By Jennifer Giustra-Kozek , LPC
At 4 ½ years old, my sweet and loving son Evan was diagnosed with ADHD, Apraxia and high functioning autism – Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Although mostly happy, he started displaying episodes of anger and become anxious and obsessive/compulsive (OCD). He began fixating on many things and lost the ability to sleep soundly.
I often felt hopeless and frustrated with the progress of his recovery during our intense therapy sessions and I knew from experience as a licensed psychotherapist that medication would be introduced as the only other viable treatment option.
I recognized that medication may provide immediate relief, but because I am a psychotherapist also knew that these medications can cause many problems and come with numerous side effects. In some cases they even cause increased anger, depression, fogginess, anxiety, numbness, seizures, tics, paranoia and even psychosis.
I witnessed many of these effects on the children I saw for therapy. Some moms came back to tell me that it turned their child into someone they did not recognize. However, I never really questioned the authority of the medical professionals.
“Who was I to question a doctor that had many more years of experience and schooling to back their theories?” I thought.
As life would have it, all the training and education I received in graduate school and by prestigious psychiatrists about the benefits of medication would be challenged when I had my own child with similar symptoms.
I have discovered that although well intentioned, many mainstream doctors are too quick to prescribe medication to cover up symptoms without digging deeper to find the underlying causes and numerous nutritional deficiencies plaguing our kids.
Our children become out of balance (biochemically). Their immune systems go haywire and their guts become inflamed due to food intolerances, processed foods, food dyes, chemicals, GMOs, yeast, etc. This often can cause inflammation in the brain and nutritional deficiencies – leading to frequent illness (chronic ear infections, illness, bronchitis & asthma) and ultimately neurological dysfunction.
I discovered that we have more neurons lining our intestinal wall than we have in our brain and spinal cord combined. The gut and brain have a very intimate relationship. So, when the gut isn’t happy, neither is the brain. I have also uncovered a few gene mutations preventing the proper utilization and metabolic functioning of essential nutrients necessary for proper brain functioning. These disorders are often linked to constipation, food allergies & sensitivities, heavy metal build-up, adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems and hypoglycemia.
I was extremely skeptical at first.
However, as I started doing a tremendous amount of research, I began to uncover the root causes of these disorders. I started addressing Evan’s gut issues with the help of an awesome naturopath and other functional medicine doctors and began healing him from a deeper level.
We started by healing his gut wall and eliminating all of his offending foods and reducing inflammation and gut permeability so that the nutrients he was eating and the supplements we were giving him would get absorbed properly.
We continued treating Evan with nutrition and biomedical methods. We starting taking advantage of the many Eastern Medicine therapies and treatments such as acupuncture, and energy healing, as well. I discovered that over the course of treatment Evan started improving exponentially in all areas of development, including, emotionally, socially, physically and academically.
I highly recommend that this “avenue of healing” be explored if your child suffers from ADD/ADHD, PDD, Asperger’s, Allergies, Apraxia or Autism.
The Differences We Began To See
When Evan was tested at age 5 ½ his level of development was only that of a 3 ½ year-old. Developmentally he was two years behind his peers. However a year later after implementing the alternative treatments Evan’s testing demonstrated a huge improvement in all areas of development. His testing showed a dramatic increase in progress. At 6 ½ his level of development was that of a 5 ½ year-old. Now he was only one year behind his peers.
There is a tremendous jump in Evan’s expressive language and speech articulation; it is more complex and conversational. His comprehension skills are also much better. He is able to formulate a thought and carry out his set of plans. He is now formulating new ideas and trying them out on others.
Evan’s true personality started to emerge and it was discovered that he has a very dry but funny sense of humor. One day while Evan’s grandma was cooking a new stew recipe that included cinnamon her “special ingredient” she hit her wooden spoon against the pot and a piece of the spoon flew off. She warned us all to watch out for it because she had no idea where it flew. After dinner, grandma asked if anyone could taste what the special ingredient was and without hesitation Evan said, “Spoon.”
After putting the alternative treatments into practice and addressing underlying nutritional deficiencies, Evan’s progress catapulted. He was able to stay on task far better than before. He has less difficulty listening and following directions, and no longer seemed to get as distracted by background noise. He listens to his teachers and responds appropriately when asked a question. He is able to retain information and speaks more clearly to convey his ideas.
Socially he is also doing much better. He is making eye contact more often and now greets his friends at the playground. He no longer enters into a trance-like state. He no longer detaches himself from the world. Evan talks to strangers in waiting rooms and has whole conversations. He is able to assert himself and tell people what he likes and doesn’t like and what he wants and doesn’t want.
He is less anxious and no longer grunts and screams when he is upset. He is coping better with change of routine and with frustrating situations. He is no longer throwing himself into fits of uncontrollable rage, throwing his toys, hitting others or displaying sudden mood swings. In addition, his sensory issues are lessening greatly. Loud noises and uncomfortable clothing no longer bother him.
His pre-kintergarten treatment plan included a communication device to help Evan to write and communicate. However, he lost his need for such a device. His fine motor skills have significantly improved and he is able to write his letters as well as many of his peers. He is also able to communicate clearly and express his thoughts and ideas in a sequential way.
We now see a confident little boy who is eager to join in group activities. His motor planning ability has jumped up from extremely disordered to barely noticeable. We notice an increase in imaginative play and although not perfect, there is a greater independence in daily activities of living.
On Evan’s seventh birthday, his grandfather was joking around with him by saying, “Mmm your cake looks so good – I think I’m going to eat your piece.”
In the same breath without skipping a beat, Evan replied, “That’s okay grandpa, I’ll just eat yours.”
Demonstrating a marked improvement is social ability, an increased self-esteem and tremendous growth on so many levels.
He got the joke, stood up for himself, responded with amazing wit, and delivered it in such a loving and non-aggressive way.
We are so proud of him in so many ways…
Medically we notice that his sweet cravings lessened and he was no longer overly thirsty. The dark bluish circles under his eyes disappeared. His eczema and fungal infections cleared. He has not been sick except for a few minor colds and has only missed a few days of school since starting the regime. He no longer suffers from sinus infections, respiratory infections, or eye infections. His constipation issues continue to improve, he is no longer straining and his bowels appear less sluggish. He no longer suffers from nightly head sweats and the quality of has sleep has improved as well.
Teachers, therapists, his swimming instructor and family members have all made comments on how well Evan is doing. They say, “I don’t know what you are doing, but whatever you are doing we see a huge difference in Evan, so keep it up.”
Evan is now 8 years old and progressing well. When I recently asked him, “What do you think helped you more – all the intense therapy or your diet changes and vitamins?”
He looked at me with the biggest smile and with huge inflection in his voice and said, “Mom, they helped each other work better.” So we continue with appointments with the homeopathic physician to address any emerging health concerns or imbalances. And we continue his dietary modifications for now and we continue with his therapies in order for him to catch up 100%, in an effort to optimize his health.
8 Crucial Points About Healing ADHD and Autism Naturally
- Every child is unique, so treatment plans need to be tailored specifically to address underlying immunologic, digestive and metabolic conditions.
- There is no “magic bullet,” no single treatment alone that can significantly reverse the effects of ADHD, apraxia, or autism. All cases are individualized, and each child needs a well thought-out and integrated approach to move him or her along the road to improvement and recovery. Find physicians and practitioners who will conduct a thorough investigation of underlying issues and will listen to you and address your concerns rather than dismiss them. The best way to find a doctor to begin your journey is to Google Naturopath (ND), Defeat Autism Now doctor (DAN), Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs Physician (MAPS), Functional Medicine or Integrative Medical Doctor (MD) in your area.
- Be consistent with your treatment strategies and goals. Treating intestinal permeability and other issues may take time, hard work and perseverance. E.g. If you need to eliminate certain offending foods as part of the protocol – cheating will delay the healing process!
- Dietary changes and protocols can seem overwhelming at first – so move slowly, but steady. Uncover, one piece of the puzzle at a time – so you know what is working.
- Know that you may need more than one practitioner to address all of your needs.
- Request a complete metabolic work-up to include blood, urine and fecal testing. A complete metabolic workup and treatment is recommended to make a fuller recovery. Unfortunately, only addressing one piece of the puzzle will yield a less positive outcome for some children.
- TRUST YOUR GUT! You know your child best. Our intuition is our best guide!
- Do your homework and ask your doctors a lot of questions.
Jennifer Giustra-Kozek is a licensed psychotherapist with 15 years of clinical experience treating clients with a range of heal disorders including Asperger’s depression, ADHD and more. She’s also the author of Healing without Hurting: Treating ADHD, Apraxia and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally & Effectively without Harmful Medication.
Her book is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, click here to get a copy. You may also contact Jennifer on her Facebook page ‘Healing ADHD & Asperger’s Without Hurting,’ and on Instragram here.
This article was first published in April 2015 and republished in October 2021.