Martha Herbert, MD, PhD

The best lecture by far was Saturday morning’s key note speaker, Martha Herbert, MD, PhD.  She is a pediatric neurologist at Harvard and director of the Transcend Program.  Additionally, she authored this book and started the website ,


The Autism Revolution

I’ll summarize my notes from her lecture:

*Autism is up 1200% over a 20 year span, cannot explain this.  We know enough right now to take preemptive measures.

*Cognitive dissonance=things don’t compute.  Was this inevitable?  Was it genetic?  How can this be?  Doesn’t compute?

*Autism is a PROCESS.  Is an abstraction.  Not from a unified thing.  A collection of behaviors we observe.  Many medical care providers still see Autism as a dead end.

Things are interconnected:

-gut-brain, brain immune, food-behavior, allergen-behavior, sleep-behavior

*Autism is a whole body condition, but it’s diagnosed behaviorally.  Autistic kids sometimes suffer from seizures, cognitive deficits, senosorimotor issues, sleep disturbances, immune, GI, food allergies, systemic imbalances, eating issues, diarrhea, etc.

*Chronic vulnerability=system is not in homeostasis

*Iceberg analogy=tip of the iceberg are the visible symptom.  There are many underlying functional disturbances.  Medically, doctors look at the symptoms for a quick fix.  Need to start looking at the underlying issues.

10 Tips:

  1. Go for the extraordinary-capable of insights and creativity.  Perceive things others cannot.  Nonverbal kids typing what they cannot speak.  Areas of superior performance.  Autism is not mental retardation.  We’ve underestimated Autistic kids.  Rejoice their strengths.  Goal is not to fix them.  Normal is not very interesting.  Not broken-challenged.
  2. Know what you can’t control and what you can.  Can’t change our genes.  At least 300-800 genes associated.  Most of them are not of major effect.  Genes don’t cause, they contribute.  Mouse research: symptoms may not be from genetics, but from side effects from deberit.  Sick from environment.  More environmental contribution.  Genes increase risk.  Environment-eat, products we use, ventilize our house, organize routines, how we use our bodies—impacts gene espression.  Links.  Gene expression-epigenetics-express different genes as a fetus than when you’re an adult.  Environment changes gene expression.  Not just genes. Non-coding DNA.  Affected by what we eat, stress.  FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO-create supportive, nourishing environment.  Build health and resiliency, remove harmful exposures.
  3. Repair and support cells and cycles.  Slide of cell.  Oxidative stress.  Protein damage, membrane, DNA, mitochondrial damage.  Cell swelling.  Cell pulls back from functioning.  Want to reverse this.  Apoptosis=cell death.  Can do something about sick cells.  Do something about it.  Scientific support  for safe things we can do. Good food, clean food.  Processed food—additives, pesticides, farmed fish eating corn, fish fed with antibiotic.  Develop a healthy suspicion of food.  Not made with your health in mind.  Need to give the best food possible.  High nutrient density.  Many nutrients per calorie.  Farmes markets, community gardens.
  4. Get gut and immune systems on your side.  Healthy food, nutrients, probiotics, fermented food.
  5. Build better brain health.  Physical organ, fed by blood vessels.  Made of cells that can be sick or healthy.  Neuroinflammation-not just healthy brain tissue, brain health problems.  Irratable brain.  Mitochondrial disfunction in all psychiatric.  Air pollution and brain inflammation.  Signs of brain inflammation.  Glial cells play an enormous role.  The Other Brain by Douglass Fields.   Glial cells in the brain-4 times as numerous.  Take care of neurons, clean things up.  Brain needs energy and dutrition supplies.  Protect it from taking hits on environmental challenges.  Brain is wet!  Can get physically ill.
  6. Calm brain chaos.  Functions-what is it like to live with a brain this inflamed.  Sensations that seem small may seem huge to child.  Sensory overload, social behaviors, stereotypies, seixures, sensorimotor, stress.  Understand how your child’s brain makes them feel.  Overwhelming.  Take steps to make things more tolerable
  7. Join your child’s world.  Behaviors mean something’s not right.  Hunt for problems in environment.  Pain, discomfort, poor function.    Decode your child’s messages.  Teach them step by step.  Many things do not come naturally to people with Autism.  Half as much in twice the time.
  8. Love, rejoice and make breakthroughs.  Different kinds of activities.  Kids Beyond Limits.  Feldenkreis.
  9. Lead the revolution!  Autism 360, action research,
  10. Do it for yourself, your next baby and.  Avoid toxins during pregnancy, common allergens,.  Looking at     Autism at something that develops, snowball ito Autism.  Cascade doesn’t have to start.  Missing slide:  bandwith (bars on your phone) improving biological substrate.

There has been a drop  in infectious diseases and an increase in chronic conditions.  We really do have a problem.  There has been a radical increase in chemical production, a rise in pesticide factories…we don’t have toxicological testing.  We’re sailing in unchartered waters.  .  The planet is not stable.

People all over the world are dealing with these issues.  You are not alone.

Martha Herbert is truly insightful and ahead of the game. I recommend reading her book if you’re the parent or have a loved one with Autism.

Her speech might be on the ARI website soon.  If so, WATCH IT!


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