The birth of a child is a mother's pride and joy. The birth of Charla Thomas' child was no exception. She was filled with joy and happiness in anticipation of motherhood. The doctors had confirmed that her baby would be healthy, and the nurses and everyone else in the maternity ward provided care before and after the newborn had arrived.
Thomas, who goes by the name Brenda, was taken aback by the life that she'd produced and the sparkle that bounced off her baby's pupils. With newborn in hand, the doting mother left the hospital feeling she had produced a miracle – a man-child she would love unconditionally.
For Brenda, the experience had opened up a new chapter in her life. Then her son started exhibiting strange behavior. His motor skills seemed slower than expected for a toddler his age. He was vexed by words and had difficulty performing simple tasks. He lagged behind socially too. Brenda brushed it off as her overprotective imagination.
As time went by, it became crystal clear that her two-year-old son did not perform or act like the other toddlers his age. Panic-stricken, she took him to see his pediatrician and received the news that she was the mother of an autistic child. Parents such as Brenda often are dumbfounded when told their child is autistic.
So what is autism?
Autism is a brain disorder that can make it difficult for a child to communicate with others. It usually appears in the first three years of a young child's life, but it can surface or be diagnosed much later in some children.
The cause of autism remains unknown, but research continues. The Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in every 88 children born in this country has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There are a number of possible causes along with some genetic factors for autism, such as diet, digestive tract changes, vaccine sensitivity and mercury poisoning; or the mother's body, if she didn't properly use vitamins and minerals.
We must remember that autism has other pervasive development disorders not otherwise specified, also called atypical autism. But a diagnosis of autism in any form can and will cause a family to be financially and emotionally stressed.
Brenda's husband was detached emotionally, for example, leaving her to become their son's sole caretaker around the clock. But then he'd criticize her for not spending time with him. This is not unusual for parents who have autistic children. It can and usually does take a toll on the relationship.
For 30 years, Brenda has been a teacher in the public school system, coping daily with other people's children. Her son is 12 years old now and at times raising him has been a daunting task.
Brenda has lost more than she could've imagined – her home and her church. Why? Because of the way her son acts in public. His actions are often misunderstood and offensive to individuals who don't really understand children with disabilities.
She confided in me about being embarrassed by her son's behavior. Strangers have admonished her so many times that she only feels safe at home in a room. Then there were times she would seek out odd jobs after school to avoid going home to be with her son.
I was introduced to Brenda's son and started looking into the role nutrition would play in his life. Two of my colleagues – Dr. Robert DeMaria, who wrote "Dr. BOB'S Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days,'' and Dr. Jane Oelke, N.D., Ph.D., who wrote "Natural Choices for Attention Deficit Disorder" –specialize in children with autism. After conferring with them, I informed Brenda that nutrition indeed plays a very critical part in an autistic child's life.
We immediately put Brenda's son on a different diet. For most children with autism, being sensitive to taste is usually a major factor. The child must have time to adjust and hopefully accept the change. In the case of Brenda's son, the process was slow, but there has been noticeable change. He is less aggressive and now is able to be in a less restricted classroom environment.
After 8 years of being an isolated caregiver, Brenda is enjoying life again. She has regained her health and no longer takes a pill for depression and anxiety.
Brenda is not alone in her quest for help. Get your child treated if you notice a behavioral change.