Clomid and Other Fertility Drugs a Cause of Autism

On May 20, 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health presented their findings from a study exploring the possible relationship between the use of fertility drugs and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The scientists reported to attendees at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia that women who used fertility drugs to get pregnant had almost double the risk of having a child with ASD verses nonusers. The drugs studied included Clomid (clomiphene citrate) and Pergonal (gonadotropin).

This recent study is part of a growing body of research that strengthens the argument that Clomid and other similar drugs are a cause of ASD via their ability to deny cholesterol to a developing embryo shortly after conception. About 58% of ASD children have low total cholesterol (<160 mg/dL) and about 19% have extremely low total cholesterol (<100 mg/dL). The average level for children is 165 mg/dL. It has also been observed that a high percentage of children born with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), in addition to a wide array of birth defects are also born with ASD. Infants with SLOS are born with a defective enzyme that impairs the body's ability to convert a precursor (7-dehydrocholesterol) to cholesterol. About 71-86% of these children suffer from ASD. Cholesterol is essential for growth of the myelin membranes that cover the brain and abnormalities in the myelin sheath are believed to be a contributing cause of ASD. Many experts thus believe that low cholesterol during early embryonic development is one of the causes of ASD.      

Clomid has a long half-life and is present during the embryonic period (first 8 weeks) even when taken before conception. Studies have shown it to be biologically active for up to 54 days after ingestion and that it can accumulate over successive cycles of treatment. In the Harvard study they found that the longer the use of fertility drugs, the higher the risk of developing ASD. A critically important fact – and one not known by most physicians prescribing the drug – is that Clomid is a cholesterol inhibitor and impairs its production by acting upon enzymes in the body similar to Lipitor and other statin drugs. Its chemical structure is also similar to the cholesterol-reducing drug, Triparanol, which was briefly available during the 1960s. Animal studies have shown that Clomid and Triparanol both act on the same enzyme and affect developing organs in a similar way, with Triparanol being slightly more potent.

Pergonal (also known as human menopausal gonadotropin or hMG) likewise reduces cholesterol, but by way of a different mechanism. Namely, it suppresses cholesterol levels in early pregnancy via its ability to elevate estrogen production. Studies have established that following hyperstimulation of the ovaries by Pergonal, the resulting elevated estrogen during the luteal (post-ovulation) phase of the cycle suppresses the level of total cholesterol.  In fact, there is an inverse correlation between concentrations of estrogen and the level of total cholesterol – the higher the level of estrogen, the lower the concentration of total cholesterol.    

The GOOD NEWS is that many ASD children with low cholesterol, treated with cholesterol supplementation, have shown dramatic improvement. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, led by Dr. Richard Kelley, have shown such treatment resulting in improved mobility, verbalization, growth, behavior, sociability and alertness. More importantly, once we have a full understanding about a cause of ASD, we will be in a position to eliminate that cause and reduce the number of families impacted by this tragic abnormality.    

Swing Therapy For Autistic Children

Most of us have no problem combining all our senses. For autistic children (and grownups) however, it’s a mighty challenging task. Processing stimuli from the senses of sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, balance and body is overwhelming. Those suffering from autism will often withdraw to avoid over stimulation, or try to sort out the input from their senses with self-developed soothing mechanisms and repetitive behaviours.

A significant amount of occupational therapy for autism focuses on sensory integration through specially designed programs. Some of the greatest tools for sensory integration therapy for autism type disorders are various types of swings. People with various autism spectrum disorders such as Autism, PDD, ADHD, Asperger’s, proprioceptive dysfunction and tactile defensiveness will benefit from using swings as part of their therapy.

Additionally, children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorders (also called Sensory Integration Disorders), especially those with proprioceptive or vestibular dysfunction, should definitely have swings or therapy hammocks as a crucial element of their treatment.

The benefits of the hammock can be two-fold. Children who find the smooth, swaying motion soothing, will relax and unwind while using it. However, children who have a vestibular dysfunction will feel uneasy while in the hammock and might initially protest its use. For them, hammock therapy is more about regaining equilibrium and learning to tolerate vestibular stimuli.

The motion of swinging restores balance to the vestibular system, provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure) and generally helps autistic-spectrum children feel more “in balance”. The soothing motion of swinging soothes, relaxes and increases concentration. Children who have trouble focusing on tasks such as reading or math, might find it easier to concentrate sitting in a hammock chair, their bodies engaged in a soothing motion.

Setting up a swing in the home is easy and does not require a large investment. A hammock, hammock chair, hanging bag or a therapy platform swing are all relatively inexpensive, easy to find and do not take up a lot of room. Making a platform swing out of a hammock is an easy do-it-yourself project, with instructions available in our blog. Put one in the child’s room, playroom or family room for a retreat or a therapy corner for an autistic child.

Early Learning – Can Movies and TV Ever Be Good For Babies and Small Children?

What an important question! As a parent of a baby or toddler, you want to help your little one reach his or her potential. We know that language and social skills are very important for success in school and in life. And what better time to start than when your child is young?

First, the bad news–the really bad news. “Excessive viewing before age three has been shown to be associated with problems of attention control, aggressive behavior and poor cognitive development. Early television viewing has exploded in recent years, and is one of the major public health issues facing American children,” according to University of Washington researcher Frederick Zimmerman.

In this article, we’ll look at the suggested links between screen time and lower vocabulary, ADHD, autism, and violent behaviour. Then we’ll look at how you might possibly use baby TV and movies to help your child learn.

LOWER LANGUAGE SKILLS A University of Washington study shows that 40% of three-month-old babies and 90% of two-year-olds “watch” TV or movies regularly. Researchers found that parents allowed their babies and toddlers to watch educational TV, baby videos/DVDs, other children’s programs and adult programs.

What can we learn from this study?

* “Most parents seek what’s best for their child, and we discovered that many parents believe that they are providing educational and brain development opportunities by exposing their babies to 10 to 20 hours of viewing per week,” says researcher Andrew Meltzoff, a developmental psychologist.

* According to Frederick Zimmerman, lead author of the study, that’s a bad thing. “Exposure to TV takes time away from more developmentally appropriate activities such as a parent or adult caregiver and an infant engaging in free play with dolls, blocks or cars… ” he says.

* Infants age 8 to 16 months who viewed baby programs knew fewer words than those who did not view them.

“The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew,” says Dr. Dimitri Christakis. “These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos.”

* Meltzoff says that parents “instinctively adjust their speech, eye gaze and social signals to support language acquisition”–obviously something no machine can do!

* Surprisingly, it didn’t make any difference whether the parent watched with the infant or not!

Why did these babies learn more slowly? Dr. Vic Strasburger, pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, says “Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn. They don’t get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development.”

ADHD Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is characterized by problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A link between ADHD and early TV viewing has been noted by Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH et al.

“In contrast to the pace with which real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, television can portray rapidly changing images, scenery, and events. It can be overstimulating yet extremely interesting, ” say the researchers. “We found that early exposure to television was associated with subsequent attentional problems.”

The researchers examined data for 1278 children at the age of one year and 1345 children at age three. They found that an extra hour of daily television watching at these ages translated into a ten percent higher probability that the child would exhibit ADHD behaviours by the age of seven.

AUTISM Autism is characterized by poor or no language skills, poor social skills, unusual repetitive behaviours and obsessive interests. A University of Cornell study found that higher rates of autism appeared to be linked to higher rates of screen time.

The researchers hypothesize that “a small segment of the population is vulnerable to developing autism because of their underlying biology and that either too much or certain types of early childhood television watching serves as a trigger for the condition.”

In his commentary on this study in Slate magazine, Gregg Easterbrook notes that autistic children have abnormal activity in the visual-processing areas of their brains. As these areas are developing rapidly during the first three years of a child’s life, he wonders whether “excessive viewing of brightly colored two-dimensional screen images” can cause problems. I find this comment highly interesting, as it would apply to the full spectrum from “quality children’s programming” to adult material.

VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR The National Association for the Education of Young Children identified the following areas of concern about children watching violence on TV: * Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. * They may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others. * They may become more fearful of the world around them.

The American Psychological Association reports on several studies in which some children watched a violent program and others watched a nonviolent one. Those in the first group were slower to intervene, either directly or by calling for help, when they saw younger children fighting or breaking toys after the program.

Now that we know the bad news…

Is it possible to use movies at all? I think it is. I believe the key is to USE the program, not just WATCH it. Most people know that it’s very good to read to babies, but no one would set a book before a baby and walk away, thinking it will do her any good at all!

Rock your baby or tap the rhythm to classical music or children’s songs.

Be very, very choosy about what your young child watches–and watch with him. Does the program show kindness, helpfulness, generosity… whatever values you wish your little one to learn?

When she is old enough to relate to the images of people, animals and toys, talk to her about what she’s seeing. “Look at the puppy. He’s playing with the kitten. They’re friends. Mommy is your friend.” “The baby birds are hungry. They’re calling for their mommy. She’s going to come back with some food.” “Oh no! The baby lamb is lost. I wonder if the shepherd will find him.”

Make screen time a special–and highly limited–time that the two of you share. Treat a baby or young children’s movie the way you treat a book–as another tool to give you topics for interaction with your little one.

Make a Difference With Online Petitions That Are Smart

Online petitions are one of the best ways to make your voice heard on the social rights issues, human rights and animal rights issues that are important to you. The issue is deciding which actions to take part in. There are many different petition sites online, and even more petitions launch on a regular basis. Finding the right one for your signature can seem impossible. That is why you have to choose to follow the lead of the leaders in social rights and animal rights causes. They know it isn’t enough to gather signatures; participants must be educated on the issue, too.

Are online petitions effective?

Here is the key to making an online petition effective. You can send in a 100,000 signatures you garnered from social media but they won’t sway policy makers if only 10,000 of those signatures are considered to be follow-through voters. Follow-through voters are people who make an effort to stay on top of the changes in policy and actions taken for their issues. Online petitions matter when the names on them represent informed constituents.

Keeping the focus on what is important

The best way to make sure you are signing on with others who are as committed to your goals is to followup with petitions from reputable sites. What makes a site reputable? It isn’t a clearinghouse for all issues but keeps its focus on a few select categories. Lady Freethinker is set up according to focused categorization of issues that are not only hot topics, but tend to go together as common concerns for their members. While it is admirable to try to save every part of the world, effective advocates know they have to limit their efforts to maximize the use of their resources.

Staying on top of the news

Another sign of a reputable site is that they offer you more than petitions and dramatic posts. The posts and links on the site should serve to further the conversation about causes. Even better is if the site itself is sponsoring petitions. This is another way of focusing an effort. Instead of trying to inspire you to create your own and manage the petition, they are putting their online resources behind the issues you care about to make things happen.

Causes don’t fail

It’s important to remember that causes don’t fail. There are more social rights issues and human rights issues that need your attention than ever before. With the increased use of the Internet even animal rights issues are getting more of the attention that they deserve. The problem is that people’s passions often get overwhelmed by their responsibilities. This is another reason in favor of joining a focused cause site that promotes education and manages petitions too. It can go miles to keeping your passion alive so you never have to be in a position of regretting where you have put your focus in life. Causes need you to become solutions, and the Internet has created an opportunity to make things happen to heal the world at last.