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Autism Statistics Alarm African Children

child, autismEducator Anne Harrington and pediatrician Dr. Dan McLellan both noticed an unusual number of Somali children turning up in their autism programs in Minneapolis, and began to wonder why.

Now that question has captured the attention of Minnesota state and federal health officials, as fears about a possible surge in autism sweep Minnesota's Somali community.

Autism, a brain disorder that can cause disruptive and withdrawn behavior, has been rising rapidly throughout the country. The discovery of a cluster among Somalis could be significant, or could just be a statistical fluke.

Last year, Somali children made up just under 6 percent of the school population, but 17 percent of those in early childhood autism programs. The numbers have been creeping up for several years, especially among young children. As of July 2008, nearly 4 percent of Somali students were in autism-related programs -- about twice the district average.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Since 1993, many Somali people have emigrated to Minnesota from refugee camps in Kenya. The Somali children in the Minnesota schools who have developed autism were all born in the United States, specifically in Minneapolis, and the incidence grew so high that it could no longer be ignored.

Some of the children’s parents believe vaccinations are to blame. In rural Somalia, where autism is rare, there are no vaccinations. Meanwhile, when people travel to refugee camps, they sometimes receive the same vaccinations several times because of poor recordkeeping.

In the United States, health officials have long insisted that there’s no link between this neurological disorder and vaccinations, that is until earlier this year when they finally conceded that vaccines “significantly aggravated” an underlying disorder and caused autistic symptoms in at least one child. So surely there could me more.

There is little doubt that thimerosal, a preservative that is 49.6 percent ethylmercury, is a contributing factor in many cases of autism. It is a well-established fact that exposure to mercury can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions -- all similar to traits defining, or associated with, autism.

There may also be another component in vaccines that is causing damage. For instance, according to Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD:

“Another important factor with regard to mercury on the mind … is synergistic toxicity -- mercury's enhanced effect when other poisons are present. A small dose of mercury that kills 1 in 100 rats and a dose of aluminum that will kill 1 in 100 rats, when combined have a striking effect: all the rats die.

Doses of mercury that have a 1 percent mortality will have a 100 percent mortality rate if some aluminum is there. Vaccines contain aluminum.”

The timing of vaccinations -- giving them to infants when their brains are most vulnerable to toxins -- and the quantity -- giving multiple shots in one day – are also likely problematic.

According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, multiple vaccines given close together over-stimulate your brain's immune system and, via the mechanism of "bystander injury," destroy brain cells.

But given the fact that so many Somali children, in particular those living in Minnesota, seem to be developing autism suggests that there may be a factor unique to them.

Could Lack of Sunlight be to Blame?

Somali children living in Minnesota are not the only ones facing alarmingly high levels of autism.

Sweden also has a high incidence rate of autism among Somali children, and doctors there are calling for an official study to determine if a lack of sunlight in winter, leading to a lack of vitamin D, could be causing the disorder.

According to Professor John McGrath and Dr. Darryl Eyles of the University of Queensland in Australia, “Normal brain development depends on adequate amounts of activated vitamin D to orchestrate the cellular architecture of the brain. Both the vitamin D receptor and the enzyme necessary to make activated vitamin D are present in a wide-variety of human brain tissues very early in pregnancy.”

So it’s not only important for babies and infants to get vitamin D, it’s important for pregnant women to get it as well. Though this is still just a theory, it makes a lot of sense. Both pregnant women and infants moving from Somalia to Minnesota or Sweden would face drastically reduced levels of sunlight during the winter, which would surely impact their vitamin D levels.

Interestingly, the vitamin D theory also helps to explain why heavy metals in vaccines could be harming children. According to The Vitamin D Council:

“Vitamin D's role in increasing glutathione levels may explain the link between mercury and other heavy metals, oxidative stress, and autism. For example, activated vitamin D lessens heavy metal induced oxidative injuries in a rat's brain.

The primary route for brain toxicity of most heavy metals is through depletion of glutathione. Besides its function as a master antioxidant, glutathione acts as a chelating (binding) agent to remove heavy metals, like mercury.

Autistic individuals have difficulty excreting heavy metals, like mercury. If brain levels of activated vitamin D are too low to employ glutathione properly, and thus unable to remove heavy metals, they may be damaged by heavy metal loads normal children easily excrete. That is, the mercury in thimerosol vaccines may have injured vitamin D deficient children, while normal children would have easily bound the mercury and excreted it.”

Six Tips for Parents of Autistic Children

Autism rates have increased nearly 60-fold since the late 1970s, with the most significant increases occurring in the past decade, so I suspect there are more than a few of you reading this who have children with autism.

Though this can be a challenging disorder to treat, you DO have options. Taking your child to therapy programs that focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills is highly recommended, and studies show that the earlier you do this, the better.

Autism is a tragic disease and I am committed to helping those afflicted with it. In a few weeks I am attending an autism think tank in California with some of the leading physicians in the U.S. and I hope to provide you with some practical tips from that meeting.

In the meantime you can also help relieve some of your child’s symptoms with the following lifestyle changes:

1. If you are pregnant get your vitamin D levels tested. This may be the simple and most cost effective strategy that you can take. If you are in the US make sure it is at Lab Corp.

2. Have your child eat a diet tailored to their
nutritional type. In my experience, nearly ALL children seem to respond favorably to the dietary changes when properly implemented.

3. Avoid giving your child pasteurized milk. This is imperative to the treatment of autism, and includes all milk products, such as ice cream, yogurt and whey. Even natural flavorings in food must be avoided unless the processor can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that caseinate is not included. Anyone managing this illness without restricting milk is deceiving themselves.

4. Eliminate sugar, juice, soda, French fries and wheat (pasta, bagels, cereal, pretzels, etc) from your child’s diet.

5. Make sure your child is getting proper sun exposure, as there is a link between rampant vitamin D deficiency and the proportionate jump in autism. As I said earlier, the vitamin D receptor appears in a wide variety of brain tissue early in the fetal development, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain.

6. Use an effective intervention to address any emotional stresses your child faces as soon as possible. Tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are excellent for this purpose. You can do EFT with your child, and also teach him how to do it himself.

7. Homeopathy may also help ameliorate symptoms.

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