Following The Routine Isn't Always Routine

It seems we're always giving out advice to special needs parents.  Feeding issues, sleep troubles, allergy  problems.  Not because we're perfect in ANY way or such great experts, but simply because we have a fairly well adjusted and VERY happy little boy, and people are always out for our "secret".  So it just seems kind of funny to me that we've been up since 4AM for not following our own advice, especially when I just finished telling a friend yesterday about how great our routine works for us in keeping him sleeping through the night!  Just what is that routine, read on and we'll tell you everything.

Just to let you know, we didn't come up with this overnight, It took a while and it evolved over a couple of years and will probably be different for every child.

It seems Jonathan had tummy troubles since the day he was born, he was a couple of months "undercooked" and because of that Mommy was having a bit of trouble getting production flowing, so the doc suggested artificial milk as a supplement and gave him a Soy based formula.  That almost immediately put him in distress and required a few more days in the hospital.  Little did we know that his tummy troubles had just begun.

Fast forward a few years later and in addition to the Autism, it turns out he's allergic to Milk Protein, Soy, Egg and Peanuts.  It wasn't until he developed an allergy to horses though, that I started wondering what caused allergies.   (He had been riding for YEARS with no issues)  Turns out it's caused by things like Tylenol!  There's also a link between gut flora imbalances and allergies as well.

Now the routine.
Breakfast was hard, with him being allergic to almost every breakfast item, so we usually give him a combo of Bananas, Pears and Cherries blended with two heaping tablespoons of Organic Oatmeal. After heating this to a boil, I pour it into a bowl and add cold "Oat Milk" (It's actually Pacific Oat Beverage) since it's usually a bit  too thick.  I then put in a capsule of Florajen 4 kids Since we don't want to bore him with the same thing every day, we switch things up with Apple's, Blueberries, Mangos, Strawberries ... the combinations are endless.  The staple is the Oatmeal
since it helps keep him regular, or as I like to say... Premium!

After breakfast I'll give him a blend of Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil in Licorice Flavor and Scotts Emulsion Cod Liver Oil (Though I'm replacing the Scott's with the better rated Carlson Brand).  The Green Pastures version is superior but the taste is too strong for my son to handle so I mix it with the regular Cod Liver oil.  What's great about the Green Pastures version is that it's produced the same way Cod Liver oil was produced centuries ago, and since it's not pasturized, it still has the CoQ10 along with dozens of other enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are all destroyed with the pasturizing process all other Cod Liver oils go through.

Lunch varies, but we try to always give freshly prepared meals since prepackaged foods don't seem to sit too well with him.  Usually give him NAC after lunch so it doesn't affect his appetite.
Dinner is similar to Lunch, then about an hour later we give him Natrol Melatonin (I think it works better than the Animal based version) with Oat Milk then let him soak in a tub with a cup of regular Epsom Salt, for at least a half hour.  Considering that our kids are usually sensitive to a lot of things out there, I wouldn't go with the ones who add Lavender or other things, keep it simple. To keep the water from getting cold, what I'll do is put him in when the water is about a 1/3rd full, then have hot water just trickling out of the spout, I'll then read a book for the next half hour to an hour or so. Once he's out of the tub, we give him the Cod Liver Oil blend again and usually he'll go to sleep within 15 Min. or so and sleep through the night.

So how did we screw up?  We only put him in the tub for about 10 Min... Not nearly enough time for the Magnesium in the Epsom Salt to absorb into his system, so now we're paying the price for that rush through ... Oh well, Live and Learn.

Bluefoot Pirate Adventure for our Special Needs Kids

Friday, June 29th Edit:
OK Guys, since the last event was rained out, we've officially changed the date to Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 2:30PM. Everyone who registered last time, I'm asking that you REPOST how many in your group are going and if you can't go on the new date, I'm asking that you please let us know. 
Sorry for the delay in getting the new date but we had to work some things out before rescheduling.
As usual, we have a FANTASTIC Group Rate of just $10.00 (66% Off!) per person for our "Cost of Autism Special Needs Cruise". Additionally, the "Pirate Pack" is only $5.00 (75% Off!)
Please PRE Register by clicking on the Event here, since Space IS Limited.
https://www.facebook.com/events/429671483723428/
If you're NOT on Facebook, simply add a comment at the bottom of this page with how many are going with you.  PLEASE make sure to use some sort of Authentication, such as Google, Twitter or Yahoo, so we have a way to follow up with you.


Friday, June 15th Edit:
Our Event on Sunday June 10th at 3PM was an ABSOLUTE HIT.  EVERYWHERE I looked, there was NOTHING but smiles.  EVERYONE, adults, our kids and their siblings had a FANTASTIC time. Check out our Facebook page for pictures and videos!
We've decided to make the NEXT event for our kids on Sunday June 24th at 1PM.  To minimize confusion, I'm asking that everyone who wants to go, please go directly to the Event Page we have on Facebook and click "We are going" then on the Comments Section, put how many will be in your group! 
PLEASE remember that while bringing Siblings and close friends to the Event is OK, we're primarily organizing this for Our Special Needs Kids.  So if this isn't you, we would appreciate it if you would go directly to Bluefoot Pirate Adventures website and buy the regular tickets for your family. THANKS!!!
Saturday June 2nd Edit:
With one week and one day left to the event, we've had a lot of people really excited about going, which is fantastic!  Unfortunately, there's been several people, (about 14 in Total including their groups) that WANT to go, but we no longer have space.  So I'm reviving the idea of putting together another cruise.  I'm thinking about making it for the following Sunday, at the same time 3PM, but I'd like YOUR feedback if there's another day or time that works better for you.  Please let us know.  If you think the following Sunday at 3PM is perfect, PLEASE LET US KNOW.... THANKS!, now hit the "Comments Section"!
Anyone who's seen the Video for Bluefoot Pirate Adventures has wanted to take their kids out to see it.  However the price might scare some landlubbers away!  At 25.00 per person, $100.00 for the average family of 4 might seem a bit steep.  Doubly so for our families with special needs kids, as our expenses are usually higher than most.  We took Jonathan on this "High Seas Adventure" and he had the time of his life!  In this regard, the cost of admission is well worth the price. 
Jonathan at Bluefoot Pirate Adventures
As with any place, we all know that if you get a group going it's easier to get a discount, so we called Captain Jack over at Bluefoot Pirate Adventures and made a proposal to have our families come as a group if we could get a group discounted rate.  The old buccaneer gave us a run for our money, but in the end settled on a HUGE discount, showing his heart for our kids was just as squishy as a jellyfish!  Instead of the $25.00 usual fee, our group would get a fantastic rate of just $10.00 (a 60% discount) and instead of having you fork over $15.00 for the optional Sword, Pirate Eye Patch and Head scarf (all take home items), our kids would get them all for only $5.00!
Please keep in mind that while we are getting this special price for our "Special Needs" kids, family members are welcome to tag along at this same price, however since we can only fit 49 people in total on the ship, we would like to limit this event and exclude those kids who are not part of a family with a special needs child.  An exception to this would be a teacher of a special needs child who would like her children to come and accompany a child that she teaches at a special needs school, such as PBSA.  Thanks for your understanding in this regard.
Now here's the problem, We're not exactly sure how many people are interested and if we will need to do more than 1 Adventure, since We can only fit 49 43 people on a this trip so what we would like for you guys to do is to reply to this post with a: 
"Yes, we can go on June 10th - there will be X of us" (Please include everyone, Mom, Dad, Siblings)...  or:
"No, could we have a second trip on the following weekend - There are X of us".  Once we have enough of an interest for the first trip, that will help us determine if we should have a second one
Edit... It looks like there's just not enough interest in the first trip to warrant a second one, which is too bad because the kids will definitely have a blast and there's quite a few parents that have told me that they would like to go, but simply can't make this date.  Perhaps in the future we will organize another event, but at the rate this is filling up it looks like we'll probably end up with around 40 people, not quite a full ship.
As of May 24th there are only 17 spots left, so please make sure you go ahead and fill into the Comments section if you're going, or go to our Event on FB and click that you're going and add in the Comments section how many of you are coming.

Stanford Study: NAC Shows Promise as a Treatment for Repetitive Behaviours Associated with Autism

We figured since there are really no negative side effects to taking this and it's simply a nutritional supplement.  We would go ahead and give it a shot, even before the bigger studies are out.  You can follow them on Twitter to get more updates on new studies.

BY ERIN DIGITALE

Antonio Hardan
A specific antioxidant supplement may be an effective therapy for some features of autism, according to a pilot trial from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital that involved 31 children with the disorder.
The antioxidant, called N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC, lowered irritability in children with autism as well as reduced the children’s repetitive behaviors. The researchers emphasized that the findings must be confirmed in a larger trial before NAC can be recommended for children with autism.
Irritability affects 60 to 70 percent of children with autism. “We’re not talking about mild things: This is throwing, kicking, hitting, the child needing to be restrained,” said Antonio Hardan, MD, the primary author of the new study. “It can affect learning, vocational activities and the child’s ability to participate in autism therapies.”
The study appears in the June 1 issue of Biological Psychiatry. Hardan is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at Packard Children’s. Stanford is filing a patent for the use of NAC in autism, and one of the study authors has a financial stake in a company that makes and sells the NAC used in the trial.
Finding new medications to treat autism and its symptoms is a high priority for researchers. Currently, irritability, mood swings and aggression, all of which are considered associated features of autism, are treated with second-generation antipsychotics. But these drugs cause significant side effects, including weight gain, involuntary motor movements and metabolic syndrome, which increases diabetes risk. By contrast, side effects of NAC are generally mild, with gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, nausea, diarrhea and decreased appetite being the most common.
The state of drug treatments for autism’s core features, such as social deficits, language impairment and repetitive behaviors, is also a major problem. “Today, in 2012, we have no effective medication to treat repetitive behavior such as hand flapping or any other core features of autism,” Hardan said. NAC could be the first medication available to treat repetitive behavior in autism — if the findings hold up when scrutinized further.
The study tested children with autism ages 3 to 12. They were physically healthy and were not planning any changes in their established autism treatments during the trial. In a double-blind study design, children received NAC or a placebo for 12 weeks. The NAC used was a pharmaceutical-grade preparation donated by the drug manufacturer Bioadvantex Inc. Subjects were evaluated before the trial began and every four weeks during the study using several standardized surveys that measure problem behaviors, social behaviors, autistic preoccupations and drug side effects.
During the 12-week trial, NAC treatment decreased irritability scores from 13.1 to 7.2 on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, a widely used clinical scale for assessing irritability. The change is not as large as that seen in children taking antipsychotics. “But this is still a potentially valuable tool to have before jumping on these big guns,” Hardan said.
In addition, according to two standardized measures of autism mannerisms and stereotypic behavior, children taking NAC showed a decrease in repetitive and stereotyped behaviors.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do this trial was that NAC is being used by community practitioners who focus on alternative, non-traditional therapies,” Hardan said. “But there is no strong scientific evidence to support these interventions. Somebody needs to look at them.”
Hardan cautioned that the NAC for sale as a dietary supplement at drugstores and grocery stores differs in some important respects from the individually packaged doses of pharmaceutical-grade NAC used in the study, and that the over-the-counter version may not produce the same results. “When you open the bottle from the drugstore and expose the pills to air and sunlight, it gets oxidized and becomes less effective,” he said.
Although the study did not test how NAC works, the researchers speculated on two possible mechanisms of action. NAC increases the capacity of the body’s main antioxidant network, which some previous studies have suggested is deficient in autism. In addition, other research has suggested that autism is related to an imbalance in excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain. NAC can modulate the glutamatergic family of excitatory neurotransmitters, which might be useful in autism.
The scientists are now applying for funding to conduct a large, multicenter trial in which they hope to replicate their findings.
“This was a pilot study,” Hardan said. “Final conclusions cannot be made before we do a larger trial.”
Hardan’s collaborators at Stanford were Lawrence Fung, MD, a psychiatry resident; Robin Libove and Surekha Nair, MD, social science research assistants; postdoctoral scholar Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD; Lenore Herzenberg, DSc, professor of genetics and member of the Stanford Cancer Institute; and Rabindra Tirouvanziam, PhD, a former instructor in pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford who is now at the Emory University School of Medicine.
The research was supported by a grant from the Escher Family Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Herzenberg and Tirouvanziam are listed as inventors on two patents for NAC used for treating cystic fibrosis that are licensed by Bioadvantex Inc., which supplied NAC for the trial. Herzenberg also has equity in Bioadvantex.
Information about the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which also supported the research, is available online athttp://autism.lpch.org and http://psychiatry.stanford.edu

CDC and ADA Now Advise to Avoid Using Fluoride


A new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association finds once again that, contrary to what most people have been told, fluoride is actually bad for teeth.
Exposure to high levels of fluoride results in a condition known as fluorosis, in which tooth enamel becomes discolored. The condition can eventually lead to badly damaged teeth. The new study found that fluoride intake during a child's first few years of life is significantly associated with fluorosis, and warned against using fluoridated water in infant formula.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is of a similar opinion. According to their website:
"Recent evidence suggests that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing ... enamel fluorosis."



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It was 2007 when the American Dental Association (ADA) first warned that parents of infants younger than a year old "should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride" when mixing baby formula, due to concerns about fluorosis.
Now the Journal of the American Dental Association has published a study that found increased fluorosis risk among infants who were fed infant formula reconstituted with fluoride-containing water, as well as used fluoridated toothpastes.
The authors noted:
"Results suggest that prevalence of mild dental fluorosis could be reduced by avoiding ingestion of large quantities of fluoride from reconstituted powdered concentrate infant formula and fluoridated dentifrice."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also followed suit, warning on their Community Water Fluoridation page that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing enamel fluorosis.
They also state:
"In children younger than 8 years of age, combined fluoride exposure from all sources—water, food, toothpaste, mouth rinse, or other products—contributes to enamel fluorosis."
This is as far as the CDC warnings go, however, and they continue to state that water fluoridation is safe -- and dental fluorosis is only a "cosmetic" problem. In reality, neither of these assertions is true.

Dental Fluorosis is a Sign of Excessive Fluoride Intake

Dental fluorosis results in white and brown spots on your teeth. It is only caused by fluoride -- typically due to ingesting too much fluoride during your developing years, from birth to about 8 years of age. According to the CDC, about one-third of U.S. children aged 12 to 15 years have very mild to mild forms of enamel fluorosis on their teeth.
Promoters of fluoridation say that these markings are "just cosmetic," but it can also be an indication that the rest of your body, such as your bones and the rest of your organs, including your brain, has been exposed to too much fluoride also.
As Dr. Paul Connett, a chemist specializing in environmental chemistry, explained in our recent interview:
"We know that 32 percent of American children have been overexposed to fluoride because you have this telltale sign of dental fluorosis, which in its mildest form is little white specs. But when it gets more serious, it affects more of the surface of your teeth and it becomes colored; yellow, brown and orange mottling of the teeth …
The teeth are the window to the bones. If you've seen the damage to the teeth, what damage can you not see?"
In other words, if fluoride is having a detrimental, visual effect on the surface of your teeth, you can be virtually guaranteed that it's also damaging something else inside your body, such as your bones.
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being replaced through cellular turnover. Bone building is a finely balanced, complicated process. Fluoride has been known to disrupt this process ever since the 1930s.

Why it's Dangerous to Swallow Fluoride

The United States is one of only eight countries in the entire developed world that fluoridates more than 50 percent of its water supply. It is added under the guise that it helps prevent and control tooth decay …
This is in spite of the fact that there never been any demonstrated difference in tooth decay between countries with fluoridated and non-fluoridated water, and no difference between states that have a high- or low percentage of their water fluoridated.
Even promoters of fluoridation concede that the major benefits are topical; fluoride works from the outside of the tooth, not from inside of your body, so why swallow it?
The fluoride added to your drinking water is in fact a chemical waste product! It is NOT something you should use as a supplement to your diet.
There are plenty of studies showing the dangers of fluoride to your health, such as:
As far as tooth decay is concerned, this is not caused by lack of fluoride.
Tooth decay is caused by acids in your mouth, typically created from sugar being metabolized by bacteria (Streptococcus mutans), and as you may already know, the number one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup.
The acid produced then attacks your enamel. Eventually the bacteria can get into the dentine, at which point tooth decay sets in. So there are far better options for decreasing tooth decay than using a topical or ingested poison, with a chief one being minimizing your intake of sugary foods and eating a healthful diet.
You typically don't find dental caries in more primitive societies that do not consume vast amounts of sugar like in the United States.

Make Sure Your Children are Not Exposed to Fluoride

One of dentist Bill Osmunson's main concerns is water fluoridation for infants. The ADA and the CDC now both recommend that infants NOT receive fluoridated water for drinking, nor for making their formula, as fluoridated water contains 250 times more fluoride than mother's milk.
"We shouldn't fluoridate water and harm our most vulnerable," Dr. Osmunson says.
It is my strong belief and recommendation to avoid giving your children fluoridated water.
Unfortunately, the only way to ensure your water is pure enough to drink is by installing ahigh quality water filtration system in your house, such as a reverse osmosis filter that can filter out much of the fluoride and other dangerous water contaminants like disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
Remember that most bottled water also typically contains fluoride, even though it's not stated on the label, and whatever you do, avoid using "nursery water," which is fluoridated water sold specifically for infants.
Fluoride in your drinking water is one more reason why breastfeeding your infant is so essential. Nature has kept breast milk virtually fluoride-free for a reason.
If you are unable to breastfeed and are instead using formula, make sure the water you use is fluoride-free. Again, for now the best way you can provide pure, fluoride-free water to your family is by using a reverse osmosis filter, which you can install in your home.
Even better, if you are unable to breastfeed use this recipe to make homemade infant formula using raw milk and no water at all.
Keep in mind also that if you are a pregnant woman it is equally important for your water to be fluoride-free, as this chemical can harm your developing fetus.

The Ultimate Solution is to Get Fluoride Out of Tap Water

Even though the ADA and the CDC have issued warnings that parents not use fluoridated tap water to make infant formula, neither of them has openly informed the public!
So there are millions of parents out there using tap water to make up formula, oblivious of the fact that the agencies that promote fluoridation in this country have issued a specific warning against using fluoridated water for this purpose.
Not only that, but by fluoridating the municipal water supply you doom many low-income families to fail to protect their young children from this dangerous drug, even if they have this information, as they simply don't have the resources to install a reverse osmosis system.
This is why the only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the United States.
The Fluoride Action Network is an absolutely phenomenal resource for further education, and they're doing much to pressure the US government for change. We will be working together to devise a complete game plan to tackle this issue head on. Once we reach the tipping point, which may be as little as 5 percent of the population, we will be able to reverse the policies of water fluoridation.
Our strategy will begin with addressing Canada, because 60 percent of Canada is already un-fluoridated. If we can get the rest of Canada to stop fluoridating their water, we believe the U.S. will be forced to follow.
You can visit www.FluorideAlert.org for the most recent updates and progress, as well as tips on how you can get involved and take action in this important cause.
In addition, I highly recommend getting a copy of Dr. Connett's new book, The Case Against Fluoride, for more information on the bad science and political agendas that got this toxic chemical in our drinking water and is, at least for now, keeping it there.


Sources:

Oxytocin: A New Treatment for Autism?

There are a few studies out there showing promise for helping our kids by utilizing the "Love Hormone", Oxytocin.  Unfortunately, most of these studies are YEARS away from completion and in the mean time we as parents wonder, should we gamble and use the nasal spray or the drops now, not knowing the possible side effects or should we wait for the research, possibly too late for our kids.

Please keep in mind that since the FDA has not categorized Oxytocin as a "Food Supplement", most of the Oxytocin products you see out there for sale MIGHT be scams, not containing any real Oxytocin at all.

Fortunately, there are things you can do right now to naturally increase Oxytocin levels in your child, without worrying about any harmful side effects.  While most of our kids are past the breastfeeding years, which naturally creates huge quantities of Oxytocin, certain things like cuddling and massages definitely helps to increase those hormone levels.  Many of our kids have an aversion to regular hugs and closeness, but at the same time, they might be OK with a back rub or a foot massage.  We usually give our son a massage of sorts putting lotion on him after an Epsom Salt bath, when putting him to bed.  This kind of routine might be just what our kids need to raise those Oxytocin Levels, without resorting to trying an untested hormone on our kids.

Here's some interesting reading we've found on this subject:

The ‘Bonding Hormone’ That Might Cure Autism


News about autism is almost always controversial, but the latest report that has people abuzz—about researchers who have successfully treated some symptoms of the disorder using a nasal spray of oxytocin—shouldn't come as much of a shock. Scientists have been experimenting with oxytocin as an autism treatment for years. In the new study, conducted by French researchers, 13 subjects with "high-functioning autism" (a.k.a. Asperger syndrome) became more trusting and socially engaged under the hormone's influence. It's a small study, but it has big implications, and it tracks with findings from other researchers. Mary Carmichael spoke with one of those scientists, Eric Hollander, who is the director of the compulsive, impulsive, and autism spectrum disorders program at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Excerpts below, with our easier-to-understand translation:


What is the oxytocin spray actually doing in the brains of these patients? 

Hollander: In patients with autism, the fusiform gyrus doesn't seem to light up in response to human faces. They light up an adjacent region called the inferior temporal gyrus, which normally gets lit up when people are looking at man-made objects. But we seem to get more recruitment of the fusiform gyrus when we administer oxytocin.

This means: Unlike a healthy brain, an autistic one may not recognize human faces as something special—it puts them in the same category as regular objects. By boosting levels of oxytocin, researchers may be able to fix that problem, causing the autistic brain to respond to faces in a more normal way.
Hollander: We've seen effects in another region, called Brodmann Area 25, which is very active in individuals who have treatment-resistant depression. High-functioning adults with autism also have a very active Area 25, and in response to the oxytocin, there's a big reduction in activity.
This means: Oxytocin tamps down activity in a part of the brain that's linked to depression and stress. "Area 25" activates the "fight-or-flight response." If it malfunctions and starts firing all the time, it causes people to feel chronically stressed out. By calming down the activity in Area 25, oxytocin also calms down patients.
Do people with autism have abnormally low levels of oxytocin? 

Hollander: It's challenging to measure the blood-plasma levels of oxytocin—it can be released in blips throughout the day, so it varies—but studies in children have found abnormalities in the plasma levels, and the subgroup of children with autism who are the most socially aloof tend to have the lowest levels of oxytocin. There are also studies in monkeys that have measured oxytocin levels in the spinal fluid as well as in the plasma. These studies show if you inhibit nurturing behaviors early in life, the spinal fluid and plasma levels of oxytocin are low, and they stay low throughout life.

This means: The data isn't perfect, but children with autism, especially severe cases, seem to have low oxytocin levels. Primate research, which is in some ways more rigorous, has shown that monkeys deprived of maternal love as infants tend to have chronically low levels of oxytocin throughout their lives.
Monkeys deprived of love have low oxytocin levels, and so do kids with autism? Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the discredited“refrigerator mother” hypothesis? 

Hollander: In extreme cases of maternal deprivation, like children raised in orphanages without any early maternal behavior, there can be a long-lasting effect on oxytocin that's associated with social deficits. However, that probably is not the case with good or bad mothering. These are extreme cases of total lack of nurturing.

This means: This research does not mean that autism can be blamed on bad parents. The only time there might be links between parenting, oxytocin, and autismlike behavioral problems is in cases when a child has had no meaningful interaction with caregivers whatsoever.
Some behavioral therapies seem to help people with autism, especially if they're delivered early in life. Is it possible that these therapies work by increasing oxytocin levels? 

Hollander: Those therapies are really important—that's the whole point of diagnosing autism early, because the therapies can really improve the long-term developmental trajectory—but nobody has specifically measured oxytocin in response to them. I can tell you that there are things we know of that can enhance oxytocin levels. Deep pressure massage does it, and breast-feeding, and sexual intercourse. We also know that patients with autism tend to calm down by doing certain physical activities, like lying underneath a mattress or using Temple Grandin's  squeeze machine."



 This means: Nobody knows how behavioral therapies for autism affect oxytocin levels. We do know that in healthy people, affectionate physical contact increases oxytocin, which is a "calming" hormone. We also know that many people with autism find that being "squeezed" (albeit not by people) is calming.

The study looked at oxytocin's effect on social behaviors. You've also found it can affect other symptoms of autism, as well as other disorders. What are those effects? 

Hollander: There is a group of behaviors that are self-stimulatory. When patients with autism are bored, they start to do things like hand-flapping or rocking back and forth to get up to their optimal level of stimulation. You actually see this in other species if you restrict input of sensory signals—if you put a tiger in a small cage, for instance, it will start to pace back and forth. With those types of behaviors, we saw a big decrease in response to the oxytocin. There are other, anxiety-related behaviors that seem to respond better to very low doses of SSRIs. We've also looked at patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), who are exquisitely sensitive to social rejection. What we found was that when they got a single dose of the intranasal oxytocin in a situation where they had stress, like if they had to do a mathematical computation in front of other people who were evaluating them, there was a normalized cortisol response. But patients with BPD also have impairment in their social decision making, so in situations where they should be cooperating, they tend to defect, and in situations where it would make sense to defect, they try to cooperate. Paradoxically, the oxytocin made that abnormal decision making even worse. It's possible that the oxytocin was stimulating their vasopressin receptors.

This means: When they're given oxytocin, patients with autism aren't as likely to engage in some odd behaviors typical of the disorder (hand-flapping, rocking), which are thought to keep them from getting bored. But they do still tend to engage in other behaviors (hand-washing, compulsively putting things in order), which are more about staying calm. This second group of behaviors can be decreased by giving low doses of antidepressants. Oxytocin also has an interesting effect on patients with another illness, borderline personality disorder—it helps them by making them less stressed out but hurts them by causing them to make very bad social decisions, possibly because it accidentally binds to receptors in the brain linked to aggression.
How long do the effects of the oxytocin last? 

Hollander: Even though it's staying in the plasma for a very brief period of time, we were getting effects in terms of enhanced social memories that seemed to persist two weeks later. Some of it is binding to central oxytocin receptors, and by stimulating those, it's allowing for the laying down of new social memories. Once those are laid down they seem to persist. So, we had people listen to neutral sentences, like "The boy went to the store," but we read those sentences with different tones—happy, sad, angry, or indifferent—and they had to recognize each tone. They developed an expertise in that. They were better at identifying the tones two weeks after the oxytocin was given. We don't know whether it's permanent.

This means: When it comes to correctly identifying others' emotions and recognizing social cues, oxytocin's effects last at least two weeks—possibly because while the oxytocin levels are artificially increased, the brain is better at creating new, long-lasting memories.
What would happen if nonautistic people used an oxytocin spray? 

Hollander: When you show people threatening faces, they have a marked activation of the amygdala. If you then give those people oxytocin, they don't get as much amygdala activation, so there's less of this fight-or-flight, threat, fear response. And normally, you'd get an elevation in blood pressure, clammy skin. You don't get as much of that either.

This means: They'd be less scared of things, and probably less stressed.
Do you worry that an oxytocin nasal spray would end up being abused by healthy people if the FDA approved it for treating autism? 

Hollander: We're still far away from getting this approved in the U.S. for the treatment of autism. You'd need to do a large-scale trial, which hasn't been done yet. But the idea of people using this as a spray to enhance performance—I certainly wouldn't want to advocate that. I'm not sure it would be used in a recreational fashion. It has the potential for decreasing the sensation of social threat, and for enhancing social reward and reinforcement and facilitating trust, but I'm not sure it makes people feel euphoric or high. There are medicines that are on the market for the treatment of social anxiety disorder, and they don't seem to be abused in a recreational fashion. I don't see people who are a little shy going out and using SSRIs at parties. On the other hand, a lot of them do self-medicate with alcohol.

This means: Well, what he said. We think this message is pretty clear.

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