My son received a formal diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of 3. When reviewing his old medical assessments from that time, it almost does not seem possible that it is the same person that has grown up into the independent, social and hardworking adult that he is.
Reading from his paediatric assessment at the time:
- “.. is approximately 12 months delayed in most respects”
- “During the testing situation even in a 1 to 1 environment it was extremely difficult to keep him on task”
- “he uses language in an idiosyncratic way which appears to be unconnected to the context. He does not initiate social conversation and his parents must pose a series of simple questions to illicit information from him. He is inclined to repetitively recant phrases and statements and invents words if he does not know the name of the object”
- “exhibits unusual attachments to objects at times and for example will cling to a supermarket docket and become very distressed if his parents take it from him.”
- “fussy eater”
- “established eye contact only on his own terms”
- “fulfils the DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of autistic disorder”
He went to Irabina for early intervention and enjoyed it, as well as kinder.
His entry into primary school? Basically, he got kicked out within two weeks of starting Prep, even though the school initially were confident they could integrate and support him.
Minutes from the Parent Support Group Meeting read:
- “School is unable to meet his needs at this point. Safety concerns for him and other children cannot be met”
- “His behavior is inconsistent and invasive. This cannot continue.”
Yes, it was a “fun” time.
It was soon after that he was also diagnosed with ADHD. We trialled Ritalin for a week. When his appetite markedly decreased and his sleep deteriorated, I finally woke up to the fact that something had to be done. I was a Medical Scientist, I knew how to research, there had to be something we could do for him, surely.
At the time, anecdotally, on-line ASD parent discussion groups were reporting success with diet and supplements. The medical profession said that there was no evidence that supported any of these “alternative” interventions. Indeed, they considered them as being potentially dangerous. I began my research and started with diet. We saw an immediate improvement in behaviour with the removal of artificial colours and preservatives. Removal of dairy and sulphites eliminated his asthma. AND so, the journey continued. Limiting salicylates, a trial of removing gluten, adding in magnesium, fish oils, vitamin B6, etc. At that stage I decided that I really did not understand what I was doing with diet, and the supplements that I was giving him and enrolled to study Naturopathy.
The research into ASD continues to increase at a phenomenal rate. Many of the anecdotal reports of treatments trialed by parents that have benefited their children, now have solid scientific evidence explaining why they have been so beneficial. Did it make a difference for my son? Today, he is independent, is very social and has friends. Academically, no he did not go to mainstream secondary school. But he successfully completed an electrical apprenticeship, was accepted into the Defence Force and is now studying at university.
AND yet medical professionals STILL say that nothing can be done!
AND STILL ignore research that is clearly showing that ASD children do suffer from co morbid medical conditions, preventing them from achieving their full potential in life.
Do I have any regrets? Only one. That I did not start healing my son sooner and believed that mainstream medical professionals knew best. Years of reading research papers has taught me otherwise. More recent ASD research is looking at the long-term outcome of ASD adults. The studies are showing that ASD adults have difficulty with being independent, struggle with mood and serious underlying medical issues, and continue to rely heavily on family support. Clearly the mainstream model is not working.
The American College of Pediatrics published a consensus report in 2010, which recommended that children on the autism spectrum should have a more comprehensive medical evaluation and agreed that there was anecdotal evidence for dietary intervention, but stopped short of recommending dietary intervention as a “primary treatment for individuals with ASD’s”. The same report concluded that there was a “high incidence of gastrointestinal problems in ASD requiring thorough assessment.” The UK and NZ governments have issues similar guidelines and recommendations. Australian Paediatricians and other Australian medical professionals are unwilling to implement such recommendations in Australia when treating children and adults with autism.
If you do not look at the research, then you will never know, and you certainly will not be able to offer credible advice to parents.
It is lazy way to practice medicine!
ASD children have only one start in life, and they should be supported with the best medical and nutritional care possible, so that they can become the absolute best version of themselves.