Monday, November 12, 2012


During my thirty years practicing orthomolecular psychiatry and homeopathy, I have treated many children and adults on the autism spectrum.  It is now up to one out of every 88 children in the US, even higher in parts of California, where my three year old granddaughter lives.  She has recently been diagnosed with autism. 

It is said to be common in children of engineers, maybe because people with Aspergers make good scientists and engineers. Asperger people tend to focus on an area of special interest and learn everything they can about it, which can eventually become the basis for a career.  They are usually of higher than average intelligence. They are more interested in figuring out how the world works than social relationships. 

According to Sara Robinson, “Asperger's Syndrome wasn’t named and identified until 1994, but by the 1950s, the defense industries in California's Santa Clara Valley [Silicon Valley] were already drawing in brilliant young men and women who fit the profile: single-minded, socially awkward, emotionally detached, and blessed (or cursed) with a singular, unique, laser-like focus on some particular area of obsessive interest.” 

Now that I am a grandmother, I am discovering that I have Asperger traits myself.  I’ve never been diagnosed, but I have diagnosed it in some of my patients. I am reading in books like Aspergirls, by Rudy Simone, and on the internet about how differently it presents in females, so is more often missed.  It would explain a lot of the funny little things about me.  

Aspergirls, unlike most of their teenage or adult peers, have little or no interest in fashion, make-up, or hairstyles, or chatting with friends for hours.  Like me, they hate shopping, prefer wash-and wear hair, and comfortable, practical clothes with lots of pockets.    One good thing for Dads, their daughter might be happier helping him in his workshop rather than helping their mother with housework. 

Three years ago my husband and I retired and moved to Italy, where he was born.  My possibly Aspergian attire (baggy blue jeans, sweatshirts and Birkenstocks, here in the land of fashion), and demeanor are probably attributed to just being American.  There are no other Americans in this town.  People ask my husband why I don’t talk much, don’t I understand Italian yet?  He says, “Lei e fatta cosi.”  (She’s made that way.)  I do understand most of what is said, but my taciturnity is more acceptable here, because there is seen to be an excuse for it.  I have become more talkative now, and the Italians are very helpful because they don’t care if everything I say is ungrammatical and pronounced wrong, as long as they understand my meaning.  They do correct me kindly, and don’t laugh unless I say something really funny (like saying I made a cake with “mascalzoni” (rascals), instead of “mascarpone” (cream cheese).   

I once had a brain map done by Dr Les Fehmi, in Princeton, NJ, a pioneer of biofeedback with whom I used to work.  It showed I was low in alpha brainwaves.  Alpha waves, 10 to 14 hertz, are associated with a relaxed, creative, open-focused state, in which the left and right hemispheres of the brain are in synchrony, together producing the large, smooth alpha sine waves.  (If you draw one vertically through a circle and add dots, it becomes the Taoist yin-yang symbol.)  I don’t know if low alpha is a general characteristic of Aspergians, but it would help explain their chronic anxiety.

Alpha waves can be increased by things like yoga, meditation, and marijuana.  THC from this herb happens to fit the brain’s anandamide receptors.  Anandamide is the first endogenous cannabinoid, discovered in 1992 by Raphael Mechoulam ,  named for the Sanskrit  word “ananda” meaning inner bliss.  After smoking the herb, some Aspies discover for the first time what it’s like to feel normal!  They can talk and converse like anyone else.  I invented the term “anandapenia”  to signify the condition of a lack of anandamide, (or lack of bliss).  

Aspergers is thought to be related to hypofunction of the right hemisphere, affecting things like:  recognition of faces and facial expressions, body language, spatial orientation, sense of direction, remembering how to get somewhere, (making it hard to drive).   I seem to lack the internal map that neurotypicals have in their brain that helps them find their way around town, or hotels, airports and train stations.  (I call it “dysmappia”.) 

As for recognizing faces - I seem to need to meet a person at least 3 times before I remember them.  This can be very embarrassing.  When people say Hello to me here, I’m always asking my husband, “Who was that?”  He’s gotten used to my quirks. 

Autistics may have more problems with the left hemisphere, where the speech centers are.  They may think in pictures, as Temple Grandin describes, rather than in words.  Animals probably think in pictures too.  It’s probably a primordial way of thinking that humans used before we acquired language.

Aspies are generally good at left brain functions like language and math.  They are very logical and generally prefer science, nature or computers to interacting with other people.  They often love to read, especially science fiction and fantasy. I’ve always been a Sci-Fi geek myself.  When I was a kid in Allentown, PA, I used to walk to the library a couple of times a week, check out some books, sit on the library steps and read them, take them back in and get more.  (I guess children were only allowed to check out 3 or 4 at a time, and I couldn’t have carried more than that home anyway.)   I read all the science fiction I could get.   My mother said I taught myself to read at 4, and I haven’t stopped since. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



The autism rate in the US is now up to 1 in 88.  My granddaughter who lives in California was diagnosed shortly before her 3rd birthday.  According to my son, she had been regressing for about six months, talking less, not making eye contact and not even responding to her name.

I first met her in May 2011, when she was a year and 9 months old. I was back in New Jersey, trying to sell our house there, since we had moved to Italy.  While in the US, I took the opportunity to fly out to visit my son and meet my granddaughter. Now that I think about it, the little girl’s behavior was unusual even then. On the way to a big indoor children’s playground/learning center, she had a screaming fit which could only be stopped by her mother taking her out and walking around in the rain. My son said at that time that she could say about 30 words, but I didn't hear any, except maybe "No!"  At the playground, she didn't interact with any other children, just kept walking and walking like a wind-up toy.   She was given chicken nuggets and French fries to eat in the car.  She screamed to have her new shoes taken off.

She hasn't had any vaccines, fortunately! She’s been physically healthy and has never been on antibiotics or had bowel problems as many autistic children do. She was breast-fed for 2 years.  Like most kids, her diet is high in wheat and milk products. I told my son to get her on the gluten and casein-free diet, which Dr Bernard Rimland’s research indicates helps 66% of autistic kids.  Many children have greatly improved after having all wheat and dairy products removed from their diet, even though these are often their favorite foods. These children are unable to metabolize gluten and casein proteins down to the basic amino acids. Instead, they are broken down into peptides called gluteomorphin and caseomorphin, which act like opium (morphine) in the brain, making it difficult to respond normally to the environment.

California has recently mandated insurance coverage for behavioral therapy (ABA) for autistic children.  Between the diet and the ABA, my granddaughter appears to be improving.  We may also have her tested for heavy metals and detox pathways.  If there is a genetic component to autism, it may be an inability to detoxify the body from the innumerable chemical assaults that we are all now exposed to.

There is a whole spectrum of autism disorders. The mildest is Asperger's syndrome, which Einstein. Isaac Newton, and many other famous scientists are thought to have had.  Aspergians tend to be very intelligent, but have trouble with social relationships.

Many children develop more severe types of autism starting around the age of 18 months, after getting a lot of immunizations at once. They regress and often stop talking and lose other skills.  Like many doctors who specialize in treating this, I believe many cases are related to the mercury preservative thimerosal (which has now been removed from most, but not all vaccines.) It is still in the flu shot. It could also be due to other "adjuvants", like aluminum, or just the sheer number of shots overwhelming the immune system.

Some cases may also be related to mercury in the mother's amalgam fillings passing into the fetus, and then into the baby in breast milk. There may also be hereditary factors. Asperger's, in particular seems to be common in children of engineers. (It could be that the fathers had a touch of it, which made them good scientists and engineers.)

I worked with a group of doctors, called DAN (Defeat Autism Now) who specialize in treating and curing autism through natural means. Dr Jim Neubrander, my colleague when I worked at the Princeton Biocenter, went on to specialize in autism and discovered a very useful treatment based on Methyl B12 shots.  Some cases have been cured by homeopathy, as described in Impossible Cure, by Amy Lansky. Orthomolecular nutrition also helps, by supplying vitamins and minerals that may be lacking or needed in greater than normal amounts. Although autistic children are often prescribed psychopharmaceuticals, they are rarely beneficial, and may cause further brain damage.