[This is part of our series: Getting Your Hopes Up: Stories of Healing Thru Diet and Nutrition. Each month we will be posting stories directly from mothers and fathers, on their experience using food and nutrition to help heal their child with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays.]
Shamus was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism at age 2. When they began him on nutritional and biomedical protocols, his parents had no expectation of improved speech or ever “mainstreaming” their son. They just wanted him to sleep so they could cope with him being autistic.
Today at age 10, Shamus shows no signs of autism and has been classified as “fully recovered!” He’s in a mainstream classroom at school, his teachers love him and he has a great group of friends. Shamus is great at team sports, and exhibits no problems in the classroom whatsoever.
His mom says, “I think the future is really bright now.”
Shamus’ recovery was a result of 8 years of hard work by his parents, their practitioners, and Shamus.
Shamus’ Journey – Struggles from Birth
- Wanted feeding every ½ hr.
- Didn’t sleep for very long
Being their first child, his parents didn’t know what to expect, or even suspect was wrong initially. But things got worse as he got older, and it became more apparent there were problems….
- didn’t like loud noises
- have severe melt downs
- projectile vomiting up to 9 times a day, regularly
- waking up from 1-5 am every morning and scream and scream
- very constipated and bloated
- very skinny
- huge dark circles under eyes
- a huge head
Radical Downward Spiral Overnight
At 15 months, Shamus went downhill overnight. Sleep deprivation was especially bad and his mother, Anita, became pregnant with her second child.
Shamus presented with:
- lining up toys
- self-inflicting harm
- leaving mom with black eyes, bruises
- having up to twenty temper tantrums a day
- huge cravings for milk
- continued project vomiting
- continued constipation
- could not cope with any sort of noise, other children, different environments.
Shamus was taken to a general practitioner on several occasions…
“They told me Shamus’s problem was me, that I was an over anxious mother and that I had post-natal depression and they gave me Prozac. I threw the Prozac out, I didn’t believe that was the problem. I did do the 8 post-natal depression counseling for 6 weeks to prove a point. After the 6 weeks they said to me,’ you are the most together woman we know, you are just sleep deprived’ and said, ‘yes, because my baby doesn’t sleep!’”
Shamus wasn’t meeting milestones, no waving, no babbling, commando crawling. Anita thought he would catch up, but he was only falling further behind.
“I took him back to the doctor’s -this particular day he was really bad. They still didn’t think anything was wrong. When we got home that day, when I took him out of the car he had a seizure in my arms.”
“That’s when I knew we were in serious trouble. How could I possibly stay awake 24/7 to make sure he didn’t choke on his vomit?”
Then sleep deprivation hit a critical moment – Anita fell asleep at the wheel and nearly hit a power pole. A friend insisted she visit a homeopathy clinic. At that stage, the doctors were suggesting that Shamus go to a children’s home a couple nights a week so his parents can get some sleep.
“…that’s a slippery slope, they are going to take my child off me, so I closed in on myself and wouldn’t ask for help, the worse situation that any mother can be in, to not be able to ask for help.”
Homeopathy and a GFCF Diet
The Homeopath was the first practitioner that really listened. As part of her protocol, she recommended a gluten and casein-free (GFCF) diet for Shamus. They tried it. Within 3 days, his projectile vomiting stopped and meltdowns reduced from 20 per day to just 3. Anita thought, “Okay, this woman knows something.”
Diagnosis at age 2 and Biomedical Doctor
Shamus, then age 2, was officially diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. The homeopathic practitioner referred them to another doctor, a pediatric biomedical specialist, who started Shamus on a Biomedical treatment protocol. “For people that don’t know, it’s natural supplementation. Children on the spectrum, autism or anyone with gut issues are usually missing or deficient in certain nutrients so we are trying to supplement and put them in. She also said to me: ‘you need to see a Naturopath who specializes in therapeutic diet protocols.’”
GAPS Diet and a FIRST full night of sleep for Shamus
Still desperately sleep deprived, Anita took to sleeping in the attic crawl space so she wouldn’t be woken by Shamus (Terry, Shamus’ dad was waking with him). The recommended naturopath was not immediately available for consult, so Anita pleaded with her for some get started ideas and received instructions to make bone broth and to wean Shamus off the rice milk. They made it that very day and gave it to Shamus in his bottle before bed.
“The next morning Terry and I woke up and I said, ‘did you get up with Shamus last night?’ He said ‘no,’ ‘did you’? I said, ‘no’ and he said, ‘I think he’s dead, he’s slipped, he’s dead, he must be dead!’ We rushed to his room and he wasn’t dead, he was asleep and breathing. We couldn’t believe it. I thought, we’ve got the answer to all my prayers, he’s going to sleep!”
Anita called the naturopath in the morning exclaiming that Shamus slept! The response was, “now, I have to tell you the bad news. He’s going to have massive die-off with what we are going to do and he won’t sleep for a while, but we will get him to sleep.” Anita thought, “oh no!”
At that first appointment together, the naturopath prescribed the GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride) and told them: “it’s going to be the hardest thing you have ever done.”
Shamus did experience great die-off, but their specialist and naturopath held their hands, reassured them, and helped them power through it.
Exactly six weeks later, they started seeing changes – small at first. His behavior was improving but he still wasn’t sleeping well. Though between 6 weeks and 3 months into the protocol, sleep began to improve, and about 5-6 months in he started to sleep through the night.
Shamus was enrolled in preschool at age 3. He was still very autistic, but a calmer child and making improvements -more eye contact, but no speech. He didn’t like change of environments. He would sit under the table and squeal. He was very obsessive and very rigid.
Start of Elementary School
His parents chose an elementary school for Shamus after talking to the principal who was very accepting of everything they had done. He still had no speech at this stage.
Shamus didn’t progress academically very well at first, socially he was fine and wasn’t a problem in the classroom. They discovered he had dyspraxia, which is common in autism. Anita started teaching him at home too. A lot of reading, sounds
(he now in grade 5 and he still can’t sound words out or decode but he can rote learn and can learn words inside and out so that’s what they work with). Starting at year 3 teachers gave Anita reading books and extra work for her to work with Shamus at home and he really started progressing.
Gut Testing, Clostridium difficile Treatment, Improved Speech
Part of Shamus’ biomedical treatment included gut testing. When he was 8, it was discovered that he had an overgrowth of the harmful bacteria Clostridium difficile. After treatment, his speech was amazing. It made a huge difference!
Today Shamus is 10 and not showing signs of autism. He’s classed as fully recovered. His academics are up to standards with everything except writing. Anita is not so worried about writing because of today’s technology.
“I’m so incredibly proud of Shamus, he works so hard at school and he puts everything into it. He has a full knowledge that he had autism, he recognized other children with it, and he asks me questions, and I teach him empathy for other children and say, ‘you’ve got to help them at school, you know Shamus.’ I think the future is really bright now. I (and Terry), have had to work very, very hard for 8 years. We had to sacrifice financially with what we’ve done, we’ve gone without, but we have the rest of our life and I’ll get my life back and they will leave home!”
Anita says it’s still a lot of work. Sometimes the progress is three steps forward, two back. She says, “I thought you recover a child from autism and that’s it, you don’t do anything but it’s not like that.” She’s really involved in teaching her children about nutrition because eventually they are going to leave home and are going to have to know how to look after their own gut floras.
Anita’s (Shamus’ mom) Advice to Parents
“Try diet, biomedical treatments, and fermented food/drinks. Research! Listen to other mothers that have been there. Realize that it is a slow process but every gain you make is worth it. I basically decided to dedicate my life now to recovering my children so their future and mine would be brighter so they could grow up achieving their dreams.”
Afterword – The healing journey and transformation of Shamus’ entire family
Shamus’ healing journey changed the course of his entire family. With the encouragement of their family naturopath after tasting Terry’s homemade kefir, Anita and Terry founded The Kefir Company, in their home country of New Zealand. In fact, the family’s incredible story does not stop with Shamus. His sister Kaitlynn and Anita both have their own healing stories! Please watch and listen to Anita tell her family’s incredible story: