARS: Yea you know the list of medical problems that I discuss earlier, what you would be tested for and as you retrieve each one of those medical problems often you see these kids improve. And what I do as a doctor and what hundreds of doctor all over the country do, infact thousands of doctor over the world we will number 1. We will fix the gut, any kids with autism who have chronic diarrhea or constipation or who alternate back and forth between both we would like to fix that by looking at food allergies and infection in the gut and that is the key to fix infact one of the largest or the most important stuff like help these kids go gluten free, casing free diet to help eliminate wheat and diary as the two of the primary allergies in these kids. It certainly doesn’t really help everybody but when it does help, it can be amazing.

And then these kids are nutrient deprive, they are vitamin and mineral deprive. So we would like to make sure they are on a good vitamin and mineral that has a lot of extra B vitamin in it. We like giving fish oil to help with brain function and help with inflammation. We like to give what else, vitamin B12 you actually might have heard of giving vitamin B12 shots to these kids for tremendous affect on their social functioning and their language. That is just the tip of the iceberg you we do with these kids, I have some patient who are on twenty different vitamins and natural supplement each one trying to achieve a goal of healing something in the body. And you know we do see a lot of these kids recover when you treat their medical and nutritional problem aggressively. We have been talking a lot about the medical nutritional treatment you know for kids with autism, but the developmental and behavioral treatments are just as critical.
We got to get these kids into early intervention developmental programs, ADA therapy or apply behavior analysis therapy, very key occupational therapy, social skill therapy and language therapy. The key to get all these going at the youngest possible age so that the child can benefit from seeing their improvement, to see their development improving quickly.

KC WILT: Gosh well thank so much Dr. Bob for helping us learn about autism. If you want more information about today’s show, go to our episode page on our website or visit talk about curing autism at Our conversation will continue with Dr. Bob after the show. For our Parent Savers club members see our website to sign up. We will be talking about dietary restriction as well as controversy over vaccine and autism.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: We have some questions for our sleep experts Joanna Clark and Jade King wrote on our Facebook page, she says Ah my four and a half month old is a code sleeper. Wake up every two hours to nurse and as much as I love cuddling with him, I miss cuddling with my husband, I understand that Jade. And I would really love our bed back, I have come to the realization that maybe I’m just selfish about my sleep and really only code sleep because I value my sleep. Is that making any sense? So I don’t have to get up and go to the baby room anymore and nurse him back to see etc. Is there any hope for me? I should also add that up until a month ago he would sleep fine from 8 to 2 and disturb and then wake every two hour after.

JOANNA CLARK: Hi this is Joanna Clark of Blissful Baby Sleep So Jade I only have little bits and pieces of your sleep situation but let me try to give you a couple of perspective. Four and a half months to about six months is a really hard time in the new born phase. There tends to be a lot a lot of sleep disturbances and as you know at one point you had great sleep from 8pm to 2am and now all of a sudden you’re getting waking every two hours.

I know it’s so hard and frustrating but please note that these types of sleep disturbances are normal at this age because there are a lot of positive and physical developmental milestone going on which disrupt sleep. So I understand that you’re in a position of some reactive to sleeping which have been a little bit challenging for you. So my biggest suggestion is code sleeping is always number one priority while you’re managing the sleep situation in your house.

So has a wonderful safety tips for safe code sleeping and I highly recommend you take a look at this during this interim. The other part is this idea of nursing every two hours and that is very challenging for moms because you exhausted. So I always advice when it comes to nursing, to get into touch like with your patient consultant and enquire about your concern. But it is an important thing to be able to not which of those nursing nutritional nursing are and which are just comfort nursing. That will help you begin to understand how to best attend to your child at each of those waking because you might find you don’t have to nurse every waking.

But in fact be able to soothe the baby back to sleep in other gentle ways patting, shushing, cuddling and holding in you code sleeping environment and the baby will just go right back into the sleep cycle. So hopefully these little tips will be able to help you. You know this period when two to six months is when lots of sleep disruption is normal and you just kind of have to manage your way through as safely and easily as you can. So best of luck.

[Theme Music]

KC WILT: That wraps up today episode. We would love to hear from you, if you have any questions for our experts about today’s show and about the topics we have discuss, call our Parents Savers hot line at 619-866-4775 or send us an email through our website or Facebook page and we will answer your question in an upcoming episode. Don’t forget to tune in behind the scene of Parent Savers club to keep listening. Next week we will continue the discussion on autism with Psychologist Dr. Kylie Jackson talking about the importance of diagnosing and as well as parental strategy to help with autistic kids. Thanks for listening to Parent Savers empowering new parents everywhere.


This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

End of Audio

Love our shows? Join our community and continue the conversation! Mighty Moms is our online support group, with parenting resources and helpful new mom stories you won’t find anywhere else! You’ll also have a chance to be featured on our shows.

Become a Mighty Mom!