You’ve heard me say it before, and I’m sure you’ll hear me say it again: I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. When it comes to trying to help my child succeed, I will try many different tactics. We have done a variety of different therapies for Damion over the years; Speech, Occupational, Feeding, Applied Behavioral Analysis, Play Project. If you can name it, we have probably given it a try. Through all these different therapies, we have seen successes (some adding more benefits than others), but in a sense, therapies to me are still kind of like one basket. Their form of help is through training and practice. I believe therapies are definitely essential (especially in the early years) to help your child with ASD succeed. But I wanted to look at another basket too. I wanted to know if there was anything “medically” that we could do to help him as well. That is when I discovered integrative medicine.
So, what is integrative medicine?
It is a practice of medicine that takes the whole person into account, not just one system or disease. A lot of people mistake integrative with “alternative” and although it is not the same as going to see your regular family doctor, it is still a western medicine approach for the most part.
As an autistic parent looking into medical treatments outside of what is considered the standard norm can feel a little scary. There are people all over that have touted “cures” for autism that are nothing more than scams, and even some with potential ways to harm your children. Yes, you need to be cautious and aware of this! But there are also actual, real medical professionals outside of your standard pediatrician that can help as well.
Our Personal Introduction to Integrative Medicine
I was on the lookout for more ways to help Damion. I had read books of alternative therapies and talked to other parents of children on the spectrum. I knew there was more than just the therapies that we were currently doing. I looked into peer reviewed studies, current clinical trials that were showing success and various internet searches of autism providers and specialists in my general area. One day, I came across the practice of Dr. Allen Lewis. His practice is currently called Sancta Familia Center for Integrative Medicine and it utilizes a combination of integrative and functional medicine with a focus in pediatrics for kids with Autism, ADHD and behavioral disorders. Between looking at the back story of the Dr. Lewis who is an MD and the outstanding reviews of their practice, I decided to make an appointment and see for myself what his practice was all about.
I was informed ahead of time that they did not take insurance, so their visits would be an out-of-pocket cost. It was a 6 month wait to get in to see them. Neither of these being things I loved, but they were upfront about how their office was ran so I was ok with it. Luckily, they ended up bringing on another nurse practitioner to the practice a couple of months after I had scheduled and I was able to get in to see her in just two months. It was well worth the wait and for us, worth the money too.
Their appointments are much different than a normal doctor’s appointment. For starters, they are much longer. The initial appointment was a couple of hours, and subsequent ones are still about an hour in length. They start with questions and answers and really take a thorough dive into all of the troubles and concerns you have. Their goal is not to believe that behaviors or issues are that way “just because” of a child’s diagnosis. They view issues and behaviors as an “effect” and their job is just try to find the “cause.” You will go in length about any behavioral concerns, eating habits, sleeping patterns, etc. From there based on your answers, they will likely take a deeper biomedical look into your child’s heath.
For us, that meant we went to the local children’s hospital with a lab order for a blood draw, as well as a urine and stool sample test. When results for everything come back, they give you a treatment plan. It explains each area individually. It goes through both why the finding is an issue and how to proceed with the treatment. It can be something as small as the blood draw shows suboptimal levels of vitamin D, so we treat with a vitamin D supplement. Other treatments such as things to help repair gut issues could be more of a multi-step approach. They will give other basic suggestions such as diet changes to try that may be beneficial as well. It can feel a bit overwhelming at first but they do a pretty good job of breaking everything down step-by-step.
We have been patrons of this practice for almost 6 years now, I feel like I have learned a lot and I am extremely pleased with the progress we have seen. From getting Damion to sleep through the night to getting him to talk, I attribute a lot of the successes we have seen in him to the treatments we received from integrative medicine. So much of the time, you hear that the way a kid on the spectrum acts is just “part of their autism”. Sure, there may be some truth to this, but there may also be underlying environmental or health issues causing some of the problems. There were things that I already knew could be a factor in Damion’s health (his extremely limited diet due to his sensory issues for one), taking him to this practice for integrative medicine helped me understand some of the “whys” to a lot of internal things that may be causing him issues. It also provided me with ways to help him become the best version of himself, which can be hard to imagine since my boy was already pretty wonderful to begin with.
For more information on Sancta Familia Center for Integrative Medicine check out their website here.