Sunday, July 4, 2010

Prednisone and language?

I haven't posted in a while, but I had to post about this, in case anyone is reading this. I had to take T to the ER last weekend for respiratory distress and they put him on prednisone. Within a day or 2, I had 3 remarkable experiences:

1) he asked me a question: "What is that?"
2) he commented to me: "That tickles!"
3) he exhibited true total joint attention: he pointed and said: "there's a mouse!" then looked at me, caught my eye and looked back to the mouse. then back to my eyes again, then back to the mouse.

At first I thought, wow he really is making progress. And to be clear, he HAS been making a lot of progress.

But then I thought, this is really dramatic, all at once. Could it be the prednisone (a sort of artificial cortisol)? I looked it up, and do you know that there ARE a lot of people out there who claim miraculous improvement in language when they put their autistic kid on prednisone? I don't really know whether this is real or not, but I am planning to find out.

I have been doing some reading about both autism and asthma lately, and there are some pretty striking links. It appears (to me) that it really is very clear that autism involves chronic inflammation, and so does asthma. So it kind of makes sense that prednisone, which is anti-inflammatory, might be beneficial also for someone with autism.

fyi, the prednisone was only for 4 or 5 days, so we're not on it anymore. but I am planning to find out more.


  1. Hi. Comments are working again, I guess! Wonky.

    That's great - so happy to hear about language development.

    He might have had fluid in his ears. Both of my children had that issue - with Jeremy he had a succession of ear infections, and with Brad it was just...there...with no symptoms. We didn't know until we brought him to the audiologist and he flunked a hearing exam. Steroids dry everything up and used to be prescribed for ear infections and the like, but no more (I don't know why).

  2. Maybe, but ... (isn't there always a but??) ... I had his hearing tested long ago, and repeatedly dragged him to the pediatrician and even to an ENT and they told me repeatedly his ears looked fine. And he passed his hearing test (twice). A real audiogram and everything. The other thing, how could fluid in his ears have caused the mouse incident? What was different about that was the gaze. You know, I've always felt like we had a "different" kind of joint attention ... it was like we were sort of talking about the object, but we just didn't have that gaze. he didn't look at me to get my attention or to direct my attention to the object. I was never sure if he was bidding for my attention or not. and I got used to it. I sort of decided he was fine, in his own way, until he DID it! It was so ... normal ... that it literally took my breath away. I gasped. That head swivel was just shocking to see. I don't know ... you think fluid in the ears could make him not want to swivel his head? But he's NEVER done that, not like that. It's kind of hard to describe, but it was like he was someone else, almost. It was like a glimpse into an alternate reality. I was telling my husband yesterday, I keep wanting to sort of write off these weird incidents because I don't know what to do about it and I'm kind of worn out by thinking about them, but really, I believe that my contemporaneous reaction is the best evidence that something signficant really did happen. He hasn't done anything like that since, though. I keep watching for it, but it's not there. Oh, he's doing great, in general. but he hasn't asked me a real question. (I get the sing-songy not a real question of course.) and he does give me awfully good eye contact a lot now, which is awesome. and he points sometimes. but not the full head swivel thing. Maybe it's somehow a vision thing? maybe the question was an anomaly, but the other two events were vision-related??

  3. Hi there. Just stumbled upon your blog post. My son had an anaphylactic response to a cashew this week and the ER doc gave me 4 days of Prednisone for him. He is 5 and has HFA, language being his biggest deficit. Soooo ... after the first dose I noticed his language shot up. Great joint attention!! Gave him the second dose the next day and the same thing. Fabulous language. He even told me about a bad dream he had in detail which he has NEVER done before. Today will be day 3 ... fingers crossed I see more language improvements. I had him scoped a year ago and Prednisone was Rx but I was too scared to give it due to the side effects. Just wanted to tell you, I am seeing the same thing in my son that you saw in your son with the short dose of Prednisone.

  4. Wow, Michele, that is just really fascinating. I still have not figured out why this might be happening. Do you have any working theory as to how the prednisone might be helping? the obvious explanation for me was its anti-inflammatory properties, but the doctors at Johns Hopkins suggested that this would not make sense in relation at least to the type of inflammation they have found so far in the brains of deceased autistic patients. My next avenue of research was more on the hormone side of things, but I got hopelessly confused and have wound up sort of side tracked with other problems ....