Healing Our Son’s Autism – The Best Therapy of All

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Mountain Road -Healing Autism

Our oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, and we have been on the road towards healing with him for some 5 years now.  We’ve put him on a gluten-free diet, a candida diet, use only non toxic personal care products and we drink only filtered water.

In short, we’ve tried a lot of things to get him healthier, and while we’ve seen progress, it’s been a long road.

A long “healing road.”

The start of the “healing road” was a fast and furious one.  Well–actually, I take that back.

The start of our healing road actually seemed like more of a major road block.

Our family physician recommended an appointment with the Dept. Head of Psychology at our local children’s hospital and a mental nervous drug prescription.  I had already started down the “alternative medicine” path prior to the autism diagnosis, but at this point I found myself moving quickly into a brand new world.

The following months are a blur now, consisting mainly of mom being up until midnight (or later), scouring the internet for therapies that might help, reading accounts of healing, wondering if what other parents said had healed their children –might.just.heal.mine.

I have mixed feelings as I write this, because I do not want to insinuate that what I have done might work for your child – and thus set up for you expectations that might not become a reality.  However, at the same time, I feel that to not share the things that have helped us would be a true disservice to others who are looking for help.

So here is a brief history of our treatment path.  Some successes.  Some “failures”.  What we have done and what we are doing now.  And what I think is perhaps the best healing technique of all.

{Please note – there are affiliate links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your price remains the same and your support is greatly appreciated. It helps keep this free resource up and running.}

Treatments for Autism

1.  Occupational Therapy -

We did a lot with this at the beginning of our journey. Sensory Integration, massage, touch, brushing… we tried to fit a number of these things into our schedule. It was hard to do and got tedious frequently. But we did feel that it helped at least to some point.  One of the books that we found to be the most helpful was The Out-of-Sync Child.

2.  Genetic testing & Nutritional Supplementation –

This was overall a flop.  While the testing was interesting, the supplement regimen was completely overwhelming both mentally and financially.  We could not afford the expert-directed evaluations and I was unable to handle the intense trial-and-error approach to supplement management.  We spent quite a bit of money up front and quickly moved on. 

Luckily, I still had all my hair :-).

3.  Dietary Intervention

- Gluten-free and Casein-Free

There is a lot of information available in books and on the web about gluten and casein (a protein found in cow’s milk) and the roles that they are thought to have in aggravating autism.  I won’t go into all of this here, but suffice it to say that I think that removing these proteins from your child’s diet is imperative.  There is data showing that the real effects can sometimes take quite awhile to show up, though there are plenty of stories about children showing marked improvement almost instantaneously.

While I follow more of a whole foods approach than the author, the book Special Diets for Special Kids contains a wealth of information on this topic.

To see how manageable (and tasty :-)) a gluten-free and dairy-free diet can be, take a look at my Recipes page.  There, you’ll find healthy, whole food ideas for some of our family’s favorites like:

- Whole Foods

This means whole grains, and few to no processed foods.  Basically, no “junk.”  This is crucial.  It sounds overwhelming, but basically, kids with autism have broken bodies and we need to do everything we can to allow them to heal.  Putting “junk” food into a broken body will just continue to muck up the mechanisms and delay healing of all kinds.  In fact, it might even worsen the situation.

- The Candida Diet

Our son, like many persons with autism, struggles with candida overgrowth.  Candida basically is a candida albicans, a fungus that is present in all people’s bodies, but, when one’s digestive flora is out of balance, grows out of control and starts to cause systemic issues.

I love baking and, well, my son loves to eat.  For a good part of his childhood, I was baking whole grain goodies regularly, and he ate them–well, too regularly.  At one point, things really got out of hand and his trunk was covered with a rash and he was lifting up his shirt in public to scratch himself.  Suspecting that the rash might be caused by candida, we took him off of all sugars, including dried fruit and fruit, and limited his grain intake.  The rash cleared up within two days, following one night of worsening, which is typical when the candida is starved of its food (sugars).

We kept him on a pretty strict diet for a while, and his skin is perfectly clear now.  He now has fruit and dried fruit occasionally, and we are not limiting his starches as much.  But refined flours and sugars are out of his diet almost 100%, and I suspect that that will continue for his entire life.

And while it can be tough to keep your child (or yourself) on a special diet, here are some tips to help you do just that.

4.  Nutritional Balancing

This is the name of the current protocol that we are using for our son.  Basically it is a program that naturally coaxes out heavy metals and toxins by re-balancing the body nutritionally and with supplements.  I have been genuinely pleased with his progress and scientifically measured tests have demonstrated that the metals are coming out of his body.  We are working with a specialist named Theresa Vernon and have been thrilled with her expertise, compassion, and knowledge of the adrenals and their role in total body health.

Update: 3/17/14.  We have moved on from Nutritional Balancing.  I hope to write soon about what we are doing now.

5.  Essential Oils 

As I mentioned in my post on Natural Sleeping Tips, I have begun gradually experimenting with essential oils.  One way that I have been using these with our son is when his anxiety gets out of control.

Every night my son ask me to use lavender oil to prevent bad dreams.  Seems to work :).  Sometimes younger brother asks for it too. (I’ve ended up going with a different essential oils company – Native American Nutritionals.  You can read Which Essential Oils Company is Best for more information on how I chose this company.)

The oils really seem to help him better manage his mood swings and get the sleep that his body so greatly needs.  In fact, while I put the finishing touches on this post, my son had a panic attack and asked that I would please rub some lavender oil on his feet.  Within two minutes, the panic had subsided.

6.  Perhaps the Best Therapy of All – “Low and Slow” 

There are, in my opinion, a number of causes of autism.  My theory is basically that it is a “whole person” affliction, affecting the nervous system, brain, digestive system, and endocrine system.  The more I learn about adrenal health, the more I see how healthy adrenal function is crucial to whole wellness.

Basically, the more stressed out one is, the less toxins are filtered out of the body, digestions worsens and everything goes downhill from there.

So while it is my tendency to try to find new ways to help my son and to work tirelessly at them, I find that really, one of the best ways to help him is to do whatever I do calmly.

A dear friend told me of another mother of a child with Asperger’s who called being calm with her son, “Low and Slow.”

How appropriate.

Just simply loving our son as he is, speaking softly and sweetly, and having a sense of peace has an almost magical effect on him.  Literally any day that I can slow down and live at a more restful pace is a day when I can really “see” him healing and blossoming.

It isn’t easy, but it is cheap!  And keeping my own self calm truly is the most effective healing technique that we have tried (though it is likely the most difficult).

In closing, I don’t mean to insinuate that any of the above methods will for sure help your child with autism, and here is the classic, but necessary, disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, nor a nurse, nor any kind of medical practitioner.  I was pre-med for a brief time in college and I devour medical information voraciously, but that’s about it.  I’m just a mom struggling to heal her son, hoping to help other parents along the healing road as well.  Please consult with your own physician prior to following any of my recommendations :-).

Blessings to you and yours as you continue down this road.

What Natural Treatments Have You Tried?
Which Have Worked for Your Child?

{Photo Credit}

 

http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2011/08/pennywise-platter-thursday-818.html

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  1. And you think I’m strong cuz I live off grid?! You, lady, rock! Keep being your son’ s champion!!!

  2. Hi Adrienne, my mom sent me your Essential Oils showdown blog series and I just placed an order withNative American Nutritionals. My husband and I have been learning how to make essential oils and are delving into better understanding the science of how they work. Turns out I also work with Theresa Vernon; have been for two years. I have been reading that you are no longer following the nutritional balancing protocol and I’m very curious to hear what you are doing now. I’m not sure if I’ve missed the post about it.
    Thanks for the important work that you do!

  3. Thank you for such an informative blog. I’m hoping to move towards the GAPS diet. We have just been putting the “pieces together” in the past few months thinking our son sounds very typical of Asperger’s. We prayed, researched, prayed, got good advice, prayed some more, and came to the conclusion that for several reasons we should have him officially evaluated and diagnosed. Surprise, surprise – when I talked to the neuropsych’s office this morning, the young receptionist told me that “since my son is eighteen, then we can’t make an appointment for him. He would have to initiate the evaluation.” Gee – that was frustrating. After feeling some affirmation at understanding why we probably have had more than normal challenges with one of our sons due to what looks like Asperger’s, and asking for help, they tell us, “sorry – we can’t help you.” Incidentally, just last week I dropped $190.00 to have his visual processing checked (to see if he would need vision therapy and/or if that’s the reason he’s very afraid to drive while practicing with his permit). The eye doc’s office gladly made the appointment. I also made his dental appointment (where they found what looks like possibly candida on the inside of his mouth), and both these docs give me all the info. and still keep me in the loop…..and rightly so since he just graduated from school this past June and is still totally dependent on us. Apparently, our lovely, anti-parental rights government has adopted this brilliant idea that once a person turns eighteen, somehow magically that person’s officially an adult. We remind our children that they are “adults-in-training”, trainees have a trainer, and we (and other responsible full-fledged adults) are the trainers. So anyway – I suppose that it’s acceptable for me to make an appointment to check my son’s visual processing, but it’s not okay for me to make an appointment to check is cognitive processing – – hmmm…. My first reaction to finding out that he would have to initiate eval/dx. was that of frustration, but I have to remember that God is sovereign and nothing takes Him by surprise. So – I’m really not just venting; I do have reasons to write here: 1. Considering that I’m probably not the only mother who’s in this boat (I’ve read that many folks with Asperger’s are not diagnosed until young adulthood), do you know of anyone else who was in this predicament and what they did to find help? 2. I wanted to share with other parents that even though homeschooling was challenging on so many levels at times, I would not trade that experience for anything. I believe that providing our children (especially ones that fall outside of the bell curve of “neurotypical”) benefit from a hands-on, uniquely-tailored education which can release them from a. an artificial learning environment (the outside world – even overseas – was our classroom), b. being confined to relating to other children only his own age, and c. being subjected to group think/behavior. The main impetus for us to homeschool (parent-directed, privately-funded) was one of Biblical conviction for us; however, the ancillary benefits that ensued – too numerous to number – were and are a bonus. I did have a gentle discussion with my son about our concerns with him (which surprisingly seemed to go very well), but he’s insisting that he does not need evaluation. I prayed for weeks about how to approach him when I’d have to explain why we’re going to a neuropsych, not knowing until today that I couldn’t make the app’t. At this point, it’s in the Lord’s hands completely (where I guess it always was anyway). If you wouldn’t mind praying, I’d sure appreciate it. Prov. 3:5-6 P.S. just some encouragement…even with all of our son’s challenges – he was able to graduate from high school with some college credits from taking an online university course his senior year. We’ve also noticed that he’s benefiting from an “Adult-In-Training Contract” (with our consistent enforcement of breaches) rather than “whahhhh, whahhh, whah”. Oh – one last thing…let’s remind each other than our children’s hearts are so much more important that any other thing – disabilities, their future “successes”, etc….Praying God’s blessings on you and yours.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. Hmmmmm….I have a friend up the road who has a son who is college age w/ Asperger’s. I would perhaps suggest contacting a group she used to work with -The Gray Center. They might have some ideas for you. I would love to hear if they are able to help you. http://www.thegraycenter.org/

  4. Lill Birnie says:

    Hi.

    I have 3 children, one girl with severe autism, one boy with asperger and ADHD and my youngest boy have the same as our daughter but not as severe.
    As all my children have it i suspect it may be genetically as my mom had asperger and my husbands sister have to boys with asperger and severe autism.

    I dont think any of my children will ever be able to take care of them self but i hope and prey they will get better. I have talked and talked to doctors about putting them on diets but they say that if it is genetically it will not help – we have put our daughter on a wheat free diet as she has had so much stomach troubles since she started to eat food as a baby.- and it has helped so much with her stomich, so we are really glad for that. She is 13 years now and this is the first year she does not need to wear a diaper – our yongest son still wears them (he is 9) . But our middle son with ADHD and asperger is the one who is hardest to deal with as he has so much anger.and do not cope to interact with other kids – he always fights with kids at school so he dont have any friends and all the other kids think he is weird. I dont know how many times i have been called from school to come and get him because they cant handle him.

    I just hope and prey my children will be better.

    • Hi there. I am so so sorry to hear how hard this has been for you. It is a tough thing. I like hearing people say that autism is a gift to learn to live with but they have NO idea how hard it can be. Have you tried dairy and sugar free? I found the sugar to be HUGE.

      We are doing a lot more w/ healing now and it seems to be helping. Blessings to you and yours.

  5. Hi Everyone,

    I am a pre-OT student and I am preparing a research paper on the calming effects of nature on kids with Autism and PDD. For many reasons I think that being in nature–and soothing natural interiors in calm places– can greatly help kids with Autism and PDD. I am looking for your own stories of your kids. Have you noticed a change in your child’s behavior after being in nature?

    Much thanks!
    Rebecca H

    • I think that’s a very good thing to do.

    • Rebecca, I have never replied to one of these, but liked this post, and feel that calm time and time spent outdoors has really helped my son more than any diet/ vitamin intervention (although I am a serious believer in probiotics and healthy gut). I believe my son is ” on the spectrum” for aspergers, although we have never had him diagnosed. We eat an extrememely clean Weston Price style diet, but i do feel that he has made the most gains by both being outdoors and we have found a few sports that he is thriving at individually. We also moved to a tiny town in the mountains of Idaho, he has a tiny class, and much less sensory distractions that most kids have living in a city. When my son was about eight, I was struggling as to whether I should have him diagnosed, not sure if I wanted a label on him. That summer we got him a kayak, and this quirky kid who couldn’t focus on anything and was so nervous would get into a kayak and be normal and focused. We did a seven day raft trip in Utah, and he was normal and thriving. The following winter, he wanted to learn to telemark ski. He had been skiing since age three, but was not learning. His younger siblings we more advanced than he was for some reason. Both my husband and I telemark ski, and he wanted to try it. He is very passive and not very vocal, so we saw it as another opportunity for him to learn an individual sport and thrive. The first day telemarking, it clicked, and he was amazing at nine years old. It was pretty neat to see this kid who was on a basketball team looking so nervous, rocking on the bench, thriving at a sport that is really hard for most adults. He is now fifteen, and seems to have matured enough that it is not very noticeable. He is doing incredible stuff in the outdoors. We do multi day raft trips on the rivers in Idaho, and he rows his own raft through class 4 rapids. He is on a big mountain ski team as the only telemarker, and the ski hill shot some footage of him last year for an ad. He still has some nervous scratching mannerisms, and prefers to stay in the car if we have to go into a crowded store. I am happy that I never put a label on him and love that we took our mountain hippie approach for therapy. The above article is a good one. A slower pace and decreasing stress is essential for everyone. My best friend is a pediatric OT. One of her most recent revelations in working with kids with autism is how stressed out the moms are. They have a stressful week of making therapy appointments, preparing the perfect organic meals, living the rat race, etc. Maybe the reason for the rise in autism is the crazy pace of life we all live. I know moving to a small town and having a slower pace has helped my some thrive. A few years ago, we spent a few days in Salt Lake City, and my son regressed so much in one day. He was so stressed out, had tunnel vision, and was actually rocking and counting in the back seat of the car. These were all mannerisms that he had before we moved to the small town. So, yes Rebecca I think being outdoors and a slower pace would be an excellent topic to study more in depth as you go through your OT training.

  6. Karen Thomas says:

    We went down a very similar path, and in the end, found a combination of diet and supplementation worked well for our son. It’s great to read that you had similar results!!

  7. I am in the beginning chapter of what could be a very long road for a child who is on a spectrum (no diagnosis yet). I have been doing my research besides diet I am finding this supplement that called NAC (N-acetylcysteine) and was wondering if anyone here came across this or tried it and what was your experience.

  8. Hi Adrienne! I have read a lot of your writings and research but never on autism. My brother and his thirty year old son who has autism now lives with me and may for quite a while before they move on to find their own home. Is this something I can still do to help my nephew even tho he is not a little boy anymore. He is very intelligent but still has a part of him that is still like a little boy; mostly on the way thinks about a lot of things. Thanks for your thoughts on this. Joanne Dudley

    • Hi and thanks for writing. What part were you wondering about doing w/ the boy? The “slowing down” part? Of course, it can work for many – I think even I do better when things are more calm:).

  9. Julie Clemmons says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR HARD WORK…I don’t know you well yet, but I can already tell I’m gonna love you girl!!! You have helped in more ways than you can imagine. You, my Sister, ROCK!!!! JC