The New York Times published a piece in August of this year about the role the environment plays in the rise of autism. It begins with the question asked by many people who are hoping to become parents - What can we do to decrease the risk?
I have often thought about what I would have done differently, knowing what I now know. There are a number of things, things I didn’t know to do or not do when I was pregnant with Emma. There are a few things that appear to have some scientific basis to them, such as taking prenatal vitamins at least three months before getting pregnant and continuing to take them for the duration of the pregnancy. I began taking them when I learned I was pregnant with Nic, though interestingly, with Emma I was taking them before I became pregnant with her and continued throughout the duration of my pregnancy. I would not have eaten any fish of any kind during any part of my pregnancy. I ate grilled swordfish a couple of times in my second trimester with Emma. I also used fingernail polish remover a couple of times and had my hair highlighted once during my third trimester. I would have stopped using all artificial sweeteners and I would have been more careful after the 9/11 attacks by not going downtown to Richard’s office in Soho to work. Beyond those incidences, I did not take any drugs of any kind, not even aspirin, I didn’t consume caffeine or alcohol, I did not have an amniocentesis, avoided all and any invasive procedures, had two sonograms and gave birth naturally in a birthing center. It seems unlikely that anything I did while pregnant contributed to her autism, but who knows?
After giving birth I would have done a number of things differently. From the moment she took her first breath I would have eliminated all onion, garlic, dairy and wheat from my diet while I was breast feeding. During those first few months when she was so uncomfortable and “colicky” I would have kept a food journal to see if there were other foods I was consuming that upset her and then eliminated those. Since Emma seemed so uncomfortable when I breast fed and much preferred drinking breast milk from the bottle, I would have tried different techniques in swaddling her or having some sort of soft cloth between us so our skin to skin contact wasn’t so uncomfortable for her. I would have started brushing therapy (click link for more detailed information on brushing) with joint compressions (see link for a detailed description of joint compression exercises) during this period as well.
Then there are the things I wish I had done much sooner such as Dr. Marion Blank‘s literacy program instead of all those hours spent doing ABA. I wish I had discouraged Emma from sucking her thumb. I would not have introduced corn, soy, wheat, dairy or any foods that are thought to be problematic for some children. I would have obtained an evaluation much sooner as well as taken her to a neurologist and had an MRI done before she was 18 months old.
Had I done all of those things, would any of it made a difference? Except for introducing Dr. Blank’s program right away, which I am convinced would have made an enormous difference, who knows? How much of a role does the environment play? How much is due to genetics? I have questions, lots of questions. None of which will likely be answered any time soon.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.Emma’s Hope Book.com