Seventeen years ago, a patient who cared for seriously disturbed foster children started bringing her charges to us for homeopathic care. We witnessed such impressive changes in many of these children, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally, that we started presenting these cases. Since that time, we have treated over 4,000 children with a variety of behavioral, learning, and developmental issues. Given the precipitous rise in the number of children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), it is no surprise that we are seeing a growing number of these youngsters in our practice. Since so many children with ASD are initially diagnosed with ADHD, we recognize a number of former patients who would also likely be diagnosed today with ASD.
Our First Patient With Asperger Syndrome
Zachary, our first AS patient, came to us over nineteen years ago at the age of four and a half. This child was a long-awaited blessing from heaven, an only child born to parents already married sixteen years. A shy little boy with a wiry, delicate frame, Zach had a number of traits that we now recognize to be typical of kids with AS.
What first caught our attention was Zach’s habit of scrunching up his face into a curious grimace. He also had the habit of talking to himself repetitively, echoing back whatever his mom said, and counting aloud in whispers. He was a bright boy though, and by the age of two years and three months Zachary had learned the alphabet and numbers up to fifty and had begun to read. By the time he reached preschool, he was two years ahead of his peers. An extraordinarily picky eater, Zach steadfastly refused to venture a bite of any food that was the least bit unfamiliar.
Being highly sensitive, Zach withdrew from conflicts and felt uncomfortable around strangers. Most cartoons were far too violent for his taste. Touch was another area in which Zach’s sensitivities were hyper-acute. Whenever his hair was touched, he let out a scream. He was loath to touch even a plantain flower because of its spikiness. When exposed to loud noises, the child would cover his ears and grimace, as if in terrible pain. So low was Zach’s pain threshold that even minor scrapes that would go unnoticed by other children caused him extreme suffering. The tiniest bug and spider bites resulted in large, open sores.
It was Zachary’s sleep problems that led his mom to bring him to us. Shortly after his fourth birthday, he began to awaken around midnight, and then again at 4:00 a.m., agitated and fearful. The sound of the wind and the noise of cars on the highway made it impossible for the child to sleep soundly. In turn, Zach’s restless sleep patterns disrupted his parents’ rest, since he reported promptly to their bedroom each time he awoke.
Strange, Rare, and Peculiar
In treating children like Zachary, homeopaths are trained to zero in on anything unusual or unexpected about an individual. In the homeopathic literature, such symptoms are called strange, rare, and peculiar. The homeopathic approach is the opposite of the conventional medical approach of reducing people to diagnoses. Homeopaths listen carefully for what we have not heard before in order to discover what makes that person different from everyone else, even those with the same diagnosis.
In Zachary’s case, we were struck by his exaggerated reaction to a level of noise that would be tolerable to the average child. Though Zach had a variety of somewhat odd characteristics, this sensitivity to noise was the most extreme. We gave him one dose of Theridion, a homeopathic medicine made from a small West Indian spider found on orange trees. It is well indicated for children who, among other symptoms, experience over-sensitivity to, or fear of, noise.
When Zach’s mom brought him back to see us two and a half months later, she was very pleased. Noticeably less anxious, Zach was sleeping much more restfully. His sensitivities had settled down considerably, though he still covered his ears when confronted by loud noises. The grimacing and self-talk were gone. Over the next year and a half, Zach continued to improve steadily. The night waking, grimacing, and self-talk did not return. His sensitivity to noise was dramatically reduced.
We didn’t hear again from Zachary until nine years later, when his mother brought him back in for situational depression and hay fever. Because the majority of his ASD symptoms had resolved, Zach’s mom had seen no reason to continue homeopathic treatment during the intervening period of time. This time his hay fever resolved within days of taking Sabadilla (Mexican cevadilla), and the depression improved significantly within several weeks from the same medicine. After eight months, his mother again discontinued treatment. When we called her a year later for an update on Zach’s progress, she simply replied: “He is a normal teenager.”
Since treating Zach, we have had the opportunity to treat a growing number of youngsters on the autism spectrum, often with gratifying results. Homeopathy cannot help every child, but when treatment is successful, it is wonderful. We share here a case of one more child with ASD from our practice.
Alan: Oblivious to Social Cues
Alan, age seven, had been formally diagnosed with AS. The child had suffered an intractable nine-month bout of hives following an MMR immunization. This history, in addition to chronic rectal itching and diarrhea, had prompted another homeopath to prescribe Sulphur, which produced a significant overall improvement lasting only a week. It was Alan’s social and behavioral challenges that led his mother, Pam, to seek out our care.
Pam described her son as so much in his own world that he could barely carry on a conversation. Even when Alan did manage to hold up his end of a dialogue, others dismissed his comments as irrelevant and ignored him. Social cues went right over Alan’s head. He rarely maintained eye contact with those who spoke to him. When Alan initiated a discussion, he tended to monopolize the conversation, without noticing whether the other person was actually listening. The youngster had quite a talent for singing and an excellent memory for tunes and lyrics. He could ramble for hours about his favorite song or computer game until his listener’s eyes glazed over. Even then, he hadn’t a clue that the other person was bored.
One disturbing topic of conversation was Alan’s frequent references to hurting or killing people. Though many children make these types of threats idly, the rash of school shootings at the time worried the adults who knew about them. They became even more concerned when, instead of merely squabbling with his brother, Alan wrapped a radio cord tightly around his neck.
Alan’s family and teachers described the boy as “naïve, gullible, and literal.” A shy child, Alan had the habit of lowering his head or hiding behind his mother in new situations. The young man exhibited a number of socially unacceptable behaviors, including chewing, touching others, biting his nails, and pacing. He also had the curious habit of taking three steps to the right, turning to the left, then repeating the sequence over and over. Alan was clumsy on the soccer field and seemed to lack any understanding of the rules of the game. It was not that he was universally uncoordinated. In fact, the boy was an avid and agile climber. But, when asked to undertake a particular physical task, such as kicking a ball, his coordination seemed to disappear.
Alan’s peers were keenly aware of his social deficits and referred to him as “weird”. They enjoyed razzing him or getting him to say and do embarrassing things. Fascinated by computers, Alan’s grasp of how they worked was more elementary than he led others to believe. His overly eager patter about the computer game of the day, and anything related to technology, were perceived by others as badgering. When he approached them, they headed in the opposite direction. Alan’s apparent lack of empathy only exacerbated the problem. If another child were hurt or in trouble, he appeared unconcerned and interested only in his own needs.
Alan’s voice was annoyingly loud, even in his calmest moments. When the youngster became upset, he shrieked at the top of his lungs—so piercingly that the rest of the family covered their ears. Whenever his parents engaged in conversation with each other, Alan found some reason to wrest their attention in order to address his seemingly urgent need. If his parents argued, the boy tried to intervene, yelling for them to stop. During the pregnancy, Pam had suffered considerable insecurity. She and her husband engaged in ongoing verbal battles. Pam experienced a great fear of abandonment, and felt threatened by the least suggestion of being ignored by her husband. It did not help matters that Alan’s father was leery of commitment. One more baby on the way made him think seriously about leaving the marriage. Pam had been left before, after being impregnated by another man, and worried constantly that it could happen again. We mention these family dynamics, even during the pregnancy, because they can play a significant role in the symptoms that a child develops.
Alan exhibited a number of common characteristics of AS: difficulty with social cues and interactions; fixation on computers, Nintendo and technology (though this characteristic alone is a common contemporary generational feature); lack of eye contact; self-absorption; and lack of interest in other peer activities such as sports. Alan’s grand passion for computers and technology were his constant topic of conversation, causing him to be perceived as pushy and opinionated, and, therefore, alienating potential friends.
Alan had symptoms of two common homeopathic medicines, Baryta carbonica (barium carbonate) and Sulphur (sulfur). Children who need Baryta carbonica are known for being developmentally or academically delayed, shy, and dependent. Their tendency towards awkwardness and immaturity leads others to tease and laugh at them. The derision leads them to keep to them- selves, often fading into the woodwork in order to avoid calling further attention to themselves. Sulphur patients, on the other hand, are strongly opinionated and enjoy engaging in lively debate or pontificating on their favorite subjects, seeming to care little about the interests and feelings of others. The one area of sensitivity to which those needing Sulphur are prone, is to criticism, insults, or scorn. These youngsters typically display a strong interest in, and talent for, mechanical and technological pursuits. They often love to take objects apart in order to learn how they work. Itchy rashes, hives, and rectal itching, previous symptoms of Alan, are common to those needing Sulphur.
When a patient exhibits characteristics of two different homeopathic medicines made from minerals, the mineral salt containing both components is indicated. In this case, the medicine was Baryta sulphuricum (barium sulfate). In the homeopathic literature, the symptom “fear of conversation” is attributed to those needing this medicine. It is of interest in this case given Alan’s inability to engage in dialogue rather than monologue. We have used this symptom to choose Baryta sulphuricum in other cases in which, like in Alan’s, there was a marked deficit in conversational ability.
Greater Empathy and Socialization
Alan’s initial response to the first two doses of Baryta sulphuricum was promising. At the two-month follow-up appointment, Pam described him as more aware and less “in his own world.” He was better able to socialize with his peers, and he exhibited greater empathy and self-control. The episodes of unruly behavior had diminished. Alan’s spelling improved and, for the first time, his academic performance fell within the guidelines of his Individualized Educational Program (IEP).
Over the next four months, Alan continued to improve academically, behaviorally, and socially. The quality of his schoolwork continued to progress, as did his appropriateness in the classroom. Alan’s parents were pleasantly surprised that he had become demonstrably more caring for family members and peers. His shyness lessened. During the entire time he had experienced only one aggressive outburst, during which he threatened to cut people’s heads off with a knife. Otherwise he was calmer and did not exhibit violent tendencies. Although friends were still elusive, Alan was quite a bit more capable of interacting with peers.
We gave Alan three doses of the Baryta sulphuricum over the course of a year. No longer aggressive or threatening, far calmer, no longer confined to his own world, Alan was, by and large, free of the behaviors other children considered strange. The boy was much more acceptable to his peers and was making progress socially. His interest in others had increased. He tended to “borrow” his brother’s friends rather than making his own, and he still enjoyed showing off his knowledge to anyone who would listen. He was far more empathic than when we first met him, in fact, others commented on how kind he was to small children. Alan’s teachers were impressed with how much of a difference homeopathy had made. Academic- ally, he excelled in math, science and spelling, though writing was still challenging.
Alan continued to need a dose of Baryta sulphuricum once or twice a year for two more years. The improvement in all areas continued. He transitioned into a mainstream classroom and felt much more at ease socially. Alan’s parents, family, and teachers were quite pleased. So were we.
Different Prescriptions for Different Children
Zach’s and Alan’s cases are two of the many children with AS whom we have treated. Each child is unique, often even more so with this fascinating population. Zachary needed an medicine made from a spider, and Alan a mineral. Other children need plant medicines. There are over 3500 medicines currently in the homeopathic materia medica. It is that one-of-a-kind quality of children diagnosed with Asperger’s that makes them such excellent candidates for homeopathy because homeopaths are always trying to elicit and understand the strange, rare and peculiar. Conventional medicine has no simple answer to treating this group of children. We encourage you to share the possibility of homeopathy with parents of children with Asperger Syndrome and elsewhere on the autism spectrum. It may transform their lives!