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Hoddon’s Story: A Mother’s Testimonial

After my son Haddon was born, I never felt like we had come home with your average newborn baby. Haddon had a piercing scream, terrible problems digesting his formula, and bloody stools on multiple occasions. Fortunately, I had previously benefited from the experience of having a happy baby, my daughter Liza, as a comparative example. For the most part babies are typically happy and usually only cry when they are hungry, tired, or in need of a diaper change. It was immediately evident that there was so much more to baby Haddon’s screaming. The intensity and the frequency of his screams convinced me that something was definitely wrong. His constant abnormal behavior did not stop until I found out two years later what was wrong with my son. Baby Haddon’s cries implied to me that he was in extreme pain and that his development was progressing in an unhealthy fashion.

At the suggestion of our pediatrician, Haddon was placed on Alimentim, a formula for babies with colic and digestive issues. My husband and I called it “liquid gold” as it seemed to quell his signs of discomfort. We kept Haddon on this special formula until his first birthday. I wanted to believe the pediatrician’s reassurance that Haddon would grow out of this stage and be able to digest his foods in a normal fashion in due time. The situation still did not sit well with me, however, and I continued to worry, as most babies naturally do not need to have special formulas for proper digestion. I felt like we had put a “band-aid” on our son’s problems, but we were still concerned because we were unsure of why he had started out with these problems in the first place.

Eventually, we noticed that his screaming had subsided during his first year on the Alimentum as we started an addition on our 1925 home (this will be important later). When Haddon turned one, and milk replaced his formula and table food was being introduced, the screaming suddenly started to return in full force. Unfortunately, I did not make the connection between his meals due to the lack of bonding or interaction that occurred between us after he had eaten. His pediatrician again said he would grow out of this stage and perhaps he was upset because he was teething. At 18 months old, I began to panic about his unhappy demeanor because he was not showing any signs of typical development, particularly with his communication skills.

At 23 months, Haddon was not waving bye-bye as our daughter had and he was not enjoying everyday activities appropriate for his age. He clung on to me for dear life when we entered public places and screamed at anyone who tried to converse with him. He was a very cute toddler so people would naturally want to touch or hug him, which was a terrifying experience for all parties involved. That summer he ruined several birthday parties and had to be taken out of public places in a constraining type hold, so I naturally stopped taking him everywhere. I was exhausted and did not know what to do with my son. I called an out of town friend whose son was the same age and not talking. He suggested I have my pediatrician refer him to a developmental service agency. It took a lot of courage, but I knew I had to find out what was wrong with Haddon or we would all expire from his abnormal behavior and development.

I went to the youngest pediatrician in our clinic (the older ones are typically engrained with their old school mentality and not very keen on potential alternative avenues for any given diagnosis) and finally received a referral to the Children’s Developmental Service Agency. Within two weeks, the agency evaluated Haddon and diagnosed him with Pervasive Development Disorder, (PDD), a disorder found on the autistic spectrum. At two years old, Haddon had a 13 month old’s receptive language skills and a 17 month old’s expressive language skills. His cognitive skills were at 17 months and his self-help skills were at 14 months. Haddon was occasionally walking on his toes and had very poor eye contact. He was shy and intolerant of meeting new people. He had limited social reciprocity and joint attention. His only speech was rote utterances and he was unable to identify pictures of objects, body parts, or clothing. I finally knew what my son’s deficiencies were and was now eager to try to encourage his development and natural healthy growth the best way possible. My husband and I were devastated and worried about our son’s future.

Fortunately, I fell into the right therapists hands. Christine Duffy of “Fixin’ to Talk” referred me to the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the call to make an appointment with Dr. Allan Lieberman at the center would ultimately change my son’s condition and all of our lives consequently. I could tell from the lengthy and specific application that asked detailed questions from Haddon’s birth to the present that we were finally going to be able to get to the bottom of Haddon’s diagnosis and overall health problems. I knew I would not be told that Haddon was going through a stage and that he would definitely be assessed differently during our visit to the COEM. It was evident that Dr. Lieberman was not the kind of doctor who would say “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” and I was excited about finding out alternative ways to help our son.

My husband, Haddon, and I spent the entire day at the COEM during our initial appointment. Dr. Lieberman carefully reviewed and assessed Haddon’s history. He analogized that Haddon’s digestive and immune systems (which old school theory suggests are not symbiotic) was like an elevator whose capacity had been maxed out. He wanted to remove all toxins from his body to eliminate any further detrimental exposure to Haddon. He reasoned that he had trouble with the pesticides and aerosols that we had sprayed in our house. He further hypothesized that the renovation to our 1925 home likely facilitated his problems, primarily with the introduction of contaminants to the atmosphere like the lead paint in our walls. Dr. Lieberman told us that his detoxification process would depend solely on our efforts to remove chemicals and toxins as much as possible from Haddon’s sensitive system.

Dr. Lieberman put Haddon on a gluten/casein free diet after the center performed very thorough food allergy tests. [These are two commonly ingested proteins that are known to break down into peptides that have opioids (from the root word opium) activity. Casein is a protein in cow’s milk, and gluten is a protein from wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt, and kamut]. Dr. Lieberman believed that these two proteins were stunting Haddon’s mental growth development by acting as opioid receptors in his brain that would prevent synapses from taking place in a normal fashion. The COEM’s caring staff also took hair and urine samples to further check for potentially toxic elements and perhaps the absence of basic essential elements. The analysis was sent off to a lab and results were later sent to us. We left the center with renewed hope and a new plan for Haddon that included environmental control, various vitamins and minerals for nutritional support and a new diet. I was so excited with this alternative and previously undiscovered approach to help my son, but did not really believe that environmental factors could be the primary contributing elements of Haddon’s recent diagnosis. Nonetheless, I began removing all chemicals from the home including dishwashing detergent, sprays, aerosols, and anything else that contained environmental toxins. I began to use only non-toxic products. I even went so far as to stop spraying starch while ironing and put only chemical free sunscreen on everyone in the family.

My efforts for removing toxins from Haddon’s system seemed to have immediate results. Haddon responded very well to the gluten-free/casein-free diet. We saw immediate improvements with his eye contact and his ability to communicate improved daily. Haddon’s father gave him the nutritional supplements (19 in total) prescribed by Dr. Lieberman every night and he continued his speech and social therapy in which he had already been enlisted.

We received the results from the hair and urine analysis and Dr. Lieberman was correct. Haddon had elevated lead levels likely from the lead paint particles that became airborne during the renovation of our house. Dr. Lieberman then suggested a process known as chelation to remove the toxins. He prescribed him a cream to rub on the skin over the liver area. We were reluctant at first, but decided to trust Dr. Lieberman’s recommendation because we felt so safe and secure with his direction and advice throughout our past experiences with the COEM. Haddon had made such great progress with their recommendations that we gave chelation a try. We are so glad we chelated Haddon!

Nine months after Haddon’s first evaluation. He was re-evaluated. Haddon jumped from 13-month receptive language skills to the level of a 2 year and 7 month old child (An 18 month gain in 9 months!). His expressive language skills jumped from 17 months to 22 months. His eye contact had vastly improved along with his ability to engage and play with other children. Altogether, he was making outstanding progress. We continued the environmental control, diet, and nutritional support. We took a 3-month break from chelation and continued later that fall.

Haddon made as many gains in his second year of school as he had in his first year. He is now talking appropriately for his age with only articulation being a concern at this point. Haddon has mastered eye contact, initiating interactions with peers, taking turns independently, and completing most age appropriate tasks, to include being completely potty trained. To our amazement, Haddon is now answering yes/no questions and “wh” questions. As I write this testimonial, I hear Haddon and his sister playing with the doll house in an imaginative fashion. He enjoys friends and can be taken anywhere without concern. Haddon has made a complete transformation. We cry tears of joy when we recall his second birthday and the first evaluation. When you now observe our son’s behavior, it is hard to imagine that we ever had this very trying and stressful experience. We do not know if we can say for certain exactly what changed his health and development. Was it the diet, nutritional supplementation, chelation, removal of chemicals or the four hours of therapy a week? The answer is most likely all of the above, but I believe that our early intervention was by far the most powerful factor. We started this total implementation at age 2 and by age 3 and a 1/2 his issues were nearly undetectable. I am extremely thankful and recognize that the COEM combined with our fortitude and perseverance turned our son’s life completely around.

If you are reading this and concerned that your child won’t ever talk, won’t have relationships, and could be deprived of a happy childhood, you are not alone. I had all these fears after Haddon’s evaluation two years ago, but with faith, determination, the COEM, and most importantly early intervention, you can make the difference. Now I regularly hear “I love you” from my son, as well as age specific dialogue I never thought possible. With our dedication and commitment, and a lot of help from Christine Duffy and Dr. Lieberman, we were able to help Haddon in the best way possible that ultimately turned him into a typical child before his critical early development years had been compromised by these deficiencies.

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