In the mid 1960’s when we began to investigate stereotypical behavior observed in some children there was very little information available. There were even less treatments. Dr. Bernard Rimland had started working with nutrition and UCLA was experimenting with strong aversive therapy but that was all that we could find available at that time. It was generally accepted that the cause of this behavior was psychiatric. Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, a well known psychiatrist, had published his book, “The Empty Fortress”. Here he blames autism on mothers who reject their children. The world embraced this idea well into the mid 1980’s when it could no longer ignore the overwhelming evidence that showed clearly that autism was primarily a neurological disorder. Dr. Unruh and his team are proud to have been among the first to speak out against the psychiatric cause of autism. We had seen many other children who sustained a brain injury past the age of 6 years and demonstrate autistic behavior. These very children had the most incredible loving parents possible. This plus the diagnostic ability of Dr. Eugene B. Spitz and his team convinced us in the 1960’s to find neurological answers and not behavioral psychiatric ones.
Dr. Unruh’s program is based on the following beliefs:
- Autism is a Neurological problem characterized by disturbances in the sensory areas of the brain. The result of this sensory confusion is to encourage sensory behaviors and to make traditional learning (which can only be accomplished through sensory systems that can process efficiently) very difficult.
- The behavior of a child with autism is a symptom of the real problem. The cause is neurological immaturity not emotional or behavioral. Therefore, effective treatment must be aimed at the cause rather than the symptoms.
- Parents, if given the information and support they need, can be the most effective source of help available. Enabling and empowering parents to manage the troubling needs of their child with autism in their own home can provide rewarding results.
- There are no miracles. However, we believe that there are many treatment options for parents and their child that are safe, affordable, and effective.
- The programs provided by Dr. Unruh work well with other existing programs such as appropriate schooling, supportive counseling, and other community services where available.
Treatment provided by Dr. Unruh begins with evaluative interviews that help determine the degree and type of sensory involvement present in the child. Sensory and developmental testing is completed. Diet, nutrition, sleep, general health and daily routines are also evaluated and then a treatment plan is developed, taught to the family and carried out in the home.
A typical plan could include a sensory motor program designed to train the sensory systems to work like they should. This usually takes about 1 hour to complete and involves a variety of exercises and activities that are organized and incorporated into the daily routine of the child and family. Diet, nutrition, health and sleep intervention is provided as needed. Orientation and information is provided so that families can succeed with new strategies of management in these important areas.
Our service requires the family to visit with Dr. Unruh every 4 months for follow up care. At that time needs are established and the home program is modified based on the changes in the child. Visits take about 3 hours and include the answering of all questions. Parents are given the information they need to make informed decisions and the guidance necessary to successfully accomplish reasonable goals.