“Autism is reversible.” I remember in the early days of Josiah’s diagnosis coming across this statement on a Google internet search. It was such a different declaration than what so many books and websites said. I kept seeing things like, “Autism is a pervasive, life-long disorder with no known cure and no known cause.” What are you supposed to do with that? Well, many parents are simply not accepting that life sentence.
Last Thursday night, I went to a local library for an advance-showing of a new 30-minute documentary called “Autism Yesterday,” put out by Generation Rescue (the group that has adopted the “Autism is reversible” tagline). The documentary follows six families who were given the grim diagnosis of autism. Some were told their children would never talk and would have to be institutionalized. Well, all of these children are either recovered or are recovering from autism and have bright futures ahead. It was 30 minutes that takes you from heartache to hope. If kids are recovering, following certain approaches to treating this disorder, why can’t my child be one of them?
I’m a pretty reasonable person, and I’m not one that wants to be “taken” out of desperation by snake oil that claims to be able to fix my child. But, as we started navigating through what a diagnosis of autism meant for our child, I kept researching, reading, and talking with others, and in addition to getting Josiah into intensive therapy, we decided to follow the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Doctor protocol that treats the big picture of what is causing the autistic symptoms. It’s a biomedical approach that looks at the underlying medical issues like gastrointestinal irregularities, food allergies and sensitivities, inability to detoxify properly, and brain inflammation. Mostly, treatment includes a dairy and wheat-free diet, a number of herbal supplements shown to address numerous problems specific to the patient, and detoxification of heavy metals as is evidenced by a series of tests.
Surprisingly, this treatment route incites a lot of heated debate between medical doctors and homeopathic doctors or scientists. Parents in the autism community get very snarly about it too–especially the “it worked for us” vs. the “it didn’t work for us” crowd. Fundamentally, it also raises a really big issue. Is autism purely genetic and can only be treated behaviorally? Or, are childhood vaccines and other environmental factors to be blamed for contributing to the rise in autism in some way, and if so, the government has a lot of explaining to do. Parents have to follow their guts and do what is right for their particular case, since no one’s is exactly alike. This parent weighed the facts and the testimonials, and decided to pitch her tent in the camp where there are stories of improvement, success, and even recovery from the symptoms of autism. If it doesn’t work out, I can at least say we gave it a shot. Only 10 percent of the parents who have a child with autism try the biomedical approach and stick with it. But, it is making a tremendous difference, and thousands of kids are recoverying.
So far, we’re already seeing significant changes in our son. His eye contact has returned significantly. He’s been so loving and he’s giving and asking for hugs from us. He’s also developing some peer relationships and playing with a little girl at his school that is also 2 1/2 years old–his therapists tease him about having a little girlfriend. Tonight we went on a walk and he was having a big belly laugh at a barking dog. He kept looking back at us and enjoyed us teasing him with his stuffed duck. He held out his hand for me to hold it as we strolled along. Back in October, we walked this same route and my husband and I were thinking back to how terrified we were that he had regressed to the point that I couldn’t get his attention when I ran out in front of him and called his name. No smile. No eyes locking. Just blank. He’s getting better now. Small steps, over time, yield big results. I’m trying to be patient.
Our next step is chelation–trying to pull heavy metals and toxins out of Josiah’s body, very slowly and safely through herbal means. We see the DAN! doctor to go over results of testing on Friday. One of Josiah’s urine tests that just came through over email showed that he has elevated levels of arsenic, mercury, and lead in his body, which is pretty typical in autistic kids. Where did all this junk come from? Well, from what I’ve read, pesticides, pollution, food, water, air, and unfortunately, some ingredients in vaccines. The role that many people believe the childhood vaccines play is that they can assault the system of a young, developing child and mess up the detoxification process in a vulnerable child. This hasn’t been “proven,” but studies have come to that conclusion as a piece of the puzzle.
Bottom line for me, I wish I could go back and at least do the vaccine schedule differently, and I wouldn’t have gotten the Hepatitis B vaccine which is totally unnecessary for a child at that age whose mother does not have this disease. It is given on the first day of life, and there are two additional doses before six months. Why was I not better informed? Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe not. I’ll never know. But you can be informed and make thorough decisions, remembering that your pediatrician doesn’t know everything, and you have rights to vaccinate your child on a different schedule–or in most states–opt out completely. There’s my soapbox. I’m sure I will have many that disagree with my stance, but there are lot of parents who have kids with autism that will nod a big “yes” to what I believe. At any rate, I’m hoping to one day stand before you with a true testimony that “Autism is reversible.”