Autism Spectrum Disorder
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT is increasingly being utilized as a front-line therapy in the treatment of Autism. The use of HBOT in the treatment of Autism was most popularized by the research of Dr. Dan Rossignol.
How does HBOT benefit the Autism patient? Physiologically, HBOT accomplishes the following:
- Increasing blood flow to areas of the brain that have been shown to lack blood flow in patients with autism. This increase in blood flow results in increased functioning in the areas of the brain responsible for language comprehension, auditory processing, sensory perception, and social interaction;
- Decreases inflammation in the neurological system and gut improving cognitive functioning and addressing the digestive disturbances commonly seen in patients with autism;
- Improves immune function;
- Increases antioxidant enzymes and production of antioxidants resulting in decreased oxidative stress;
- Mobilization of stem cells from the bone marrow which allows for the formation or new neurons and other brain cells; and
- Increases oxygen delivery to mitochondria and recent research suggests HBOT can increase the production of mitochondria. This increases energy available at the cellular level.
The observable results for the patient and his or her family are typically as follows:
- Increased social interaction
- Decreased lethargy
- Increased focus
- Improvements in language comprehension
- Decreased number of tantrums
- Increased motivation
- Improved communication skills
The popularization of HBOT as a treatment option has lead to development of HBOT-like treatments and facilities that do not abide by industry regulations. The proper delivery of HBOT is a complex combination of technical equipment, medically accredited training and safety regulations. Patients need to be vigilant in ensuring all standards are met in delivering safe and effective care and that treatments are supervised by a trained health professional.
Case Study: The Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
A 4 year-old girl with Autism came to the clinic with her mom. Her parents first noticed symptoms at 1 year old. She was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at 13 months old. When she came to the clinic her verbal skills were extremely limited. She had already worked with speech therapists, behavioral therapists and had done a variety of biomedical assessments and treatments including chelation therapy (removal of heavy metals from the tissue) and digestive function testing. She was on a gluten, casein and soy free diet.
Her parents were interested in exploring other naturopathic treatments to continue to help their child improve. The patient had pronounced difficulties in all areas including language, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and sensory skills. Improvements had been seen in regards to social interaction and verbal skills but she still had very limited vocabulary and significant difficulty with speaking clearly.
SPECT scanning of the girl’s brain, which measures blood flow, showed numerous areas of decreased blood flow. This is typical with Autism. Seventeen out of nineteen children with Autism have areas of decreased blood flow to the brain. The primary treatment recommended for the girl when she came to our Calgary clinic was 60 daily treatments with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This was a necessary treatment to increase blood flow to deprived areas and to heal the neurological tissue.
After hyperbaric oxygen therapy was completed the parents noted significant improvements in all areas of development. The child’s speech improved significantly and she was able to learn and pronounce more words. She is now able to put together complete sentences. Her teachers at school also noticed that she was more willing to answer questions, and shared more in circle time at school. Speech and behavioral therapy were continued but were noted to be more effective than they were before the addition of hyperbaric oxygen. Eye contact and sleep improved and sensitivity to clothing decreased. Significant gains were also noticed in both fine and gross motor skills.
In addition, the child’s neurotransmitters levels were measured. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the brain that have excitatory and inhibitory actions that affect learning, mood and behavior. The testing showed elevated levels of excitatory neurotransmitters including glutamate that is toxic to the neurological system in high levels. Specific amino acids and vitamins were given to balance these neurotransmitters and improve concentration and focus.
Case Study: Making a Difference for an Autistic Boy
A six-year-old boy diagnosed at age four-and-a-half with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since the diagnosis he has been on a gluten-free and casein free diet. He was on a naturopathic supplement regime and completed a detoxification protocol. In addition to this, he was working with a speech therapist, a behavioural therapist, and an occupational therapist. The boy also suffered from severe constipation and allergies. To help with this his mother started him on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The boy was having difficulty concentrating, he had mild anxiety, fine motor skill delays, suffered from light and noise sensitivity and had significant trouble with socialization with family and other children.
At the Nardella Clinic of Calgary, stool testing was completed that identified Candida and a parasite in his digestive tract. The Specific Carbohydrate diet was continued and herbal antimicrobials and probiotics were prescribed to address the infection. The child also completed 40 daily one-hour hyperbaric treatments.
After the 40 hyperbaric treatments, the boy’s aid that had not seen him in two months made the following observations:
- happy and compliant;
- much easier to work with;
- improved communication;
- engaged in pretend play;
- improved language and word selection;
- speaking in full sentences;
- more open to correction during therapy.
In addition the mother noticed the following:
- more interested in communicating with others;
- showed an interest in reading and writing for the first time;
- very happy mood and the anxiety had resolved;
- artwork was elaborate and he was using lots of color;
- significantly improved imaginative play;
- singing all the time now;
- improved focus;
- making good eye contact;
- able to sit and work on a task for an extended period of time;
- normal bowel movements;
- socializing with the family.
The boy returned to school in the fall with an increased ability to learn and grow. Further hyperbaric sessions and other biomedical treatments will be implemented to maintain and enhance his progress.