RESEARCH IN AUTISM
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The children suffer from abnormal brain development, mainly in the frontal lobe regions (refs), and manifested many signs similar to patients with frontal lobe damage, including inflexible thinking, poor social skills, and impaired decision making. Children with ASD are characterized by great difficulty communicating, forming relationships with others, using language and making appropriate decisions. Repetitive habits and impulsive behaviors also represent them.
The prevalence rate of ASD has been increasing dramatically recently. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimation in the United States, about 1 out of 54 children were identified with ASD in 2016. While these disorders have been affecting millions of children worldwide, no effective pharmacological intervention has developed yet.
We investigate if we can reduce the cognitive disorders and behavioral problems for those children by changing their lifestyle behavior with the Chanwuyi model.
THE EFFECT OF CHANWUYI LIFESTYLE MEDICINE
ON CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
CHANWUYI DIET IMPROVED FLEXIBLE THINKING
In a study that examined the effect of the Chanwuyi Diet on children with ASD (Chan et al., 2012), twenty-four children with ASD were recruited and randomly assigned into the experimental (receiving dietary modification for one month) and the control (no modification) groups. Children who have changed their diet for one month showed improved mental flexibility and less impulsive, as demonstrated by their performance on some commonly used clinical assessments. While children who changed their diet showed 62% improved mental flexibility from baseline, those in the control group showed only 4% improved. Similar results on a test of impulsivity, the experimental group showed a 37% improvement, and the control group showed only a 3% improvement.
Such improvements coincided with their parents' positive evaluations of social communication abilities and flexible inhibitory control of daily behaviors. While parents of children in the control group reported 1 point (out of five) improvement, parents of children in the experimental group reported 2.5 point improvement on social communication problems.
Thus, the Chanwuyi Diet positively affects reducing some behavioral problems in children, namely impulsive and stubborn behavior.
THE EFFECT OF NEI GONG
In other studies (Chan et al., 2013; Chan et al., 2015) that aims to examine the effect of the mind-body exercise used in the Chanwuyi Lifestyle Medicine Program, forty-six children with ASD were recruited and randomly assigned to receive group training in mind-body practice namely Nei Yang Gong (NYG) and Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Children who received four weeks training of NYG showed significantly more significant improvement in mental flexibility, and greater reduced autistic symptoms, and increased control of temper and behavior than those of the control group (Chan et al., 2013), and demonstrated significantly better memory and organizational skill (Chan et al., 2015).
While the NYG groups showed a 23% improvement in a test on mental flexibility (Color Trails Test T2), while in the control group showed only 12%.
PARENTS' FEEDBACK ON THE EFFECT OF NEI GONG
While parents in the NYG group reported 1.7 points improved in temper outbursts, 0.1 points were reported by parents of the control group. A similar result on obsessive behaviors (1.5 vs. 0.5 points).
LONG TERM EFFECT
Another study asked a question: what if the children with ASD adopted a Chanwuyi Lifestyle for six months? What kind of behavioral and cognitive improvement can be observed. To address this question, thirty children participated in this study, and half received the training, and another half served as control subjects. After six months, children who have changed their lifestyle showed a significant improvement in mental flexibility and less disinhibited 213% improvement of the experimental group vs. 112% improvement of the control group at the d2 test-commission). The experimental group's parents reported around 31% improvement across six measures of executive functions (e.g., mental flexibility, inhibition, sociability). On the contrary, there was a decline of about 18% in the control group.
Thus, the changing lifestyle of children with autistic spectrum disorders can reduce some behavioral problems, including obsessive thinking and disinhibition. The effects can be observed after a one-month intervention, and the improvement are more noticeable after six months.
Chan, A. S., Sze, S. L., Cheung, M. C., Han, Y. M., Leung, W. W. & Shi, D. (2011) Dejian mind-body intervention improves the cognitive functions of a child with autism. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, doi:10.1155/2011/549254.
Chan, A., Sze, S. L., Han, Y. M. Y., & Cheung, M. C. (2012). A Chan dietary intervention enhances executive functions and anterior cingulate activity in autism spectrum disorders: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, Article ID 262136.
Chan, A. S., Sze, S. L., Siu, N. Y., Lau, E. M., & Cheung, M. C. (2013). A Chinese mind-body exercise improves self-control of children with autism: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 8, e68184.
Chan, A. S., Han, Y. M. Y., & Cheung, M. C. (2014). Chinese Chan-based prospective neuropsychological intervention for autistic children. In V. B. Patel, V. R. Preedy, & C. R. Martin (Eds.), The Comprehensive Guide to Autism (pp.2333-2355). New York: Springer.
Chan, A. S., Han, Y. M. Y., Sze, S. L., & Lau, E. M. (2015). Neuroenhancement of memory for children with autism by a mind-body exercise. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1893, doi:10.3389/fpsyq.2015.01893.
Chan, A.S., & Sze, S. (2020). Changing Lifestyle Improves Executive Functions and Associated Neurophysiological Activity in Children with Autism. Journal of Autism,7,1, doi:10.7243/2054-992X-7-1