Quote of the Last Thirteen Days: You Do

A Facebook friend posted this yesterday on his wall, a quote from Jimmy Carter:

My faith demands—this is not optional—my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

It spoke to me, in terms of putting all my resources, physical and mental as well as economic, into recovering Martin. My faith does demand so much; whatever I need to sacrifice from my own life, I will give to improve Martin’s.

At the same time, this got me to thinking about something I wrote two days ago, replying to a comment left on this blog’s “About” page regarding biomedical ASD recovery:

I’m not saying this will work. Not saying I know how it works. Not saying everyone should do it. I’m just describing what we’re doing and what happens—fingers crossed.

The Track Two approach we’re taking for Martin is radical. Bucking the established medical community does not fall within every parent’s comfort zone. I know that. I never want this blog to suggest, to insinuate, or even to hint that the only way, or the best way, to “do whatever [you] can” is to undertake biomedical recovery.

Far from it. I am yet to meet the parent of a child with ASD who is not pouring his or her resources, every last drop, into that child. Special education, therapies, patience, protecting, comforting, just getting through the day: It takes all you’ve got. And somehow you do it, whatever you can, wherever you are, whenever you can, for as long as you can with whatever you have. You do.

The Most Beautiful Words, Ever

Yesterday evening I was doing a new HANDLE exercise with Martin called “Airplane Flagger.” Martin lay on his back on the floor, and I manipulated his arms: from his chest outward, from flat at his sides to over his head. At some point Martin mistook Airplane Flagger for “prelude to tickles,” which is not a HANDLE exercise but a fun game when I pin his hands above his head in order to tickle his underarms.

I figured, What the hay. Let’s make it tickle time, and set to tickling. I just love the joy of his unadulterated little-boy laughter.

A few seconds later I released his arms and let him catch his breath. I waited, poised above him, fingers pressed together in tickle-threat formation, holding Martin’s expectant gaze as RDI suggests. Martin could hardly contain his anticipation. “Again,” he said between gasps. “Again.”

So steady was Martin’s eye contact, I had to draw the moment out. I leaned closer and asked, “What? Whaaaaaat?”

And he produced the most beautiful words, ever.

He focused his eyes on my face, deliberately. He paused and considered. Finally, he said without bewilderment or guess, with the self-assurance of an accomplished orator:

“I want you to do that again.”

The sentence nearly overcame me. Instantly I analyzed it. An original thought, not heard and repeated. Subject. Object. Infinitive phrase. Adverb modifier. Perfection.

Martin’s previous best sentence, to my knowledge, came six or seven weeks ago, before he tumbled into the distraction that characterized last month. Dinner had just concluded. Adrian gathered Martin and announced bedtime. Martin became mildly distressed and protested, “I want to do sleepytime with Mommy.” That was a good, solid sentence—also included an infinitive phrase, and threw in a preposition—but “I want you to do that again” exceeds it in complexity, and requires proper use of both “I” and “you.” Prepositions are sand traps for an echolalic boy; he repeats what we call him (“you”), instead of registering the interconnectedness (the speaker is “I”). Perhaps we are approaching a milestone in his understanding.

Once my shock faded, as you can well imagine, I acceded to his wish and tickled. Again.

My son is a miracle.

As of September 28, a Weekday. And Some Sunshine

On August 5 I posted about my typical weekday. One reader sent this comment, via email:

You are not only an afternoon sous-chef/lawyer, but you have incredible perseverance (re utilizing every minute of the day) and patience. Somehow you maintain confidence it will be okay in the long haul. I got tired just reading it, especially the activities even after Martin went to bed. Someday it will all be all right.

That sounds sad to me. Does it sound sad to you? As if I’m so overwhelmed that I survive only by clinging to confidence in a better future for Martin?

Okay. Fair point—sometimes I am so overwhelmed that I survive only by clinging to confidence in a better future for Martin. It happens.

But I’m determined to stop being such a downer on the blog. If you are a reader acquainted with me off-line, you know that, in person, I am not a walking bummer. To the contrary, I’m quite sunny. (Adrian, the only party besides Martin with 24-hour access to me, might disagree. Fortunately for me, I’ve not yet added a “Husband’s Page” to the blog.) The reason I’m quite sunny is that I have a stable family and a blessed life. What concerns me most is how close my son will come to neurotypicality, and whether we can cover the distance quickly enough to overcome a late start to social interaction. That concern weighs heavily, but it’s not poverty, or terminal illness, or homelessness, or hunger, or unemployment, or abuse. Mine is a concern that, overall, I feel I have the tools to conquer.

Today I am posting optimism and contentment. Martin’s attention is returning, after that bad month we had. Yesterday I phone-conferenced with Martin’s excellent Track Two doctor, who ran some tests regarding his adrenal stress and is preparing appropriate homeopathic relief. Although the “meat thing” has proved difficult for me, Martin seems to be taking to beef broth without issue. Two evenings ago I enjoyed myself thoroughly at a happy hour for parents from Martin’s new special-education preschool.

Furthermore, since Martin started his new school earlier in September, my days have improved, time-wise. A typical weekday now looks like this:

6:40-7:00 a.m. I rise. I feed the cats. I check email and respond to any urgent missives. I prepare Martin’s morning homotoxicology and other drops, which “cook” ten minutes in hot water, to burn off the alcohol in which the active ingredients are suspended. I start Martin’s breakfast, which these days alternates among duck egg with squash fries (weekend treat), muffins with Dr. Cow “cream cheese,” grain-free veggie pancakes, and the occasional bowl of buckwheat or quinoa cereal with nuts. My mother just sent a waffle maker and recipe for almond waffles, so I’m going to add those into the rotation.

7:00-8:10 a.m. Busy time. Adrian won the desirable job of waking Martin (he’s like a sleepy little bunny rabbit in the morning) and the less desirable job of getting Martin onto the potty and then dressed. While they are thus occupied, I finish making Martin’s breakfast. I’m also running up and down the stairs from kitchen to bedrooms, bringing some supplements and maybe doing a HANDLE exercise or two. Adrian brings Martin downstairs by 7:30. I help Martin with breakfast and remaining supplements and oils, while Adrian showers and gets ready for work. I also fix Martin’s lunch during this time, because I like it to be as fresh as possible. His typical school lunch comprises nut butter slathered on homemade crackers (which get soggy if I prepare them the night before), accompanied by a dish like sauerkraut, avocado, pear, or hard-boiled quail eggs. By 8:00 Martin is teeth-brushed and ready. He makes one final visit to the potty with Adrian. At 8:10 precisely they walk out the door together, Adrian wearing a laptop/document backpack and Martin wearing a zebra backpack stocked with school supplies, lunch, and toddler training pants. Adrian puts Martin on the school bus.

8:10-9:00 a.m. Kitchen and me time. I empty the dishwasher, load in any plates lying around, give the kitchen a once-over, and if necessary do basic prep work for dinner. Then I get myself washed and dressed, and walk to the corner coffee shop for a soy latté.

9:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Lawyer time. I spend as much of this time working (as a lawyer, my “real job”) as possible. I may also sneak out to the natural foods store or continue dinner prep. Occasionally, daringly, I start a blog post. Samara picks Martin up at school at 2:15. They dawdle, wander here and there, take the subway home, usually arriving around 3:15.

3:15-6:15 p.m. Flex time. I keep doing lawyer work, as necessary. I assist Samara with Martin’s afternoon and evening supplements. I finish preparing dinner. I do HANDLE exercises with Martin. Some days Samara takes Martin to the park or a play date. By the time Samara leaves at 6:15, she has Martin bathed, pajama-clad, and halfway through his dinner.

6:15-7:00 p.m. Sleepy time. Martin keeps a 6:30 bedtime these days. That’s when we head upstairs to read a book, brush teeth, and snuggle. While Martin dozes off I sit in the rocker and check Facebook, read, or play Scrabble on the iPad. Adrian, when he’s home for bedtime, doesn’t hang around while Martin goes to sleep. I can’t leave. I cherish seeing Martin off to rest at day’s end.

7:00-10:00 p.m. More flex time. Some days I need to head back to my desk for more lawyer work. Some days there is laundry accumulated, or a pressing household task. Always there is kitchen work, for Martin’s special diet or for Adrian’s snack when he comes home between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. My favorite evenings are when Adrian comes early, and I go for a walk or out to meet a friend.

10:00 pm.-? Bedtime and blogging. Sometime after 10:00 I head upstairs to read, talk through the day with Adrian, and blog.

I can manage this schedule, much better than the chaos before Martin began full school days. In fact, Samara now takes one day off per week. I cut work at 1:30 then and pick Martin up at school myself, and the two of us hang out for a couple hours.

Here’s what I still cannot figure out, though: Despite this new schedule, help from my mother on Martin’s food, and what should be more time for me, still I rarely put away the computer or iPad before 1:00 a.m. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what I’m doing all that time. Playing Scrabble, emailing, writing, reading, who knows? My next project—lights out by 11:00 p.m.

One Last Post on the Decision to Give Meat to Martin

When I posted about deciding to allow Martin to eat limited meats and meat-based broths, Adrian predicted that I might receive two sorts of responses. He thought commentators from the vegan/vegetarian camp would question the earnestness of my ahimsa, since I’m willing to serve my son flesh. Commentators from the other side of the fence would fault me for not doing so sooner, saying that if this might help Martin, then previously I was stymieing his progress in deference to my personal ethics.

I am thankful that I’ve received no such responses, neither on the blog, nor via email (findingmykid@yahoo.com) or the Twitter feed (@findingmykid), nor in person. So far, everyone has been supportive.

Thus more or less armed with approbation, I meant to let the issue go and post no more about the meat decision (as opposed to its implementation—be prepared to hear plenty more about that, as this vegan goes stumbling through Carnivordom). Subsequently, however, I became aware of at least one other vegetarian family reading my blog and facing the same choice, and I changed my mind about posting again. In the hopes of helping others settle, one way or the other, here is my reasoning in greater detail—

When it comes to human-to-other-animal interaction, I try to let two principles govern my conduct.

First, non-human animals are sentient beings with their own interests, and are entitled to possession and use of their own bodies and products thereof. If I do not need what belongs to an animal, I do not take it. I do not wear fur, leather, suede, silk, or wool because I do not need to. And after researching nutrition extensively, I concluded that neither do I need to eat animal flesh, parts, eggs, or milk to be healthy; indeed, it appears to be healthier to forego such foods. Therefore, I am a vegan. I became a vegetarian when I was 16 years old and a vegan when I was 21. I am now 39 years old.

Second, humans come first. That rule seems self-evident to me, because I am a human. Just as I put my family before outsiders, or my community before strangers, I put my species before other species. What’s more, I rank other species and their interests according to how like humans they are. Though it doesn’t always feel this way when I watch the news, humans are the gold standard. We enjoy the most complex lives. Mosquitoes, for example, are not much like humans. I react terribly to mosquito bites, with painful swelling that can last for weeks unless I get to an antihistamine within five minutes. I therefore kill mosquitoes when I can, and I haven’t lost any sleep over that. On the other hand, our cat Freddie (as I’ve noted before; sorry about all the feline scatology) pees outside his litter box. This is at least as annoying as having to take occasional mosquito-related antihistamine, yet I would never kill Freddie. At least not over the peeing.

I applied these two rules to Martin’s situation as follows: It appears that Martin, with his unusual digestive and dietary issues, might benefit from eating animal flesh—unlike a healthy person, for whom a well-rounded vegan diet (as I see the world) is the better choice. Does that mean Martin needs meat? I suppose it depends on how one defines “need.” Certainly, Martin can survive without meat. He might even heal without it; after all, he’s made a lot of progress already. The need, if need it is, arises insofar as animal flesh might help him heal faster, or more completely.

So Martin’s need is not a matter of life or death. For the animals involved, however, Martin’s meat eating is matter of life or death; they are being killed for the possibility that Martin can achieve richer and more fulfilling experiences. On a balanced scale, Martin would lose: An animal’s life, in toto, would outweigh Martin’s hope for a better life.

But the scale is not balanced. That’s where rule no. 2 comes in. Martin is a human, and my son. He starts with a whole pile of barbells on his side. The question, if we’re right about meat helping Martin, becomes whether animal life outweighs the difference between (1) Martin healed as far as possible without meat and (2) Martin healed as far as possible with meat.

I found no easy answer to the question, so stated. I don’t even know the second half of the equation. What is the difference in Martin’s healing going to be with meat, as opposed to without it? I read what I could find on the issue. I asked questions of Martin’s Track Two team. I pondered. I prayed.

In the end, with Adrian’s support, I made the call in Martin’s favor. At least, I hope this winds up being in Martin’s favor. We’re going to try meat for a couple months and see what happens.

We’re doing our best to impose some ethical restraints on the process. We resolved to accept meat only from organic farms where the animals have ample space to roam, or meat from game hunted wild, without bait. None of this eliminates cruelty, of course; the animals are still being slaughtered. But there’s something to be said for kindness before death. We’re also focusing on bigger animals, to minimize the number killed. No pigs, though. I know pigs. They’re smarter than dogs and darn near as affectionate. Too close to humans.

Two nights ago I made my first batch of beef stock. Tearing apart the meat nauseated me. Adrian played back-up, sitting on a kitchen stool and trying to distract. He explained that the white film edging the cut was fat, and not super-durable plastic wrap like I thought. In the end, I managed to get flesh and fat and bone into the slow cooker, along with organic vegetables and herbs. I set it to cook overnight, and yesterday morning I strained a jar  of stock for use this week, and a glass container full to freeze for next week.

My oldest brother, one of Martin’s namesakes, is also a decades-long vegan and a person whose judgment I trust (most of the time; a little sister can’t buy into everything). Yesterday he sent me this email:

I guess if the two main reasons not to eat meat are for cruelty and health, and the nice farm is not cruel, and it is actually healthier for [Martin], then you have to give it a go, because both main reasons are kind of accounted for. . . . I feel for you, this is tough! We feel crummy giving our cats fish, and we didn’t even give birth to them. Anyway, I do think you should review this link before using too much chicken.

I clicked on the link he sent and found an article titled, “Bolivian President Says Eating Too Much Chicken Makes You Gay.”

It’s still nice to get in a laugh, once in a while.


The post titled “Guilt” was about me—my guilt. This post concerns Martin. Specifically, his unrelenting, unabashed defiance.

It has come to my attention that a child recovering from autism passes through phases of childhood on a delayed basis. For example, he might suddenly, at three years old, become fascinated with toys designed for an 18-month-old, either because that’s the point his development now has reached, or because he needs to return to some stage he missed.

Martin’s homotoxicologist, at the same time, has warned me that we need to expect some emotions during different phases of recovery, as toxins pass out of Martin’s system. Those emotions include anger, anxiety, vivacity, and—defiance.

I’m a first-time parent. I have no inkling at what age a neurotypical child hits a defiance period. I have, by contrast, pinpointed exactly when Martin does: now.

For the last five days or so (indeed, since right about when he started to emerge from the last month’s foggy funk), Martin has resisted everything. He won’t sit on the potty, which is usually his No. 1 pastime. If I suggest the shark pajamas, he wants the dinosaur pajamas, or the skateboarding-monkey pajamas, or the dogs-in-cars pajamas, or anything except the shark pajamas. He rebels against wearing pants. Pants! This morning he metamorphosed into a rabid hyena when I suggested that he have a bite of his favorite muffin.

The instant I managed to wedge a morsel into his mouth, the hyena fled and Martin returned, eager to inhale the rest of the muffin. Thanks, kiddo.

Martin’s therapists find this defiance development most exciting. “He’s really showing a greater sense of self!” “So encouraging, how he’s trying to assert individuality and parental separation.”

We live in a neighborhood with several private preparatory schools. (I’m not worried about giving too much identifying information, because “several private preparatory schools” describes 92.47% of neighborhoods in the five boroughs.) Earlier this year I found it hard to see teenagers from these schools hanging out in the deli, tossing a football, gallivanting the sidewalks, doing whatever teenagers do. “Oh,” I would think, “you think you’re sooooo special, just because you’re neurotypical. Big deal.” I was misplacing anger on kids who never had to struggle the way mine does.

Witnessing Martin’s nascent recovery brought me to a different place. The anger dissipated into something more like anticipation. Ten years from now, when Martin has become a hostile 13-year-old who rejects his parents in favor of friends, I’ll be able to relish the moment. I’ll think how close we came to never having a self-centered little jerk around the house, and how relieved I am that we managed to create one.

So it also shall be now with defiance. When Martin is tearing, pants-less, through the living room shouting No! No! No! at full volume—even though I haven’t asked him to do anything—I shall wallow in joy that we have reached a “greater sense of self” marked by “individuality and parental separation.” I shall celebrate reaching this milestone, belated or no.

I shall, I shall. I … promise … I … shall.

Saturday. Doctor, Therapist, Farm

Until August, Martin attended school just for two hours per weekday. His new school runs more than five hours per weekday, with a decent commute on either end, to boot. Participating in CPSE also carries family responsibilities. We can’t willy-nilly yank Martin out of school, or decide that he’ll skip a day.

As a result, we now concentrate doctor visits and private therapies, when possible, on the weekends. We try to make family fun out of shuttling from one appointment to the next.

Today Martin woke around 7:45 a.m. (an extra 45 minutes’ sleep from school days). He and Adrian completed some RDI exercises while I assembled their weekend breakfast. Martin got squash “French fries” with kelp flakes and one duck egg fried in hemp oil with minced cilantro. Adrian got the same, but substituting a chicken egg and adding a slice of whole-wheat toast.

It was a lazy morning, and despite the early start we managed to leave late for our 10:30 a.m. meeting with Dr. Ingels, the allergist, near Union Square. Because we were setting out for the day, we took the car, which of course made us even later, our route blocked by firemen using their truck and ladder to remove their stationhouse’s window-unit air conditioners, and then by a moving crew marching across 23rd Street with mattresses. A bunch of mattresses. Dr. Ingels pardoned the untimely arrival, and we enjoyed a routine visit. Martin’s tolerance for malverine, piperine, and candida has increased.

From Dr. Ingels’s we headed north, to Pleasantville, for a 12:30 p.m. session with Martin’s HANDLE therapist, Katie. She is the chief proponent of accomplishing Martin’s recovery as gently as possible. We discussed ways to soften the process even more. I talked about Martin’s attention and language lagging this past month. Katie asked about Martin’s sleeping and body control, which actually (I realized) have during the same period been quite good. Attention and language are advanced functions, she reminded me. Sleep and control are building blocks.

We grabbed lunch at the Pony Express in Pleasantville and ate in the plaza by the train station. Martin had rice crackers and homemade white-bean hummus. He investigated some trees, ran to the fence to watch a train pass below, peered with interest at (but did not speak to) another little boy. Overall, he seemed better. I’m beginning so sense a return of his attention, since we reduced the Biosode from 1x dilution to 2x.

From there we moved on, even further north, to the highlight of the day (for Martin, and perhaps Adrian) and an onerous task (for me). We drove to Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt. We had researched farms on the internet in search of one that was organic and came close to meeting my ethical standards. We need some meat.

Yes. Meat. We’ve decided to feed Martin limited amounts of meet, and see if it augments his recovery. The choice has been weighing heavily on me these two weeks or so, and I needed to have it over with.

So off we went to Hemlock Hill Farm. Adrian took Martin to wander among the chickens and geese. I entered the little shop the farm maintains, more or less a concrete room with refrigerated glass display counter, freezer, shelving unit, and a few display bins. A man behind the counter asked if he could help me.

“I need—some meat.”

“What kind of meat?”

I decided honesty would be the best approach and ’fessed up that I had no idea what kind of meat. I’m a vegetarian, I explained. My son has a medical condition, and I’m going to try preparing him some meat.

The fellow was friendly and patient. He showed me packaged goat parts and which beef cuts have bone in them. (I’m supposed to put bone in the crockpot for making broth.) He explained how I could differentiate meat of animals killed on-site from that of animals killed at a USDA-certified facility in Pennsylvania. (I didn’t want any flesh from animals who were transported before slaughter. Too cruel.) I read information on what the animals eat—primarily, grass and grain also produced in Westchester County, at another farm. I asked about quail eggs. The farm has had them in the past but did not have any now.

Finally I purchased two frozen shank cuts, bone in. Cow meat. I took a dozen duck eggs, too, saving myself a trip to the farmer’s market.

Then I went out to greet the animals. The ones still alive, anyway. The birds seemed happy and unafraid. Other than wire fences delineating the fields—ducks over there, chicken and geese this way—they have freedom to move about as they please and peck at the ground. The recent rains had left the area muddy, but I could imagine some serious dust bathing when our prodigal sun reemerges. The cows were grazing in a pasture some distance up the road, so I declined the farmer’s invitation to go meet them. She also invited me to hang around until the cows came home from pasture around 5:30 p.m. The day had already stretched long, however, and we needed to be getting back to the City.

Martin knocked off early this evening, exhausted from new HANDLE exercises and playing amongst the fowl.

My mind remains fixated on the cow meat now in my freezer. Tomorrow evening I will try to make a beef broth. I hope that I don’t fail and waste the flesh.

This new chapter will be complicated.

An Indulgent Post About Feeling Sorry for Myself

A few years ago, when Martin was still a baby and before I had any inkling that autism would strike our family, I attended a New York-area church-wide assembly. The church’s governing body stood in session. Under consideration was a resolution stating that member congregations welcome children affected by ASD and affirm their right to attend worship.

The delegates debated the resolution’s precise language. Would it say “autistic children,” or “children affected by autism spectrum disorders”? Should that be “persons” instead of “children”? Why limit it to ASD, instead of including all physical and mental challenges? Finally the nitpicking concluded, and the resolution passed overwhelmingly.

At the time, I found myself thinking, We need a resolution stating that children with autism are welcome in church services? Is that in dispute? Not self-evident?

Now that I’m parenting a child with autism, I may understand better.

Martin and I attend a cozy downtown church that reflects Manhattan sensibilities. The congregation is economically, ethnically, and socially diverse. During the week the building transforms into a soup kitchen and food pantry. It’s a boisterous place. Sunday mornings there, Martin is a rock star. Everyone greets him by name. Older children play with him; teenagers hug and squeeze him; adults engage him in whatever conversation he can handle. If Martin waits patiently after service for the pianist to finish performing, he gets to sit on the bench and strike the ivory keys himself.

During the service I try to position us surrounded by worship regulars—the people who know us. Then I can let my breath out, give Martin leeway. The regulars don’t mind when Martin comes crawling under their seats, grabbing ankles. They smile and pat his head. The regulars steer Martin gently back toward me when he wanders away. They ignore his sing-song chatting and the sound of his toy trains. They beam when he remembers their names, even if he shouts them in the middle of communion. They laugh when the pastor improvises: “I hear ya, Martin. This sermon’s been long, and I’m about to wrap it up.”

What’s much tougher is when we arrive late and end up seated with newcomers or guests, especially the kind who expect church to be solemn and silent. Martin and I enter the sanctuary with clamor approximating a blitzkrieg. We need five minutes just to settle and unpack: toys, books, napkins, containers of nut-and-seed crackers. I get self-conscious about this, if strangers are present. One week Martin’s sippy cup sprayed a couple ounces of seltzer water onto a woman we’d never seen before. She turned bright red, removed the offended blazer, and sat stiffly upright for the next hour, refusing even to look in our direction. Another week an older woman watched Martin scoot himself a few feet along the aisle floor during the sermon. Then she fixed a stern Please control your child stare on me, as if I were going to let him scoot right onto the alter. Which I considered doing. To spite her.

In times like those I see the wisdom of the resolution welcoming kids on the spectrum. Our pastor assures me unflaggingly that he wants Martin attending services, and buttresses the words with actions like finding ways to include Martin. (Martin was the little lamb in the Yuletide nativity scene. The little lamb who sobbed and tried to make off with the Baby Jesus.) But the pastor can’t be in every corner of the church at once; there will always be those who make it their business to express displeasure.

For them, I dream of carrying a copy of the assembly resolution. Of whipping it out of my purse and asking, “Have you seen this? It says that this denomination in this city welcomes children with autism, behavioral shortcomings and all. That means you will accept my son.”

And from there I imagine a magic piece of paper resolving that all of New York welcomes children with ASD. For the commuters who huff in annoyance when Martin moves too slowly on the subway stairs. For the baristas who give my spot at the coffee counter to someone else because I’ve had to chase Martin for a second. For the kids’ club that would rather refund our tuition than deal with Martin in class. Voila! A city made better.

The post really is not about ASD recovery, I suppose. It’s more about feeling sorry for myself. Forgive me the indulgence in exchange for this assurance: I really, really want to stop feeling sorry for myself. Some parents might accomplish that through emotional willpower. I, however, have the emotional willpower of a bacon-addicted puppy. Consequently, the likeliest way for me to stop feeling sorry for myself is to remove the sentimentality’s cause—to give the jerks fewer reasons to complain.

To zap the autism.

The Railroad, the Weight of the World: Meat in ASD Recovery

In last week’s post titled “Guilt,” I described a chain of events surrounding Martin’s birth: Pitocin, epidurally administered drugs, stuck baby, C-section, NICU. I alluded also to my regret over having allowed the doctors to induce labor, which I believe triggered that chain.

With several years’ hindsight, I feel that I was railroaded into allowing the induced labor. (And I did allow it; I own my decision.) I was 42 weeks pregnant. From my perspective, Martin being two weeks late raised no red flags. Thirty-five years earlier, I myself spent an extra few weeks in the womb, and my instinct now said Martin was not ready to be born. But my doctor asserted, and a second doctor confirmed, that letting the pregnancy continue could only endanger Martin, with no potential upside. Plus, my doctor said, by inducing labor we could schedule the birth, for her once-weekly hospital duty.

It should not require explanation that a woman 42 weeks pregnant, who is being told that she’s risking her baby’s health, is vulnerable. I was vulnerable, and I made a decision that I believed, even at the time, to be wrong.

The mother of a young child with autism, who believes that recovery is possible and is struggling to effect that recovery, also is vulnerable. I am vulnerable, again.

And I am being faced with a choice I wish I did not have to make.

I’m a vegan. Until February, so was Martin. I’ve posted here about some of the tough decisions Adrian and I have made for Martin, regarding animal products in his diet. Since we radicalized his diet, he has started consuming fish oil, honey, ghee, and eggs (at the moment, duck and quail eggs).

Now I am being advised that, given his particular gut and digestion issues, eating meat might benefit Martin. Meat! Cows and pigs and chickens and—whatever other animals people eat, I suppose. I haven’t touched meat in more than 22 years. By this time the whole idea just strikes me as strange. I don’t want to do it, to feed flesh to Martin. At the same time, Adrian and I decided when we started this journey that we will do anything in our power to recover our son. Anything. (“If Martin needs to drink the blood of the Dalai Lama to get better,” I told Adrian one night, “we’re catching the next flight to India, knife in hand.”) Which means that if cows and pigs and chickens may help Martin, I can’t rule them out.

Let me be clear about this: I am not being railroaded into feeding Martin meat. The Track Two recovery team we work with is not the same as the doctors at Martin’s birth. These professionals take time, consider our family’s ethics and preferences, and facilitate our decisions, instead of strong-arming us into their decisions. No one has even framed the meat issue except with respect. Nevertheless, my own vulnerability when it comes to Martin’s recovery leads me to feel attacked. Feeding him meat means compromising a long-held stance. Denying him meat means bypassing a possible avenue to recovery.

Or does it? We’ve made no decision yet. Adrian and I are still investigating, asking questions. If a vegan diet is generally healthiest, what is it about Martin’s body that might make meat a better choice for him? Would it lead to more complete recovery, or faster recovery, or just easier recovery? (I suspect that most parents recovering their children don’t spend hours each week balancing proteins, as I do with Martin’s gluten- and soy- and casein– and meat- and most-other-things-free diet. Chicken breast every dinner would be a heckuva lot easier.) How much meat are we talking about, and what kinds? For how long? How would we know if it’s helping?

I hope to commit to a path soon, one way or the other. I’m way too worked up over this issue.

In the event we do decide to feed Martin meat, please don’t bother combing the blog for meat-based ASD recovery recipes. I’ve been a vegetarian all my adult life, which means I’ve never cooked animal flesh. Seriously, I have no idea how. When we added eggs to Martin’s diet, I had to ask a friend how to hard-boil one. Goodness only knows what will happen if I end up with a hunk of cow parts in my hands.

Back on the topic of Martin’s birth: By the end of the events that began with induced labor, even as I was being stitched up from the C-section, I had wits enough to comprehend that this was not the entry into the world my son needed.

When the doctors announced that, based on my fever and despite Martin’s Apgar score of 9, they were removing him to the NICU, I mustered my strength and called from the operating table, “No, no, that’s not necessary. He’s fine. Adrian, get him back!”

Adrian confronted the doctors, said we did not want our son taken away.

Their reply was as knee-jerk as it was decisive: In the event we refused to surrender Martin for the treatment they believed best, the Administration for Children’s Services would be contacted.

And my son was gone.

Which, I suppose, is another reason still why this blog is anonymous. I’d like to avoid any more authority figures ready to impose their will on my family.

On the other hand, deciding for myself can feel like the weight of the world.

ASD Recovery Recipe: Bean and Almond Soup

My quest for varied and nutritious recipes that meet Martin’s dietary requirements has led me to some cookbooks thick with dust on my kitchen shelves. I adapted this dish from The Vegetarian Resource Group‘s Vegan Handbook, a book I acquired a decade or so ago and hardly have cracked since. I made the soup for dinner tonight. It met the Martin approval test.

1/2 cup navy beans, soaked overnight
1 cup almond flour
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1/4-1/2 cup minced cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt, kelp flakes, or dried celery
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Cook the beans for an hour in six cups water. (I also tossed in a kombu frond, which I removed at the end of the hour.) Then add the rest of the ingredients except for the lemon juice and cook another half-hour, until the beans are cooked thoroughly. Use an immersion blender or a food processor to purée the soup. Add the lemon juice right before serving.

With the beans and almonds, this is like a tasty protein blast. Adding plenty of cilantro boosts mitochondrial processing.

The Village Idiot Takes a Leap of Faith (and Some Track Two Practitioners Catch Her)

The past three weeks or so, Martin has not been at his best, as I’ve written here in the blog.

Last Thursday I spoke by phone with Martin’s excellent Track Two doctor, who decided to slenderize the supplementation routine, in case we are overloading Martin’s system. She also asked a number of spot-on questions. “Has he appeared unnecessarily anxious during this time? Any increase in the teeth grinding?” My answers suggested to her that we might be experiencing some adrenal stress.

Yesterday we visited Martin’s homotoxicologist. I explained his spacey-ness and temporary backslide. The homotoxicologist said it sounded like too much Biosode, which is a homeopathic support formula Martin uses. Did his newfound symptoms by any chance correspond with an increase in Biosode?

I pondered the timing. Why, yes. I think Martin did lose his attention around the time that I moved from 2x diluting his Biosode to just 1x diluting.

The homotoxicologist ran some tests on how Martin’s systems are functioning. She pointed to a graph on the computer screen. “Look at that—seems like he’s got some adrenal stress, too.”

Just what the Track Two doctor had divined.

When we got home I shuffled through Martin’s daily log. Sure enough, on the page marked August 28, about three weeks ago, I found this entry: “NO CONCENTRATION (just a few days since Biosode increase?)–>tired, lethargic.”

When you are a parent dealing with autism recovery, it can feel like there’s a lot of hocus-pocus and guesswork swirling around you. And there probably is guesswork; autism recovery is only emerging as a field, so some degree of hit-or-miss seems inevitable. (Actually, in my understanding, hit-or-miss constitutes a substantial component of all medical practice. The Big Imposing Hospital doctors’ buckshot approach to Martin’s issues confirms that understanding.) Plus, everything is complicated. When I sit with the homotoxicologist, I listen attentively and nod like I comprehend her explanations. Really, all I’m doing is trying (1) to grasp the bare bones, enough to tell the Track Two doctor what the homotoxicologist is up to and make sure we’re all on the same page; and (2) to remember key concepts that I want to research later, to ensure my own comfort level with the process.

In other words, there is a degree to which I have to put my trust in these persons. They are the ones building this new science of recovery, and their understanding of autism and biology outpaces mine by light years. (In college, I fulfilled my core requirement with a course titled “Chemistry for Non-Science Majors.”)

Yes, everyone who visits a doctor instead of treating himself at home takes a leap of faith. But the leap is maybe somewhat more difficult to take when the very demand to have your child treated stands to refute mainstream medicine. By choosing the biomedical approach, I—the idiot in the village of science—am saying, “That whole mountain of physicians has got it wrong, and I believe I have got it right.”

Which means I’m pretty darn happy when the members of Team Martin—Track Two show that they do, indeed, know whereof they speak.