Team GR: For kids with autism, developing speech and communication skills can be difficult. Dr. Jerry Kartzinel gives us easy ways to improve verbal skills that can easily be done at home.
by Dr. Jerry Kartzinel
“How do I get my kid to talk???” It’s really one of the most common questions I hear in my practice. Many of our children on the autism spectrum, at one time or another, have a very difficult time developing and using language. There ARE interventions we can use to facilitate the acquisition of language. Most of the interventions I list below can be easily applied to your child without a physician’s involvement. However, it’s always best to work with a medical professional well-versed in taking care of children on the autism spectrum.
The areas of the brain that are responsible for language have a very complex job to do. We have to optimize their function and remove anything that can be negatively impacting them in any way. Here are the main areas to focus on to optimize the development of language:
- Blood flow through the brain
- Cerebral folate deficiency
- Methylation pathway defects
- Mitochondrial disorders
- Low carnitine levels
- Seizure activity/abnormal brain wave activity
So, how do we actually affect these areas?
Putting your child on a gluten free and dairy free diet is very important for many issues, but can be crucial for language. In addition, getting rid of all processed foods, fool colorings, nitrates, nitrites, MSG, etc. We certainly do not want to be poisoning the brain!
Many of the children I see are very self-restrictive with respect to the foods they will or will not eat. They can be nutritionally deficient in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, so adding these can be very helpful for language as well.
They may have inherited some unfavorable genetics that just slow down speech acquisition. These may need to be identified and evaluated for specific treatments.
If you child is experiencing chronic constipation or diarrhea (or both), this has to be addressed and fixed. Most problems in the GI tract will cause pain and inflammation to one degree or another. Many children on the autistic spectrum actually have chronic inflammation of the gut (inflammatory bowel disease, IBD).
Focus and Concentration – The ADD component
Focus and concentration is required to generate language. It is almost as if they quickly forget what they are going to say…the thought just leaves.
Anxiety can block a lot of speech production as well and may have to be addressed
My Approach to Boost Speech
I really like to do this one step at a time so I know what is working and what isn’t working.
Step 1 - Diet
- Remove gluten and dairy containing foods 100% - no cheating! I also recommend eliminating soy and corn as well. Lowering daily sugar consumption is VERY important as well. The diet should be maintained for at least six months, and if has proven to be very helpful, we may be on this diet for years.
Step 2 – General Health Supplements
- Add a high-quality multivitamin and mineral, omega 3 fatty acids such as cod liver oil. I usually tell my families to add one new supplement every 2-3 days to make sure they are tolerated.
Step 3 - Bowel Health
- Take care of constipation, diarrhea, bowel inflammation – you will need help from your doctor with this one.
Step 4 - Targeted supplements that may help with language
- methyl B12 can be found as a supplement though you will read frequently it is given as an injection. Injections are great, but do require a knowledgeable physician to order them.
- 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF)
- Acetyl L carnitine
- Dimethylglycine (DMG) or Trimethylglycine (TMG)
- Omega 3 oils
Step 5 - Focus and concentration
- L theanine
- L carnosine
- Phosphatidylserine (soy free)
Step 6 - Allergies (in general)
- Zyrtec or Claritin
Step 7 - Iron Deficiency may be detected and if so
- Iron drops
Step 8 - If you are able to work with a physician, adding the following may help too
- Vitamin A
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Chelation (removal of toxic metals)
- Auditory Integration therapies such as Tomatis Sound Therapy
Developing language for the first time, or regaining language after losing it, can be very challenging. If we take a multisystem approach, remove anything and everything that could negatively impact the brain, this can greatly enhance the formation of new sounds and words.
Further, if we add in target vitamins, minerals, and oils, we can help the body’s natural repair processes to kick in – remember, children NATURALLY want to tell us about their world.
Finally, we have supplements and procedures, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, that can actually be the final missing pieces to developing language skills. Please remember this process takes time – the problem didn’t start overnight and it can’t be fixed that way either!