When we adopted our son, Morgan, at birth, though he was born prematurely, he was a quick child and soon caught up to our older children. He loved being in the middle of life and was a very happy, loving child. Then came the change.
After his delayed vaccinations at age two, he became a completely different child. He developed asthma and began unusual behavior. Opening and closing drawers. Jumping into the pool, getting out, going to the same spot, and jumping in again — over and over, the same routine. He loved things that would spin: toy tops, wheels on toys, a coin whirling on its side. His motor skills regressed, and his verbal abilities disappeared. He left our world to enter his own. This experience is typical for parents of children with autism.
History and Statistics
Years ago, there was very little cure or success rate with autistic children coming out of their own small world. And the disease was blamed on "refrigerator mothers" who raised them in a non-stimulating environment, with resulting damage to their social, language and general development.
Research shows autism has become the predominant disability for which services are accessed in California. According to the Autism Society, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, with an annual growth of 10-17%. Comparatively, in the 90’s, US population increased 13%, disabilities grew 16%, and autism showed a 172% rise.
In Rhode Island a one-year increase in autism was substantially greater than the increase in behavior disorders and all other disabilities combined. In the 1940’s when autism was first diagnosed by Leo Kanner at John Hopkins, the statistics ran approximately 1 in every 10,000 children were autistic. According to AutismFacts.com, from 1 case of autism in 2500 children a decade ago, "autism rates jumped to the eventual number of today’s rate of 1 in every 166 births." Autism is on the rise.
According to Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., founder of the Autism Society of America and founding president of the Autism Research Institute (ARI), "genetic disorders have never presented as epidemics," yet we currently have an autism epidemic in America. The medical profession and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) seemingly can’t explain it. There is much written on the vaccination/autism connection, and we don’t have the space to discuss it here. However, if you are interested, see the websites listed and explore.
Now, through the work of some pioneering doctors and parents, there are new avenues for therapy that have brought a cure for some, with hope and betterment for others.
Course of Action
Yeast: After receiving a medical diagnosis of autism or PDD for our son, the first line of defense was to rid his body of an overgrowth of yeast. For a time, all sugar was taken out of the diet, as were most sweeteners (honey, molasses), and most fruit. A sign of a systemic yeast problem is "grazing" or eating a full meal, then eating some more, while especially craving sweets and remaining hungry. With medical oversight, we gave herbal therapies — which included olive leaf extract, caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract and walnut hull — for a few months before the prescription medicine.
Gluten-free / Casein-free (GFCF) Diet: Through research and testing, doctors have found that the molecules of gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) are similar to opium molecules, and some autistic children’s metabolisms are breaking the gluten and casein molecules into opiates. (This is a simplified explanation of the theory.) This might explain why some autistic children act so "dazed." The wonderful news is that once these foods are removed from the diet, many autistic children become reconnected to the world. They make better eye contact, speech improves, and reality is more within their grasp.
When we began the GFCF diet for Morgan, I had no idea where to buy the food. However, checking our local grocery stores and health food stores proved productive. I could find most everything I needed locally, along with a few additional surprises. I still order items from catalogs (#3) or online (#4), so I can order in bulk for greater discount, or to find items not available in our community. Cheese has been the hardest item to obtain, because only the Soymage brand cheese is totally casein-free. However, our local grocery stores are now stocking it for us. Milk substitutes basically are rice milk, soy milk, or almond milk, which are easily located.
When we removed sugars from Morgan’s diet, he began sleeping through the night for the first time in years. The GFCF diet brought him back to our world: within 24 hours of abstaining from wheat breads and dairy, he began saying complete sentences (not just repeating videos), and talking in paragraphs. He was actually voicing his own thoughts!
There are books which cover these dietary concepts in more detail (see box), with great recipes to make at home. The diet doesn’t have to be as varied as we are used to, and homemade bread is so much better than the store-bought fare — especially for gluten free bread — and a bread machine is invaluable
for making it. Be forewarned that most of these children have self-limited themselves to a bread/pasta/milk/fruit diet — but as you change their diet, they will adapt.
Vitamin Therapy: The main vitamins these children need are magnesium, calcium and B-6 — and in megadoses. Please research or seek medical advice on dosages. Super Nu-Thera is a specially formulated vitamin/mineral mixture, used specifically for autistic children. (1-888-KIRKMAN; http://www.autism.com/ari/liquid.html)
Medical Tests: There are doctors who believe in alternative approaches for treating autism. Many are listed at the DAN! website (#4). We found an excellent medical doctor just 20 minutes from our home. He believes in diet, vitamins, and herbal treatments along with prescription medicines. A good doctor is a great support. Medical tests can include: Yeast, fungi, parasites, vitamin and mineral testing. More information on testing is found in the various books listed.
School: We decided to homeschool Morgan from the beginning. As a couple, we discussed it and realized the reasons we homeschool our normal children — character issues, worldview, Christianity, godly mentors and teachers, great education — would apply to our special needs son, and in probably even greater proportions.
We have worked with I Can — International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists — to plan a homeschool program for our son which includes speech, occupational and physical therapy, along with the 3 R’s.
Home School Legal Defense Association reassured us that it was legal to homeschool a special needs child, gave us direction for therapeutic help, and advice on the paper trail to create to legally cover us if challenged by authorities. We found that Joyce Herzog has some great resources for homeschooling special needs children, though she doesn’t specifically address autism.
Patience is the area I work on. Sometimes Morgan learns something, and two minutes later can’t remember how to do it. Autism means day dreaming, and I see evidence of it daily. Keeping him on task is the constant challenge: Focus, direction, completion.
He works well in one-on-one situations, so each of our older children has time-slots in school, and also in the afternoon, when they work with him on a list of activities. We dovetail his fascination of maps with learning: Memorizing the states and capitals, knowing the continents and the countries found in each. Since he learns well on the computer, we often have him play geography games to help him learn even more.
Math-U-See comes highly recommended for special needs students, and has been a lifesaver for him to have the hands-on with the book learning. We supplement this when he doesn’t understand a concept or I feel I’m having to "pull him through" his math lesson.
Though I believe phonics is the foundation of reading well, Morgan learned best by memorizing many site words — thousands of them — to jumpstart his reading. Later we added the phonics and sounding out words. It has allowed him to gain knowledge much faster than if we had waited for him to learn phonics first. Now he reads every street sign when we drive down the highway.
We still have miles to go, but are moving forward in teaching him. Morgan uses the computer — and reconfigures it — dresses himself, brushes his teeth does chores. He can answer questions, and seems very normal. As every parent of a differently-abled child knows, these are great strides, for which we thank our heavenly Father.
On the internet: Online Support Groups, Websites & Message Boards
www.gfcfdiet.com/ Gluten-Free / Casein-Free Diet
autismndi.com/ ANDI Autism Network for Dietary Intervention (newsletter, books)
autismwebsite.com Autism Research Institute
www.gnd.org/ The Good News Doctor
www.members.tripod.com/~Maaja/index.htm Homeschooling Kids with
www.taap.info Autism Autoimmunity Project
www.danconference.com/ Defeat Autism Now! or DAN!
Doctors’ list: www.autismwebsite.com/ari-lists/danus.html
www.devdelay.org/ Developmental Delay Resources
www.drrapp.com/ Doris Rapp, MD
www.icando.org/ I CAN Neurodevelopmentalists
www.sheppardsoftware.com/ Online educational games
www.autismfacts.com/services.php?page_id=38 Autism Facts
www.teacch.com/ TEACCH Autism Program
There have been many questions regarding autism: how to treat it, how to manage, how it begins, and any other pertinent information. To avoid confusion, autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) are the same "disease." Health professionals now refer to this as the autistic spectrum, with high-functioning autistics being classified as PDD. Basically, "Autism is a developmental disability that prevents individuals from properly understanding what they see, hear, and otherwise sense. This results in severe problems of social relationships, communication, and behavior. Individuals with autism have to painstakingly learn normal patterns of speech and communication, and appropriate ways to relate to people, objects, and events, in a similar manner to those who have had a stroke."
Mark & Kym Wright have homeschooled since the mid-80s. They have 8 children, having graduated 3. If she had spare time, she would use it to read time management and organizational books! Or to sew, quilt, paint, read novels, garden . . .
Kym pens the "Learn and Do" unit studies, and publishes The Mother’s Heart magazine, a premium online publication for mothers with hearts in their homes. Visit http://www.The-Mothers-Heart.com for more information.
You can receive weekly e-Couragement with her Weekly Wakeup with Kym Wright.For more information, and to sign up, visit: http://alwrightpublishing.com/weekly_wakeup.htm