Innovations in Autism Care: MAPS Conference Highlights


This post is going to be very different. I’m actually on location. I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I’m at the MAPS conference, 2024. MAPS is the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. 

Why is MAPS important?

You may be wondering, why is this conference a big deal. Why would I actually travel to this? And so picking the right doctor for your child is extremely important. You’ve got to find a knowledgeable doctor. You’ve got to find a compassionate doctor. You have to find a doctor who stays on top of the research. And you’ve got to find a doctor that specializes in the symptoms that are important for your child. So all of that combination is definitely very difficult to handle. So finding a doctor is absolutely critical for regaining the health of your child. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to find a really knowledgeable doctor, and I know that. 

Conventional medicine

I worked with a lot of really great conventional medicine doctors, and there are some fabulous conventional medicine doctors. And when I say conventional medicine doctors, I’m talking about the doctor you make an appointment to, maybe at a large hospital, they accept your insurance. There’s that whole typical doctor appointment type thing. And there are great conventional medicine doctors, and you want to use conventional medicine. But you also want to use something called functional medicine. 

Functional medicine

And so what is functional medicine? Functional medicine is getting at the root cause of some of those symptoms. Why would you want to do that? Well, you don’t want to just supplement or medicate as a bandaid approach. You really want to find out what is the cause for some of these issues that your child is having. And that’s where functional medicine comes in. 

Now, the thing about functional medicine, for the most part, they do not accept insurance. Functional medicine doctors just do not participate in that whole healthcare structure. And why is that? There’s a variety of reasons, but many times they feel the insurance companies really limit, 

  • how much time they can spend, and 
  • what they can recommend. 

And we certainly don’t want any limitations put on our child to feel better. 

Finding the right functional medicine doctor

I think, as you know by now, my level of research is quite high when it comes to even some of the simplest decisions. I always want to make sure I have quality information. Give me the best information so I can make the best decision possible. 

When I was trying to understand doctors and functional medicine doctors, because I’m going to pay out of pocket, so I might pay $300, or $500, or $1,500. If I’m going to spend that money, I want to make sure I do it right, and I do it well, and I do it right the first time. That’s not to say you’ll stick with the same doctor forever. That would not seem reasonable. But I wanted to make sure that I got the right doctor for the right moment, for the right issues. I wanted to make sure I got the right doctor for the right health concerns. That synergy, that matchup, super important. 

So I started researching functional medicine doctors, and then I started calling them (my level of research is quite high). So I ended up publishing a book in 2020 that listed out the functional medicine doctors that focused on autism, who were really good at interacting with the parents and explaining things and having the parents feel heard and coming up with great path forward for their child. 

That is how many of the functional medicine doctors got to know me. This is the first time I’m in person at one of their conferences. This is a conference for doctors, health care practitioners, NDDO, PA. It’s a medical conference. This is not open to the general public. I got in because of my PhD. You have to have credentials as to why you’re here. 


And for the most part, healthcare practitioners are registering for CME credits – Continuing Medical Education. It’s great for doctors and health care practitioners to have a conference like MAPS that gives CME credits. This is how doctors stay on top of the research. It’s extremely hard to stay on top of the research and run a practice and see patients and make sure everything moves along. So it’s important for doctors to have that avenue of how they can stay on top of everything in a reasonable way. And that’s what CME is, and that’s what this conference is about. 

So the people giving the lectures, giving the talks, are all your top doctors. They call them key opinion leaders. They’re the ones doing research, publishing research, and what they’re doing now is teaching. And so the people who are listening, all the health care practitioners, they’re the ones that are taking this high-level information and putting it into practice more and more. 

Practice, in the literal sense

You might notice I use the word practice a lot, right? Think about it. Doctors practice medicine. That’s a common phrase, practice. And many times when we go to the doctors, we think they have all the answers. We hope they have all the answers. We want them to have all the answers. But it’s not really the case. It’s a practice. And so that’s why sometimes you might have to change functional medicine doctors depending upon what the issue is for your child, because some are very specialized in this very particular area. And if your child doesn’t have that issue, it’s going to be a mismatch, and it’s going to be frustrating for you, for your child, and also for them. Most of these doctors are just so pleasant, and their heart is in the right place. They are dedicated and determined. So you just want that synergy to really work. 

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to interview some of these doctors and just ask them some simple questions just quickly to get to know them so that you can start to see how the field of medicine is, how you want to find a doctor, how you to maybe even ask the doctor you’re working with, “Hey, what CME credits did you do this year? Did you take any autism credits? Did you take any CME credits about autism? What was the research that you learned?” You can have that dialog. That would be a great question to a doctor, to a good doctor because a good doctor would want to have that conversation with you. If a doctor is like, I just did some CME online and just tried to get it over with, do you really want that doctor overseeing your child’s health? No, right? You want an educated doctor. You want someone who stays up to date because the field of autism is changing so fast. And you want that benefit for your child. 


Dr Nancy O’Hara, MD, MPH

Dr Nancy O’Hara is a board-certified pediatrician. She practices in Wilton, Connecticut.

Q: You’re one of the leaders here at the MAPS Conference. What is one exciting thing that you taught at this conference?

A: I am so passionate about PANs and PANDAs and post-infectious syndromes that our kids go through. The kids that get anxiety or OCD or tics or any symptoms after an infection. And I got to talk about that and show some of the kids that have improved with some of the treatments we use.

Natural detoxification processes

Q: And what was one exciting thing you learned?

A: It’s so great to get reinforced about the natural detoxification processes, the way our parasympathetic nervous system needs to adapt to help us decrease stress, and inflammation, and help us naturally detoxify. Things just as breathing, exercise, playing in the dirt, taking baths, all of the things that help us feel better are really good for our bodies.

Q: What would be one way to shift more into that parasympathetic? If someone’s sleeping and they’re breathing, what else could they do?

A: Think about the things that the mountain man, Wim Hof, tells us, and think about taking a cold plunge or even 30 to 60 seconds of a cold shower at the end of your shower. And if you can, putting that together with sweating, so hot and cold, can be another way to add to your detox routine.

Bob Miller, BCTN

Bob Miller is a traditional naturopath. He’s been practicing for about 30 years.

Q: How long have you been working with the autism population?

A: Well, we started working with autism maybe five, or six years ago. It became more prevalent. We’ve been very fascinated with some of the genetic and environmental factors that seem to be impacting these children.


Q: You’re a leader in the field, so you gave a talk here at MAPS. Could you give me a summary of neuroinflammation?

A: Sure. Well, we’ve known for a long time that this is neuroinflammation. Now, the question becomes, what’s causing it? And I don’t think we can say that, yes, there is a genetic marker or an environmental factor. I like to use the phrase, it’s the 3D chess game played underwater. Multiple, multiple factors. And what may be affecting one child may not be affecting someone else, and it could be multiple things. But one of the things that seems to be a common theme among many of these children. They have high glutamate. 

Now, glutamate is a neurotransmitter that makes you intelligent, highly motivated, go-getter. But in excess, it creates a problem. So we started looking at what might be some factors that cause this. So we backed up a step to something called the NMDA receptor, which is a receptor that pushes extra calcium inside the cell. And this will create mast cells. Many people know there are sometimes excess mast cells in these children, and then it’ll create something called superoxide. But then what happens is that an NMDA receptor stimulates glutamate, and you can have genetic mutations that cause the glutamate to be upregulated as well.


But first, let’s go back to NMDA. We started looking at what are some of the things that stimulate NMDA, and we found literature that glyphosate or Roundup can stimulate it. And from a genetic standpoint, you can have genetic mutations what’s called a PON1 enzyme that you don’t clear it as well. So if you’re exposed to a lot of glutamate or if you’re exposed to a lot of glyphosate and you got the PON1 mutation, you may not be clearing that glyphosate. 

Additionally, high fructose corn syrup, that’s only been around since the late ’70s, stimulates the NMDA. And we all love our cell phones and our WiFi, but that seems to stimulate the NMDA receptor. And there are individuals that will actually be more susceptible. There’s an enzyme called CACNA1C. Mutations in that can cause EMF to have more impact. 

One of the things that greatly concerns me is plastics or what’s called phthalates. These phthalates are now everywhere. They’re in the water. Where I’m from, Pennsylvania, every waterway has phthalates in it. It’s now getting into our food. It can also be in personal care products. This stimulates a cascade of creating something called quinolinic acid in excess that stimulates the NMDA receptor.

So as you can see, there are many things here that are causing a problem. And you can have genetic mutations on the genes that cleared the phthalates. So talk about a complex quagmire here. And then what happens is that stimulates the glutamate. You can also have genes that will cause you to make more glutamate. There are genetic mutations that can cause you to not convert glutamate into GABA, the relaxing. 

Then to further complicate things, many people know that glutathione is a very important antioxidant that helps with inflammation. To make glutathione, we need something called cysteine. Maybe people are familiar with NAC and AC, and that needs to go into the cell to make the glutathione. Unfortunately, glutamate can impair the body’s ability to put that into the cell. Then we need that glutathione inside the cell to stop a process called ferroptosis, where iron creates inflammation. There’s literature on how ferroptosis is also a factor in autism as well. 

I don’t think there’s any easy answers. We could probably see 20 autistic children in a row, possibly 20 different ways that they got there. But it’s some combination, some dance between genetic factors and environmental factors.

Of course, as we know, autism is rising dramatically. It wasn’t that prevalent before, so our genes haven’t changed, but our environment has. We need to figure out what’s that combination? And there are ways to calm down the NMDA receptor. There are ways to calm down glutamate. There are ways to remove glyphosate, and there are ways to clear plastics with phthalates from the body. So there’s a lot of work ahead of us. There’s no easy answers. But if we all work together on this, hopefully we’ll crack the code on this difficult problem.

Q: And is it better to know about genetic information so that you can help the child better? Some parents might not want to know genetic information.

A: Sure. Well, there are two ways you can look at genetics. Professional geneticists look at things related to disease. What we do is we just look at function. From my perspective, there’s nothing harmful to know about if you might be not assembling glutathione properly if you don’t turn glutamate into GABA. This isn’t a disease. This isn’t a, oh, my gosh, I’m going to get some weird disease down the road. So knowing where the weakness is. 

I recently heard an analogy that looking at your genes is like looking at where there are cracks in the wall and where you can go to patch them up. So it’s probably to your advantage to know if you have a sensitivity to EMF or not. Probably good to know if you have difficulty clearing plastics, then you can take steps to be really careful with that. It’s good to know if you have trouble with glutamate, so you don’t do things like bone broth or take glutamine, those things. There’s nothing scary in knowing functional genomics at all.

Bone broth soup

Q: So many kids sometimes do try the bone broth or their parents try bone broth for them, and it doesn’t go well. That really relates to the glutamate issue. So knowing genetically would really be beneficial for that child.

A: Absolutely, yes. So as you said, bone broth is high in both glutamine and histamine. I didn’t get into that, but many times there’s high histamine as well because there appears to be a dance between glutamate and histamine, and they play off with each other. So knowing that’s helpful. And also, if you have problems with the NMDA receptor, taking extra calcium could be not very helpful as well. 

Or if you’ve got the glutamate inhibiting your cysteine, things like NAC could be harmful. So I often say, I think sometimes we help people most by taking them off things. And we tend to think that nutrients can’t be harmful, and they’re not extremely dangerous, but they can backfire if you give the wrong thing at the wrong time. So knowing where your weakness is, is also very good to know, too.

Q: What would be one thing that you learned at this conference?

A: Well, one of the things that I did learn is that there’s a common theme here of neuroinflammation. Every person was talking about it in a unique way, and that’s what the code we have to crack. What’s causing this neuroinflammation? And that’s not only causing autism, we are seeing increases in many illnesses. I think there’s an inflammatory component to all of it, and we need to figure out what it is and how to calm it down.

Dr Richard Boles, MD

Q: How long have you been working with people with autism?

A: Well, I’ve been a geneticist for almost 30 years, and I’ve been dealing with autism the entire time. As a pediatrician before that, I saw patients with autism, but I’ve been concentrating on that for about the last 10 years.

Genetic mutations

Q: You’re here at MAPS as one of the lecturers, which means you are certainly teaching and leading the field. So what was one exciting thing you taught?

A: Well, I was going over my own paper with Dr. Fry and Dr. Mence and several other people that we had done whole genome sequencing, then sequencing all of the chromosomes and the mitochondrial DNA in 50 patients with autism, and that we had answers in two-thirds of them as to what the underlying genetic predisposition towards autism is. And the vast majority of those is the de novo mutation not present in the parents. And then finding those mutations actually made a difference in their medical care. In fact, it directly translated into some treatment that we did in two-thirds of them.

Q: So you could take their whole genome, study that, see what new changes happened that didn’t happen in the parents, and then make treatment decisions based upon genetic information.

A: Yes. Autism is complicated, but there’s a genetic predisposition as to why some kids become autistic and other kids don’t. And the genetic predisposition appears to be, in most cases, a new mutation that wasn’t in the parents. Probably because of all of the poisons that were put in the environment that are causing mutations in our germ cells.

Q: So genetic testing, if you think about all the things that could be going on with autism, so you could have environmental toxins. Where does genetic testing lie? Is it the first thing you do? Is it more treat some of the symptoms and then get started on genetics?

A: Well, a lot of people do it when everything else fails and the kid still has problems or the adult. But in my practice, I do it really first. When I see a patient, they may have seen everybody else, or they may have just been starting their journey, I start them on supplements immediately that hit the major pathways because the mutations that we find are in major pathways, and we know what pathways they are. They involve moving salts across membranes, energy metabolism, amino acids, neurotransmission, inflammation, et cetera. We know those pathways, and we know that there are treatments for those pathways. 

So I put them on supplements at the beginning, and then I order the sequencing of the entire DNA in the child and in both biological parents. And then I look at the back of the computer, the raw data, to look at it. It’s a lot of data. It’s terabytes of information, billions of nucleotides, millions of ones which are filtered out by the computer. I look at several hundred myself, find the cause or at least contributing factors in the patient, and then discuss what we can do, if anything, to help.

Q: And what you do is unique in the sense you’re looking at the mom, the dad, and the child.

A: The whole genome. All of the DNA. And I mean all of it, a sequence of the three of them. Yeah. We can do that today. It’s amazing. It’s like science fiction 10 years ago.

Dr Eboni Cornish, MD

Dr. Ebony Cornish is a functional medicine director at the Amen Clinic in Washington, DC.

Neurological parasitic infections

Q: We’re here at the MAPS conference, and you taught at this conference. You are a leader in the field. Can you tell me a little bit about what you taught about?

A: Yes. My presentation was a little different from what we’ve been hearing here at the conference because I wanted to focus on underlying parasitic infections and maybe how they impact the brain, especially when it comes to changes that can occur in both a normal brain and comparing that on SPECT scan to someone in my case who would have suffered significantly from this neurological parasite.

Q: What’s the best way to test for a neurological parasite?

A: So the neurological parasite that we test most commonly and that I’m very passionate about is Toxoplasmagandiae. So, unfortunately, there are not a lot of good tests for it. So being a clinician and being a Lyme specialist, I use a lot of clinical judgment with the caveat that there is availability of LabCore and Quest. They give you just what we call antibodies to help you understand if someone has a chronic exposure, a reactivated possible exposure, or a new exposure. But as I said, a lot of times I’ll use brain scan imaging, which tells me if there’s an inflammatory presentation there, and also the history of the patient itself.

Q: So these brain scans are MRIs or SPECT?

A: So it’s SPECT scanning. So it’s functional brain scans where we look at the entire brain in a 3D image. So that way it allows us to focus on different areas of the brain that, let’s say, can be associated with the limbic system and fight or flight response or can be associated with more of the emotional response, can be responsible for executive functioning or memory and word finding issues, and more importantly, can be associated with this fight or flight limbic system. And the beauty of it is that you can tell when there are toxic reactions, right? You have a certain presentation called scalloping, and then you can tell when someone’s going to be in that sensitive fight or flight versus parasympathetic, sympathetic response that we’ve heard so much about here. But we can visually see that in a 3D image.

B1 deficiency

Q: What would be one thing that you learned here that was surprising?

A: So today I learned here about actually B1 deficiency and its impact on the brain and the studies associated with it. I am going to start implementing that more in my practice and assessing that clinically with a lot of my patients using some of the diagnostic tests that were provided, looking at cholesterol, acidosis, and magnesium level. So that was something new and interesting for me that I think can apply to a lot of my patients.

Q: And you’re a great doctor, and as a great doctor, you’re always learning. So coming to MAPS, that’s part of what you do to learn. Is there a particular type of patient that you focus on?

A: So in my practice, it’s interesting because when I first joined with Amen Clinic, it was from a private practice where I was a consultant and focused primarily on Lyme disease and functional medicine. They would send me patients who might have what we call more of a toxicity presentation imbalance. It might be scalloping is what we call it, or inflammation. They would send them to me to do some digging. A lot of times, because I was more focused on infections, that’s what I looked for. Now, attending conferences like this or IFM or just studying, I’ve found the value in expanding my fund of knowledge to include more natural strategies and just understanding the body as a whole. So that’s what I use a lot.

Dr James Neuenschwander, MD

Q: You’re here at the MAPS conference.

A: Yes. So I’m actually the President of MAPS. I’ve been the President for the past two, or three years. So we work hard to put on a good conference for folks, and teach them about pediatric integrative health. That’s really what we’re all about.

Q: And yes, you are the President, and you’ve also taught lectures here, though. Right. And it was in the fundamentals track. What’s the fundamentals track?

A: Well, what we’re trying to do, is we have a fellowship with MAPS. So the fundamentals is an introduction to the fellowship itself, and specifically, I’m covering the biochemistry of pediatric health, not just pediatric health, adult health, too. And so what we’re trying to do is give people a flavor of what the fellowship is all about. So my presentation is going to cover all the major elements that have to do with health. We’re going to cover detox, we’re going to cover methylation, glutathial pathways, we’re going to cover gut, we’re going to cover the immune system, the gut-brain immune connection, all the things that you would learn about if you went through an integrative training, but as it relates to the pediatric population.

Q: And who can be eligible to have a membership?

A: MAPS used to be much more exclusive. It was MDs, DOs, nurse practitioners, and naturopaths if you could prescribe. So it depended on which state you were in and whether or not you could be a member. Now, look, we’ve got a huge problem with pediatric health, and we’re just trying to get as many people involved in this process as possible. 

So in my world, if you have some licensed certificate diploma hanging on the wall and you see a pediatric population, we want you to be part of MAPS. I’m an MD. If somebody comes in, they’re a chiropractor, I want you to be part of MAPS, not because we do the same things, but because we approach things from a different point of view. As I discovered this morning when we started talking about dysautonomia and autonomic dysfunction, apparently my role as an MD for these patients is to refer them to people to actually take care of the problem because I don’t do any of this stuff. So if you see kids, and by kids, you got to remember, brain development goes to age 25, 30, 33, we heard this morning.

So we’re not just talking about two-year-olds. We’re talking about young adults as well. And this is an important factor that just because somebody is 14 or 16, it doesn’t mean they’re no longer… The pediatric rules apply. Part of my presentation was really about the fact that even an adolescent, a 15-year-old, doesn’t have a fully developed gut microbiome. It’s different than an adult microbiome. If we don’t understand that, then we’re going to fall into traps that may make the outcomes worse and not what we expect to happen. So open to anybody that really sees a pediatric population in their practice.

The gut and overall health

Q: What was another exciting thing you taught about?

A: My favorite subject is always the gut because I really think that that is the foundation of our health. That’s where our immune system lives. It has such a huge impact on the brain. I got drawn into pediatrics not because I’m a pediatrician. I’m actually an ER physician who got somehow diverted out of his career. But I was always an integrated physician, and I saw adults. And really, when you see adults, you take care of adults. They get better. The first thing they want to do is have you take care of their kids. So there’s just a lot of kids that have issues, and that’s what got me involved with this. What I’m most interested in is the gut, because I know if I change the gut, I’m going to change the way the kid behaves. I’m going to be teaching about the gut, take a deep dive into gut health and what creates gut health, what the gut is all about. It’s not just about digesting, and absorbing nutrients. It’s got everything to do with how your immune system functions, and how your brain functions.

If you have a headache, you might want to check what you had for breakfast. If you’re anxious, you might want to look at your gut bio. And certainly, if your kids are on the autism spectrum, 80% of those kids have gut problems. And it’s not that the autism caused the gut problem. It’s the gut problem that is causing autism. And that’s a really important lesson for folks to understand. And then the other great thing we do here all the time, every conference, we have a module called MAPS and Clinical Practice, where we get to present cases. So that’s always great because it’s so interactive.

Dr Sonia McGowin, DC

Q: How long have you been practicing in autism?

A: Gosh, I worked as an autism therapist right from college and eventually became the Deputy Director of Outreach Services for Judivine Autism Center in St. Louis. And then when I learned that autism is medical and not behavioral, I went back to school to get my chiropractic degree and became a doctor.

Q: It’s been a long time. Yeah, to be inspired that much to have a career change. That’s fantastic. So you are one of the leaders in the field. You are teaching here at the MAPS conference. So what would be one exciting thing you taught about today?

A: Well, I think… So I taught about oral restrictions and how that can influence brain gross motor language development. And it’s just a really deep part of my practice. And so you know what you know, right? It’s just every day. So it was exciting to me to hear all the other fellow colleagues say, Oh, my gosh, I never thought about it that way, or, Oh, you just blew my mind, or, What you taught was really impactful and important. So that, I think, was pretty exciting to me.

Q: And how often is tongue-tie an issue with speech?

A: Very often. Very often. That’s one of the primary functional signs that we see of oral restrictions.

Q: And now, if a parent is told, Oh, it’s not tongue-tie, but they have this intuition, it still is, what should they do?

A: Get a second opinion. Make sure they’re seeing someone who is well-trained in the assessment of oral restrictions, and who understands that it’s more than just how that mouth looks, it’s functional as well. So there have to be some functional implications that we look at together with the physical findings.

Q: It’s not just a quick glance.

A: No, that’s right. Absolutely.

Q: And so what was one exciting thing you learned at the conference?

A: Gosh, I always learn something new. It’s hard to really pinpoint, but I think what really got me was the dinner last night when they talked about the beginnings of this movement with Dr. Rimland and Dr. Cindy Baker, and just how impactful they were and how their work just continues to have a ripple effect for thousands of kids who benefit from the work they started so long ago.

Vicki Kobliler, MS RDN

Q: Can you tell me your role in the healthcare field?

A: Sure. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and I’ve been working in the nutrition functional medicine space for more years than I can count at this point. I was an early adopter, and I have continued to learn and grow, which is one of the reasons I love functional medicine and functional nutrition.

Q: And you work with the autism population?

A: I work with a variety of populations. I started out very much… The emphasis was on the autistic population, and I came to that because I was working early on in my career, I was working with a doctor who was one of the first who was starting to identify celiac disease when we used to think celiac disease was very rare. And so I got very involved and entrenched in learning about gluten-free diets. And from that, my research led me then to this, at the time, very innovative use of gluten-dairy-free diets for kids on the spectrum. And that was what started my journey into the whole world of autism. And I continue to work with kids, and we’ve learned so much more since then, and we know so much more. It’s allowed me to continue to practice and continue to help families.

Q: You’ve given two lectures here at the MAPS conference. What would be one thing that you taught in one of those lectures?

A: My first lecture was I always do the foundation, the nutrition part of the foundation’s lecture. 

And the foundation’s aspect is when we’re teaching new practitioners, practitioners who don’t know that much about functional medicine, how to get started.

The nutrition lecture is… I’m really, really passionate about it. It’s really important to me because from a functional medicine standpoint, a nutrition standpoint, when we’re trying to heal people, we really need to look at the quality, the content, the variety of the food they eat because that’s where we get… That’s the essence of life. Food is really the most important part of this. And food can help us reduce inflammation, which is something we see in chronic illness all the time. It is an underlying principle. And we don’t want to rely on even things like herbs, supplements, medications. What we want to do is get to that root. Our bodies require our food. And so when we talk about what foods are health-giving versus what types of things we consume are health wasting or health depleting, that’s so powerful if we can make that change. But then we also talk about how to use therapeutic nutrients when we need to do something for a body that requires more healing.

Q: In the second lecture, which was more topic-specific, what was one takeaway message from that?

A: I learned a ton. I was tasked with speaking to the role of preconception and perinatal influences on speech and language, and that is a passion of mine, is working with moms-to-be to try to help prevent chronic illness, as opposed to just helping them once their child has already been diagnosed. We have a great opportunity to help prevent chronic illness. So looking at the perinatal effects, we saw that many of the same things impact our kids. Underlying inflammation, poor nutrient absorption or utilization, vitamin D, B12, folate, are things that can powerfully impact speech and health overall.

The controversy around folic acid

Q: Now, there is some controversy about folate and folinic acid, and you certainly touched upon that. Could you summarize that here? Sure.

A: Folic acid was added. We discovered decades ago that folic acid or folate was implicated in the development of the spinal column, and that when children were supplemented or moms were supplemented in their prenatal vitamins with foline, we actually saw a very profound reduction in things like spina bifida. 

But what was originally used, and what continues to be used for the most part is folic acid, which is a synthetic form. And there is more data. Now that we know more about folic processing, there’s a fair amount of data that shows that folic acid can cause an increase in something called unmetabolized folic acid, UMFA, in the bloodstream of people who supplement. And it’s not utilized as well. And it actually can send some signals that tell the body that there is adequate folic when there is not. Active folic, the active natural form are often called methylfolate. There’s another good form called folinic acid. Those actually are utilized by the body much more effectively. And so my recommendations are always, especially with my prenatal moms or with the children I work with, that they use active in terms of folate and that they avoid folic acid.

Q: What would be one thing you learned at the conference here?

A: I am reinforced every time I come to one of these conferences, and I love to come to them to share community with the colleagues who are here and also learning. I am reinforced every time I come that we know there’s so much more to learn. We don’t know enough. But inflammation is at the root of so much of our children’s illnesses and adult chronic illnesses.

Dr Krishna Donaparthy, MD

Q: How long have you been practicing with the focus of autism?

A: I’ve been helping children with autism and their parents for now close to 15 years.

Q: And we’re at the MAPS conference, and you are a leader here. You just gave an exciting talk. Can you share one exciting thing about that lecture?

A: Yeah, the most exciting thing about this is that identifying autism is not what most people think it is. Instead, it is a motor neuron disease issue.

Q: And what is one exciting thing that you learned at this conference?

A: The most exciting thing is that I was happy to see so many brand new practitioners wanting to learn something new to help children with special needs.

Q: And can you tell me about your nonprofit?

A: So I have a nonprofit called Its purpose is to train other practitioners how to use fossil lipids, plasmalogens, and fatty acids to improve brain function, which will help to reverse neurological conditions.

Dr Liz Mumper, MD

Liz is a pediatrician in Central Virginia and is on the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs faculty.

Q: How long have you been working with the autism population?

A: Since 1999, actually. It’s been quite a while, and it’s been an incredible journey because most of what I know, I’ve actually learned from the patients themselves or the families.

Q: And you are a leader in the field, so you’re at this conference you’ve been teaching. What was one thing that you taught on the first day of the conference?

A: So I was teaching in Foundations, and I was bringing aboard the concept that if you look at a patient and think about what it is they need to get or get rid of that would move them toward their strong natural impulse toward healing, you’ll be able to help a lot of kids. So that simple message of think of what they’re getting that’s bad for them and think about what they need to get, whether it’s better sleep or better nutrition that could really help them.

Q: Could you explain what Foundations is?

A: Yeah. The Foundations of MAPS is a day-long session where we go over the very basic principles that affect a child’s lifestyle and the family’s way of taking care of their children that can move the child toward better health. So we talk a little bit about the basics of gut health and metabolic health and how to make sure your child is detoxifying and has a good immune balance. So it’s fundamentals of the medical principles that we’ll be teaching in much more detail throughout the rest of the MAPS courses.

Q: And what’s a MAPS fellowship?

A: So what you can do is come to MAPS and go to the foundations first and then take five different modules that cover things like the neurologic system in children, gut health and children, immune balancing, mitochondrial function, and metabolic problems. And then you can do some case histories and mentor with one of the experienced clinicians. And after that, we feel that you’ll be very, very well-equipped to take care of the numerous children that need our help. Because chronic illness is difficult to treat in a busy, acute care-oriented practice. It takes more time and more thinking and a lot of critical thinking. And that’s what we really like to teach people to do, is to use their critical thinking skills.

Q: And a good doctor, it seems like is always learning.

A: I learn something new every day. I just told you I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and every day that I was here, I learned something new that’s going to help me take care of patients.

Tongue ties can cause other body issues

Q: What would be one thing you learned at this conference?

A: So this morning, I went to this I had an incredible lecture about restrictions in baby’s tongues and lips and cheeks. And there’s one continuous piece of fascia that goes from the mouth all the way down to the toes. So I was used to looking at the tongue ties, for example, to make sure it didn’t interfere with language or feeding. However, I had not learned much about how that can be connected to problems with the diaphragm and breathing or problems with people having tight toes or difficulty walking. So that was extraordinary to see that very, very extraordinarily well-done lecture by an extraordinary chiropractor who really has lots of expertise in that area.