Autism is not a disease, but a developmental disorder of brain function. People with classical autism show three types of symptoms: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and imagination, and unusual or severely limited activities and interests. Symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life. Although there is no cure, appropriate management may foster relatively normal development and reduce undesirable behaviors. People with autism have a normal life expectancy.
Autism affects an estimated two to 10 of every 10,000 people, depending on the diagnostic criteria used. Most estimates that include people with similar disorders are two to three times greater. Autism strikes males about four times as often as females, and has been found throughout the world in people of all racial and social backgrounds.
Autism varies a great deal in severity. The most severe cases are marked by extremely repetitive, unusual, self-injurious, and aggressive behavior. This behavior may persist over time and prove very difficult to change, posing a tremendous challenge to those who must live with, treat, and teach these individuals. The mildest forms of autism resemble a personality disorder associated with a perceived learning disability.
The hallmark feature of autism is impaired social interaction. Children with autism may fail to respond to their names and often avoid looking at other people. Such children often have difficulty interpreting tone of voice or facial expressions and do not respond to others' emotions or watch other people's faces for cues about appropriate behavior. They appear unaware of others' feelings toward them and of the negative impact of their behavior on other people.
Many children with autism engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and hair twirling, or in self-injurious behavior such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of "I" or "me." Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.
People with autism often have abnormal responses to sounds, touch, or other sensory stimulation. Many show reduced sensitivity to pain. They also may be extraordinarily sensitive to other sensations. These unusual sensitivities may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as resistance to being cuddled.
Autism is classified as one of the pervasive developmental disorders. Some doctors also use terms such as "emotionally disturbed" to describe people with autism. Because it varies widely in its severity and symptoms, autism may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected individuals or in those with multiple handicaps. Researchers and therapists have developed several sets of diagnostic criteria for autism. Some frequently used criteria include:
- Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
- Impaired ability to make friends with peers
- Impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
- Stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
- Restricted patterns of interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
- Apparently inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
- Preoccupation with parts of objects
Since hearing problems can be confused with autism, children with delayed speech development should always have their hearing checked. Children sometimes have impaired hearing in addition to autism.
Autism has no single cause. Researchers believe several genes, as well as environmental factors such as viruses or chemicals, contribute to the disorder.
Symptoms in many children with autism improve with intervention or as the children mature. Some people with autism eventually lead normal or near-normal lives. However, reports from parents of children with autism indicate that some children's language skills regress early in life, usually before age three. This regression often seems linked to epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. Adolescence also worsens behavior problems in some children with autism, who may become depressed or increasingly unmanageable. Parents should be ready to adjust treatment for their child's changing needs.
From a standard medical perspective, there is no cure for autism at present. Therapies, or interventions, are designed to remedy specific symptoms in each individual. The best-studied therapies include educational/behavioral and medical interventions. Although these interventions do not cure autism, they often bring about substantial improvement.
(Note: The above information comes from National Institutes of Health Publication No. 96-1877)
THE EDGAR CAYCE PERSPECTIVE OF AUTISM
Edgar Cayce gave several readings for individuals exhibiting autistic features. Because Edgar Cayce was more interested in the uniqueness of each individual than in diagnostic labels, we cannot be certain as to whether these cases are representative of autism. The word autism was never used in any reading or correspondence. However, descriptions of behaviors and functioning do suggest that certain persons who received readings may have suffered from autism.
Notably, three readings given for an eight-year-old girl (2253), are indicative of autism.
(Q) Why does she not talk?
(A) This reaction, or refractory reaction in system, prevents the contraction in the muscular forces that have to do with the plexus from the secondary cardiac to the central nerve system. This is directly to the vocal box. In the corrections in the 3rd and 4th dorsal, and the 2nd and 3rd cervical, this will be stimulated, see? as will necessary later to stimulate along the eustachian tube for the reaction there, see? This NOT in the beginning. The manipulations we would make at least three times each week, and ONE of the treatments and ADJUSTMENT treatment - the other the drainages set up and the muscular forces and tendons so relaxed as to make for the feeding out or building up of nerve impulses as between the sympathetic and cerebro-spinal system.
(Q) Why does she wring her hands?
(A) Nervous reaction. When these come, there is some form of expression - and in the attempt to find an outlet for that INNATELY felt, the lack of knowing WHAT to do - see?
(Q) Will she ever be able to understand and carry out a spoken suggestion?
(A) She will, if these [treatments] are carried out as has been outlined.
(Q) Where will the first improvement be noticed?
(A) The gradual relaxation, and NOT so nervous.
(Q) Is her brain alright, or just dormant?
(A) Just dormant. (2253-1)
Edgar Cayce traced the cause of the condition to pressures along the spine where nerve plexus coordinate the functioning of the system. Nervous system incoordination resulted producing a disturbance to the "imaginative nerve forces of the body" causing the child to be "over sensitive."
The pressures, as we find, exist principally in those of the sacral, the lower dorsal, and the WHOLE of the cervical areas. These are especially seen in the 4th LUMBAR plexus, that prevents coordination in the sympathetic and cerebro-spinal impulses; while those of the central or lower dorsal, sympathetically with the upper or 4th and 5th dorsal, prevent those impulses to the central nerve force as to cause any reaction in this direction, and little or no response is seen in that of a refractory reaction, save as comes through impulses in the imaginative nerve forces of the body. Hence those tendencies of the body to be over sensitive to certain vibrations that may be set up, without the proper coordinating even to BRAIN impulses as to WHAT the reaction SHOULD be. Hence often the body responds in a manner as apparently directly opposite from that as would be, or should be, expected from voluntary or involuntary refractory, or refraction. (2253-1)
Osteopathic manipulations to relieve the pressure were recommended. A mild, natural herbal formula (containing mayblossom and ginseng) was suggested to calm and sedate the child. An energy medicine device (Radial Appliance) was prescribed to assist in coordinating the system.
Hypnotic suggestion was consistently recommended in such cases. Edgar Cayce sometimes used the expression "suggestive therapeutics" to describe a simple, natural form of suggestion to be used. Suggestion was recommended to address the habitual, involuntary hand wringing and lack of normal development:
...as the body sinks to sleep - the talk, the quieting effect, the improvements through the psychopathic effect that may be created by suggestion as the body goes to sleep. Something as this, though it may be altered according to that one giving same. Do not make same as rote, or as just something to be said, but with that intense desire to be a channel of aid and help TO the individual:
AS YOU (calling the child by ITS OWN name, that it responds to even by any FORM of suggestion) AS YOU SINK INTO A QUIET RESTFUL SLEEP, THE ORGANS OF THE BODY WILL SO FUNCTION THAT THE VERY BEST WILL BE BUILDED IN THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL BEING, GIVING THAT RESPONSE THAT WILL BE A NORMAL ACTIVITY FOR THE ORGANS OF THE SENSORY SYSTEM. (2253-2)
(Q) Is there anything we can do to get her to stop wringing her hands?
(A) Only applying those things that will alter the present nervous reactions in the system will change same. THIS body, would be well for the suggestions to be made under the influence of hypnosis, or auto-suggestion to the body as it sleeps. This must be made by someone in sympathy with the activities of the body, and THIS would relieve such stress on the general system. (2253-3)
Although we have no long-term documentation in this case, a letter from Mrs. Pope of the Rosehill School (where the child was staying) noted, "I think she has improved noticeably and more so since she has had the battery although it has been used such a short time."
Four readings were given for a nineteen year old male  who had been "abnormal about eleven years" and who was exhibiting repetitious, involuntary movements and antisocial behaviors:
(Q) What is the reason for, and what can be done for the habit reaction he has; such as the spitting, drawing of the mouth down, and waving of the fingers before his nose and mouth?
(A) These, as indicated, are reflexes through the sensory nerve system; lack of coordination between impulses and the guided or directed forces in the mental reactions of same.
Keep up the applications indicated for corrections, making the suggestions - and not attempting to control by violent means! (2014-3)
(Q) Would you advise scolding or hitting him, when he is so uncontrollable? or what method would you advise?
(A) Patience, kindness, gentleness, ever; not in that of scolding or tormenting at all. But in cajoling, and in kindness and in patience, these are the manners.
Remember, these conditions are for purposes. While they become very trying to the individuals who attempt to administer to the needs of the body, know that these are purposeful in thine own experience also.
(Q) Is this stubborn, fresh and disobedient attitude due to his ailment?
(A) Due to the ailment; else there would be other measures indicated. And in the building up of the body, there must be the response to kindness and gentleness and love, - more than to force, power, might, hate or scolding. (2014-2)
Again, this series of readings described nervous system incoordination involving the sensory nervous system. Pressures along the spine and in the abdominal nerve plexus associated with the digestive system were noted. Abdominal castor oil packs and spinal manipulations were suggested to relieve the pressures and coordinate the nervous systems. The Radial Appliance was also recommended to assist with the coordination. A mild laxative tea was prescribed to improve eliminations through the colon as chronic constipation was a problem.
For the behavioral problems and general pathological conditions, suggestive therapeutics was recommended:
(Q) What type of suggestion would you recommend?
(A) As just indicated, the type that is to be given continually; of the creative forces or God, - love manifesting through the activities of the body. These as helpful forces will bring the bettered conditions for this body. (2014-3)
The minimal follow-up correspondence does not indicate whether the recommendations were applied consistently or the eventual outcome in this case.
A series of twelve readings were given for a young girl (1179) who was seven years old when she received her first reading. Her readings and follow up correspondence suggest possible mild autism. Her readings described a "supersenstive" system with psychic or imaginative tendencies:
These conditions are rather of the unusual nature; or the body physically and mentally is supersensitive and the psychic forces are developing much faster than the bodily functionings. Or the body functionings are of such a nature that the sensitiveness of same precludes some activities through the nominal physical developments. (1179-1)
There are periods when there are unusual activities in the psychic forces of the body. The imaginative reactions to the sensory and the external forces in the experience of the body at times find physical expression in moods. (1179-7)
The child was somewhat withdrawn and difficult. Her mother's comment immediately following 1179-1: "Now I know better how to cope with this child, who reacts so differently from my other children - she is so unusual in so many ways."
The mother's difficulty in dealing with the child's antisocial behaviors was noted:
DO NOT make it an issue with the body! Advise with, but do not rave at nor scold nor make the entity conscious of same by constant nagging, or insistency! And this will be better, it will be found, in ALL the ways of IMPRESSING the body in ANY manner for any activity.
As has been indicated, the body is supersensitive, and is made aware of self's shortcomings or self's virtues by a continual impressing on same. Listen to the entity's arguments, always. Never tell her to shut up or stop, but hear it out! Then, parallel same by counsel as respecting what MIGHT be better if paralleled in THAT direction. (1179-6)
Social withdrawal and interpersonal deficits were cited in the correspondence. The child also apparently had some difficulty with reading.
Edgar Cayce described problems with the digestive system which were contributing to the difficult psychosocial development of this child. Various digestive aids and nutritional supplements were recommended, including Ventriculin, a dietary supplement made from the gastric tissue of hogs.
As with the other cases cited above, the Radial Active appliance was suggested to assist with nervous system coordination. Spinal manipulations were recommended. A basic diet, focusing on body building foods, was emphasized. In one reading, when asked about substituting other grains for wheat, Edgar Cayce responded:
(Q) Should the body discontinue the use of wheat products, substituting RYE BREAK, WHITE RICE, OATMEAL CEREAL, BUCKWHEAT AND CORNMEAL PANCAKES?
(A) It would be well to discontinue the greater portion of the wheat products, if these others are used - and they are all very well to be used. (1179-5)
Although suggestive therapeutics was not directly mentioned, the readings did insist on the importance of providing spiritual guidance to the child through Bible stories.
According to correspondence from her mother, Ms. 1179 became a school teacher at age twenty-two and married thirteen years later.
Although the above cases vary greatly with regard to symptoms and severity, some common themes are worth noting. In all these cases Edgar Cayce focused on nervous system incoordination involving the sensory nervous system. All these individuals were described as over sensitive (even "super-sensitive"). Nerve pressures were cited as causative factors. Spinal manipulation was consistently recommended, as was the use of the Radial Appliance to assist with balancing and coordinating the system.
Problems with the digestive system and intestinal tract was significant in two of these cases (1179 and 2014). Therapies such as abdominal castor oil packs, diet, and dietary supplements were suggested.
The mental and spiritual aspects of healing were prominent in all three cases. Suggestive therapeutics was usually recommended. The spiritual focus of the family and caregivers was strongly emphasized.
Thus a blending of treatments into a well integrated treatment plan was often recommended by Edgar Cayce for the treatment of autism. Here is a summary of some of the most common treatment recommendations.
Conceptually, the Cayce approach to autism focuses on assisting the body in healing itself by the application of a variety of therapies intended to address the underlying causes of the condition. The mental and spiritual aspects of healing are strongly emphasized.
Here are some general therapeutic recommendations intended to address the underlying causes of autism:
- MANUAL THERAPY (SPINAL MANIPULATION): Cayce often recommended spinal manipulations to correct specific problems which may be a primary cause of autism. It is difficult to obtain the osteopathic adjustments specified by Cayce. However, a chiropractor may be of help. The frequency of the adjustments will depend on the recommendations of the individual chiropractor or osteopath. The use of an electric vibrator may also be helpful for individuals unable to obtain regular spinal adjustments.
- ELECTROTHERAPY: Regular use of the Radial Appliance to coordinate nerve functioning and circulation is recommended.
- INTERNAL CLEANSING: Because autistic symptoms were sometimes linked to problems with the alimentary canal resulting in poor eliminations, hydrotherapy is recommended to improve eliminations through the colon. Hydrotherapy includes drinking six to eight glasses of pure water daily and obtaining colonic irrigations to cleanse the bowel. Following the diet should also assist with internal cleansing. Hot castor oil packs applied over the abdomen are recommended to improve circulation (especially lymphatic) and eliminations through the alimentary canal.
- DIET: The Basic Cayce Diet is intended to improve assimilation and elimination. The diet focuses heavily on keeping a proper alkaline/acid balance while avoiding foods which produce toxicity and drain the system. Essentially, the diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried foods and refined carbohydrates ("junk food"). Certain food combinations are emphasized.
- SUGGESTIVE THERAPEUTICS: The use positive suggestions during the presleep period and during therapy sessions (such as massage and the Radial Appliance) is recommended to awaken the inner healing response. The spiritual attunement of the caregiver is essential.
- MEDICATION: The use of a mild natural sedative (such as Passion Flower fusion) may be helpful for excitable children. Laxatives and dietary supplements may be helpful, particularly for individuals with significant gastrointestinal symptoms. Although Ventriculin is no longer available, similar products such as Secretin (made from hog gastric tissue and available only by physician's prescription) have proven helpful for some persons suffering from autism.