One of the great things about social media is that it allows us to talk more about the issues that matter without needing a specific place to do it. Social media allows us to talk about anything from anywhere without worry that we are going to be ignored by the powers that be.
So, an issue that must be discussed seriously is the fact that Autism is sometimes the diagnosis that is given to infants and babies even though the diagnosis should actually be something as “simple” as a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
This is becoming a serious problem that needs to be addressed soon to prevent further children being mis-diagnosed in the future. Social media is helping articles like this one go viral and get the attention that is needed.
What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
As you can probably assume, Vitamin B12 deficiency is when an infant is born (or grows up) with a deficiency is the vitamin B12. This critical vitamin is important for development in things like cognitive thinking, and speech among other things, but it is not correctly diagnosed in children very often due to lack of knowledge about this mis-diagnosis that happens much more frequently than any of us would like to believe.
A child who is born with Vitamin B12 deficiency may have this condition due to their own chemical makeup, or it could be due to the fact that their mother has this deficiency as well, but it has not been diagnosed. This condition is not as obvious in parents, it develops slowly and doesn’t seem as obvious (or visible at all), so testing is not done during pregnancy. The baby, with its small size, has severe problems at birth with brain and motor function due to this deficiency and it is automatically diagnosed as Autism.
Children with this deficiency will have issues with cognitive function, speech, movement, etc. If undiagnosed correctly (and treated), the child will experience brain atrophy which will leave them unable to excel in life the same way a traditional child would, and possibly even lead to further complications (see below).
How is it Mis-Diagnosed as Autism?
As mentioned briefly, the deficiency in Vitamin B12 have a lot of the same symptoms as Autism, so when a specialist is called in to look at this infant and the symptoms s/he is showing, their assumption is going to be Autism, because they feel it is the only thing that it could possibly be.
While many doctors and specialists know about Vitamin B12 deficiency, it still does not have the same understanding or momentum that Autism does, so there is not enough testing or understanding of this deficiency to make it part of the routine checks for both pregnant mothers and babies that are born with abnormal characteristics that become present as they age.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is often treated partially with formula, etc, but if a child is born with this condition, they are going to need treatment to make sure that they don’t suffer any lasting conditions from this birth defect. It is easily fixed, really, and many of the severe symptoms will go away with treatment. It simply has to be seen and diagnosed correctly.
What Are the Concerns Over the Mis-Diagnosis?
As you can imagine, there are many concerns over this mis-diagnoses, starting with the point that a child cannot get the proper help that s/he needs if the proper diagnosis is not given to him/her and the loving family. When the doctor gives the diagnosis of Autism, there is a scheme of different therapies and and medications to look at so that the child can lead as normal a life as possible. So, once this diagnosis is given, the idea that this could be a mis-diagnosis is forgotten about, the proper diagnosis never gets a chance.
If not treated properly, Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to comatose (due to brain atrophy) and/or death in children and infants, so the proper testing needs to be taken seriously so that this doesn’t happen to children.
With treatment, a lot of the brain damage and mental retardation can be reversed so that parents and children are able to have great lives with no lasting effects of the deficiency that is properly acknowledged and taken care of.
So, what can we do?
As you’ve learned, proper diagnosis is key in these kinds of situations. Talking about this important condition and sharing it with friends and family will help get the awareness out there for everyone who is looking to have children. If a mother is expecting and she sees this article, she can look into testing to see where her Vitamin B12 levels are. If a child is a young and diagnosed with Autism only to see no improvement, educated parents can look into the idea of this alternative that could be the real cause of the child’s problem.
The thing is, children’s lives are at risk that don’t have to be, so getting the word out there about this not-talked-about deficiency is really important to making sure that more lives are saved – physically and otherwise. The more we talk about it, the more people understand about it, and hopefully in the future, this will be part of the standard tests that mothers and babies go through to make sure that it is properly identified for quality of life.
There is no easy way to understand how a child with mental retardation lives his/her life unless it is something that you’ve experienced with a sibling or a loved one. While it isn’t a death sentence, it’s hard for you to see them go through life that is difficult when they don’t have to. So, if someone could make it easier by getting the diagnosis and treatment right, wouldn’t you want that for your loved one? Of course. Well, this is the first step to accomplishing that for all of the babies out there in the future.