Some of you know that I have a 4-year-old daughter, Koryn, who has autism. I also have many friends that I’ve met through social media that also have kids with autism. The struggle is real. The question that always comes up is “Can CBD help my child who has autism?”
The answer is a little bit complicated. First, let’s talk about what autism is.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood. ASD has a broad range of conditions are characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication and social skills.
Autism Affects an Estimated 1 in 60 Children
Sensory issues are a common issue with those affected with Autism. My daughter has an aversion to certain sights and sounds. She doesn’t like loud noises. One sign that a child has autism is by the covering of their ears.
While the sound of a TV show or a vacuum running is normal for me, it makes my daughter uncomfortable. This may be linked to anxiety as she becomes fearful of potential unpleasant noises.
Kids with Autism Avoid Eye Contact
One of the biggest challenges that parents with autistic children go through is getting our child to make eye contact. Koryn will only make eye contact with me when she wants something. Otherwise, she avoids making eye contact like its a plague.
Individuals with autism do not find communicative meaning in others’ eyes like the rest of us. They are not drawn to our eyes as information sources.
Autistic Children Love Spinning in Circles
I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until we found out that Koryn had autism. I remember many years ago seeing kids spin in a circle or sit in front of a washing machine and just thought it was kids being kids.
Not until I saw Koryn sit in front of my our portable dryer that it hit me. Spinning in circles or watching things spin for long periods of time are traits of autism. The very next day, I bought a surge protector with an on/off switch. I got tired of every few minutes running to shut off the dryer. She knew exactly how to turn it on.
Koryn loves it when I spin her in circles.
Common signs of autism
Repetitive behavior is a common sign of autism.
- Flicking light switches on and off
- Rocking back and forth
- Repeats same words over and over again
- Spinning in circles
Heightened or unusual senses
- Strong reaction to loud noises
- Speaking with an odd rhythm, like ending every sentence like a question being asked
- Facial expressions don’t match the words
Lack of responsiveness
Lack of responsiveness is one of the earliest signs of autism in children. Things that children with autism don’t do are:
- Avoids eye contact
- Doesn’t respond when talked to
- Doesn’t like cuddling or physical contact unless initiated by them
Difficulty with social interactions
Children with autism have a hard time socializing with other kids. They would rather be by themselves.
- Difficulty connecting with others and doesn’t play well in groups
- Using toys in a manner other than intended
- Isn’t interested in things happening around them
Lack of sounds and/or nonverbal communication
Lack of speaking or only saying a few words could be a sign of autism. Most kids with autism have trouble with nonverbal forms of communication too.
- No baby talk or babbling
- Speaking only a few words over and over (milk, milk, milk)
- Doesn’t ask for help
- Lack of picking up on nonverbal clues like pointing
Can CBD help those with Autism?
A study found that mutations found in individuals with autism block the action of molecules made by the brain that act on the same receptors that Cannabis’s active chemical acts on.
The underlying results indicate that targeting components of the endocannabinoid signaling system may help reverse autism symptoms.
The study’s findings resulted from a research collaboration between the Stanford laboratories of Dr. Südhof and Dr. Robert Malenka, an author on the paper.
Another study found that humans with autistic-like behavioral issues possessed upregulated CB2receptors.
GABA System Dysfunction in Autism and Related Disorders
Abnormalities in glutamate and GABA signaling have been hypothesized to underlie ASD symptoms and may form a therapeutic target
In addition to their role with the GABA/glutamate neurotransmitters, our endocannabinoid system has also been shown to play a direct role in controlling mitochondrial malfunction.
Autism is mass mitochondrial dysfunction.
CBD and our Cannabinoid Receptors
CBD acts upon CB1 and CB2 receptors located throughout the body to produce a variety of potentially positive outcomes. CBD does not bind directly to either of these receptors but instead impacts them indirectly.
According to the National Institute of Health, manipulating our endocannabinoid system by using cannabinoids like CBD could be useful in treating a variety of medical ailments including Autism.
CBD and My Daughter
While we continue to push for more research on CBD, there are some positive signs. One of the most common results of giving CBD to someone with autism is calmness.
I only gave CBD to my daughter two times. For two weeks this summer and one-week last summer. While I am still trying to convince her mom to give it to her every day if the results were positive.
CBD did calm her down a lot. While she still jumps around it was at a much lesser pace. The key to this was treating her like she was not different from her siblings.
Giving her rules like sitting in her chair to eat at the table started paying off after a few days. She knew that when it was time to eat to run go sit and wait.
The other big difference that I notice is that she doesn’t run around the house like she is on a sugar rush. This is where diet also plays a huge part in treating kids with autism. Ensuring that our kids eat healthy along with CBD will go a long way to treating their symptoms.
As a parent, there is a thin line when it comes to giving our kids CBD. This is my personal decision and one that you must make on your own.
Finally, a clinical trial—which is expected to involve 30 children, ages 8 to 12 years, each diagnosed with autism and severe symptoms—is funded by a $4.7 million gift from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.
The study will be based at the School of Medicine’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) and involve a multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists. The study will measure if CBD effectively and safely alleviates some of the more problematic symptoms of autism.
- An autistic child given THC for six months reported significant reductions in the symptoms of autism.
- Consequences of cannabinoid and monoaminergic system disruption in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorders.
- Cannabidiol Based Medical Cannabis in Children with Autism- a Retrospective Feasibility Study (P3.318)