By Natasha Campbell-McBride, M.D.
Dr. Campbell-McBride, a neurologist who also holds a Master's degree in nutrition, lives in Cambridge, UK, with her husband and her autistic son, who was born in the autumn of 1992. Her clinic treats autistic children from around the world, and she is currently working on a book on effective autism treatments. This story was written in February 2003. My son is 10 years old. He is in a mainstream school, doing well. His academic achievements are within normal range for 10-year-olds, although math is not his strong point. He can be clumsy as far as social skills are concerned, but he has friends, and children generally like him. He can be naÃ¯ve and hyperactive at times, but amazingly mature at other times. His language is excellent with a wider-than-usual vocabulary, and he likes to write poetry and short stories. He is learning to play piano and is doing very well, particularly at composing his own music. No one would suspect what this child and his parents have been through. Nobody who meets him now would ever think of autism in connection with this boy. All this is now. I have been asked to look into the past and describe how we got here. It is always painful for a mother to recall those years of desperation and hard work with an autistic child. It is particularly painful to realize all the things you were doing wrong. If only we knew then what we know now! If only we had done this and that, when he was smaller, he may have developed very differently. However, I do not regret for a moment the mind-blowing educational journey my son took me through. When he was born, I was an M.D. trained in neurology with seven years' working experience. But as they say, doctors make the worst patients. When it comes to your own child, you are just as prone to denial and blindness as any other parent. Apart from that, as all the parents of autistic children discover, doctors know very little about autism. They are taught how to diagnose it, but when it comes to treatment, official medicine has nothing to offer. On the contrary, it is hell bent on convincing you that there is nothing you can do and that any other opinion is quackery. So, being a doctor has given me no advantage at all. Our son was diagnosed autistic at the age of three. After the initial shock and grieving my husband and I started to learn as much as we could about autism. In those days there wasn't as much information available on the subject as there is now, but at least there was something offering our son hope. I remember that somebody gave us a phone number for Dr. Rimland in California. We had a long conversation with him and as a result our son was on an ABA program by the age of 3 1/2. At the same time he started taking DMG. This conversation with Dr. Rimland was like a ray of sunshine in our lives. Here was a person who knew so much about autism and who was prepared to share his knowledge with us and help us. Here was a parent who did not accept the official position on autism and who had devoted his life to changing that position. I am sure that there are thousands of families around the world forever grateful to this man. I want to add my family to that list. From the very beginning the ABA program was performing absolute miracles with our boy. I will never forget our first workshop with our excellent ABA consultant, who had flown to us from the U.S. At the end of an exhausting two days of training, she said that in three months' time she expected our son to speak in small sentences. All of us, including our five therapists, thought that she was dreaming, because our boy had no speech and his understanding of language was very questionable. But to our huge surprise, she was right! We have meticulously recorded that period in our son's life on video. In three months' time we were able to have quite a sensible conversation with him. As our son was moving through his ABA program I devoted my time to learning as...
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