Someday I hope he knows…it was all for him.

I sit before my laptop, as I do most days, clacking away at the keyboard and drinking lukewarm coffee.  It’s pouring outside, and the rain hitting the patio cover sounds like music, ebbing and flowing.  An occasional clap of thunder adds that bass I’m so fond of.

Sam is sitting in the next room with a large puzzle spread out on the table before him.  He is “working”, as he says, and he not at all apologetic about ignoring me as he works.  I, on the other hand, am wracked with guilt.  It’s his summer break.  And the pressure I feel to make it memorable for him is more than I can bear.  Instead, I’m chained to my laptop, compiling a packet of information about our future plans for Good Works Farm I’m to give the realtor in another week.  I asked for 2 weeks to put it together and thus far, I have only completed the cover.

My excuses for not having more of it done include the 4th of July holiday, during which we did nothing.  The real reason is more about writer’s block and feeling overwhelmed than anything tangible.

As most entrepreneurs will tell you, they will work 80 hours a week for themselves so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week for someone else.  But I’m not working for myself and, including the times I’m not working but thinking about good works, I’d have to subtract only the time I’m dreamlessly sleeping as non-working hours.  Does he know?

Does he know I’m doing all of this for him?  Does he know when mom’s distracted or needs one more minute before playing Candyland that I’m only thinking of him?  My older son tells me not to worry about it.  He says Sam couldn’t care less.  But I wonder.  Did it bother Seth when he was younger and I was busy planning the Dayton Autism Society’s 5K or researching autism therapies or taking care of his little brother?  Did he feel slighted?  At least he could comprehend, as a child, what I was busy doing.  Sam can’t.  140

I hope someday Sam will understand.  And I hope he cherishes the time I carve out to help him with his puzzle, draw on the sidewalk with chalk, or play frisbee with him, as much as I do.  I hope all of this is worth it.  Because he definitely is.


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I tried.

As I fried bacon for Sunday morning breakfast, my 26 year-old son walked through the kitchen.

Seth:  “Mom, remember that time it was crazy sock day at school and YOU forgot?”.

Mental eye-roll.  Here we go again.

Me:  “No, I don’t remember that.” I answer honestly.

Seth:  “I called you and you told me to just roll one down.  So there I stood in the front of the class with my pants legs hiked up to show off my crazy socks and the teacher thought I was being a smart-ass and told me to go sit down.”

This memory obviously stuck with him, being humiliated in front of the class.  And how it was MY fault.

Of course it was.

So I apologized for forgetting it was crazy sock day twenty years ago.

Nobody tells you when you become a mom that everything is eventually going to be ALL. YOUR. FAULT.

Rachel still brings up the ONE skit she performed at Girl Scout Camp that I missed.  It wasn’t my day to carpool and I forgot about it.  When she walked in the door that day from camp, she shouted “Why weren’t you there?!?”.  Waves of guilt flooded over me.  I, too, was sorry I missed it.  I would have liked to have seen her perform with her friends.  I apologized for missing it and vowed not to miss anything ever again.  And I pretty much kept that promise.  But that doesn’t erase the one I DID miss.  Ugh.

I’m sure she’s already told her current psychologist all about that.  And the hundreds of other times I let her down without knowing.

children-cartoon1What about all the times I WAS there?  What about the 7,200 lunches I packed for 3 kids over 12 years of school?  What about the hundreds of soccer, t-ball, softball, flags, band, orchestra, school plays, scouts, and chorus activities I did attend?  What about the time you played Stonewall Jackson for your class’ wax museum and I rented you a $100 confederate general uniform to wear for an hour?  What about the sugar cube fort I helped you build because your father had the flu?  What about all the times I volunteered to help at school just to see you give your book report,  enjoy the school carnival, or excel at field day?  What about all the times I snuck into school when parents weren’t invited just to see your presentation on fungus?

I wasn’t a perfect mom.  I have a lot of regrets.  For all of my efforts, I still managed to let my children down.  All I can say in my defense is that I tried.  I really, really tried.

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When Autism doesn’t look like Autism and Seizures don’t look like Seizures

It’s autism awareness month and Sam sure seems to know it.  He’s been spreading autism awareness around town all month, and not in a good way.

Quick:  describe what autism looks like.  Okay, now describe what seizures look like.

I would venture to guess you’re wrong on both counts.

By working with a functional medicine MD and through good nutrition, clean living, and the right supplementation, we’ve been able to take Sam from the kind of autism that nobody wants to talk about to the kind of autism nobody can see.  Upon first glance, Sam may appear totally typical.  And that’s where the problem begins.  Sam APPEARS totally typical but he’s anything but.

With the right accommodations, Sam has been able to participate in many activities everyone else takes for granted.  So at the end of last season, we purchased tickets to the Family Series at the Victoria Theatre.  We did make a special request for box seats because if he were to have a seizure, we wouldn’t want to disrupt the entire show, and because he’s terrified when the lights go completely out…the box seat area has its own light that stays on.  Upon discovering a genetic reason for his seizures, we started some new amino acid supplements.  Any change can bring undesired consequences, even if they’re a sign of good things happening (more cognition can mean more behaviors), and we have been seeing an increase in his anxiety level and short fuse.   He was agitated as we entered the theatre.  It was crowded and noisy.  Still, we made our way to our seats and he finally settled in to watch the performance of “The Cat in the Hat”.  This was not the sensory-friendly showing, scheduled for the following day.  This was part of our series.  When the show finished, they did a Q&A session.  We should have left before then.  Just as they dismissed everyone, Sam loudly growled “HOME NOW!”, which terrified the little girl and her mother in the adjacent box seats.  They fled.  We reminded him we were going to Kroger, his favorite place, but it was too late.  He was in full meltdown mode.  He crumpled into a ball on the floor and we waited.  And waited.  Each time we checked on him, he was still growling loudly.  It became evident we were just going to have to go for it.  In hindsight, I wish we had waited until the theater was completely cleared out, but we started on our way.  The whole way out, he growled, yelled, and huffed.  People stared.  People backed away.  I’m used to the stares.  I just focus on my job and ignore them all.  I’d probably be staring too, if I were them.  I was embarrassed, disappointed, and frustrated.  So was my husband.  But we walked silently to our car, Sam following loudly behind us.  Then it hit me.  Sensory-friendly performances are really code for meltdown-friendly.  Nobody wants to see the behaviors they were witnessing from Sam.  Let’s create a performance just for them.  While I appreciate these special nights, it’s not because Sam can enjoy it, it’s so that if he has behaviors or melts down, nobody cares.  At least we aren’t humiliated.  This strikes me as ironic knowing that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have goals of embedding everyone into the community at large.  They want everyone in group homes of no more than 4 people to a home, side by side with everyone else.  Except that the world isn’t sensory-friendly.  Nor is it meltdown-friendly.  And then there’s the NIMBY (not in my back yard) mentality.  It’s a good idea until you want to put a group home right next door.

My concern for Sam’s safety, being embedded in the community at large, grows daily.  Yesterday, we were at our regular Kroger.  I was in the produce aisle looking at herbs.  I turned in time to see Sam aggressively pushing an older gentleman’s cart away from the man.  The man was saying “Oh, you want to push the cart?”.  Sam was having a seizure.  I rushed over and got on the opposite side of the cart.  I told the man that he was having a seizure, then turned to Sam.  “Wait, Sam.  Wait.”, I was saying.  He was looking right through me.  “Wait”, he said, but he kept pushing with all his strength.  I held my ground.  After a minute or so, I could see he was coming back to himself.  I pointed to our cart and he let go of the man’s cart.  I pushed it back over to him and apologized, hooked my arm in Sam’s and walked him back to our cart.  Sam doesn’t look autistic and his seizures don’t look like seizures. What if that hadn’t been an elderly gentleman with patience?  What if it had been someone who took Sam’s behavior as aggression and hit him or shot him?  What if we’re not someplace where they know him?  What if I’m not with him?  Sam is 6’2″ tall with a full beard.  It’s not a stretch to think his behaviors could be misinterpreted.

My heart breaks every time I’m reminded how dangerous the world really is for him.  I don’t want to lock him up and isolate him from the world but I do want to create a safe space where he can be free to be himself.  That’s what I see when I think of the farm we’re building.  I see Sam living among friends and family, free to step outside his home (monitored), to explore the barn, visit with the animals, work the greenhouses, eat in the community center…to be independent to the extent he is capable of being, but still safe.  Of course he’ll still do many things in town but his home…his home should be a safe space.  Safe to yell, meltdown, or whatever he happens to be going through at the time.

While businesses seem to get the fact that sensory-friendly or meltdown-friendly versions of their offerings are appreciated for the fact that our kids can be themselves, government is pushing the other direction.  Doesn’t make sense to me.


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It takes a village…

“It takes a village”.  That overused phrase really does apply when it comes to our children, especially our special needs children.  Parents simply cannot do everything it takes to help their child succeed on their own.  It’s with humility and gratitude, and often more than a little bit of embarrassment, that we accept that help.  I pretend to be superwoman.  I tell myself I can do it all.  I believe I can sing my way through my day like Mary Poppins handling crisis after crisis while making it all look effortless, my smile never leaving my face.  In reality, many days are a struggle just to hold it together.  I feel I’m failing at everything I am doing, from not spending enough time with my children to being ill equipped to run a nonprofit.  I can’t do it all.  Not by myself.  God knows this.  He encourages me to believe I can do anything he has set before me, and then He sends me help.

This past Thursday evening, Sam had the opportunity to walk with his graduating class at UD Arena.  It was probably one of the most emotional times of my life.  I’ve cried more happy tears this past week than I probably ever have.  Tears of joy to see him with his peers and enjoying himself.  Tears of gratitude for the many people who have helped him get here.  The list is long, and if I start naming names, I’ll invariably leave someone extremely important out.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably on that list.

Just like his peers, Sam has come a long way.  And like his peers, he has a long way to go.  I’m often too close to the situation to see how competent he truly is.  I still want to protect him.  To hover and be there should he need me.  I live with PTSD from Sam’s rage days and I constantly worry he’s going to unleash on some unsuspecting “villager”.  I worry about how they’ll react.  If they’ll know what to do.  Graduation gave me a whole new perspective on my son.  His “people” aren’t holding their breath waiting for his rage to flare.  They aren’t concerned when his volume begins to increase and he begins repeating phrases loudly as the anxiety rises.  They believe he is competent and able, and treat him as such.  And because of this, he is successful.

One of the people in Sam’s village that made Thursday possible is a friend he’s had since preschool, Jake Shockley.  Jake has been there for Sam all along (below is the letter I sent to the Eagle Scout review board regarding Jake).  Jake volunteered to walk Sam through graduation, forfeiting the spotlight, to make sure Sam could participate to his fullest extent.  On graduation night, Sam had already endured a 3-hour practice that morning, horse therapy that afternoon that included a seizure, and was back for the “big show”.  He was tired.  I was tired.  And he WAS NOT going to put on the cap.  When Jake walked in, I literally tagged him and said “Tag, you’re it.  He’s not wearing the cap.”.  Without hesitation, Jake said “Okay, we got this.” and I left him with Sam.  After a while, I texted Jake to see if Sam was okay.  The response back didn’t make sense “Yeah, she’s fine.”, but I thought maybe it was a typo and I relaxed.  Two days later, I learned I texted the wrong person who is dating a girl named Sam.  Jake never got the message.
When the boys marched out with the class, my heart melted.  He was, indeed, wearing the cap, and he was all smiles.  He was having the time of his life.  And I had nothing to do with it.  His village had his back (and mine) once again.


May 6, 2016

Miami Valley Council, BSA

7285 Poe Avenue

Dayton, OH 45414


Attention:  Eagle Reference Letter

For: Jake Shockley, Troop 274

Dear Eagle Scout Board,

I have known Jake Shockley for about 12 years.  He and my son, Sam, were in kindergarten together.  From a very young age, Jake has been a friend to Sam, who has autism.  He would help him navigate school, be his reading buddy, and was ready to defend him should another student attempt to make fun of, or bully, Sam.  Jake has never seemed embarrassed by Sam’s behaviors or the fact that Sam is different.  He takes Sam at face value and appreciates him for who he is.

Jake and his family invited Sam to be part of their Cub Scout troop, and because it was a typical troop with kids who didn’t know Sam, I was hesitant.  I shouldn’t have been.  Jake and the other scouts have been warm, welcoming, and inclusive, modifying their activities to accommodate Sam whenever possible.  When another scout parent suggested that maybe Sam would be “happier” in a special needs troop, Jake and his parents made it clear that if Sam leaves the troop, so would they.  As much as Jake loves scouts, he loves Sam more.  As the parent of a special needs child, all you want is for them to feel loved and included.  Thanks to Jake, Sam does.

Jake volunteered to help Sam earn badges and worked with him after school to learn to tie knots (especially his shoes!), pack to go camping, and other badge requirements.  After a little work, they would go out and play frisbee as a reward, one of Sam’s favorite activities.  Jake has also taken time to come over and hang out with Sam and play video games when he learned Sam has no other friends.  When the scout troop would do special projects like a car wash, clean out the storage unit, or clean up after a gathering, Jake made sure Sam had a job he would be successful in and then empowered him to accomplish the task on his own.  He understood that Sam’s capable of doing many things and encouraged him to be independent, which gave Sam a feeling of self-worth.  Jake and his soccer team volunteer at the special needs summer camp where Sam attends and adopted Sam as one of the players, awarding him his own jersey.                      As high school comes to a close, it will be Jake walking with Sam across the stage to receive his diploma.  He’s been with Sam all these years and it’s a testament to his loyalty that he’s also going to be with him to share graduation.  The impact Jake has had on Sam’s life is profound.  Jake embodies all the things the Scout Oath and Law represent.  I wish there were a way for us to recognize what Jake has done for Sam because I don’t think he’ll ever fully realize all that he’s done for him, or for us.  It may not have seemed like much to Jake, but it’s meant the world to Sam.

Jake is a true Boy Scout in every sense of the word and deserves to receive his Eagle Scout award.  He’s an amazing young man.


Nancy Bernotaitis





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April is Autism Awareness Month.  Autism Speaks has a huge campaign called “Light it Up Blue” in which they encourage everyone to wear blue and cast blue lights on front porches, buildings, and monuments.  They say it’s to raise awareness.  In reality, it’s to raise money.  But more on that later.

Every month with autism is difficult but April, and this campaign in particular, makes it that much more difficult.  You see, when I think of the color blue in relation to autism, here’s where my mind and heart go.

BLUE:  The color my baby was when he was born.  It was the first time in his life, conventional medicine failed him.  It wouldn’t be the last.  The umbilical cord was in a true knot.  But because we had to wait on the doctor to arrive so I could push (and he could get paid), Sam was deprived of oxygen for far too long.  And because the internal monitor that was supposed to be attached to the baby was actually attached to me, the monitors didn’t alert that there was an issue.  After he was born, he did not receive any intervention, and at my insistence, they tried to gloss the crisis over with “He’ll pink up, mama.”.  On day one, my compromised little boy received his first injection of Hepatitis B to protect him from sharing needles or having unprotected sex in the hospital nursery.  His APGAR scores were falsified and his medical records were mysteriously missing when we requested them.   So when I think about blue and autism, I see my beautiful baby boy who was the victim of medical malpractice I will never be able to prove.

BLUE:  The campaigns in April that profit off of our kids in the name of awareness.  Do you know how many kids could be recovered or at least their quality of life greatly improved with the millions that Autism Speaks pays their CEO, alone?  Yet, families just like mine are encouraged to wear blue, put a blue light bulb on their front porch, and raise funds to….what….make more people aware that autism is an epidemic and Speaks is profiting off it?  How about putting some of your greed toward treatments that actually work?  Educating people about cleaning up our food supply, our homes, our environment for prevention?  How about kicking Monsanto to the curb for poisoning our food supply and in turn, poisoning us?  And don’t even get me started on those cookies Panera Bread is promoting that have the cute little blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece on them. gives them an “F”.  Not only are they full of gluten and casein which act as morphine in our kid’s brains, but contain genetically-modified wheat, corn, artificial colors and flavors, and are high in sugar and saturated fat.  They are poison.   But if you buy your cute little cookies and put your blue light bulb on your porch, somehow you’re supposedly helping.  Beware of false prophets taking home big profits.

BLUE:  The feeling that 500,000 parents have when they realize that not only do services stop when the bus stops coming, but there is no plan for their children as they age out of the school system.  80% of adults with autism now live with their parents with no meaningful work or socialization in their lives.  Another half a million kids are aging out of the school system within the next 10 years and the government is hard at work to limit the range of choices for community living even further.   Ignoring this population isn’t making the problem go away.  In fact, it’s growing.  An MIT researcher recently stated that by 2025 (10 years) 1 in 2 will have an autism diagnosis.  50% of our population will have an autism spectrum disorder.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  While some will go on to live independently and be able to hold down a job and navigate the world, the majority will not.  Where will they live, work, socialize?  Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”.    So far, we are failing miserably.

So no.  I will not be “Lighting it Up Blue”.  Every day is Autism Awareness Day in our home thanks to greed and indifference.  And I’d rather spend my time and money trying to improve the health of my child, the children we treat at our autism center, and create a place where my child can thrive as an adult.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if Autism Speaks, Panera Bread, Monsanto, and other corporations would join me?  Well, I can tell you, they won’t.  But you can.  You can vote with your dollars.  You can invest in organizations that are actually helping families living with autism.  You can purchase non-GMO products.  You can create awareness campaigns that don’t line the pockets of multi-millionaires.  Something has to change and we have the power to make that change.  Know where your money is going.  Look at who’s backing the politicians you support.  How did they vote in the past?  Stand against Monsanto and companies who are destroying our food supply, our planet, our children, and our future.  Feel like you’re too small to make a difference?  You’re not.  Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead.

Nancy Bernotaitis, Author, 4.22.15

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The ATEC score


In August of 2013, we were going through hell.  Sam’s behavior was at its worst, kicking out three windshields on our vehicles within a matter of two months.  He was self-injurious, aggressive, in a constant state of angst.  They say a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child, so you can imagine what the rest of the family was going through.  I felt like I had failed my boy.  I had tried everything I could think of to help him but nothing was working.  He was getting worse and worse.  He was so unhappy.  Would he be happier placed outside the home? I wondered.  He was getting too big for me to handle.  I worried about his safety.  Maybe he’d be safer someplace else.  If giving him up would save him, I’d do it in an instant.  But I wasn’t sure.  It was about that time that I took an online assessment called the ATEC (Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist).  It’s free, put out there by the Autism Research Institute as a measure of the effectiveness of treatment.  I didn’t have a treatment I was planning to start, I just wanted to see where we were.  The lower the number, the better, as the numbers indicate how autism is interfering with everyday life.  The results were disheartening.  He scored 111.  We knew things were bad but now we knew how bad.

It was October of that year that I began working with Kara and Integrated Connections was born.  Through her, I found the strength and motivation to once-again try the diet we had long-ago abandoned.  But this time, we got the entire family on board.  We removed gluten and casein.  We began to read labels and choose foods with the least amount of ingredients.  Things we could actually pronounce.  We removed artificial dyes and flavors.  We looked for organic, non-GMO products.  We stopped buying soda.  We learned how to purchase, prepare, and eat real food again.  We stopped going to fast food restaurants.  We drank filtered water. We had fruit or nuts for a snack.  We tossed out all of our plastic and teflon and replaced it with glass.  We began to replace our cleaning and personal care products with a healthier version.  We began to build upon success.  The weight that had been so difficult to lose in the past began to fall off my husband and myself.  We felt as if we had been in a deep trance brought on by highly-processed foods and were waking up to the reality that we had been tricked.  That wasn’t food we were eating.  It was garbage.  Without that garbage, my acid reflux began to improve.  I stopped taking my daily Prevacid.  When I did have a minor flare, I popped a homeopathic reflux remedy and it was gone again.  I can’t remember the last time I had to do that.

We began that process a little over a year ago.  We know we’re all in a much better place than we were just a year ago but to see how much better Sam is doing, I decided yesterday to take the ATEC again.  When it calculated the score, I wondered if I had done something wrong.  It said 31.  80 points difference in a year?  I began to cry.  I knew things were better, but I had been so close to it, I couldn’t see how much better.  Now I had proof that the changes made a difference.  A HUGE difference.

Speech Language/Communication went from 14 to 8

Sociability 23 to 6

Sensory/Cognitive Awareness from 23 to 6

Health/Physical/Behavior from 51 to 11

51 to 11!  Wow!  And we’ve done no other interventions during that time, other than change our diet, lifestyle, and a couple of sessions with the PT for craniosacral therapy.  All through Integrated Connections.  That’s it.

When we explain the method to new families, it seems too simple to work.  They look at us like…”And…?”  We wish we could make it more exciting or complicated, but the truth is, nutrition and lifestyle are the FOUNDATION upon which we build everything else.  And it takes time to do it correctly.  It has taken more than a year of JUST improving our diet and lifestyle to get to this point.  But wow, what a change.  111 to 31.

It’s not always easy for people to appreciate the impact that diet/lifestyle can make and we know it’s not always easy to change your diet/lifestyle.  Some people have a strong attachment to certain foods and feel like they cannot give them up.  Especially if they have a picky eater.  Believe me, I know.  Sam would only eat goldfish crackers and drink cow’s milk as a toddler.  We had expanded his palate to include chicken nuggets and pizza but he wouldn’t move beyond those staples.  Now he eats anything, including sauerkraut, oatmeal, salad, and raw veggies.  When their tummies begin to heal, they begin to try new foods.  The diet hasn’t limited his choices, it’s opened up a whole new world of foods he would have never touched before.  And his health has improved to the point that he’s ready for the next layer of interventions.  The foundation has been set.  It’s solid. And because we now have a solid foundation to build upon, it’s time to take it up a notch.  We’re now working with a Functional Medicine Physician who specializes in autism.  We aren’t stopping the diet/lifestyle and trying something different, we’re building upon success.  That foundation will always be there.  This is how we eat and live now.  And it’s awesome!  I don’t feel deprived by not having the twinkie or Big Mac.  I don’t want the twinkie or Big Mac.  And Sam must not either because he stopped asking for fast food a long time ago.  That’s not food.  That doesn’t nourish our bodies.  Whole, real food, minimally-processed, organic, healthy.  That’s the secret to our success.

It’s not the latest, greatest fad that’s going to bring your child out of autism.  It’s getting the right foundation in place and building upon that with the right interventions at the right time.  And it works.  The ATEC doesn’t lie. 

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Fifteen years ago, when Sam was first diagnosed with autism, the biomedical movement was just getting a toe-hold. There were still a lot of misconceptions about the disorder:
• There’s no cure.
• It’s a psychological/neurological disorder.
• Nobody knows what causes it.
• There’s nothing you can do, just learn to live with it.

In the time that has passed, we have learned the above statements to be absolutely false.

• We have a pretty good understanding of the cause.
• We understand that it’s a medical disorder that affects the entire body.
• There’s a LOT you can do to remediate or even eliminate symptoms.
• Many children have experienced a managed recovery from autism.

It seems the only ones still believing the misconceptions are the pediatricians and diagnosticians. It’s unfortunate because they are in the perfect position to guide families toward prevention and treatments that really do address why the child is sick. In their defense, they don’t get an education in treating autism appropriately unless they seek it out for themselves, and few without a personal connection to autism usually do. Without a complete understanding, they can’t wrap their heads around this multi-systemic, complex disorder. They are taught to treat one symptom with one pill. Period.

So when you go to your pediatrician with a symptom, here’s how they view it:
• He’s not sleeping = Ambien (yes, it is only approved for adults but given to children 33% of the time).
• He’s constipated = Miralax
• He’s anxious = Zoloft
• He’s hyperactive = Ritalin
See the pattern here?

It’s far too time-consuming for them to research and learn on their own so they do what they know.
ferrari owners manual

But think about it. Would you take your very expensive, high-performance Ferrari to Bill’s garage down on the corner to get it fixed? No, because Bill can’t possibly understand the complexities of a high performance sports car. Your child with autism is like a high performance sports car. He or she is very important. He or she is also very complicated. That’s why there is a specialty area of medicine just for treating autism. It used to be called DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!). It’s now called MedMaps (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs)

But there’s something else you should know. MedMaps physicians are very busy, as you can imagine, and often do not accept insurance. Some can charge up to $380/hour, making them out of reach for most people.

So what’s a reasonable alternative, you might ask? Well, we are. Integrated Connections. As you learned earlier, most professionals in the field of autism got there because they have a loved one on the spectrum. They were motivated to truly learn about the disorder and how to treat it. Kara and I are both parents of a child with autism and were highly motivated to understand autism and how to successfully treat it. Kara’s son is living in managed recovery, meaning, he is virtually indistinguishable from his peers but his body still needs support to maintain that level of recovery. My son is also making great strides toward recovery. We know that biomedical interventions work. Conventional medicine simply did not.

And because we understand what it’s like to struggle with autism, to not find answers in traditional medicine, and unable to afford the specialty doctors, we have built a unique treatment center that guides families down the road toward recovery. We have assembled a team of professionals that include all the pieces to a managed recovery plan:
• A MedMaps physician who looks at the genetics and biochemistry to understand and treat the real MEDICAL problems.
• A certified health coach to help families understand the role food plays in health.
• A structural/sensory PT to diagnose and treat underlying structural issues.
• A psychologist to help families deal with the diagnosis and issues it brings to the family.
and perhaps most importantly,
• A parent who has been there before you to guide you every single step of the way.
And we make it affordable. Insurance companies understand that autism is complicated. That’s why they refuse to cover treatment. It would literally bankrupt them. But we have some creative ways to help you afford the treatment that your child needs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

We are changing the way autism is being understood, addressed, and treated. We are part of an autism revolution. We don’t believe that autism is something to be managed, but rather treated and eliminated. It’s no longer acceptable to follow blindly what your pediatrician is telling you. They treat Buicks. You have a Ferrari. It’s time to find someone who understands Ferraris. We do.

Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” We now know better. It’s time to do better. And we can help. Give us a call and schedule your one-hour intake appointment with us. It will be the best $50 you’ve ever spent. 937-428-5669.

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How I lost my son to Autism via Traditional Medicine and how Complementary Medicine is bringing him back

During our last, and final, well-child visit to our Pediatrician, my 16 year-old son sat in the chair beside me, nervously petting his service dog and asking to leave.  The doctor was finished with looking in his ears and throat, doing a visual check that he had all his body parts intact, and that his privates were where they were supposed to be.  As he checked off items in Sam’s chart, I knew it was coming.

“Well, Sam seems healthy (no, doctor, he’s far from healthy).  He’s due for his booster shots and he should probably get the HPV vaccine today, as well.”.  I burst out laughing.  It’s absurd for anyone to suggest that my vaccine-injured child should receive ANY vaccines, but the Gardisil vaccine?  You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no'”, he said, marking the chart accordingly.  I hope he wrote “hell no”.

By the time I left, I was no longer laughing.  I was furious.  How many parents are just blindly trusting that their doctor has their child’s best interest at heart?  How many would have accepted those vaccines, including HPV?

I have a lot of guilt surrounding my son’s autism and my blind faith in doctors.  I believe with all my heart that Sam is the way he is because doctors have failed him repeatedly, starting at birth.  An incorrectly placed internal monitor failed to alert anyone that Sam’s cord was in a true knot.  Immediately following birth, my very, very blue baby was not taken to NICU nor given oxygen.  He was still given the Hep-B vaccine on Day 1.  Regardless of circumstances, his inoculations remained on schedule.  He was delayed at meeting every milestone but following his eighteen month vaccines, we lost him completely.  He stopped making eye contact and he went into his own little world.

I should have connected what happened to me as a child with my own children.  When I was a little over a year old, I received my vaccines, one of them being Polio.  I stopped walking and screamed when I was stood on my feet.  I was hospitalized for nearly a month.  Nobody knew what was wrong with me.  I had to re-learn how to crawl and walk.  Later, as a middle-schooler, I received a Measles vaccine and got a double-dose of Measles.  My mother said ‘no more vaccines for this one’ and she fought the school system every year.  She was a pioneer in the safe-vaccine movement without even knowing it.

But I didn’t make the connection.  I trusted the doctors.  I didn’t know I had a choice.  In Ohio, you can decline to vaccinate based on medical, religious, or philosophical reasons.  You just check a box.  Every state is different so if you’re not in Ohio, check for your state’s regulations.

I’m not an anti-vaxxer.  I believe there are a few (very few) vaccines that are a good idea.  Families have to weigh the risk with the benefits and decide for themselves.  I believe it’s important to do your own research and to understand why you’re doing something before you can agree to do it.  A great place to start to understand the vaccine movement in this country and the idea behind herd immunity is to watch Vaccine Nation.  It’s an hour and a half long and is available to watch free via that link.  Then to learn what’s in the vaccines and to understand the risks before agreeing to them, I’d suggest the National Vaccine Information Center.  It’s also the place to report vaccine injury if you believe you or your child have been a victim.

Time and time again, traditional medical practitioners have let me and my son down.  As a result, I find myself turning to alternative medicine (which in China is just called medicine) to fix what traditional medicine has broken.  We are lucky that we have a relatively safe emergency medical system in this country.  If my child breaks his leg or falls very ill, of course we’re going to the doctor or hospital.  That’s what they’re good at.  What they’re not good at, is holistic medicine, or looking at the whole person and deciding the least-invasive way of dealing with the issues.  They are taught, one illness=1 pill.  Diabetes=Insulin.  High Cholesterol=Statins.

Autism is a complex, whole-body medical disorder.


Doctors have tried to treat his anxiety with a pill.  His constipation with a pill.  His behavior with a pill.  His lack of sleep with a pill.  It doesn’t work that way.

Doctors who ARE starting to get it are popping up here and there.  You can find a list of them on  Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), also referred to as Integrative Health, is a rapidly growing field of professionals who are open to healthcare approaches outside the mainstream medicine.  This form of medicine is especially useful in people who have a multi-system disorder, such as autism.

It took me far longer than it should have to wake up.  It was at that pediatrician appointment that it finally hit me.  He doesn’t get it.  He would have willingly given my male child a vaccine that only protects his female sexual partner from a virus that may or may not cause cervical cancer.  Nevermind the fact that he will probably never have a girlfriend or be intimate with anyone.  Wake up call.  What the hell am I doing here?

I now work at Integrated Connections.  Integrated Connections is the brain child of Kara Badgley, the mother who was told to plan on institutionalizing her very severely affected child by the time he was seven years-old.  She refused to accept that there was nothing she could do for him and began to research why he was so sick.  With each new intervention, she was pulling her son out of autism.  He’s now mainstreamed, indistinguishable among his peers, playing soccer and attending birthday parties.  She considers him in managed recovery.  Sometime along the journey, she made a promise to God.  If Z got well, she would turn around and help others coming behind her.  He did.  And she is.

There’s a method to remediating the symptoms of autism and it doesn’t come in the form of a pill.  It comes in the form of a healthy diet, clean lifestyle, supporting the child’s immune system, and addressing compromised body systems.  It takes a balanced approach of CAM and sometimes pharmaceuticals to address yeast, bacteria, Lyme, etc.  If we were selling the latest, greatest quick fix, everyone would be snatching it up.  They want easy.  They was fast.  They want someone else to fix their child.  Well guess what?  There is no easy, fast fix for autism.  It takes a buy-in from the entire family and a commitment to follow the plan.  But the plan works.

We nearly lost Sam.  Integrated Connections is bringing him back.

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A letter to my son’s Gastroenterologist

Dear Gastroenterology team,

You’re fired.  Want to know why?  My son was recently admitted to the hospital with a bowel obstruction.  You see, we’ve battled constipation all his life. Early on, if he got backed up, we’d give him a suppository or enema to get things moving. Those interventions are no longer possible for a 17 year-old with autism.  A few years ago, we saw a doctor in your department who prescribed Miralax.  Capfuls and capfuls of Miralax until his bowels moved.  Daily doses of Miralax to keep things “regular”.  Do you know it’s not “regular” to pump your child full of a chemical called “Polyethylene Glycol” (antifreeze is Ethylene Glycol) to make his bowels move everyday?  Do you know when you regularly use an artificial method to move the bowels that they get “lazy” and stop functioning on their own?  And did you know that if you “rush” things through the system, vital nutrients get flushed out of the body before they can be absorbed?  The only thing being absorbed through my son’s permeable gut was probably the Polyethylene Glycol you say is too big to be absorbed and therefore deemed “safe”.  This is just guessing on your part.  You have no idea what that chemical is doing to his body.

Back to the emergency at hand.  As we were waiting for you to come in with the x-rays, I heard you in the hallway talking.  I heard the word “surgery”.  I looked at my son, lying there on the gurney, his feet hanging off the end because he is so tall.  He was absolutely miserable.  Guilt swept over me.  Maybe if I had just given him those daily doses of Miralax, we wouldn’t be here right now.  We were presented with the options and we chose the lesser of the evils.  More laxatives.  You fed a nasogastric tube into his nose, down his throat, and into his stomach.  Then you began pumping in laxatives.  And we waited.  Anytime I would look away from him, he would try to pull the tube out.  I stayed awake for 40 hrs. straight staring at my son.  When family came to relieve us so I could get a bite to eat, he immediately pulled out the tube and we had to endure it being placed again.  When the laxatives began working, we were both relieved.  No surgery.  The nurses at the hospital are saints, by the way, for dealing with the messes in such a cheery manner.  They never once made Sam feel bad and they maintained as much of his dignity as they could.  Three days later, we were cleared to go home.  Crisis averted.  I do thank you for helping us to avoid surgery.  We were sent home with specific orders:  a capful of Miralax morning and night.  High fiber foods.  Lots of water.

It did seem odd to me that at no time during our hospital stay did anyone ask what his typical diet is.  What other medications or supplements he was taking that might be causing the issues.  Or whether or not he had been checked for yeast, candida, or parasites.  I chalked it up to the emergency status of the situation and assumed this would be covered at our follow-up appointment.  

Three weeks later, the follow-up appointment was rushed.  You didn’t ask about his diet, medications and supplements, or yeast.  Instead, you suggested a sedated test to be sure the nerves were working properly so that he feels the urge to go.  I know he feels the urge to go…I catch him all the time sitting on his foot withholding his stool.  It felt like you were chalking everything up to his autism.  Like it’s “normal” for autistics to have compromised guts.  It’s “normal” for them to have withholding behaviors.  It’s “normal” for them to be admitted to the hospital for cleanouts on a regular basis.  Some parents I’ve talked with have them built into their schedules!  They know that about every 3 months, they’re going to have a hospitalized cleanout.  This is insane!  

Yet, we followed your advice because as much as I hate the laxatives, I hate for my child to be in pain and hospitalized a lot more.  But still, a month later, we were fearing another hospital stay.  The increase in fiber, water, and Miralax wasn’t moving things.  He was sitting after every meal, taking advantage of the natural contractions of the intestines following intake of food.  I begged to do the cleanout at home and you relented.  He drank a whole bottle of Miralax mixed with diluted juice and took two Dulcolax.  The cleanout was “successful”.  But it felt like failure.  Having to rely on a chemical to move your bowels is not normal!  And what was it doing to his body?  This kid’s methylation pathway is compromised.  He doesn’t detox well.  What was happening to all the chemicals I was pumping into him?

It’s mind-boggling to me that a Gastroenterology team based out of Children’s Medical Center, who treat children for a living, never once asked about his diet, his meds/supps, or pathogens in the GI tract.  You don’t seem interested in getting to the root of the problem, only throwing laxatives at it.  This is not a fix.  It’s a band-aid.  A very poor band-aid.  

So once again, I had to take matters into my own hands and do my own research.  Sam is taking Nystatin now to address his Candida overgrowth in his gut.  Candida is a major contributor to constipation.  If you don’t address it, it simply gets worse.  Did you learn that in medical school?  Did you learn that some kids can’t eat green beans, the #1 food you recommended, because they have high Oxalates?  Sam has high Oxalates.  In fact, many of the foods you suggested he can’t eat.  But you never asked about any of his lab work, did you?  Did you know that sugar and corn feed yeast?  Did you know that mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps kill Candida and improves gut health?

And this one might shock you…did you know that there are natural ways to address constipation?  I know, mind blown, right?  Laxatives are not a cure for our kid’s compromised guts.  We have changed Sam’s diet to now include fermented foods.  Bet you didn’t know they’re good for gut health.  We also started giving Sam Magnesium Citrate and Aloe Vera Juice, both natural laxatives and good for you.  He takes digestive enzymes and probiotics.  We’re working on healing his gut, improving his diet, supplementing with natural bowel supports, and modifying his behavior.  He automatically sits now after every meal and more often than not, has success.  I haven’t seen the withholding behaviors since we got things moving naturally.  

We still get nervous from time to time and consider adding a capful of Miralax, or as recently as yesterday, consider a full cleanout.  But instead, doubled the dose of Magnesium Citrate and gave two capsules of Smooth Move (natural Senna and herbs to stimulate bowel activity), and do you know what we got?  Shit.  We got a lot of shit this morning.  And a happy boy.

I don’t understand your motivation for simply prescribing laxatives.  Does it increase the odds of repeat customers?  Do you treat typical children differently than the autistic ones?  If you just assume their compromised guts are part of their autism, you’re right and you’re wrong.  Yes, most kids with autism have compromised guts (either chronic constipation or chronic diarrhea), but it’s not normal.  And it can be treated.  Yes it takes time and patience, and a better understanding of why their guts are compromised.  It takes some lab tests to understand the pathogens and unique challenges faced by these kids.  But it can be done.  It should be done.  You took an oath to “first do no harm”.  By slapping a band-aid on these kids you are doing harm.  And no parent should just stand by and let you do it.  I, for one, will not.


Nancy Bernotaitis

Sam’s mom


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Major Food Rant ahead.

This post is purely motivated by frustration so stick with me here. I need to get this out.
What the hell is wrong with people? I mean, seriously? I’m very befuddled.  I would appreciate some insight.

We showed this video of Sam at the Second Annual Biomedical Conference sponsored by Integrated Connections.  It’s his transition into school before and after diet change, supplementation, and biomedical interventions.  The change is remarkable, wouldn’t you agree?

So why are people so resistant to change?  Why would they rather give their child pharmaceuticals (psych drugs) that may or may not mask the behavior, that come with horrible side-effects, and that have not been proven safe or effective on our CHILDREN?  Why are they treating a medical condition like a mental condition?

I’m speaking from experience here.  We tried the pharmaceutical route.  He’s been on at least twelve different medications at one time or another.  We experienced side effects ranging from weight gain and food obsession to Sam complaining of “leg shaking”.  What we didn’t see was a reduction in the dangerous behaviors.  And if we had?  It would have only been masking the real problem, Sam’s body is sick.  

The medical community has it all wrong.  First of all, the DSM-V has autism categorized as a mental disorder.  It’s not.  The inflammation, toxic body burden, gut dysbiosis, and nutritional deficiencies cause the child to stim, act out, scream, bang their head, and prevent them from communicating appropriately.  All the pharmaceuticals in the world aren’t going to heal the gut, reduce the toxins, or replace nutrients they aren’t able to absorb through their permeable intestines.  What are the long-term effects?  We don’t know.  They’re using your child as a guinea pig.

Why is a change in diet so scary?  Again, speaking from experience, we had the typical, if not slightly worse, American diet.  We ate more than our share of fast food.  A home-cooked meal for us was a frozen banquet meal with a side of instant mashed potatoes, a few peas thrown in for color.  We gave cookies and donuts as treats and rewards for not hurting anyone or kicking out the windshield at therapy.  So I’m not some tree-hugging, salad-eating, yogi whose been doing a clean diet forever.  I’m a fairly new convert.  And, surprise!  It wasn’t that difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision and getting started.  

What made it 1000 times easier was working with a Certified Health Coach who also understands that change can be scary.  She believes in taking it one small, do-able change at a time.  Are people that full of MSG that they are physically unable to give up the foods that are making them ill?  Kinda sounds like a meth addict, doesn’t it?  

I can’t believe the push back I’ve gotten from some people.  I have a relative who is in the food industry.  His one-year old has eczema.  Eczema is a sign your body is sending you that something is amiss.  Usually a food intolerance.  He flat-out refuses to consider the possibility that his child might have an intolerance to food.  He’d rather treat the eczema with steroids.  Wouldn’t it be easier to remove corn?  or sugar?  or whatever the offending food is?  And fix the problem for good?

I have a friend with chronic health conditions including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatique Syndrome, Arthritis, and pre-Diabetes.  Refuses dietary change although there are days she cannot get out of bed and it’s well-known that auto-immune issues are directly linked to diet. She has a real chance at an improved quality of life, but will not change what she eats.  

When I was a child, we ate food.  Mom cooked real food, in its most basic form.  Meat, beans, vegetables, fruit.  It’s only when we began frequenting fast food and convenience foods that mom and dad’s health began to decline dramatically.  Obesity.  Arthritis.  High Blood Pressure.  Heart Disease.  Strokes.  Disability.  Directly related to food.

If you’re having trouble changing your diet or losing weight, it’s not entirely your fault.  The food industry adds chemicals to their foods to make you crave more of them.  MSG is just one of the offending chemicals.  They call it a flavor enhancer but it truly serves no other purpose than to cause you to want more.  I don’t know about you, but that pisses me off.  If the food was good to begin with, I’d want more just because it was good.  Take a good hard look at the foods in your refrigerator and pantry right now.  Read the labels.  High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Carageenan.  Wheat.  Monosodium Glutamate.  Sugar, glucose, fructose.  Maltodextrin.  Dyes.  Artificial flavors.  Preservatives.  YOU DO NOT NEED THESE THINGS FOR GOOD HEALTH, and in fact, they are ruining your health.

How many of you exercise on a regular basis?  Why?  Are you trying to lose weight?  Are you trying to get healthy?  Do you want to live longer?  Do you realize that you’re doing all that work for nothing if you don’t change the fuel you put into your body?  

After we changed what we eat, my husband lost 60 lbs.  By eating clean meats, organic fruits and veggies, and drinking clean, fresh water.  He feels better now than he has in YEARS.  How do I know?  Because he doesn’t cheat.  He doesn’t want the garbage anymore.  It doesn’t taste good.  He’s no longer addicted to the crap.  The golden arches look like a skull and crossbones to us now.  We drive right on by.

Thanks for letting me vent.  I just get so frustrated when I can see the proof that diet change does work and then get such resistance from the people I care about most in the world.  I want EVERYONE to feel as good as I do.  I want everyone to start eating real food again.  I want our kids to feel better.  I want to shut down Monstanto and what they’re doing to us.  Genetically-modified food is not making more food to feed the world.  It’s killing us.  

You’re either going to spend the money buying wholesome, healthy foods, or you’re going to spend a fortune paying doctors to prescribe more and more drugs to mask what the crappy food has caused in your body.  Your choice.




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