Our Perspective on Health Care in Autism

We believe that autism is treatable across multiple domains and that good health is primary in successful intervention for children with this disorder.

If your child’s teacher, psychologist, or pediatrician tells you that nothing can be done to address your child’s medical symptoms, please know that this view is not accurate; it might be based on pre-existing prejudices or lack of up-to-date information. Because the understanding of autism is changing rapidly, it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest research. The team at The Johnson Center is dedicated to providing the best and most relevant treatment options for your child, based on the most recent science available. Many of the staff and clinicians working at The Johnson Center are also parents of children on the autism spectrum. One of our goals is to give as many children as possible the best chance for symptom improvement. Through our years of experience in researching and treating autism, we have learned that autism is most effectively treated comprehensively. We also know that each child has particular needs, and our team of specialists will help you to find the treatments that work best for your child.

Our clinic integrates traditional science, medicine, and nutrition with recently developed and recognized treatments and therapy for children on the autism spectrum.

We take the time needed to form an understanding of each child’s health profile, determined with a comprehensive history and physical examination. Any available previous laboratory results are reviewed. Additional lab work can then be recommended in order to further delineate your child’s health status. We determine a treatment course specific to your child based on lab results and our clinical observations and findings.

Diagnostic Services

There is a licensed psychologist on staff who is trained in the accurate diagnosis of children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. This type of work-up can give you a more clear idea about not only the diagnostic “label” that applies, but, more importantly, the strengths and challenges that your child has, and what areas should first be addressed. It is a good way to get a baseline for behaviors at the start of intervention so you can see what progress is made over the course of treatment and what still needs to be done. Additionally, our psychologist is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) who has a background in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and can advise you on behavior treatment options. To learn more about this service, click here.

Health Care Assessment and Treatment

Autism is a multi-system disorder.  Solid research published in peer-reviewed medical journals has repeatedly documented abnormalities in immune, gastrointestinal, and metabolic systems of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Interventions focused on these areas very often result in neurological improvement and better behavior. In addition, they help to relieve pain and discomfort, and to improve general health.

To fully understand particular health issues, we take a careful health history, give a physical exam, and collect appropriate laboratory tests, then design a treatment plan that will address any documented health concerns. Treatment might involve a combination of diet changes, therapeutic nutrition, and targeted prescription medications.

Dietary Intervention in Autism

We believe there are no “autism diets.”  However, it is clear that many individuals with autism have sensitivities to foods for a variety of reasons. These sensitivities can contribute significantly to gastrointestinal symptoms, including gastro-esophageal reflux, abdominal discomfort, and abnormal stool patterns. Food can also trigger an immune response that can cause problems elsewhere in the body, including the brain. There are chemicals, additives, and preservatives found in many foods that may stress the body and can even act directly on the brain to alter behavior.

In addition, it has been shown that many children with autism have multiple underlying nutritional deficiencies. This might be a result of self-restricted diets, abnormal digestion, poor absorption, or an inability by the body to utilize the nutrients effectively. Since the health of the brain and the immune system are so tightly linked to nutritional status, we consider it critical that all of our patients are evaluated carefully by one of our dieticians. Our team of licensed nutrition and dietetic professionals has substantial experience in both clinical nutrition and dietetic counseling for those on the autism spectrum.

There are “autism diets” that are used to treat children. These can be very effective as long as the child’s nutritional needs are also carefully monitored and met. But it is not uncommon for us to see patients on these restricted diets who are missing important nutrients. This is evident only through careful dietary analysis. Our team can help you to determine the best diet for your child and can help you implement it in a way that is safe, healthy, and manageable.  We believe this is foundational care, and a critical piece of treatment.

Therapeutic Nutrition

In order to better serve our clients, clinicians at The Johnson Center are trained and experienced in the application of clinical nutrition intervention.  The term “clinical nutrition” refers to the targeted and applied use of diet and supplementation to improve health and prevent disease.  In conjunction with appropriate medical care and dietetic counseling, therapeutic nutrition is fundamental to our objective of improving children’s health. 

Prescription Management

Our philosophy and practice recognizes the importance of medical intervention and prescription medication management as one component of care.  Our clinicians have been involved in research, training of other physicians, and clinical practice development regarding the appropriate use of medication in treating some of the symptoms affecting children with autism spectrum disorder.  We acknowledge, support, and recommend the use of evidence-based medical interventions that can improve the symptoms with which our children struggle.  Appropriate medical management can include treatment for immunological, gastrointestinal, and neurological concerns.

ABA Therapy

Recent research demonstrates that the root of autism spectrum disorders is physiological. However, the Johnson Center recognizes and endorses the critical importance of behavioral therapy for children with autism. It is unusual for these children to significantly improve without intensive behavioral and educational management. Research shows that many children who are provided with this behavioral intervention can make remarkable gains in adaptive and language skills, as well as IQ.  Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, is the systematic application of behavioral principals, designed to help individuals improve socially significant skills.  In addition, ABA relies on objective measures to determine whether the interventions selected are responsible for the changes sought. ABA provides interventions that are aligned with evidenced-based practices required by federal education law. The Johnson Center offers ABA therapy through credentialed professionals, and also advises and works with local providers in many communities, to ensure that every family has the opportunity to pursue appropriate behavioral intervention. To learn more about this service, click here .