Our “Surprised by Autism” show coming soon

I’m so proud of my husband. He’s a tv producer on a local cable channel, and he debuts a whole 30-minute show about autism next month. It focuses on our personal journey so far with our Josiah, and on getting out information to those early in their journey about what options are out there to help tackle autism. It’s information that we wish we would have had without endless hours on Google trying to get oriented to this new, strange life of this “cause unknown, lifelong, incurable” disorder. Tough words to be faced with for parents who feel like they’ve just been smucked upside the head. It’s time for hope. It’s time for education. It’s time to help others down a road that we have walked for a year-and-a-half. I’m looking forward to a sequel, and praying for a recovery story!

It wasn’t easy for Joe to work on this. Oftentimes, the last thing he wanted to do was live autism, and then be faced with autism at work too. But, let it be noted that I didn’t put him up to it! It was his idea and I’m excited to see it air during Autism Awareness Month. We’ll upload the whole thing on YouTube next month. In the meantime, Joe’s supervisor had us on her show this month to preview the documentary. Take a peek… (by the way, they say the camera adds 10 lbs. The question is, “Man, how many cameras are ON me?!?)

Studies Show that Autism Studies Contradict Each Other

If you have a child with autism, you likely receive those daily news updates about autism in your email inbox. I used to read them faithfully, but now they just make me crazy. I have never seen such in-fighting, polarized opinions, and opposite study results. There’s one definitive statement to put all other speculation to rest, only to be followed by why that discovery is flawed.

Then, you have your parent testimonials of things that worked for their kids, followed up by “hoax alert” for those same treatments. Then, you see a flurry of passionate growling by comment leavers. Hmm, how do you know what to go with? “Following your gut” has never been more important, but that’s kind of scary when you have your child’s future riding on your decisions. I’ve just decided that God has to lead me and fill in the gap for my ignorance.

Here are some recent contradictory and confounding headlines:

New Study: Autism Linked to Environment

Genes–Not Vaccines–Linked to Autism

Despite Ruling, Vaccine-Autism Debate Won’t Fade

High Testosterone in the Womb Linked to Autism

Autism Linked to Higher Precipitation Levels

Autism Cases on the Rise: Not Just Due to Changes in Diagnosis Criteria

No So-Called Autism Epidemic Just Better Diagnosis

No Evidence that Restrictive Diets are an Effective Autism Treatment

Autism Diets Help Parents Recover Children

I personally like Autism Linked to Parents’ Mental Disorders because even though I don’t think I had any mental problems before all of this, I’m pretty sure it is now making me looney. My, we have to keep a sense of humor about this! The truth is, no one really knows what’s up with autism and every kid is different so it seems that the “answer” is a moving target.

Want to know my opinion? I think there are many paths that may lead to autism. I think for children like mine, there’s a genetic vulnerability that exists. Something starts going on in the gut where good bacteria gives way to populations of bad bacteria, then the immune system starts reacting to environmental assaults, toxins, allergies and vaccines. The brain doesn’t know what to do with those things, and eventually stops working correctly because it’s not getting the nutrients it’s supposed to. But, if we can reverse the chain of events, and provide the proper nourishment to the brain and get the body responding in the way it’s supposed to, a child can be recovered from autistic symptoms. At the same time, behavioral and educational early intervention is needed to form new brain pathways and get a child caught up.

Everybody has a theory. Maybe one day we’ll have some facts we can all agree on. Until then, I’m going with autism is caused by Wi-Fi internet. Uh oh. I better get off the computer now!

No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. Ecc. 8:17

In the Weeds (or, Lessons from My Lawn)

Some weeds from my lawn

Some weeds from my lawn

My husband and I are not really the most adept home owners. Aside from the most basic of maintenence duties, we’re fairly clueless when it comes to home improvement projects or how to troubleshoot issues–and our lawn is no exception. Let’s put it this way, everytime my husband has to go out to mow, rake or shovel, he makes some exasperated remark like, “I think I was made to live in a luxury apartment where I wouldn’t have to deal with this stuff.” And, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law had pity on me and planted some “hearty–you barely need to do anything with them” plants out front so our home didn’t look abandoned due to the lack of landscaping.  

Having a kid with autism has added an extra level of difficulty to our upkeep–not just the dearth of free time to increase our curb-side appeal, but also the fact that environmental toxins from pesticides can contribute to the toxic load in these little guys. These toxins mess with their brains even more. So, as I started researching, it was apparent that the chemicals that we paid to have on our lawn for the last couple of years would be a no-no this year. We have this wetland, prairie grass buffer running along the backyard bounds of our subdivision, so you never know what can be spread from that area, but we thought we’d take our chances and go au natural. I know what you’re thinking… “Oh bless their poor naive hearts!”

AMONG THORNS AND THISTLES

As summer started out, I remember commenting to my husband, “See, we probably wasted money in previous years on our TruGreen treatments. The lawn looks just as good now as it did then.” Yeah, so things changed as the summer marched on and the rain went on strike. In the last few weeks the weeds have sprouted up absolutely everwhere. Thanks, Adam… you just had to get more knowledge back in the Garden of Eden, and now we have to deal with your punishment of cultivating among the “thorns and thistles.” Well, we finally located a company that did organic, non-toxic lawncare, but they wouldn’t be coming out for a couple of weeks, and we had some intruders that were downright dangerous and had to be addressed NOW.

We were out playing in the yard the other night, and we saw some weeds that freaked us out. Like, “Little Shop of Horrors” kind of things–all spikey and intimidating. If our precious Josiah were to fall on one of those evil lawn-mines, we would be in big trouble. So, off we went to Target to try to find some sort of tool and some heavy duty gloves to get ahold of them. With my trusty new garden knife in hand, I decided to go out for about 20 minutes and take care of our problem. Twenty minutes turned into two hours, two blisters and a full bag of weeds, but I did have some time to think while I was out there. Some life lessons and spiritual epiphanies sprouted from my extreme weeding experience!

LESSONS FROM MY LAWN

Start out well and sustain it. Preventative care and nourishment will make for an inviting lush lawn for family and others to enjoy. Making sure that weeds can’t take root is easier than dealing with them after they pop up. But, in life, how often do I just try to coast on an infusion of energy but neglect daily maintenance for myself as I deal with other worries and cares, and everyone else’s demands of me? This leaves me parched and when my defenses are down, that’s when little seeds of chaos get spread.

Weeds steal resources. At first, you may notice a few weeds here and there. No big deal. You can live with them, but if they are still not addressed, they multiply fast. And, they come in all sorts of varieties. Some even look kind of like flowers. But don’t be deceived. They’re still weeds, and they will steal the nutrients from the grass. The very soil starts breaking down because of the energy that goes to feeding the greedy weeds. Even ants move in and build resorts under their shade. In my life, I often feel like my energy gets sapped because my mind and resources are being diverted to negativity, fear, pride, bitterness and hurt, rather than being focused on fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and kindness.

Don’t always take a weed at face value. Weeds are not only ugly nuisances, but they can be dangerous enough to pierce the skin or penetrate a shoe, and must be rooted up–not just cut off above the surface, only to come back quickly. Surprisingly, some of the biggest, ugliest weeds above the surface can actually have quite shallow roots. Some of the smaller weeds can actually have very prominent roots. There was one grand-daddy thorny weed I popped off that was literally the size of a dinner plate, but it barely had any root. There was one fairly harmless looking weed I grabbed, and I would’ve sworn there was a turnip under the ground I was pulling up. Sometimes people never see the depth of my own issues because there is more hidden than people know.

The weeding knife is needed for the prickly jobs. I wonder if God, the Master Gardener, sees the same variety of weeds in me that sometimes need a hard core weeding tool to pluck up so I can be restored to the potential he sees in me. Some of the big, ugly, thorny circumstances may flare up quickly, but really don’t have deep roots. They can be plucked out and will quickly wither. Whereas, there are some things in me that are character issues or hurts that have turned into roots of bitterness that run deep. It takes more muscle to get those out. The pulling through leaves the ground with a hole–that gets your attention!–and new seeds really should be spread there to keep it from being barren. Is it possible that if I let God get rid of that junk, he will get to work planting something in me that is much more healthy and beautiful? He won’t leave me with just a big empty hole.

After the weeds are gone, you have to return health to the soil. There are still a lot of weeds in our lawn, even though the scary ones are gone. If we don’t get the organic lawncare service out here, even over the winter when the grass dies and the snow covers the ground, the problems won’t really be gone. The weeds indicate a potential soil problem, and unless we try to fix it now, by the time next spring rolls around, we’ll have to till the ground up and start over completely.

These days, I’m asking God to restore my soil–under the surface, deep in the places where only he and I see and know of. Then, healthy things will grow. Right now, I feel a lot of chaos, issues everywhere, and have an overwhelmed, parched spirit. I’m looking forward to spending a couple weeks off of work in the second half of September. My mommy is coming to visit, and the task before us is to get before God and be nourished by his Word so that my joy may be full again.

 Psalm 65:9-10

 You care for the land and water it;
       you enrich it abundantly…

You drench its furrows
       and level its ridges;
       you soften it with showers
       and bless its crops.

Top 10 Products I Dig

Having a child with autism forces you to hunt high and low for anything that will help make your life easier. Or helps you do what is needed to get vitamins and food in, keep toxins down, and keep your kid happy in a pinch. For you parents of children with special needs, here are my top ten products. I’d love to hear about your “must haves.”

1. Ian’s Chicken Finger Meals and Wellshire Kids Chicken Bites. These are great to send to school with Josiah, and they are Gluten/Cassein free and the chickens have no antibiotics and were fed a vegetarian diet. Meets my kid’s approval. I can get the Ian’s at Super Target. Hillshire Farms is more of a Whole Foods sort of product.

2. Metagenics Ultra Meal (Rice or Soy) and Nutrition Dynamics Dynamic Greens. I’ve got a picky eater–most autistic kids are–and I get concerned about whether he’s getting the protein and veggies he needs to be well nourished. These GF/CF products, recommended by Josiah’s DAN! doctor, are tasty and good for mixing the nutriceuticals into, and they’re power foods. The Dynamic Greens has like 50 vegetables in it, probiotics, enzymes–you name it. It’s green in color but it tastes like berry and is sweet. Josiah swigs both of these down. His poops have been better with these too!

3. Stainless Steel Margherita Shaker. No, it’s not for what you think (not that I haven’t thought about it!). Morning and night I have to mix Josiah’s supplements together into a “tasty” cocktail. Blenders require too much washing. I’m trying to get rid of plastic products that can leach chemicals into the liquid, so when Grandma recommended the margherita shaker, I jumped on it.

4. Seventh Generation Cleaners. This is a full line of cleaning products that are affordable. They’re both eco-friendly and non-toxic and natural. From dishwashing liquid to shower cleaner, detergent to kitchen spray, I replaced my cleaners with Seventh Generation. I know you can get these at Target and many other retailers.

5. Stainless Steel Sippy Cups. I’ve got the Thermos brand with a straw, and will be ordering the Kleen Kanteen sippy cup soon that’s a little more like the traditional sippy. Plastic bottles and sippies may have harmful Bisphenol A chemicals that have been theorized to cause all sorts of issues from developmental problems to childhood cancers.

6. Organic mattress, bedding and pajamas. It was an expensive switch, but Josiah’s DAN! doctor suggested setting up an organic sleeping situation because nearly all baby crib matresses are bathed in flame retardants, along with kids’ pajamas. Josiah’s heavy metal toxicity tests showed higher levels of antimony and arsenic, both found in crib matresses, much to my surprise. Those flame retardants are bad news!

7. Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Bath Wash. This Burt’s Bee product line can be found in most health food stores and also in a place like Target. Don’t forget how the skin can absorb chemicals that aren’t good for the chemically-sensitive kid. Okay, I’m going to double this one up and also recommend a natural sunscreen: JASON Natural Kids Sunscreen.

8. Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. I just purchased one of these. I never imagined I would spend almost $500 on a silly vacuum cleaner, but after doing some research, I decided it would be a good investment. It’s the only vacuum endorsed by the Allergy Association to remove the allergens out of your carpet. Studies have shown that there are shocking levels of dangerous chemicals in household dust, including plasticizers and flame retardants. Okay, I was shocked that I had to empty 4 canisters full of nastiness from the first cleaning in my house with the Dyson. My carpets had looked clean and we always take our shoes off and have no pets. Apparently my old vacuum really sucked, or um, didn’t suck. I feel like I’m going to clean up some hidden hazards with this.

9. Musical Books. The Elmo Mini Deluxe Piano Book is Josiah’s favorite. He’s a real music lover, so books that have buttons to press that make music are great to take along to the shopping mall, or have at the ready at home. They’re calming and they take him to his happy place. Keep batteries on hand!

10. Super Safe Color Viewers. Josiah’s therapist had gotten some of these at school and recommended them. These little hand-held viewers are available at Lakeshore Learning Centers, and are a new favorite of Josiah’s and are good for teaching primary colors. Josiah is sometimes attracted to lights, so this makes looking at them more appropriate and is helping him to identify and label colors.

What are the products you would endorse? Please share them with others in the comment section!

A New Toxic Avenger

When I was pregnant with my little son, I tried to do all the right things. I didn’t eat tuna or any high-mercury fish. When I painted a room in our new home, I went to great lengths and paid double for the paint that had no dangerous fumes. I didn’t clean the oven. Heck, I didn’t even drink one caffeinated beverage for an entire nine months! We live in a house that was built in 2001 in a sleepy suburban neighborhood, far from the site of a power plant or a smokestack. I read the parent books to make sure we got the right crib, the right car seat, the recommended safety products for our new baby.

So, I feel a little disillusioned about the fact that I couldn’t protect my son from exposure to toxins that contributed to his autism. I wish I would’ve known what I could have done–even so, could I have done enough? Dr. Kenneth Bock says in his book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics that “Heavy metals and environmental chemicals are the greatest contributors to the epidemic of autism…If it not for the toxification from mercury, autism would probably not currently exist in epidemic proportions.”

We recently got our results from tests for heavy metal toxicity in Josiah because we’re about ready to start herbal chelation to rid metals from his body. It’s been a very successful treatment for kids with autism. Our DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) doctor informed us that Josiah had moderate mercury toxicity, and elevated levels of antimony and arsenic, among other things. These are pretty common build-ups in kids with autism because studies show that they have impaired detoxification abilities. The question is, where in the world are these toxins coming from? Unfortunately, they are everywhere, and they are invisible and odorless. Too bad they aren’t in the form of avoidable green goo. Here are some things this Toxic Avenger didn’t know then, but does know now:

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency that’s supposed to protect our kids from dangerous chemicals has “failed in its goal of providing the public and pediatricians with timely, useful information.” Regulations are rarely enforced. Read this.
  2. Amalgam fillings release small amounts of mercury into the system on a regular basis, and can have an effect on a developing fetus at a very crucial time. I have several of these.
  3. Thimerisol (a mercury preservative) is still present in the flu shot, which pregnant women and young children are encouraged to receive. It is also still present in trace amounts in vaccines, along with a lot of other known toxins. I was just made aware that thimerisol is in prescriptions like pink eye drops. After Josiah had a round with pinkeye in both eyes for two weeks, that’s when he dramatically began the ascent into autism.
  4. Crib mattresses are made with flame-retardant materials including phosphorus, arsenic and antimony that can generate toxic gas that our kids breathe, and has been theorized to be a cause of SIDS. Where is Josiah getting elevated levels of arsenic and antimony? Well, he does sleep on his crib mattress 10 hours a day. Getting a special safe bed wrap or organic mattress is recommended.
  5. Reports about lead in toys have been all over the news. Lead exposure impairs analytical thinking and is a dangerous toxin. Millions of toys have been recalled, but so many still remain on shelves because most states don’t have regulations that mandate removal. You can get a home lead test to see if your child is playing with or mouthing any lead toys.
  6. Baby bottles and other plastics like plastic sippy cups and teething rings have levels of toxins in them that kids are ingesting day in and day out. Instead, look for products labeled as PVC-free or use stainless steel; don’t microwave food for your child in plastic containers (use glass); use filtered drinking water (even bottled water may contain phthalates); dispose of all clear, shiny plastic baby bottles and use glass bottles; cook using stainless steel pans (no non-stick Teflon). Here’s a good site for alternatives, including a stainless steel sippy.
  7. Pesticides and herbicides in most of the foods we eat are not good for our kids. Washing fruits and vegetables off or peeling them doesn’t help–and you don’t even want to know about the issues with chicken and beef that aren’t organically raised. There are a lot of reasons to go organic, especially for kids with autism, or other issues like ADHD, etc.
  8. Regular household cleaners are highly toxic to kids with regular use over long periods of time. The recommendation is to go green with “free” cleaners like Seventh Generation.

It can drive a parent crazy. You think your child is being protected, but the very products created for them are too often dangerous to their developing brains and bodies. Well, this momma is going green and getting vigilant about reducing exposure to an already-affected child. Others can help to protect their children before issues begin. There are a lot of things we can’t control in the air we breathe and we’re ignorant to many chemicals, but we’ve got to do our best. Beyond that, we must pray the promise in Psalm 91:

Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
      I trust in you and I’m safe!”
   That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
      shields you from deadly hazards.
   His huge outstretched arms protect you—
      under them you’re perfectly safe;
      his arms fend off all harm.

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