By Teresa Conrick
This story is dedicated to David, his family and especially his sister, Carol. It is also dedicated to Dan Olmsted, who always wrote that AUTISM had its roots in the 1930´s. He believed, as a journalist, that the epidemic rise of autism was devastating and --- "the story of a lifetime ." What was once a rare disorder, began increasing into exponential growth in the 1990´s and continues into current day. This should be the the most feared AND most studied medical event in history as normally developing children stop a typical trajectory and instead, their medical, educational and social-emotional needs change in a drastic and often life-threatening manner. The spectrum of autism is a gauge, a barometer of health, a yardstick of being socially at ease, to attend, focus, and to learn. The further an individual is along on that spectrum, the more immune abnormalities, microbiome challenges, and health issues we see. The behaviors of ¨autism¨ also seem more pronounced and severe. The spectrum is a gauge of the immune system, from high to low functioning. My interest in this relates to my own daughter, Megan, diagnosed with both severe autism and an autoimmune disorder. In addition, she has prevalent PANS symptoms, like many others . My investigations of the research on autism show that it is a disorder that can be mild to devastating as it relates to the immune system and microbiome. Obviously the brain is affected by both, which is important and hopeful as far as prevention and treatments.
Here is David´s story as I was privileged to hear it from his sister, Carol. She shared family stories, memories, and David´s baby book as written by their mother. The devastation this family had encountered unfolded in front of me. Carol, born in October of 1935, still has many questions about her life with David.
In 1932, as America struggled through The Great Depression while listening to the famous songs of Cole Porter, David was born. He was born at Evanston Hospital, a suburb of Chicago, on January 12th, 1932. Four months later in May, his 5 year-old sister, Ruth Mary, died of spinal meningitis. According to the CDC in this publication on Mortality Statistics of 1932, only 17 females between age 5 and 9 died in the entire United States of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis. What were the odds for this to happen? Such a TRAGEDY -- and then for David to eventually succumb to what the doctors called, Childhood Schizophrenia by age 5, again, what were the odds for this family? Heartbreaking.
The story could end there with of course, the family hardships of losing not only one child but TWO. Then the day to day struggles for years of raising a child who required much more supervision, special schools, the financial responsibility --- and for Carol, the confusion of a brother who ignored her --¨I did not exist to David.¨ David was not particularly loving and treated the family politely but not with much affection. The word AUTISM was never mentioned to Carol as they were growing up. It wasn´t until her friend, Rosie, mentioned that her brother, Dan Olmsted, had co-written a book about autism in 2010. It was then that Carol began to hear about the history of this once rare disorder. Rosie described the symptoms and the timing of the first cases, all born in the 1930´s. Carol was struck with the thought that David may have indeed had behaviors that pointed to autism. Dr. Leo Kanner had written about the first patients, children who presented with the unique symptoms. There were not any adults -- only children --“Since 1938, there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far that each case merits—and, I hope will eventually receive—a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities....".
The Symptoms of David - Autism?
Here then are the clues to put these family memories and facts into a narrative. We know that those who have a diagnosis of Autism show outward behaviors, or as Kanner put it --fascinating peculiarities-- but also science is now showing us HOW these symptoms may be manifesting. Let´s look at what those clues are for David:
■ Like many of the Kanner 11, David had issues with eating. More and more research points this out as well with upwards of 70% of those diagnosed with autism having significant GI issues. David did not nurse well and his mother writes he was a bit colicky with vomiting. When on solid foods, he spit up often. David had poor eye contact and very slow in talking. He did not start speaking until he was about 4. His mother thought maybe the summer of his sisterś death that he had Sleeping Sickness/Encephalits Lethargica because he slept so much. After age 2, he was often high strung and fearful. He had a very limited diet and would not taste things. Later, David was interested in science and mechanical things. He liked light plugs and cords. He rarely spoke to Carol and had problems playing with children.
■ David had severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It manifested in washing his hands over and over for hours. Today, science is showing that many of those diagnosed autistic are also harboring infections, classified as PANDAS or PANS, this research is showing that these infections are NEUROPSYCHIATRIC, that they affect the central nervous system and cause many of these repetitive and obsessive behaviors, as well as anxiety, depression, and an increasing list of social-emotional behaviors.
■ David had tics and perseverated on topics. His tics were described by Carol: Repetitive movements (walked in and out of a room), strange arm movements and sometimes stuttered his words. Sounds much like PANDAS or PANS as Megan has had identical body tics and repetitive movements. Studies and a repentant researcher show that Thimerosal in vaccines can cause tics, and are ¨four times more prevalent in autism.¨ Check out David´s vaccination record as written by his mother in his baby book. Diphtheria shots at 9 and 12 months with a REACTION recorded by his mother. Those vaccines would have been preserved with Thimerosal: ¨ Vaccination January 13th at 1 year - reaction, fever 102 degrees & upset stomach - took 2 months to heal with bandage on -¨ Upset stomach is another huge symptom in AUTISM . In later years, Carol described David having seasonal allergies and a mild asthma. He also had circulatory issues which resulted in horrific looking black, lower legs. For that reason, ¨he would be hospitalized about once a year and put on a drip to clear up any infection.¨ That does not sound like a typical illness.
■ What about David´s parents? Carol described them as warm and loving, and of course wanting the best for both of their children. They did though, share some common similarities with many other parents to children diagnosed with AUTISM -- IMMUNE issues: SEASONAL ALLERGíES -- ASTHMA -- MIGRAINES -- FOOD ALLERGIES. Their mother suffered migraines often and their father had severe asthma. Their parents also wanted David to be educated and cared about his ability to learn and his interest in learning. David eventually became fascinated with science and politics He attended some of the local public schools for awhile in junior high.