Autism is a term that generates mixed emotions and reactions in parents when they first hear about their child’s difficulties. Some go into denial, some are confused by what it means, some are angry at themselves, some blame each other and some even blame their child.
Autism Spectrum Disorders were once thought to be uncommon with a reported prevalence of 4 per 10000 in the mid 1960s. In the early 1980s the International Autistic Society estimated 2 cases of autism per 5000 children. From the 1980s to 2000, this number has come down to an astonishing ratio of 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of childhood developmental disorders that are characterized by problems in social interaction and communication followed by rigid and repetitive behavior. In these cases, functioning of some areas of the brain is compromised. This leads to problems in understanding, thinking abilities, speech, interactions and communications, play, learn and in relating to others. Despite a normal physical appearance, the daily functioning of the child is affected.
As parents or caretakers one may frantically look for all possible treatment options for their children. Autism management requires a multi-disciplinary treatment approach which includes administration of certain drugs to control a few behavior issues as well as planned therapy programs such as psychological intervention occupational therapy, special education, speech therapy and physiotherapy.
Although these therapies help in managing the child up to some extent, they are unable to work on the underlying brain damage seen in children with autism. Researchers and doctors are now looking at regenerative therapy using stem cells as potential therapy for children showing symptoms of autism.
Aashish Sharma’s Story
Master Ashish Sharma is a known case of ADHD and Autism, with a history of poor social interaction, hyperactivity and an absence of emotional behaviors. He would engage in self injurious behavior like scratching his skin excessively, socially unacceptable behaviors (touching his private parts) and exhibit aggressiveness. There was no effect of schooling on his social behavior, interaction and expression. At age 14, his parents were finding it difficult to tackle his aggressive behavior. Their worries kept on increasing as the days went by.
“From the time he was an infant, we noticed that Ashish was not talking nor playing like other children of his age. He would often keep to himself and wandered aimlessly in the house. It was like he was living in a different world. Even when his schooling began he would be aloof and not interact with other kids. His teachers would complain of his lack of interest and response to class activities. We began to realize that our son was not behaving like kids his age and started approaching doctors for the same. After several visits to a string of doctors, at the age of six Aashish was diagnosed with ‘Autism.’ It hurt me deeply but I did not let that desperation grow onto me. I was determined to help him get better, to the best of my ability.” says Mrs. Sharma, mother of Ashish Sharma.
Ashish was then enrolled into a special school that would help to groom him and train him to live an independent life. His parents however were not satisfied and kept on looking for alternative therapy options for their son. It was then that his maternal grandfather read an article on stem cell therapy in the daily newspaper. This article gave his family hope. They began to search for institutes that would help their little child and came across NeuroGen Brain and Spine Institute. They then set up an appointment with Dr Alok Sharma, Director and Dr Nandini Gokulchnandran, Deputy Director to further discuss the course of the treatment. After a detailed discussion with the doctors, they were convinced that this would alter his path of their son’s life.
“Dr Alok Sharma provided us with a ray of hope that we were looking for from the past 13 years. He assured us that Stem Cell Therapy would bring definite improvements in our son and gave us the confidence we needed. We are very satisfied with the results that we have seen in Aashish post therapy. His graph has progressed upwards and much beyond our expectations.” says Mrs.Sharma.
Aashish Sharma underwent Stem Cell Therapy for the first time on 17th May 2011 at NeuroGen Brain and Spine Institute. Along with stem cell therapy he was put on an extensive rehabilitation programme. The rehabilitation program was customized in a manner such that it benefits him to the maximum limit. The aim of rehabilitation program was to improve his motor performance, to channelize his aggression and to help him develop his vocational skills.
Clinical Improvements seen in Aashish post Stem Cell Therapy
Improvements seen in Aashish Sharma post first Stem Cell Therapy
- His eye contact is better with improvement in attention span.
- This has helped him to solve puzzles correctly, at least 80% of the time.
- Handwriting has improved considerably. Also he is able to replicate/copy in writing complete sentences which he could never do before. Earlier he needed to be dictated to.
- Aggression in activities such as flipping hand movements etc. has become less forceful.
- Earlier he was not able to do buttoning of his own shirt, but now he can perform the action very fast.
- Speech is clearer than before.
- Dark skin spots have reduced.
Aashish came to the institute again after three months for a routine follow up with the doctors where he was evaluated again. Pleased with the improvements seen in their son, his parents decided to go for another session of Stem Cell Therapy. He underwent the therapy again on 30 November, 2011.
Improvements seen in Aashish Sharma post second Stem Cell Therapy
- Eye contact has improved and socialization has improved.
- He is now showing interest in music and dance, earlier it was not there.
- He had problem in putting things in proper place, but now he can manage (keeping bed sheets, clothes).
- He can fold his blanket now, it was not earlier.
- Hyperactivity has reduced now by 50%.
- Now, he can do buttoning, after therapy he started doing but it was time consuming.
Awareness has increased – earlier he was going school from 8:30 to 4:30 and not complaining about feeling tired but now he has started complaining that he feels tired and cannot read or write now.
- In cognition – problem solving has improved now he can solve puzzles without much practice.
- Reading skills have improved, earlier he had difficulty in reading long words but now he can read.
- Speech is clearer than before.
- Earlier he had flipping of hand movements, but now it has completely stopped.
- Indian scale for assessment of Autism decreased from 85 to 51.
- Attention has improved.
- Started speaking in English, earlier he used to speak only Marathi.
- Fine motor activities have improved, now he can put knot and do buttoning.
- Tracing is better.
- Reading skill has improved.
- Now, he can recognize all shapes (like circle, triangle, square, etc.).
- His handwriting is better than before, now he always write with in line (space).
- Now, he follows commands while doing exercises.
- He started understanding proportion of food while eating.
What does Mrs. Sharma, mother to Aashish mother has to say
“I can’t believe my son is doing so well. He has appeared for his eigth grade examinations. He now spends time with his younger sister and even helps tutor her for her studies. My son who wasn’t able to fold a handkerchief, now folds blankets independently. He even makes tea for us and his favorite ‘Maggi’ noodles all by himself. I would say Stem cell therapy is a boon for children with Autism” Says Mrs. Sharma.
She is positive that her son will improve even further and will do wonders in his life.