It’s time to #LIGHTITUPBLUE once again to promote autism awareness and a greater understanding and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Every April 2nd for the last eight years businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, homes and even landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Eifel Tower have gone blue to make people more aware of autism spectrum disorder.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one in every 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People around the world will don their blue ribbons in support of research, early interventions and evolving treatments that help these children and adults live active and independent lives.
This year, like in the past, Natren is proud to sponsor the Autism Hope Alliance and spread awareness about this condition and, specifically, the digestive issues associated with it. April 2nd is the ninth annual Autism Awareness Day. Find out more about what it is like to live on the spectrum and about the Autism Hope Alliance.
A Little About Autism
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is an umbrella term for developmental issues some children acquire at a young age. These children tend to reach traditional milestones like walking and talking and then suddenly change.
Warning signs of ASD include:
- Lack of eye contact
- Failure to respond to smiles or changes in expression especially from parents
- Not speaking single words by age 16 months
- Having repetitive mannerisms
- Sensitivity to sounds, light, smells and even certain textures
A diagnosis of ASD changes things for the entire family, but these children do well with proper interventions and dietary adjustments. They don’t let autism define them or keep them from growing into successful and happy adults.
What is the Autism Hope Alliance?
The Autism Hope Alliance is a nonprofit organization – the first to emerge from the natural foods industry – that offers hope to families with a loved one diagnosed with ASD. They provide educational, financial support and volunteerism. This year, AHA is proud to have helped more than 1,000 families and to have:
- Donated funds to Generation Rescue
- Supported Talk About Curing Autism and other nonprofit organizations
- Produced an instructional film titled “Special Foods for Special Needs”
- Written and produced a booklet titled: Autism: What the Experts Know
- Given over $140,000 dollars in scholarships to families in need
- Sponsored the Autism Grass Roots Tour
- Started the Autism Pantry Program to provide special foods and supplies to families
- Created “Autism Approved” – a program that promotes products and services that are autism-friendly
The Dietary Challenges of Autism
Natren is proud to partner with this life-changing organization and to promote awareness about special dietary considerations and the role probiotics can play in Asperger’s development.
Nutrition is always a concern with children on the spectrum. A study conducted at the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University Medical Center found the kids with autism tend to have extreme food sensitivities and ritualistic eating tendencies. This is one reason why the natural foods industry and this organization work hand in hand together.
It is fairly well documented that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a different composition of bacteria in their guts compared to children not on the spectrum. It’s also been well documented that they have a high prevalence of numerous gastrointestinal symptoms.These GI challenges put them at risk for nutrient deficiencies and food allergies.
However, much like the old ‘What came first the chicken or the egg?’ question, it remains unclear if this is causative to the disorders or a result of having the disorder. Regardless, we know that 70-80% of the immune system can be found in our gut and that a large percentage (upwards of 90%) of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. Serotonin helps to produce and regulate dopamine and both of these neurotransmitters are important to mental health and overall well-being. Given the huge role our gut plays in immune function, neurotransmitter production and the digestion and uptake of all nutrients necessary to sustain life it’s no wonder so many parents are eager to support their children’s health through the use of probiotic supplementation.
The campaign for Autism Awareness begins on April 2nd but continues throughout the month of April. Towns all over the U.S. sponsor events like marathons and educational seminars designed to promote not just awareness, but acceptance and understanding of these unique individuals and their special gifts. There are events planned both online and in person. We hope you’ll join us in spreading the word and supporting families and powerful organizations like the Autism Hope Alliance.