Martha Herbert on "The Autism Revolution"

April 15, 2012

Autism's a tricky diagnosis. And its causes - and increasingly frequent diagnosis - are also mysterious. In this interview, Harvard Medical School neurologist Martha Herbert talks with Anne Strainchamps about unpacking autism.  She advocates a whole-body approach, which looks at environmental toxins, vitamin deficiencies and immune problems.



What a very valuable and exciting interview! I applaud the choice of Dr. Herbert and the skill and value of the interviewer's skills.

The first comment I would like to make on this interview is that we do not call individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) autistic. If you are going to report on a topic please research ahead of time the appropriate verbiage. I also wonder how you can present a theory with no scientifically valid research without presenting any other theories on the development and treatment of autism. The first anecdotal story the quest presented exaggerated the potential benefits of autism and the interviewer further mislead the audience by using the word "recover." There is some proof that diets can exacerbate behavior problems in all children (especially those related to allergies,) but there is no proof that dietary changes will eliminate the symptoms of autism. There is only one study showing that individuals with autism can "recover" and those results have never been replicated. Therefore, to say that child "recovered" is false, merely the behaviors of concern where no longer functional. Most studies "showing" the importance of the whole-body approach rely on parental reports and don't control for other treatments the children receive. So far the only empirical validated treatment for individuals diagnosed with ASD is behavior therapy. Behavior therapists don't claim to cure autism , merely they train skills that allow the individual to better adapt in society.

Dr. Herbert's description of the "beige diet" made me and my family stop in our tracks, as it exactly described our aspergian daughter's food preferences! We've been struggling to get her to try a wider variety of food, but she stubbornly refuses. Now we not only realize why she prefers these foods, but that it's even more important that we get her to eat her "colors". Thank you for an interview that opened a door to more insight into ways to help our autism spectrum daughter!

If you have an autistic child and you're in northern California, I highly recommend Dr. Sanford Newmark at UCSF's Osher Center.

Bravo. Dr. Herbert is brave and creative with her thinking. So many scientists and physicians fear challenging the paradigm. Clearly, she does not. For that I thank her.

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