Interventions that help. Well, helped my son at least. If you are not already aware, every child with Autism is different, hence the saying: “If you’ve seen One child with Autism, you’ve seen One child with Autism!”
So I thought I would share a few of the things I have done for my son that have helped him: either by abating certain issues or helping him learn. It is a fairly short list, though I have yet to “give up”, and continue to try new things or revisit things that have helped in the past; so this list is technically changing and growing as we go (I’ll try to update this or post about new things I find as time goes on).
I’m going to try and list these in order of importance…
Dietary restrictions: this was the first thing we tried and the most obviously helpful. At about 18 months (right about when we could identify by name what was affecting our son) his behaviors were insane. He would bite and hit people, arch away from any contact, eat non-stop (there is a point we’re too much food is detrimental), had a pain threshold that anyone would be envious of (as in never showed a reaction), yet if he hurt himself he would repeatedly injure the spot until someone stopped him; this is not an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you get the picture. Removing all the things in food that are unpronounceable and man-made (like dyes) made an improvement; but the removal of gluten (found in wheat and it’s derivatives), and dairy resolved 99% of the remaining issues. I mean, it was obvious he still had Autism, but it was like night and day. He started showing affection, attempting to sound out words and actually crying when a boo-boo occurred (most of you probably don’t want your children to cry, but I’d rather know what happened and be able to determine whether or not he needed medical attention than be accused of child abuse later due to my lack of knowledge). So if I could impart ANY knowledge to parents of children with Autism, it would be… Clean up their diet! There are reasonable facsimiles of most children’s favorite foods in forms that follow a gluten free, dairy free and all natural diet; they may be a bit more money, but I believe our children are worth it (or you could make your own versions, the recipes are out there, these tend to be cheaper but more time consuming).
A Tablet: this has been the single biggest tool in my sons learning (not because I am a horrible teacher, but because he simply learns better with visuals). You can start with a cheap one (but get a protective case for it) and just peruse the Google play store for free kids apps; PBS and a few others have free apps that are good starting points. My son started with simple apps for babies (even though he was 5 when he got his first personal tablet) and in a year he had not only figured out how to download and install new apps, but had increased his knowledge base to that of an 8th grader (still no real communication, but far more than when we started). That was after just one year, it’s been an additional 2 years since we started with a tablet and he knows a phenomenal amount of things, a lot of which aren’t learned until the last year’s of high school or even college (I have a degree, not in teaching, but doubt I could have done any better even if it was).
I’ll mention a few video series that sort of catapulted his whole thirst for knowledge:
- Baby Einstein (though I personally hated these)
- Babies First Impressions (these were how he learned to read at 2, by himself; I would have taught him, but at 2 it wasn’t really on my “important things to teach a child that doesn’t speak”)
- Baby Signing Time (he used sign language for a good year before he got… Bored? Maybe, I’m not really sure)
I don’t know where to find these now, and they did cost a good chunk of change, but in the end I think they were money well spent.
A Doctor of Functional or Integrated Medicine: these are typically not covered by insurance, sadly, but if you find one who has worked with Autistic patients before (with success) it will make a difference. These doctors are skilled in helping get a person’s body back in “working” order. Individuals with Autism tend to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that will only make things worse for them, so finding a good doctor to help you sort it out is essential. It will also save you a LOT of money on supplements; you can try to “wing it”, like I did for 6 years, but even after countless hours of research I still paid for quite a few supplements that didn’t work out for my boy and we’re just thrown out. If you are strapped for cash, some of these doctors do take payments or offer lower fees to those in need. Just please, research the doctor… Ask them for a free consultation and grill them with important questions: how many children with Autism have you treated? How many would you consider “cured”? How long did it take on average? And many, many more. Make sure you are comfortable with the doctor’s experience and have realistic hopes (you aren’t going to walk in and have your child better in 30 days. Healing internal damage or issues is a long and slow process).
The above are things I would urge anyone with a child on the spectrum to do for their kiddo. There are others, but most of them did nothing for my son (with the exception of Homeopathy, it helped get rid of a few issues, but since most people consider this “Quakery”, I’ll leave y’all to look it up or try it on your own). Things like ABA therapy, which are pushed on those with Autism the most, may work for some kids (but can turn your child into a mindless robot, who only follows simple commands), but my son was just irritated the entire time, so after a year we stopped that and tried other things.
A couple things that are good for all children:
Go Outside! The park, beach, hiking in the mountains, or even a walk around the neighborhood; and talk to them the whole time. My son loves to help me garden, and he is a ninja at catching bugs (makes for a fun Show-N-Tell), which he does both indoors and out.
Be Present! Engage and interact with your children as much as you possibly can. I get more eye contact from my son when I engage him in his pastime; if he’s watching a video on state flags I start repeating the video, 9 times out of 10 he will look to me instead of his electronic.
Spend As Much As You Can On High Quality Food! “You are what you eat” is more true than you can imagine. The basics: pastured meats, good fats, organics veggies and fruit; there is no real need for ANY other food group (unless your a vegetarian, check with your new doctor first). Those who don’t think they have the time or skill to cook good homemade food, Google will prove you wrong.
Don’t Loose Hope! Never, ever let go of the idea that your child can get better. Maybe not “cured”, but “better” is probably a whole heck of a lot easier than where you are, or where you started. My husband likes to dwell on all the things he thinks my son will never be able to do, accomplish or experience… I have to tell him to “shut the f@ck up”, because I will never let go of hope. Do NOT let anyone tell you what your child may or may never be able to do or have; if I have learned anything from my son, it’s that he will not be underestimated!
And there you have it… May my small amount of insight give you hope and direction. I’m off to enjoy my wine…and it’ll have to do.