Good Medical Care

Without any real statistics to show, I am going to assert that most of us in the biomed community have MAPS doctors for our kids. “MAPS” stands for Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs and is the successor term to DAN!, or Defeat Autism Now! MAPS doctors are trained and certified in the treatment of chronic conditions like autism. They help our children with the process of recovering from autism/autoimmune disorder, and with associated issues like epilepsy or food allergies. They’re kind of like general practitioners for children affected by autism.

Then we have other doctors, the host of professionals who accompany childhood, plus (because autism is the symptoms of sickness) assorted specialists. Neurologists, geneticists, ophthalmologists, audiologists, endocrinologists, allergists.

One challenge prevalent for biomed families is finding “other doctors” who respect their MAPS doctors’ efforts. You can imagine the potential conflicts. When we first started biomed, for example, Martin had constant skin rashes, so itchy that he would scratch his legs bloody. We took him to a dermatologist, who diagnosed “sensitive skin” and suggested using Cetaphil “gentle” cleansing and moisturizing products. Our MAPS doctor, recognizing candida overgrowth, asked us to substitute natural products for Cetaphil and work on balancing gut flora to bring yeast under control. (We went with the MAPS suggestion, healing Martin from inside.)

The elephant in a room occupied by both MAPS and non-MAPS physicians is vaccines. MAPS doctors may urge caution when it comes to vaccinating, especially for kids with a history of reactions to vaccines, while non-MAPS doctors may push vaccinations “on schedule” for all kids. Some pediatricians won’t even accept patients whose families feel they cannot vaccinate.

So there are challenges, navigating the biomed path accompanied by non-MAPS healthcare professionals.

When we moved to the suburbs last year, I took the opportunity to find a Martin new pediatrician and dentist. Our practitioners in the City were adequate but traditional. The dentist made me sign forms stating that I had “refused” routine X-rays against her recommendations, and once she applied fluoride to Martin’s teeth even though I had stated at the beginning of our relationship that I didn’t want any fluoride, ever. Our pediatrician was perhaps more conscientious; I had a positive experience when one of her partners took an interest in our biomed approach, and the practice gave us a vaccination exemption of indefinite duration after Martin reacted poorly to the H1N1 shot. Despite those perks, however, the doctors weren’t worth venturing back to the City.

I found a new pediatrician through conversations with other biomed moms. This doctor, though not a MAPS doctor, is knowledgeable about autism recovery. She stocks her office with papers like “The Autism-Gut Connection” and “SIBO Symptoms and Treatments.” I believe she can be a second set of eyes on our biomed protocol, which is a good thing.

The dentist I found on-line. I searched for dentists who have experience working with special-needs kids, and then I followed up with phone calls about whether the doctor minds if we opt out of fluoride treatments. Martin’s first check-up there, six months ago, took place on a weekday morning, when few kids were present. The hygienist wasn’t great with him. When Martin became upset, she tried being noisy and distracting. I had to stop her and explain that, with Martin, the best approach is quiet explanation of what is happening. We were more successful with the rest of the visit. The dentist was able to get a good look at Martin’s teeth despite his protests, and no one gave me any trouble about fluoride.

Unfortunately, both the new pediatrician and the new dentist are far from our home. Last week, as I drove more than 45 minutes for Martin’s next check-up, I questioned whether the dentist was worth the fuss. As Martin’s appointment time passed, and we were still stuck in morning traffic, I thought, No more. This is the last visit to this dentist. Surely I can find someone in our own town who doesn’t push fluoride and is good with special needs.

When we finally arrived, the office was sleepy, with only one other patient waiting. This time I told the hygienist (a different one than last time) up front that Martin responds best to calm words. She understood immediately. When Martin declared that we would get a check-up but would not lie down, the hygienist responded, “Of course not. Here, I will just recline the chair a little bit so you can see the television on the ceiling, if you want.” Martin went for that.

We had a different dentist, too, a man. He began by remarking that he saw on our information card that Martin follows the GAPS diet, and asking how that was working for us. (A dentist! Asking how GAPS is working for us!) I told him, in general terms because Martin was in earshot, about our experience. The dentist responded, “It’s remarkable, isn’t it? My friend with MS made similar dietary changes, and his symptoms have really responded.” Then the hygienist said, “I know someone who has been able to stop taking fibromyalgia medication since she went on a diet like that.” Then both the dentist and the hygienist started discussing their own emphasis on fresh, whole, organic foods.

Martin, meanwhile, behaved like a champion. He let the dentist recline his chair a little more and complete a full examination plus cleaning. He interrupted the procedure only to point to the ceiling television and say, “That’s Nick Jr.!”

When the dentist was finished with Martin, he said, “Martin’s teeth look great. Not having refined sugar is obviously helpful, and you’re doing a solid job with brushing and flossing. As to the fluoride, substituting xylitol is a good choice. More and more of our parents are moving that direction.”

This dentist gives out balloons. Martin requested a yellow balloon.

I, now oblivious to the nearly hour-long drive that had aggravated me, reported to the front desk to schedule our next appointment.

I don’t mind questioning or challenges regarding Martin’s care, as long as the questioner/challenger acts with an open mind, has a stake in Martin’s well-being, and isn’t just playing Devil’s advocate.

But at the same time, it is hard to overstate the relief I feel when everyone is on the same page.

[Note: I know biomed families have mixed feelings about xylitol. I will blog about that at a later date.]

Opinion Piece: Crowdsourcing Your Child’s Medical Care Is Not a Good Plan

Before you read the “opinion” section of this post, please peruse these five statements:

1. The internet can be an excellent source of information, advice, and comfort. Most days, I spend several hours collecting ideas and cyber-talking with other parents across the web.

2. I am very, very fortunate that I have money available (including insurance reimbursement) to pay MD’s, ND’s, homeopathic practitioners, and therapists. I recognize, honor, and pray for families who want to treat their children biomedically and/or homeopathically but lack sufficient funding to do so; when we have recovered Martin, I will find some way to provide material assistance to those families.

3. I am not in the business of judging other parents’ choices. I do have an opinion about how to treat ASD in children, and I act upon that opinion by, in consultation and agreement with my husband, treating our son as I see fit. I expect other parents to do the same. Unless you are neglecting your child, or actively attempting to harm him, I respect your choices.

4. Recovery from ASD, asthma, allergies, ADD, and ADHD (et cetera!) remains an emerging science. Laboratory studies have not kept up with what’s going on in the field. Because of that, the trial-and-error and “experimentation” factors may be even more significant in these areas than elsewhere in medicine.

 5. I am not aiming to inject acrimony or discord into the on-line ASD recovery community. This post, like every post on FindingMyKid, is selfish. I’m discussing my son’s progress and expositing my thoughts, in hopes of (1) documenting the recovery process, and (2) fomenting ideas in readers. I think that’s what blogging is about, documenting and fomenting. I hope I don’t lose readers over this post.

End of disclaimers. Beginning of opinion section—

I belong to several Facebook groups dedicating to recovering children. Many parents (or grandparents and other caregivers) write posts among these lines:

•      “My son has this itchy rash over a quarter of his body.” [Insert picture here, usually something that I don’t want to see in my Facebook feed because I have an absurdly low gross-out tolerance. Seriously, if I think of something icky, I can’t eat for hours.] “What could this be? How should I treat it?”

•      “I just received the results of my daughter’s” [insert name of test here, such as 23andMe genetics, Great Plains Labs OAT, or Philippe Auguste toxicity] “results.” [Insert copy of lab results, (not always) with child’s name redacted.] “Can anyone help me interpret these and figure out what supplements to order?”

•      “This week we started” [insert names of supplements, oils, or medications] “, and suddenly my son is melting down every ten minutes, stimming like crazy, and pooping all over the house, even though he’s toilet-trained. What could it be?”

I think these types of posts are a bad idea. Not because the parents/caregivers are reaching out for others’ experiences, but because I suspect many of them are substituting internet wisdom for actual medical advice. Three weeks ago I saw a video post of a child in the throes of an obvious grand mal seizure. The accompanying paragraph stated that the seizures were new, continued that the child had begun experiencing multiple seizures every day, and sought advice on how to handle them. My horrified reaction was, “Are you kidding me? Get off Facebook and get that child to a doctor.” (I did not post my horrified reaction. Should I have?)

It is true that the “medical establishment,” in general, lags behind parental experience when it comes to treating autism. Indeed, if I may speak for the medical establishment, its position still appears to be that there is no treatment for autism. Martin’s former pediatrician, from before we moved, never understood what we were doing with Martin’s autism doctor. When I asked the pediatrician what she knew about biomedical intervention for autism, she replied, “Nothing. Just what I’ve heard secondhand, which is that it doesn’t work.” (Still, she never stood in the way of our biomedical journey. I respect that. Also, one of her practice partners was nothing but interested in what we are doing to recover Martin.)

Facebook parents are great. In some areas, they may know more than doctors. But they are not doctors. And some of them are also misinformed, or downright crazy. (Sorry, readers. Deep down, don’t you know it’s true?) I dedicate a lot of my time to reading books and scientific articles about autism, attending medical conferences, and researching on-line. None of this takes the place of spending four years in medical school, passing medical boards, and completing a residency. None of it gives me a comprehensive perspective on health, or the ability to make competent medical decisions for my child without the assistance of a doctor. Heck, to be honest, I don’t even understand some of what I study about autism. I’m more of a humanities type of gal, one who took “Chemistry for Non-Science Majors” to fulfill her college core requirement.

Which brings me to my point: If you can in any away avoid it, crowdsourcing your child’s medical care is not the best choice. The medical establishment does not represent all doctors. There are credible professionals who both (1) understand immune disorders like autism and how to overcome them, and (2) hold medical degrees. Use Facebook and your other contacts to find one of these professionals. Do your research, read a lot, and bore yourself with medical science with the aim of making sure that you find a professional you can trust. If you need to, try fundraising to cover the costs of the consultation. That can work—I know parents who’ve managed it. Seek a Generation Rescue grant. Go into debt. (It happens. We live in the real world.) Whatever you have to do, try to bring your child to a medical professional at least occasionally. Please.

The benefit of living in 2014 is that, at least in some small measure, and Martin’s former pediatrician notwithstanding, more doctors are starting to get a clue. Parents who recovered their children ten years ago, or even just five years ago, had far fewer choices than we have today. Let’s take advantage of that. We can rely on fellow parents for empathy, guidance, and encouragement. We probably should not count on them to be scientists.