It would be no exaggeration to say that a magazine article sent me on the journey of a lifetime ten years ago. In January of 1995, an article in Mothering Magazine about the homeopathic treatment of children's behavioural problems led me to seek out homeopathic treatment for my then autistic son, Max. Back then, my husband Steve and I were struggling to understand and come to terms with Max's inability to communicate and socialize with others.
Unfortunately, this experience has become increasingly familiar to more and more parents since that time. In 1995, the dramatic rise in autism rates in the U.S. was just beginning, and the world of autism resources and treatments was in its infancy.
In the spring of 1994, when Max was nearly three, his preschool program called us in for a conference and recommended medical attention. Max was becoming increasingly detached, did not make good eye contact or respond well to his name, and was manifesting self-stimulation activities like spinning. During story time, he seemed oblivious; if he was not being held in a teacher's lap, he would run off and play quietly elsewhere in the room.
When other children were playing outside, the teachers would find him staring raptly at a toy or animal in a classroom. Although Max was generally happy in demeanor, he had only ten or twenty words in his vocabulary and was not yet making two-word sentences. Nor did he seem to really understand or respond to us when we spoke to him. If I tried to read to him at bedtime, he'd be all over the bed, running his fingers on the wall and the bedspread. However, he was amazingly adept with blocks and computers, knew his numbers and letters, and loved watching TV and dancing to music.
On the advice of a speech therapist friend, we did not take Max to the Stanford University clinic that had been recommended to us. She told us they'd just label him and instill a sense of hopelessness in us. Instead, she recommended an excellent language therapist in Palo Alto, California – a woman who is still the top therapist working with children like Max in our area. As with so many other things that happened to us that fateful year, someone up there was watching out for us; notoriously impossible to get an appointment with, this therapist took Max on as a client immediately. And rather than labeling him, she just set to work.
In the summer of 1994 I also learned about the Feingold diet. One of the most suspect items on their problem-food list was pasteurized cow's milk - and Max was addicted to it! The bottle was his "lovie" and he would sometimes drink eight bottles a day. Once we took milk out of his diet, a veil seemed to lift, and Max finally was able to build two-word sentences.
He was still autistic in style, but he was definitely more present. Several years later I discovered that sensitivities to milk and other foods are highly characteristic of autistic children. Other dietary changes we made at that time included avoidance of food colourings and corn.
In the fall of 1994, Max's appointments with his language therapist continued, including a weekly session with two other boys on the autism spectrum. Max was the best behaved but the least verbal and most "spaced out." After testing, he qualified for county special education benefits.
Max's progress in therapy was slow and he had begun to manifest characteristic autistic symptoms like echolalia - speech echoing. We were heartsick but determined to try everything we could. Truly, this was my worst nightmare coming true. My brother is severely mentally ill, so I knew very well how Max's problems could impact our entire family. At that time we enrolled Max in a Montessori school, which was much better suited for him, and also tried to adopt ideas from the book Son Rise by Barry Neil Kaufman - for example, spending intensive focused individualized time with him. On the bright side, Max was usually happy, even if he wasn't fully "there."
That was the state of things when I learned about Homeopathy from Mothering. Somehow, a short feature article by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, rang a bell in me; I instinctively knew that this form of treatment could be our answer. The next day I called an acupuncturist friend of mine and asked - where can I find a homeopath? She referred me to John Melnychuk, a practitioner who had just set up a practice in Palo Alto. We quickly got an appointment, and Max's journey to recovery began.
Many readers are probably familiar with the use of homeopathic remedies for minor acute ailments like teething or the flu. Homeopathic treatment is based on a single fundamental principle called the Law of
Similars. In fact, that's what the word "homeopathy" literally means: "homeo" (similar) "pathy" (suffering). The Law of Similars states that in order to treat a particular set of symptoms, one utilizes a substance that can actually produce similar symptoms in a healthy person. For example, one way to treat the stinging eyes and runny nose of a cold would be to take Allium Cepa, made from onion - because onions can cause similar symptoms.
However, rather than taking a large dose of the substance (for example, drinking onion juice), homeopaths utilize very highly potentized doses, prepared through a process of repeated dilution and shaking. These specially prepared homeopathic remedies carry a kind of energetic signature of the original substance. This use of highly dilute doses is one of the many ways in which homeopathy is distinct from other forms of alternative medicine such as herbalism (which uses plant tinctures). Another way in which homeopathy differs from herbalism is that remedies can be made from many other kinds of substances besides plants (minerals, metals, animals) - really, anything in nature.
CONSTITUTIONAL HOMEOPATHY BEST FOR CHRONIC CONDITIONS
While self-treatment with homeopathic remedies is possible for simple limited conditions like a cold or the flu, chronic problems and serious conditions like autism definitely require treatment by a well trained
homeopath. Our first appointment with our homeopath was typical of this kind of "constitutional" treatment. John observed Max, listened to all of the symptoms I related about Max's sleep and eating habits, sweat patterns, physical symptoms, behaviour, and personality. He also took into account Max's gestation, birth, and our family's medical histories. This first appointment took approximately two hours. After taking a couple of days to analyze the case, John called to tell us the name of a remedy that he felt was best-matching or "homeopathic" to Max.
It is important to note that this kind of individualized treatment is fundamental to the effective practice of homeopathy for chronic ailments.
Since most people experience an acute ailment like the flu or first-aid situations like a bee-sting or head trauma in fairly similar ways, their symptoms are fairly uniform, easy to predict, and can be matched against a small, easily-anticipated set of remedy choices. However, there are no "take this for that" remedies for chronic ailments in homeopathy. That's because every person's experience of their disease is unique - especially when you take into account all symptoms - emotional, mental and physical. As a result, ten different autistic patients will most likely end up getting ten different remedies - the ones that best match their overall pattern of symptoms. In fact, each of the approximately 2000 remedies in the homeopathic medicine chest is associated with its own unique physical/mental/emotional pattern - and it's the job of the homeopath to find the one that best matches each patient.
Within days of starting a daily liquid dose of the remedy that John had recommended, Max began showing subtle changes. His speech became slightly more fluid, he used some new phrases, and he seemed more socially aware. The following week, Max's therapist remarked that something had definitely shifted. Even though we did not tell her about the homeopathy, she quickly asked, "What did you do?!" For example, Max was suddenly able to follow a sequence of two commands rather than just one.
RECOVERY FROM AUTISM BEGINS
As the months progressed; the changes in Max became more and more noticeable. Each month we would increase the potency or dose of his remedy and would notice a characteristic pattern of response. Upon starting a new bottle of the remedy in a higher potency, we would see a 3-day period of increased hyperactivity followed by a discrete improvement in cognition and behaviour.
After six months of treatment, John recommended that we also take Max to a cranial osteopath. John now treats many autistic children, and he has found that skilled cranio-sacral treatment can speed up improvement in many of his cases. Max had several treatments with the osteopath and we noticed that it made a real impact on him. It seemed to calm him and also increased his desire for physical contact and affection.
After nine months of homeopathic treatment, Max's therapist felt that her sessions were no longer necessary. One-and-a-half years after beginning treatment, Max was testing above age level. When we signed the papers releasing him from eligibility for special education benefits, our therapist told the county representative that it was not her treatment that had helped Max - it was homeopathy. In fact, she told us that she had never seen anything like it before. She had seen autistic kids improve, but she had never seen a child lose their autism like Max had.
At that point, Max was probably 80% cured. The remaining 20% took a period of several years - marked by transitions to new remedies as Max improved and changed. By the time he was in 4th grade, no one would suspect his former autism. Admittedly, Max's response to homeopathic treatment was exceptional - and close to ideal. But Max is not an isolated case. As more and more families are beginning to try homeopathy for their autistic children, I am hearing more and more experiences of true healing from around the world. And with an "incurable" disease like autism, even modest improvements can make a huge difference in quality of life. Many of the homeopaths I speak with report at least some significant form of improvement in a majority of their autism cases.
One important thing to note is that the method of treatment utilized for Max is called classical homeopathy, which means that a single remedy is chosen and given to the patient based on his or her symptom picture. Other methods of homeopathic treatment have also been used successfully by some families.
One such method is sequential therapy, based on the idea that the symptoms or historical events of the case should be addressed in a particular order.
Sequential therapists often use isopathic remedies - remedies made from substances that are suspected to have triggered the disease, such as vaccines, mercury, etc. Since isopathic remedies and sequentialist ideas are very often incorporated into classical treatment, my own bias is to recommend starting with a classical practitioner who will tailor treatment to the unique characteristics of each child.
HOMEOPATHY INSPIRES RADICAL CHANGE IN FAMILY'S HEALTH CARE
As you might imagine, Max's cure set an even larger journey in motion for our family. For one thing, homeopathy became our primary mode of medicine.
For instance, once I began homeopathic treatment for myself, my summer allergies - which had become fairly severe and required daily dosing with antihistamines - disappeared. Homeopathy has also been a lifesaver as I've begun my journey through menopause. My older son Izaak has also benefited greatly from homeopathy over the years. A somewhat anxious child to begin with, our experience with Max left Izaak with even more anxiety and a problem with tics and twitches. Homeopathic treatment has helped him tremendously. My husband Steve has also greatly benefited, and truly, there's no doubt that homeopathy improved our marriage! Even my 90-year-old mother has benefited from homeopathy; the constitutional remedy selected for her by her homeopath in Buffalo invariably gives her a boost of energy. Of course, good old Arnica can be like gold for older adults, with their occasional falls and aches and pains. Over the years the homeopathic miracles I've witnessed among friends, family, and my own patients are just mind-boggling.
With homeopathy on our side, my family has not taken antibiotics or any other allopathic medicines in many years. Nor are we prey to the flu or other health scares that come down the pike each year. With our homeopathic remedy kit and our family homeopath nearby, I feel well protected. In fact, my family rarely gets sick anymore. Before homeopathic treatment I was experiencing more and more flu’s and colds that lasted longer and longer. Now I rarely get a cold, and when I do, I usually recover in just a few days, without any conventional treatment. Now that's what I call empowerment!
My experience with Max also inspired me to change the course of my own life. My work as a researcher in computer science suddenly seemed trivial and mundane in comparison to the miracle that had touched our lives. I felt a call to devote myself to learning, promoting, and supporting the use of homeopathy.
I couldn't believe that most people know nothing about it! The more I learned, the more I realized that it was like a hidden treasure. Did you know that homeopathy has a long and venerated history in North America - including successful treatment of numerous epidemics of the 1800s such flu, cholera, typhoid, and smallpox?
Soon, I gave up my work in computer science and began to study homeopathy myself - first by reading, and then through more formal study in courses and seminars. I began to help out with various national homeopathic journals and groups, and I now serve on the board of the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH) - a fantastic organization, open to everyone, that helps to promote, protect, and educate the public about homeopathy.
Members also receive a wonderful magazine, Homeopathy Today. To find out more about the NCH, visit http://www.nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org.
Then I began to write. First, I began with articles that I placed on the web. Ultimately, I decided to write an introductory book to let the public in general, and the autism community in particular, know about the power of homeopathy. The net result is Impossible Cure - a general introduction to homeopathic philosophy, history, and science that includes the story of our family's experience along with other first-person cure stories from people from all over the world, for a wide variety of physical and emotional problems (www.impossiblecure.com).
THE LINK BETWEEN VACCINATIONS & AUTISM
Another interesting turn of events for our family has been a growing awareness of the dangers of vaccination. Several clues over the years have hinted that Max's autism was likely due to a vaccine injury. For example, while we did not re-vaccinate him at age five, he did get the TB test – and he immediately had a marked relapse in his autistic symptoms. Luckily, we resumed homeopathic treatment and he rebounded. I also discovered, years later, that Max had received his Hib and MMR vaccines just as he was recovering from roseola. I have now learned that vaccinating a child who is already in a compromised state can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.
Because of my increasing involvement with the autism community and because my husband Steve and I are both computer scientists, we were approached by the Alan Yurko Project to improve the accessibility and usability of the VAERS database - the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. This database of vaccine injury cases is supplied online by the CDC, but is virtually unusable for research by most people. Steve took the VAERS data, combined it into a single large database that was searchable, and made it accessible online via the web. Many people in the autism and vaccine community now use this database for their research. It is now sponsored by the National Vaccine Information Center and can be found at www.medalerts.org.
Without a doubt, Max's story of recovery and our family's experiences are exceptional. Today Max is 16, a happy and healthy teenager who is an excellent student and talented artist, has many friends, and attends sleep-away camps in the summer. Our family is truly blessed by the healing brought to us by homeopathy. No matter what kind of emotional or physical problem you or a family member may be experiencing, I encourage you to take responsibility for your own health. Do your research, use the amazing resources of the Internet, and follow your instincts. Join a relevant online group for education and support. Take a course on homeopathy or some other form of alternative treatment that interests you, and join and support organizations like the National Center for Homeopathy. Let alternative approaches to health care - like homeopathy - empower you! You may be surprised by the results.
This article was adapted from a story originally published in the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of Mothering Magazine.