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.