A Kenyan journalist who asked to remain anonymous describes how he witnessed a youngster with mild autism make a full recovery.
Circumstances drew me to health reporting. When I became seriously ill at the age of 24, I worried that I might die.
I managed to live, though, and I later made the decision to deploy my interest in health journalism to tell unusual stories to the world.
The story that follows is about a young boy whose mild autism-related recovery I witnessed.
I had gone to visit my dad at his workplace in town when I met with the company’s accountant.
My father was a likeable fellow, and so many of his colleagues were looking forward to meeting his family.
So when I identified myself to the woman as a journalist, something struck her. The accountant revealed to me that she had an autistic child.
She also described the school her 10-year-old son attended, which catered to students with autism.
She was a happy woman and asked me to go see them so I could tell the world what it’s like to care for a child with mild autism.
“That’s okay,” I said. Most of the time, when someone asks a journalist to cover news not in their daily plan, they simply assent and then continue with the day’s business.
That ought to have been the case with my dad’s coworker, but I discovered that I was unable to ignore the story.
I debated the idea that night, and the next day I instructed the accountant (Mama Hemed; not her real name) to coordinate an appropriate date with the institution’s owner and other parents.
I visited the school when the date was decided and was perplexed by how little people in society understood about autism.
The instructors and caregivers at the school were gracious. The parents shared their stories freely as well.
One parent described how her son caused a commotion and had temper tantrums inside a grocery store. Shoppers at the mall blamed her for giving her child a poor upbringing.
Another parent described how her boy (who I nicknamed “Pinnacle Boy” or simply “PB”) would frequently climb to the apartment’s highest point and then precariously balance on the balcony rails.
This caught my attention because PB’s parents claimed he was currently improving.
When I published the first story that mirrored the parents’ and caregivers’ struggles, the reception and the reactions were euphoric.
Most readers admitted they had been ignorant regarding autism their entire lives.
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Autism awareness in Africa is still low, and many cultures still view autistic children as terrible omens.
The positive response to the first story encouraged me to continue with PB’s story, who, in his parents’ eyes, was improving every day.
After a few scheduled calls, the family warmed to my ideas and expressed a desire to document their son’s recovery.
Even with PB’s parents’ permission, I would still not want to reveal his identity in this blog post for the simple reason that I believe it is wrong to expose a child due to the potential stigma that could come with such a disclosure.
In the days to come, Pinnacle Boy’s parents would demonstrate to me what they believed played a significant role in their son’s gradual recovery.
The diet plan
Pinnacle Boy was not given milk, refined sugar, or soy products. The parents also prevented him from eating candy and products containing gluten or wheat.
They noted that the said foods worsened the boy’s moods.
Additionally, they forbade him from drinking coffee. Instead, they served Pinnacle Boy only his favorite dish: rice together with steamed fatty fish with mrenda (traditional greens), broccoli, and organically grown pixie oranges.
They also fed him grass-fed beef, beans, select nuts, and seeds. He would partake of the grass-fed beef stew with either ugali or, occasionally, nduma (arrow roots).
Pinnacle Boy’s mother would frequently contact me and let me know of her son’s slightest improvements.
She told me, for instance, how he became so enraged after she cut out gluten and sweets from his diet that he avoided speaking to her for weeks.
She once called and said, “He loves chapatis so much, and it has not been easy.”
I appreciated Mama Pinnacle’s tenacity because she never gave up, even on the days when the child had temper tantrums.
What’s more, Pinnacle Boy’s mother left her sales and marketing job to nurture her beloved son.
She claimed that she made the choice after learning that nannies struggled to execute her instructions perfectly.
She also documented her son’s progress in a journal.
Pinnacle Boy improved the following year. Even so, he began interacting with kids from the estate where they lived.
A boy who typically wore a glum expression began grinning with other children. Additionally, while they were playing football one day, Mama Pinnacle watched his hitherto aloof son lend a hand to a boy who had fallen over.
Prior to this, his son would laugh at such situations.
Mama Pinnacle reported that her son would only sit in his favorite position on their apartment’s balcony once a week at this time. Compared to the typical four times a week, this was a significant improvement.
I think I had few calls and follow-ups in the third year, or both of us got busy. I can only remember a time when she called me excitedly to tell me that their son had improved greatly.
One afternoon, I was working on a story when I received a call from the school’s head. She informed me that she wanted me to go cover a story she thought was important.
An hour later, Mama Pinnacle called and informed me that the story I was going to write about was about her son. I was ecstatic.
She did not, however, provide more information. I tried to press her for more details, but she only said, “You just come and see.”
Together with my TV coworkers, I arrived at the school. I was a print journalist. The school’s head delivered the announcement after the customary greetings. Pinnacle had healed; he was transferring to a regular school.
Despite being quiet, the boy appeared happy and at ease. We were awed, especially by the boy’s mastery of grammar.
The English teacher brought all his grammar scores. He had scored an A on each of the nine exams we looked at.
In addition, of all the students in his class, his handwriting was the most readable.
The teacher remarked, “He is very smart.”
“He no longer tantrums and does not perilously lean against the balcony bars.”
“He has also become more empathetic and rarely fights with other children,” said PB’s father.
I was ecstatic to see that a mother’s commitment to her son’s recovery had paid off.
After four years, PB was now transferring to a regular school.
But when we attempted to get the conventional doctors’ perspective on the situation, their response shocked me.
“Such a story doesn’t exist. Autism cannot be cured by sticking to the “right” diet,” a senior pediatrician fumed.
“It is incomprehensible.” “Although there are medications to treat autism, a child cannot completely recover,” according to another physician.
It was clear that the doctors did not value the fact that a couple had walked the road with their fully recovered, mildly autistic son.
However, in the middle of this confusion, we came across an elderly physician in his late 60s. The senior doctor seemed to concur that some forms of mild autism were treatable through observing the right diet and nutrition.
“I believe that people with autism have congenital digestive issues that are aggravated by particular foods,” he said.
Therefore, the doctor explained, if the triggers are removed, 90% of their issues will also be gone.
He also noted that speech therapy, occupational therapy, play therapy, art, and music play a key role in the development of autistic children.
He claimed his own nephew’s mild autism had been cured through therapy and a strict diet that excluded gluten and other triggers.
I’ve told this story to the world so that I might find out if there are any other instances like it elsewhere.
I look forward to following up on this discussion in the comments section below.
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