I work at Forte Residential Kokomo Branch and I have a son with a learning disability and autism.  He was born with a full head of hair and very chubby cheeks.  I could not have been happier.  But things over the next few years just didn’t seem right with him.  It started with an extended stay at the hospital due to jaundice.  Then the first few months of his life I thought everything was good and normal.  After his 6 months shots, I noticed that he lost some things he had previously been doing.  He didn’t smile anymore, he had really bad eczema and ear/sinus infections that couldn’t be healed by antibiotics.  By the age of 2, we were still battling illness after illness.  Ryan wasn’t talking either and had just learned to feed himself.  I asked the doctor about my concerns and she said don’t worry because he’s a boy and they develop later.  But I knew.  I knew something wasn’t right about him.  He didn’t socialize with other kids, he would just watch them or would push them down then jump up and down in excitement from watching them fall.  I didn’t take the doctor’s advice.  I took action.  I went to Bona Vista in Kokomo and had him go through a developmental screening.  HE FAILED EVERYTHING!  My heart was broken.  His hearing test was a major fail.   I could have told them that as his ear drums were compromised by ongoing infections for 18 months.  So off to an ENT we went and he had tubes put in and tonsils and adenoids taken out.    I thought this was an answer to my prayers.  I thought everything would be so much better.  He would be talking, able to learn and socialize with his peers.  But it didn’t.  I was so frustrated but I remained hopeful and kept on praying.

Ryan started First Steps when he was 2 ½ and had different therapies to help him communicate and strengthen his fine motor skills.  Progress was little but it was a beginning.  He learned some sign language too.  When he turned three, First Steps was over and we had little help for him.  He got speech therapy through the school but that was it.  When Ryan turned 4, I placed him in a developmental preschool class where he had more opportunities to learn and receive more therapies than just speech.  After several months of Ryan being in the preschool, the teacher called and asked if I would come and observe Ryan in her class.  I said absolutely.  So I spent the morning watching Ryan have no interactions with the other children, play only with a train set and when it was time for circle time, he wouldn’t participate as if clueless as to what was going on around him.  My heart sunk into my shoes.  I felt lost before this but now I was feeling completely helpless.   What I didn’t know was this day was the beginning a whole new journey for Ryan and me.  After all the other parents and children left the preschool, the teacher and I had a long talk.  She asked if I had ever heard of autism.  I said I knew very little. She told me Ryan had all the symptoms of autism but she was encouraging that with proper services he would get better.  She requested that I read a book called “Louder than Words” by Jenny McCarthy.   Now mind you, I had my 1 yr. old Adam, who was doing more than Ryan was at the age of 4.  I was busy chasing Adam and I was also going through a divorce too.  So there was little time for reading.  But I did my best getting in as many chapters as I could during their naps.  I cried through the whole book.  This book could have been written about Ryan.   I wanted to read more books and absorb as much information as possible about autism.  I wanted answers but most of all, healing.

I called Ryan’s doctor and she requested that I see a specialist who could diagnose Ryan’s issues and then we could request therapies and treatments.  6 months later I was able to see the specialist in Indianapolis.  It was an all-day affair.  Blood work, physical therapy, occupational therapy and developmental testing.  By the end of our appointment, the specialist determined that Ryan had Pervasive Developmental Disorder which is a mild form of autism.  He didn’t give any recommendations on treatments because he had only just turned 5.  We were to return in three months before he started kindergarten and we did.  For several years, we tried different medications that just caused bad side effects.  At one time, Ryan had 7 different doctors and none of them seemed to have any answers.  Some of his medications caused him to have seizure-like symptoms and the others either brought out aggressive behaviors or not wanting to be touched.  The meds changed his eating habits and his personality too.  I didn’t like it all.  So by the age of 5 ½ we were done with medications.

Ryan’s eczema was still a major issue so we had to see a dermatologist.   Ryan started an antifungal cream that I rubbed all over his poor dried up body.  After a few days of applying this cream, I received a call from his special Ed teacher saying that Ryan spoke to her but it was brief.  She was amazed.  At the time, I didn’t really know what triggered him to talk.  It bugged me for weeks.  So I did what I had been doing all along, PRAY.  I prayed for the Lord to guide me through this and help me heal my son.  I wanted answers and wanted them now.

A few weeks later while at my parents’ house, my dad was flipping through the channels and I saw Jenny McCarthy on Larry King live.  I yelled at my dad to stop and give me the remote because he’s a channel flipper.   I watched intensely as Jenny described her son’s issues and she introduced the doctor who was helping her son.   They wrote a book together named “Healing and Preventing Autism” and I knew I had to buy it.  Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  I read it and studied it in two days.  There’s a section in this book that intrigued me the most.  The chapter is all about yeast.  And this chapter described all of Ryan’s issues, gave reasons for the issues and possible remedies.  He walked on his tip toes, gut problems, bowel movement odors that would clear out a house, eczema and flapping his arms when overly excited.  This book was the beginning of Ryan’s healing process and definitely an answered prayer.

I started giving Ryan grapefruit seed extract in his watered-down juice every day to reduce his yeast overgrowth.  I kid you not, within two weeks Ryan was talking in complete sentences.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew what Ryan’s voice sounded like but I didn’t know how beautiful it would be to hear him say I love you mommy for the first time.  It took 6 years to hear it and it was as sweet as honey.  His eczema was healing and his yeast levels were coming down.  He just had a clogged mind.  I would have never known that if it wasn’t for this one answered prayer.  Ryan wasn’t taking any medications at this and we weren’t seeing a doctor.  I did this on my own through lots of research.    

The next step I took with Ryan was to get him tested for food allergies.  It turned out that he was allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts.  I also took away gluten.  This kid was changing every day and becoming a much healthier version.  I put Ryan on a multiple vitamin and after more research, I added probiotics and omega 3’s to Ryan’s regimen.  I have to say that Ryan responded well to natural means of healing his issues but not everybody can do it the natural way.  Some need medications to handle certain behaviors and illness.  I just chose to do it this way because I know the supplements are safe and the side effects are minimal, if any.

Ryan also did ABA therapy and is still receiving occupational and speech therapy.  These therapies are crucial in aiding social skills, fine motor skills and vocabulary.  Ryan benefitted greatly from these therapies.

I still remain diligent in Ryan’s care and keep wanting the best for him.  I didn’t give up.  I didn’t want to.  I am a fixer and I love mysteries.  Ryan was my mystery and I wanted to fix him.  I knew my son was somewhere in there.  Now, he’s in 7th grade and doing great.  He still takes probiotics, omega 3’s and a good multiple vitamin.  I take him to an integrative doctor who introduced me to homeopathic medicines and herbal therapy.  Ryan is responding well to these as well and he communicates, raises his hand in class and participates in activities with his peers.  He’s a stubborn, funny, beautiful child.  He also takes pictures and has won some photography awards as well.  He has numerous photo albums of pictures that I have taken over the years.  It’s how he remembers events in his life.  So needless to say, I take lots of pictures for his albums and he takes them too.  I need a closet just for his albums.

Ryan still has autism and still has his learning disability but that is just a small part of him.  He has come so far and I am proud of him.  Ryan has been a real trooper through all the natural remedies, food eliminations and doctor appointments.  To all you parents out there that are raising a child with autism or any other disability, I want you to keep fighting and remain hopeful.   YOU CAN DO THIS!  Pray and keep the faith!    

Ryan & his art

Ryan & his art

Ryan's horse photo