Sheri Marino MA, CCC-SLP

Sheri Marino MA, CCC-SLP

Director, Pediatric Health Initiatives | BIO

Part 4-The Special Ed Epidemic: What the Science Says on Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets the body’s own cells, tissues, or organs as opposed to foreign antigens invading the body. These self-destructive antibodies create inflammation processes ultimately causing organ damage. Autoimmunity is a result of defects in the B and/or T cells of the immune system and is believed to result from the interplay of genetics, infections, and other environmental exposures.

Mothers with abnormal autoimmune antibodies have a greater risk of poor pregnancy outcomes.  There is mounting evidence that shows a mother with autoimmune antibodies is more likely to produce anti-brain antibodies that can cross the placenta and attack the fetal brain, inducing fetal brain inflammation. One study shows mothers of children with autism are 4 times more likely to carry brain reactive antibodies than mothers of typically developing children. Mothers with brain-reactive antibodies were also likely to have an increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Mother’s with celiac disease have a particularly high risk of bearing children with autism or other chronic illness. Celiac disease, a genetic disorder of the small intestine triggered by dietary exposure to gluten (a protein found in wheat), is associated with inflammation, diarrhea, malabsorption, and other gastrointestinal issues. Untreated celiac disease may result in impaired fertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes from autoimmune related mechanisms or nutrient deficiencies. According to this study, “Celiac disease, especially if untreated, appears to increase the risk of repeated miscarriages and premature deliveries, and impaired fetal growth with reduced birthweight.”  Additionally, the rate of cesarean delivery was increased if the parents had celiac disease.

Other autoimmune diseases that appear to increase the risk of ASD in offspring include lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 and type 2 Diabetes. Women with rheumatoid arthritis were 80% more likely to have a child with ASD, while children born to diabetic mothers are 4 times more likely to develop autism.

Return to The Special Ed Epidemic: Uncovering the Answers

read more

Sheri Marino MA, CCC-SLP

Director, Pediatric Health Initiatives

Sheri is a pediatric speech and language pathologist with over 25 years of clinical experience specializing in autism. As the Director of Pediatric Health Initiatives for the Focus for Health Foundation, Sheri contributes her clinical expertise authoring articles on autism and other chronic health issues and also manages the pediatric health grantees. Sheri’s professional experiences help guide the Foundation’s mission addressing chronic health issues related to environmental causes. Sheri also serves as the Executive Director of The Autism Think Tank, NJ, a non-profit organization which offers medical videoconferences with a team of renowned medical experts who collaborate on medically complex cases of autism around the globe. She is the founder of Rocking Horse Rehab, a pediatric rehabilitation and family wellness center specializing in therapy services for children with various disabilities including, autism, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, brain tumors, and rare syndromes, neuromuscular and psychiatric disorders. Sheri has been featured on CBS News, NBC News, NJN and multiple cable networks.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *