Child Blossoms with Family Behind Him
August 23, 2013
When Jim Jr. was 3, doctors told his parents he would need assistance all his life. He stopped developing normal language skills. He did not learn to point. He stopped developing like a typical child. “He stopped walking alone and needed handholding,” says his mother, Sue. “His development was stalled.”
But today it’s hard to imagine that this 9 year old child was ever diagnosed with autism. Now in private school in a regular classroom, Jim Jr. excels academically, interacting regularly with teachers and other students, and loves to play soccer. No one would ever guess this child had a diagnosis of autism.
“It took about two years to get him there,” says Sue. Jim Jr. has recovered from autism.
“Some parents of children with autism withdraw from the world,” says Sue.” They self-isolate.” Her family was lucky, their friends stuck by them.
Sue and her husband Jim Sr., spent hours on the internet and reading books, searching for autism information that could help their child. That’s how they found Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and met other parents with children affected by autism.
TACA, founded by Lisa Ackerman, gave them hope. The non-profit led them through the maze of suggested treatments and gave them the chance to talk with other parents of children with autism. In spite of a bleak prognosis they found a way out of darkness.
Today the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that at 18 and 24 months all children should be screened for autism, whether or not there are any signs of developmental delay. By screening children early, those diagnosed with the disorder can be treated immediately and aggressively.
Jim Sr. remembers his son not being able to communicate with him or Sue. He exhibited a condition known as echolalia. “If you asked him if he wanted milk or juice he says ‘milk or juice’. He repeated everything he heard exactly. He never learned yes or no. It was frustrating for him and us.”
“He had splinter skills,” Sue says. “That means he could do some things above what was expected. He could read very early and memorize a book I’d read to him, and mimic voices on TV or around the house.”
Jim Jr. played, but alone alongside other children without interacting with them. Sounds frightened him and outings were difficult.
“He had sensory issues,” Sue says. “Even a toilet flushing would make him cover his ears and become very anxious. He would bring objects up to his eyes and move them back and forth. He exhibited paralyzing anxiety when he saw a dog, even outside the window.”
His parent’s believe that Jim Jr. also suffered severe gastro-intestinal pain. When she looks back now Sue remembers how her son bounced in his crib and would push his stomach against furniture, apparently to ease the pain.
Public school administrators were also not helpful during Jim Jr.’s recovery process. Jim Jr.’s parents did not want their child assigned to a special education classroom and had to be firm about keeping their son in a typical preschool with an aide amongst his peers.
His parents eventually found doctors who specialize in treating children with autism, and who recommended dietary changes and nutritional supplementation. When Sue and Jim Sr. changed their son’s diet removing foods with gluten and casein, they noticed the improvement s. He slept through the night; used language more appropriately, understood questions and answered them. His repetitive behaviors lessened.
Jim Jr.’s parents also aggressively sought out appropriate therapies. Jim Jr. underwent speech & language therapy, and applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help with his social interaction and occupational therapy to address his sensory issues and motor skill development. “Jim Jr. worked really hard, even thought the therapies are structures like play for kids,” says his dad, and he progressed rapidly.
It’s not uncommon for some professionals and friends to conclude that a recovered child wasn’t autistic in the first place. Jim Jr’s parents emphasize his recovery did not happen overnight and that it took years of therapy and dietary changes. Sue kept logs and filled 30 binders with notes she took every day, recording behaviors, therapies, eating habits, and comments from therapists and teachers, Those notebooks are a record of his road to recovery.
The family set short-term and long-term goals. But Sue says sometimes they were too close to see the changes, Therapists did, however. “That’s why the journals are so important,” says Sue. “It’s a record of what is working and what isn’t.”
Treating children with autism can include biomedical supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Sue makes sure Jim Jr. gets his B vitamins and prescriptions to fight yeast and bacteria. She shops a lot at health food markets and admits to Jim Jr. is a carnivore. “He loves meat,” she laughs. She also doesn’t use many prepared packaged foods. She uses rice and tapioca flour instead of wheat, and soy free products. “When first starting the diet, it is easier to use packaged gluten-free and casein-free products, but after a while, learning to cook GFCF makes the most sense,” says Sue. “It’s also better for your budget,” she adds.
Jim Sr. and Sue’s research, hard work and focus on recovery paid off when an amazed professional officially announced that Jim Jr. could no longer be considered autistic.
“We did it,” says Sue” Every story has a hero,” Jim Sr. says. “It’s usually the moms.”
This article was featured in the Orange County Register April, 2010