Alternative Autism

Why the Program Matters

A staggering 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. The number is based on diagnosis codes under DSM-IV. ASDs are reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

The ratio of diagnoses is not the only thing on the rise – medical expenditures related to ASD and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) are soaring well above standard medical trend increases on a national basis as well as in Indiana:

In 2010, the average annual per child medical costs for children in the Indiana State High Risk Pool was $40,875. In 2013, that average annual medical cost per child has increased to $89,980.  Some children have costs of as much as $150,000.

That is a 120% INCREASE in annual per child cost in just a 3 year period – an exorbitant cost increase for a single diagnosis. With the implementation of DSM-5, many predict even higher numbers of children diagnosed with ASDs.

How the Program Works & How You Can Help

The Foundation’s Alternative Autism program aims to answer the following questions: What is causing the cost shift?  Are the outcomes better now with the higher costs?  Can things be done to lower cost without impacting quality?  Will the new DSM-5 coding increase cost even more?

The Alternative Autism Program is currently under development. We need your help to develop more effective and less costly approaches to treating Autism Spectrum Disorder! If you are interested in working in collaboration with the Foundation, please click below.

Proposed Research

For reasons unknown, children with autism have metabolic vulnerabilities, some of which respond to nutritional intervention. These changes are starting to make more sense as we learn about genetic changes called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (snips). It was once thought you either had a genetically based metabolic condition, or you did not. Now we are learning that any one gene can have thousands of SNPs, each affecting function a different way, and they can be turned on and off. Only about 3 percent of the human genome is actually used as the set of instructions. These regions are called coding regions and are scattered throughout the chromosomes. A coding region contains genes, which are a unique DNA sequence that ultimately directs the building of a specific protein with a specific function. The remaining 97 percent of the genome contains noncoding regions that are scattered throughout the genome and may be involved in its regulation. SNPs occur with a very high frequency, with estimates ranging from about 1 in 1000 bases to 1 in 100 or 300 bases. That means there could be millions of SNPs in each human genome. The abundance of SNPs and the ease with which they can be measured make these genetic variations significant. We propose to explore genetic SNPs associated with autism and to compare these foundational results to functional assessments of biochemistry and toxins, to explore their links. Thus, a new monitoring tool will be generated for ongoing evaluation to restore balance to those with ASD. Ultimately this will assist with the monitoring of interventions and treatments.

The research that the Foundation’s seeks funding to complete, applies Functional Medicine principles to autism, and is thus a systems biology approach, a new paradigm for understanding and treating chronic disease. This implies that new methods of statistics and methodology will evolve for the evaluation of multiple interventions and personalized treatment for those on the ASD. Functional Medicine is a personalized approach to care of chronic illness, including autism.

Autism, along with other diagnoses that fall under it such as Asperger’s syndrome or autistic spectrum disorder, is a label we attach to a set of observations in the hopes of leading to a single treatment regimen or determining a gene for the condition, as if it were a specific disease. But clinicians know that is not the case and that each person with autism is unique. Most likely the biochemistry is unique but there are common underlying threads that have not been explored and that is where functional medicine is well suited to contribute.

The Foundation’s ASD Research has the following objectives:

  • To develop and test patient / patient family engagement methods of non-clinical care-giving
  • To compare treatment efficacy of individual ABA therapy vs. alternative ABA models
  • To collaborate with healthcare providers at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels

It is anticipated that this innovative program utilizing functional medicine will develop more effective and less costly approaches to treating Autism Spectrum Disorder.