For parents of young children with symptoms of PANDAS or Autism, it can feel overwhelming and scary, especially if they aren’t familiar with these disorders. The more education parents receive, the more confident they become in helping their children.
Many parents wonder if there is a link between PANDAS and Autism in children. To understand a link, it’s important to study them separately first.
What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental and neurological disability that affects one in 36 children. Each child may fall on a different level of the autism spectrum, depending on how their brain develops. Symptoms typically appear before age three and impact communication, social interactions, behaviors, and functioning.
Social Communication and Interaction Symptoms
A child with Autism may exhibit symptoms that hinder the way they communicate and interact with you and with others, including the following:
- Eye contact is limited.
- Expressing emotions or interest in something is infrequent.
- Response time is slow.
- Talking about a favorite subject excessively
- Tone of voice, movements, or expressions may be inappropriate for what is going on.
- Connecting with peers is difficult.
Behaviors and Learning Symptoms
Children with Autism may have behaviors and abilities that aren’t typical for all children, such as:
- Learning details about a specific topic.
- Retaining information for an extended period.
- Excelling in math, science, or the arts.
- Becoming highly focused on particular subjects or objects.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder with repeating behaviors, words, or phrases.
- Having a tough time accepting or adjusting to change.
Autism Severity Levels
When diagnosing Autism in children, doctors will also analyze the severity of their symptoms. There are three levels of severity. Level 1 means a child needs support, Level 2 means substantial support, and Level 3 requires very substantial support.
Quick Facts About Autism
Autism is a disorder with numerous fascinating aspects that are still being studied today. For example, many children with Autism struggle with physical illnesses like epilepsy, eating disorders, asthma, allergies, sleep, and digestive disorders. It is diagnosed in boys more than girls. About 40% of children with Autism do not speak. It is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, with no two children having the same symptoms.
Autism is a treatable disorder; kids can make substantial progress with the correct treatment.
What is PANDAS?
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) affect a child’s movements, behaviors, and cognition. When antibodies from streptococcal infections (strep throat) attack certain brain tissues, it impacts how someone moves and behaves. The antibodies respond incorrectly to bacteria in the body, causing the immune system to malfunction.
In PANDAS, an autoimmune response causes autoimmune encephalitis or brain inflammation.
Symptoms typically appear between three years of age and puberty. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), like Autism, starts abruptly and for no apparent reason. Some children may not show signs of OCD but instead have signs of anorexia. They may also suddenly develop a tic. With PANDAS, there is a direct connection to the strep virus.
Children also have at least two of the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Decline in academic performance
- Emotional changes
- Separation anxiety
- Sensory changes, increased or decreased
- Motor skill changes
- Regression in behaviors
- Slowed or halted development
- Personality changes
- Attention-deficit or hyperactivity
- Urinary changes
PANDAS Severity Levels
There are three severity levels for kids with PANDAS: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild PANDAS occurs for about three hours daily and interferes with how someone functions at school, at home, or socially. Moderate severity symptoms occur more than half, up to 75%, of a child’s waking hours and cause significant interruptions. Severe symptoms occupy between 75% and 100% of a child’s waking hours and are overwhelming, often preventing someone from functioning. In some cases, it can be life-threatening.
Quick Facts About PANDAS
According to research, there are common co-morbid disorders in children with PANDAS. Statistics show the following percentages among co-occurring disorders with PANDAS:
- 80% have sleep disorders
- 98% have behavior regression
- 90% have trouble concentrating
- 90% experience deteriorating handwriting
- 90% experience changes in urinary frequency
- 10% have hallucinations
- 20% have eating disorders
What Is the Link Between PANDAS and Autism?
Autism and PANDAS can be dually diagnosed, but it is rare. PANDAS and Autism overlap in some symptoms, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, but this can sometimes make it harder to diagnose PANDAS accurately. One reason is that a child with Autism does not have to show signs of OCD to have the disorder. A child with either or both disorders may also present with tics or Tourette’s Syndrome.
PANDAS does not occur in children with Autism more than it does in children without Autism.
What Treatments Are Available?
Each child’s treatment plan varies based on their unique needs. However, antibiotics play a crucial role In treating PANDAS and Autism. Still, you must find a doctor specializing in rare diseases who will prescribe a protocol, not just a single antibiotic. The protocol should include the following:
- IV Antibiotics
- Antimicrobial therapies
- Immune modulation therapies
- Immunoglobulin therapy
- Eliminate the infection
- Eliminate co-infections
- Stem cell therapies
- Neurogenerative peptide therapy
Doctors will also adjust a diet to eliminate potential triggers and add anti-inflammatory foods. Supplements that provide antioxidants, dietary supplements, stress reduction, and behavioral therapies can also benefit a child with PANDAS and Autism.
Because Autism is a lifelong disorder, treatment must extend to the school and home. Beneficial treatments include behavioral management, school-based therapies, speech-language therapies, social skills, parent-mediated training, medication therapies, and physical therapy.
Where to Find the Best Help
While your primary family doctor may be excellent, they are not the best physician to treat disorders like PANDAS and Autism. They can do initial testing for the Strep infection and may even put your child on antibiotics. Unfortunately, not all children benefit from antibiotics alone. Plus, your child must engage in therapies that strengthen the immune system to avoid future episodes.
Ask your family doctor for a referral to a specialist in infectious and rare diseases, even if your child seems to improve after one round of antibiotics.
And feel free to contact Lyme Mexico for more information on PANDAS or alternative treatments. Lyme Mexico gladly encourages traveling outside of the United States, Canada, or the UK to receive the very best care.
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