Moms of children with autism suddenly find themselves taking on roles they never expected to assume. They become researchers, looking up medical studies and investigating treatments. They become networkers, joining groups and asking for help and support. And they become fighters, fiercely protecting their children against ignorance, discrimination and bullying.
Jacqueline Laurita, of Real Housewives of New Jersey, is actively embracing all those roles. Her Twitter account is a window into her thoughts, actions and searches as she does everything in her power to find help and hope for her son Nicholas.
Her youngest son, now 3, stopped speaking, making eye contact and following commands at 15 months. After many doctors’ visits, Nicholas was finally diagnosed with autism. Jacqueline and her husband, Chris, immediately put him into an early-intervention therapy program. (Her older children, CJ and Ashlee, do not have autism.)
The RHONJ star is trying or investigating a number of other therapies as well; she comments on them almost daily in her tweets. Here’s what Jacqueline is using to help her little boy:
A special diet. Some research suggests that children with autism may be sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, and to casein, a milk protein. Many families report an improvement in behavioral and other symptoms when their children are put on a gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) diet. Jacqueline has been asking her Twitter followers for gluten-free recipes. Read more about the GFCF diet here.
Educational DVDs. Actress Jenny McCarthy has teamed with a speech pathologist to make a DVD series called Teach2Talk. The videos help parents work with their children to increase their language, play and social skills. Jacqueline tweets, “I know therapies can b expensive 4 our children w/Autism. @JennyMcCarthy has ‘Teach2Talk’ videos that help teach u how to work w/your child.”
Homeopathy. Jacqueline asks, “Does anyone know of a leading Homeopathic Doctor in the U.S. that understands Autism?” Some in the autism community believe the disorder is caused by the body’s reaction to vaccines, chemicals and environmental toxins, and that symptoms of autism can be eased or reversed through homeopathy. The practice involves taking diluted amounts of the substance thought to be causing the symptoms. (See more about homeopathy here, and more about a homeopathic hospital that treats patients with autism.)
Comfortable clothes. Many children with autism have sensory issues and can’t tolerate certain sounds, tastes or textures. Jacqueline has been tweeting about clothes suitable for her son and others. “For kids sensitive to textures of clothing, you should check out @softclothing.net. Very soft clothing, no tags!” A follower also suggests Hanna Andersson’s line. (Read more about sensory processing disorder.)
Music therapy. Jacqueline is seeking information on a therapy that uses “psychoacoustically modified classical music” played through headphones. The process is meant to help the brain process sound more efficiently, in turn improving attention, behavior and learning. (See case studies here of children who have been treated with this therapy.)
Oxygen. One of the newer therapies available to children with autism is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which the patient sits in a pressurized chamber and breathes pure oxygen. The treatment is thought to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the brain, increasing brain power. Nicholas tried one treatment recently, and Jacqueline reports, “He was very engaged & said, ‘Monkey, oo oo aa aa.’ NEED 1 4 MY HOUSE!” (Here’s a link to a study on oxygen therapy and autism.)
No matter what path Jacqueline chooses to help her son, the online friendship she has with her followers is an important way she can get the emotional support she needs to be the best mother she can be to her children.
[Photo: via Twitter]
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