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Lifting the Fog of Autism

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"Do you have a feel for what this is?" I asked. The pediatrician had been observing Tommy for the last 50 minutes and asking numerous questions. He nodded. "Autism spectrum disorder.

"Do you have a feel for what this is?" I asked. The pediatrician had been observing Tommy for the last 50 minutes and asking numerous questions.

He nodded. "Autism spectrum disorder. More specifically, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified."

I wrote it in my day-timer. "So what can we do?"

His answer included a few web sites and an antidepressant called Zoloft as a possible prescription. I wrote this down, too and Tommy and I got up and left.

Before this visit, my husband and I had been asking questions for a year, but we were constantly reassured that children developed at their own pace. Tommy wasn't like our two other children. He spent most of his time in his own world. He had an unusually long attention span for piling his toys between his legs, then mixing them up. He flapped his hands and lined up his toys over and over again. Eye contact was rare. At best, it was a fleeting glance.

By the time Tommy was two years and 10 months old, his whole vocabulary consisted of less than 10 words. My parents questioned if he was deaf, but he would always come running when a Barney movie was turned on. To finally know that he was "autistic" was both a shock and a relief. My research began the same evening as the pediatrician appointment.

I quickly found information that described many of Tommy's symptoms as well as many possible biological interventions. In a desperate attempt to get help for our child, my husband went to the health food store in search of some supplements. It was reaffirmed that cow's milk was something we should consider removing from his diet. We took Tommy off cow's milk that day. Over the next two weeks we began to notice changes. Tommy had a few more words and his stools improved. This was the beginning of an incredible journey.

As fate should have it, we came across Jonathan Alderson, an expert with the attitudinal/educational program Son-Rise. He has worked with hundreds of autistic children and their families while employed at the Options Institute in Sheffield, Massachusetts. In my first telephone conversation with him, he told me about Dr William Shaw's book, Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD. After a few tests, the decision was made to eliminate casein (cow's milk) and gluten (wheat, rye, oat and barley) from Tommy's diet. We also decided to remove artificial sweeteners and colours, refined white sugar, baker's yeast and all foods containing vinegar. This was to combat a candida yeast overgrowth.

I was overwhelmed. What was I going to feed this kid? (A must-read for anyone deciding to tackle this sort of dietary intervention is Special Diets for Special Kids by Lisa Lewis.)

With the aid of a holistic nutritionist and her team, we eventually eliminated Tommy's food allergens and began a supplementation and detoxification regime. We still supplement his diet with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids.

For detoxification, we use a formula consisting of red clover, milk thistle, dandelion, echinacea and cleavers as well as chlorophyll and vitamin C. Rebounding is an encouraged daily activity as it helps in the detoxification process. Our holistic nutritionist also recommended various homeopathic remedies. What a regimen!

Biological interventions alone have not been the miracle answer; the other essential piece of the puzzle was the attitudinal/educational program from the Options Institute called Son-Rise. It is a child-centered, home-based program based on the Option Process as described in the book and TV movie Son-Rise, by author Barry Neil Kaufman. For this we needed a team of volunteers to help. And thank God, our friends rallied to the cause.

We converted a room in our basement into Tommy's playroom. The walls are plain and the floor is vinyl. The door to the playroom has a two-way mirror that allows us to observe Tommy and to provide feedback to volunteers working with him. The room features a mirror on the wall and toys on high shelves. The room eliminates the distractions of the outside world.

Tommy has total control of everything in the playroom except the door, which is locked. We never physically manipulate him. We don't judge him or his behaviours. When Tommy chooses escape into his own little world, we join him wholeheartedly. We follow his lead and use what motivates him to help him learn. Excitement, energy and enthusiasm fill the air with every glance and word. We show him that with the slightest effort, he can have an impact on his world. What a dignified program for a child that is simply trying to look after himself and do the best he knows how.

The combination of the biological interventions and the Son-Rise Program has made Tommy a different boy today. He now interacts and plays with his two other brothers. He engages in pretend play and initiates games all the time. He turns and looks at us when we call his name. He responds to requests such as "bring me your shoes" or "get your pajamas." He sings numerous songs and recites nursery rhymes. He knows his alphabet, colours and shapes. His vocabulary is age-appropriate. Who would have thought we could come this far in 10 months?

Unless we can lift the fog for these little people, it is very difficult to teach them. I feel it was the biological interventions that lifted the fog for Tommy and the Son-Rise Program that has taught him what he knows today. The bonus to all of this is that I have had one of the most tremendous personal growth experiences of my life. I am blessed with three children but truly feel chosen to have Tommy.

Chelation Therapy for Autism

Chelation therapy is a non-toxic, intravenous method of cleaning the arteries and body of harmful toxins. Originally developed in the 1930s, chelation actually means "combining with metal" and is used primarily to treat heavy-metal toxicity and cardiovascular disorders. The major chelating agent is ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA), which removes metals by binding with them and excreting them through the kidneys.

Although no single cause for autism is known, studies now suggest a connection to toxic metal poisoning from lead. Because of its ability to remove metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and aluminum from the body, chelation therapy has been used as a treatment for autistic and developmentally challenged children.

The book Turning Lead into Gold: How Heavy Metal Poisoning Can Affect Your Child and How to Prevent and Treat It (1995) explores this connection. Authors Nancy Hallaway, RN, and Zigurt Strauts, MD, discuss the case studies of children who have been treated for heavy metal poisoning using chelation therapy. Among them is "Bobby Smith," a five-year-old child with autistic tendencies who had been on medications for seizures since he was about nine months old. The cause of the seizures: unknown.

Through testing, it was determined that Bobby had an excessive accumulation of various heavy metals in the body. Within the first month following a three-day test with chelating agents, his anxiety and agitation decreased noticeably. A few months later, his mother was advised that Bobby didn't qualify for a special needs day-care subsidy any longer because his condition had improved so much that he no longer met the disability criteria!

The website for the Option Institute is option.org. The specific website for the Son-Rise Program is son-rise.org.

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