Sammy was born kicking and screaming on a hot, steamy day in July of 2006. Everything appeared normal as I quickly checked for all ten fingers and toes. After a sigh of relief, I tried to sooth my newborn screaming infant. He was beautiful. He was my third, and last, work of art. What I didn’t know on that day was something was lurking below the surface that I could not detect – something that threatened to take my son from me, severely affecting his quality of life. Its name was Autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and biological disorder affecting brain function. Sammy was placed on the Autism Spectrum with the specific diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) when he was two and half years old. Prior to the diagnosis, I decided to do a quick search on the Internet to learn more about the disorder after a person in my husband’s family had been diagnosed. Up to this point the only impression I had of “Autism” was Dustin Hoffman’s awesome portrayal of an adult man with Autism in the movie Rainman. While researching, I ran across “Autism symptoms in a child or infant.” My stomach hit the ground as I realized, my Sammy had many of the symptoms: hyper-sensitivity to loud sounds and to touch, delayed language (he had only 20 words at 2-1/2 yrs, using only one at a time), repetitive sounds or actions, preoccupation with certain objects or toys (for Sammy it is trains), lining objects up, avoiding eye contact with strangers, gastrological issues (for Sammy it was severe constipation), and limited social skills with peers. I tried not to worry too much since he had an upcoming check up and decided to casually mention my suspicions to our pediatrician. Still to this day, I don’t know why my stomach hit the ground again when the Autism specialist looked me in the eye and said, “Yes, your son has Autism.” I guess suspecting, and facing it are two different journeys.
Currently, one in every 70 boys in the United States is diagnosed with Autism. Government statistics report that the rate is increasing 10-17 percent every year. It has become one of the most widespread child epidemics in “recorded history.” There are many theories as to what causes Autism but currently there is not an “official cause” that the medical industry recognizes. Early intervention has proven to be the best course of action for children on the spectrum. The old, “wait and see” approach can be detrimental. Many therapies have proven affective on children including speech and language therapy, occupational and sensory integration, applied behavioral analysis and social developmental, just to name a few. We moved quickly as was suggested to us by the ASD department at Kaiser Permanente. Research has proven that there is small window of time in which therapies can make a big difference to the rapidly growing brain of a child under five years of age.
Sammy received one-on-one speech and occupational therapy within our home and also attended a special preschool structured for children with developmental issues. We also decided to change his diet switching him over to a gluten/dairy free diet (referred to Gluten Free/Casein Free – GFCF – in the ASD world). The diet made a huge difference. His vocabulary doubled within weeks and he started putting two words together for the first time. A year later, he is a totally different child. His therapist believes he will “lose his diagnosis” during his next evaluation.
If your child has several of the symptoms listed above, talk to your pediatrician and/or find an Autism specialist and request an evaluation. Do not settle for a “let’s wait and see” approach. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t seem quite right, don’t give up until you find answers. If your child is diagnosed with an ASD, move quickly and do consider the GFCF diet. While it may not work for every child on the spectrum, it has literally changed the course of my child’s life. I also follow the diet and have lost fifty pounds along with resolving depression, chronic body pain and many gastrological issues. I’ve listed some Web site resources and some of the most useful books I’ve read on ASD’s. May your child/children always be happy and healthy.
The Autism Book: What every parent needs to know about early detection, treatment, recovery, and prevention by Robert W. Sears, M.D., FAAP
Healing and Preventing Autism by Jenny McCarthy & Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.
Act Early Again Autism by Jayne Lytel
Unraveling the mystery of Autism and Pervasive Development Disorder by Karyn Seroussi
The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman, M.D.
Kim Rice is the mother of three children, Ashlee (18), Tanner (17) and Sammy (4). She is a freelance writer in Pleasanton, California writing about topics such as Autism, depression, diet and life transformation. She earned her BA degree from the University of Detroit and has over 20 years of corporate writing experience.