I’ve Become a Better Parent, Thanks to Autism

Yes, it may sound strange, but I am a much more informed, aware and understanding parent…thanks to autism entering our lives.  I’ve learned to slow down, not take anything for granted and acknowledge the positive behaviors of my children. Before autism, I didn’t realize a lot of things; like how poor of a diet my kids ate. I thought since I cooked meals and we ate out only on occasion, that they ate healthy. Before autism I didn’t cook with foods that were free of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. The processed food, and the artificial ingredients in their snack food was affecting my kids’ health and behavior. If it wasn’t for autism, I wouldn’t have researched countless hours on diets, supplements and the understanding of ingredient labels.

I also didn’t see right away what exactly “attention seeking” behavior was, until behavior therapy entered our lives. Learning to spot the signs and how to deal with it was an education. And yes, I’m more aware of it now, although it does catch me off-guard every now and then.

Autism introduced us to sensory issues and sensory seeking behaviors. I used to think my older son’s sensory seeking behaviors were just something he did that drove me up a wall. Occupational therapy introduced me to the concept, the reason behind them, and what exercises or techniques that are helpful for my sons’ sensory integration.

One of the biggest challenges I face with autism is my fast pace.  I’m a multi-tasker, and can being doing one thing while rattling off a request or answering a question, all the while planning my next task.  Not good.  I have learned that I must stop what I am doing, walk over to my child, obtain his attention by touch when necessary, and calmly state my request. This works best, but is not always my first instinct. I’m still practicing this parenting skill, and should have it mastered by the time they go off to college.

Autism has been a daily lesson in patience and understanding. I am definitely not a saint in this area, but I am trying…and counting…and breathing deep.  It has helped me understand the needs of other kids in both of my son’s classrooms at school. I’m more tolerant and can see through some of their behaviors and try to get to the core of their issues.  Kids on the spectrum are not the only ones with focus/attention issues, sensory integration problems or social skill deficits.

Lastly, autism has given me perspective on what is important in life. To celebrate the little things, appreciate each developmental milestone and simply enjoy the moment. How many parents can come home from a seven-year-old’s birthday party and be on cloud nine that their child fit in socially and had a wonderful time without any meltdowns?  It’s those little things in life I appreciate that would have passed me by before autism. Thank you autism. For making a difference in my life.

Five Ways to Help Kids with ADHD

Over time, I have found that there are many things you can do for your child with ADHD that will help them stay positive, focused and less impulsive. Here I will list the five most important things I have found that help my son with ADHD.

  1. Diet – A healthy diet with good sources of protein, especially in the morning is essential. Breakfast is the most important meal for all of us, and it’s especially true for those that suffer from ADHD. Low sugar, high protein and complex carbohydrates are key. Of course, no artificial ingredients (colors, flavors or preservatives). Keep MSG out of the diet and make sure they have snacks (protein) between meals. I found that when my son’s blood sugar drops, his concentration and mood decline.
  2. Sleep – Everyone feels better and more alert when they’ve had a good night’s sleep. Kids with ADHD seem to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. They sometimes have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night. Make sure they get the recommended hours of sleep for their age. A consistent bedtime will help along with no sugary foods after dinner.  The supplements GABA and magnesium are helpful for my son before bed. They are neuro-calming and help with sleep. Epsom salt baths also help calm and relax kids before bed. Some parents find that melatonin helps their child if they suffer from insomnia. My son couldn’t tolerate melatonin. Changing his diet and eliminating allergic foods helped with his night terrors he had from ages 2 – 9.
  3. Exercise – This is one of the most important elements.  A lot of kids with ADHD suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Exercise will release anxiety, produce those good endorphins and stimulate blood flow to the brain.  They need daily exercise for at least 60 minutes.  My son’s mood is so much better when he has had plenty of exercise, he can focus and attend to homework, and he is healthier for it too.
  4. Motivators – Positive and disciplinarian in nature work best for our family.  Concise, achievable goals like earning rewards or privileges for accomplishments at school and with homework help my son with motivation. He is also held accountable for his negative actions. Clear, age-appropriate rules must be established with consistent monitoring of them.  And finally, always look for the positive and boost their fragile self-esteem with lots of praise, smiles and hugs.
  5. Supplements – Kids with ADHD have biochemical deficits that need additional supplementation to support important brain and nervous system function. I have found the following supplements beneficial in lessening the symptoms of ADHD in my son.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), particularly Omega-3s (DHA) really helps with focus, concentration and mood. About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. I give my son omega-3 that are high in DHA. DHA reduces oxidative stress, enhances learning and memory, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes within the brain. Omega-3s are anti-inflamatories and the primary building material for cell membranes, which let nutrients in and toxins out.
  • GABA is also a key supplement for my son. It is neuro-calming and reduces impulsive behaviors. GABA is an amino acid produced in the brain acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, a chemical that promotes communication between nerve cells in our central nervous system.
  • Pycnogenol is also beneficial for kids with ADHD. It’s a powerful antioxidant, a natural anti-inflammatory, and helps to dilate blood vessels which increases blood flow to the brain. It’s one of only a few antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Studies have indicated that it is a more powerful antioxidant that vitamin C and E. It’s reported to help with cognition and focus.
  • Another amino acid that helps my son with cognition and focus is acetyl l-carnitine. It too can cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown it improves kids symptoms with ADHD. The neurotransmitter in the brain, acetylcholine, is essential for proper brain function and the entire nervous system. Acetyl l-carnitine produces acetylcholine which helps in memory and mental alertness.
  • L-tyrosine is an amino acid and a building block for dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine;  neurotransmitters that helps regulate emotions. If levels of these neurotransmitters are insufficient, feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability and frustration can result. Dopamine controls the flow of information to the other parts of the brain. This occurs in the frontal lobes (called the prefrontal cortex). Disorders in this part of the brain (like ADHD) can cause a decline in memory, problem solving, and attention. I found this supplement really helps my son with ADHD with his emotions and positive attitude. L-tyrosine should be taken at least 30 minutes away from meals since it will compete for entry to the brain with other amino acids (protein). Also, it should not be taken in conjunction with MAO inhibitor drugs.

You will notice that taking pharmaceuticals was not on this list. Prescription meds are a personal choice.  I have opted to treat my son’s ADHD biomedically with diet and supplements. We have found that  his ADHD symptoms were significantly reduced, and his overall health and well-being improved. Try to remember that your child with ADHD wants to succeed; they  just need your help in figuring out how, along with the nutritional support to help them in daily life.

Vitamin B12: Our Miracle Supplement

When I was pregnant with my second son, I imagined how easy it will be raising this child. After all, I already had a child, and a boy at that. I’ll be a pro at everything! Changing the diaper quickly without getting sprayed. Save time with two in the bathtub each night.  Hand down the toys and clothes I had saved “just in case” child #2 was a boy. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he would develop autism. Or, that I’d eventually be sticking that sweet little bum with a syringe filled with methyl-B12 while he innocently slept.  Mom’s are capable of a lot when it comes to the health and well-being of their children. I quickly discovered just how much I am capable of doing for him.

During the beginning stages of our biomedical journey, we discovered from lab tests that my son’s biochemical process that utilizes B12 was deficient.  He desperately needed the methyl donor that methyl-B12 provides to help his body detoxify toxins and chemicals. So, one way to go about providing it is by a shot. We could not give oral B12 supplements, because the body still needs to convert it to the methyl donor via the gut. His gut was not healthy and the biochemical process was “broken”. Giving him methyl-B12 shots in his subcutaneous tissue (on his bum) was the way to go.  Well, my husband would NOT let me practice on him. (I don’t know why?) So that first shot was very nerve-racking. I have a cream that I put on his skin to numb it first, but still had to stick him with a needle! Granted, it’s a syringe that is very small used for insulin injections, but a needle non the less.

Wow! What a payoff I got for the trauma I went through.  My son suffered zero trauma during the shot; he was asleep (and didn’t wake). The next morning after the first B12 shot, my son came downstairs smiling. I was on the couch and he crawled up next to me and wanted to cuddle. He grabbed my face, looked me in the eyes (yes, directly) and said “I love you”.  I know!  Can’t get much better than that, eh? I told my husband, he must be a “responder”.  His reply was “Ah, you think?”.

Vitamin B12 is utilized in almost all our cells in the body and has an important impact on our nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and some biochemical pathways. Dietary sources of it aren’t effective if your gut is not healthy. There are nasal sprays and sublingual tablets, but these are pulsatile in nature.

Dr. Neubrander has done extensive research on the effects of methyl-B12 injections for patients with autism. He has found and states:

“The continuous supply of methyl-B12 that results from the slow leaching effect of subcutaneous injections produces afar greater  response.  The biochemistry implies that there is a transport disorder and/or a metabolic processing disorder that may be overcome if the system is fed in a steady-state and non-pulsatile fashion.”

Laymen terms? The shot in the bum last longer which also is absorbed and utilized at a steady rate than an oral supplement, nasal spray or sublingual tablet.

Methyl-B12 helps kids on the spectrum with executive function, speech and language, socialization and emotion regulation (thus the lovey dovey effect on my son).  Our son’s expressive speech took off and his socialization soared.  He is more cognizant with B12.  My son is a sweet, present and expressive little boy when he has his B12; but suffers with emotion regulation and lack of focus when he doesn’t get it.

In the beginning of our son’s biomedical treatment, I gave him the shot every three days.  I noticed by the third day, the effect was gone and he seemed like he needed more. We just recently started a trial of shots every other day. It’s going really well. He’s staying consistent and we don’t see a drop off in behavior or attention. B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means if the levels get too high, it will be washed out in the urine. It’s a safe vitamin to give as needed; and my son needs it every other day. Some kids may only need it once a week or month.

Of all the biomedical treatments we have done for our son, methyl-B12 is da bomb.  The big kahuna.  Our miracle supplement.



What Autism Means To Me

April is autism awareness month. I think it’s wonderful that we have the ability to create more awareness since early diagnosis is important for the child and family. But the simple fact that we have a dedicated month of awareness means that it’s reached a level that demands attention, and it certainly has caught mine.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.  This statistic keeps increasing.  When my son was diagnosed (in 2007), it was 1 in every 150 children. Before 1980, it was 1 in every 10,000. The Autism Society has statistics that break this down even further:

  • Autism has a 10 – 17% annual growth
  • $60 billion annual cost
  • In ten years, the cost will be $200 – $400 billion

What causes autism?

That’s the $64,000 question.  No known cause has been scientifically proven. Heredity points to it, but no “autism gene” has been found. Many children with autism or those who are at risk of developing autism have a metabolic impairment that reduces their ability to rid their bodies of heavy metals and other toxins. Build-up of these toxins in the body can lead to brain and nervous system damage and developmental delays. That pretty much sums it up for my viewpoint. Yes, I also believe there are true, Kanner autism cases. Genetic. And yes, I believe this metabolic impairment can also be genetic. Which leads me to my point. If I, my husband, or parents have this metabolic impairment, but don’t have autism, then why did this generation of children get it, and not us? Well, there’s a popular saying in the autism community that “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

I believe it’s the increase of toxins in our environment such as pesticides, PCB’s, mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, and antimony. Just to name a few. Our oceans are polluted which makes the fish our children eat polluted. Farming in 2010 is not the farming of 1980. We have genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food supply, pesticide laden soil, antibiotics and hormones in our beef and dairy, and a strong prevalence of corn and wheat in the American diet.  The processed food industry has provided America with an unhealthy dose of harmful artificial ingredients (colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG). Profits are huge, but at what cost?

I don’t know if my son was born with a metabolic impairment or if the toxins triggered it. Thimerosal which is 49.9% ethyl mercury, is the preservative in the vaccines and Rhogam shots me and my son received. Add to that, I had over eight dental amalgams (50% mercury) and had one removed (unsafely) when he was 2 months old and still breastfeeding. Rhogam shots with thimerosal were given to me while pregnant and right after birth. Mercury is passed through breast milk, and neurotoxic to the fetus and newborn.

Studies have shown that ethyl mercury from thimerosal have important effects on metabolic pathways. Laboratory tests confirmed my son’s methylation pathway is impaired. This pathway is involved in the body’s ability to excrete toxins. His lab tests also indicated increased levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony and PCBs. His body was not excreting heavy metals.  He was a typically developing infant and toddler. But by age three or four, he was diagnosed with autism.

How we treated our son’s autism:

For the past two and a half years, we have treated my son’s autism with behavioral therapy and biomedical treatments. He has had chelation therapy to remove the heavy metals, B12 shots and numerous supplements to boost his methylation. We’ve healed his damaged gut with probiotics, zinc and  herbal antimicrobial supplements.

His progress has been incredible. He no longer has meltdowns, tantrums, obsessions, diarrhea, sound sensitivity to everything, night waking, anxiety of new things or change, and doesn’t “stim” anymore. His eye contact has improved significantly, he has a lot of friends including a very best friend at school. In preschool he needed an aide in class. He has been in a mainstream classroom without an aide for the past two years; and is such an intelligent little boy. His expressive and receptive speech deficits are almost gone and his cognition has soared. I credit his recovery to working with a DAN! doctor on biomedical treatments and his behavioral therapy.

What does autism mean to me? That it is treatable. Our children need our help to heal and awareness is the first step. Research, read, educate yourself on how to help your child. Don’t wait for our government or others to do this for you. Take action. Now!

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