Showing posts with label School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label School. Show all posts

Friday 2 September 2022

Bravo Monty! Academic results in Autism


Some risks are worth taking, however long the journey

Academic results are part of most people’s life, whether you love them or loathe them.

Most children diagnosed today with autism will do just fine at school, but this was not always the case.  Those born 20 or 30 years ago and diagnosed in early childhood with autism are usually in a much less fortunate position.

Today’s post is about level 3 autism and what the Lancet Commission want to call Profound autism. The new idea is that if by age of 8, a child with autism still has severe intellectual disability or minimal language then he/she can be best described as having Profound Autism.

In other literature the term SDA (Strictly Defined Autism) was proposed.  It means what was called autism back in the 1990s and earlier.

You can have severe autism with any level of IQ, which I think many people may not be aware of, or even accept.


Monty and his Academic Results

The “bravo” for Monty comes from Dr Ben-Ari, the scientific brain behind the idea to use Bumetanide to treat autism.

I wrote to tell him that after almost a decade of bumetanide, Monty has passed his externally graded high school exams.  In the English system they are called General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSE), Monty took the international version called IGCSE. You normally take them at the age of 16, but we held Monty back 2 years at the age of 9 so he took them at 18 years old.

These exams are not graded by the school, they are sent away to be marked by someone who just sees your candidate number.  Of course it is still possible to fiddle the results, but this is not common.

Up to the age of 9, it was pretty clear that Monty would not even be attempting these exams.  It was assumed he would not be going to the high school.  His school has no resources for those with special needs.

Fast forward a decade and Monty made his way into high school and in 2022 sat his IGCSE exams.  His results included a B in science, a C in maths a C in English.  As I told Dr Ben Ari, Monty’s results will not take him to the Ivy League or a Grande École, over where he is in France.  For someone with Strictly Defined Autism (SDA) it is pretty remarkable.  

In the US you might well "graduate" high school, but the quotation marks hide the real picture. Graduation from special education just means you aged out of it.  Life is better without the quotation marks.

Bumetanide may have failed its phase 3 clinical trial, but for some people with severe autism it is a game changer.


Game Changer

My new book is also called Game Changer and it is currently being edited.

It will be available via Amazon as either an eBook or as a paperback.

The book is the length of a novel, about 90,000 words or 300 pages.  It is not intended for everyone to read from cover to cover.  It has plenty of non-scientific content and there is plenty in it a typical parent would find useful.


Facebook links

Facebook links to EpiphanyASD are no longer blocked.

Just use, not the old


Trouble leaving comments

Some people are having trouble leaving comments on the blog.  This seems to be caused by 3rd party cookies in your browser.  One solution reported to me is to switch to incognito mode.

I could never use an iPad to do anything clever on the blog, just read it.  

Friday 11 June 2021

Game Changer or Fine Tuning? It depends on severity of Autism


There are so many possible autism interventions discussed in this blog, it clearly is not always easy to know their relative merit.

There are so many people now diagnosed with autism it is no longer such a meaningful term.  The most extreme autism I think I will have to start calling really severe autism.  A scale of 1 to 100 would be much more helpful than the current levels 1, 2 or 3. I suppose Elon Musk and Greta are level 1.

One reader did recent describe the effects of bumetanide in his child as being game changing.  I think it is an excellent description to use.  For our reader Roger, Leucovorin was a game changer.

Another reader wrote to me to give an update about his three year old

“After 3 months of bumetanide treatment I've seen improvement on his cognition, like, he is now able to finish an apple and take the end to the trash by himself or enter in his room, turn the lights on, take some toy, turn lights off and close the door or eat his lunch by himself. He is smarter now.”

This reader is well on his way to finding the additional elements for his son’s personalized polytherapy and the way he is going about it is likely to yield optimal results. Most of what you need is tucked away in this blog somewhere.  It is a case of who dares wins.

Using my scale of 1 to 100, with Elon and Greta in low single digits and many people referred to at the blog of the US National Council of Severe Autism mainly at 80-100, we can put interventions into a bit more perspective.

It is still far from perfect because most people with really severe autism reach a plateau in development at a very young age.  This matters because as a three year old they do not look/behave so differently to a typical child, but by the time they reach 18 years old, the difference is gigantic.

If you could delay the onset of this developmental plateau for a decade the result would be transformative.  Based on the longitudinal studies to adulthood, it looks like about 80% of severe autism reaches a plateau at the level of a 2-3 year old.  The other 20% continue to learn, but at a slower rate than typical children. 

In the case of the autism which is <10, like Greta and Elon, very small issues can still become very troubling.  There was inevitably bullying at school from mild to severe, there likely was (and still is) anxiety, perhaps an eating disorder, perhaps some self harming or even suicidal thoughts.

If you fine tune the brain a little to reduce anxiety and improve social/emotional responsiveness, you can trim someone’s score from a 15 to a 9 and make them feel much better.  Job done.

For someone with an IQ of 50 (i.e. severe intellectual disability), non-verbal, non-literate, who is sometimes aggressive and exhibits autistic behaviors, you are going to need much more than fine tuning, you need a game changer.  Then you can go on and fine tune things to give further incremental improvement.

One doctor reader did suggest to me that, in effect, five moderately effective interventions might equal one game changer.

In the case of autism that I deal with, the most important step was raising cognitive function, not treating what people consider to be autism.  I think that this applies to almost all people with a score 50 to 100.  Even if it was never actually diagnosed, the barrier to progress is low cognitive function and a severely reduced ability to learn and acquire new skills.  This has to be fixed and for many people the tools already exist.


Improving cognitive function

Game Changer

·      Bumetanide  (also Azosemide, KBr and, possibly, Betaine with the same effect of lowering chloride inside neurons)

Fine tuning

·      Atorvastatin, reducing cognitive inhibition

·      Micro-dose Clonazepam, shift E/I imbalance

·      Low-dose Roflumilast, raising IQ


Reducing autistic behaviors

Fine tuning

·      NAC

·      Sulforaphane

·      Verapamil

·      Oxytocin

·      BHB

·      Pentoxifylline

·      Agmatine

·      Clemastine

·      DMF

·      Leucovorin (Calcium Folinate)


Interventions with a slow course of action

Some interventions, for example pro-myelinating therapies (like clemastine and Tyler’s N-acetylglucosamine), or pro-autophagy therapies, may take a long time to show effect. I think you may need to first see very tangible results from other therapies, which are much easier to assess.

As Roger will want to point out, in the case of Cerebral Folate Deficiency Leucovorin was the game changer.

In the case of other metabolic autisms, a single therapy may also be the game changer, like the Greek boy for whom high dose biotin resolved his previously severe autism.

In the case of Fragile-X, there seem to be potential game changers galore.  The latest is plugging the leaky membrane in mitochondria that is allowing ATP to leak out, using a research drug dexpramipexole, or potentially the related and already approved variant Mirapex ER (pramipexole).  Mirapex is used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson Disease and Restless Legs Syndrome. 

If our occasional reader and bio-statistician Knut Wittkowski is correct, Mefenamic Acid (the NSAID Ponstan) could be a real game changer, if taken around 2-3 years of age.  He suggests this will block the progression to severe non-verbal autism. Knut has been upsetting YouTube with some of his interviews about Covid-19 and his deal with Q-Biomed to develop Mefenamic Acid fell through. You can buy Ponstan very cheaply, outside of the US, even as a pediatric syrup.

Hopefully, Dr Naviaux's Suramin will be a game changer for some.  More of that in the coming post on leaky ATP.


I am told where we live that Monty’s autism is “fixed”, or by one autism Grandad we know, “he’s 80% fixed”.

If you started life with (really) severe autism, even 80% fixed means you are still pretty autistic, much more so than Elon and Greta, but far less so than the now adult “children” over at the National Council for Severe Autism, who have really severe autism and often had a very early plateau in development.

Monty has finished his year-end exams.  Overall, the grades of his NT classmates are pretty terrible, maybe due to Covid disruptions.  I told Monty’s assistant that if he can come somewhere in the middle, without her doing the tests for him or having extra time, that is a great result, regardless of the grade itself.  In all his subjects he comes in the middle. In the English educational system, Monty is now a C student, maybe even with the odd B or D; so not something to boast about.  What really is amazing  is this person could not figure out  9 – 2 = 7,  at the age of 9 years old, prior to starting bumetanide and his Polypill therapy.  Now he is nearly 18 years old.

If you find that your young child is a genuine bumetanide responder, but later struggle to source it, take a close look at what untreated severe autism looks like by adulthood.  Then you may choose to redouble your efforts to get hold of your game changer. Some readers are getting it from Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Austria and many from Mexico and Spain.  In Brazil you can buy it only in a compounding pharmacy. The lucky ones get it at their local pharmacy, which is what should be possible for everyone and one day that might even happen.

There are countless fine-tuning therapies that may be potentially effective in a particular person.  They are certainly worth having; you just have to look at what is available and cost effective.

There will soon be a post about leaky ATP in Fragile X and autism.

Two readers have highlighted the research suggesting that Betaine might have a similar effect to Bumetanide.  It does not block the NKCC1 transporter, but it may reduce the mRNA that produces them, so the net effect may potentially be similar.  At much lower doses, Betaine is a common autism supplement.  This will be covered in the next post.


Monday 15 February 2021

Core vs extended Maths? An unexpected dilemma. And yet they say “Autism is untreatable and you should not try to treat it”. Plus Lego


This time the “Professor” wears the Dunce’s cap

I had a surprise last month, talking to my son’s 1:1 assistant, this time about maths (or math in US English).

Normally I am trying to simplify school academics, and so if something really is not important, like argumentative writing, I am all for skipping over it.  The idea is that Monty, aged 17 with autism, should focus on useful learning that he has a chance of mastering.

Monty’s international school follows an English curriculum and in that model you have a choice in some subjects of studying the core or the extended version. So a typical child who wants to become a doctor, or an engineer, will have to follow the extended version of all their subjects, but someone who is going to shift boxes in a warehouse might opt for the core/simplified versions. Most people lie somewhere in between.

People with severe autism would not normally follow any of these academic curricula, because it is all way above their heads.  Their school is about life skills and providing day-care, while the parents are out at work, or having some respite. Realistically, “graduation” is often just a photo opportunity - things could and should be better.

There is very little published about literacy and numeracy in severe autism.

I thought an ambitious target for Monty would be to try and sit exams, aged 18, in five subjects, but at the easy level where possible, the so-called “core” version.  These exams are normally taken at the age of 16, which is the minimum school leaving age in the UK.

The maths teacher has been thinking about which of her students should be aiming at core or extended.  She thinks five pupils should be aiming for extended and the others should settle for core.  Monty is one of the group of five.

The assistant was almost apologetic, because she did not want to change my plans for Monty. He is now "too good" for core maths.

I do know Monty’s mathematical abilities very well, because I teach him maths at the weekend.  He is no maths savant, but he works extremely hard and now has a good understanding of what they learn at school. I am just amazed at the other kids, with no disability, who do not keep up with him. Prior to pharmacological autism treatment, starting at the age of nine, Monty could not subtract single digit numbers, like 9 – 2 = 7.

Even more recently Monty’s school assistant proudly announced his results in the half year maths test. He got 68%, making him 3rd out of the 15 people in class.  68% certainly does not make you an “A student”, but given he was a “basket case” at maths not many years ago, it is truly remarkable. The teacher even told the whole class his score, which you might think would lead to resentment, but the others are actually very supportive. They have seen his progress over the years. They are currently involved in helping him to reliably tell the time. For some people solving algebra is easier than telling the time – who would have thought that?

The other day I skimmed through an article about some Professor who was quoted as saying “Autism is untreatable and you should not try to treat it”. What a fool - more of a dunce than a Professor. 

Literacy and Numeracy Rates in Autism

People rarely talk about literacy or numeracy in autism. I think it is another issue that people do not want to discuss. We would rather hear about people with savant skills, or characters from those TV shows like the Good Doctor, with trivial autism.

It is clear that many people with severe autism currently cannot read or write, so I suppose they are also innumerate.

You can be non-verbal but literate and numerate; there are specific teaching methods.

I was recently asked to present at an autism conference in Russia. I did click on the organisation’s website and I was pleased to see on the first page its message to Russian parents that you can teach people with autism to read and write and indeed that non-verbal kids belong in school. I agree with them, but it may seem like a Herculean task at times.

My last conference presentation was very simple and not controversial, at the request of the US organizer.  Russians like science and they have asked for a long presentation, so they will get the real deal. A big job for the person who has to translate and then dub it into Russian!


 Any human brain can be taught to read, write, count


One to one teaching, as above in Russia, is the only way to teach those with severe autism.

Reading and writing do matter. Look at the literacy rates by country and guess where you find countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan and Nigeria?

In Afghanistan the male literacy rate is 55% and for females it is 30%.

Even India has 25% illiterate and they tell us it is the world’s largest democracy. In India literacy ranges from about 66% in Andhra Pradesh in the South East to over 95% in Kerala in the South West. In China illiteracy is just 3% and it shows.

In the US 4% are non-literate and the average American adult reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, i.e. like a 13 year old child; plenty of room for improvement.  The problem is the large group at the bottom who drag down the overall results. This is why countries like Finland do so well in skill assessments; they do not have a forgotten underclass.


Why bother with Mathematics?

It is certainly worthwhile reconsidering what to teach people with severe autism. If you cannot cut your own fingernails, or tie your own shoelaces, why do you need to know any maths?

Maths is all about following instructions/rules. If you can follow instructions, you can do maths. Daily living skills are also all about following instructions; before emptying the dishwasher, check the dishes are actually clean! Monty has learnt that lesson.

What do you do when the toothpaste has run out? Find some more and if that does not work, ask for help.

Learning to follow instructions is extremely important to those with learning difficulties; just like practising motor skills helps them overcome their initial challenges with fine and gross motor skills.  In the end, the problems just fade away.

Lego is a great way to combine following instructions with improving fine motor skills. It is a perfect therapy for autism; at the very beginning you can use large bricks to get a young child to replicate simple colour patterns (so-called “block imitation”) by stacking bricks. You can use Lego to develop team skills; one person locates the next bricks, while the other assembles them.

We have a lot of Lego at home, but until recently it was mainly the simple models of planes and helicopters that were of interest to Monty. People would give complicated (expensive) models for birthday presents, when actually what you want are the cheaper, simple ones.

We have now progressed to the point where Monty has completed a model that was intended for people older than himself. All the Lego sets have an age recommendation on them. Yes, Lego has some very complicated Star Wars models meant for those 18 and over.  A Christmas present from big brother, it did have a ridiculous number of pieces (several hundred) and some mistakes were made. 

Monty actually calls it “doing the instructions”, rather than making Lego.

The key seems to be to leave him entirely alone and let him make the occasional mistake.  If a later part does not fit, he asks for help and you then intervene, find the earlier mistake and correct it.  If you hover behind him to prevent any mistake being made, then you are not achieving much.



You definitely can treat severe autism, meaning raise IQ and/or improve quality of life.  The evidence is overwhelming and is sitting there in the peer-reviewed science.

It looks like you can avoid/prevent some autism by taking certain steps prior to conception and during pregnancy. This is quite clever.

After birth, can you “cure” severe autism? I think this will only be possible in rare cases, for example correcting an in-born error of metabolism at an extremely young age. One example in this blog was the young Greek boy with biotinidase deficiency, that responds to high dose biotin. Our reader Roger is a rare example of an adult whose central folate deficiency was only treated in adulthood.

You can minimize many troubling features of autism at any age; this applies to Aspies and those with more severe autism.

Learning maths develops much broader skills than might be initially apparent.

Lego is a great activity and a fun therapy.  You can of course re-use it, particularly the most basic sets, which you can use over and over.

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 19 October 2020

Synchrony 2020 and Back to School with Covid


I am giving a presentation in November at an online autism conference called Synchrony 2020. It is organized by a group of parents of children with autism.  You can read all about it here:


If you want to attend this virtual conference there is a coupon code for readers of this blog: -


I am told the coupon code applies only to Early Bird and Regular Price, not to the Day Pass. 

Our doctor reader Agnieszka gave a presentation at this event last year.

This year Dr Ben-Ari is going to talk about Bumetanide and I am then talking about 8 years of using Bumetanide.

The proceeds go towards the Brain Foundation’s funding of autism research. 

The Brain Foundation

Our mission is to support translational research that will lead to the development of FDA-approved treatments and an improved standard of care for co-morbidities in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. 

I suppose my mission is to take the fast track, by repurposing existing approved drugs and skip the part requiring $30 million and 15 years to get FDA approval, specific to autism, for each drug.

As you would expect, most of the presenters are medical doctors or medical researchers. 

I did point out to the organizers that many of these people are not going to like what I do.  They spend decades researching autism and here comes Peter, not a doctor, developing therapies by repurposing existing drugs. 

There will be nothing controversial in my presentation, I am just talking about the effects of long-term Bumetanide therapy.

Doctors who have a child with autism do see things differently. I had a British pediatrician come up to me at an event and just about the first thing he said was “I want to do for my daughter, what you have done for your son”.  Good luck to him.

I did my bit to help the conference organisers by asking Dr Ben-Ari to present about Bumetanide.

Dr Ben-Ari does read this blog and I know he does not entirely approve of my methods.  If I did not have a child with autism, I would also not approve of my methods. Necessity is the mother of invention.

A classic example of medical dithering appeared in a recent meta-analysis of the research into the use of NAC in autism.

The review concludes that NAC is safe to use and does reduce some key symptoms of autism, but then adds the caveat “However, further evidence should be sought before a general recommendation.”

So, NAC is cheap, safe and effective, but don’t use it. 

Effectiveness of N-acetylcysteine in autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Conclusion: We concluded that N-acetylcysteine is safe and tolerable, reduces hyperactivity and irritability and enhances social awareness in children with autism spectrum disorder. However, further evidence should be sought before a general recommendation. 

Incidentally, the FDA do not seem to like NAC being sold as a supplement in the US.  NAC is very popular and it is included in hundreds of OTC products, so banning it would not go unnoticed.  They are not concerned on safety grounds. Some drug producers seem to want it to be exclusively an expensive prescription drug. 

I think the Brain Foundation has noble goals and good luck to them.

I suspect Dr Ben-Ari’s what will be 15-year push to get Bumetanide adopted as an approved autism therapy will have the most transformative impact. Good luck to him too. 


Back to School with Covid 

After several months break, Monty started back at school on September 1st.  The only significant difference from before is that everyone is wearing a mask. School is 5 days a week from 8.30am to 3.30pm, as before.

Nobody likes wearing a mask, but it is just something you currently have to do.  Monty, like most people with autism, can cope just fine wearing a mask.  Some people need to practise, others do not.  Without a mask there would be no school.

Online learning at home actually worked very well, with lessons via Zoom.  We are not new to the idea of home schooling; Monty’s 1:1 assistants have been teaching him at home since he was 4 years old.  Our current assistant was happy to come during the lockdown period.

It is much more fun to actually go to school.

Monty, now aged 17, attends a mainstream international school that follows the English curriculum.  He has no IEP (Individual Education Plan), so he does the same work and has the same tests as everyone else. Because I held him back 2 years at the age of 9, his classmates are 15-year olds.

He is remarkably well included, particularly by the girls.  In kindergarten and junior school there often is a little girl who takes a special interest in the cute little boy with classic autism, but this can fade away as the girl heads to puberty and the cute little boy becomes adult-sized, with not so cute classic autism.

I heard an endearing anecdote from Monty’s Assistant.  Two of the girls in class have been reading on the internet about boarding/residential schools. They found a school they liked the look of in Holland and asked our Assistant “would Monty’s parents allow him to come with us?  Look, it says they have 24-hour provision for those with special needs”.  I doubt they will actually be changing schools, but it was nice they kept Monty in mind. 

As I mentioned in previous posts, it does help to have a younger Assistant, if you want to promote social interactions with teenage classmates. Our Assistant has a sister the same age as Monty’s peers.

I did ask our Assistant why she thinks people are so nice to Monty; there are other people at school who are ignored by their peers and are pretty miserable. “Oh, he’s so cute, he says funny things in class and acts differently, look how he sits nicely and he’s the only one that eats properly; he also knows what is on the lunch menu and people come and ask him”, was the first response.  There must be more to do with it than that.   

There is a girl with spots who everyone ignores, do they really ignore her because of her spots?

As regular readers may recall, there is an interesting therapy for Aspie girls with spots.  Spironolactone, which lowers male hormones, will reduce acne in girls, but will also affect ROR alpha which determines the expression of many autism genes. So, both acne and autism might improve. Then add a squirt of oxytocin, or an oxytocin inducing gut bacteria and watch what happens.

I did see an interesting paper about children with autism who are flourishing at home with remote learning during covid.  The paper is about high functioning children (HFA in the text below), but some children with Classic autism also prefer life at home.


Debate: Remote learning during COVID‐19 for children with high functioning autism spectrum disorder 

Over the past 6 months, many children with HFA have told us they enjoy learning from home for a variety of reasons. They do not need to worry about whom to sit with at lunch, or be annoyed by the frequent changing classes, or have to tolerate the aversiveness of the school bell ringing, or the smell of the cafeteria. They report feeling liberated by not having to try so hard to fit in with the neurotypical world while trying to thrive academically. The anxiety, demoralization, and depression that have plagued them when in school have dissipated. Ironically, then, COVID‐19 has allowed many children like Stephan, who are oftentimes silently suffering, to flourish at home in ways that they could not do while in the regular classroom setting. We speculate that by eliminating the demands of the elusive, ‘hidden curriculum’, such children now expend their emotional and cognitive resources on the formal curriculum, which has resulted in improved grades and improved mental health. The following example illustrates this point … 

I advocate teaching the "hidden curriculum" to pre-teen Aspies, so they do not have a miserable time in high school and later in life, perhaps becoming an autism self-advocate. I would also use the buddy system to pair them with a slightly older outgoing neurotypical girl.

It looks like many of the parents of children with severe autism are ones that really do not like remote learning during Covid.  In some cases, they do not try to engage in remote learning.  If they were already teaching their child pre-Covid, it would not have been so difficult.

In some countries public schooling provides a seamless service year-round picking up the child from home and bringing him/her home at the end of day, setting both parents free.  You then become totally dependent on this level of service.  We never had that kind of support, so had to create our own independent approach.