Cornerstone’s 3rd annual Biomedical Interventions for Autism Conference on Saturday April 9th was a big success. Attendees came from Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and across Indiana to hear speakers address the medical needs of those with autism, such as food intolerances, infections, and seizures.
Many people are unaware that such interventions exist, and so the goal of the conference has always been to bring these resources to local families at a low cost. We strive to share a mix of beginner basics and the latest research, allowing attendees to take from it what they will and make decisions about their child’s care with the help of a trained doctor.
For my son Hayden, who has autism, ABA therapy was and still is a key part of his treatment. But another facet of his treatment from the start has been biomedical intervention. I heard a great analogy to describe the way ABA and Biomed can work together to help a child: imagine the child with autism as a computer. A computer needs both hardware and software to function. Both must be in working order, or the computer does not work as it should. If the speakers (hardware) stop working, you won’t be able to hear the sound. If Flash (software) needs to be updated, a video may not play. The way to fix hardware (physical intervention) and software (programming changes) are quite different.
Similarly, if a child has an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in his gut, he may need a MAPS (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs) doctor or dietitian to physically intervene to heal the gut. Meanwhile, if a child with autism is unable to vocally communicate when he is frustrated and instead yells, he may need a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) to create programming to help him learn to communicate his needs more effectively.
In this way, biomedical interventions and ABA therapy can complement each other. Alleviating physical challenges may assist with the overall functioning and well-being of a child, potentially leading to decreases in maladaptive behaviors and potential increases in the gains made with ABA and other therapies.
MAPS Fellow Dr. Mary Lou Hulseman began our day with an introductory talk, and MAPS Member and Registered Dietitian Staci Small spoke next about picky eaters. In the afternoon, Dr. Charles Beck introduced us to Osteopathy for Autism. Maria Janik, National Autism Association of Northwest Indiana co-founder, discussed working with your MAPS clinician and using nutrigenomics to guide your research. There were many “Aha!” moments during each presentation when you could see or hear an audience member make a realization and frantically write notes. It was so exciting for me to be able to help so many families find some of the missing pieces they have needed to help their children.
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Phillip DeMio, traveled from Ohio to share with parents the latest information on PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). He had a long line for questions after his session! The most talked about segment of the day was probably the parent panel. Each parent shared her story and some tips for those just starting. There were quite a few tears in the audience.
Our vendors this year included parent support groups as well as groups with information and healthy products to sell. Attendees enjoyed the free samples and chance to smell different soaps, spices and bath salts before purchasing. There were several drawings for giveaway items at the end of the day.
Looking to next year we plan to continue the momentum that has been created by bringing together so many like-minded parents and professionals. We hope to see you at next year’s conference!
May 5, 2016, Sheila Edwards