Dr. Angela Agrios, ND
My very talented Naturopathic Doctor
She treats a wide variety of conditions
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Los Angeles, CA (Pacific Palisades)
Child Fully Recovered with Biomedical Treatment Interview with Holly Riley, Parent of Fully Recovered Autistic Child
My son Quinn was diagnosed with autism right after his second birthday. We have done numerous traditional therapies, along with biomedical interventions, dietary interventions, and a lot of hard work. Today he’s seven years old. He attends a Catholic school for second grade. He is in a typical classroom with no additional supports. He’s very close to fully recovered, and I’d like to share some of our journey with you. Quinn was pretty normal. Pregnancy: very, very normal. Delivery: nothing extraordinary in his infancy. He had occasional colds. He had some eczema, but nothing that really stands out as dramatic. So he met all his milestones within the normal limits up until he was about one and a half. He started crawling around six months; walking around a year. He was babbling a lot and generally a pretty happy baby.
But it was after his first birthday that we started seeing a lot of behaviors that were unusual. We didn’t recognize it at the time, but there was a lot of spinning going on and he still wasn’t talking. He was really very much lost in his own world. He was very gentle and mild in terms of behaviors. He had occasional tantrums, but overall, he was pretty easygoing as a baby and he was very content to just spin all by himself in the corner.
At his 18-month check-up, I remember having a very detailed conversation with a pediatrician about his speech and lack of speech because he had no words at that time. And he, his whole life, had been exposed to both English and Spanish, and as a bilingual educator, I knew that often speech for children who are in bilingual environments comes a little bit later. And I convinced both myself and the pediatrician that everything was fine, but I left that appointment with no information about speech delays and no real plan to make sure that we were on track.
And I think I came up with a plan. I said, “Let’s wait until he’s two, and if he’s still not speaking when he’s two then we can look at maybe speech therapy.” And about six months later, as his second birthday was approaching, it dawned on me he still wasn’t speaking at all and that’s when I went to the bookstore and started reading about speech delays. I picked up a book about autism kind of on a whim but a hunch as well, and after reading less than two pages, I knew that that’s what we were dealing with.
I was very fortunate that I figured it out on my own and I didn’t have what many parents experience: a doctor giving us the diagnosis and a lot of negative information from the start. I kind of bypassed the pediatrician and went straight to the Department of Education -- the state Department of Education -- knowing that I could refer him for assessment myself. And with three very long months of pushing the system, we had all of the assessments in and we began his therapies.
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So by two and a half, he was receiving speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavioral analysis or ABA. He had a very intense early childhood intervention program, and he uttered his first words when he was about two years and nine months, maybe two and a half. He said “A-bub-bub” during a speech therapy session.
When we figured out that he was most likely going to be diagnosed with autism, we started researching and we went on the Internet and with a critical eye really looked at what information was available and found a great amount of information from other families and other parents. And I remember the day my husband came to me and said, “I’ve been reading that some families found that their kids got better when they removed wheat and dairy,” and I just thought that was the most absurd thing because that was really all he ate. He could drink a gallon of milk in a day and he ate wheat toast, and if we took him off of those things, what would he eat?
But I figured it was worth learning about, so I did research that and I came to a site called Generation Rescue. That site did a tremendous job of explaining the medical problems that are very interwoven with autism, and after learning through that website and other resources and hearing from other parents how significantly the dietary changes had helped their children, I realized there was no harm in trying. And just before he went in for his psychological evaluation, we stopped all dairy. We took him off of all milk. And within a few days, we saw dramatic changes in his behavior.
It’s like he came out of a fog, and he started interacting with us more. He brought us toys for the first time for us to play with him. And we started to get some approximation of eye contact, though really, he still didn’t have any, but he was much more engaged with us. And after seeing that, we knew that it was worth pursuing removal of wheat as well, so we went ahead and we changed his diet to be a gluten-free, casein-free diet, and the learning curve on all of that was so steep. You’ve got to figure out how to feed your child.
In working with other parents and reading about other parents’ experiences and their successes, reading their recovery journeys, we knew we needed to work with a medical doctor. I reached out to the community of parents, and we were able to find what’s called a Defeat Autism Now! practitioner medical doctor here in our area and we made an appointment with her.
Quinn had suffered from both constipation and diarrhea accompanied by a very bad diaper rash all along from early infancy, and we began to learn about the gastrointestinal problems that our children with autism suffer from and the ways to treat it, not only through diet, but through different supplementation. Working with our DAN! doctor, we also learned a great deal about detoxification, and our children with autism often have difficulty excreting toxins. Environment toxins come from many sources, but heavy metals are a very serious assault on the neurological system as well as the immune system.
We found that, through testing, Quinn had pretty high levels probably of both mercury and lead, and we did begin a process of detoxification working with our doctor using chelation. We used various forms of chelation, various different chelating agents. We did transdermal chelation; we’ve done oral chelation, although that tended to be hard on the GI system so we didn’t do very much of that; we also did rectal suppositories; and we’ve done IV chelation to address those heavy metal toxicities.
And every little bit of detoxification we’ve done has been beneficial for Quinn. We also treated the gut dysbiosis through antifungal medications as well as probiotic treatment to help recolonize the gut with good bacteria, called probiotics. And all of these things happened in conjunction with the traditional therapies: speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA or applied behavioral analysis therapy. All concurrent; very busy all the time; doing lots of supplements, lots of therapies.
For about a year and a half, we saw pretty steady progress, though he still was not close to recovery. When he was about -- I want to say three and a half is when I attended a conference where I first learned about the mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and I was really ready to do some more intensive dietary interventions. It was after attending that conference and getting to really see some amazing doctors do presentations and talk with more families that we did do a number of different things that helped a lot.
From the beginning, we had done B12 supplementation. Methylcobalamin is the form of B12 we used, and we gave him shots. And the standard protocol was to do it twice a week, and at some point, we increased that to every other day. It was around that time that I recalled having these conversations with my husband about his speech, and we were counting words on our fingers at that point -- the “Oh, he said three words in a row” or “Wow, that was a complete sentence. He had four words.” And we noticed this pattern that it was almost every other day that we would say to each other, “Wow, did you hear what he said today?” or “I’ve got to tell you what I heard from him.”
We realized that those incredible spurts of language were happening on the days after he had had his B12 dose, which he got in the night. So we switched to daily dosing of that B12 supplementation, and we continue to have daily doses of B12 for him. He’s at a point now where he can articulate how important it is for him. He wants to have his B12 because it really helps him in so many ways, not just with language but with his ability to focus and attend and get the most out of social interactions and school.
So that was one big thing that we changed. We increased his B12 dosing. We did rent a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, and we did that twice about six months apart. We saw incredible improvements with that. The HBOT is what it’s called, is pressurized atmospheric air, so regular room air becomes pressurized and saturates liquid, which would be the body is mostly liquid. And what happens is the oxygen from the atmosphere, being pushed into the cells of the body, become very healing.
Oxygen is very healing, and it’s a kind of medical therapy that’s been used for decades for deep-sea divers who have come up too fast and have deep pressure injuries; people who suffer from crushing injuries that won’t heal or burns that won’t heal. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be life-saving. So that’s an alternative therapy that the autism community is finding some great benefit with, and Quinn really had a great success with that.
And then concurrently, we also restricted his diet even further. We removed all carbohydrates -- well, I should say all starches -- and did what’s called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or SCD. And in that diet, the only carbohydrates that are allowed are ones that are monosaccharides, so essentially that means fruit. So no other starches are allowed. We stopped all rice, potato, any other tapioca. All of the starches were removed, and essentially, he had a very balanced diet of fruits in moderation and vegetables and various meats. We did that diet for about six months, and again, that was in the sort of time period where we saw incredible growth and developmental spurts.
We were working very closely with a speech therapist who was also working with a chiropractor, and at that time, we did some alternative chiropractic work called Network Spinal Analysis, along with a breathing technique called Somato Respiratory Integration. And essentially, it’s gentle touches to help with energy along the spinal column, so very non-invasive, very gentle therapy that we did at that time. That also, I think, was beneficial for him.
In conjunction with the chiropractic care, our speech therapist was doing speech assessments every four months. The test results showed in a four-month span of time, the age-equivalent for Quinn’s speech jumped to 13 months, so it was a significant time of growth, a huge developmental spurt for him. At that time that we were doing our second round of HBOT, we were doing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and we adjusted his B12 to daily dosing.
So that was sort of our biggest spurt of development, and since then, he continues to develop and continued to have incredible growth. We went from an inclusive preschool environment where he had a full-time aide, went to one support with a behaviorist, to fading that back and finishing up preschool with no aide at all in that inclusive setting. When it was time to send him to kindergarten, we had a kind of tough choice because he was doing very well and we really wanted him to attend our parochial school that would be where he would go if he had no disability.
He had come so far in such an incredible span of time that we kind of took that leap of faith and decided to send him to the parochial school -- to our Catholic parish school -- where our daughter attended school, knowing that we might need to have an aide, knowing that he might struggle a little bit. But we made that choice, and he did wonderfully. He continued a little bit of occupational therapy through kindergarten, but graduated from that, and he continues to do very well in school.
Some sort of startling numbers about his speech in particular. When he was three and a half, one of those speech assessments that we did showed that he was in just the second percentile for language. In first grade at the Catholic school, they do ITBS testing, and I was thrilled and shocked when I got the results. Overall, he did extremely well. He was in the 79th percentile overall, but for speech in particular, the tests said that language is a relative area of strength for Quinn and he scored in the 98th percentile in first grade ITBS general education testing.
So clearly, he’s come a long way and he is doing remarkably well. He’s social. He has a best friend. Every week we meet his friends at the park, and he can’t wait to have that special time with his friends. He’s doing incredibly well, very close to recovered. One of the greatest things you can do for your child is to help him or her feel better, and the biomedical interventions really do help with that. When your child feels better, he or she will learn better and get more out of all of the traditional therapies.
There are a lot of resources available to help you with biomedical interventions and to learn more about alternative therapies, including the Autism Research Institute, Talk About Curing Autism, Biomedical Treatment for Autism and Generation Rescue. We are very fortunate that we were able to pursue both biomedical and traditional therapies and that my son has made such incredible progress. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the hope that we have had all along, and I give that hope to you for your child. Good luck in your journey.