This month everyone is talking about gluten, because it's Gluten-Free Awareness Month. Some of my friends have shared their own personal stories, and I had this little birdie on my shoulder lately telling me that there is something I should share too. Only it isn't my story, it's Ashley's story, or the abridged version anyway ;-) To go into every detail would most certainly be an entire book, not a post on a blog.
There is a huge piece of our family equation which I almost never discuss. Deep breath... Autism.
Why? Because aside from the few (occasionally painfully noticeable) symptoms of autism remaining in Ashley, we are a crazy-happy bunch. And we have so much to be happy about. For one thing, Ashley has recovered extensively from autism.
How has she recovered so much? Well, since Ashley lost her health insurance (two and a half years ago), and therefore lost her occupational and other therapies that were covered by health insurance, I can say without a doubt that she has come so far because of biomedical treatments. And only because of biomedical treatments. That isn't to say that her therapies were unhelpful, just that in the last two and a half years she has recovered with biomedical treatments alone.
Biomedical treatments are another way of saying holistic treatments. That is, you look at the individual, and the whole system of the individual. We did this with our naturopathic doctor (N.D.) and two different DAN! doctors. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now, and when you find a great DAN! doctor (we actually saw a few we didn't like first) they believe two things: Autism is treatable, and autism is preventable.
What does that translate to? Autism is triggered, either in the womb or thereafter. In Ashley's case it was triggered after she was born. Ashley suffered two near death vaccine reactions, and after the second one she completely stopped developing. Between the ages of one and two were the worst. She couldn't sleep (she didn't sleep through the night until she was 3), and all day long she: shrieked (oh, the shrieking...), flapped her hands wildly, banged her head on the floor and the wall, and did self-stimulating repetitive behavior—mostly opening and closing drawers and pushing a toy back and forth (for hours).
What didn't Ashley do before she was two years old? She didn't talk, respond when spoken to, or physically move (she occasionally scooted on her behind, but neither crawled nor walked). She didn't touch most objects, feed herself, or swallow solid food. Ashley had severe sensory processing disorder (she was hypersensitive to touch, motion, and noise). I made her food, pureed it, and spoon fed her (no quick task for a baby between the ages of one and two). During that time we were working around the clock with multiple therapists (occupational, speech, physical), some of whom will always be dear to my heart.
Many of Ashley's symptoms of autism went away with gluten-free / casein-free diet alone. She stopped flapping her hands, banging her head, and freaking-out constantly. She also discontinued her self-stimulating repetitive behavior. All of this with diet alone. But there were other problems...
Prior to January, 2009, or until Ashley was 4 and a half, she mostly just labeled objects (cat, dog, cup, etc.) and echoed speech (Me: "Ashley, do you want a drink?" Ashley: "Drink.") Until the last year or two Ashley was plagued with candida and other bad bugs that caused constant diarrhea. Additionally, her N.D. and DAN! doctors have found her to be in need of (through urine and blood tests) a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids (namely omega 6 in her case, which is interesting since omega 3 is what people usually assume they need most).
I have been giving Ashley around 15 supplements a day for about three years now. Some supplements with food, some in food, some away from food—throughout the entire day. I know 15 supplements a day sounds crazy, but I'm used to it. Sometimes I do it without realizing. Did you ever arrive in your car at home, and suddenly not remember driving there? It becomes automatic. Furthermore, much like the reaction Ashley has to gluten and casein, Ashley's reaction when I run out of her vitamins is equally traumatic. Both cases result in her not talking, but shrieking instead. Bottom line: Diet and supplements are crucial for her.
A few of you may remember about a year and a half ago I posted that, "Miracles do happy—My daughter can talk!" See, when we tested Ashley to find out if she was carrying mercury, aluminum and other toxins or heavy metals (two years ago), her doctor told me, "I've never seen so much mercury [in a person] before." That's when we decided to chelate (detoxify) Ashley. And when she finished her first round of chelation... Ashley could talk. And I mean like out-of-nowhere—full sentences! The only analogy I can think of that would be similar is when someone wakes from a coma. Her awakening from autism was that instant and dramatic.
However, the type of chelation we did (DMSA skin cream) was not without side-effects. We used the cream six days a month (split into two groups of three). It was really terrible in the last month (we did a round of three months). During the last three days Ashley regressed. Meaning: Some symptoms of autism came back and were quite pronounced. Namely, Ashley couldn't use her words (notice I said words. Remember, she didn't speak in sentences yet). She screamed instead, hit, and threw things.
I still felt like the DMSA cream was worth it though, when after that last day of treatment she came out of the regression and spoke to us for the first time. She was 4 and a 1/2 years old.
We tested Ashley again, and sure enough noticeable amounts of mercury, aluminum and other poisons had been excreted. Thank God.
However, our doctor explained the situation (based on the tests), and said we had removed, "the tip of the iceberg." She also said that since we had last chelated, there was a new product, a super antioxidant, created by a famous doctor, that our doctor herself had been taking. The doctor who created it (Boyd Haley) had also taken this supplement for two years. It was proving extremely safe in studies, not to mention very effective at helping the body to do it's job of detoxifying.
So we are currently on our second round of this antioxidant, called OSR (in addition to all the other supplements Ashley needs), and we have seen even more progress, with zero side-effects. The DAN! docs have found even greater success by combining OSR with IMD, so we have been giving Ashley that as well. We (finally) successfully treated the candida and other dysbiosis with Biocidin. The symptoms of autism that remain are decreasing, and who knows, she may one day have no symptoms left at all. I know it's possible. =)
I believe a person's success is not measured only in academic achievement, but also in well-being. In Ashley's case, helping her become well has not been simple, but we did it, and it was worth all the effort. What I want most for Zoe and Ashley is to be healthy and find their passion, whatever it may be. We are all born with gifts, and it's my job to help them find those gifts.
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