Autism book by Harvard researcher offers holistic strategies but no guarantees


A study suggests that having some pasta at dinner might not be bad for people trying to lose weight. (JULIA EWAN/THE WASHINGTON POST)
April 8, 2013
Medicine
A new approach to tackling autism
“The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be” by Martha Herbert

Often, parents of autistic children are told that the disorder is genetically hard-wired, destined to remain fixed forever. A new book offers parents hope for a different outcome.

“The Autism Revolution,” by Harvard Medical School researcher and clinician Martha Herbert, aims to approach autism methodically, with strategies to help parents better meet their child’s needs and make their lives as full as possible.

Herbert shares real-life success stories of children and adults on the autism spectrum who, as she describes them, “didn’t follow the textbooks.” They followed recommendations to optimize nutrition, strengthen immunity and reduce stress and environmental toxins. They “got better — some dramatically so,” writes Herbert.

The book is based on the idea that environment and genetics, the body and the brain, all play powerful roles in how autism is expressed. Viewed this way, autism becomes a collection of problems that can be solved or, at least, managed. Herbert writes, “you get a very different story than the hopeless-genetic-lifelong-brain-damage tale that most of us thought was the truth.” She uses success stories of patients in her clinical practice, combined with new scientific research, to support this.

It is unclear, however, what makes this book “revolutionary.” Her holistic approach isn’t unheard of in medicine and Herbert herself acknowledges that her strategies aren’t a cure; there’s no guarantee that any of her recommendations will work and what helps one person won’t necessarily help another. The book is designed to be “an organizing framework,” she writes, one in which “small adjustments can sometimes trigger big changes.”

Weight Loss
Eating carbs with dinner might help you slim down, but don’t overdo it
Self, April issue

One of the most pervasive diet tips may be getting turned on its head, according to new research.

Self reports in its April issue that eating carbs at night doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the waistline. A study in the journal Obesity found that people who followed a low-calorie diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner had higher levels of leptin, a hormone associated with feelings of satisfaction and appetite suppression, than dieters who did not. Additionally, the dieters who ate the carbs lost more weight.

The magazine notes, however, that a serving of carbs is the equivalent of a cup of whole-wheat pasta — not an entire loaf of bread.

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