Just recently, I received the awesome opportunity of reviewing expert Dr. Robert Melillo’s book on Autism: AUTISM:The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders-and What Parents Can do Now.
Dr. Robert Melillo is an “internationally known clinician, professor, researcher, and expert in functional neurology and neurobehavioral disorders.” Since 1994 his program “Brain Balance” has helped thousands of children.”
I do not have a child with Autism, but I did work with Autistic children in the past while working in the Child Development field. I learned a lot about this disorder through my teaching practicum and one-on-one experiences through a Head Start program for two years in our state. It just broke my heart to sit down with the parents and hear their heartaches, frustrations, and concerns. My heart truly goes out to these beautiful children and their families.
When offered the chance to review Dr. Melillo’s book along with an interview, I jumped on the chance as it has deeply tugged on my heart strings through the years. I currently have a new friend who deals with Autism on a daily basis with her precious child. This family is so strong and so precious.
I was also given the chance to interview Dr. Melillo with questions I think many of us have had regarding Autism.
Here is my recent interview notes with Dr. Robert Melillo:
Lindsey: Why are Autism and ADHD rates continuing to exponentially grow?
Dr. Melillo: In the first chapter of my new book I explain that we are seeing a “real” increases in the numbers of new kids being diagnosed with these disorders not just recognizing or “over diagnosing” these issues. Based on the fact that we are seeing a dramatic increase in such a short period in time, the cause of the increase must be environmental; we cannot explain such an increase in purely genetic terms. There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic; genetic mutations take generations or thousands of years to have a big impact on traits. There is no one environmental factor, there are many, pesticides, antibiotics in our food, hormones, drugs in our water supply, chemicals in our environment are certainly some of these factors, but the most important factors are believed to be what we call lifestyle factors. Things, blood pressure, obesity, exercise, diet and stress levels play the most significant roles. I think the main change that has occurred over the past 30 years is the change in physical activity levels at younger and younger ages. This is being driven by technology and computers and the advancement of their popularity. Computer games, video, TV, social media all of these activities have exploded over the past thirty years and each year it becomes more pervasive in our lives. The average child 10 years ago had a couple of hours of screen time a day and that was purely TV and video games. Now they are spending on average 10 hours a day and that includes iPads, computers, phones and all of these devices. What they are reducing as they increase this number is the numbers of hours they spend moving their bodies and interacting with their environment and other people. This has an effect on adult, because it increases obesity and all of these other chronic illnesses. It also increases inflammation in our bodies and increases stress hormones in our bodies and activates the immune system, which can lead to autoimmunity. In children this reduced activity is also leading to obesity and other health issues, but the main effect on the child is that it affects their brain development. It results in a slowed and unbalanced development of the brain especially the two hemispheres, which develop in stages. This can lead to a left or right brain developmental delay, which ultimately is what is happening in the brain of a child with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia etc.
Lindsey: Is there anything you can do to decrease your risks of having a child with Autism or ADHD?
Dr. Melillo: This is the whole point of my book, ultimately if Autism is an environmentally based and driven disorder, then ultimately the answer is prevention. If we can identify and measure as many risk factors as possible in an individual before they become pregnant or even during the pregnancy, and if we know what the “safe” levels if there is one, of that environmental factor, and then we can do something to reduce that risk factor and we can measure that. When we get all of the risk factors we can measure and effect, into a safe level, then we know that we have lowered the risk of having a child with a disability like Autism. There are no guarantees that it will prevent Autism, but you have reduced the risk significantly and that is all you can do. As we do more research, which we are doing in my lab, we will be able to have more definitive information. In my book I go through a Ten Point Preconception/Prenatal plan for a prospective parent to follow. I think it is the best thing produced yet in this area of science and medicine and it will only get better as I perfect this program in time.
Lindsey: Does Autism start at birth or is it developed in the first few years?
Dr. Melillo: The research clearly seems to support the fact that autism really starts in the womb before birth, and that it also continues to develop after birth, both are happening at the same time to different degrees. This is why we believe that it is environmental, and developmental, it looks like it is genetic, but it isn’t primarily due to a genetic mutation, environmental factors are effecting the expression of genes before and after birth. The genes most commonly affected are those that build functional connections in the brain and especially between the two hemispheres. We know in all of these developmental disorders especially Autism, the main characteristic that we can see and measure in their brain is that they have less connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. They also functionally seem to have certain skills that are much better than others in their brain and body. This is why it seems that this imbalance in brain development is affecting the connectivity in the brain and produces the unique mixture of strengths and weaknesses that we see in all of these disorders. In Autism and ADHD we think it is a right hemisphere delay and in Dyslexia and learning disabilities it is the opposite. The reason for the differences is because the two sides of the brain develop at different stages, the right hemisphere skills develop in the womb and for the first 2-3 years, and then it switches to the left for 2-3 years. So if a negative environmental influence or factor interacts with the genes that build brain connections at a particular time in development, and the child has certain natural strengths more on one side of the brain, all of this comes together to produce these disorders. I believe that these can all be prevented, but if it isn’t prevented, hope is not lost we can reverse all of these to various degrees and in most cases we can completely correct them. This is what I discussed in my first and second book Disconnected Kids and Reconnected Kids, and what we do in our 60 plus Brain Balance Achievement Centers.
Lindsey: What are the early warning signs for children with Autism?
Dr. Melillo: The earliest signs are when they have significantly delayed or even miss developmental milestones, especially motor milestones. If they don’t roll over at 3-5 months equally on both sides, if they don’t crawl right or enough, if they walk or talk late these are every significant and they need to be addressed as soon as possible. If you intervene at six months old you may be able to make a huge difference in a couple of weeks or months. Whereas at six years old it may take 6 months and at 12 years it may take a year or more and it and becomes much harder to correct. If the child has many immune or dietary issues, bowel problems, if they are very colicky and irritable these are also early warning signs. Also it has been shown that we can document good eye contact and nonverbal communication between child and mother at 1 month. Many women instinctively know if this is right or not in their baby especially if they have had other children that developed properly, mothers tell me all the time they felt “disconnected” from this child with a disability. Also if a child has a real unevenness of skills, where they have certain skills that are exceptional but they seem very behind in other skills this is also a big clue. If you notice any of these I suggest they educate themselves, I think Disconnected Kids is the first thing they should read, it will give them hope. Then they should go to my website drrobertmelillo.com or Brain Balance website brainbalancecenters.com. Or they should try to find a specialist in Functional Neurology(International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation) or Functional Medicine (Institute for Functional Medicine) in their local area.
I want to thank Dr. Melillo for answering these questions so that I may share this with all of my readers and followers.
As a Christian, I believe that Autism can be healed. Why do I believe this? I know of a family who had a son whom was diagnosed with this disorder. They prayed and believed for a miracle that this boy would be healed for a long time. Guess what? He was healed! The doctors tested him again and there was no evidence that he ever had Autism! God is good. I believe through resources such as this book, things can happen. Do you believe in miracles?
If interested in purchasing this book, you can do so at Amazon.
Here are topics discussed throughout the book:
Part 1: Searching for Causes
The Autism Epidemic: Controversy and Reality
The Causes: Genetics Versus the Environment
What’s Happening in the Brain of a Child with Autism
Risk Factors: What the Research Tells Us
Part 2: Finding Solutions
What’s Your Cognitive Style?
Measuring for a Brain Imbalance
Listen to your Body: Assessing your Symptoms
Your Lifestyle and the Stress Response
When Immunity Gets Out of Balance
Reducing Your Risk Factors: A Ten-Point Preconception Plan
The Brain Balance Program for Parents-to-Be
Part 3: Early Detection
Searching for Early Signs of Autism-and What You Can Do
I am going to do a quick and easy giveaway for this book since it is a very sensitive topic. The first reader to respond in a comment below with their interest in this book and why, will receive a free copy of AUTISM: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders-and What Parents Can Do Now.