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North Hills Monthly

Advances in Treatments for Autism: One Size Does Not Fit All

Oct 30, 2015 03:06PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch
According to the American Psychiatric Association, ‘autism’ generally refers to two symptoms: limited social and communication skills, and repetitive, restrictive or stereotyped patterns of behavior. The term autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of different disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome, autistic disorder and Rett’s syndrome.

While there have been strides made in the early diagnosis and subsequent treatment of ASD over the past decade, for those who are affected by the disease personally, it still remains a sensitive subject because of the lack of a cure.

Local chiropractic physician Noah Erickson, DC, Med. A.C., and pediatrician Anthony Kovatch, MD, believe that treating children with all levels of ASD requires a joint approach. Dr. Erickson, of Innovative Family Wellness and Dr. Noah’s ARC-Autism Recovery Center in Wexford, specializes in a biomedical, genetically based method of treatment, which includes identifying the primary contributing factors related to pediatric autism symptoms. The medical aspect of treatment is provided by Dr. Kovatch of Pediatric Alliance–Arcadia Division, who orders the medications that help target and treat the contributing factors found by Dr. Erikson.

“This is really a multi-disciplinary approach to medicine,” said Dr. Kovatch. “It’s so important that both the ‘alternative medicine’ community and the ‘conventional medicine’ community work together so that we’re not at odds with each other.”

Personalized Approach
Both doctors emphasize that treatment of ASD requires a personalized approach—just like everyone’s fingerprint is different, body makeup and needs are different, too. Because of this, it is key to create a systematic and tailored method for each individual child.

Through a thorough evaluation process and specific testing, the physicians assess each child and strive to get them well ‘from the inside out.’ “We understand that it’s a behavior issue on the outside, but there is something on the inside causing these external behaviors,” said Dr. Erickson.

Recent advancements in the study of epigenetics, which involves the process of turning specific genes on or off in particular cells, has become a major factor in the treatment of ASD. “All children are unique—their genes are different, their DNA is different, and their exposure to toxins differs, so their conditions have developed differently because they were triggered by different abnormal pathways,” said Dr. Erickson. “Rather than take a shotgun approach to treatment, we work to find individual treatments for each specific child so that we can best target the factors affecting them.”

Using this systematic approach, doctors may determine that there are vitamin deficiencies in a child’s body that may need to be replaced (such as folic acid), or that there is too much of something else within the system, such as metals or other environmental toxins. “When you think of autism, my piece of the puzzle handles the genetics, nutrition and diet,” said Dr. Erickson. “If the child doesn’t feel good, they won’t be able to respond as well to other therapies—it’s an integrative medical approach. Once we balance the body’s chemicals, we see positive changes.”

In addition to medical and biomedical treatments, children with autism may also benefit from more traditional behavioral therapies designed to improve communication and social skills, including speech, play and music therapies, and even chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. “We develop adaptive interventions in which we find a sequence of treatments that works best for that child,” said Dr. Erickson.

Both doctors agree that early intervention is a major factor in the success of ASD treatment. “When we diagnose and treat ASD early, we’re helping the child in the future,” Dr. Kovatch said. “If the disease progresses without treatment, it only becomes more complicated as he or she grows. Brain chemical imbalances, if left untreated, may cause depression, anxiety and even OCD as the child ages.”

“With more awareness and improving diagnostics and treatment options, autism doesn’t carry as much of a stigma or negative connotation as it used to,” added Dr. Erickson of an autism diagnosis. “We’ve come a long way and there is so much more room for growth.”

The physicians will be holding a free presentation regarding ASD at the Northland Library on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. 

For more information, contact Dr. Erickson at or 877-533-9993 or Dr. Kovatch at or 412-366-7337.