In this interview, Dr Robert Meillio, author of numerous books including “Autism” and “Disconnected Kids and Reconnected Families,” will talk about why autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, how it can be associated with higher intelligence and what interventions can treat it and lead your child on a path to help them succeed.
Full Interview Transcript
Kelly: Thank you for being here. I know our first interview was so interesting and very informative and I wanted to dive in further because I know you, you do a lot of work around autism, and you’ve written some books. Can you tell us exactly what is autism?
Dr. Meillio: It’s really important, it’s the first question I ask whenever I do a lecture and the scary thing is, is that most professionals that I lecture to, they can’t answer that question in neurological terms.
Dr. Meillio: As far as with my research has been able to see, and we’ve actually published papers from my labin the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, what we were able to show is that there is a severe functional disconnection between various networks and it appears on the right side of the brain various networks and hubs in that side are really immature and underdeveloped and then we have areas on the left side that are overactive and these two hemispheres really can’t communicate and talk with one another.
When there is something that is going on in the brain, some sort of developmental balance, it also creates deficits in all the other systems in the body. So, they’re immature they stay, we get and imbalances between like the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and the fight or flight and system, which means that the digestive system isn’t working properly, there’s malabsorption problems, there are vitamin and mineral problems, lack of acid in the stomach, it throws off the pH [inaudible 02:08] a number of rows of bad bacteria create inflammation, you end up with a leaky gut.
Kelly: it seemed like it’s exploded recently. I think in the 70s it’s like one in ten thousand, now it’s one in sixty-five boys. how do you explain that?
Dr. Meillio: Actually now it’s one in twenty-nine boys.
Kelly: One in twenty-nine boys?
Dr. Meillio: I think the most recent statistics is that it’s like a one in thirty-something, one in thirty-six, overall, I think in the United States.
Dr. Meillio: First of all, are we really seeing an epidemic? Because there’s a lot of people out there that deny that and say, we’re becoming more better at diagnosing it. The clear answer is, that’s absolutely not true. That when we look at all of the statistics and the data, only about maybe forty to forty-six percent could be explained by improved diagnosis or greater awareness or migration patterns or any of those things. This means that fifty or sixty percent or more is completely unexplained, which means it never existed before and it’s increasing at about fifteen to twenty percent per year.
Dr. Meillio: This makes it the fastest-growing mental health issue in the world and amongst any of them. ADHD is the number one, Autism is the fastest-growing.
Kelly: what do you think is causing it? Because I mean, you read so many different causes. what is your theories
Dr. Meillio: A combination of things. In my book, I identified about, you know, forty to fifty different environmental factors that elevate the risk.
Dr. Meillio: What we can do is draw correlations, right? Correlations between different risk factors and environmental factors and an elevated risk of having a child with autism or some other disability. e know that parents are much older now In the seventiesparents and mothers were 21, men were 23. Now we’re looking at the average mother is, thirty-two, thirty-three, the average father is over thirty-five. So, males are fifteen years older, on average, when they’re having children. So we know that women over thirty-five and then over forty, there’s a four hundred percent increased risk of men. When we look at other things like exposure to pesticides, that elevates the risk. If you live in an area in an urban area where you have more pollution, that will increase the risk.
Kelly: That is interesting.
Dr. Meillio: If you have a folic acid deficiency, if a mother takes folic acid three months before she’s pregnant and for the first month of pregnancy, she lowers the risk of having a child with autism by like a hundred and fifty percent. If a mother has obesity, diabetes or hypertension that elevates the risk a hundred and fifty percent for each one, right? And so what we see is that in the 70s and 80s first-time moms, there was like twenty-percent overweight and virtually hardly any obesity. Now we’re looking at moms are sixteen percent overweight or obese at the time of their first pregnancy.
Kelly: Oh. Wow.
Dr. Meillio: All of these things are things that really impact the mother and the father’s health. They impact both equally. But it’s all about, inflammation in your body. If there is you know, elevated if it alters your hormone balance or anything that alters your body chemistry significantly or if it throws off] off genes. when we do things that are not healthy for us, we have stress, we eat unhealthy if we’re exposed to different, toxins, it creates what we call methylation or mental blocks, and attached to our genes. And they basically attached to the genes and block the genes from being read. but eighty-five percent of our genes are there really to grow our brain and for brain development. So when a mother and a father get together, if they have these mental marks on their genes, and they come together, we used to believe in the old days, that all of those methodological white and clean, that we started with a completely clean genetic slate. We know that’s not true, that many of these marks can be traced up to eleven generations.
Kelly: Oh wow.
Dr. Meillio: we can see that things run in families. We have these, what we call epigenetic factors. Almost no case of all of these issues in true like autism or any other neurodevelopmental is there a single gene that is responsible for it.
Kelly: It’s environmental.
Dr. Meillio: The risk factor is really looking evolutionarily at traits. we know that certain families have what we call an autism trait. What does that mean? It means that you know that only eighteen-percent of siblings were the kid with autism and the family is going to also have autism. And the parents virtually almost never have an autism diagnosis, but they may look a little autistic. It means they’re highly intelligent, they’re very intellectual. They’re not great socially, and they have a very strong left-brain dominance. bipolar disorder is more people in creative families, or , people that are extremely creative. we see people that have what we call an intellect trait, which is like a left-brain dominant trait andthis is an elevated risk of having things like autism, schizophrenia, OCD, Tourette’s, tic disorder, psychosis. When you have the opposite, which is what we call a creativity trait, you have a risk of bipolar and dyslexia, depression, Parkinson’s, learning disabilities, you know, things of that nature. And so what we’re seeing is that these are traits, notable traits. But if they’re too strong, you have something that’s also a little bit deficient, right? that’s why when you go up the socio-economic scale, you actually have more kids with autism.
Dr. Meillio: The more intelligent the parents are, the higher educated they are, the more money they make, the more likely you are to have a child with ADHD or autism.
Kelly: And why is that?
Dr. Meillio: They have advanced traits. They’re more talented. They have stronger traits for specific things that make them more successful. And what happens is that if you get two people that have a very strong trait for something, their children have even stronger traits, and if you look at traits too far and then combine different environmental factors that can have a negative impact, it pushes it off what we call a cliff edge. that child can end up with a disability. But again, I believe that when you pull them back from that cliff edge and the majority of the time and back to not only normalcy but many of these kids are usually gifted, and this is why they have these issues, and they come from family, that are usually gifted and if you look at the kids in the siblings, they’re usually gifted.
Kelly: Right. There’s a point in your book, you talk about a lot of geniuses, like Einstein with the socks and things like that. So can you talk a bit about that, like some of the traits of well-known names that maybe have those characteristics and maybe weren’t formally diagnosed with autism?
Dr. Meillio: Yeah so we’re looking at somebody that has an unusual skill unusual talent. Who is unusually, you know, smart in certain areas. So neurologically, when someone is talented or gifted, it means that there are certain networks in their brain that are stronger than most people that are more connected, they’re more powerfully connected. And we can train those things. So when we look at somebody that’s in genius level, they had a stronger trait for a particular skill, usually either more of a left-brain dominant intellect trait or a right-brain dominant creativity type of trait. And so, therefore, they are born with certain networks stronger than others were stronger than average. And then through training, and it can be even stronger or they may be from the time they’re born, it’s just really powerful. And these are people that we look into geniuses but genius usually comes with deficits right? Because when you have certain areas that are really powerful, you may have all the areas that are weaker than most. And that’s where the differences is, is that geniuses that are high functioning. You know, Mozart was probably a left-brain genius. Isaac Newton absolutely was autistic. Einstein, I believe is a right-brain genius. Now, there’s also genius that can arise from a perfectly balanced, integrated brain. And that probably is more like Da Vinci right, who really can use both sides of his brain really well.
Kelly: Autism is such a broad spectrum but Asperger’s, for example, is considered more high functioning, high intellectual, but maybe social deficits and things and then you have the low low functioning autism, but they all are under the same umbrella now, so what do you think having everyone grouped together.
Dr. Meillio:A lot of people think, you know, there’s a gene mutation that’s causing this and then if that was the case, then basically everybody who had it would look the same. That’s not the case, right?
Dr. Meillio: It’s an imbalance superimposed on traits that are exacerbated by environmental factors, so there’s a lot of different factors coming. So there’s a wide variety but what is similar is they’re all affecting the right brain and decrease and the left networks are high. Now, there may be different combinations of networks for different degrees of networks that are high and low. but each child is different and it’s a different combination of networks, to degrees, that is really what we’re looking at Asperger’s still exists from the standpoint of people out there. In fact, it’s probably the fastest-growing portion because you look in places like Silicon Valley, where parents are very left-brain dominant, autism is like you know, one in ten.
Kelly: Oh, one in ten in Silicon Valley because I’m here in the Bay Area, so it’s interesting to hear. you created Brain Balance, 10 years ago, I want to find out has anything changed since you created the part, anything new that you would add to that?
Dr. Meillio: What I’ve been working on, really the last ten years as I’ve continued to do a lot of research one of the things that really come to the forefront more than anything primitive reflexes is important for you to reach. That is something that I’ve learned more and more as such a foundation.
Dr. Meillio: kids that are severely impaired, every one of them has like all their primitive reflexes still there. So now, in the midst of doing some major research to prove that primitive reflex, actually can exist beyond infancy and that they are the root cause, and that getting rid of them. So that’s where a lot of my emphasis of research is gone. there’s a lot of clinical tools now that because I teach a lot of doctors and therapists and it’s a different model than the Brain Balance model. what we’re looking at is the use of things like laser electrical stimulation, transcranial stimulation, and combining them together with what I call co-activation. And then using it looking at even things like using EEG and neurofeedback. And then one of our president of a company now called SNA Biotech and this is a young student of mine, who had taken a lot of my work and concepts and ideas and then he created software. That was video games, virtual reality, augmented reality, specific digital music. And so now the area and the biggest area that you’re going to if never heard this, you’re going to hear this everywhere in the next five years. It’s a term called Digital medicine,
Dr. Meillio: the idea is that, you know, we’re using these really advanced tools and using things like virtual reality, augmented reality, combined with things like laser therapy and electrical stimulation, transcranial and, combined with all of that, along with EEG, biofeedback superimposed on all of the other things the bottom up. So one of the main unique things about my approach is that recognizing that these problems start on the way up, that the brain develops from the bottom up and bones and then it becomes coordinated. These problems start in from the bottom up, and if you don’t deal with them from the bottom up initially, you’re not going to get rid of them, if you can use all of these cool tools on the brain, but if you don’t correct that bottom-up issue if you don’t get rid of primitive reflexes, and if you don’t reverse the imbalance, you’re not going to get results. If you did that, and you do all of those things in the right combination with the right specific protocols. So that’s what I’ve been working with other colleagues is really perfecting those protocols, which I think is the next level of, and this is something that is really I’m just teaching to physicians and therapists and doctors in combination with looking at high-level blood work and diet and nutrition and all those things.
Dr. Meillio: that’s been my focus really over the past few years, and I’ve been getting phenomenal results.
Dr. Meillio: Some of it is video games created with specific frequencies of sound and music and eye movements, use vibration in specific frequencies we use a laser at specific frequencies, we use different electrical stimulation at different frequencies. It’s all about creating matching frequencies in the brain and looking at different brainwaves like alpha and beta, data, delta and gamma. it’s all about looking at those things and trying to create coherence. All of it is about functional connectivity in the brain.
Dr. Meillio: You know of course also diet and nutrition and all those things are very important. I think, you know, a lot of people are hearing a lot of stuff about how the gut is very important in looking at the flora in the gut is important, and it is. But my experience is that it never starts in the gut, a lot of people are getting that impression starts in the gut and works its way up to the brain. And I think that can happen. But I think in things like autism [inaudible 30:24] ADHD and especially when you’re looking at an unevenness of development in the brain. metabolic problems truly don’t cause that, right. So nutritional problems gut problems, they don’t cause autism, they don’t cause ADHD. They are more often a result of that because the brain isn’t regulating and but it contributes to it absolutely. So if you eliminate foods or you’re giving them vitamins, then you may improve their symptoms even in quite dramatically in some cases. Well, you’re not dealing with the core issue, which is this developmental imbalance in the brain. And if you’re not dealing with that, and you’re not getting rid of primitive reflexes, then you’re not really going to deal with it.
Kelly: Where can people go for more information about this and for the work that you’re doing currently?
Dr. Meillio: You can look up any information and go to Google Neuros page.
Dr. Meillio: The software SNA Biotech is the company that I’m the president of now that I’m connected with and I go through these trials with, but otherwise, if they want to find any information, just go to my website, DrRobert Meillio.com. All the information of what I’m doing is there right now I’m my practice in New York City, I actively see people. I had one family’s from South Africa here this week for two weeks, I have another family that just came from Aberdeen, Scotland. So I see people from all over the world in my office in New York City, but I’m also traveling all over teaching my clinical course to doctors and therapists in Atlanta right now live. I also have an online course that people can take for certification in child neural developmental disorders. And I’m also teaching it in Europe, in Bulgaria right now, so if people want to travel there as well. So there’s lots of ways to learn. And of course, there’s my book, Disconnected kids.
Kelly: It’s exciting. it’s great to have someone that actually has answers instead of when you ask, like you said, medical professional, they can’t tell you what it is or what to do about it. So thank you.
Dr. Meillio: Very true. My pleasure. Thank you very much.
About Dr. Robert Meillio
Dr. Robert Melillo has been helping children and adults overcome learning disabilities for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include autism spectrum disorders, PDD/NOS, ADD/ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, bipolar disorder, and other mental, attention, behavioral and learning disorders. He is also an expert in diet, nutrition, and neuroimmune disorders in children and adults.