Autism and Mental Health

By Lisa Ackerman


This month I just spent a weekend with hundreds of doctors and nurses at the Integrative Medicine for Mental Health (IMMH) conference (1). This conference was about innovative treatments outside the standard prescription pad for mental health issues. Our goal for TACA families is to share the TACA mission in hopes new families in need find us.


A pet peeve: I’ve always hated that autism is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5 -2) and that it is classified as a mental illness. I am well-aware this thinking is flawed because that is how the world views, diagnoses and treats autism.


Why I feel this way: It makes me mad because of my personal experiences of kids with autism being so sick. Autism is not just the brain floating in space. The brain is connected to the body. When you test for comorbid conditions and treat those, the autism becomes less of an issue. This is why I think the diagnosis SHOULD be reclassified a whole body chronic disease/ syndrome (with many different new names) and not classified as a brain disorder in a mental health bucket.


I need to get over my pet peeve and the classification of mental health. There is help in the functional medicine mental health groups who treat conditions which affect our children with autism autism specific groups with the bucket label of mental health are less likely to treat a child’s overall health and well-being.


Like with any educational effort there will be topics applicable to your needs and many things that are not.


In addition, many symptoms experienced are classified as mental health that actually have a physiological treatment path. Some of these symptoms include: severe anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD and more (3.)


A story at the recent IMMH conference took my breath away and relates the point of this blog perfectly. A medical professional came up to the TACA table to introduced herself and explained how she found TACA. She found TACA after her 6 year-old tried to commit suicide because of the negative effects of layering ADHD medications, adding a mood stabilizer then an SSRI (Note: SSRI’s also known as serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors or serotonergic antidepressants are a class of drugs treating mental health issues. 4) She wanted answers besides the three drugs prescribed to her son that were hurting not helping. She did research found TACA, a chapter and started learning.  After finding TACA, she found a new doctor, was guided on natural treatments of supplements and changed her son’s diet to remove food allergies.  Today, he’s 11 years-old, off all medications, happy and in regular education placement. Life is not without challenges but with treatment her son is making significant strides forward.  She found me to thank TACA for all the help they received. That help changed her son’s life.


I have a deep respect for treatments written out on a prescription pad. I know these treatments can help many. I also know these same prescription can have the opposite effect on some people and can hurt. We need to continue the dialog to treat the patient and meet their individual needs.


This idea that mental health is the only mainstream label we have is not a not a well thought out idea.  Until there is a better description of the whole body chronic disease(s) or syndrome, we have to look at the research for the symptoms not the mental health label of the condition. We have to be willing to learn, read and continue to look for answers.


Families need more than a pediatrician or a specialist. They need the right treating resources for their child (and that’s where TACA is helpful.) Our treating resources needs to look beyond the autism, mental health labels and see the individual to strive for normalized commercial labs and improved health.







3 thoughts on “Autism and Mental Health

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      1. There are a few severe ones out there, we don’t hear about it because it gets to the point we can’t take them out in the community anymore. I want to start a support group for the care takers that are where I am at. Believe it or not, Fairview’s “Southern Star Program” has been nothing but amazing. I adore the staff and Kayla is so so happy there, even though it is temporary, 11 months max.. She tells me bye Mom, when she feels our visit is over lol. Some need 24/7 structure and with Kayla’s father throwing up his arms and giving up, I couldn’t do it a a lone anymore. I don’t k now if you have been following her page, but our government needs to see what is happening behind closed doors.

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