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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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What Autism Does to a Mother


Inspired by McCarthy, Nicole also met with a Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) doctor, a health-care practitioner who uncovers the physiological conditions that may be causing autistic behaviors and then treats them through nutritional changes, including a GFCF diet (a DAN! practitioner's credentials can range from a traditional M.D. to homeopathy training ). At Nicole's meeting, Geoffrey P. Radoff, an M.D. and doctor of homeopathy (M.D.H.), took an extensive family history, provided a list of lab tests (blood, urine, and stool) for Ryan to undergo, prescribed a variety of nutritional supplements, and instructed the Kalkowskis to stick with the GFCF diet. Radoff made no promises to Nicole about Ryan's improvement, except that the diet would likely relieve her son's gastro-intestinal problems — a common issue in children with autism. Ryan's belly was always very gassy and bloated, and he'd often push on his lower abdomen in discomfort. Nicole was thrilled just to have another treatment begin.

But that optimism didn't compare to the joy that Nicole and Tim felt about three weeks after Ryan started his therapies and new diet. Standing in their kitchen, Tim was consoling Nicole, who was crying after having a particularly stressful day. When they looked over to Ryan in the next room, their son, who during the last couple of months had stopped making eye contact and rarely interacted with his parents, was staring straight at them. Ryan then picked up a toy school bus and ran it over to his mother and father with a smile. "We were both amazed, and Tim and I looked at each other like, Did that just happen?" recalls Nicole. "You're scared to see progress because you don't want to lose it again. After a few minutes, I even took a picture of Ryan, so that I could remember that moment."

In the days that followed, Ryan had more breakthroughs. His once-empty eyes gained some spark. His "fisted" hands opened and he began feeding himself again. At his OT and speech sessions, he used new words, such as "go" and "fun," gave big smiles, and was responding to the therapists. "There's still plenty of work to do, but Ryan is making fast progress," says Beverly Burnett, an occupational therapist who owns Play and Learn Pediatric Occupational Therapy Center in Las Vegas, where she works with Ryan.

Ryan's string of successes had his sisters particularly overjoyed — especially since their adorable little brother began joining them again at night for a story and cuddling, a routine he'd cut off a year and a half earlier.

"I am determined to save my little boy"

Ryan's accomplishments made Nicole eager to meet other mothers to compare notes about treatments. "Once your child shows one sign of hope, you're hooked and you get even more committed," Nicole explains. She got in touch with Families for Early Autism Treatment, and in early November, she, Tim, and their kids attended a picnic that was hosted by the organization. While Nicole appreciated talking to other moms about which treatments worked for them, she felt that it was her daughters, Ciera and Ella, who probably benefited the most from the event. "It was good for them to see that they aren't the only siblings in the world who deal with autism," says Nicole.

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