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.

What’s Working Now

Are you familiar with miracle products?

I participate in various social media groups for parents with recovering children. Often, I see posts like this:

“We just started this [miracle enzyme, supplement, probiotic, oil, &c.] ten days ago, and I can’t believe the progress! My son is making consistent eye contact, he’s increased his vocabulary, and he finally potty trained! Today I got a note from his preschool teacher saying he is more ‘with it’ and making cognitive leaps. I’m kicking myself that we didn’t try this before now. Anyone having similar results?”

And then, comments like these:

Commenter 1: “Yes, yes, yes! [Miracle product] moved my son from babbling to words!”

Commenter 2: “We added [secondary product] to [miracle product], and the gains were even greater. We’ve been on them both for a month and will be continuing.”

Commenter 3: “This is all amazing! Where can I buy [miracle product]?”

Commenter 4: “[Miracle product] got my daughter into Princeton!”

Posts, and comments, touting a miracle product frustrate me.

Miracle-product proclamations frustrate me because autism varies from kid to kid. The health and immune challenges underlying autistic symptoms include, and exceed, neuroinflammation and other chronic swelling, mitochondrial disorder, genetic mutations, leaky gut, yeast overgrowth, oxidative stress, excess propionic acid. Autism exhibits disparate effects on cerebral function in girls versus boys. “Autism” is not a single malady and is never identical. That miracle product? Shoot a paint ball into a crowd. You’re bound to hit someone and splatter a few others. The rest will probably be left wondering what the fuss is.

I can understand that, if you’re thinking about trying a new product, you may want to post an inquiry about others’ experiences with the product. But given that the underlying disorders are child-specific, and that recovery means finding the right combination of many factors over time, why tout miracles? We parents of children with autism, we tread on hope. We’re easily led. When ten marvels in a row fail to help our kid, we end up embittered and broke.

Recovery from autoimmune disorder is a long, tedious slog without shortcuts. Sure, some families recover their children within a year, those lucky dogs. Most take much longer. Many children never get significantly better. The only miracle in autism is that, given our increasingly toxic world, we’re able to fight the spectrum at all. The amazing supplement, probiotic, or whatever, might indeed have given your kid the week of his life. That’s not a wonder. If you must tout a miracle product, don’t do it after a week, or a month. At least wait a year, then let us know if the developments continued, and speak in measured, child-specific terms.

Dear readers, are you wondering why I’m ranting? That was all an introduction to today’s post, which in comparison to its introduction, may seem brief. The topic is what interventions are working, right now, in combination, for my one kid, with his own particular combination of health challenges.

Following “Hard to Blog an Avalanche,” I received several inquiries about what I think has instigated Martin’s recent growth. Usually, when Martin improves and I’m asked why, I answer, “Don’t know. Obviously, something in the millions of things we’re doing is helping.” This year, I have a better inkling. I have seen five interventions correlate, almost certainly, with better health and/or increased speech:

1. Camel milk. Martin started drinking it this spring, and his language took off. Why? Too long for this post. Check back in a day or so to read “What’s the Deal with Camel Milk?”

2. The GAPS diet. I’ve written a lot about GAPS recently, and I’m also working on a post about how I don’t buy into everything that Dr. Campbell-McBride says. For now, it suffices to say that Martin’s digestion has improved.

3. Candex. We have battled yeast overgrowth, in one form or another, repeatedly since we began this journey. Going off just about every form of sugar helped, but only for a while. Nystatin did nothing positive. Earlier this year, poor Martin’s yeast was so bad that he clawed his skin raw. Finally, his biomed doctor said to try Candex, an enzymatic product. The same night he started Candex, Martin had a foul-smelling BM—yeast, I think, leaving his system. The next day, the skin rash began to clear. Since then, the candida has been under control, so much so that I’ve been able to add a little more fruit into Martin’s diet without worrying about the fructose feeding yeast.

4. Enhansa. Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy makes Enhansa, or curcumin, a derivative of turmeric. Martin suffers from chronic inflammation, which places undue pressure on his compromised immune system. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties seem to be relieving that inflammation, even to the point that his face has lost its “puffy” appearance. (The puffiness was visible only to me and others to whom I pointed it out in photographs. Still, it was there, and a symptom of his systemic inflammation.)

5. MitoSpectra. This is a proprietary mitochondrial supplement blend of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid), vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol succinate), vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid), L-carnitine, and coenzyme Q10. We have used each of the component supplements before, alone and in combination, and indeed Martin still adds separate sources of vitamin C and L-carnatine. MitoSpectra, however, seems to combine the five supplements in a form and proportions that do well for him: He shows more coordination and energy, and less “floppiness.” At times I wonder whether those improvements are dependent on continued use of MitoSpectra; my hope is that, as his immune system overall continues to heal, his own mitochondria will be able to assume the work MitoSpectra is now doing.

Camel milk, GAPS, Candex, Curcuma, and MitoSpectra. Not a miracle, not any one of them.

Each a step in this tortuous recovery path.

Just maybe a longer stride than I’m used to.

Increased energy, coordination, and willingness to try new things. I'm so into these changes.

Increased energy, coordination, and willingness to try new things. I’m so into these changes.