Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is becoming an increasing diagnosis, with 1 in 45 children said to have autism in the USA according to parental numbers, while official estimates say 1 in 68. The exact number is probably much higher but what we do know is that it’s one of the fastest-growing medical diagnoses in the USA. It’s becoming increasingly common to find children with this label in classrooms across the Western world and is a cause for secrecy and stigma within some communities and cultures, particularly in Asia. There are several holistic treatments and approaches that have demonstrated significant benefits for people with autism, from diet and energetic healing to aromatherapy. A specific method, which is becoming increasingly popular, is South Indian Siddhar teacher, Sri Prannaji’s Varma (or Varmam) Therapy. This strategy, delivered to children with support from parents or carers, involves a series of massage techniques applied consistently on an ongoing basis.
It’s useful to understand exactly what autism is, in order to understand the holistic therapies being used today to treat it.
What Does Autism Actually Mean?
The term autism can be understood both scientifically and energetically. It actually derives from the Greek word ‘aut’ (self) and ism (a state of being), which can be interpreted as meaning to live in oneself. It is viewed as a complex neurobiological disorder where the diagnosis depends on a set of behavioural characteristics. However just like every human, every child with ASD has a unique way of seeing and responding to the world. They can be highly dependent on routines, sensitive to their environment and have intense interests or connections with particular items. Their ability to communicate can vary from a high level of verbal and written articulation to limited or no speech at all. They can have an incredible memory and extreme knowledge for certain topics.
As my mother’s friend, who is an artist and school counsellor, has told me lightheartedly on several occasions, we are all on the spectrum, just to varying degrees. I think she means that these labels, like others used in the medical and educational systems, are limited and box people in. Let’s be fair, language and labels serve in one sense and are pretty useful for communication and agreement in our world. It is an agreement that a red light means stop and a green light means go. A label of a particular person being identified as their occupation is relevant – doctor, police officer, the list goes on, for a particular purpose. My point here is this: yes labels can have a purpose but sometimes the owner of the label is identified as the label.
How is the Brain Functioning Differently?
Information processing for children with ASD is altered primarily through gene mutations that interfere with the development of neurons and disrupt the brain wiring. These disruptions come about from changes in the chemical pathways and receptor sites or through the physical brain structure. The result? Electrical ‘overloading’ to some parts of the brain and then a lack of energy as a result of ‘blockages’ in other parts. The characteristics of a person diagnosed with ASD are due to the way in which their brain processes information, particularly those areas responsible for understanding emotions and language. Generally, unnecessary pathways for learning are pruned through discernment. Our brain learns what works best and is seeking the most efficient way to process information. Think about a pruned tree – the energy goes towards the remaining branches instead of all the buds and twigs that were removed. In ASD, the pruning doesn’t occur as frequently and therefore the information is sent through inefficient pathways and is not processed ‘correctly’. The physical and chemical processes which cause the outward behavioural manifestations of ASD are incredibly complex and cannot be appropriately summarised into one article but are useful in gaining a context for what is happening.
So What Does this Mean for People with Autism?
With boys approximately five times more likely to have ASD than girls, ASD is a complex condition of which there are multiple underlying causes. The majority of contemporary research, however, links the disorder with brain development and/or irregular functioning in the synaptic process in the brain. The neural transmission and the synapses are the brain’s information highway, therefore the electrical/energetic pathways of the brain are imbalanced. Interestingly, a recent collaboration project between Autism Speaks and Google Cloud, called MSSNG, is undertaking unprecedented research into autism, including identifying 61 genetic variations that can affect autism risk, delving deeper into the different types of autism on the spectrum. This project uses open science to foster transparent and global rigorous research into autism from a scientific perspective. There are also several complementary approaches not yet included in the platform, which are being used by many across the world.
What are Some Holistic Approaches?
From an energetic perspective, the modality Pranic Healing has a protocol developed by Master Stephen Co, whose own daughter was diagnosed with autism but no longer experiences any of the symptoms. Modern Pranic Healing is a no-touch energy healing modality, practiced in more than 90 countries since its founder, Master Choa Kok Sui – who was also a chemical engineer – began teaching it globally 30 years ago. Through easy-to-learn techniques and intelligently distilled wisdom; synthesised through studying various modalities and traditions, along with extensive testing and validating, various protocols are now available. Pranic Healing works with the understanding that the body has the ability to heal itself (think of a cut or a scratch healing on its own). It adheres to the principle that life force energy can be cultivated and applied with precision, to cleanse and energise specific parts of the physical and interpenetrating energy bodies; based on their physical, mental and emotional states, in order to restore health and balance. The autism protocol is now available and utilized by Pranic Healing practitioners globally, often using Superbrain Yoga to further assist in strengthening and regulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Varmam refers to the points on the physical body where life force resides and flows. Varmam also means ‘where breathing energy resides in the body’. Varmam points are scattered over various parts of body–in nerves, nerve joints, bones, muscles, ligaments and inner organs. Varmacology is considered to be more than a medical practice but a Divine Art, dating back to the 5th Century AD. This modality has over 120 texts originally transcribed onto palm leaf manuscripts, almost exclusively in Tamil (which also happens to be one of the oldest surviving classical languages in the world). Only one of the texts found was written in Sanskrit. These texts include extensive detail on physiology, anatomy, diagnosis and treatment, and although it’s a vast science, treatment often involves application of pressure to specific points of the body to stimulate the life energy.
The modality of Varmam Therapy is being applied and supported by the Thirumoolar Varmam Research and Therapy Centre in Tamil Nadu, South India. The Arts Research Institute (ARI) has seen the spread of the science of Varmam among the people of Tamil Nadu since 2005, with almost 1,500 registered medical practitioners across different systems of medicine, including 150 doctors in 18 treatment centres across India. Through the ARI, nearly 2,250 people (both new and follow up) receive Varmam treatment each month, conducted under the supervision of registered medical practitioners, treating patients with various ailments and conditions.
The ARI have also carried out programs to support parents of children with special needs, by conducting free training to apply Varmam to enhance development of brain cells, nervous system, internal organ strength and balanced distribution of energy to the brain.
Varmam Therapy is also focused on the need to balance the brain in order to have normal function. They see these children as tending to have overactive parts of the brain and underactive aspects in another part. Through Varma or Varmam Therapy, the parents or caregivers provide consistent massage treatment over a few months. Sri Prannaji suggests practicing the Varma Therapy in conjunction with dietary control, neuromotor therapy and yoga to produce the best outcomes. He has lost count of the number of children and parents he has humbly taught and treated across the world over the years. Due to the stigma of having ASD many families, particularly in Asia, will privately contact him to give feedback and express their thanks.
We know that food is medicine. There are studies since the 1970s demonstrating nutritional support does have a positive impact on autistic children. Nutritional support for people with autism includes enhancing digestion and gut health, stabilising blood sugar, and increasing vitamin and mineral intake, particularly B6, vitamin A and zinc. Boosting omega 3 fats is also important as people with autism are often found to be deficient. It has been discovered that supplementing omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can slow the activity of the defective enzyme, which has clinically shown to improve focus, behaviour, mood, speech, imagination and sleep patterns of autistic children. There’s also The Autism Diet which was developed by Dr J Robert Cade, who dedicated 15 years to studying the effects of a gluten and casein (dairy)-free diet in children with autism, together with Malcolm Privette, who still undertakes research into autism and diet. They discovered that, for an individual with autism, the breakdown of dietary protein into smaller peptides, and eventually amino acids, as per regular digestive function, just doesn’t happen. They found that partially broken down components of original proteins are able to pass from the intestine into the bloodstream. This is due to incomplete digestion and/or an intestinal lining defect. Two of the diet’s most common proteins causing this are gluten and casein. Some of the components that are released into the bloodstream have opioid (morphine-like) properties. These proteins are triggered by the brain receptors and express the symptoms of autism.
Many other modalities and individuals are responding to the needs of autistic children from a multidimensional level. There’s Judy Satori, a new paradigm author and spiritual teacher from New Zealand who offers free energy transmissions for children with autism and has received positive feedback from parents. There is also the use of essential oils, which is a grounded and tactile approach that works with the limbic brain to connect deeply to the hormonal and emotional aspects of a person. Some suggested oils include Vetiver (which is said to balance brainwaves) Frankincense (to support neurological development, focus and stress levels), and Lavender (famous for its calming presence for the mind and body). There’s even yoga for austism programs being offered in the USA and various children’s yoga teachers across the world using breath work, movement and meditation to contribute to the wellbeing of children. Naturally, the parents and caregivers commitment is important, as the consistent implementation of any practice is key to effective results. It’s great that so many options are available to people with autism and their families to expand their quality of life and overall wellbeing.