A neurologist breaks with professional orthodoxy to shed new light on the diagnosis and treatment of autism.
In her debut, Herbert (Neurology/Harvard Medical School) embraces a new framework that goes beyond her experience as a physician and researcher to embrace the hard-won knowledge of patients and their families. She writes that she and her colleagues are now investigating “all sorts of brain and body indicators,” including brain scans, environmental factors, metabolism, etc. The author explains that the more she worked with patients the more she was faced with a choice—“ ‘to see what I believed' or 'believe what I see.’ ” Either she would accept traditional wisdom that autism was a genetically determined, incurable brain disorder or recognize “the extraordinary capabilities and changes [she] saw in her patients.” Taking the latter path, Herbert began to reject the view that autism is a primarily a genetically determined, neurological disorder. She reports anecdotal evidence of remarkable improvement in autistic children who appear to have digestive problems assimilating gluten or casein when these were eliminated from their diet. Herbert also notes that neurologists are “slowly recognizing the many crucial roles played by glial cells” in the brain. These make up 85 percent of the brain and play a critical role in the brain's immune system and facilitate the functioning of neurons. The author speculates that autism may be caused when they malfunction rather than by neurological problems. Her message to caregivers is clear and simple: Autistic symptoms should be treated using a whole body approach—“go for the extraordinary.”
An important book with broader implications than its specific subject.