Sunday 24 January 2021

Autism and the Police – challenging behaviors leading to restraint


Today’s post is about an issue that seems to cause a problem in some countries far more than others. While some people with mild autism (Asperger’s) may feel anxiety when dealing with the police, the big problem occurs when the police are called in to restrain someone with severe autism and particularly someone who is also non-verbal with MR/ID.  Most people with untreated severe autism actually have MR/ID, even if it was never diagnosed.

It would never occur to me to call the police to restrain my own son, but in North America this is a regular occurrence.  It sometimes does not end well, often it was the parents who called the police, when it is not the parents it is likely to be the school. The research shows that most often the police in the US do successfully resolve the incident.

I did ask my son’s assistant what she knows about the police dealing with aggressive autistic people. She knows lots of people with autism and parents. She initially did not understand my question, because where we live nobody would think to call the police to deal with their autistic son/daughter. You would just deal with it yourself, as best as you could.  Even if you did call the police, there is nowhere for them to take an aggressive person with autism.

Schools have a difficult job dealing with people with autism who exhibit challenging behaviors.  They have a range of options that do include restraint and indeed seclusion.  Monty, now aged 17 with autism, used to have a male 1:1 assistant for a couple of years.  The assistant was training to be a speech therapist and also worked at a special school. Because he was a male in his mid-twenties and athletic, he was the first option when a child in the school got aggressive and needed restraining. In some schools this restraint involves several staff and it is not without risks to all involved.


A Dreaded Part Of Teachers' Jobs: Restraining And Secluding Students

Earlier this year, an NPR investigation with WAMU and Oregon Public Broadcasting found deep problems in how school districts report restraint and seclusion. Following that investigation, NPR reached out to educators about their experiences with these practices. 

The view of some unhappy UK parents:-

Disabled children ‘constantly’ physically restrained and left with bruises and trauma, parents say

Small children are sometimes placed in a supposedly safe room and left alone to calm down. 

Our son was always in school with his own 1:1 assistant and never required any intervention from the school’s staff, even when he had extremely “challenging” behaviors as an 8 year old. At that time he only went to school in the morning and his assistant at that time, though female, was very tall, young and sporty and so well able to take care of physical behaviors, so keeping the peace in the classroom.


Challenging Behaviors as Children get Bigger

Young children with autism do have meltdowns for numerous reasons, but these are not usually difficult to deal with.  As children get bigger and stronger, challenging behaviors can become so severe that parents struggle to cope.

When Monty had his 9 months of raging, he was only eight years old; I could easily pick him up and hold him upside down, which was his “reset button”. At his current age of 17 years old, I could still do this …  but I might drop him if he wriggled.

Hopefully, parents figure out and treat challenging behaviors in childhood and so are not left with an aggressive autistic adult to deal with.  It is these adult-sized people with challenging behavior who are at risk if they encounter the police. Given the difficulty special schools have dealing with aggressive autistic kids; it is hardly surprising that many police officers lack the skills to safely restrain an aggressive adult-sized person with autism. In my opinion an untrained police officer is entirely the wrong people to be involved.

One piece of advice I was given shortly after Monty was diagnosed with autism, was from my doctor mother, “make sure he does not get aggressive, as he gets older”.  This is very wise advice, perhaps rather easier said than done, but was based on her seeing what actually happens to adults with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Here is a study from Canada exploring families living with a child with autism and challenging behaviors.


Home Sweet Home? Families’ Experiences With Aggression in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Although not inherent to the diagnosis, many individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) display aggressive behavior. This study examined the experiences of families living with individuals with ASD who also demonstrate aggressive behaviors. Using a qualitative approach, semi structured interviews were conducted with parents of nine males with autism and aggression. Eight families’ homes also were observed. Through constant-comparison analysis of interview data, triangulated with home observations, three central processes were identified: deleterious impact on daily routines and well-being of family members, limited supports and services, and financial strain. Emergent themes included isolation, exhaustion, safety concerns, home expenses, respite needs, and limited professional supports and alternative housing. Examination of families’ experiences living with someone with ASD who is aggressive, and the impact of aggression on the supports and services that families receive, constitutes an important step in tailoring resources to best meet families’ needs.


The families who participated in this study demonstrated great resiliency in the face of adverse living situations. Many families of individuals with ASD become more optimistic and accepting of their children’s diagnoses over time, relying less on formal supports and services. Unfortunately, this optimism was not expressed by the families who participated in this study because aggression presented significant and pervasive challenges to their families, for which adequate knowledge, supports, and services were not in place. Many of the families in this study received ASD specific medical, home- and community-based services in a geographic location known to have a relatively high level of service for individuals with ASD; however, parents perceived that none of these services were equipped to deal with aggression


Canada is one of the better countries when it comes to dealing with severe autism.

In the United Kingdom, when it comes to autism and the police, it appears that neither party is satisfied.

Experiences of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Policing in England and Wales: Surveying Police and the Autism Community 

An online survey gathered the experiences and views of 394 police officers (from England and Wales) regarding autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Just 42 % of officers were satisfied with how they had worked with individuals with ASD and reasons for this varied. Although officers acknowledged the need for adjustments, organisational/time constraints were cited as barriers. Whilst 37 % of officers had received training on ASD, a need for training tailored to policing roles (e.g., frontline officers, detectives) was identified. Police responses are discussed with respect to the experiences of the ASD community (31 adults with ASD, 49 parents), who were largely dissatisfied with their experience of the police and echoed the need for police training on ASD.


I came across a very detailed study from the US, with very many links to other papers, for those interested in this topic. In the US it seems that most parents are satisfied with encounters with the police.  Given the bad impression of the American police given by much of the media, this is very noteworthy and encouraging. 

Correlates of Police Involvement Among Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This study aimed to describe police interactions, satisfaction with police engagement, as well as examine correlates of police involvement among 284 adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) followed over a 12- to 18-month period. Approximately 16% of individuals were reported to have some form of police involvement during the study period. Aggressive behaviors were the primary concern necessitating police involvement. Individuals with police involvement were more likely to be older, have a history of aggression, live outside the family home, and have parents with higher rates of caregiver strain and financial difficulty at baseline. Most parents reported being satisfied to very satisfied with their children's police encounters. Areas for future research are discussed in relation to prevention planning.


Similar to past studies concerning emergency service use among individuals with ASD (e.g., emergency department and psychiatric in-patient services; Kalb et al. 2012; Lunsky et al. 2015; Mandell 2008), aggression was the primary presenting concern resulting in police contact in the current study. A significant proportion of police resources are expended on resolving mental health crises in the community (de Tribolet-Hardy et al. 2015; Short et al. 2014). The appropriateness of such police involvement has been questioned due to the time, cost, and lack of adequate mental health training provided to police (Clifford 2010; Fry et al. 2002). Research concerning more effective solutions to responding to psychiatric crises, such as the use of crisis intervention teams (Franz and Borum 2011; Compton et al. 2008), is promising and should be extended to include individuals with ASD. A history of aggression differentiated individuals who did and who did not interact with police in the observation period. Aggressive behaviors commonly occur in ASD (Kanne and Mazurek 2011; Matson and Rivet 2008; Mazurek et  al. 2013), with rates reported to occur in up to 68% of affected individuals at some point in their lives (Lecavalier 2006). These behaviors can result in negative physical, emotional, and financial consequences for family members (Hartley et  al. 2012; Hodgetts et  al. 2013). Despite a high need and the recognized existence of effective empirically based interventions, there is often a lack of professional knowledge and community-based resources to assist individuals with ASD and their families deal with aggressive behaviors (Hodgetts et  al. 2013; White et  al. 2012). In the current study, an individual’s history of aggressive behavior, caregiver strain and police contact were associated with each other, further highlighting the need for appropriate community-based family supports. Police contact in the observation period was more likely among older individuals with ASD, those living outside of the family home, and individuals without structured day activities at baseline. Age, family involvement, service use and/or community involvement have similarly been shown to predict involvement with police and the greater criminal justice system among typically developing youth (Greenberg and Lippold 2013; Ryan and Yang 2005; Williams et al. 2007). There is a recognized decline in service availability in the adult service sector for individuals with ASD; a phenomenon referred to as a “service cliff” in past ASD research (Shattuck et al. 2011; Turcotte et al. 2016). Findings from the current study emphasize the importance of developing supports and service models to meet the needs of this population. Autism spectrum disorder symptom severity and ID status were not associated with police contact in this convenience sample. Similarly, Rava et al. (2017) found no association between individuals’ conversation ability and police contact. The diversity of individuals’ presentations emphasizes the broad training police may need to properly understand and interact with all individuals with ASD. To this effect, ASD support and advocacy organizations have initiated various tools to assist individuals with ASD disclose their diagnosis and individualized communication needs to law enforcement officers (e.g., information cards; Debbaudt 2006). The efficacy of these tools from the perspectives of the individual with ASD and law enforcement officials is an area for future research. Most police interactions did not result in criminal charges being brought against the individual with ASD. This replicates Rava et al.’s (2017) increased rate of police contact compared to convictions. In the current study, police contact resulted in a variety of outcomes, including crisis resolution, transportation to the emergency department, and/or physical restraint. Additionally, parents reported that police involvement had a calming effect in nearly half of all incidents and reported, on average, being somewhat satisfied with their children’s interactions with police. This is in contrast with a recent U.K. based study where almost three-quarters of surveyed parents of adults with ASD reported unsatisfactory ratings of their interactions with police officers (Crane et  al. 2016). In addition to being from a different jurisdiction, that study included only retrospective reports from caregivers who had police involvement, whereas our study followed a larger group of families forward, some of whom had police involvement in the observation period.


In the study below from Australia, it concludes that more training and awareness is needed by the local police when called in to deal with autistic people being violent at home. Not surprisingly, it is the parents who usually get attacked by the autistic person – so better keep in shape! 

Domestic violence events involving autism: a text mining study of police records in New South Wales, 2005-2016


·      Text mining was applied to domestic violence police records in Australia.

·      Domestic violence involving autism most commonly involves parent-child relationships.

·      Autistic domestic violence more commonly involves intellectual disability.


Recent research and high-profile media cases have suggested an association between autism spectrum disorder and violent behaviour. Whilst certain characteristics of autism may make individuals vulnerable to increased involvement with the police, either as a victim or person of interest, evidence regarding this is scant. The present study used a population-based dataset to describe the characteristics of domestic violence events involving autistic and non-autistic adults.


Text mining and descriptive statistics were applied to police-recorded data for 1,601 domestic violence events involving autism and 414,840 events not involving autism in the state of New South Wales, Australia from January 2005 to December 2016.


The relationship between autistic victims and perpetrators was predominantly familial or carer whereas events not involving autism were predominantly involved intimate partners. Abuse types and injuries sustained were similar for both autistic and non-autistic events. The most common mental conditions present in autistic perpetrators were developmental conditions and intellectual disability, whilst non-autistic perpetrators most commonly reported psychoactive substance use or schizophrenia.


These results highlight the need to further understand the risk factors for strain and violence in relationships between autistic adults and their family members or carers, especially for those with comorbid behavioural developmental conditions. Given the uniqueness of domestic violence involving autism found in this study and the potentially unique nature of the circumstances surrounding these events, appropriate police awareness and training in relation to autism is needed.

Unfortunately, calling for help, whether from the police or a psychiatric hospital can lead to a quick downward spiral of events, from which there may be no return. 

In the US there are residential places at Kennedy Krieger where they try and treat children with extremely challenging behaviour – good luck to them!  The idea is that after a few weeks the child gets sent home. There are very limited places and I wonder who pays for them.

Where we live, there still are some residential mental institutions.  One boy we know of got very aggressive towards his mother and he was sent to live in such a facility, surrounded by adults with schizophrenia and other conditions.  This boy actually likes living there, it is very structured and there are activities, so he is not trying to escape home.


France and Belgium

I did meet a French former classmate of mine a few years ago and she told me all about her nephew with severe autism. Life got so bad with his aggression at home that, as a young boy, he was sent to live in an institution in Belgium.

I always remember this because I thought it extremely odd that a large country like France would send its disabled children across the border to live in little Belgium. I also wondered who paid for this.

The family were in no rush for the boy to come home and in fact feared the day when he would age out of the Belgian facility for children.

Across the world mental hospitals for adults have been shut down and they have not really been adequately replaced with alternatives. So there may be nowhere to go.

The French sending kids with autism to Belgium has actually been going on for years, as you can read below.

Disabled French Alone – or Sent to Belgium

For years France has been sending disabled citizens to Belgium. This kind of “forced exile”, denounced by the paper Libération, applies especially to adults. Problems are a bit different for children: certain parents are themselves addressing Belgium because it proposes education methods, especially for autistic children, which still do not exist in France. 

In his latest report, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights reproached the French government for depriving an estimated 20 000 disabled children of school education. 



The research suggests that 2 in 3 people with autism will engage in aggressive behaviors at some point in their life. These tend to be learned behaviors, meaning once they develop they are likely to reoccur.  Once the "beast within" has been discovered, it is really a case of controlling it, rather than banishing it forever; it is likely both biological and behavioral.

For children with challenging aggressive behavior, there should be an urgency to resolve the issue as much as possible, otherwise the future will not be bright.  Psychiatric drugs are unlikely to be the answer, they are just a band-aid with troubling side effects.

Calling the police to deal with an aggressive adult-sized person with autism does seem to be asking for even more trouble. In the US, it may work well for some people, some of the time, if they happen to have extremely understanding and well-trained first responders, but I think their luck will eventually run out.

Without aggressive behavior there would be no need for institutionalization, in a strict setting.

The medical literature and parent reports are scattered with many clues and ideas of how to resolve challenging aggressive behavior in autism; you just have to look and the sooner the better. It may well take time to find the optimal solution, but the sooner you start looking, the sooner you will find it.  Verapamil is an effective solution in my case, but yours is very likely to be different.  Nobody keeps a comprehensive list to refer to.

Based on the studies I reviewed, the police in the US are doing a better job dealing with autism than the police in some other countries. This is not the impression you get from media reporting, which makes it seem that the cops will just shoot you, or suffocate you, if you are autistic and aggressive. So a pat on the back is deserved.

Monday 11 January 2021

2021 Autism PollyPill To Do List – Speech ↑ and Misophonia ↓


 A few ideas remain to be fine-tuned

Having started to develop my son’s polytherapy for autism back in December 2012, is there anything left to develop in 2021?

As we have seen, the biggest impact from interventions is when you start them very young, but improvement is possible at any age.

I was asked at the recent Synchrony autism conference what is next for the PolyPill?  and I replied that more spontaneous expressive language is my main target.  I have a good idea of what may help.

·        Calcium folinate, increased over 6 weeks to 45mg/day

·        Sulforaphane, with added Myrosinase in the form of Wasabi

I was contacted by a researcher from that Synchrony conference, suggesting that Low Level LED Therapy (LLLT) was worth trying to improve the use of speech.  It does seem to benefit people with many types of brain injury.  I did write a post on LLLT using lasers, not LEDs, in autism and there was a promising trial in Havana, which I shared with the researcher.


Many of the suggested modes of action of LLLT were in this graphic.

Click to enlarge the graphic

Another suggested mode of action for LLLT concerns improved drainage of lymph from the brain.  This is a known problem in some forms of dementia. Among alternative autism practitioners there are all kinds of manual lymphatic draining therapies.


PDE4 inhibitors 

Some readers are using PDE4 inhibitors as the anti-inflammatory component of their personal autism polytherapy.

The 3 “common” choices are: -

·        Pentoxifylline, cheap and even trialled a few decades ago in children with autism. It has a short half-life and is a non-selective PDE inhibitor.  It also has an interesting effect on HDAC, that can make chemotherapy work better.

·        Roflumilast, more expensive and normally used to treat exacerbations in COPD, but patented at a lower dose as a cognitive enhancer. It is more selective for PDE4 than Pentoxifylline and has a long half-life.

·      Ibudilast, common in Japan as an asthma therapy and now a potential treatment for MS (multiple sclerosis).  It is available in Germany, imported to order, with a prescription.


PDE inhibitors are not very selective and so some people get side effects.  The big one seems to be nausea. Side effects may well fade over time.

I did try Roflumilast at the supposedly cognitively enhancing dose of 100mcg, a couple of years ago, but it did cause nausea. The nausea may well fade away after a few weeks.  Roflumilast may also reduce the sensory gating problem common, in autism, but only at a dose of 100mcg, higher doses lost this effect.  All is in this old post below.

Impaired sensory gating is driven by HCN channels that need to be blocked.  The science shows us various ways this can be achieved, as I explained in the post below. You can target alpha-2A adrenergic receptors, reduce stress or reduce cAMP.

What is cAMP?  Look here: -


Cognitive Loss/Impaired Sensory Gating from HCN Channels - Recovered by PDE4 Inhibition or an α2A Receptor Agonist

… in earlier post we saw that α7 nAChR agonists, like nicotine, improve sensory gating and indeed that people with schizophrenia tend to be smokers. It turns out that nicotine is also an HCN channel blocker.

Stress appears to flood PFC neurons with cAMP, which opens HCN channels, temporarily disconnects networks, and impairs higher cognitive abilities.

This would explain why stress makes people’s sensory gating problems get worse. So, someone with Asperger’s would get more distracted/disturbed at exam time at school for example, or when he goes for a job interview. Reducing stress is another method to improve sensory gating and indeed cognition. 

Alpha-2A adrenergic receptors near the HCN channels, on those dendritic spines, inhibit the production of cAMP and the HCN channels stay closed, allowing the information to pass through into the cell, connecting the network. These Alpha-2A adrenergic receptors are stimulated by a natural brain chemical norepinephrine, or by drugs like Guanfacine.

While the researchers at Yale patented the idea of HCN blockers to improve cognition, we can see how other existing ideas to improve cognition may indeed have the same mechanism, most notably PDE4 inhibitors.

One effect of a PDE4 inhibitor is that it reduces cAMP. So, a PDE4 inhibitor acts indirectly like an HCN blocker.

Not surprisingly recent research showed that low doses of Roflumilast improves sensory gating in those affected by this issue.

So rather than waiting for a brain selective HCN blocker, the potential exists to use a one fifth dose of Roflumilast today.


HCN channels play a role in many neurological conditions.  It does get rather complicated, but if you successfully target these ion channels you are definitely at the cutting edge of science. 

Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels: An Emerging Role in Neurodegenerative Diseases 

The low dose Roflumilast might be a good choice for Aspies who get bothered by noises like clocks ticking and people chewing gum.

Pentoxifylline is very cheap, but the short half-life means you might need to take it three times a day.

100mcg of Roflumilast is 1/5th of a standard Daxas pill for COPD, which means crushing it and dividing in 5 parts.  This does also make it much cheaper, one pack would last you 5 months.

I will retry Roflumilast and also give Pentoxifylline a try. 

Based on the science, I think 100mcg of Roflumilast really should have a benefit in much autism.

I know other readers are using Pentoxifylline or Ibudilast.

All these PDE inhibitor drugs are normally used in adults. 




Misophonia is a disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance. Those who have Misophonia might describe it as when a sound “drives you crazy.” Their reactions can range from anger and annoyance to panic and the need to flee.  The disorder is sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

Individuals with Misophonia often report they are triggered by oral sounds  -- the noise someone makes when they eat, breathe, or even chew. Other adverse sounds include. keyboard or finger tapping or the sound of windshield wipers. Sometimes a small repetitive motion is the cause -- someone fidgets, jostles you, or wiggles their foot.


Impaired P50 gating


In electroencephalography, the P50 is an event related potential occurring approximately 50 ms after the presentation of a stimulus, usually an auditory click.The P50 response is used to measure sensory gating, or the reduced neurophysiological response to redundant stimuli.

Research has found an abnormal P50 suppression in people with schizophrenia, making it an example of a biological marker for the disorder. Besides schizophrenia, abnormal P50 suppression has been found in patients with traumatic brain injuryrecreational drug use, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


It looks to me that:-


Misophonia = Impaired P50 gating  = Impaired sensory gating


Recent clinical trials using Roflumilast: -


Cognitive Effects of Roflumilast in MCI Patients (ROMEMA)

dose 50 mcg   100 mcg


Roflumilast and Cognition (EEGrofl) 

dose 100mcg, 300mcg, 1,000 mcg


Roflumilast: A potential drug for the treatment of cognitive impairment?

 Roflumilast is the one and perhaps the only drug which shows a dose dependent occupancy of PED-4 in primate models and at doses proven to be very safe in humans, has shown its efficacy in enhancing memory and cognition.


An experimental medicine study of the phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor, roflumilast, on working memory-related brain activity and episodic memory in schizophrenia patients

This study consisted of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design involving 15 schizophrenia patients. In 3 treatment periods, patients were given 8 days of placebo or one of the two doses of roflumilast (100 and 250 μg daily) with 14 days of washout between treatments.


Verbal memory was significantly improved under 250 μg roflumilast (effect size (ES) = 0.77) compared to placebo. fMRI analyses revealed that increasing dose of roflumilast was associated with reduction of bilateral DLPFC activation during working memory compared to placebo, although this was not statistically significant (ES = 0.31 for the higher dose). Working memory was not improved (ES = 0.03).


Results support the mechanistic validation of potential novel strategies for improving cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia and suggest that PDE4 inhibition may be beneficial for cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.



I did recently write about Desmopressin nasal spray as a possible alternative to specially compounded vasopressin nasal spray.  I did actually order some, but what arrived was the tablet form of Desmopressin.

The advantage of Desmopressin over Vasopressin is that there already exists a nasal spray in your pharmacy. There is currently a worldwide availability issue. 

Fine tuning Social Behavior in Autism with an existing pediatric drug, Desmopressin?

Having recently been making Christmas Pudding and sweet mincemeat for mince pies, from raw ingredients and improvising for those not available, I think I can safely make my own Desmopressin nasal spray, and with the correct excipients. 

Due to Covid, we did not go to England at Christmas; setting Christmas Pudding on fire is something that Monty looks forward to.

Christmas pudding takes days to make and 8 hours to cook, then you leave it to mature.  You re-heat for Christmas lunch.


Sweet mincemeat is something that came to England with the returning crusaders.  Nowadays it is just made with dried fruit.  When the English established colonies in New England, they took the older version with them, which included actual meat.  Today in the US you have store-bought sweet mincemeat with ground beef in it, in the UK it has been meat-free for many decades. 

The fat in sweet mincemeat is suet.  In the UK and US, pre-packaged suet sold in supermarkets is dehydrated suet.

I had no idea what suet was, but I know it is not in my supermarket.  Suet is actually raw, hard fat of beef or mutton, found around the loins and kidneys.  Jewish people are not supposed to eat suet, but Muslim people apparently seek it out.  These days I think most is actually a vegetable substitute.  To follow the recipe, a friend helped out with some of this fat; I put a chunk of it in the freezer for a couple of hours and then grated it. You are supposed to coat with rice flour, if you want to store it for later use.

The recipe said 300g (10 oz) of suet but having grated half, I decided it was pretty disgusting and substituted butter for the remainder.

In the recipe are raisins, currants and sultanas, they are actually all slightly different.  In effect they are all dried grapes


Raisins, sultanas and currants


In the US, the term raisin is applied to both raisins and sultanas. To distinguish the two, sultanas are referred to as “golden” raisins.

Where we live, they are all just “dried grapes”.  The different types exist, but are called the same thing.

Candied peel and glace cherries were also a struggle to find, by this time I had decided to add dried blueberries and cranberries.

One day after the mincemeat jars were already full and maturing in the garage, candied peel and glace cherries turned up and got added.  There is a lot of brandy in the recipe and this is why you leave the jars to mature.


It was a lot of bother to make, but the resulting mince pies were really good.  The brandy carries the spices making it very fragrant, not at all like store-bought mince pies.

The Christmas pudding was set alight, in fact twice for good measure.

Compared to all that, how hard can it be to make desmopressin nasal spray?  It only has a handful of ingredients, after all. 


I first wrote about Sulforaphane from broccoli, back in 2014. Johns Hopkins have been researching this substance for decades.

What has happened to Sulforaphane for autism? Stuck as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapy forever?  Apparently so.

Sulforaphane has anti-cancer effects and is suggested for common cancers like that of the prostate.  A stable man-made version (an analog) was developed in the UK as drug to treat prostate cancer.  In France a modified broccoli-based OTC product is sold as another prostate therapy.


When it comes to autism, there have been a series of positive clinical trials.

Sulforaphane treatment for autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by social communication impairment, delayed development, social function deficit, and repetitive behaviors. The Center for Disease Control reports an increase in ASD diagnosis rates every year. This systematic review evaluated the use of sulforaphane (SFN) therapy as a potential treatment option for individuals with ASD., PubMed Central, Natural Medicines, BoardVitals, Google Scholar and Medline were searched for studies measuring the effects of SFN on behavior and cognitive function. All five clinical trials included in this systematic review showed a significant positive correlation between SFN use and ASD behavior and cognitive function. The current evidence shows with minimal side effects observed, SFN appears to be a safe and effective treatment option for treating ASD.


The Johns Hopkins' researchers did spin off the idea to commercially exploit their findings.  The result is “True broc” from Brassica Protection Products.


Here you will find Avmacol and Thorne Crucera-SGS, among the products than include “True broc”.  

These products, along with Prostamol from France, are actually used in clinical trials.

The UK company Evgen is developing its stable analog of Sulforaphane for autism and other conditions.

I spoke to Evgen a few years ago and suggested their prostate drug might be used for autism.  You still cannot buy it, but there is a clinical trial for autism planned.


Do you need expensive broccoli supplements?

There are numerous cheap broccoli supplements and some moderately priced ones.

We know from the research that supplements generally are not reliable, because they often do not contain what is on the label.  This matters more with some products than others.  With broccoli products the big question is whether they really contain active myrosinase.  This is an enzyme that you need to make Sulforaphane when you eat broccoli.

Several years ago, when I started with Sulforaphane, I bought large tubs of Australian broccoli powder and one pack of Daikon radish powder.  Daikon radishes are rich in myrosinase and it is relative stable, so it can survive processing.  My idea was to start with just the broccoli powder and then, if not effective, add some Daikon radish powder for the extra myrosinase.  In the end I did not need to even open the Daikon radish powder.  A small scoop of this broccoli powder produced a profound effect, euphoria after minutes and then much more “speech”. Back then “speech” was more like babbling single words – but it was some kind of speech at least. 

Many people report broccoli powder improved speech, even parents of young Aspies report it. 

Some people found the effect on mood to be remarkable.

Long term users report that over time they have to increase the dose to maintain the effect.

It is important to note that for some people the benefit may not be from Sulforaphane, but rather from indole-3-carbinol (I3C).


Here I am quoting myself …


“PTEN is best known as a tumor suppressor affecting RAS-dependent cancer, like much prostate cancer. Activating PTEN is good for slowing cancer growth. As I mentioned in a recent comment to Roger, many substances are known to activate PTEN; a good example being I3C (indole-3-carbindol) which is found in those cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc) that many people choose not to eat. PTEN is a well-known autism gene.” 

The research has now caught up: - 

Study hints at dietary chemical as therapy for type of autism

A compound derived from cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, might limit the impact of certain mutations in a top autism gene, a new study suggests.

The compound, called indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, acts on the gene PTEN, a tumor suppressor. 

This does raise questions about the prostate cancer research.  A sulforaphane analog drug contains no indole-3-carbinol (I3C).


Does Broccomax “work” 

The easy to buy product is Broccomax.  In the research they do not seem to like it, but it does not include the True Broc product from the Johns Hopkins spin-off.

Anecdotally, Broccomax does “work” for autism, but less so than some expensive products.

My Australian broccoli powder is no longer made, but it was not expensive and it did “work”.


Spice up Broccoli with Wasabi?

In the original research from decades ago, the Johns Hopkins researchers combined Daikon radish sprouts with broccoli sprouts, the Daikon radish sprouts where there to provide myrosinase.  The product had to kept deep frozen.

Daikon radish is widely available and is a good source of myrosinase.

I was re-reading old research and noted one researcher advocating putting Wasabi on your broccoli – the spicier the better apparently. Wasabi is Japanese horseradish and is widely available.  If it comes on a large bottle is likely fake wasabi - yes like they fake saffron, they fake wasabi.

Is it crazy to add wasabi to your broccoli capsules?

Look at what is in the expensive Avmacol supplement that they only sell in North America.



In the research they found that adding just 0.25% Daikon to frozen broccoli “brought it back to life” and sulforaphane was found in the person eating it. 

If you are using gelatine capsules with broccoli powder you can open them and, using a pointed knife, add a small amount of wasabi, re-seal and then swallow.  There is no taste or smell of wasabi.

It is bit fiddly to do this, but you soon master doing it.


Calcium Folinate (Leucovorin)


There is a lot in this blog already about Calcium Folinate.  It should give some benefit to the 75% of autism who have a problem with folate transport across the blood brain barrier. 

One of the most prominent effects in responders is improved speech. Just look at the tittle of the clinical trial


Leucovorin for the Treatment of Language Impairment in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

The only issue with Calcium Folinate (Leucovorin) are the side effects, but Professor Ramaekers assures me that if you gradually increase the dose over several weeks, there should not be any.

The summer before Covid, at 45mg a day of Calcium Folinate, my son had much more expressive language and it was also more complex language.  The problem was aggression.



As you can see the 2021 to do list is mainly tying up the loose ends remaining from previous ideas, so I anticipate success.

Broccoli powder does still have an effect, but much milder than a few years ago.  Does wasabi increase the effect?  This is very subjective, having bought the little jar of Wasabi, I will continue to adding it to two capsules of Broccomax before breakfast.

Calcium Folinate did increase speech significantly at the large dose (3 x 15mg a day) in my original trial.  At the lower dose of 15mg the effect is present, but is mild, and short-lived for the first few days.   I will very gradually increase from a starting dose of 15 mg a day and see if it possible to avoid the negative effects.

I do like the idea of the tiny dose of Roflumilast.  It has multiple potential benefits:-

1.     Improve sensory gating and reduce Misophonia

2.     Improve cognition

3.     Potentially reduce NKCC1/KCC2 expression and so make bumetanide more effective.

Can this be achieved without nausea? I think it is likely a matter of perseverance.  In COPD the starting dose of roflumilast is half the maintenance dose, but the likely “autism dose” of 100mcg in an adult is less than half the COPD starting dose of 250mcg. 

The research already tells us the effective dosage (for 1 & 2), 100mcg in an adult, and importantly that the effect is lost at higher dosage; indeed, the recent trial in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) included a dose as low as 50mcg.

You would have to find the therapeutic window.  You are changing the intracellular level of cAMP, which will have numerous effects, not just on HCN channels, but also on things like pCREB and BDNF.

I think 80mcg will be a good place to start.

There may, or may not be, an equivalent dose of Pentoxifylline/Ibudilast that gives a similar effect.  Ideally you would want all 3 effects.

A dose higher than 100mcg might have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect and so help reduce NKCC1/KCC2 expression which increases (3) but at the loss of (1) and (2).

It would be interesting to know if Maja’s daughter has/had Misophonia and what has been the effect of her Pentoxifylline use.

The next question is how to reliably measure such small doses of Roflumilast.  This drug does not dissolve in water, but is highly soluble in ethanol.  You have the choice of cutting a pill containing 500mcg into 5-6 pieces (fortunately, it is a large pill), or just crushing the pill and then using microscales to fill new capsules, or make a tincture.  The tincture should be the most accurate.  Tinctures are widely used for OTC remedies like propolis.  A tincture has the advantage that you can easily vary the dose. In phase 1, where I just try it on myself, I have opted for the tincture. One tablet dissolves in 2ml of vodka (dilute ethanol) to make a paste, but was much more fluid in 3 ml (the 3rd ml added probably could be just water).  One half of an old propolis pipette contains 100 mcg duly dissolved in 0.6 ml of vodka. It tastes exactly like the original propolis tincture, because all you really notice is the ethanol. Most commercial propolis tincture is made with alcohol and uses a much more concentrated ethanol than you will find in vodka. 

I was asked by an autism Grandad at the 2019 Thinking Autism conference how his Grandson could be helped.  The young man is highly intelligent, but has a severe problem with sound sensitivity.  His family paid extra money for him to sit his final school exams in a room with no other students, but the invigilator was opening up candy to chew all through the exams and so the boy flunked the exams.   This young man has Misophonia and I bet would exhibit impaired P50 gating if given an EEG. Before exam time, he needs to block some of the HCN channels in his brain and reduce stress/anxiety.  He might well benefit from Roflumilast 100 mcg and Propranolol 20mg and then sail through his exams. 

I actually think that many people reading this post likely have Misophonia, that is if they are a relative of someone with polygenic autism.  In the literature Misophonia is claimed to affect more women than men, but I doubt that is actually true.  If you have autism, your doctor is highly unlikely to add a diagnosis of Misophonia. 

Is Desmopressin going to be helpful?  I had put Vasopressin down as a potential therapy more for Aspies, but our reader whose young child was prescribed Desmopressin nasal spray by her neurologist, noted a broad range of substantial improvements. Desmopressin is water soluble, so no vodka required.