By Shanna Mi November 2019
It was a glorious late October afternoon when Rowan stepped off the bus at the ferry landing and I met him for the first time. He and his dad had come out west to visit because they had been unable to find a place to rent back east and the nights were getting too cold for tenting.
He was just two months short of his sixth birthday and looked pretty much like any other five year old, long and lean with a mop of blond hair.
But he’d barely taken a dozen steps across the parking lot when I sensed that something was wrong. While I had known for some time that he wasn’t learning to speak, I’d been assured that this was just the way he was, that he didn’t seem interested in talking yet. Indeed, he did not speak, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
My truck has bucket seats, so Rowan sat on the armrest between us. This provided a great view of the truly awesome mountain scenery as we made the half-hour drive home along Kootenay Lake. Not a word. He was taking in absolutely every detail, but I was unable to get his attention. He was in another world and his eyes never met mine.
After a three-day bus trip they were pretty wiped, so sleep was at the top of the list. Since my log cabin in the hills is pretty small, this meant a futon on the floor in front of a glass-doored wood stove — rather idyllic perhaps for city folk.
Food was quite a different story. Rowan loved bananas, peanut butter, bread, and cheese. That was pretty much it. He was really insecure about food and would monitor the kitchen for even the faintest sounds that might indicate culinary activity.
Fortunately, his food preferences were about to change. Since I only eat organic whole food, this pretty much meant that he was going to have a nutritionally optimal and pollutant-free diet, while also breathing clean mountain air, drinking pure mountain water, and not being exposed to wireless radiation. Although unintended, it was basically a health retreat.
Within a few days we had rounded up some winter clothes for the sprouting weed and they started to settle in. Rowan was delighted to spend a warm sunny autumn afternoon helping plant garlic. He really liked the rake and shovel, and was clearly having fun, but still did not speak and did not acknowledge me.
The details emerge
Gradually other problems started to become obvious. He would have serious meltdowns when little things did not go his way. Often we had no idea what the trigger was. Things had to be exactly right and he would freak out when something did not go as expected. This need for orderliness and predictability was also noticeable with toys, which always had to be organized in the same very particular way. He would repeat the same gestures and actions over and over, day after day, and also did a lot of spinning.
We got him some “people” toys like stuffed animals, but he just treated them as things. This changed a bit when I lent him my stuffed cat, which reminded him of his real kitty back home.
It took a while to realize that his non-communication was not a choice, but rather that he simply could not do it. At first he seemed to lack the confidence to even try, but as time passed he did attempt to speak and it was just a blur. He could not control his voice sufficiently, and his thoughts were way faster than his mouth.
He would get so frustrated because he could not express himself, but fortunately had worked out fairly effective non-verbal methods of communicating. However, when we would go to town he’d avoid people, especially little people, presumably because he knew he would not be able to converse with them.
Rowan had ample opportunity to get as much rest as he wanted, but lots of days he was really tired. A few times when we went to town he’d just lie down in the middle of the grocery store floor.
He was also not potty trained, and definitely not from lack of trying.
The search begins
As all of this began to soak in I started searching the internet, trying to understand what his problem was. It seemed like he had some kind of brain damage. Not having any medical background, this was fairly challenging, but nevertheless it quickly became obvious that he had classic symptoms of autism. Up to that point I had only heard the word, but had no idea what autism was.
This led to my questioning his dad about exactly when Rowan’s problems had begun and whether anything significant had happened around that time.
According to his dad, whose memory of this particular event is especially vivid, and which he has consistently repeated to me, the problems began immediately following a vaccination. In the time that it took them to get across the parking lot and into the car, Rowan had become a zombie, staring blankly into space and not acknowledging his dad. As I understand it, this was something like 5 or 10 minutes following vaccination.
I was recently able to get a copy of Rowan’s immunization record, which shows that the triggering event was a dose of Pediacel at 7 months of age. He had twice previously received the same vaccine at around 9 weeks and 18 weeks, along with Prevnar 13 and Rotarix, both apparently without incident. This third vaccination was at a different clinic.
Since the seventies I had been vaguely aware that there were concerns in some circles about vaccine safety, but had never looked into it. Now I was forced to find out more.
My search quickly led to hundreds of videos and articles by parents of autistic kids who attributed their children’s problems to vaccination. It seems that thousands of such cases have been documented, yet conveniently ignored by health professionals and researchers.
Why are vaccines not rigorously safety tested? The manufacturers are obviously aware that aluminum is a potent neurotoxin, but they use it anyway and then suggest that if their product causes brain damage (and a long list of other known side-effects) then it should not be administered again to that individual. How is that not criminal?
Nevertheless, health professionals routinely declare vaccines to be safe and rarely mention the known side-effects. Whatever happened to informed consent?
From detailed information provided by parents about vaccine side-effects related to autism and about biomedical/nutritional supplements which they found had helped, I was able to narrow down the likely problem areas and formulate a plan to hopefully recover Rowan’s health.
I am exceedingly grateful to all who took the trouble to share their stories, their efforts, and their successes, all of which helped to make Rowan’s recovery possible.
The path to recovery
First, I wanted to ensure that Rowan’s diet was the best that we could give him — easier said than done when you consider that he would only eat a handful of specific things. It took a lot of encouragement, but eventually he ate almost everything that we did. After he had returned home I heard that he would eat “anything you put in front of him.”
Rowan loved cheese and loved bread, but I removed them from his diet for a few weeks to check for gluten and lactose sensitivity. It made no observable difference.
When choosing dietary supplements I proceeded on a presumption that this was primarily a brain problem, since it looked like his difficulties were mainly related to cognitive function,
From the stories of parents, plus other research, I had learned about some of the possible problems created by the impact of vaccine ingredients on brain tissue, including micro-strokes, inflammation, accumulation of aluminum, plaque build-up, and destruction of neurons.
Focusing on brain health, I gave him a good full-spectrum B-vitamin complex, iodine, vitamin D3, and a quality fish oil. None of these were easy to administer until I discovered his huge liking for home-made hummus, which he had every day after that, and into which most water-soluble supplements went.
Then I started looking at anti-oxidants and added astaxanthin and CoQ10. We ate a lot of stir fries using organic raw coconut oil (I don’t use any other kind of oil). He also got a spoonful of coconut oil every day, not just for his brain, but because it was a good way to get oil-soluble supplements into him.
None of the above made any noticeable difference, but I had not expected them to change much in the short-term anyway. Good diet, nutritional supplements and a clean environment were just part of building a solid foundation.
Then I started to research specific supplements that might be helpful to directly target the suspected specific problems.
Glutathione to the rescue
The next step was to give him glutathione, despite the fact that so many medical professionals say that oral administration of reduced glutathione is ineffective because it is mostly destroyed in the gut.
After just one 250 mg capsule of glutathione he got much worse. His dad groaned, but I was smiling because it seemed pretty clear that this had caused a toxic dump. So I got some milk thistle extract, and a couple days later gave him only a third of a capsule, with milk thistle.
With that he just came alive, and I knew that glutathione was going to make a major difference. A few days later I increased it to 2/3 of a capsule, still with milk thistle, and he got even better. Then finally I increased it to a full capsule, still with milk thistle, and kept it that way. He just kept getting better. It was an amazing transformation in only a couple of weeks.
After a while I tentatively withdrew the milk thistle, and he was fine, so he didn’t get any more of it. But he continued to take 250 mg of reduced glutathione orally until just a few days before he returned home, about 4 months after he started it. Since then he has not had any.
While we were on a roll I tried a few other things. One of those was TMG, which made no noticeable difference, so I concluded that his methylation pathway was fine. He was getting lots of sulphur in his diet anyway, so I didn’t think he needed TMG.
Then lastly, at least as far as supplements went, I gave him PQQ. This supplement also contained CoQ10 (300 mg CoQ10, 20 mg PQQ). We saw a noticeable difference, but it was not as dramatic as with glutathione. However, since one of the main objectives of using PQQ was to facilitate regrowth of neurons, I wasn’t expecting quick results. He took both glutathione and PQQ every day until he left.
From the stories that I’ve read, many parents have tried a vast array of possible solutions over periods of years, and even then with only partial and very hard-won sucess. So I was stunned, and amazingly pleased, that we fell upon a solution on the very first attempt. But this could never have been done had others not shared their stories for me to read.
That done, and with Rowan now clearly on a path of recovery, I started to think about other ways to regrow neurons and get his cognitive development back on track. The obvious answer seemed to be lots of brain exercise, so that’s what he did and is still doing to this day. Let me explain…
A couple of years earlier, when I had realized that Rowan was really not learning to speak, I had suggested that he might still be able to expand his knowledge by learning to read and write using a computer. This resulted in his becoming computer literate. He was eventually able to say the alphabet, but when he arrived out west he didn’t seem able to do this any more and had to learn it again.
Now, we are homeschoolers from way back, so I had already planned on a bit of home learning while he was here, despite his limitations. We got library books, and he loved to listen to stories, especially the ones that reminded him of his mommy, or his kitty, both of whom he was really missing.
But reading was so slow. Since he was computer literate I decided to try videos and set up Windows on my old computer. Although he had mostly used Linux before, all I needed to show him was the power button.
The next step was to find and download some language-learning videos. This seemed to open up a whole new world of experience for him and he would spend many hours watching and re-watching them. By the time he left, 4 or 5 months later, he had thousands of language videos in English, Spanish and Mandarin.
He was definitely exercising his brain and hopefully growing a lot of new neurons. Shortly after starting glutathione he had gotten much more focused and started trying really hard to speak, which just kept getting better and better. After a few weeks of videos he was repeating lots of things, with varying degrees of accuracy, but definitely trying. Much of it was by rote, without knowing completely what things meant (that has now changed).
Then he went through a spelling phase for a few weeks. I got him a few sets of scrabble letters. After that he started saying short phrases, which would often turn into a blur, but he was certainly trying. However, he was still not engaging in two-way conversation, and still didn’t understand the concept of me and you.
One day we were in the grocery store and one of the clerks, who had taken a liking to Rowan, asked him a question. He responded, quite clearly and intelligently, although brief. I was stunned to realize what had just happened.
He was on a path of steady improvement. Meltdowns became rare. Spinning was much less. A few words and less pointing to what he wanted. A lot more smiles and hugs. A lot more playing (especially throwing him on the futon, which he couldn’t get enough of).
He got a set of magnetic shapes for Christmas and started to build things, and not just the same thing every time. He also liked to shovel snow, carry firewood, wheel the wheelbarrow, and was thrilled whenever he’d see the neighbor’s big tractor with a snowblower on the front. And he loved their dog, who’d often wander over.
Then came another milestone. Up to that point he would never acknowledge me, although he took in every little detail. When I went outdoors he’d stand on the sofa watching out the window. I’d always wave at him, but never got a response, just the usual blank stare. Then one day he smiled and waved back, and continued to do so after that.
When the snow finally melted he would spend hours on the porch with a hammer and screwdriver. He’d eat his lunch outside in the sunshine. He chatted up the neighbor non-stop by spelling words. We played “baseball” with a board and a hunk of wood for a ball. He loved that and squealed with delight. Spring was a very fun time.
I was saddened by his departure, but also relieved because it had been really hard work. We got the truck gased up and checked it over for a trip to the airport. On the last day before their trip I took a notion to check the truck “just in case”. It got to the bottom of the driveway and died. We had gotten a bad tank of gas that was mostly ethanol and water. I live in the middle of nowhere and there was no alternative. They could not get to the airport.
Finally, after many panicked phone calls and internet searches his dad arranged a private pickup by the community bus. With two more bus connections they would be able to get to the airport. It all came together.
We met the bus at quarter to seven the next morning. It was barely daylight. Rowan climbed aboard with his dad and I followed. We all had a good chat with the driver. Then it was time to go and I said goodbye. Rowan broke into tears. I’d never seen him cry before. It took me by surprise and hit me really hard. Eventually we sorted that out after I promised that we could talk on the phone after he got back home.
They were finally on their way. All went as planned and they made it safely back home.
Now, six months later, Rowan is living in the city again, has not been taking any supplements since he left the mountains, is eating a typical diet, drinking city water and breathing urban air. Yet his development is still on an upward trajectory, with no end in sight.
When I talked with him a few days ago he counted to 30 in Spanish and continued to 100 while I was talking with his mom. He is reading now and engages in short two-way conversations, as well as talking about things of interest to him. He knows the difference between me and you.
Overall, he seems really happy now — a long way from when I first met him. His self-confidence has gone way up and he has no problem approaching people to chat them up. Aside from slow progress on potty training, he is pretty normal now, except for having lost 5 years of cognitive development and learning time.
Although this is definitely a success story, I would like to remind readers that every autistic child has a different set of problems and needs, and each requires custom-tailored help to achieve recovery. It is definitely not one size fits all. While our solution may work for some, it may not work for others.