Del Sur V: Manifesto

“Do you know?—maybe it’s possible that he never had autism?”

These words were spoken innocently, by a sympathetic party, and (I suspect) without forethought. It was late evening in South America. Martin was asleep. My mother-in-law and I sat in her kitchen, chatting, I with a glass of white wine, she with her pisco sour. We were discussing Martin and his progress; I mentioned that his official diagnosis had changed from ASD to ADHD with social/pragmatic language delay. My mother-in-law responded, “Do you know?—maybe it’s possible that he never had autism?”

My mother-in-law supports everything we do for Martin, and does her best to accommodate; we arrived from New York to find her fridge stocked with organic produce (still hard to procure in her area) and a cow knuckle and vegetables simmering on her stove, for Martin’s broth. That being said, I’m not sure she fully understands biomed, or our start point and desired endpoint. This is no criticism of my mother-in-law. I’m not convinced that anyone outside the thick of recovering a child understands autism or what healing requires. I’m not even convinced that I understand autism or what healing requires; I’m just a few paces farther down that road than others are.

Still, when my mother-in-law offhandedly suggested that maybe Martin never had autism, I bristled. I bristled because I think I will hear that suggestion a lot, as Martin continues to become more typical. Already I hear hints. A friend who has a mostly nonverbal seven-year-old and does not do biomed remarked recently about how “maturity” is resolving a lot of Martin’s issues. The friend meant no harm; in her mind, biomed doesn’t work, so she needs something else to explain Martin’s emergence from autism. (I didn’t pursue the issue further. I’m cautious, with other autism parents. We’re all doing what we think we can.) And remember the neurodevelopmental psychiatrist’s words? According to her, Martin developed functional language because he was “not destined to be a child with receptive or expressive language problems.” It’s not biomedical interventions. It’s destiny!

I know, from other blogs and on-line communities, that parents who manage to recover their kids from autism face skepticism that their children ever had autism. You may ask, why should they care? The opinion of naysayers doesn’t affect their children’s recovery. Why should I care if another autism parent wants to chalk Martin’s ongoing recovery up to “maturity,” or a doctor implicates destiny over hard work?

Well, I care, we care, everyone should care, because denying biomed has far greater implications than just adhering to ingrained misconceptions about autism.

It is possible to recover from autism. Not to learn to live with autism’s symptoms, which is what behavioral therapies teach, but to eradicate autism by treating the disorder’s underlying medical causes. I know this to be true, because my son is recovering from autism. I’m not deluded. I have the blood work and urinalysis evincing his medical issues. I have the series of neurodevelopmental psychiatric reports describing his detachment, his lack of language, his emotional instability. I witnessed too well his lethargy and physical discomfort. I endured his sleeplessness. I have watched, over five years, as his medical issues alleviated and the autism symptoms improved in tandem.

Every case of autism is different. Yet there are commonalities. The presence of autism points to an immune disorder rooted in the gut, where 70% of the immune system resides. A healthy gut biome has plenty of good bacteria to keep germs and infections at bay. When something depletes the good bacteria—say, antibiotics, or glyphosate—the bad guys start to party. Any further insult, like insufficient vaccine absorption or exposure to environmental toxins, can cause the whole immune system to jump its rails. When you’ve got no properly functioning immune system, you can find yourself with a host of secondary problems, like neuroinflammation, excess propionic acid, a struggling thyroid, glutathione depletion and methylation troubles, opportunistic infections, an inability to secrete heavy metals. And then? Neuron misfires. The endgame that manifests in autism.

Autism rates are on the rise. Stunningly. Think of those graphs that represent worldwide human population: Autism’s growth is similarly exponential, even according to conservative CDC figures. The epidemic is not the result of greater awareness, or expanded diagnoses; if it were, we would expect to see most cases clustered at the mild, almost debatable, end of the spectrum, where the merely “quirky” kids reside. Instead, new autism diagnoses litter the entire spectrum. Non-verbal, acutely affected autism is on the rise just like Asperger’s. Those who deny the rising autism rates are the willful ignoramuses and the irrational optimists. I am out of patience for either.

We don’t know, yet, what “causes” autism, though every day we learn more about factors that may contribute to the development of autism. I mentioned a few above: overuse of antibiotics, unsafe vaccinations, pesticides. Activists speculate about the role of pollution, about electromagnetic fields, about C-section births (or not) and the newborn’s chance to benefit from the vaginal biome. Genetics also play a role, such as the MTHFR mutation or UBE3A mutation.

(Note this: Accepting that genetics play a role in development of autism is not saying that we “can’t do anything about” the autism epidemic. The genetic predisposition to autism has probably been around many generations; only now do new environmental triggers spur the subsequent development of the disorder. Plus, more and more we have to speak not of genetics proper, but of epigenetics, mutations with the capacity to arise or dissipate between generations, or even within a single generation.)

Which brings me to many people’s resistance to accepting the notion of biomed. If we accept that we can reverse autism by resolving the factors that caused it in the first instance—then we admit that something is causing autism. Based on the exploding autism numbers, whatever is causing autism is getting worse. In an over-hygienic world devoted to unlimited consumption, exploitation of animals and the environment, a pill for every ailment, and the temple of convenience, we are doing something wrong. Disastrously wrong. In that regard, progress has stopped. Unless we change course, each successive generation will pay a higher bill for our abandonment of what is natural.

Unfortunately, almost no one seems to want to change course. So people deny that autism is on the rise, or that autism has causes, or that autism can be treated.

This is why I bristle to hear that maybe my son never had autism, or that he’s moving off the autism spectrum because of something other than biomed. It is also why I do not support the “neurodiversity” movement. Don’t get me wrong: I support the goal of inclusion and accommodation for persons living with autism. Did someone insult or exclude your family member with autism? Call me. I will gladly rush over and go Brooklyn on the jerk. But do not hand me acceptance of autism itself as a policy for dealing with skyrocketing autism rates. Do not tell me that autism is “just how some people are” and should not be addressed, because I will respond that schizophrenia and depression—other disorders with medical underpinnings—are also “just how some people are,” and give lie to how misguided neurodiversity is. People with autism should be accepted. Autism itself can, and should, be fought.

We can learn to live with just about anything. City dwellers learn to live with constant light and noise pollution. Our world may be on the verge of learning to live with catastrophic climate change. This ability to adapt does not mean that we should fail to recognize and correct our own mistakes.

My son had autism. My son still has ADHD. One day my son will be neurotypical. Treating his disorder biomedically has made this progress possible.

Full stop.

Guessing Game

Drafted in the morning, on the train, on my way to work:

Let’s conduct an experiment: How well do I understand Martin’s health these days? Can I predict what his super-knowledgable biomed doctor will say?

Martin is in a difficult place right now and has been for a month, ever since we last visited his biomed doctor in California, which was one month ago. Especially at bedtime, but also in spurts throughout the day, he’s beset by so much hyperactivity as to be nearly uncontrollable. The agitation and need for movement are affecting his ability to fall asleep; until nearly 10 o’clock yesterday evening, he was kicking his feet in bed, calling out, springing up to jog down the hall and return to bed. Daytimes, I’ve observed him engaging in his lone remaining repetitive behavior, which is to skip three steps pad-a-bump, run across the room, turn, stop and think (or ponder, or get lost in his own self for a few seconds), and repeat: pad-a-bump, run, turn, stop. Tuesday he did this even in our local coffee shop, pad-a-bump from the cash register to the front door, pad-a-bump back to the cash register. He’s giggly. He’s interrupting and talking over others, without regard for his surroundings. He has some increased sensitivity to sound. He’s so itchy.

Yet, as is often the case, the symptomatic behaviors seem superficial, and perhaps there is a deeper level of healing going on. He is more conversational than ever, answering questions and telling me what happens at school with minimal perseveration. His handwriting has improved dramatically; instead of gargantuan, unsteady strokes, he’s penning tight letters that actually fit on the paper lines. He’s attempting to make jokes, albeit nonsensical, unfunny ones. “I think Daddy’s going to take his hair off his head. Isn’t that funny? I’m just kidding.” He’s bargaining. “Santa Claus knows I didn’t finish my soup? That’s okay. I think Santa looks at the whole year, and I’ve had more good days than bad.” (What does he want from Santa Claus, you ask? Adele tickets. Martin has selected the most phenomenally in-demand tickets on earth and decided that’s what he wants for Christmas.)

Except for the itchiness, which predated our last visit to California, the hyperactivity, repetitive behaviors, and other symptoms began, as near as I can reckon, right when we returned from that trip, one month ago. The sequence was like this: Thursday afternoon we flew from New York to California. The flight was delayed, and Martin wasn’t in bed until 11:00 pm PST, or 2:00 am EST. He managed to sleep until 9:00 am PST, or noon EST. We spent Friday afternoon at the doctor’s and, as part of that appointment, Martin had an LED treatment. Friday evening we met friends (a father and his son, Martin’s age) for dinner, which went well. Martin fell asleep around 10:00 pm PST Friday night and slept well. Saturday was a packed day. We went out to breakfast, and then to see my friend’s new house, and then we drove inland an hour, to spend the afternoon with the same friend’s mother and to visit George the cat, who now resides on the West Coast. It was 6:30 pm when Martin and I returned to our hotel.

That night, Saturday night, our placid California weekend went awry. Martin knew we had to get up early (3:45 am) to drive 40 minutes to the airport, return our rental car, and catch the 7:00 am flight to New York. He was excited about getting up so early. Too excited. He went to bed giddy around 8:00 pm and—I don’t have a better way to put this—worked himself into a frenzy, calling out, laughing, asking whether it was time to get up. Around 9:30 pm, anxiety took over. Mommy! Mommy! Something is wrong! Mommy! I don’t know what’s going on. Mommy, where are you? [I was in the same hotel suite, using my iPad, where he could hear me and see the light I was using.] Mommy, help! Help me! His agitation mushroomed until he was sobbing and even shrieking. In an effort to calm him, I said, unthinkingly, “Martin, you have to stop. You have to stop screaming. We are in a hotel. Someone could think I’m hurting you and call the police!” That foolish statement became a target for his previously unspecific anxiety. Are the police coming? Are the police here? Will the police take me away? No! No! Mommy, tell the police not to come! I don’t want the police to come!

My poor little man was terrified and out of control. At last I took him to my bed, climbed in, and squeezed him until he began to calm. Once the sobbing reduced to whimpers, I released him and rubbed his head instead. Within two minutes from that point, he was sound asleep and I had quiet time to wonder what the hell had just happened.

When I woke Martin at 3:45 am, after just five hours’ sleep, he sprang from bed, evidently cheerful to be getting up at such a special time. I saw no trace of anxiety or giddiness. That day, Sunday, as we traveled home, he seemed restless and uncomfortable, which I chalked up to lack of sleep, but otherwise unremarkable. Sunday evening, however, he became hyperactive and had trouble getting to sleep.

Since that Sunday evening, we’ve endured the hyperactivity, some inappropriate laughing, continued itchiness, and lack of focus. Charcoal tablets help, but not always. We’ve started a new protocol of supplements, antimicrobials, homeopathic remedies, and yeast fighters; I’ve introduced the new elements slowly, and haven’t tied a specific reaction to any. Last week for Heilkunst we cleared a DTaP vaccine, again without a specific reaction, only the same hyperactivity. The hyperactivity is uniformly worst at bedtime, and Martin continues having trouble getting to sleep. He’s woken early a few times but generally sleeps through the night.

So what is going on here?

I have scheduled a short call with the doctor this afternoon. I’m going to write what I think is happening, and then, after I speak with the doctor, I will give her thoughts. I’m eager to see whether we agree.

My own theories: First, I think yeast is at work. I said, even before we went to California, that I believed Martin was suffering a yeast flare. The poor kid is so itchy. He’s scratched his legs and belly bloody. He’s giggly and “drunk.” Second, I wonder whether the LED he had in California might have kicked up some toxins that Martin is having trouble clearing. Maybe?

Drafted the next day, after I spoke with the doctor:

The doctor disagreed with my guesses. While yeast might be a subsidiary issue, she said, Martin’s hyperactivity makes it unlikely that yeast is the primary issue. Hyperactivity has not been a hallmark of Martin’s previous yeast flares, she pointed out. As to the LED, she said that any effects would have emerged during the 25 hours immediately following the treatment. Saturday night, when Martin experienced the anxiety attack that launched this hyperactive period, some 30 hours already had passed.

She admitted that it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on. Her theory: Banderol and borrelogen, the antimicrobials that Martin has been taking in incrementally increasing doses to treat chronic Lyme, are too strong. His sensitive system needs time to adjust. She reminded me that, when we used banderol three years ago, as well as when we used the antimicrobial takuna, we had to increase the dose extremely slowly—sometimes by not more than one additional drop per week. This go-round I’ve been building banderol and borrelogen by about a drop per day each. She asked me to hold the antimicrobials for 48 hours (or four doses, as we dose them twice daily) and she if Martin’s hyperactivity decreases.

I was going to post this blog entry after taking to the doctor. Now I feel like it’s worth waiting another couple days to announce the results of our 48-hour experiment.

Drafted two-and-a-half days after I spoke with the doctor:

Better. Around 6:20 am I messaged the doctor:

I think you nailed the issue. Since we spoke on Thursday, I have withheld banderol and borrelogen (so five doses withheld so far: Thursday evening, Friday morning and evening, Saturday morning and evening). We have seen a perceptible, marked decrease in Martin’s hyperactivity, and Friday night he was able to go right to sleep for the first time in weeks. Yesterday afternoon I took Martin into the infrared sauna for a detox cycle. Going in the sauna really, really agitated him. For an hour or so, the hyperactivity was back, full-force, and then we had some emotional dysregulation. On the other hand, last night Martin went right to sleep again, his pre-bedtime meltdown notwithstanding. What do you suggest? BTW, we have continued during this time with four drops Clovanol daily. Thank you!

Pretty intense, right? And I didn’t even tell her that he had flat-out refused to watch Pride and Prejudice with me on the sauna video screen. “Turn it away from me!” he said. “I don’t want to see it!” That evening, I messaged the doctor again:

An additional note: Today (Sunday) the hyperactivity was back up again, though not as bad as before. We haven’t restarted banderol or borrelogen. Today Martin also was “floppy” (this could be the lack of MitoSpectra) and emotionally volatile—he had a meltdown over where we chose to have Sunday dinner, and was not able to recover for quite some time. He’s in bed now, making noise instead of going to sleep. I’m wondering if yesterday’s sauna has lingering effects.

She responded by advising me to continue holding banderol and to restart borrelogen from one drop per day, or even one drop every other day, and build even more slowly than before. She also suggested that I keep Martin out of the infrared sauna for a while, as it may be too intense and also stirring up metals. Regarding the floppiness, she advised putting Martin back on mitochondrial support immediately, and said that might also help him better handle the antimicrobial herbs.

Drafted four days after I spoke with the doctor:

Hyperactivity is reduced again. Unfortunately, emotional dysregulation is taking hyperactivity’s place. (That’s a kind way to say that Martin is moving less but melting down more.) Also, Martin is distracted. This could be simply a result of the changes in his antimicrobials, and the fact that his new MitoSpectra hasn’t yet arrived. Here’s hoping that he evens out soon.

Note for careful readers:

Are you wondering why Martin has been off MitoSpectra? I knew it. You are very careful readers. The last two bottles of MitoSpectra I purchased went bad; the pills changed color and developed a fishy smell. I became nervous about continuing to use the product. But I do like MitroSpectra and believe it’s been helpful to Martin. After talking with a representative of the company, I’ve decided to give I decided to give it another shot. Help us, MitroSpectra!

Year 2014 in Review

A year ago, I woke up on New Year’s morning with the conviction that 2014 would be a banner year in Martin’s recovery.

It’s time for a look back at 2014.

Martin and a boy he played with on the beach, Florida Keys, New Year's 2014.

Martin and a boy he played with on the beach, Florida Keys, New Year’s 2014.

We started several interventions to which, for a change, Martin plainly seemed to respond. (I write “for a change” because these were some of the few times when I was able to isolate particular interventions that helped. More often, it’s just something in “the whole package.”) When I posted in late July about five treatments that were “working now,” I also posted my frustration in jumping to conclusions based on initial positive results. I’m going to report now that at least two of those five “what’s working now” treatments, six months later, still are kicking autism’s butt: camel milk and Candex. Martin’s language took off immediately following the introduction of camel milk, and it hasn’t stopped since. Did you Tuesday’s post about the conversationalist? How cool was that? As for the Candex, Martin still has yeast flares. (I’ve come to accept that candida overgrowth may be a battle we fight for many years. Therein may lie our war.) Since we started using Candex, however, those flares have been milder and of shorter duration. They’ve been manageable.

Martin with his cousin Mandy in the snow, February 2014.

Martin with his cousin Mandy in the snow, February 2014.

And the other three “working now” treatments, the GAPS diet, Enhansa™, and MitoSpectra? We are still on all three. I modified the GAPS diet by adding quinoa and reducing Martin’s meat consumption to one meal per day. (The reduction of meat isn’t particularly a “modification,” I suppose, though it felt that way.) I think Martin’s gut health is better than ever, though I wish he weren’t still prone to yeast flares. As to Enhansa, Martin’s chronic inflammation appears to have eased; I can’t say whether the Enhansa is responsible, or general improvement in gut health. I may stop the Enhansa, as an experiment, and see what happens. I plan to keep the MitoSpectra, for the time being. I reduced Martin’s dosage when a blood test revealed high levels of carnatine, and I feel like I could be doing more for his mitochondrial functioning (hence the quinoa). I’m keeping the MitoSpectra because I haven’t yet discovered that next best thing.

Martin at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York, Spring 2014.

Martin at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York, Spring 2014.

In the second half of the year, after my “What’s Working Now” post, we started vision(-ish) therapy with Dr. Deborah Zelinsky; Heilkunst homeopathy with Rudi Verspoor; and a weekly facilitated social group with local kids. So far, I give all three a big thumbs up. We are in another period when “things are going well” but I’m not totally sure why. I may be observing a slight uptick in Martin’s eye contact and attention span. I’ll give that development to Dr. Zelinsky. Martin had a fever and apparent healing reaction over the Christmas break. That goes to the Heilkunst. As for the social group, that’s a confidence-builder. Martin is happy to have friends of his own. Last week, for the first time, he asked to bring a game that everyone could play—the lovely wildlife bingo set his uncle Eddie gave him.

Martin rock climbing at a birthday party, July 2014.

Martin rock climbing at a birthday party, July 2014.

Did I make mistakes in 2014? Of course I did. I think the straight-up GAPS diet had too few carbs to meet Martin’s mitochondrial needs. I know there is debate on this point. For my child, I should have known; way back in 2011, when we first went grain-free, Martin showed signs of mild ketoacidosis, and we had to add a few gluten-free grains back in. This time around, I should have guessed that he would need more carbs than GAPS allows.

Martin with his uncle Rudy, Strasbourg, France, August 2014.

Martin with his uncle Rudy, Strasbourg, France, August 2014.

I rushed treatments. The mother who launched our biomedical journey cautioned me against the urge to do everything at once. Nevertheless, when I find an intervention that excites me, I might move too quickly. Even today, four years into Martin’s recovery, I’m prone to that amateur mistake. Other times, I just fail to pay attention and mistakenly start two treatments together. C’est la vie.

Martin looking over St. Bartholomá church, on the Königsee, Berchtesgadan, Germany, August 2014.

Martin looking over St. Bartholomá church, on the Königsee, Berchtesgadan, Germany, August 2014.

Despite my tendency to rush, though, I think honestly I can peg 2014 as the year when I internalized “marathon not sprint.” Sure, for years now I’ve parroted the mantra. Autism recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Autism recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. But what kind of marathon did I really envision? In my “banner year” post, last January, I wrote, “I now understand ‘the long haul,’” and “I no longer fear that some mythical window will close while Martin is five . . ., or seven, or any age.” Even after I wrote that, however, the notions took some time to sink in. It wasn’t until November, when I wrote the “Journey” post, that I finally abandoned the idea that this process will have an end date. Striving for better health may well be a perennial task, one that Martin needs to continue even after he becomes responsible for his own care. Autism recovery is not a sprint. It isn’t even a marathon. Autism recovery is a lifestyle.

Martin hiking in the Adirondack mountains, near the Great Sacandaga Lake, August 2014.

Martin hiking in the Adirondack mountains, near the Great Sacandaga Lake, August 2014.

Behavior-wise, in 2014 Martin took new interest in socializing with other kids. Although he still isolates himself when he becomes overwhelmed, for the most part he wants to be near his friends, even if just to play side-by-side on iPads. Late in the year, Martin also (finally) made progress on nighttime potty training. He wakes now when he needs the potty, and yells for me. “Thanks, kid.” Language-wise, in 2014—well, wow. Martin has been asking “why” questions (like, gazillions of why questions) for a long time now; in 2014, he started answering them, coherently. He’s become conversational, staying on point for multiple exchanges. He can talk on the phone. This afternoon he’s going to call Uncle Eddie and wish him happy birthday! And the perseveration has decreased. Did I mention that the perseveration has decreased? Yeah, the perseveration has decreased. Such a relief.

Martin, on the left, with his cousin Luke, in the Florida Keys, New Year's 2015.

Martin, on the left, with his cousin Luke, in the Florida Keys, New Year’s 2015.

I am pleased to conclude that 2014 was a banner year in Martin’s recovery. All signs point to significant improvement in health, and corresponding changes in behavior.

May it be one banner year among many.


No Yeast?

Poor yeast, gets all the blame.

I posted yesterday that Martin is in Symptomatic Itchy-ville, and that a yeast imbalance is to blame.

We made it to the doctor appointment (an hour late, with that “patchy fog” to thank), and the doctor thinks Martin’s sandpaper skin looks more like massive detox than yeast overgrowth. To the credit of this theory, we entered Symptomatic Itchy-ville right around the time last month when we reached full dose of takuna, a detoxifying agent.

That’s Martin’s way: His digestive tract isn’t as good as it should be at spitting out bad stuff, so his skin overcompensates. One thing good, one thing bad.

Isn’t that just like our life right now? Martin skips and perseverates and self-stimulates by running laps. He’s grouchy; everything is a tantrum. He was up, in our shared hotel room, from 2:00 am-5:00 am, laughing hysterically in detox mode. (I know he wasn’t actually drunk. I made him carry a jug of drinking water into the hotel last night, a Herculean effort that left no little hands free for smuggling alcohol.)

Those challenging aspects make it easy to overlook the good that’s happening. In the doctor’s office yesterday, Martin jumped on the trampoline higher and with more coordination than ever. He jumped in circles and announced, “I’m jumping in circles.” When he was trying to fall asleep last night—late last night—he called from the bedroom of our hotel “suite”:


Parked on a sofa in front of the ChiefsSteelers game, I responded: “I’m eating dinner, Martin. Go to sleep.”

“Maybe later you’ll come to bed and shut the bedroom door.”

I’d left the door between the bedroom and main room ajar, so Martin wouldn’t be scared. I called, “Do you want me to shut the door now?”

“No. Maybe later.”

It might not sound like much, but that’s a conversation, or the beginning of one, in any event.

We’re surviving the not-so-good because there is also good.

And maybe because it’s not yeast. I’m not sure I have the strength for another full-out war on yeast.

Mommy, Gone Missing

I’m back from Germany, as of late Wednesday evening.

Just in time to (1) watch the Rangers blow their series against the Devils, shattering dreams of repeating 1994’s Stanley Cup run; (2) get caught, twice, sans umbrella in the thunder and splattering rainstorms passing through New York; (3) waste an afternoon at the Apple StoreGenius Bar” attempting to rectify a software glitch; and (4) spend a pretty decent day with Martin.

He had yesterday off from school, so we made a day of doing exercises and running some errands.

After breakfast—leftover green pudding, which Martin practiced scooping and eating by himself—and HANDLE exercises, we headed out to the Union Square Greenmarket for meat and duck eggs. The trip presented an RDI opportunity: Martin and I discussed which subways we could take, and where we would transfer, and how we would board either the 4 train or the 5 train. (Like many ASD kids in New York City (I’ve discovered, from talking with other parents from his school), Martin memorizes train lines and insists we take a particular train, even if another hits the same stations.) He did swimmingly. On one train he opted to stand and hold a pole, and he kept balance as the car braked and rattled and jerked from station to station. My little straphanger.

At the Greenmarket he was calm, enough, as we visited the farmers I know. He willingly held my hand while walking, and stayed close when I needed both hands for my wallet and insulated food bag. Only when he spotted the Union Square playground did he get fussy and impatient. I bargained another five minutes’ shopping time (“…and then we’ll go to the playground…”), and we hit the playground.

The playground, where we had one of our little miracles.

The playground experience with Martin has evolved. A year ago the process was exhausting; Martin had so little environmental awareness that I had to scamper to position myself below him constantly, in case he failed to realize that the jungle-gym or bridge was ending and launched himself off the end. Sometime during summer 2011 we moved to a new level, wherein I could sit on a bench and watch Martin from afar. Still, I could not let him from my line of sight, insofar as he rarely kept track of me and might wander away.

That’s where I was yesterday—observing Martin from afar—when I saw him glance around (searching for me!); realize he didn’t know where I was; whimper, “Mommy! Mommy!”; and then become agitated when he couldn’t find me.

That’s right. My ASD son, who once upon time bolted every time I released his hand, got upset because he couldn’t see me.

I called, “Martin! Martin! I’m here!”, and waved until we made eye contact.

He smiled. I cried a little.

Soon after that, we left the playground, stopped at the bank, took the subway home, ate lunch, then went back out for organic green juice and to purchase a gift at Jacques Torres. Pretty routine stuff, except when you consider that, when you have a kid on the spectrum, everyone else’s “routine” is a victory.

And there it is. What I saw yesterday for the first time will soon be routine. Martin will keep tabs on me. Not quite like I keep tabs on him, but something more like a preschooler should do.

After all, we’re a team. Martin and I.

Eating Bon-Bons and Watching Oprah

I am at a conference, the annual meeting of a church governing body I serve as a volunteer. At lunch I sat next to a minister I’d never met, the pastor of a Brooklyn church. We engaged in the idle chatter of New Yorkers. Is Brooklyn part of Long Island? Will the new Barclays Center arena be large enough for the Islanders to consider playing hockey there? Do Upstaters despise City arrogance?

Soon the pastor asked, “So, what do you do?”

“I’m a full-time mom.”

“How many kids do you have?”

“Just one. He’s three years old.”

“Just one? Time for more kids!”

You can guess how I wished to reply. Something along these lines:

“Actually, my son has autism, and we’re trying to recover him, which means that I need to plan and execute eight million RDI and HANDLE exercises, and he can’t eat food with preservatives, or pesticides, or sugar, or starch, or soy, or gluten, or casein, or pretty much anything, so I need six or seven hours a day just to plan, shop for, and cook his meals, and then there’s juggling doctor appointments and administering supplements and making sure we never run out of those supplements, which barely leaves time for finding a special-needs kindergarten, researching new treatments, converting a modern home to organic and chemical-free, and snuggling my son. Usually I do all that on six hours’ sleep, or less. Also, I have a husband, and I like him, and occasionally I want to spend time with him. So, no. No time for more kids.”

Instead, I replied, “We’re pretty happy with just one. He keeps me busy.”

I felt (imagined?) the pastor’s disapproval with that response. I’ve felt it before, from others who don’t know about Martin’s condition or the journey we’re taking. And I understand. They must wonder: With one child who spends six hours a day in school, what do I do with myself?

I shudder to wonder what the disapprovers would think if they knew, in addition, that I have babysitters to help several afternoons per week.

I joke with Adrian about my schedule, about how I spend my day. When he calls from his office, he usually asks, “What are you doing?”

To which I invariably reply, “I’m eating bon-bons and watching Oprah. Why? What are you doing?”

I think I might have got the bon-bons-and-Oprah shtick from Peggy Bundy on Married . . . with Children. (Peggy probably meant it, though.) Now it’s become my and Adrian’s routine to recognize that I’m much busier than I ever was even as a full-time lawyer.

I suppose I could have employed that routine on the pastor at lunch: “I don’t have time for more kids, because I spend it eating bon-bons and watching Oprah.”

Then again, he might have been suspicious. A few weeks ago, Adrian’s secretary asked me, “You know the Oprah show went off the air, right?”

I’d had no idea about that. Is that true?

In any event, since Adrian’s secretary broke the news, I’ve been eating bon-bons and watching a lot of Ellen.”

Plan B

My poor blog. I’ve let her whither. Thank you to everyone who left comments or emailed ( to say you missed new posts. It is beyond gratifying, to know my words are being read.

By way of explanation, I few weeks ago I fell ill. Nothing life-threatening; I’m on the mend now, and going to be fine. Nevertheless, I required a blog vacation.

Vacation’s over.

Since I stopped working as a lawyer, back in January, Martin’s recovery has felt like less of a burden.

(I use that word—burden—conscientiously. Martin’s path is a burden, for our whole family. I don’t pretend otherwise, and I know that one day Martin may read these words and regret that his condition burdened us. For Martin I note that all parenthood, by its nature, is a burden. Adrian and I chose that path, we’re glad we did, we would not want any child other than Martin, and the effort that we expend is repaid a thousand-fold every today that Martin manages some feat he couldn’t do yesterday.)

(Cripes, that was sappy. Sorry, Martin.)

The first morning I became sick, I experienced the full burden again. I woke cramped and barely able to stand. I needed half an hour to believe I could do anything more than lie in bed and moan.

In the pre-autism-diagnosis days, I would have asked Adrian to take Martin to the diner for breakfast and leave me alone. In the ASD recovery world, Martin’s breakfast must be made fresh, at home, and his morning supplementation routine takes an hour to complete, and unless I’ve made advance arrangements, I’m the one who must complete those tasks.

So I did. I dragged myself to the kitchen and fried a duck egg in fat with broccoli. I counted pills, measured oils, stirred powders into tea. I alternated standing at the counter, sitting on a stool, crouching on the floor. Finally I scribbled a shopping list and sent Adrian and Martin to Fairway, to buy myself some peace.

That was Saturday. I muddled through until Tuesday, and then wound up in the hospital, whereupon Martin’s nanny Samara interrupted her own life to come take over my home. Together we made it work until I was steady on my feet again.

Here’s the point: I don’t have a Plan B. I am the one who knows Martin’s routine, to a speck. If I am incapacitated, Martin’s recovery stalls until alternative arrangements are made. That’s what feels most challenging these days—being on call every moment, not having emergency time-off. It makes me realize that I’ve really got to take care of myself, if I’m going to take care of Martin.

Okay. I got the kvetching out of my system. Lest my readers think I’ve returned to blogging only to complain, let me end with the following three points:

1. Lacking a Plan B is no more than what most single parents face, day-in and day-out, whether their children are neurotypical or not. Moreover, many families lack the resources to have a functioning Plan A in place. In so many ways, I am blessed.

2. I’ve returned to blogging! Taking a month off, and receiving so many comments and emails during that time, makes me realize just how therapeutic this writing process has become.

3. Last week Martin and I were having breakfast. Adrian had finished his breakfast and gone to prepare for work. Unprompted, Martin addressed me and remarked, “I hear Daddy blowing his nose upstairs.” Martin expressed neither a need nor a want; he formulated (perfectly) that sentence solely for the purpose of sharing an observation with me. At that moment I needed no break, no Plan B, no time off. Plan A is working. That will do.

Happy to be back.

Special Guest Author: My Mother on How Martin Learned to Ride a Bike

Martin is riding a bicycle. Though the weather has been mild, it’s still New York City winter, meaning that so far he rides only in our apartment. He zooms around the main room’s hardwood floors, daredevil skidding the curves, calling “I need help!” when he pedals himself into a jam—for example, when he manages to wedge his bicycle between the loveseat and the wine rack, a real hazard for the novice indoor cyclist.

I wanted to post about how Martin learned to ride the bicycle. But as it happens, I had no idea, because the event occurred while Adrian and I were in Israel. Martin stayed home that week with my mother (who appears frequently in this blog) and, for part of the time, with my brother Eddie, a bachelor with an endearing fondness for Martin. (You may recall me waking poor Eddie at midnight and dragging him halfway across Maine on a thermometer quest. He went willingly. Enough said.) So I asked my mother to describe Martin’s learning process. She wrote:

When I was watching Martin in December my youngest son Eddie joined us for five days. Eddie and I decided that it was time for Martin to learn the art of pedaling a tricycle, something that had eluded him up to that point. We drove to Toys “R” Us to buy one and were dismayed to find that tricycles these days all seem to be made of plastic, which was unsatisfactory. We settled instead on a small metal bicycle with training wheels and lots of eye-popping color.

Martin did not seem particularly interested in the bike, but we sat him on it for a few minutes at a time, every so often, with Eddie making Martin’s feet work the pedals (his feet kept slipping off) while I pushed and steered. On the second day Martin was able to keep his feet on the pedals long enough to propel himself two or three yards, but for some reason he would then pedal backwards, which applied the brakes. On the third day we put him on the bike and something seemed to click! Martin pedaled around the apartment effortlessly on his own! Also, to our surprise, steering did not seem to be an issue. It came naturally. Once Martin is able to ride his bike outside, I think it will be only a short time before the training wheels can come off.

I think my mother may be too optimistic—typical grandparent!—about the training wheels coming off, given Martin’s continuing issues with balance. Nevertheless, Martin has achieved something wonderful. First, pedaling a bicycle, especially in unison with steering, takes coordination, and no doubt also improves coordination over time. Second, I’m always looking for activities that build Martin’s strength, given ASD kids’ low muscle tone. It’s a double-blessing to find one that he enjoys so much.

Big thanks to my mother and Eddie for making Martin mobile on two wheels (plus two tinier wheels…).

What’s Disappeared

It’s accounting season. Adrian’s assistant has prepared a summary of what our family spent last year on recovering Martin. Supplements, therapies, unreimbursed doctor bills, plane tickets to see specialists, that sort of stuff. It does not include expenses associated with Martin’s restricted diet, like buying only organic or making weekend farm visits for meat. Nor does it include my kitchen make-over, continually purging plastics and aluminum in favor of glass or stainless steel.

Even without the foods and cookware, the total is a large number. Not astronomical. Not bank-breaking. But large.

“Did you think it would be this much?” Adrian asked me.

I replied, “I’m looking at it like this: If someone told us last January, ‘Give me this amount, and within a year Martin will respond to his name, will make eye contact consistently, will interact with friends, will move like a neurotypical child, and will speak in complete sentences,’ we would have written that check, right?”

“Of course,” Adrian said.

He seemed mildly offended that I’d asked the question. But I was on a roll.

“And if someone told us last January, ‘Give me this amount, and within a year Martin’s lethargy and toe-walking and aimless drifting and low muscle tone and sleep problems and clumsiness will be gone, and his echolalia will be nearly gone,’ we would have written that check, right? Because that’s where we are. That’s what’s disappeared.”

Adrian waved his arm in agreement, putting an end to my roll. “We would have paid ten times so much. You know that.”

“So let’s keep it going,” I said.

And we fist-bumped.

The Posting Dearth, Explained

It’s been a week, again. More than a week, without a post. I frustration posted last Tuesday, and then abandoned my readers. My own private cliffhanger.

Let me assure you that Martin is fine. We’ve started his new supplementation protocol, we’ve had ups and downs, and I’m back to—my, um, usual sunny self.

The blog dry spell occurred because I’ve been occupied with getting my business affairs in order.

I’m not dying. Not as far as I know.

Instead, I’ve quit my job.

Quit my job!

For nearly thirteen years, I’ve worked as an attorney for the same large law firm, and it’s a job I’ve always felt privileged to hold. I have talented co-workers who bring out my best efforts. I’ve been compensated well. Lawyer comprises a substantial part of my self-identification.

It seems like I should say the decision to quit was difficult.

It was not.

My quitting strikes a blow to the family finances, but not a death knell. I am very, very fortunate to be able to make the choice, and grateful for Adrian’s career to facilitate my lack of one. We determined, together, that Martin’s recovery requires (at least for a while) a parent dedicated full-time to the task. In the past months there have been too many ASD articles unread, too many tests uncompleted, too many exercises undone. I’ve been exhausted and unable to keep up. That must change.

It’s not that I am going to be unemployed. I’ve just stopped moonlighting as an attorney in order to concentrate on my day job, healing Martin—which is another job I will always feel privileged to hold.

This will, of course, leave more time for blogging about healing Martin. Please expect more regular posts. Perhaps daily posts. Perhaps too many posts. If I go a little crazy with it, let me know.

And so the next chapter opens.