Diet change leads to improvement for autistic child

Diet change leads to improvement for autistic child
May 20, 2009
Reported by Dawndy Mercer Plank
Posted by Logan Smith

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If it seems you are hearing about more children being diagnosed with autism, you're right.

The South Carolina Autism Society says one in every 150 people have the disability. That's about 28,000 people in our state.

There's an autism walk this weekend as several families take action to deal with it. For some it means taking an alternative action.

To watch Harry Weaver color with his grandmother, you'd assume he's like any other three-year-old. That was not the case a year ago.

"You could call his name and he wouldn't respond to his own name. You could go clap your hands behind his head and he would act like nothing happened. Somebody could walk up and say "boo," and he would go on about his business just doing what he was doing," says Julie Weaver.

Harry was diagnosed as being autistic. Autism is a developmental disability that interferes with reasoning, social interaction and communication skills.

"So, kids with autism have difficulty functioning socially, difficulty doing what you and I do naturally every day, getting along, relating to other people, difficulty communicating, having conversations, having those non-verbal communications and they have behaviors that may seem different or odd to other people," says behavioral therapist Elizabeth Wilkinson, who coordinates an autism treatment network for the USC School of Medicine.

She says early intervention is key. And there are recognized therapies that help a child recover, therapies Julie tried.

"He was doing the traditional route and it wasn't working. It wasn't working. I had to do something else. I was losing more of him every day," says Weaver.

So Julie radically changed Harry's diet. She took out foods that contained gluten, a wheat protein from flour, and casein, the milk protein in cow's milk.

She said she saw an immediate difference, describing it as a fog being lifted from Harry's eyes.

"He entered our world. He started having meaningful speech. He would point his finger to show us what he wanted now. And when the therapist would come to the house to do therapy, he would cooperate," says Weaver.

Julie says the diet takes a ton of work but there are numerous options. She laid out several of them in her husband's chiropractic office. Together, they educate other parents.

They even use a hyperbaric chamber that uses the amount of pressure you'd feel at the bottom of an eight-foot pool. They believe it helps Harry sleep better and calms his aggression.

When inside, Harry plays games with mommy.

"I don't discourage them from trying anything that they think is going to help their child, I think they have every right to try whatever they think is going to help the child as long as it doesn't stand in the way of helping their youngster progress," says Wilkinson.

Wilkinson says the chamber and radical diet are not recognized forms of treatment.

The Weavers say the alternative treatments are what saved their son.

The Weavers will be one of the families participating in this Saturday's "Strides for Autism."

Join them in Finlay Park in Columbia at 8am. You can register at the South Carolina Autism Society's website.

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