Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that starts in childhood and can last for a lifetime. This developmental disability makes them communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that look different from other people. Regressiveness is a distinct feature in many autistic patients characterized by the symptoms like losing words, retreat from interactions, repeating certain behaviors, and reacting to certain things. This is also termed autism with regression or autistic regression.
There are various remedies for regressive autism and communication therapies, skill training, and medicines to control symptoms. However, some anecdotal data states that steroid therapy can benefit autistic children and reverse abnormality in the regression process.
Let’s look at the various studies that show the use of steroids to reverse regressive autism.
Frank H. Duffy led a team of researchers who looked at 20 children aged five years old with regressive ASD. The researchers gave them steroids under a neurologist’s supervision and also took data from 24 autistic children with no steroids under a similar age group.
Using two sequential neurophysical tests called Frequency Modulated Auditory Evoked Response (FMAER) and EEG, the researchers recorded data from both groups of children. The FMAER lets you examine brain waves produced by specific noise stimuli in the brain’s receptive speech processing area. All clinical reports included receptive and expressive language ratings based on earlier developed metrics. The group with regressive ASD was additionally rated on their behavioral trait severity based on the DSM-IV ASD standards list. Conversely, scientists noted the EEG results for deformities like language deficit.
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Children treated with steroids showed a positive influence on the FMAER response. They showed an increase in the temporal gyrus that contains the auditory cortex, fewer deflection, and sound in the FMAER signs. In relation to the kids without any steroids, the steroid-treated kids exhibited notable behavioral signs of development. The speech and action advancements continued showing improvements for one year even after discontinuing the steroids.
According to the FMAER results, Duffy proposes that the loss of understanding and comprehending spoken language in regressive ASD occurs due to the distortion of language input processing in the brain. According to him, the brain’s inability to perceive input speech makes children develop repetitive, invariant functioning as a form of self-stimulation. Children listen to sounds without a fully functional primary auditory cortex but cannot decode by speech’s auditory components. As per the study, when the language interpretation became enhanced after using steroids, autistic behaviors diminished. There were steroid-related side-effects also but were mild and reversible.
Another article by Massachusets General Hospital for Children posted Prednisone’s potential use to treat language regression problems in children who have autism. In the 1970s, Prednisone saw massive use as a corticosteroid drug to bring the EEGs to be normal for children with epilepsy. Although the article talks about the Prednisone concept being an alternative to treat children with autism, there is a lot of research pending in this area. The general idea is that autism is related to immune system disorders. Prednisone weakens the defense system and helps manage language regression in people living with autism.
Yet another article saw definite positive results on using a corticosteroid drug ORG2766, which showed significant improvement in the amount of social interaction and quality of speech among autism patients, especially with autism patients having a language loss problem. Even during pregnancy, a study says that insufficient production of a steroid called Allopreganalanone (ALLO) reduces in the placenta, and the chances of the fetus developing autism or autism spectrum disorders increases. Therefore, injections of ALLO steroids during pregnancy may help prevent cerebellar abnormalities and reduce the chances of abnormal social interactions.
Steroid therapy potential:
This study has shown promising results supporting steroid therapy in regressive autism. Understand that this is just a retrospective study that is carried on in a small group. The factors that influence the treatment in the clinic might have influenced the study results. The result also showed various side effects that occurred due to the use of steroids that play an essential role while assessing the hazards and advantages of this method. The subjects administered steroids require close monitoring of their hypertension, weight, and possible behavioral impacts like mood shifts and lunacy. A similar study for a further extended period and consistent follow-up would help build a change in communication and behavior. Since steroids have been used for several neurological disorders like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Cerebral Aneurysm, neurologists remain acquainted with their use to support regressive autism.
The study reports an enhanced reception in kids with regressive autism after following the procedure with steroids. As of now, there are no medications for regressive autism. Even though steroids have numerous side effects, their risks outweigh their benefits.