When a Woman Whispered How She ‘Can’t Stand Parents Who Can’t Control Their Kids’

I remember the day I finally got the answers I needed about my 4-year-old son’s behavior. April 1, 2016. That day I took him to have his evaluation done, thinking he would be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), like his 9-year-old sister. As I gave his therapist all the information she needed, I saw a light turn on in her head. After doing a few tests of his response to touch, she turned to me and said, “He does not have ADHD. He has sensory processing disorder (SPD), and it looks like he might be on the autism spectrum.”author's son in car

My head was spinning. Surely I would have noticed if my son had these diagnoses, right? She explained to me how sensory disorders often look like symptoms of ADHD. My mind jumped back to the day I made the appointment. I was checking my 9-year-old out of school, my son and my 2-year-old in tow. My son started to cry and throw a fit while we stood in the bricked hallway of the school. The secretary came out of the office and instructed me to wait outside, since my child was being a disruption. I walked outside with my head down to wait.

After this three-hour evaluation and the diagnoses, I went home and straight to Google to research what sensory disorders are all about. Within 30 minutes, my son’s entire life made sense to me. All four years of it — the reason why he rarely slept, or why he likes to wears his Halloween spandex costume or long sleeve shirts. That day at the school made sense. The noises in the hallway bouncing off the bricks and making it sound distorted had hurt my son and caused him to have a meltdown. He changes his clothes a thousand times a day. It made sense! Finally, I knew how to help my child. I knew exactly what to watch for and what to expect.

I was relieved to have answers. I was also upset and confused because all this time I thought I was parenting “wrong.” “Maybe these people whispering about my parenting skills in public places were right,” I often thought. No, it had nothing to do with bad parenting — but everything to do with being unaware of something I couldn’t see.

On the Monday following that appointment, I had my own appointment for the OB/GYN. My husband couldn’t take off work, so I took my son and 2-year-old with me. I was confident in my newfound knowledge and had sensory items packed to try and make it easier. I sat down in a seat with another row of seats behind it connected at the back. My son had my phone watching YouTube with headphones in his ears to block out background noise. Then the phone froze. He could hear everyone around him and began to have a meltdown. I frantically rushed to get YouTube playing. When it did, his muscles relaxed. No major meltdown!

However, an older lady sitting behind me decided to “whisper” to her daughter, “Would you like to move? I can’t stand parents who can’t control their kids.”

It was loud enough for me to hear. I politely turn around and responded: ” Actually, I do have control of my kid. He has a sensory disorder and is autistic. Since the month of April is Autism awareness month, you might want to look into the statistics for both. Possibly educate yourself on what they consist of. One day you might be the person having to defend your grandchild against people’s hurtful words.”

The lady got quiet and moved with a look of embarrassment on her face. For the first time, I felt proud of myself and confident with the answers I needed for so long.

I can hold my head high and free my mind of any worry  I once had that I was a “bad” parent. I explain to people who make rude comments towards me or my child exactly the reason why my child is having a meltdown. I no longer feel embarrassed when I have to sit in the entrance of a store, swaddling my son, calming him from a meltdown because all the race car carts are gone and he doesn’t like the texture of the regular cart. As people walk in the store staring, I just let them stare. It makes no difference to me. I am parenting, and every child requires different parenting. Knowing is the most empowering tool a parent of a child with special needs can have. When all the pieces fit, life is easier.



What I Mean When I Tell You My Daughter Is Autistic

I want the world to become more educated about neurodiversity. Knowing people with autism diagnoses means understanding can come more easily to us all. So if I come straight out and say “my daughter’s on the spectrum,” that means “check your judgment.” It means “resist assumptions.”

It can be hard to distinguish my daughter from neurotypical kids her age. I get that. It probably comes as a surprise when I say it. But when I tell you my daughter has been given an autism diagnosis, what I’m really saying is this: when she does something you don’t expect, choose compassion over judgment.

If she doesn’t want to give you a high-five or a smile when she greets you, don’t assume she’s impolite. If she walks away from you when you’re talking to her, don’t assume she’s ignoring you on purpose.

If she gets upset when you don’t want to do things exactly her way, every single time, repetitively and consistently for hours or days on end, know that it’s something that can come with her autism.

If she shuts down and retreats in the middle of a play session with your kid, it might be because the rules of a game suddenly got changed. Or it could be that the conversation and activity is happening too fast to process.

If she can’t come to your child’s birthday party because there might be strangers there and too much noise and food that smells bad, don’t assume she doesn’t want to be there. She does. She wants so badly to come, I promise.

If she doesn’t get excited about things or doesn’t think things are funny, take it as a compliment that she’s showing you how she really feels. She’s not faking it. She’s not pretending to care or laugh. Showing that side of herself to you means she trusts you.

As her parents, we were relieved when we got the diagnosis. Finally someone could tell us that her behaviors come from a particular place. There’s a reason and a purpose for them.

Getting the diagnosis enabled us to look at her behaviors completely differently. Instead of being angry and frustrated, we worked harder to understand her triggers so we could teach her to cope.

Telling you about her diagnosis means that you can understand and identify what you see in her, too. She’s not a “brat.” She’s not “weird.” And we’re not ashamed.

She is part of the fascinating world of neurodivergence, and we will always expect you to honor her humanity.



Memory hub could underlie social, cognitive quirks of autism

For most of us, telling a tale from our childhood is a simple, often spontaneous act. For people with autism, however, relating life experiences — whether from years ago or yesterday — can be a tall order.

Autism has an unusual effect on memory: It disrupts the recall of everyday events but often goes with an enhanced ability to hold onto facts. Many people with autism can master enormous amounts of detail about a chosen interest, be it the London transit system or the life of Georgia O’Keeffe.

These traits, among others, implicate the brain’s main memory hub, the hippocampus, in the condition. Preliminary studies in animals suggest that disruptions to the hippocampus and its circuits could underlie some of the cognitive difficulties common among people with autism1,2.

Some of these problems, such as trouble remembering social information, may stem from problems with memory per se. But others may relate to memory only indirectly.

“We’re recognizing that the hippocampus is really critical to a lot of the things that are clearly absent in autism — things like being able to flexibly make decisions based on past experiences,” says Loren Frank, professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Studies of the hippocampus could one day help to explain features of autism ranging from poor social skills to difficulty switching from one idea to another — an aptitude known as ‘cognitive flexibility,’ Frank says.

This brain region might also lend clues to therapy: People with autism may be able to use some unusual cognitive strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

Social scripts:

The hippocampus’ name derives from its resemblance to a seahorse. In the 1950s, scientists established its role in memory after noting that people with a damaged hippocampus could not form new memories.

The anatomy of the structure may be somewhat atypical in the condition. One study of 8- to 12-year-olds found that children with autism have a larger right hippocampus than controls do, but this size difference diminishes as the children get older3.

The consequences of this anatomical oddity are unclear. But research hints that there are specific strengths and weaknesses in the way people with autism remember and learn.4

The hippocampus governs declarative memory, the conscious recall of facts and events. People with autism struggle with one aspect of declarative memory — autobiographical events. A detailed memory such as eating caramel corn at a carnival in yellow rain boots doesn’t stick in their minds5.

On the other hand, they are good at, and may even excel at, retaining names, dates and definitions, and other facts. These skills also fall under the purview of declarative memory. In one 2008 study, a group of individuals with autism with average or above-average intelligence named the objects in a series of pictures at least as rapidly and accurately as controls6.

In fact, declarative memory may help people with autism make up for some of their other difficulties, says Michael Ullman, professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.7. Because they have trouble with social skills, they may memorize ‘scripts’ for, say, how to behave at a birthday party or what to say when meeting someone new.


Although the hippocampus is often said to ‘store’ memories, it doesn’t function like a filing cabinet, says Frank. Instead, it’s more like an orchestra conductor, touching off patterns of activity elsewhere in the brain — in areas needed for processing sensory stimuli, emotions and so on — that result in the experience of a memory.

As a result, a glitch in the hippocampus, or its broader cognitive circuit, does not necessarily result in a memory storage problem. For example, people with autism may have trouble using memories to make decisions — a process that requires rapid toggling between internal thoughts and the external world. Deciding what to say in a conversation, for instance, involves listening to someone, registering their meaning and matching that with stored information and experiences — in milliseconds.

“Being able to switch attention back and forth is a critical aspect of our normal cognitive processes,” Frank says. “And that seems like something that may not be working well in autism.”

Frank and his colleagues have found that disrupting neural traffic between the hippocampus and areas of the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer shell, in rats leads to autism-like repetitive behaviors8. These animals may resort to such repetition because they cannot flexibly respond to varied, unpredictable stimuli, Frank says.

Frank’s team is studying a rat model of fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition related to autism, to see whether the rats have abnormalities in hippocampal circuits.

Conflict resolution:

People with autism may also have trouble altering memories in the face of conflicting information. For example, boys with fragile X syndrome are just as good as controls are at remembering items on a list. But they struggle with tasks that require integrating knowledge from different sources.9 “They tend to have a deficit when they’re asked to do something that contradicts what they were initially asked to do,” says Andre Fenton, professor of neural science at New York University.

Fenton and his team are investigating these ideas in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome. They have found that fragile X mice can learn to avoid an area that delivers an electric shock. But when the shock zone moves, they are slow to learn its new location2.

The team has identified one unusual feature in the mice, in hippocampus cells that track an animal’s location in space: The firing patterns of the cells are highly similar, even in different conditions. “It’s almost like it’s hyper-perfect. It’s hyper-reliable,” Fenton says. These over-synchronized neural signatures may underlie the difficulties with cognitive flexibility in people with autism, Fenton says.

Strangers everywhere:

In August, researchers reported a connection between memory formation in the hippocampus and genetic risk for autism. They found that in mice, turning on or off certain autism-linked proteins contributes to neuronal changes thought to underlie learning and memory formation in the hippocampus10.

One part of the hippocampus may be especially relevant for social behavior. Studies in mice suggest that this region, known as CA2, is crucial to social memory — an animal’s ability to recognize and remember details about members of its own species.

This area has a high concentration of receptors for oxytocin, a hormone involved in social behavior and bonding. In a 2014 study in mice, a team led by Richard Tsien at New York University found that oxytocin directly increases the activity of CA2 neurons involved in establishing social memories.

In another study that year, a separate set of researchers engineered a mouse in which they could specifically silence CA2 neurons. The results were striking. The mice recognized familiar objects and found their way through a maze as adeptly as controls. And they were social, sniffing other mice placed in the same cage. But they lost their social memory: They treated mice they had met before as strangers, sniffing them just as much as they did new mice1.

The role of the CA2 region in autism is not yet known. “Clearly the symptoms of silencing CA2 are not identical to the symptoms of autism where loss of sociability is one of the key findings,” says Steven Siegelbaum, professor of neuroscience and pharmacology at Columbia University in New York, who led the study. But problems with CA2 neurons could contribute to low social aptitude in autism, he says.

Siegelbaum’s team has found impaired CA2 function and social memory in a mouse model of 22q11.2 syndrome, a genetic disruption linked to schizophrenia and autism11. The researchers are investigating possible disruptions in the region in mice lacking the autism-linked genes CNTNAP2, SHANK3 or NRXN1a. If changes in CA2 function are associated with autism features in the mice, the researchers plan to test whether increasing or decreasing the activity of neurons in this region alleviates these features, Siegelbaum says.

This sort of research raises the possibility that future treatments for autism could attempt to modify the function of specific types of hippocampal cells. In the meantime, people with autism may be able to use their solid grasp of facts to circumvent some difficulties. Many autism interventions draw on this strength, explicitly instructing children when to make eye contact or how to take turns rolling a ball back and forth.

“Declarative memory is a really powerful and flexible system,” Ullman says. “It can [be used to] learn all sorts of different compensatory strategies.”



Writing about autism: ‘Parents are sick of being asked what special skill their child has’

It was at my first event for Shtum, almost exactly a year ago at Dulwich Books in London, when I first got a taste of the impact the book would have. Almost everyone asked me about autism. It may seem naive but I didn’t expect it. Despite having been a father to a non-verbal autistic son for almost 16 years, I had never had an in-depth conversation with anyone about the subject, apart from solicitors, barristers and doctors.

The event at the bookshop was something of a watershed in my life – and not an altogether comfortable one, for I had never been a joiner. No groups, no clubs, no societies, no Facebook groups, nothing. I had guarded my privacy and opinions. This had nothing to do with shame surrounding my son’s autism – far from it. But it was based on two long-held realisations of my own character: I hated confrontation and felt my opinions were of little value. And when one is crippled by the first, the second feels like pulling teeth. The first has not changed; the wrongness of the second, I am still coming to terms with.

So how did Shtum come about under such personal strictures?

It was born, using Pethadine and forceps, during a master’s in creative writing at City University, London. The course director told me I should write about autism. I told him I wasn’t going to. He may have mentioned the word “hook”; I may have replied with the word “bollocks”. And then I went home and thought about it and came back with two criteria: it had to be honest and it had to include genuine humour.

So I began writing and planning, and it quickly morphed into something wider, something thankfully beyond memoir – which I wanted to avoid at all costs – and into a work that discussed wider issues of communication and family secrets; how the ability to express oneself verbally is no guarantee of proper human communication.

During a first reading of 1,500 words above a pub in Clerkenwell, my current agent approached me – actually, within a couple of days, three other agents had emailed me hoping to see the finished manuscript, which was exciting and uplifting. But I still had to finish it. Finishing a novel is difficult – one as personal as mine even more so – but following many iterations and six weeks of anxiety after it was sent out, it was bought by Orion. And I thought the hard part was over.

And so back to the event at Dulwich Books. Autistic people and parents of autistic children are protective of their children and vocal critics of depictions of autism in the arts and media. That night I had extremely positive feedback from both groups. Subsequent events all over the country and online reviews have also proved to me that Shtum has provided a rallying point and, at the very least, solace to those parents of autistic children like mine who do not speak and who are sick of being asked what special skill their child possesses. I think the most often-used word in relation to Shtum has been “finally …”

I find this all humbling and gratifying. It has now been 10 months since the hardback was published. I have been a writer for 30 years, so the critical acclaim Shtum has received feels like a shock, but also a vindication of all the hard work that went into it.

As it is published in paperback, I am once again about to embark on a full schedule of readings, Q&As and panel discussions, most of which will no doubt focus on autism rather than the mechanics of writing. I think I’ve come to accept that if the mechanics are invisible, the story can shine even brighter – this has always been my experience as a reader – and I hope it continues to shine.


Emma waits in the kitchen because the smell makes her gag. So the day unravels like every other: bath running, Jonah standing half-sodden while I open the windows, remove the bedsheets and spray the mattress cover with disinfectant. The sheets I ball together with his reeking pyjamas. The aromatic nappy and soiled wipes get tied in a plastic bag, and in he hops –the bubble-covered water turning to consommé on contact. I clean him vigorously, showering off the stubborn bits, and dry him with his navy towel – any other provokes a tantrum. Dressed, I shoo him along the corridor for breakfast. That’s our division of labour – she deals with what goes in and I deal with what comes out.



Adults with autism overcome childhood language challenges

Results of a small study of adults with autism at Johns Hopkins has added to evidence that their brains can learn to compensate for some language comprehension challenges that are a hallmark of the disorder in children.

Studies analyzing electrical activity in the brains of children with autism have shown that they have difficulty sorting out pairs of words that are unrelated—like “clock” and “frog”—from those that are related—like “baby” and “bottle”—making it hard for them to process written or spoken language. Moreover, investigators believed that for most children with autism, this struggle with language persisted throughout their lives.

Results of the new research from specialists at Johns Hopkins Medicine, published in the March issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, suggests that at least some adults with autism process unrelated words as well as adults without the disorder and their brains use distinct learning strategies to do so.

“There is often an assumption that people with autism will always have problems understanding the meaning of language,” says Emily Coderre, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But our results suggest that adults with autism seem to use an alternative mechanism to process language that results in a different pattern in the brain.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 20 adults with autism spectrum disorder, considered mild to moderate. All participants had “normal” verbal abilities, according to standardized tests. Those with autism spectrum disorder were diagnosed by a specialist on the team based on their score on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Some participants were diagnosed early in life, and others not until adulthood. Many participants went to regular schools with special education tracks. Some participants had graduated high school, and some went through college. The research team also recruited a matching group of 20 participants without autism to serve as a comparative control group. Participants overall ranged in age from 18 to 69. Six were female, 35 were white, one was Asian, two were African-American, one was Hispanic and one was mixed race.

All participants completed a 90-minute computer task that asked them to decide whether two pictures or two words were related (e.g., baby and bottle) or unrelated (e.g., frog and clock). The task designers chose 400 pairs of tangible nouns, half of them in the form of words and the other half displayed as pictures.

One hundred of the noun pairs were related words, 100 were related pictures, 100 were unrelated words and 100 were unrelated pictures. The screen showed a picture or a word for 1 second and after a brief pause displayed the second picture or word.

While the participants completed the task, the researchers monitored their brain’s electrical activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG) that recorded activity from 256 electrodes. For their analyses, the researchers looked at the brain activity from nine small clusters of electrodes on the front left, middle and right of the head over the frontal cortex; in the left, middle and right of the top of the head over the central brain; and on the left, right and middle part of the back top of the head, where the parietal lobe is located.

When analyzing unrelated pictures or words, people with typical development have a spike on the EEG during the 200- to 800-millisecond window following the second word or photo, known as an N400 response. Researchers believe the N400 response reflects the brain’s ability to recognize that something is “off” and that two words or pictures aren’t related in a meaningful way.

When looking at related and unrelated pictures, the people with autism had the same N400 spike on the EEG readout as the people without autism.

Contrary to findings from earlier studies in children with autism, adults with autism also had the N400 spike in electrical activity on the EEG when looking at related and unrelated words. In the controls, the response occurred at 250 to 500 milliseconds in the front of the head and from approximately 400 to 800 milliseconds over the top and top rear of the head. The response in the adults with autism started later, from 400 to 800 milliseconds in both the top and top rear of the head.

From 400 to 800 milliseconds, the N400 spike was relatively evenly distributed over left and right sides of the head for the control participants, whereas in adults with autism, the spike was stronger over the right side of the head. Coderre says that these differences between the groups—an earlier onset of the N400 response for controls and a more right-sided N400 response for the adults with autism—suggest that the two groups used different strategies to think about the meaning of the words. She points out that overall, the adults with autism showed a similar N400 response to the controls, suggesting that they weren’t impaired at teasing apart the unrelated from the related words, contrary to previous studies in children with autism. “It appears that although the adults with autism in our study have brains that are ‘wired’ differently than those without autism, our findings strongly suggest this different wiring can still enable them to achieve good cognitive and language abilities, at least on this one measure,” she says.

“It is possible that some adults with mild or moderate forms of autism may have developed compensatory learning strategies that allow them to process language as well as people without autism,” says Coderre. She plans to repeat this experiment in children with mild to moderate autism to verify that the differences seen between adults and children are due to learned responses.

“If we can understand those compensatory strategies better, then teachers can use this information in language programs for children or those with more severe language deficits to help them develop these alternative strategies faster and earlier,” she adds. “I hope our study sends a hopeful message to people with autism or their parents.”

Coderre says that one limitation of her study is that they used single words for their analysis, simplifying it, whereas others in previous studies used full sentences in their study design, which may have affected the results. She also points out that they asked participants to think about whether the two words were related or not, which may have prompted them to use more explicit compensatory strategies. In future studies, she plans to repeat this experiment using an “implicit” task, in which participants aren’t told to think about the relationship between the words, allowing her to verify whether these results were due to learned compensatory strategies in adults with autism.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. have autism, according to the National Institutes of Health, and about a quarter of those are nonverbal. Those with speech have difficulty with complex language processing, like understanding meaning, emotional states in the voice or metaphors.



Autism in the brain, region by region

If the brain were a house with many rooms, you wouldn’t find autism in just one of them. Autism has many causes and many forms. But no matter which form it takes, it seems to touch the entire brain. It permeates and perturbs the beams, foundation, wiring and piping of the house, rather than just, say, the kitchen.

Still, autism does have local effects: Different regions of the brain contribute uniquely to autism’s impact on cognition, emotion and behavior.

In this special report, we detail the regional consequences of autism, one brain area at a time. Studies of the hippocampus, for example, may help explain the uneven effects of autism on memory. Investigations of the superior temporal sulcus may provide a window into the impact of autism on social perception.

The report is ongoing. Over time, our reporters will step into the various rooms of the brain to probe autism’s effect on those regions.



How I Learnt to Thrive Living with Autism

6 years ago, back in 2011, life was very different for me. I had just been diagnosed with a form of autism, as well as an anxiety disorder and OCD. I was stuck in a school where I was not understood and subject to vicious bullying. I couldn’t do anything but feel helpless. However, this was until I learnt how to not only accept my diagnoses, but to thrive in spite of these conditions. This saw a new, positive chapter in my life begin.

What It’s Like Getting the Diagnosis


Being diagnosed with an illness or a disability, and proclaimed as ‘different’, isn’t easy for anyone. But when I had these labels slapped on me, my mind grieved for ages. As an adolescent in a community comprehensive school, I knew that any sort of difference would be picked up on and seen as an excuse to be bullied. I was not normal anymore, or so my peers seemed to think.

I would be in class, and people would shout abuse my way. All I heard was variations on: “You freak, you retard, go die!”, which really hurts at a young age. Want to know the most shocking thing? Not even the teachers understood. They were pretty much indirect ringleaders – ignorant of understanding and, even with specialist support, unwilling to adapt to a student with different needs. I would cry myself to sleep and hope to be accepted, to be some degree of normal, again.

It became clear that this was not acceptable, so after years of my parents fighting for what’s known as a ‘Statement of Special Education Needs’ – basically, a document outlining what support is needed that’s bound by law – we won. Within just a week or two, I moved to a more understanding mainstream school, which was a relief.

The Challenges of Living with Autism


The challenges of living with autism differ on a person-by-person basis, as people with autism exist on a highly complex spectrum. With Asperger’s Syndrome, I’m at the higher end of it. I have average/above average intelligence in certain areas, but still find social situations and adapting to them hard.

For example, I’m very driven to succeed in my career as a writer and journalist, but I can find it hard to adapt to new surroundings and to not seem socially awkward. But once I get used to a place or a community of people, I’m fine. To me, it’s about assessing a situation and coming to terms with it, whether that takes seconds, minutes, hours, days or even longer. You need to feel comfortable and safe, which is extremely hard if you’re on the spectrum.

Other challenges? There are many. I can be very persistent. This can be a good thing, in that I can demonstrate how passionate I am about something. But others can find this to be, quite frankly, annoying – which is understandable, because we’re all busy and have our own agenda. Still, I sometimes wish people would be more understanding and empathetic. I – and others with this condition – don’t mean any harm. We’re just trying to get by.

How I Learnt to Thrive Living with Autism

I’m not going to lie: it took me ages to adapt to living with autism. And I certainly never thought I’d thrive with it, even though my parents, close family and friends knew I could.

I’ve always loved being creative, especially with words. So, being stuck in my own mind and not knowing anything of the future, I decided to set up a personal blog. I wrote about coping with autism and the things going on in my, well, random mind. Soon, though, I paired this with my technical interest and set up a tech reviews site.

I would nag PRs for gadgets to review – under an alias, actually – and they obliged, which felt so enriching because clearly they believed in me and my blog. It soon become clear that I loved doing this and decided that journalism was for me.


When I had to find a work placement in Year 10, I took it upon myself to contact the local newspaper. A few days later, I received correspondence saying I was too young to conduct a placement. But this was not enough. So, yes, I did what any persistent person would do and contacted the paper’s MD. It turned out he understood autism having a son with the condition, and had me in for work experience.

This was so encouraging, and I felt so at home. Also, the fact that he replied showed me that, yes, I do have what it takes. And perhaps more importantly, that yes, I am different, but who cares? It was a major boost to my self-confidence, which had been left in tatters from being in a school where I seemed destined for failure.

Soon, my GCSEs came and I got into college to study English along with a BTEC in business. I’ve now come to the end of my college studies and have a place to study English at Swansea University. I’m very excited to start in September.

The lesson from my story? As with people not on the spectrum, using your interests to find a sense of purpose in life is paramount to thriving with autism. If you’re autistic, you’re capable of doing anything that a non-autistic person can do, whether that’s excelling at your studies or job, or having a meaningful relationship. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise, as no one ever really thrives if they only listen to other people.

Final Thoughts

I’ve learnt so many things on the road to where I am today. The most pivotal has been being able to not only accept my condition, but to look at it in a positive light. I no longer see my autism as differentiating me from society, but rather as a part of my identity – that this is me, and that’s OK.

If I didn’t have this outlook, I’d be a totally different person, and know I wouldn’t be as focussed as I am. I genuinely believe that I’m spurred on by my interests more than anything else, but the support of those around me has also been crucial. Ultimately, the thing I’d say to anyone with autism is to just be yourself, surround yourself with people who understand and care, and follow your passion. That’s all you can do, really. But then isn’t that all anyone, autistic or not autistic, can do in life?




Autism Inspiration – Another Child OFF the “Spectrum” thanks to this mum’s LOVE & COMMITMENT

I hope this story serves as inspiration. We are led to believe health issues can’t be resolved and this simply is not the case in the very vast majority of cases. This family has achieved what modern medicine believes to be the impossible. With commitment to a healing protocol and the desire to want the best for their child AND the willingness to push through discomfort they have succeeded in seeing their son well on the road to recovery and no longer on the spectrum. The message here is that healing is possible but not without change and challenge. Success is only ever achieved if we are willing to feel the discomfort and do it anyway, don’t let your own “pain” impact your child’s potential healing and optimal health!

We began our GAPS journey almost 18 months ago and it’s been a rollercoaster ride.  However, the pre GAPS days with the stress and the worry that there was something wrong with our child, and his obvious unhappiness were a lot more stressful then GAPS ever was.

There were so many times people said to me ‘it must be so hard’ or ‘I don’t know how you do it, I don’t think I could’.  In reality, I found life a lot harder before GAPS.  It certainly is hard at the start, so much to learn and understand. The initial resistance, the sickness that can come from a major change of diet, die off, understanding the different things they may be sensitive to, regressing, the list goes on.

However, there are also the gains.  There is joy in watching your child eat such nutritious food, AND wanting it.  The immediate improvement with his digestion that I never realised was such a big issue, but the continuous crying that often followed meals stopped.  The joys of hearing him speak, losing his sensory issues, coping in crowds, and having eye contact with me.  The learning curve is huge but I have gained a lot of knowledge in 18 months.

I have gone through many hurdles, feeling overwhelmed, fear, not trusting my gut feeling as a mum, sacrifice, tears, regression, bothered by people’s opinions to name a few, but the gains have been incredible.  I have no doubt that our quality of life would be much different today if I had not intervened as I did.  The approach is not mainstream but if you take the time to learn and go with it, it is effective.

Every child is different and there is always going to be doubt, questions and this is where help is so necessary.  There is so much information and things to be unsure off. For me Sally was a huge support.  It is so important to have someone who understands and has knowledge to help you through the bumps on the road, and provide guidance to get you there successfully. Her compassionate and supportive nature was also very empowering, and her knowledge and guidance helped me find missing pieces in the puzzle, so thank you Sally.

The objective of this is not to credit anyone for success but to show it is possible.  I was lucky to have the full support of my partner, but he is a FIFO worker away for 26days at a time.  I have no family to support me in this country and only a few friends that supported me, but only a couple that were really interested.  I got to where I am now with the help of Sally, a great homeopath, my partner, a couple of supportive friends, facebook support pages and a determination that there is nothing that can’t be improved by lifestyle choice, nutrition and love.

My journey is not quite over, but I now have a happy, ‘normal’ child who is no longer on the ‘spectrum’ and continues to improve. It also saddens me what our modern society is doing to our children and it is up to us as parents to learn and guide our children as best we can. We do what we have to do, and the light and new sparkle in their eyes as you go through the journey makes it so worth it.



Cute 6 years old boy looking through the window

Researchers Are Studying Fecal Transplant As A Potential Treatment For Autism

To treat brain disorders like autism, scientists increasingly are targeting a different part of the body: the gut.

Imbalances in the gut microbiome ― the community of trillions of bacteria living in the digestive tract ― have been linked with mental and neurological disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Parkinson’s disease. Now, medical researchers are looking into ways of improving the health and diversity of the gut’s bacterial community in order to better treat these conditions.

New research suggests that the gut also may be an important site of intervention for autism spectrum disorders. Children with autism have been found to have a less diverse gut microbial community than neurotypical children, as well as lower levels of important strains of healthy bacteria. Scientists suspect that these differences play a role in behavioral symptoms of the disorder, like impaired social functioning.

“The role of microbiome in autism has received a lot of attention in the last couple of years,” Dr. Mathew Pletcher, vice president and head of genomic discovery at Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization, told The Huffington Post. “There is a lot of data supporting a link between behavior and digestive health.”

The preliminary study, conducted by researchers at Arizona State University and published in the journal Microbiome, showed that “microbiota transfer therapy” ― aka fecal transplants ― can improve the diversity of the gut microbiome, easing gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms of austism.

While fecal transplants aren’t yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the early results are promising. Study co-author Dr. James Adams called findings “very compelling.”

“We completed a Phase 1 trial demonstrating safety and efficacy, but recommending such treatment and bringing it to market requires Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials,” Allen, a molecular biologist at the university, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing research on this treatment method with a larger, placebo-controlled trial in the future.”

Targeting The Gut To Treat The Mind

For the study, the researchers recruited 18 boys and girls ages 7 to 16 who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Each participant underwent a 10-week treatment program that included antibiotics, a bowel cleanse and daily fecal microbial transplants for two months.

Fecal transplants work by introducing the fecal matter of a healthy donor to the patients. The transplanted material contains around 1,000 different strains of gut bacteria, acting like an ultra-potent probiotic to help restore the health and diversity of the recipient’s intestinal flora.

At the end of the eight-week period, the participants showed a significant increase in the diversity of their gut microbiome, and increases in certain healthy bacteria strains thought to be deficient in children with autism. The healthy new microbes remained, even after the treatment period ended.

These changes in the microbiome seemed to lead to significant long-term symptom reduction. The participants showed an average of 80 percent improvement of gastrointestinal symptoms (which commonly occur with autism disorders). They also showed a 25 percent improvement in behavioral symptoms, including better sleeping habits and social skills.

”We were hoping for some improvement in autism symptoms and were pleased to see about a 25 percent improvement in only 10 weeks,” Dr. Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, a biologist and study co-author, told HuffPost. “It was great to see that autism and GI symptoms improvement remained at least eight weeks after treatment stopped.”

New Hope For Treating Autism

The next step for the team is to conduct larger, placebo-controlled trials to confirm the efficacy of the treatment.

While fecal transplants aren’t quite ready for widespread public use, other methods of improving gut health could be of benefit to individuals with autism. A Baylor College study published in June suggested that adding one particular strain of beneficial bacteria into the gut of individuals with autism could lessen symptoms.

Some parents have also have found success using dietary interventions to improve gut health. But so far, research is too limited to support a nutritional approach.

“Dietary changes such as increasing fiber intake, avoiding food allergens, or taking probiotics may have some limited benefit for some individuals, but in our opinion this treatment has a lot more promise,” said Krajmalnik-Brown. “Probiotics only contain one to 10 strains of bacteria that do not normally grow in the gut, whereas human microbiota contain more than 1,000 strains.”

But it’s early days yet. Pletcher, who was not involved in the research and reviewed the findings for HuffPost, warned of the study’s small sample size.

“I wouldn’t say these results are necessarily surprising, but with a study of this size ― we have to not over-interpret the results,” Pletcher said. “This is an encouraging first step in determining if this type of treatment will provide real benefit to the autism community.”

In other words, don’t take it upon yourself to try this one just yet. The researchers caution that improper techniques used without the guidance of a physician could result in serious harm.

“Families, do not try this at home,” said Krajmalnik-Brown. “Microbiota should be very carefully screened and the treatment should be done under medical supervision.”



5 Changes in The First Year of an Autism Diagnosis

Having a child diagnosed with Autism is life changing. This neurodevelopmental condition is so prevalent, yet many parents struggle with the changes ahead.

After noticing the subtle signs of a developmental delay in our child, we reached out to a psychologist who performed an evaluation in our home and diagnosed our son at just over two years old with Autism.

Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed in the first year of the diagnosis and, hopefully, can help you:

1. Your appreciation for life grows

Suddenly, as you watch a child grow and struggle in life you come to realize how valuable life is.

As the parent of a “non-verbal” three-year-old I can now see how the little things begin to matter more. My three-year-old son saying “box” and pointing to a box means more to me than you could imagine. Every effort he makes to verbally communicate is a blessing. Life is so fragile; once you come to terms with this diagnosis you can begin to let go of expectations and appreciate reality.

2. Your perception of everything changes

I suddenly hear, feel and see things differently. My mind is hyper aware and I’m hyper sensitive to everything. I can walk into a room and tell what will cause a meltdown, frustration or great joy to my son.

This ability has been evolving since my son’s diagnosis one year ago and I know it will continue to change as he grows. I may not always be able to control the environment around him, but at least I know I can help him navigate every day life.

3. You don’t care about material things

Suddenly, I do not own many valuable items. My clothing is extremely inexpensive. The decor in my house is minimal. The toys are everywhere but never for a long time, as we like to keep the home decluttered.

Valuable collectives simply don’t stand a chance here and if we happen to have them, like an antique child’s toy piano, it’s okay that my son broke it. As a family we find little real value in expensive items; we prefer to spend our hard eagerned money on making memories.

4. You admire other special needs parents 

Once you become a special needs parent you will begin to find suppport groups and organizations that can help you and your family. When I meet these parents I can connect to their struggles so easily; we don’t even have to say a word. If I know you have a special needs child, I am on your side. The stress of daily life for special needs parents is real; we never know what challenges lie ahead of us. We also are constantly worrying about the future—will our child be able to enjoy his/her life? It’s comforting to know we are not alone, so I always urge these relationships with other special needs parents to grow as we provide support to one another.

5. Your hopes and dreams will change

Not long ago, I imagined running a business and getting back into the work force to alleviate the financial stress of having a single income family. Because of my son, that has changed. My current dreams are to help families of children with special needs and disabled people.

I do hope to join the work force in a freelance field, but realistically as my son grows and his younger sibling grows as well, I am forever focused on their wellbeing first. I believe my dreams have completely changed but I am excited to see where it takes me.

I hope these steps help you gain greater perspective about your child and yourself.