Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trying the SCD Diet

I have a couple of clients who are in various stages of following the SCD - Simple Carbohydrate Diet, ala On this diet, one foregoes all gluten, most milk products, all starches and sugars. A few exceptions: aged cheeses. goat yogurt and honey. One boy's mother, Colleen, gave me a half-inch stack of written material about the diet. I immersed myself in it to the point of actually trying it out. I did so with little preparation (other than going shopping). A sane family (Colleen's, for example) spends several months getting ready for the switch by trying new foods and recipes and checking for food allergies.

The diet moves through stages. First there is a 2-3 day cleanout period in which just chicken, hamburger patties, 2 cooked fruits, very ripe bananas and 4 cooked vegetables are eaten. After that, one adds more cooked fruits and vegetables slowly and then eventually adds raw fruits, raw veggies, nut butters, nut flours, goat yogurt, aged cheese, etc.

I stayed on the diet for 3 days, before I was forced to cry uncle, first from symptoms of low blood sugar and then second from fear of gall bladder complaints from too much oil. Let me explain.

I ate lots of meat, veggies and fruit. However, nothing seemed to fill me up. (I heard that one mother lost 15 pounds in the first week or so.) I am not overweight. I was starving. I ate a banana (legal) as a snack, but became very light-headed. Later I took a nap. Low blood sugar in action. Alarmed, I searched the pecanbread web site and looked for a solution. Sure enough low blood sugar is a known complication, and bananas are known to cause "drunken" behaviors. I found advice to eat blacker bananas (in which the starch was already broken down) or get more oil-laden foods into my body such as avocados, nuts and peanuts. I decided that the bananas would still have too much sugar, and so opted for the second solution.

Avocados and nut butters/flours were not legal in my beginner's diet, but I followed the advice anyway. I made a quick batch of hazelnut flatbread and combined with some turkey bacon (my personal cure for all that ails me) I felt better. Now, however, my stomach felt oily. I began to wonder if my gall bladder could keep up with this. I realized that I, for one, could not follow the diet as it was meant to be followed. Not all bodies can do all things. I skipped ahead and tried foods from stages 3 & 4. I added nuts, cheese and peanuts to my diet. However, I continued to have low blood sugar symptoms.

I finally had to give up and eat a sweet potato to help provide some balance. I am now re-introducing foods back into my diet (but no gluten or casein for now!) to get a better understanding of what effect each has on energy levels, yeast levels, gas, stools, etc in my body. By eating starches, I won't get the same results that others will get - and in fact, I am defeating the purpose of the diet. But I hope to mimic enough of the experience to provide support to my clients. Presumably, their constitutions are better suited to the diet than mine is.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Vision, Attention & Autism


Brenner, L. A., Turner, K. C., & Muller, R-A. (2007). Eye movement and visual search: Are there elementary abnormalities in autism? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1289-1309.

This article is an all-encompassing literature review on the topic of visual search and the ocular motor system in children with autism. Individual sections of the article describe:
1. The mechanisms involved (both vision and attention) for visual search.
2. Neuro-anatomical description of the vision system with regard to search and attention
3. Neuro-imaging studies of visual-systems on both children with autism and controls.
4. The ocular components of visual search including saccades and smooth pursuits and how they differ in children with autism.
5. The relationship between ocular motor and attention systems.
6. The impact of the ocular motor system on higher functions including face perception, joint attention and language acquisition.

This is not an easy article to read but it provides great insight into many underlying differences between the autistic and typical brain. The authors create a case for the possibility that the symptoms of autism (including joint attention, face perception and language acquisition) are the result of a defective ocular motor system. They warn that the current theory, the "lesion" view of autism in which autism is presumed to be caused by observed neural differences in many brain structures does not take developmental (and experiential) considerations into place. The authors call for research in the combined areas of ocular motor and joint attention to gather additional information in this area.

Another post in this blog will list the differences found in the brains and behaviors of children with autism and typically developing children.

Tuning the Brain

I am blown away by the capability of the Interactive Metronome (IM) as a way of improving motor planning, attention and overall processing speed and capacity. I've been certified on this tool for just a few months, but have seen dramatic results in kids with autism. One boy with good verbal skills but little desire to communicate now responds to his mother, follows directions and even - at the age of 11 - taught himself to tie his shoes. Another boy struggling with coordination and oral praxis is now able to use gym equipment with ease and is successfuly learning to move his mouth to generate "f", "v" and "s". A third child has much improved handwriting.

There is a great deal of latitude for therapists, and I find that it works both as a modality and as an intense therapy.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Comparing AS and HFA Sensory

Here is a thought provoking article that compares the sensory status of children with Asperger syndrome (AS) with those with high functioning autism (HFA) using the Sensory Profile.

Article 1: Auditory & Attention; Tactile and Motor Planning

Myles, B.S., Hagiwara, T., Dunn, W., Rinner, L., Reese, M., Huggins, A., & Becker, S. (2004). Sensory issues in children with Asperger syndrome and autism. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 39, 283-290.


A comparison of Sensory Profile assessments on 76 children ages 6 y 9 m to 16 y 8 m. Half were diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, the other half with autism. There were no restrictions to the study based on intellectual capabilities. The purpose was to discover sensory differences between the 2 groups. Statistical significance was found in the areas of auditory processing, tactile processing, "modulation of sensory input affecting emotional responses and activity level" and emotional/social responses. Children with AS were more severely impacted than children with autism in all of the above areas.

The authors conclude

1. Higher rate of social/emotional behavior for children with AS may be due to greater capacity for language. They are attempting to interact and are doing a poor job.

2. The poor auditory processing skills are associated with decreased attention levels. Children with AS may hear just portions of verbal information and this create a confused message which they then try to make sense of. The authors go on to posit that this may lead to rigidity in behaviors because the children latch onto the portion of the message that they heard.

3. Children receive inaccurate tactile information causing a distortion in their body perception which in turn causes poor motor planning. The authors explain that this may thus explain poor coordination in children with AS.

My Thoughts

A previous article () classified children with autism into 4 catagories. Children with high functioning autism (HFA) do not have communication problems. This would suggest that they need to be separated into a third group for this study to make sense. Another article (hmm, have to find that one...) I read found that children with AS and HFA have similar sensory issues -- and yet there truly are differences ... I for one, want to know more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Free journal articles

I was pleasantly surprised to discover ways of getting free access to journal articles. Given my desire to read as much as I can on the topic of autism in order to find a good topic for research, the free reading is saving tons of money.
  • Sage Publications opens up to allow free access every few months. This includes Autism, ADHD, and many, many other journals. To find out about free access, click on "journals" then see the "current free online trials" ad and also register for "email alerts".
  • Journal articles from The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry - which is at are available for free 1 year after publicaiton. What I do is print out the free abstract and write a reminder note to get it later.
  • The entire year - 2007 - of Journal of Autism and Develomental Disorders currently has free access. I printed out 20 or so abstracts and papers. This is from SpringerLink Publications.
  • I also get aricles from AOTA for the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, as well. I am a member, so do not need free access ... however, I'm not sure that they provide it!