I recently received a note from Mary Hernandez of New York City on her interest in our new local Living Food bulletin. She had also given me permission to reprint her speech on the day National Autism Awareness Week was announced in New York and an article (Part 2) published this Spring in Hope Magazine.
I have titled this post The Hope for Autism (and ONDs– other neurological disorders). Hope is commonly used as a wish that something may happen. Yet the biblical term refers to the Hope as an absolute certainty that a future event will occur. The reality is that recovery (and prevention) from much of the autism and ONDs is completely or partially possible now, so that we as parents need not just wish for some improvement, pray it away or wait for The Hope.
I am most pleased to take this moment to introduce Mary to my readers, many of whom are advocates for autism and vaccination education worldwide, and her Hope Magazine— Augie
On Autism and Hope: “Nine Days Into the Special Diet, I Heard A Voice Behind Me Say…”
Below is the speech given by NAA New York Metro Chapter member Mary Hernandez at the NY City event formally designating April 2010 as Autism Awareness Month. It’s a powerful reminder of how often the doctors write off our children, and how the children themselves prove them oh so wrong. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we who were there enjoyed listening.
April 19, 2010
Thank you, Lisa. Thank you to all of you who came tonight, and thank you, Kim, for all that you do.
Good Evening. my name is Mary Hernandez. I am the Staten Island Liaison for National Autism Association, NYC Metro chapter. I am also the mother of two beautiful children. Luis is 11, and Ana is 10. When Luis was diagnosed with autism, I didn’t know it at first. Sure I knew there was something wrong… After being a very connected and sociable baby, he had regressed. He had horrible head banging and temper tantrums.
But when the neurologist told me the diagnosis… after pointing out to me all the “signs,” as she called them:
“See how he is walking on his toes…?”
“See how he hasn’t played with any of the toys and just lined them up from the door to the opposite wall?…”
“See how he has never acknowledged your presence the entire time you have been in the office…?”
“Your son’s problem,” she informed me, “is what used to be known as ‘infantile schizophrenia.’”
As soon as I got home I rushed to my computer to search for the words “infantile schizophrenia,” and all the citations that came up, used a different word: “AUTISM.” I realized the neurologist was trying to spare me by not using the dreaded “A” word, because at that time, the word autism was synonymous with hopelessness.
Here on World Autism Awareness Day, I am so happy to say that things have changed so much over the last decade. The “A” word is no longer such a hush-hush topic, and autism is no longer synonymous with mental illness in the minds of so many. Unfortunately that awareness has come because of such a dramatic growth in its incidence. Today we are starting to hear statistics as high as 1% of all children and one in 38 boys. Most everyone you talk to knows someone — a nephew, a son, a daughter, a neighbor’s child—with autism.
Yet more and more often today, most everyone knows someone who has made dramatic improvements or lost the diagnosis.
I was fortunate to connect with a woman through my work who told me her son, who had autism, was now in a regular high school on the honor role. She recommended I start with trying a special diet. I was very skeptical, but figured it was worth a try.
At that point, Luis was 4. He was essentially non-verbal with 5 approximations of words of spontaneous speech. He did not make eye contact, did not respond to his name, and had just tested out at 18 month level for receptive language.
Nine days into starting a special diet, as I was working on my computer, I heard a voice from behind me say, “I want to watch ‘Baby Songs Animal songs’ video.” I immediately ran to the door, thinking I must have left it open and a neighbor child had walked in. But the back door was still locked. I went to the front door—also locked. I knelt down in front of my son and asked him, “Did you just ask to see a video?” “Yes,” he responded. It was a word I had never heard from him before. Of course, I ran and put on the video and tears rolled down my cheeks as he proceeded to sing all the songs with the video while doing all the hand motions. That night he called me “Mommy,” and he slept through the night for the first time since he was 15 months old!
That dramatic awakening gave me unbelievable hope, but it was just the first step in a long journey working to overcome his many underlying health issues. He had colitis, osteoporosis, malabsorption, mitochondrial dysfunction, sensory integration disorder, auditory processing disorder—just to name a few. In working to help other families of children with autism, using what I had learned, I came to understand there are many factors that contribute to autism, making each child a unique puzzle whose pieces are always different. Today, after use of classical homeopathy, Luis is thriving in 5th grade. He is on the basketball team and little league. I realize my son’s remarkable response is not usual, but the vast majority of children who work to resolve the underlying medical issues make significant progress. There are people now who insist that Luis must have been misdiagnosed, that autism is a devastating lifelong condition from which such dramatic improvement is impossible.
While that reaction is somewhat annoying because it denies all the hard work and trials and tribulations I lived through to get to this point, I understand it. Eustacia Cutler, Temple Grandin’s mother , spoke in her book “Thorn in my Pocket” of how she denied her initial feelings of denial and that contributed to her feelings of inadequacy. But she also asked herself the question: Would she have survived without that denial? She believes now that denial gave her the time to make room for hope—a hope that was born of having options and actively taking them on.
In my work with families as a counselor in nutrition and other interventions, in my work with National Autism Association, I try to open up those options to parents — options that can provide for hope through new outcomes and new paradigms. The source of that hope may be a bit different for each family and each child affected by autism, but our message on this World Autism Awareness Day it to let the world and — especially, all families affected by autism — know, there are real options. There is acceptance. There is real support. There is hope.
Let’s turn this World Autism Awareness day and month into an Autism Action Month by spreading that message of hope to others. Together, we can be the hope that can make the difference that is so needed for all families affected by autism.
Mary Hernandez is a Holistic Health Counselor and Liaison to the Staten Island Branch of the National Autism Association NYC Metro Chapter . She lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband James, son Luis, age 11, daughter Ana who will soon turn 10, and stepdaughter Crista.
Living Food, our new paper bulletin at http://ishop.livingfood.us/.– is a way for you to support our work and we give a free sample before you are asked to give $10.
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