World Autism Awareness Day 04.02.11

Five years ago I was unaware of how autism affects families. It wasn’t talked about in the mainstream media like it is today. There wasn’t a World Autism Awareness Day until four years ago. When I think about how autism has changed our family’s life over the years, I am grateful for a lot of the adjustments, and others, not so much. In keeping with the positive, on this day I’d like to share the good that has come from my son’s diagnosis.

  • Awareness. I have learned to stop what I’m doing when my son talks to me, get down to his level and look him in the eyes. This gesture helps him in developing his conversation skills, and helps me to slow down and give him my full attention, which he deserves. I’ve also become a much more aware parent of my kids…where they are, what they are doing and how they feel.
  • Patience, patience, and did I mention patience? Any parent of a child with autism understands the importance of practicing this virtue. I work on it every day and will have fully acquired it by the time I’m 90. (I hope)
  • Knowledge. If it weren’t for autism, I wouldn’t have researched diets, artificial food additives, organic foods, and the importance of eating healthy, whole foods for our body’s fuel. Prepared foods are minimal now, and they are free of all the junk that most commercially available “food in a box” contain.
  • Friendships. Not only have I cherished every friendship my son with autism has gained over the years, but I have benefited in this department as well. If it weren’t for autism, I wouldn’t have met some wonderful people who have become true friends that I cherish each day.
  • Courage. This one is a biggie for my son and me. My son shows his courageous spirit every time he overcomes the fear of trying something new that may seem overwhelming to him. I have found the courage to fight for what he needs in every aspect of life, and have learned from my son to face my fears as well.
  • Volunteering. Helping others understand how they can help their child through this blog. I am so blessed to be able to reach parents, caregivers, and family of children with autism and help them along their journey.
  • Understanding. Autism has taught me how to teach my son an understanding of his world. By doing this, I have gained a tremendous amount of understanding for other people and their “issues”.
  • Gratitude. I’m grateful for the little things in life. Like my son’s first “why” question, whenever he asks another child to play with him, his hugs and kisses, when he looks me in the eyes, and when others tell me how much they adore him.

Autism has changed my life and the lives of many families around the world. Take a look around you and you’ll find someone who is affected by autism. Either they have a child, sibling, relative, friend, co-worker, or neighbor affected by it. Or perhaps that person you watch and wonder about has it too. Please keep in mind the positives and learn from it.

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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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