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How ASD Parents are Helping their Autistic Children Live Fuller Lives

Boy playing with legos by ASD parent

ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder is Frustrating for Families

If you are an ASD parent, sibling, other close relative, friend, or neighbor of a sufferer of autism spectrum disorder life can be frustrating. The stress of loving someone in the autism spectrum, yet disliking their harmful behaviors both to themselves and sometimes towards others can cause a great deal of anxiety. You know that the child or even adult is unable to control many of those behaviors on their own, but they still effect you and those around you.

Some of those behaviors include lack of communication, lack of response, aggression, misunderstanding, self-harm, and can have other co-factors such as epilepsy or tics.

Families often spend a great deal of time and money searching for effective treatment options, often with little effect. The legalization of medical cannabis in many states and countries is proving to be beneficial for many of these families.

Evidence For the Positive Benefits of Cannabis

Despite the declaration by the federal government that cannabis has no valid medical purposes, parents are discovering otherwise. Anecdotal evidence abounds and is growing that cannabis can be moderately to profoundly helpful for people with varying health conditions, including children on the autism spectrum. There is also a growing body of scientific research showing a link between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the endocannabinoid system.

While there is considerable controversy regarding cannabis, its legal status, and its usefulness, more and more people are overlooking the controversy and receiving help. In addition there are thousands of years of evidence that cannabis has been used medicinally in the past for a number of conditions and is a safer alternative than many of the drugs the pharmaceutical industry promotes.

Keep reading to find out more…

Is anecdotal evidence unscientific?

Those who oppose de-scheduling cannabis (from the federal list of drugs that are considered harmful and have no medicinal benefits), like to use the word and idea of anecdotal evidence in a disdainful manner. Disdain is the bureaucratic scientist’s go-to resource for persuading people to follow their agenda. But is anecdotal evidence really unscientific?

Anecdotal evidence has come to mean evidence that is personally experienced by an individual. The original use of the word was Greek in origin and referred to a written work that was unpublished. It is merely knowledge that is obtained through observation or experience. This does not make the evidence false or unscientific, it just means it hasn’t been published because there has been no formal scientific or clinical studies on it.

The word anecdotal can also refer to a funny story or a personal narrative. Many parents of ASD children, as well as those who use cannabis for other conditions, have their own personal narrative to tell.

cannabis leaf and dropper

Obstacles to Research

One of the main obstacles to research is the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis which has made scientific research very difficult. Most of the scientific studies we rely on to validate the experiences people are having is from other countries, most notably Israel, that are more open to research about this amazing plant. In the United States it has become a catch twenty-two; the government forbids research on cannabis and then turns around and says that cannabis has no medical value due to the absence of research.

There is a large segment of the population that believes the federal government’s opposition to cannabis is not because of safety or concern about individuals. They believe it is due to the billions of dollars that are made by cronies in the pharmaceutical industry, law enforcement, insurance, and private prison system. Money that would shift from their coffers back into the hands of individuals who are suffering from various ailments.

Traditional autism treatments

There are no medications currently approved by the FDA to treat the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These core characteristics are social interaction issues, communication problems, and repetitive behavior. Along with these core symptoms are often many other varied issues such as anxiety, depression, self-injury, aggression, insomnia, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems.

There are various treatments that have been found helpful in some cases, although there is no one-size-fits-all treatment that helps everyone. Children and adults with autism often have other behavioral and health concerns and a range of options is needed.

Behavioral Interventions

There are several behavioral programs used in a clinical, social, or school setting to help improve the social interactions of individuals with autism. These include Positive Behavior Support (PBS), Pivotal Response Training (PRT), Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT), and the most well known — Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). These interventions help with some cases and not with others. They teach skills, look at ways changing the environmental factors may help, or use positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviors.

Another similar program is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that seeks to help the child to recognize their emotions and the thoughts that lead to problems in specific situations, and develop better coping mechanisms.

As good as these programs are, the anxiety and neural misfiring often prevent these patients from being able to focus enough on the program for it to be as beneficial as it could be for them.

Pharmaceutical Drugs

While there are no approved drugs that treat the core symptoms, there are a few drugs used to treat some expressions of autistic behavior. Most of these drugs come with dangerous side effects and often either don’t work as desired, make the symptoms worse, or even cause physical and/or permanent damage to the individual.

Parents who love their children experience a heavy load of blood, sweat, and tears. They love their children and would do almost anything to have a normal relationship and life with their ASD child. This condition doesn’t just effect the child, it also creates enormous pressure on the whole family system. These stresses can include marriage breakdowns and adjustment problems with other children in the family or their environment who aren’t autistic.

There are two pharmaceutical drugs approved to treat some of the symptoms experienced by autistic children, mostly for irritability, aggression, tantrums, and self-injury. Unfortunately these two drugs Risperidone and Aripiprazole are of limited benefit. While they can have some short-term benefit for calming outbursts, they come with a whole series of major side effects and the benefits are often temporary.

The side effects that motivate patients or their caregivers to discontinue treatment include weight gain, diabetes, heart problems, movement dysfunctions such as involuntary body movements, tremors, and rigidity; compulsive desires such as gambling, hormone issues such as male breast enlargement, etc. These are major symptoms that cause debilitating health and quality of life issues.

Cannabis Research and Studies

The good news for parents is that there’s an alternative to these dangerous drugs in the herb cannabis. Both research studies and anecdotal testimonies of parents with autistic children are telling a story of how cannabis is providing an equal or even greater benefit without the serious side effects.

We all have cannabinoid receptors throughout our body and it naturally produces the cannabinoid anandamide. Cannabis acts as a stabilizer in the body, bringing balance to several vital functions. There are even some scientists who believe that cannabis is an essential nutrient much like vitamins or minerals, and that most people are deficient.

Every day more stories are being told of how cannabis is helping families lead more normal lives with their autistic children. These children are happier and more able to learn and live fuller lives as a result.

The effects that cannabis is reported to have in autistic children include less aggression, improved self-regulation, fewer obsessive/compulsive behaviors, and increased ability to interact with others at home and in school. Most studies focus on CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, due to its lack of psychoactive effects and because it is legal in the USA if it has less than .3% THC. However, Israeli studies show that THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant may offer additional benefits.


The Charlotte’s Web CBD brand is well known in the epilepsy community because of the personal story of its development. It is named after a little girl named Charlotte Figi who went from 300 seizures per week to less than one per week.

Not only does CBD help for epileptic seizures, but it helps calm many anxiety issues.

One Parent’s Story


With all of the studies and reports of the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, it makes sense to research and try it as an alternate treatment for autism. Since there is still much research to be done, finding the right dosage can be a challenge, but avoiding the dangerous side affects of most of the pharmaceuticals currently in use makes the difficulties worth it for many.

The most common side effects of CBD are drowsiness and dry mouth, and the strain used to process the CBD can make the difference of whether it energizes for daytime or sedates for better sleep. It’s even more beneficial if your healthcare provider is open to CBD and is willing to work with you on dosage and monitoring its effects.

Go ahead, do your own research and try CBD to see if it has a beneficial on your loved ones symptoms, with the remarkable safety profile of CBD you can conduct your own experimental research to see if it helps in your situation. Let me know in the comments what your results are.

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