Redefining Autism: the misnomer of a “mental” diagnostic label

Parents, scientists, and some clinicians are recognizing that behavioral and other manifestations of autism can have root causes in physiological conditions in parts of the body other than the brain. Medical comorbidities that often occur in children with a diagnostic label of autism include gastrointestinal disorders (reflux/diarrhea); mitochondrial disease; seizure disorders (febrile/epileptic); sleeping disorders; impaired sensory processing; and more.

Research has shown that early diagnosis is crucial for a positive prognosis for children with autism. If comorbid medical symptoms can be used to recognize vulnerability to an autism diagnosis earlier, then vulnerable children may be identified and monitored at a younger age, allowing preventative intervention -- this includes limiting environmental exposures that could potentially exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, children who already have an autism diagnosis can potentially receive essential intervention, yielding a significant level of remediation.

Sheri A. Marino, MA, CCC-SLP

Sheri A. Marino MA, CCC-SLP, is an advisor to Focus for Health. Sheri has a BA in speech pathology and audiology and an MA in communication sciences and disorders. She founded Rocking Horse Rehab, a pediatric rehabilitation and family wellness center in West Orange, NJ, in 2001 and currently serves as executive director of The Autism Think Tank, NJ, which brings together a team of world-renowned doctors using telemedicine to collaborate on complex cases of autism with medical comorbidities.