Stories From the Heart: My Very Special Need

Imran, better known as Imi is my wonderful 21 year old son.  He also happens to be Autistic.   He also happens to be plenty of other things too, smart, funny, cheeky and delightful…..although sometimes he can also try the patience of a saint…!  I am reluctant to label him as my Autistic son, because Autism does not define him, he is a tapestry of many things and titles, as are we all.

Firstly I cannot comprehend that I have a 21 year old child, in my heart I am not even 16! He arrived in this world on an October morning and the sun shone every time I looked at him.  He was absolute perfection in my eyes and I could not glance away from him in case I missed an expression, a sneeze or a yawn.

For the first year he was pretty much strapped on to my body most of the time and that was comforting for both of us.  Somebody told me shortly after Imi’s birth that the world would not exist for the first 6 months, but I can tell you it was a year before I read a newspaper or listened to any current events, the aliens could have landed and taken over and I would have been oblivious.

Life was quite idyllic, I was fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom and I truly valued every moment. Imi passed all the milestones, and until 18 months there was not a flicker or trace that there was anything wrong, neither by us, or any professional that he came into contact with. He began to babble and we felt that speech was round the corner.  When it did not come we entered the secret world of Special Needs.  It is not really visible but when you search it out – it can overwhelm you.

Our life took on a different beat to the one we had imagined.  As parents we visualise all the milestones that our children will pass and as each milestone  slowly slides away from your fingertips, a different feeling emerges, one of grieving, a loss, but you are really grieving for yourself, the parent you wanted to be.  The child has not lost anything, the child does not know that you were looking forward to taking him to his first party – but he enjoyed playing with the swing doors more than with the other children.

He will never understand the pain it caused when he was being oblivious to you when you returned home from a long trip, and he was more interested in the toy car or a paper clip, never smiling at you spontaneously, never really showing pleasure or need.

These are all needs within us that we deem make us good parents, but they are really conditions.  The most beautiful thing about having a child with Autism is that you learn the meaning of unconditional love.

A whole new language emerged in our vocabulary, Speech Therapists, Educational Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Behavioural Therapist. Most of our new words and job titles ended with therapist. Auditory Integration Therapy, Stem Cell Therapy, Hyperbaric Therapy even Hormone Therapy (Secretin),- a weird and wonderful cocktail of words and promises of a better future for you and your child… the truth is that there is only one therapy guaranteed of a result – and it is plain and simple LOVE.

In all his twenty years, I truly believe that each therapy has a well deserved place in Imi’s improvement and enhancement but the one thing that has truly made a difference is one on one therapy. This can be achieved in any situation, with the parents, teachers, therapists, siblings, friends, and even chatting to a stranger at a bus stop or in a restaurant.  The concentration of one human being on another human being, listening to every word and inflection of sound and most importantly eye contact and expression can only be successfully achieved one on one.

When Imi was four, I began to fear my child and doubt myself believing that “professionals” knew best.  Then suddenly during one of those moments of darkness, I had an epiphany, I realised that no one, however well qualified could know my child better than me.

With that nugget of strength we moved on in leaps and bounds, Imi felt my inner confidence and began to progress. The confidence that brings is reflected in the child, Imi could no longer sense my insecurity so he began to flourish. I realised that I was the expert on Imi and the best that the professionals could do was assist, advise and facilitate his progress with my guidance.

Imi said “Mommy” for the first time at 4 years old.  He is now 21 years old, a verbal, kind, mischievous, routine led, funny, happy and sometimes complicated young man. He is also one of the most humorous, interesting and unusual people that you would have the good fortune to meet.

The biggest part of his story is not the Autism but Epilepsy, at 14 he was struck down with his first seizure and unhappily for us, it was very serious and life threatening, he  was in intensive care for 5 days and has been on a selection of anti seizure drugs ever since.  I have often wondered what lesson God was trying to teach us about this. Recently I found my answer.

Living with a child who is so utterly innocent and so vulnerable means that we are very mindful (as a family) to be very respectful of Imi and his wishes.  Every moment with him is something that we try to cherish and we all hold him gently in the palm of our hands and hearts because we are very lucky for every moment we have with him.  Our wake up call happens every time he has a seizure and because of him we have learnt to appreciate and value the goodness that he has instilled in our hearts.

To sum Imi up would be: impossible, each new day brings a new gift, a new reason to smile, new hope that the future will have as many possibilities for him as it does for his two brothers.

Please look further than the inappropriate behaviours that our children sometimes display.  Surely it is our differences which make us interesting and worth knowing.

By Sev Mawany

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Can Food Sabotage Your Child’s Progress?

In the mid-1980s, I conducted a study on food sensitivities and their effects on ADD/ADHD symptoms. After testing the patient for delayed food sensitivities, the study consisted of two phases:

The Avoidance Phase, in which the offending foods are avoided for six weeks.

The Challenge Phase, in which the excluded foods are slowly added back into the diet. The reason for the challenge phase is to prove that the foods identified by the test are actually causing specific symptoms.

Included in this particular study, was an autistic child around 2 years old.  During the avoidance phase when the harmful foods were removed from this child’s diet, ALL of the Autistic symptoms disappeared.  With such dramatic results, the parents withdrew the child from the study before the challenge phase. They not only feared that challenging the foods back into the child’s diet would cause the symptoms to return, but that they would not be able to reverse them again.

This was the first Autistic child I had ever encountered.  I consulted my dad who had been a General Practitioner for 50 years, and he had never seen a single case.

As an Otolaryngologist, I didn’t see many cases of Autism.  However, just before I moved from Pittsburgh to Florida, I saw the son of a nurse at the hospital who had just been diagnosed with Autism. After I tested him for delayed food sensitivities, I instructed his mother to have him avoid the harmful foods.  16 years later he and his mother stopped by my office.   He had continued the protocol and was preparing for college.  As far as I could tell he was normal. The only unusual remnant of his autism was that he couldn’t lie.

In Florida, I started seeing more and more patients on the Autistic Spectrum.  I have been watching results in my own practice and getting feedback from DAN doctors and others who regularly treat Autism.  What I have found is that, in delayed food sensitivity, immune complex plays a vital role in the progression of Autism.  And the younger the child we treat, the better the results.

Certainly there are genetic predispositions that affect the population, but since it was rare before the 1980s, there is obviously something else which is drastically contributing to if not causing the huge increase in cases.

Allergic load and an over-stimulated immune system seem to me to be major culprits.  Allergic load is the amount of allergens the body can successfully tolerate.  When we’re exposed to more than we can handle, the immune system reacts badly.  In the case of autism, the brain is affected during its development.

By decreasing the allergic load, the immune system is better able to handle any other onslaughts it may encounter.  Since food is such a large portion of the potential allergic load, it makes sense to test children early for both immediate and delayed food sensitivities and eliminate the foods to which they react. This increases the chance that the brain can develop normally.

By Daniel Dantini, MD

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

 

Stories From the Heart: Educating and Empowering Myself and Others

My three year old son, Tafari, has come a long way since he was diagnosed with Autism in early 2009. Though I do give myself credit for his development and progress, I give even more credit to the similar families in the Autism community who have helped us along the way. I believe that many parents dealing with Autism become so riddled by isolation, which they forget to realize that there are many other families in our situation who are dealing with similar issues and our willing to hear our voices and concerns.

I am always at my computer, and I am always looking for different resources to further my education and help my son. About a year ago, I stumbled upon an online community that had just launched and was starting to build a name in the Autism community. I was intrigued, because it was a social network a bit like Facebook, but it was only for parents and families that have children with Autism. I quickly got involved in the website,  and today I have strong relationships with thousands of mothers, fathers, and specialists in the Autism community.

I run several groups at Theautspot.com, including Single Parents and Low Income Families on the Spectrum, and I feel blessed to share my experience with those who can relate to what I am going through. I also get a ton of support from the resources section of the site as well. It allows me to search for all kinds of Autism resources (therapists, schools, advocacy, summer camps, etc.) within my city and any other cities in the United States.

Through theautspot.com, I was even able to find a special needs lawyer that has helped my son get the rights he deserves in IEP meetings. I had been looking for something like www.theautspot.com for a while and I really wanted to share it with everybody. I really believe that we can all come together and make theautspot.com the global Autism online support system.

I was one of the first few members to sign up to Theautspot.com last fall, and since then I have developed a friendship with the site creators, Dele Popoola and Greg Koltsov. Dele has a 19 year old cousin on the Autism spectrum, and he knows very well how difficult it can be to raise a child on the Autism spectrum, especially a single parent like myself. Both Dele and Greg knew that Tafari could benefit from speech therapy, and knew that I wasn’t doing very well financially.

They were generous enough to put together a gala fundraiser and were able to rise over $3,000 dollars to help fund Tafaris speech therapy! I feel so blessed and so fortunate for the work that they have done for me and the Autism community, and I encourage all others in the Autism community to find a home at theautspot.com like I did.

By Jane Tipton

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

 

 

Stories From the Heart: Transitioning Planning

Have You Considered Health Issues?

In the “ideal world” transition planning should be a part of every Individualized Educational Program in every grade level. Parents with students that have special health needs are constantly trying the balance their child’s health needs and educational needs.  In the Individualized Educational Program there is a time that transition planning begins, and this adds another process for the parents to understand.  Unfortunately, many times the health issues are not addressed as much as they could be to help plan for transition from the traditional school setting to community based activities.

The IDEA regulation makes it clear that the student is the most important member of the team.  Many times the student with special needs have not been as involved in their own health care needs due to the parents doing for their child, the school nurse providing the service, or the student not wanting to do their own care for various reasons including not being able to physically perform.   Transition occurs many times for a student that has special health needs, but under the IDEA regulation transition planning occurs officially during the Individualized Educational Program at the age of 14.

Transition planning is designed to help the parent and student connect with the adult service system.  This plan should be comprehensive so that it allows movement from school to post secondary activities.  It is a time for all members of the team to consider skills and accommodations needed for the student to participate in the five areas of transition: job and job training, community participation, recreation and leisure, home living, and post secondary education/training.

A member of the educational team that is usually not utilized to their fullest potential is the school nurse.  The school nurse can assess health issues that need to be addressed during the transition planning.   The school nurse can meet with the parents and student to discuss the student’s understanding of their disability/chronic illness. They can discuss with the family how the student would manage their disability, including making appointments, arranging transportation to the doctors, ordering medical supplies, and keeping a record of these supplies.  The nurse can help the parents understand their insurance coverage and help them identify adult providers for their student’s disability.

The school nurse can help assess if the student would be responsible for taking their meds, and ordering their medication, understanding of risky behaviours including unprotected sex, drinking, smoking and illegal drugs, and the nurse can also assess the student’s understanding of healthy hygiene, nutrition, exercise and preventive health and dental care.

During this time of transition planning, goals can be written to help the student be as independent as possible to care for or self direct their care on a daily basis.  Helping your child gain their independence and self advocate for themselves is essential for all students that have special health needs so they can transition smoothly into adulthood.

Submitted by: Barbara Obst, RN, MS.  Kennedy Krieger Institute, Co – Coordinator of the Specialized Health Needs Interagency Collaboration Program (A grant with the Maryland State Department of Education, and Kennedy Krieger Institute).

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: It Sounds Like Corn

From the time my son was born, I looked forward to the time when he was old enough to go hunting and fishing with me.  As a father and an outdoorsman, having a son meant that I would have someone to share those experiences with. In my family, I was the youngest of five boys. My oldest brother was eighteen years older than me and my father was eleven years older than my mother, who was thirty-seven when I was born.

Like a lot of families, my father and mother both worked full time and carried second jobs. Needless to say, my father and I didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked, and when I was seventeen my father unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Fortunately, I was blessed with the best brothers ever; we spent a lot of quality time together even before dad passed away. After dad’s death, my brothers tried to fill the father role for me and honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without them. They all played a vital part in my life.

As I started my own family I had visions of what my relationship would be like with my children. I thought about fishing trips, camping, vacations and all of the normal things that families do. You can imagine my delight when my first child was born and it was a big nine pound baby boy.

The first couple of years were typical baby years except he was what my mother called “colicky”. I just wanted him to hurry up and get old enough to hold a fishing pole. Our second child came along when our son was about two and a half. This child was a beautiful little girl. I thought this would be great, I will have a son to do boy things with and my wife would have a daughter to do girlie things with, what a perfect family.

Almost as soon as we brought our daughter home our son began showing signs of strange behavior. He wouldn’t even look at his new sister. Over the next few months my wife became increasingly concerned with his actions and began looking for an answer. Within a year or so, we had found a place to have him “tested,” and they gave him a label of Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Thankfully, my wife continued searching for information and instructions on how to live with what we now know as Autism.

Even though my son was different than I expected, I treated him normally and took him with me as often as I could. We made many trips to our local lakes to spend time fishing, and I use that term loosely. I would try to fish while he would look for the biggest rock he could pick up to throw in the water. I didn’t catch many fish, but he had a great time “fishing.”

One particular trip on a summer evening, I had given up on catching any fish and most of the good sized rocks that were high and dry when we arrived, were now resting at the bottom of the lake. The setting sun was transforming the western sky in hues of orange, red and yellow. I took a minute to enjoy the beauty that God had created, something that I wanted so desperately to share with my son. I said to him, “Isn’t that sunset beautiful,” to which he replied, “Yeah, it sounds like corn.”

Disheartened, I hung my head, turned and walked to the truck. Like many times before and since, I just wanted a normal response. I threw my gear in the back of the truck and climbed into the cab wondering if I would ever be able to reach him. As I started to back away I took one more look at the lake. Stretching across the calm water lay a long yellow reflection of the sun, looking incredibly like an ear of corn. With a lump in my throat, through watery eyes, I said, “It does sound like corn, doesn’t it.” Since then he has taught me many more lessons on perception.

By James Clark

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Little Billy

It is September and I receive a phone call from the school board offering me a position to assist with the integration of a five year old boy into the kindergarten classroom.  He is part of the Autistic Spectrum, as he was diagnosed autistic at the young age of 2, and is currently experiencing an emotional and physiological meltdown with this transition.  I willingly accept the post and am off to the school.

After meeting with the principal and resource team to become aware of the behavior challenges that were being experienced I was directed to his classroom where I was to enter and observe this little child that I will call Billy.  Of course as I entered the classroom all the children seated at their work stations looked in my direction to see this new person entering, that is all, but one tiny blond boy who seemed to be totally fixated on blocks on the table in front of him.

The teacher then announced to the children that time was up and directed the children to be advancing to the next work station.   Billy sat quietly as if the teacher had not made any announcement and showed no interest or desire to be participating in any transition.  At one point he lowered his head and placed his tiny hands on his ears, a clear indication that the surrounding movements of chairs and classroom activity during this time had become overwhelming.

One of Billy’s classmates touched him and indicated that he had to move to the other table.  It was very clear to see that Billy did not like to be touched as his body tensed up. Then as five year old`s do, before anyone could intervene the other child again, loudly instructed Billy to move to the other table with a slight push.   Well it didn’t take long to witness the incredible behavior change of this angelic looking child.  It was an outburst of emotion with some screams, cries and hands swinging the blocks in all directions from the table.

As I approached (still a complete stranger to him) he lashed out to hit the other child.  I was instructed to remove him from the class in fear that other children would become frightened or hurt.  Because he was tiny it was not so challenging for me to lift from behind, his hands crossed in front of him and remove him to a quiet nice private little setting not far from the classroom.

I sat Billy down on the nice comfy chair in the quiet room. He was very tense, throwing his head back (which is why he was in a comfortable cushioned seat).  I started to softly hum a song and gently message his fingers one at a time slowly, it didn’t take long for me to feel the tightness fade. I gazed upon this beautiful child’s face and I thought about how sensitive I am to chewing sounds and tried to imagine what it would be like to live in his world, a world where most sounds, touches, tastes, smells not only sparked a great sensitivity but festered an anger due to being incapable of voicing his feelings and having people truly understand them.  Of how the slightest transition, difference in a daily routine, seeing a new face can cause so much distress.

Yes, and here he was, five years old not just walking into a new big building, surrounded by so many never seen before big people, many excited running, laughing, screaming children and moms and dads leaving.  There was just too much stimulation for this young mind, this beautiful child to deal with.

I was very fortunate to be part of a truly dedicated and caring team.  We found out all of his likes and yes, there were many challenging days, which eventually got fewer and fewer.  Billy in no time, would walk down the halls and say hi to people.  He would participate in so many activities all in his ways, but he fully co-operated and became a positive ray of sunshine.  He went from not talking to non stop talking.

Together as a team,  with any new event, we would ensure that he was made aware in advance and well prepared him for them…. he taught us all so much about life, challenges, and to stop for a moment and enjoy the peace of our own world too.

I believe that these very gifted children, just need us all to watch them, get to know them and their world, understand, love them, make them feel secure and then the sky is the limit to their success.
It was and still is my pleasure that these children allow me to be a part of their very special lives.

By Mary M. Rowan

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: A Dream, a Hope, a Prayer, a Life With Autism

It is very important in our lives to dream as young children and to always be encouraged by our parents to reach for the stars in all that we do. When we are kids we are constantly evolving and growing and we are always learning and developing throughout our youth. The time in the life of a young child is very special and it should be filled with hope, optimism, encouragement, enthusiasm, and prayers to God for our child’s good health, happiness and a life filled with promise, hope, dreams, vision and self confidence.

It is every parent’s hope that their child is healthy and able to develop naturally and adapt to the typical changes that children encounter as they grow. We all are grateful for being blessed with a child in our life and we always want the best for them. If a child is born with Autism or some form of disability it means that child will have some challenges ahead in their life, but they should have the same dreams and hopes that every child needs to have in their life.

My son is Autistic and he has challenges that we are trying to help him deal with. At times it seems he will have his share of difficulties and periods of isolation. I only wish that he could realize when he struggles that he has the love and support of his mom and dad and he has many in his corner working to help him.

For many people Autism is not really understood and from outward appearance for the typical person raised in a typical community very difficult to assess. There are many Autistic children who from first impression seem very normal, so when they seem to act out in an inappropriate way, to the dismay of others, it seems they are defiant and unruly. This for most Autistic kids is the furthest from the truth and it seems the parents are thought of as not being able to discipline their children.

The reality is that the parents will do anything to help their Autistic child and they put so much time, effort and compassion into raising their special child so they can hopefully fit in and have lesser outbursts and meltdowns. It is not easy raising an Autistic child and for most families it tests their very limits of patience and endurance and adds a great deal of stress and financial pressure on the family. It is very important to accept the situation and work together with family and all in the support network to help that Autistic child find their way in the world.

To an Autistic child the world can be a very scary and intimidating place and they would rather live in their little place that is safe and free from confrontation. Autistic children tend to have social difficulties and feel that they cannot fit in unfortunately. It takes very committed family and professionals to help address these children with their thoughts and insecurities and help them through these social obstacles.

It is our dreams, hopes, wishes and prayers that help us through these challenging times and give us the insight and knowledge that will help us find the dedication we need to get our Autistic child on the right path in their life so they can have the same chances and opportunities that all children deserve in their life.

The one thing I have learned about raising an Autistic child is that my sense of life and purpose revolves around my son and everything I do or plan to do is for helping him become better and more self confident. Autistic children do tend to suffer from anxiety and have many challenges and it sometimes can be emotionally very trying in their life and the parent’s as well.

As a parent I strongly urge you to never give up on your child and to always show compassion and hold on to hope and provide love, support and encouragement. There is nothing like seeing an Autistic child blossom and come into their own after realizing the struggles they encounter.

To see an Autistic child smile and hear them acknowledge that they feel loved and accepted and to truly help them find something that challenges them and gives them self confidence is the best gift we can ever experience in our life as parents.

The many ups and downs we will encounter as parents raising our children is all worth it if we can set the standard for them so they will benefit and grow and become happy, well balanced, confident and caring young adults ready to take on life’s challenges and have dreams, hopes, wishes and vision. I pray every day for my son to have a wonderful life with Autism.

Dedicated to my son who inspires me every day.

By Edward Iannielli

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

A Personal Message from Karen Simmons

When I co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs” with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Heather McNamara, the biggest dilemma we faced was what to call the book ,as folks both did and did not want to be labeled in certain ways. It was reported to be the most challenging title the Chicken Soup people wrestled with to date. What we learned was that people on the autism spectrum and other spectrums for that matter, are people first before their condition!

Some of my favorite people are on the autism spectrum! My dad, my son, Stephen Shore, my sister (maybe) and even a bit of me! When my son was diagnosed in 1992 I embraced his autism and mostly tried to focus on his gifts, strengths and talents rather than the deficits he displayed at the time, after I got over the initial denial of it all. Of course I had the same challenges families face in those beginning years and could have chosen to have a negative attitude and chose instead to focus on the positives as much as I could. As part of his early intervention, before the days of behavioral interventions, I wasn’t about to wait around for science to prove to me whether certain methodologies were legit or not. I just wanted to find tools that would enable him to have the best life he could have.

Of course I used my own “mom” common sense compass, built into most moms, though I tried things to help my son that were not necessarily science based. They were “mom” based. My real question is who are we to “fix” people? All people are broken in some way, and to different degrees. ALL people have different ways of being though certainly no one is “better” than the next person. If we feel with our hearts and souls while helping people through tough times, in whatever way makes sense at the time, the world will be a better place!

Our time on the planet is all-together too short to waste on efforts that take an extraordinary amount of time to prove one way or the other. Often, by the time double blind studies are concluded, methodologies have changed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Polyanna, with an altruistic view, and I do believe in research with a true return on investment. I propose that we focus to create a better overall society that promotes everybody flourishing.

Autism is not a disease, an illness or a disorder, it’s a different order and people on the spectrum as well as other spectrums, are wonderful souls and deserve the best, most successful lives, whatever that might look like. Thanks for being you, John!

Karen Simmons
CEO, AUTISM TODAY

Stories From the Heart : Children are Unique

Children are unique it doesn’t matter they are regular or disable. They need age appropriate specific content, lesson plan and delightful learning atmosphere to improve their overall developmental domains. The way of teaching Children with developmental delays and Children with special needs are more challenging than typically develop children. The exceptional children need exceptional pedagogical instructions to meet their needs, as an instance.

I teach Preschool Students with special needs, students identified with developmental delays in the domain of language-communication, fine, gross, sensory motor, social-emotional, behavioral and activities of daily living skills. Most of the students were verbal and familiar with their name, but they did not initiate to utter their names. At circle time I used to sing a song with the name of each student:

 

If your name is (e.g., David)

You are wearing blue

Come to the circle

Clapping, Clapping, Clap

Jumping, jumping jump

Spinning, spinning, spin


And the next couple of days I sang the song, if your name is … appropriate placement for the students for future education plan.  And stopped singing to point to a particular child. The child then uttered his name. I applied this strategy by rotation to the all students. The students were able to learn utter their name, recognizing color, taking turns and following directions to comply all gross motor activities.

Gradually the students exhibited significant improvement in expressive and receptive language, as well as cognitive, fine, gross and sensory motor skills. I emphasized rhythms instead of word and command.

Special needs youngsters require concrete support to enhance their academic and behavioral skills. Hence, the teaching method of special needs children should be on right track. The teachers and caregivers can benefit from implementing potential teaching strategy on students, individual learning strength.

On the basis of students, (IEP) goals, the teachers can apply baseline assessment test to the students to bring out the deficiency on any particular domain. Then begin treatment with appropriate method on this skill, until the students are mastered. The mastery criteria of the students will help to find.

By Dilara Begum, Special Education Teacher

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Qi for ASD

Traditional Chinese Medicine Provides a Research Based Approach to Using Medical Qigong to Help Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parents of special needs children often become advocates willing to pursue innovative approaches to helping their children.  In my case, my eclectic background as a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist and acupuncturist led me to pursue options offered by Chinese medicine for my own children, who have had sensory integration challenges.

Imagine my surprise in discovering that an American medical doctor trained in classical Chinese medicine had already charted this territory and come away with a comprehensive treatment approach that pulls forward ancient teachings of medical Qigong  to treat children with sensory integration challenges, and had published research to demonstrate that her approach supports significant developmental gains in children with ASD.

This Western MD had taken her initiative a step further and was actively placing Qigong in the hands of early intervention specialists and parents via a training program that honors the age old principle that Chinese medicine is fundamentally for families.  Dr. Louisa Silva has been publishing research for the past 6 years  showing that her intervention, “Qigong Sensory Training”, reduces sensory impairment and improves adaptive behaviors in children with ASD.

Her most recent publication draws on Chinese medical theory to suggest that Autism involves the interplay of impaired sensory development and delayed emergence of self- regulation.  Addressing this delay via Qigong can help children fill in missing developmental milestones.

My training provided a lens to review Dr. Silva’s research—which I found compelling enough to invite her to come to the Boston area for the first time to offer her thorough training to occupational therapists and acupuncturists. The training also teaches parents to deliver Qigong massage.  My experiences working with children and parents in the program contribute to my enthusiasm over this approach.  We are already seeing signs of reduction in sensory impairment in the children novice practitioners are treating.

Through ongoing outreach, Dr. Silva aims to expand the reach of this Qigong Sensory Training Intervention.  If you are an open minded parent who wants to engage hands-on in your child’s wellness, consider participating in a QST training near you!

Author Bio:
Maria A. Broderick, MAOM, Ed.D., Lic.Ac., practices Chinese medicine with a focus on child and adolescent health and development.  Maria is a member of the clinical faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture (www.nesa.edu), where she supervises acupuncture interns in the pediatric in patient unit and the adolescent outpatient clinic at Boston Medical Center. Maria holds a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture and a doctoral degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, where she previously served on the Faculty of Education. Maria is a Schweitzer Fellow for Life. She is the Director of Reservoir Family Wellness (www.reservoirfamilywellness), in Acton, MA, where she treats children with ASD with Chinese medicine.

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

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