our journey of hope and healing through autism
On Sunday, Dr. Derrick MacFabe, a brilliant autism researcher, came to our city to present on autism and the gut-brain connection. I was thrilled to be invited to be MC for the event and give his introduction. The event turned out wonderfully, but because of some IT issues at the beginning, we started late, and my intro was omitted. I thought I’d share it here:
It’s with deep appreciation, that we welcome Dr. Derrick MacFabe today. Dr. MacFabe is director of the Kilee Patchel-Evans Autism Research Group, which is comprised of scientists from different disciplines, whose combined aim is to pioneer new methods in autism research. Dr. MacFabe’s research efforts have been prolific in the past decade, publishing at least one paper a year, for the past seven years. Dr MacFabe’s research explores the way in which many body systems interact with the brain to produce the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder.
I was introduced to Dr MacFabe’s research during the long, dark time waiting for an autism assessment for my daughter Hannah. During that time, many of our nights were punctuated by hours where my 3 year old daughter screamed or moaned endlessly. Her difficulties in communication made it impossible for her to tell us what was wrong. We made many trips to the doctor thinking that she must have ear infections, but not so. As you know, there is nothing comparable to watching someone you love suffer, and feeling unable to relieve the suffering. These nights were followed by days littered with Hannah’s meltdowns, where she lashed out at me and at herself. As the sleepless nights continued, Hannah grew more tired and more agitated during the day. She started banging her head, and grew increasingly violent when asked to do simple things she didn’t want to do (like sit at the table to eat). I often avoided going out with Hannah. The forces that were causing pain and disrupting sleep, had transformed my formerly pleasant, happy and communicative little girl. Hannah had severe social and communication delays, and terrible rages at the drop of a hat.
I didn’t know what the future held for my daughter. I wanted to do everything in my power to help her reach her potential, but didn’t know all the right places to start. We began with the traditional options of speech and occupational therapy at a specialized preschool for children with developmental challenges. As the year progressed, Hannah was given a crash helmet to wear at preschool, to protect her as she would sometimes bang her head on their concrete floor. I couldn’t help but wonder, if autism is a static condition, why is my daughter’s behavior deteriorating, in spite of therapy? Then there were the odd nights where my daughter slept well. The following day, the sunshine would break through the proverbial clouds. Hannah would laugh, smile, and be calmer. Surely this variability meant that there were other factors affecting her body. If I could just find what those factors were, I could help her. In Dr MacFabe’s research, I found compelling science; science that seemed to align with my daughter’s health history. It’s through Dr MacFabe’s research that I first came to see autism as a complex disorder, involving many different systems in the body. The published research of Dr. MacFabe and other scientists became a compass, guiding me in active participation in my daughter’s health care. I implemented a grain-free elimination diet, which has been found by many parents to help children with autism, by improving conditions in the digestive tract. Reading scientific research on autism, and it’s related immune and digestive conditions, became my new hobby. I searched for medical professionals who were aware of current research, doctors from both traditional and complementary medicine. Through targeted medical testing, we were able to see a clearer picture of Hannah’s nutritional deficiencies, biochemical imbalances, and microflora. We implemented treatments that aimed to restore a healthy balance. Hannah’s night time pain was relieved, her frustration tolerance improved dramatically, and she began to make progress in all areas of development that delighted and impressed even her therapy team. Today, Hannah is able to fully participate at church and school, and is flourishing. The developmental delays are resolving. She engages others, expresses her ideas, and asks questions about the world around her. She’s a delight to be around.
Dr MacFabe’s research was the beginning of transforming my fear for my child’s future, into hope. There is a great deal of research yet to be done, but there is much we already know can be to help individuals with autism achieve their potential. It is a great honor to introduce Dr. Derrick MacFabe.
You can read watch a webinar by Dr. MacFabe on this topic here: http://www.autismcanada.org/scientificsymposium/2012/vids/001_Derrick_MacFabe/
You can read more about Dr. MacFabe’s research here: http://www.psychology.uwo.ca/autism/index.htm
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our journey of hope and healing through autism