We’re constantly hearing the scary cautions that the rate of diabetes is increasing drastically. Here’s another frightening figure: 1 in 88 children is identified with autism each year. April is National Autism Awareness Month, so we wished to spend some time to highlight not simply autism, but the relationship between autism and diabetes… if there is one.
If you’re not acquainted with autism (or “Autism Spectrum Disorder” called ASD), it’s in fact a wide-spectrum disorder, indicating people diagnosed with it will have their condition manifest in various ways. From “high-functioning” autism, like Asperger’s Syndrome, to “low-functioning” autism, which can leave people nonverbal, people with this condition often have communication concerns, behavioral concerns, and sensory concerns. Lots of with autism can have an unusual interest in repeated habits, from schedules to activities to food. You all saw the movie Rain Man, right? About 40 percent of people on the spectrum have above average intelligence, yet about 25 percent are entirely nonverbal.
There isn’t really a lot of released information about diabetes and autism, and much of what we found was from effected households themselves. However often, folks living “in the trenches” are the best sources of info about what life with two chronic conditions is really like.
Evidence of a Type 1 / Autism Link?
The first thing we questioned was whether or not there is any proven link in between autism and diabetes, particularly considering that the medical diagnosis of both conditions is on the increase. Numerous parents likewise question, in some cases because the households are dealing with both diabetes and autism, however not always in the same child.
The medical world does not seem agreement to use. A 2006 study in Finland concerned the conclusion that there is no link between autism and diabetes, however doctors at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children argue that there could be a connection. A 2006 letter from an Italian doctor to the journal Diabetes Care supports the theory that type 1 diabetes and autism are not connected, as Sardinia, an island near Italy with one of the greatest incidences of type 1 diabetes, only had two patients diagnosed with autism out of 1,373 diabetics. Rather the minority!
Still, individuals out there are handling both. So what is the mix of autism and diabetes truly like?
Double Diagnosis: Raising a Child with Autism and Type 1 Diabetes
In an interview on an unique needs site, Ammey, mom of a 14-year-old son, Khy, explains the effect his autism has on his diabetes management: “He has actually never interacted pain, or sensation ill. We are always so concerned about whether he will communicate with people when he requires sugar or when he’s feeling bad… He will constantly require everyday assistance with living skills now because his difficulty interacting and deficits with everyday living skills puts him in risk.”
M (name withheld), a twentysomething who was identified with autism in high school, explains that his interaction concerns and repetitive habits can make it tough to work with his doctor. One of M’s symptoms of autism is stimming, which is a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates among the senses, such as rocking back and forth, flapping hands, or scratching the skin.
“My mother has actually been concerned that the method I interact might disrupt the treatment I get,” M states. “One of the biggest issues is my inability to describe how my body feels, and in me wanting physicians to provide me more area. I’m a little worried that we cannot actually inform if I have neuropathy due to the fact that I don’t know what I’m feeling. I’ve had a few medical service providers who were gone crazy due to the fact that I was leaping or flapping and they figured that indicated something was wrong.”
However this does not suggest autism and diabetes are always at odds. Lots of people with autism withstand modification, and since diabetes management can be simpler with a strict regimen, the two can go together. Robert Plamondon, a father of Karl, 17, composes on his blog, “Because Karl’s autism indicates that he likes his routine, he’s settled into both a dietary and a daily medical regular very well. Due to the fact that he doesn’t pine for treats or change his mind about what he desires for supper based upon what’s going on around him, it’s extremely easy to stick with things that work.”
However, rigidity is not always healthy, as Courtney Hurford, creator of the Facebook group Autism and Type 1 Diabetes, describes. She concurs with Robert that rigid consuming routines can be terrific for diabetes, however that’s not always what her son’s autism requires; anything new can be awfully distressing to a child with autism, so smoothing the procedure of accepting new things is an important part of assisting her son, Luke.
“As a parent of a child with autism, it is essential to expand the diet and break the rigidity,” Courtney explains. “So then as you meet your ‘autism parent’ responsibilities you have two problems: new carbs that you need to enjoy closely, determine how they trend, and then react with a proper insulin-to-carb ratio.”
However the greatest problem is getting an autistic child to accept new food without the corresponding stress response. Courtney says, “For our children, the frustrating sensory concerns connected to sampling new foods can cause (in our case) a blood sugar level spike of 100-plus points within NO time. This is problematic since you can not create appropriate insulin-to-carb ratios when the underlying reason for the spike is stress, not carbs.” Aggravating!
In addition to Courtney’s group, there’s also a Yahoo! group, Autism Plus Diabetes, for parents raising children with both conditions. If you or your child has both diabetes and autism, we would like to have you share your story in the remarks so we can help link families and people with the assistance they need!
Also read: Monogenic Diabetes: MODY and NDM
Connect Between Type 2 Diabetes & Autism
A second issue is a possible link between autism and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Michael Stern, a biochemist at Rice University, has actually been studying a possible connection and has actually discovered that there is a common underlying mechanism: hyperinsulinemia, which is a precursor for insulin resistance.
Dr. Stern’s hypothesis was released as an opinion post in a current problem of the journal Frontiers of Cellular Endocrinology. Although this theory has actually not been studied in-depth, Dr. Stern states, “It will be really simple for clinicians to test my hypothesis. They might do this by putting autistic children on low-carbohydrate diets that decrease insulin secretion and see if their symptoms enhance.”
Pregnancy + Type 2 Diabetes = Autism in Children?
Scientists at the University of California Davis have actually provided mothers with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes something else to fret about. They just recently discovered that 9.3% of children who had autism had a mom with one of these conditions, compared with 6.4% of children with autism who were born to a mother without diabetes. In addition, 11.6% of children who were born to a lady with diabetes had developmental specials needs.
Scientist determined that autistic children of diabetic moms were more likely to learning problems and problems with language and interaction, compared with children with autism born to non-diabetic moms.
When I read this news, I groaned so loudly that my spouse asked me what was wrong. Revealing him the headline, I said, “As if we do not have enough to worry about!” (We’re thinking of beginning a household quickly.)
Why such a high occurrence of diabetes in diabetic mamas? Researchers think that in diabetics, high blood glucose levels during pregnancy causes fetal direct exposure to high blood sugar (what takes place to mama takes place to baby), and so the baby begins producing more insulin. However, raised insulin production requires greater oxygen use, which may lead to diminished oxygen supply. In addition, scientists state diabetes can cause fetal iron deficiency. Both low oxygen and low iron can cause problems in fetal brain development.
“The series of events related to inadequately regulated maternal glucose levels is one possible biological system that might contribute in negative fetal development in the presence of maternal metabolic conditions,” said Paula Krakowiak, among the researchers. That’s a fancy method of stating: PWD Moms, you have to have near-perfect glucose control! (At least that’s what I hear).
And it’s not simply children of women with identified diabetes who are at risk. In the research study, overweight women were 1-2/3 times most likely to have a child with autism and were more than twice as most likely to have a child with another developmental condition, compared to women without a metabolic condition.
While this particular research study didn’t consist of moms with type 1, we understand that types of diabetes impact blood sugar level, so I’m begrudgingly including autism to the list of reasons that I dislike diabetes.