Introduction to Autism- By Stephanie Laws

Did you know that one in every 150 children is diagnosed with Autism? There are more than 1million people in the United States suffer from this disorder. It is more prevalent than Down syndrome, Mental Retardation, and Cystic Fibrosis combined (TACA). With so many people being diagnosed it is important for everyone to be aware of it. So, I thought I would share with you some brief facts that I have learned about autism. And an ongoing debate as to whether or not a specialized diet is helpful in treating Autism.


• Autism is completely different for every child. The behaviors, abilities, and severity differ from child to child
• Often times the four key areas effected are communication, social skills, behaviors, and learning
• Some children who get help (intervention, speech therapy, medical treatment) early may eventually lead typical lives, some may not
• Autism is four times more common in boys than girls (reason is unknown)
• Diagnosis is usually within the first three years of life
• It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the US today
• There is no cure
• People who have autism live a normal lifespan (TACA)

• Some traits MAY include:
  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects (Autism Society)



A diet that excludes gluten (a wheat protein) and casein (a protein found in dairy) coupled with therapy and medical attention has been said to be successful for many children in lessening symptoms of Autism. People who agree with the positive effects of a GFCF (Gluten Free, Casein Free) diet say that people who have autism react adversely to gluten and casein. Proponents suggest taking these foods out of a child’s diet to yield more success with therapy and treatment.

On the other hand, many doctors are skeptical of this approach because scientific research is limited. There is also a worry that children who are not eating wheat or dairy may be missing key nutrients to a balanced diet. William H. Ahearn of The New England Center for Children at Northeastern University does not believe the diet is useful in most people. He says, “… Diets have been developed with a variety of hypotheses that also lack scientific confirmation. These diets have been applied as treatments for autism as well as for various other disabilities. However, unless a child has a food allergy/intolerance or metabolic condition it is unlikely that dietary changes will affect their disability (” I have included some links below so that you can read more and decide for yourself if you think the GFCF diet is useful or not or if it is harmful. In my opinion, there is little harm in trying. If my own child had Autism I might give it a go.

I have included some resources if you are interested in learning more or expanding your research on the information above:

GFCF Diet:



Other sites related to Autism:


The Autism Society:

National Autism Association:

Autism Teaching Tools:

Academy for Precision Learning (A great school in the U District dedicated to individualizing students curriculum based on their individual needs):

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