Any of our friends who have known and interacted with Jeshuah over the past few months will notice a drastic difference in his personality and behavior from that which we had been so concerned about for the better part of a year. That is, the very real possibility of him developing an autistic spectrum disorder. Indeed, every day I continue to marvel at the changes in him, hardly able to believe it myself. And yet it has all happened so fast, I realize I have not had the chance to tell many of you yet. I find many friends whom we do not see regularly are completely unaware of how our household has changed in these last few months. Allow me to fill you in on what has happened.
While Jeshuah, currently eighteen months old, has never been officially diagnosed with the label of autism, by twelve months of age, there were many symptoms which caused our pediatrician and therapists to be concerned. He had some precursors, some “red flags” or warning that he may be developing it. You see Autism as we define it nowadays is a kind of regressive autism, in that these 1 in 110 kids who have it now are not born with it. They develop it by the age of three. For more detailed information, see my post on Autism here or check out the resources at the bottom of this post.
Since this form of autism doesn’t typically show up fully until between two and three years of age, when he was evaluated by his doctor and therapists, they all said he has some concerning symptoms, but we would just have to wait and see.
When it comes to the health and wellbeing of our son, Stephen and I are not “wait and see” type of people. I remembered remarking to Stephen after watching Temple Grandin last year, “If someone was going to have a kid with autism, it would be me. I would be Temple’s mom. I would be beating down doctor’s doors to find the answers to help my child and not just label and give up.”
A couple of months later I began noticing things about Jeshuah that were developmentally and socially disconcerting. It began with his obsessive spinning of round objects around 9 months of age. At first it was amusing, adorable, amazing, and entertaining. But after a few months, when I realized that was all he ever, ever, ever did and he was growing further and further behind all his friends developmentally, I began to grow concerned.
And then he got his 12 month immunizations (at 14 months since we were behind). I had been hesitant to get him immunized in the first place, as my research on the issue was inconclusive and left me just plain uncomfortable. However, well-meaning people and doctors pressured me that it was vital to his health and well-being and the health and well-being of all children, and I felt compelled to do it. Although I noticed a distinct disturbance in his habits and sleep every set of shots he got, I tried to brush it off as inconsequential as everyone sites these concerns and thinks nothing of them. (Now that I have had a chance to research this issue further, I have blogged some of my findings here.)
Because I had delayed and denied some, the doctors were catching him up to date, and I was distracted by that visit by our doctor’s concern over Jeshuah’s obsessive spinning. I didn’t notice how many immunizations they were giving him, nor that they were giving him immunizations that I had previously been denying. When I left the office and gathered the papers of info for the shots he had just received, my heart was sickened at the amount of vaccines he had been given in a single day and that he had received vaccines that I didn’t want him having in the first place. But it was too late now. I would watch much more carefully next time I was in the office.
But that night Jeshuah woke up screaming. A couple of hours later, he was awake again. And then again. While he had been sleeping through the night beautifully long before that, for the next month, Jeshuah awoke in the night multiple times, screaming and distraught. When he awoke in the morning, I wept as I watched him crawl around the house, sobbing inconsolably, banging his head on the hard wood floors, writhing, flailing and screaming. Nothing I could do calmed him. At first I chalked it up to teething. But now that he has grown multiple more teeth without so much as a fuss, I realize that correlation was most likely inaccurate.
It was around that time that we noticed spinning things both consoled and distressed him. He would spin by the hour, his body stiffening, his face contorting, eyes squinting, making choking/gasping noises, and then he would look at us and begin to cry. And spin again. The whole cycle would repeat itself continuously. (This video shows only a very mild stiffening/seizing compared to what it later became.)
That was when we took away everything he could spin. That proved difficult as he tried to spin everything so we were pared down to a few simple toys that didn’t have pieces or any rounded edges. But now we had a difficult time any time we left the house. He would see wheels on cars or rounded light bulb posts and go into fits and frenzies, signing that he wanted to spin them. He began withdrawing socially, cowering into me as soon as we walked into church or anywhere there was a crowd of people. Clinging to me, he would burrow his head, cry, and refuse to be put down. (I am aware of separation anxiety. This was very different. In general, he has never minded new people or been clingy to either Stephen or me only. This terror in large crowds was a reaction to sensory overload, and if I took him in a dark room by himself, he would calm right down).
As I researched further, speaking with friends whose children had begun to develop similar issues, many seemingly unconnected symptoms began to connect like pieces in a puzzle. Jeshuah has always had allergic reactions to things, breaking out in hives, turning red with hot skin, watery eyes, etc. Since he was eight months old, he has been sick nearly constantly. Almost every time we end up at the urgent care with an antibiotic prescription. He catches every germ that passes and his body simply cannot fight off any infection by itself.
Doctors are beginning to find that this regressive autism is actually caused by an autoimmune disorder. Short version: their little bodies’ immune system has backfired and turned on itself. Because it is constantly attacking itself, it cannot ward off any infection it is exposed to. This would explain why such a large number of families report drastic behavioral changes directly after their child is immunized. While vaccines may be considered “safe” for the general population, they are not recommended for anyone whose immune system is already compromised. Why? Because a vaccine is actually a tiny bit of that virus (or, in our day and age multiple viruses in the same vaccine) that, when injected, is designed to build an immunity within your body to the real virus. However, if your system is already overwhelmed by attacking itself, it cannot adequately defend itself against this new virus. Instead, it buries itself away in the body and wreaks havoc. Many children develop immediate and severe behavioral changes following vaccination, but this goes largely unreported, and when it is reported, doctors brush it off as a coincidence. Which is exactly what our pediatrician did, with a disgusted shake of his head at my concern. When I cited concern that his behavior had dramatically regressed immediately following each vaccine, he denied the possibility that they were connected and informed me that I would need to find a new pediatrician if I intended to discontinue vaccinations.
Around this time, I had been conducting extensive research into the area of upper cervical chiropractic and its treatment of autistic kids. Through a family friend, we heard about a practitioner in the area who was working with autistic spectrum disordered children and seeing dramatic improvement. Stephen and I are both very skeptical and wary of chiropractors in general, but we know there are both legitimate and illegitimate ones out there. I have to admit, it took many weeks of thinking, praying, and researching for us to even begin to think a chiropractor could in any way help our son.
However, when we finally took the time to watch the documentary on upper cervical chiropractic, the lightbulb went on in both our heads. This particular school of chiropractic focuses on the atlas, the first bone in your neck. It is through this bone which all your nerves run, sending messages to the rest of your body. The following quotes were taken from upper-cervical.com:
“The brain, like a powerful computer system controls and monitors all bodily functions. Brain messages; signals from the brain to the body are the medium used to communicate instructions from the brain to the different body parts. These brain messages move in a vast network of connections, our nervous system, which allows the brain to communicate with even the most remote part of the body.”
When the atlas becomes misaligned (which can happen for any number of reasons, from birth trauma to a bad fall, car accident, etc), the nerves running through the neck become pinched, inflamed, or irritated and can begin to send the wrong signals. These incorrect signals include anything from mimicking multiple sclerosis, to blindness, to autism. But when this bone is set back in place, the symptoms disappear within hours, days, or weeks (depending on severity and length of misalignment).
“As soon as the correction is made, muscles begin to relax, blood and oxygen circulation increases, the immune system gains strength and vitality and the body’s natural, self-healing process begins.”
Does this mean that everyone who has cancer, is deaf, and has allergies should go to an upper cervical doctor and will be healed? Unfortunately, no. These, and many other issues, are very real problems which may be completely unrelated to the atlas, and therefore, this procedure would not help. However, the fact of the matter is that many, many issues are merely masquerading as other problems, when in reality, the brain simply has its wires crossed. Rather literally.
Now that I am done with that rather technical explanation (sorry! I probably find this way more fascinating than most people), I want to tell you about our own experience with this chiropractic care. Once we understood the premise, we figured it was worth a try. After all, the doctors don’t have any answers for us, and other people are finding help this way–we might as well try!
We scheduled the appointment with Newhouse Health Solutions and took him in the next day. Sure enough, his little atlas was off, and with a couple of gentle nudges (most of which made Jeshuah giggle because he thought he was being tickled), Dr. Newhouse set him to rights and informed us that we should expect a very large poo and a very lengthy sleep that night.
As Stephen and I drove away, we both had a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach that we had just wasted our money on quackery. We spoke about how neither one of us could even imagine our son seeing a round object and not spinning it. We could not fathom taking him to a parking lot and not seeing him seize up at the sight of wheels. It was all too good to be true. A fairy tale dream that didn’t exist. I began settling in my heart what my next steps would be when this treatment proved to fail.
That night Jeshuah slept like a log and, true to prediction, had one very. large. poo. I still held out little hope that I would actually see any improvement in my son’s obsessive, abnormal behavior. However, the next day I brought Jeshuah home from a round of errands, set him down on the floor, and relayed to Stephen, “I just took Jeshuah to multiple stores, and I just realized…he never even seized up at the sight of all the cars.” Later that day, I took him for a walk, and he merely walked past the cars parked on the street, hardly noticing their rounded wheels. Two days prior, we would be permanently waylaid at the sight of any wheel, and then there would be tantrums and fits when he wasn’t able to spin them. I locked these observences away in my mind, still too afraid to hope.
Earlier that week Jeshuah had taken some of his first real steps, and by the end of the week, he was practically unstopable.
And then came Sunday.
Because Jeshuah had had strep throat earlier in the week, I didn’t want to put him in the nursery. So I stayed with him in the library, where there were speakers to listen and a window in the door to see the pastor. I had brought a can of Puffs in case he got hungry and pulled them out towards the end of the sermon. As soon as I whipped them out of the bag, my heart sank as I realized I had not only let him see the lid, but I had placed it on the floor as a plate for the Puffs. If I ever let him see the round lid, he wanted nothing to do with eating the Puffs, but only wanted to obsessively spin the lid. I reached to retract it quickly, but he was faster. He had eaten the Puffs off it, lifted up the lid, and the beckoned for me to hand him the can. I blinked in confusion, but handed it down to him. He took the lid in both hands and placed it on top of the can. He then removed it, looked at it, then put it back on.
Even as I write this, I know it is impossible to convey to you how significant that event was. Never, ever, ever, had Jeshuah even attempted to place a lid on its container. When the therapist worked and worked with him, all he would do was spin it. I could not let him see any of the tupperware when I would pull his leftovers out of the fridge. There would be a frenzied panic to spin them–even the square ones. But the first time, I watched as Jeshuah not only didn’t react to seeing the round lid, but he used it as it was intended to be used, to seal a container.
As soon as church was over, I rushed into the auditorium to relay the news to Stephen. Jeshuah was on my hip, and I realized, as we headed into the crowd of people eager to go eat lunch, he was not cowering into me. In fact, he was reaching for me to put him down! In shock, I let him down, and he took off down the aisles, chasing the older kids back and forth, laughing at his accomplishment. I turned to Stephen, eyes wide. How many times had we tried to put him down on this same floor to show off his tricks to the people there? Every time, he clung and cowered and whimpered. But not today. Today it was like we were watching someone else’s child laugh and play with other kids, unfazed by the lights or crowds of people.
When we took him to lunch that day, we sat near the windows, where I only later realized he could see straight to the cars on the street. Halfway through the meal I marveled to Stephen, Daniel and DeAnna to look at Jeshuah and take note of the fact that he didn’t even care about the cars driving past, even though he had seen them. Not two weeks before, while out to lunch with a friend, I couldn’t even get him to eat because he was transfixed by the window, stiff, shaking and seizing the entire meal as he watched the parking lot.
After that, we began to notice more and more little things. Suddenly Jeshuah was “into everything!” like so many moms complain about. He was pulling things off shelves, dumping out baskets of toys, and driving objects around the house, making motor noises as he followed behind. He was curious about everything, finding new ways to use toys, opening and closing cupboards and drawers, hiding little toys to find later. His constant runny nose cleared up, his cheeks and ears stopped flushing red-hot. He settled into a restful pattern of waking and sleeping. He began jabbering constantly, making dozens of new sounds and responding to questions like “what does the monkey say?”
Last month, I called his therapists and withdrew him from the early intervention program. He has no need of it anymore. He is as normal as normal can be. I thought I would never know what that felt like. I don’t think we will ever take “normal” for granted again, though. As difficult as this road has been, I am so thankful we have walked it. I am thankful to have stood in the shoes of parents who wrestle through the possibility or reality of their children having disorders, syndromes, and other “abnormalities.” I am thankful for all the research I did and all the knowledge and resources I have tucked away to hopefully be able to encourage others now.
I want others to know our story. I want other people to find the same help. It is not for everyone–a misaligned atlas is not everyone’s problem. But I guarantee you it is some people’s problem. It was our problem, and now it is gone! We continue to see progress as Jeshuah’s immune system regains its full function. Two weeks ago he had strep again, and he has had some seizing recently. Dr. Newhouse explained that it is like a sprained ankle. You can regain the use, but there may still be some scar tissue there that flares up occasionally. Perhaps the seizing is residual from the infection and a weakened immune system. Perhaps it is because I have been extremely lenient with what he has been eating over the last month. Perhaps it is because I reintroduced dairy. His diet may play a part in all of this, too. Over the next few weeks I will experiment with his diet and see if that helps. But even the mild seizing that we have seen is so mild, and so different from what it used to be. It is more of an excitement than anything, and it doesn’t cause my heart to plummet the way it used to.
So that’s where we are right now. As far as we are concerned, Jeshuah is “healed.” We do not consider him on the autistic spectrum or in danger of ever being on it. We have wrestled with a lot of difficult things and asked a lot of questions over the last many months. But we seem to be on the other side of that now. Could we see ourselves back there again? Of course–anything is possible! And yet at the moment, we do not suspect that will happen.
One thing we do know for sure and certain. That is, no matter what the outcome in all of this, our God is faithful to keep us, and we give him glory for all of this!
I shot this video this afternoon. This was the first time he had even seen his donuts since we put them away six months ago. Even after everything I have detailed, I was virtually shaking as I showed them to him, anxious that he would do what he had always done and spin, spin, spin. But I had to try and see what would happen!
While I understand this post is far from exhaustive in its scope, I have tried to be as accurate in my information as possible. Information in this post has been gleaned from many sources, many of which have been friends, relatives, and physicians. Some websites and books I have read and recommend include the following:
Gut and Psychology Syndrome
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies
Newhouse Health Solutions