When my son first started showing signs of autism, I was determined to give it my all and find out how to help him.
I was so excited to have this little guy; I followed every guideline to a “T” and I watched all of his milestones so carefully. All of his developmental milestones were met on time or even early. He crawled at 6 months, walked at 12 months, played ball, laughed, smiled, had eye contact and said first words, “mama”, “dada”, “ball”.
At 18 months he stopped saying new words and quit saying the few words he had been saying. At this time, he also started showing obsessive compulsive tendencies with lining his cars up. He would get down on the floor and study the wheels. The wheels of the car had to be perfectly aligned with the edge of the carpet.
He was no longer interested in play and only wanted to walk up and down stairs…nonstop. He would go up and down, up and down with no interest in anything else around him. He would stare at his cars for hours, open and close all the doors in the house numerous times, turn door knobs repeatedly, and stare at door hinges while inspecting exactly the way they were working.
He became obsessed with specific objects, such as a placemat and a cup he drank from. They had to be placed just right and he would stare at them without distraction incessantly. Some doors in our house had to be open and others had to be closed; the sunroof in the car had to be just as he wanted it or he would scream the whole way home.
He would have severe laughing fits followed by screaming and crying. Additionally, he was very sensitive to sounds and bright lights. Crowded stores would cause high anxiety for him and he would cover his ears any time we were driving down the highway. The sound of blenders and vacuum cleaners would sending him into screaming tantrums.
His OCD and meltdowns completely ruled our life for a while--the places we could go was very limited due to his behaviors. He had no interest in other kids and did not want to play.
I became concerned of him having autism and began to research. My research kept leading me to gluten free/casein free diets as a way to improve symptoms associated with this disorder. My initial reaction was, “oh he could never do that! That’s all he eats! Macaroni and cheese, pizza, breakfast cereal and grilled cheese.”
However, after many months of researching, I continued to be led to this same idea and I felt this was exactly the way to go. After all, what could it hurt? Maybe we would see some benefit and even get a little healthier in the process.
By this time, he had been diagnosed with multiple ear infections, viruses, colds and stomach bugs. My son seemed to be sick...all. the. time. He had even landed in the hospital from dehydration due to severe stomach virus and double ear infection at the same time.
He was very behind in language development as well as gross and fine motor skills by this point.
We found a few highly recommended integrative medicine doctors and clinical nutritionists and we began our journey of healing. We learned what was occurring on a biochemical basis to cause certain behaviors and make him not be able to effectively communicate with us.
We had our son tested for food allergies, food sensitivities, bacteria, yeast, viruses, and even parasites. He tested intolerances to gluten, dairy, eggs, and citrus. The gluten and casein were reacting like drugs in his body which is why that was the only thing he would eat. His gut was low in good bacteria, and high in bad bacteria and yeast. He tested low in several critical nutrients such as B12, Vitamin E, and Chromium--all very important in neurological function. The bacteria, yeast and food intolerances were preventing him from absorbing important nutrients and due to his very self-limiting diet, he was not getting adequate nutrients from foods.
The diet change began very simple. We substituted all of his favorite things with gluten free versions. Within three days he was trying new foods! We were able to progress the diet from there, eventually getting to a whole foods diet with even vegetables.
Once we started addressing these underlying issues, we started seeing much improvement in his ability to focus and concentrate and even started to hear new words from him. His ability to focus helped him learn new skills from his therapies. Within a few months, his OCD was greatly improved and his screaming tantrums had significantly decreased. His daily anxiety levels were dramatically reduced and our happy, playful boy was returning to us. We continued improving his diet over the years and we added supplements needed based on blood work for nutritional deficiencies.
Today, my son is 11 years old and he no longer has obsessive compulsive behaviors. His once very uncontrollable anxiety is now very well managed. He has excellent gross and fine motor skills, imaginative play and is very social. He is in a mainstream classroom and has several friends. I wasn’t sure at one time if I would ever hear him say “mama” again, or hear him say “I love you”. It was very hard to foresee any type of conversation with him. Now, we have full conversations and he is curious about everything. It is often sometimes challenging to get him to STOP talking, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The more I continued to research, the more interested I became in the biochemistry of our bodies and the impact they have to heal themselves in so many ways. There are many chronic conditions on the rise; it is not just autism.
Genetic components mixed with environmental triggers make for a very chaotic cascade of health conditions. While this is not about "treating" autism, it is about making the child healthier.
Many times, a child's "autism-like" behavior can result from specific medical issues, food sensitivities or nutrient depletion. Once treating these specific issues, the child is healthier and feels better which results in better behaviors and communication.