April 10, 2011

Recovered from Autism: Maya Viktoria

On April 2, World Autism Day, the United Daily News (a Chinese-language newspaper in Sarawak, Malaysia) published this story about my friend and biomed guru, Marissa Bagshaw, who has recovered one child from autism and is in the process of recovering another.

If you read Mandarin, see the original article here: “Angel Wings to Fly Again: Maya's Autism Recovery Journey” - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

This story was also published in today’s Star (mainstream highly pro-vax English-language daily). It’s pretty much the same, however, all mention of vaccines have been edited out (surprise surprise). Read the full article here: My Daughters Had Autism.

The following is a translation of the Chinese version.

Angel Wings to Fly Again: Maya's Autism Recovery Journey
by Tay Yit Ping, United Daily News
April 2, 2011

April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is World Autism Day.

This day is to remind people to focus on autism. For Marissa Bagshaw, this is a special day for her to remind people, especially to educate parents with autistic children, that autism is definitely not an incurable disease - autism is treatable. Your children can be recovered! She hopes to share through her own experience to tell you not to give up hope for autistic children.

Marissa, from Sibu, and her husband now live in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Marissa has two lovely little princesses, now 5.5-year-old old daughter Maya and Yasmin, 4 (pic). Looking at these two lovely children, no-one would think they had autism.

Maya was 2 years and 8 months old when she was diagnosed as autistic. In the years before, her development progress was completely normal, not much different from other children, until Marissa found that her developmental progress suddenly started to lag behind.

“After her 1.5-year-old meningococcal C vaccine, I noticed she began to have symptoms of autism, for example, spinning, walking on tiptoes, repeating nonsensical sentences. At that time, she also learned some words, but not to communicate with people. All the words she said were meaningless or irrelevant, and she never openly called me mother.”

Marissa recalled, Maya often looked out of the sides of her eyes and did not look directly at people. She had temper tantrums and mood swings. She was hyperactive, was a very picky eater, had severe constipation, licked herself and kept rotating. In the middle of the night, she would wake up crying or laughing. She was completely lost in a world of her own.

“She could not go to strange places. There were self-harming tendencies, to the point of bleeding. She continually hit the floor or the wall with her head. She also began having hearing and vision problems, and had lost some of her original language ability and skills.”

Marissa and her husband did not immediately notice Maya’s regression because Marissa had just given birth to Yasmin. However, in the following year, Maya’s behaviour got worse, but every paediatrician told them their daughter had no problem.

However, Marissa’s maternal instincts told her something was wrong. “I read a lot and I knew a lot about children’s development, and in my mind was the was the word ‘autism’. But I asked many pediatricians if my daughter was autistic and they all said no.”

Finally, Marissa brought her daughter to see a developmental pediatrician, who confirmed what Marissa had suspected in her heart. Maya was diagnosed with moderate autism. In addition, a child psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist also confirmed this diagnosis.

“When Maya was diagnosed with autism, I sighed with relief because I finally knew what was Maya’s problem. I knew what I was facing.”

At first, Marissa’s husband was not able to accept it, but they quickly picked themselves up to face reality and worked together to help Maya.

The diagnosis also allowed them to understand why their daughter had these strange behaviours. It was not because the child was naughty or that her parents did not teach her properly, but it was the child’s developmental disorders that caused the deviation of her behaviour.

“No matter how much pain, we had to be strong and move forward because the child needed treatment as soon as possible. We could not wallow in our grief, we had to pick ourselves up to face the problem.”

Daughter Yasmin had never been diagnosed with autism. However, at the same age as her sister, she also began to fall behind schedule in her developmental process. Marissa intervened early and prevented Yasmin from acquiring the autism label as well.

Marissa said Yasmin began to fall behind schedule when she was one. One month after suffering from rotavirus, she also started having some of the symptoms of autism such as tantrums, out-of-control behaviour - jumping and climbing everywhere, hyperactivity, mood swings, sleep problems, loss of appetite, banging her head on the wall, constantly rubbing on surfaces, with alternating diarrhoea and constipation and many other issues.

“When she began to lag behind in her developmental progress, her decline was a lot faster than Maya’s, so we did our best to stop the decline in her development. Fortunately, she improved a lot and was prevented from being diagnosed with autism.”

From the day Maya was diagnosed with autism, Marissa had put her on the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet to help her reduce the symptoms of autism.

Marissa did not give up on her daughter. She had a glimmer of hope in helping her daughter and worked diligently to recover her daughter. She continued to learn and gain hope from others, hope that the angel wings folded close will fly again.

Marissa said that when she searched the data, she found that one thing that some autistic children and Maya have in common is milk and bread - Maya seemed to have an addiction to these foods. As long as they were available, she would eat them clean. However, after drinking milk, she would appear dazed and confused. About an hour later, she would throw tantrums and have a complete meltdown.

“Even my husband has noticed that Maya was different after drinking milk. He also found that Maya was addicted to wheat products.”

The couple, knowing that Maya was an autistic child, immediately replaced her favourite milk with soy milk. They threw away all the wheat bread and biscuits and changed to rice cakes and gluten-free alternatives. Marisa also removed all MSG, preservatives, additives, colourings, artificial flavourings and artificial sweeteners from Maya’s diet.

A week into the diet, Maya uttered her first request. She looked at Marissa and said: “Milk.” Although only a simple word, which was nothing unusual for children of any age, it was the request that was uncommon. Before this, Maya had never verbally asked for anything. If she wanted something, she would take Marissa to the kitchen, and then pointed to the refrigerator or cupboard to give Marissa a hint, or she would scream and shout until Marissa guessed what she wanted.

Gradually, Maya began to demand more, for example, “cookies”, “toys” or “TV” and so on. Her tantrums and mood swings began to decline, and she seemed to be more ‘awake’.

Then, Marissa further restricted Maya’s diet to exclude soy, eggs and sugar, and replaced the soy milk with rice milk. With this diet therapy, they saw even more progress.

At the same time, Marissa began to research doctors recommended by other couples for other interventions, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education. Finally, they decided to adopt Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). In August 2008, they began with 6 hours per week of ABA. By December, they gradually increased it to 18 hours per week. In January 2009, they were able to send Maya to the treatment centre for 30 hours per week of ABA.

Most children with autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, allergies and even asthma have food or environmental allergies. The GFCF diet does not cure autism but helps to exclude allergens from the child’s diet.

According to studies, 85% of autistic children have food allergies. The children’s body cannot digest gluten (a protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley) and casein (cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain this protein).

These food allergies cause physical and physiological symptoms such as dark circles under the eyes, red-rimmed eyes, runny noses, hives or rashes, etc. because the body's immune system is affected. Some children may also have other symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gout, abnormal stools, constipation or diarrhoea.

Maya was unable to digest gluten and casein proteins. In this type of children, due to the lack of certain digestive enzymes, the body cannot break down gluten and casein. The incomplete digestion of dairy and wheat products results in the release of peptides into the blood, causing nerve poisoning and effects similar to morphine or heroin, and similar brain disorders.

It causes in the child pain, gastrointestinal discomfort, opiate effects, emotional instability and other behavioural symptoms. The GFCF diet is an important cornerstone of biomedical treatment.

These children cannot eat any food that contains wheat, oats, rye and barley, such as bread, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pasta and so on. Casein intolerance and lactose intolerance is not the same. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest milk sugar. Some children may only have one, and some children will have two intolerances.

In Maya’s process of biomedical treatment, Marissa removed all the casein proteins such as cow’s milk, goat's milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice-cream and malt. So, Marissa said, learn to read food labels carefully for hidden ingredients.

It should be noted that not every child will benefit from this diet therapy. Fortunately, after Maya was placed on the diet, she significantly improved. If your child accidentally eats the food that she is allergic to, in a couple of hours, see if her behaviour changes. A few years later, Maya had developed to a certain amount of tolerance to gluten and casein.

The greatest fear that parents of autistic children have is that their child was wrongly diagnosed with a mental disorder because the child would be advised to take drugs for the rest of their life and institutionalised.

Marissa’s fear when Maya was diagnosed was, she was told her child had no hope. “Illness is a actually a very common thing, and there is a method of healing for many patients. Our child was sick and the doctor told us that she had no future. Other than behaviour, language and occupational therapy, there was nothing else we could do.” [Note: This was not the 1920's y'know, this was 2008!]

“We seemed to be hanging in the air, no hope, no support. We did not know what to do next. Insurance did not cover the medical costs of autism. It's very sad for a child to be diagnosed with autism because there are not many resources to help her improve her health, especially in this area.”

Even worse, Maya had many physical medical problems. An open-minded doctor did a complete physical examination for Maya. It was discovered that she was suffering from gastrointestinal problems, malnutrition, indigestion, malabsorption, multiple infections, high oxidative stress, gut and brain inflammation, metabolic disorders, immune dysfunction and other diseases. These are all treatable.

“If other doctors were willing to do a simple physical examination for Maya, they would have seen these problems. But they simply told me that my daughter had no hope.”

“Knowing Maya’s physical problems,” Marissa thought, “even if Maya does not recover from autism, at least let her have better health and a better quality of life. Having a healthy body is the same as having a more healthy mind - the child would feel more comfortable and be more attentive.”

“Do not ignore the health problems of children with autism. Do not think that as long as they are diagnosed with autism, there is nothing you can do. Every child has the right to have a healthy body, whether he is a normal or abnormal child.”

Marissa said, to care for an autistic child is very difficult for parents or caregivers. They will feel tired, stressed, depressed and helpless. Autistic children are not the only ones who suffer, their families are also greatly affected.

“I’ve heard too much about the family of autistic children who cannot stick to it and finally choose to give up the autistic child to a care centre or a welfare centre. Or worse is for children with autism to suffer mental and physical abuse.”

Generally, few people understand what autism is. Many people think that autism is like the movie “Rain Man” where the protagonist is strange. Autism is a complex disease but each autistic child is unique.

Marissa is very frustrated that due to society's ignorance of autism, autistic children are looked down upon and many are harshly criticised.

“Because autistic children and normal children do not look different, when a child in a public place behaves improperly, many people will say we are bad parents, that we do not teach our children properly. If the community can be more concerned about these 'hidden' special children, then they can better understand our difficulties. What we need is more caring and understanding, not harsh criticism.”

The cost of autism treatment is very high. However, if autistic children can be diagnosed as early as possible and receive the correct treatment, the rate of recovery is high.

We must look on the bright side, Marissa said, because Maya suffered from autism, she learned to cherish her more and give thanks. She was deeply aware that every small step taken by her children was not automatic.

“Every progress that my child makes, for me, is not taken for granted. When Maya learned any new skill, whether large or small, I would feel very proud. I admit that Maya was a very tough child, but her progress was beyond our expectations. She had a bleak future, but I firmly believe that with her determination, she can accomplish anything!”

“Every day, I see from her new development, the glow from her. I see how in the future, she would be a shining beauty of a woman. I never feel that she is a burden, but feel very fortunate to be her mother. Although autism was a strain on our family, we learned to rely on each other and it brought our family closer together. Autism allowed me to see the needs of others.”

From treatment to cure, Maya took a total of two years. It was June 2010 when Maya was assessed by two different clinical psychologists and they confirmed that Maya was no longer within the range of autism. She no longer had a diagnosis of autism.

In other words, Maya has recovered from autism! She no longer needed any special treatment. She even entered a regular Montessori kindergarten. The teachers and students did not even know she had been an autistic child.

“They do not see any different about Maya. There was no difference between Maya and other children her age. Now Maya is more than 5 years old. She likes school, loves to play with her friends and enjoys participating in many activities.”

Marisa is proud to say that Maya loves to read, and even reads books beyond her age. She is a child who loves to learn. Maya also loves music. In addition to piano, she also studies jazz, and is looking forward to an upcoming stage performance. Now Maya is full of love, enthusiasm and the social skills of well-behaved girl.

Looking back to June 2008, when Maya was non-verbal, she only knew how to say a few words. There was no communication, she only meaninglessly repeated the words of others. But now, she is not only articulate, she even uses words beyond her age.

How Maya got here was through a combination of the GFCF diet, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and biomedical intervention.

Biomedical intervention is a non-drug treatment method. The most important are vitamins, minerals, probiotics, essential fatty acids, amino acids and natural remedies. The treatment of autism addresses the root causes of disease, that is, malnutrition, gastrointestinal problems, chronic infections (viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites), high oxidative stress, inflammation, metabolic disorders, etc.

“I consulted an integrative health practitioner who is a doctor trained by the Autism Research Institute (ARI). These doctors are also called Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctors.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder impacts each child differently. Every autistic child is unique. They have very different psychological and physical symptoms. Therefore, the treatment of children with autism does not have a specific formula, you must carefully observe the degree of development of your child with each treatment.

Marissa suggests that you consult a developmental paediatrician if you suspect your child to have autism. Early treatment of autism is better.

“Do all you can to gather more information for your child. Follow your intuition. You know your child better than any doctor. If there is something wrong, you will detect it before any doctor.”

Marissa said that if your child is diagnosed with autism, try the GFCF diet. However, she also stressed the need to seek the professional advice of biomedical doctors.

“No matter how old or young your child is, please remember, autism is treatable, do not give up hope! You are also welcome to join the KL Biomed forum for parents to exchange knowledge and discuss this subject.”

Marissa emphasised that she is not a doctor nor a professional in this area, so her views and opinions are simply a sharing of experience. She sincerely hopes to see more autistic children receive appropriate treatment, to grow back their wings and fly to a more vast sky.

About Marissa Bagshaw

Marissa Bagshaw, from Sibu, Sarawak, now settled in the capital Kuala Lumpur, is a full-time mother and autism advocate. She is also the sponsor of KL Biomed, created to assist Malaysian parents of children with autism, hyperactivity or other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Marissa has also set up autism parent support sessions with her mentor, for parents in Kuala Lumpur to exchange ideas and to provide non-drug advice.

In addition to her blog, Spectrum Mum in Malaysia , to share her daughter's journey in autism and recovery process, she also hosts an online forum at KL Biomed parent support group.

Marissa has been invited to speak at an international conference on autism in Malaysia and runs an autism awareness campaign. She is also Malaysia's Rescue Angel for Generation Rescue.

Anyone interested in sharing your experience is invited to be an upcoming speaker. Go to the KL Biomed website or KL Biomed support parent group to contact Marissa.

About DAN doctors:

DAN! stands for "Defeat Autism Now!", a project established by the Autism Research Institute (ARI), founded by Dr. Bernard Rimland in the 1960s.

DAN! doctors undergo the same medical training as all other doctors. Their philosophy is to treat autism as a biomedical disorder. Specifically, DAN! doctors believe autism is an immune problem caused by a combination of adverse reaction to vaccines, heavy metal toxification and food allergies.

The founder of the ARI, in an article on advice for the parents of young autistic children said, "Many doctors are reluctant to do further medical tests on autistic patients because they choose to believe that psychiatric medical treatment is the only way to reduce behavioural problems."

DAN! doctors carry out the following interventions:

• Nutritional supplementation: Include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids

• Special diet: Exclude any foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and oats, and completely remove dairy products (milk, ice-cream, yoghurt, etc.)

• Test for hidden food allergies and food intolerances

• Treat intestinal bacteria/yeast overgrowth: Use antibiotics, nutritional supplements and other non-drug methods like digestive enzymes

• Detoxification and chelation: This is a potentially dangerous medical treatment only to be carried out with a doctor's supervision

See also:

What is Biomedical Treatment?

Big Pharma Admits that Vaccines Cause Autism

Recovered from Autism: Danny K.

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  1. Thank you for sharing such a helpful and inspirational information.

  2. Why not raw milk? Pasteurization lacks the enzyme that enables you to digest lactose. My son is on the spectrum and raw milk helped clear up allergies he had to his grandmother's cats.

    My question is--why are certain people now unable to have wheat? I don't think it's a matter of genetics, it's a matter of what people are doing to wheat nowadays. I give my son sprouted grain bread and he does fine.

    Just curious.