Monday, 18 June 2018

Autism & Fermented Cabbage

Having an anxiety disorder is like living in the worst ever zoo.
Some days it's only inhabited by sweet, fluffy creatures who bring me cups of tea and sunflowers. Other days it's like a bag of cats are trying to claw their way out from my insides.
Life isn't so much like a box of chocolates as a bellyful of mercurial ferrets who on a whim might curl up playfully in my lap, or alternatively decide to rip my face off with their talons. 
They're fun like that.
So, imagine my delight when I discovered that eating semi-decayed vegetables will not only reverse my anxiety, but will also cure my son's autism, treat homosexuality (those crazy gays are everywhere), eradicate cancer and make obsolete a list of conditions that will give doctors way more time to spend on the golf course.
All they have to do is prescribe you a cabbage and collect their favourite nine irons on the way out the door.





Now.
I'm not arguing that cabbage is good for you.  It's high in iron, vitamins  K, C and B, and fibre (which anyone standing downwind of you will tearfully confirm after a couple of hours).   Bioavailability of the nutrients is increased by fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, so eating sauerkraut (the most popular version of fermented cabbage) is like popping a turbo-charged vitamin pill while scrubbing  the inside of your intestines with a toilet brush.  It also contains live bacteria, which promotes healthy gut flora, so it seems that fermented cabbage is a pretty good egg all around.

It's a pretty epic leap from humble side-dish to global panacea, though.   If cabbage can cure autism and stop those selfish gays from smelling nice and falling in love with people, then why aren't we stampeding down to the vegetable stall to cure our children?
There are approximately eight million sites (it's possible I made that figure up, but there's lots, OK?) promoting the notion that the ills of humanity are caused by Leaky Gut Syndrome.  Despite all the airtime it's given, Leaky Gut Syndrome doesn't exist as a primary condition, and there is no evidence linking it with the jumble of disorders it's associated with.  The internet is awash with testimonials of kids being recovered from autism by eating lots of probiotic-rich fermented cabbage;  the market sharks make their money out of selling books, supplements, juices and video tutorials, so according to them, growing a few vegetables in your back garden just won't cut the mustard.  It always depresses me to know that there are people in the world who are unhesitating in their ability to fleece money off distraught parents, but maybe part of the autism journey is about learning to recognise the Shylocks and to find the good guys.  I suppose there's a lesson in everything.
A woman called Jilly Epperly, who has tens of thousands online followers and claims the fermented cabbage juice she sells cures autism among everything else, has been collared by the long arm of the law, who want her to substantiate her claims.  Sucks to be her;  she'll have a job  finding proof of cures in  regular bowel movements.  As far as I can see, though, most businesses continue to flog their lies with abandon, so it's up to parents to become discerning about which therapies to put their faith into.

It's difficult to imagine overdosing on cabbage (maybe unless you're a giant, very hungry herbivore?... and some days that's exactly what  I feel like), so I don't worry that megadoses of leafy vegetables will be listed as a factor in a death certificate anytime soon.  But you can have too much of a good thing.  Unsurprisingly, sauerkraut can cause bloating and diarrhoea, but it's also pretty high in salt so it's best for yourself (and your loved ones) not to over-indulge. Or at least hide the matches until the risk of methane-fuelled explosions has passed.

To answer my earlier question, the reason we're not storming the vegetable aisle in Lidl is because fermented cabbage does not cure autism.  Sadly, we can't fart our way out of cancer or anxiety disorders either. 
On a good note, at least it'l leave us those fabulous men and women who can teach us a thing or two about being true to yourself ; it'll take more than manky cabbage to wreck that vibe.




Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Autism & Where We're At

When I re-published my last post (an oldie from 5 years ago about coping with autism), my blogging buddy Candi suggested I should write an update to it; to this end, you can either damn her soul to the fiery pits of hell for inflicting another bout of navel-gazing on you, or you could do yourself a favour and check out her blog here.  I strongly suggest that clicking on the link will bring you much more love and joy than invoking a plague of demons, but it's your call.... although, in my experience, demons are a bit attention-seeking and tiresome, while Candi's blog is pretty awesome.

So, the universe knows that I am a slow learner; now and again, though, it runs out of patience with sending me subtle messages and bludgeons me across the head with a sign that it's time to cop the fuck on.  The Great Spirit in the Sky doesn't  mess about with sending me angels, or rainbows or soulful revelations; instead it upends my wheelie bins and spreads the semi-decayed debris of my life across my lawn.  When I looked out the window this morning, instead of being greeted with a pleasant pastoral country scene, it looked like a nail bomb had gone off in my psyche... except it wasn't my metaphorical bins that had exploded... it was my real, actual and very stinky bins.  Not content with that, the Bearded Big Bang Denier invited what seems to be just about every magpie in County Monaghan to  thoughtfully mull over mouldy yoghurt pots (and way too many take-away containers... they can't all be mine) and worrying make-up removal wipes that make me question the wisdom of  smearing weird brown shit on my face.  Then, it summoned my hens, master rubbish rakers in their own right, to make a work of art out of the whole job.




God may not be real, but the universe pulls no punches in getting my attention.
Waking up to the fact that there are no cleaning fairies, and that no-one is coming to my rescue, is exactly where I am with autism.  Pulling on rubber gloves and clearing up my own mess is what I do (and what most autism parents do). 
I didn't knock the bin over, but it's my bin. 
I can cry and feel sorry for myself  if I want, and allow the wind to carry my crap across six counties... or I can put on my Big Girl pants and work with what I have.
That's not to say I don't have low points when I want to crawl into my bed and never get out again (having an autistic child is not a great prescription for treating my depression and anxiety disorder... but it definitely makes me laugh more), but there comes a point in the grieving process when you have to make a conscious decision to grow up, inhale the cabbagey innards of your rubbish bin, accept them, and put them to one side. 

Part of that involves learning to ignore the mind-fuckery of social media and growing to accept the imperfect, socially awkward and massively uncool people that we are (it's possible I'm talking about myself here), and spending less time gazing in disgust in the mirror at the irony of having wrinkles and acne at the same time (definitely talking about myself here).  It is said that we can't love other people until we learn to love ourselves, but that's not really true.  Lots of us manage to love and protect our  friends and families, even though we're sometimes damaged and struggling with our own traumas.  If you live long enough, you're gonna carry pain, there's no avoiding that; the important thing is to learn from the pain to make the world a better place instead of swirling it around you in a contagious shit storm (by that, I don't mean burying it, but using your experience to bring light where there is none).

Since that re-published post, I am very drawn towards people who make the world a better place (funnily enough they rarely recognise the positive effect they have on those around them... modesty seems to come with the territory).  Making the world a better place doesn't have to involve nuclear disarmament or curing cancer, by the way, it can be making a cup of tea... or helping you to clean crap off your lawn.  And it's real people (friends, teachers, therapists), not photoshopped dolly birds or the latest iPhone that make the sun shine in my soul. I have learned to appreciate people more and to be less bothered about stuff.  Autism works in mysterious ways.


Autism is finally our normal.
It took a long time for it to stop hurting and to start becoming just another comfortable thread in the fabric of our lives, but we're there, with the help of good people and experience... it's just a bummer that my Road to Damascus moment wasn't a bit more poetic than an exploding bin.   But that's how I roll.






Monday, 4 June 2018

Autism & "Dance Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee"

This is a post I wrote five years ago in a previous blog.  
It's really encouraging to see how far we've come in that time.




Living with a special needs child is like waking up to Muhammad Ali skipping in my bedroom every morning demanding to indulge in a little light sparring while I get the breakfast ready.





Ali I can handle.
I've had five years special (needs) ops training involving Olympian sprints against traffic (so far I've always won, not that I'm bragging........OK, I'm totally bragging) and wondering if I haven't, in some fabulous genetic glitch, given birth to a greyhound/wildebeest crossbreed cleverly secreted inside the skin of a disarmingly gorgeous autistic boy.
I could take Ali with one arm, while the other is mashing Weetabix and making hot chocolate with the correct Bob the Builder spoon.  
Making hot chocolate has become an exercise of surgical precision and requires the careful selection of  appropriate equipment (see spoon above) while implementing a research-based approach (half hot water, half cold milk) and keeping abreast with latest technological advancements (currently two spoons of chocolate powder is in favour).  It's not a straight-forward task.
It's tricky to find a research-based article on the topic, but I think I may be in a position to write one.

It's not the fifteen rounds of intense, sweaty battle that brings me to my knees.
It's the feckin skipping.

It just doesn't stop.

I can handle the tantrums, the dramas and the histrionics of autism and still get the beds made and the ironing done.  Not a curly Irish hair out of place.
It's the low-grade constant demands of autism, the constant background skip, skip, skip of it that splinters  your soul into a dark place where once there was light.
It invades your sleep and creates a permanent white noise that shadows every aspect of your life.

The need for special needs parents to get selfish is vital for survival.
To a special needs parent, being selfish does not mean jetting away on a spa weekend and a giddy shopping trip with a forgiving credit card. 
It means being able to finish a meal, have a shower or ohmygod make an appointment to see a doctor when you're sick.



So while Ali is stinging butterflies with  dancing bees, or whatever he does when he's not boxing, I am learning to harness those moments to look after myself.
I'm getting better at it too.
I'm one of those lucky creatures who has a great marriage and we allow each other me-time to perform manly triathlon-type things (him) or girlie hair appointment/gym bunny/sleeping type activities (me) free from people who are below voting age.
When the kids are at school we go on coffee dates (going out together at night is more stressful than it's worth) and get to enjoy each other's company away from dirty dishes, laundry and anything with the prefix special needs.  We also laugh our arses off that we're still dating after twenty years.
I'm coping with my depression really well by educating myself and giving it attention.  Depression is not a pretty thing to behold, and I remarked to James (Himself) the other day that the pain of it is very much like labour.  It's messy and agonizing and deeply exhausting, but through it something beautiful and compassionate is achievable.  
Ignoring what your body and soul is telling you is dangerous at the best of times, but is horrifyingly close to  pressing your finger on the self-destruct button when you're a special needs parent.  
Ignore your source of pain at your peril.
Bottom line, if you don't look after yourself, you can't look after your family.

When I was a student nurse we indulged in much snickering over being taught to enable patients to express their sexuality.
Expressing sexuality is not about sex (although in some happy events it can lead to it).
It's about reaching into the deepest, most primal part of yourself and expressing it through your clothes, your hair, your make-up.  
When you express your sexuality you are saying to the world "I am here, and I am worth the effort of looking after myself".  



So while Muhammad Ali is skipping in the background I paint my nails, agonise over mascara and go on coffee dates with my husband. 
Butterflies and bees rest in County Monaghan.

(and if I can't ko Ali I could always bludgeon him to death with a metaphor)

Monday, 28 May 2018

Autism & Camel Milk Therapy

I'm  a huge fan of bad jokes; for me, the worse they are, the better they are.  In fact, I feel a bit put out that I'm not a dad, because terrible Dad Jokes are the best.
Like, did you hear about the new store in town called Moderation?  They have everything in there.
Or, if I had a euro for every book I read, I'd say "wow, that's coincidental".
Or, what's brown and sticky?.... a stick (my personal favourite, #sorrynotsorry).
I am as unrepentant in my love for them as I am in my love of crochet and shiny things; this is just one of the benefits of getting older and more comfortable with being 3/4 of the way to becoming a reclusive cat lady who lives on Lyons tea and tins of tuna.
But when I heard the one about camel milk curing autism I waited an embarrassing moment or two too long for the punchline before I realised that it wasn't meant as a joke, which is a shame, because there's something inherently funny about camels (unless you're really into camels... totally judging).


The notion of drinking camels milk is no weirder than drinking cows or goats milk.  We get our feathers in a bit of a ruffle over some nations eating horse meat; yet we fail to see anything psychopathic about one day having a nice chat with Buttercup the cow chilling in the meadow, and the next day chomping down on her thigh between two slices of bread.  We don't think our dietary habits are strange because we're used to them, and don't see that our own habits are as bizarre as everyone else's.  It only becomes bizarre when curative qualities are ascribed to something on the strength of anecdotes and a single piece of clinical research.

In 2013, a patient report  piqued interest, as a mother described how consumption of camel milk recovered her son from autism.  However, her son  (who was prescribed conventional anti-depressant and anti-hypertensive medication) was also receiving intensive ABA, Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy in addition to the less mainstream therapies of  being on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, with added anti-fungals and anti-virals.  The mother attributed the addition of  raw (unpasteurised) camel milk to the child's diet as the factor that recovered the child, but that's like saying the full stop at the end of the sentence is what created the novel; it's just not the whole story.  While it's great to hear that the boy is doing well, I'm really not clear how years of hard work can be overlooked as the solid foundation that the boy's progress was based on.  Maybe ABA and Speech Therapy lack drama and immediacy and just don't make sensational headlines ('Camel Milk Cured My Son's Autism Overnight' is definitely more attention grabbing that 'Ten Years of  Tedious ABA Helped My Child to Stop Eating Furniture in Ikea').  But alternative therapists latched onto camel milk and a new complementary therapy star was born.
The interest also sparked an promising  piece of research looking at the effect of raw camel milk on oxidative stress biomarkers in autistic kids (apparently oxidative stress happens when the body is unable to detoxify efficiently... I really wish someone warned me that I'd need to be a biochemist to be an autism mum).  It was a double-blind, randomised clinical trial involving 65 kids and it found that over a two week period those on raw camel milk had reduced oxidative stress and improved autistic behaviour.  Personally, I'm reluctant to give too much credit to dramatic results seen over two weeks, and anytime I hear the word 'detox' in relation to Autism my toes curl.  Also, if it really worked, shouldn't it be true that there would be no autism in countries where camel milk is a regular part of the diet?  I'd need a lot more research and a lot less preoccupation with detoxing before I could take any findings like this seriously.

There is no doubt that camel milk is good for you; it contains less sugar and cholesterol and more micronutrients than cow's milk (but less protein), but the notion of giving my child raw milk doesn't sit comfortably with me.  When I was a kid, we drank raw cow's milk all the time, but that was before I knew salmonella wasn't a type of fish and that Listeria wasn't a post-punk indie band.  I don't see the point in trying to cure my child's autism while crossing my fingers and hoping I don't poison him in the process.  Camel milk is also massively expensive... at €32 per litre I'd be expecting a first edition copy of Alice in Wonderland as well as a cure for autism.

Cure for Autism this way


I'm sure it's tough enough being a camel without the hassle of trying to cure autism as well.  Leave the camels in peace and spend the €32 on a giant book of Dad Jokes instead.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Autism & Ionic Foot Baths

Every so often I think this blog will slowly die from the natural cause of running out of therapies to write about.  But, all I have to do is a have a short poke through the compost that fertilises the internet, or better yet, have a chat with my Speech Therapist niece Hannah, to unearth some fresh wtf wonder.  Autism therapies is the Google gift that keeps on giving.
A few days ago, Hannah asked me if I'd ever heard of an ionic foot spa being used as a treatment for Autism; I really hoped that 'ionic' was a typo for ironic, and that somebody thought it was hilarious that a foot bath might be considered more than a bad present.  The humour, however, was totally lost on every autism warrior parent currently shaking their angry spears at the spectrum (I was sorely tempted to call it the spectrum spectre there, but heroically refrained... I definitely deserve some credit for sparing you that).  Using ionic foot spas to treat Autism is huge business, and they are not shy about using the most profane four-letter C word of them all......Cure.





Ionic foot spas are said to work by detoxing the body of  the poisons that cause Autism.  They believe that Autism is caused by toxic overload and impaired detoxification channels.  Using ionic charges to draw out these toxins will treat, and ultimately cure Autism.  The treatment is safe, non-invasive and has no side-effects, but will create a sizable €2000  hole in your wallet.  One site's link to research papers proving it's effectiveness is curiously broken (several companies, in a Conflict-Of-Interest free zone, fund research into their own products.... like we wouldn't notice), and if glowing testimonials were chunks of uranium we'd all light up the night sky for millions of years to come (long after we'd all died of radiation, and probably bullshit, sickness).

Mother of Divine Sweet Mercy and all her baby lambs, where do I start?

First up; the Detox mega-business is a massive, very lucrative lie.  Our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering (if you exclude my camogie legs, which were designed more for overalls and wellies than skinny jeans.... I suspect someone was hungover in quality control that day); our liver, kidneys, skin, digestive tract and lungs have been breaking down and eliminating toxins with quiet efficiency our whole lives.  They hold on to what we need, get rid of what we don't and we only ever think about them when they stop working.  Green batshit tea harvested in the dewy light of a new moon by virgins raised on a diet of Himalayan goats and magic mushrooms (patent pending... I might have to work on the name...bit long to print on a packet), won't balance the pH of your blood (your kidneys do that) or break down harmful compounds into harmless molecules (your liver does that).  Basically, your body has an app for everything, and doesn't need anything more than a glass of water to clean it up a bit.  With the demise of religion, we've turned our attention to physical cleansing now that we've thrown spiritual cleansing out with the bath water, and business sharks have lost no time in capitalising on this.  Autism is not caused by 'toxic overload'.... if it was, it would be very clear that our kids bodies are under stress.  People with impaired elimination systems and a consequent toxic build-up become very sick, very quickly and need intense medical intervention to keep them alive.  When I worked in ICU,  a foot spa was never advocated  as an alternative to a ventilator and renal dialysis;  I'm pretty certain that my patients in multi-system failure would chose breathing over clean feet (with the possible exception of my oldest son whose feet can sometimes cause respiratory arrest).

Next; the lashing in of scientific-sounding words to lend kudos to a very ordinary commodity is dishonesty dressed in a lab coat.  There is nothing magic about ionic bonds.  From the small bit of science I understand, most atoms in the universe have a positive or negative charge, and are attracted to each other to form ionic bonds.  The molecules in table salt are held together by ionic bonds and the only magic there is that it helps my cooking graduate from bin-fodder to just-about edible.  A handful of salt and a mild electric current in a basin of warm water will do nothing more than give you slightly fizzy feet.  Using words like ionic and epigenetics does nothing to change this.  You could stick your feet in a bowl of strawberry jam if you like and say it has magicked away the Autism.  Saying it doesn't make it true.

Testimonials do not replace research; even though there is much  delight expressed that observers can see  toxins leaving the body (reality check; that's manky foot soup, not 'toxins'), stories about 'recovered' children and non-verbal kids now reciting Hamlet (I may have made the last one up), there is no reliable scientific research supporting the use of ionic foot spas in Autism.  It doesn't take a giant mental leap to reason that the research doesn't exist  because it doesn't work.  Simples.

Again, the people who sell this as a cure for Autism are bottom-feeders looking to syphon money off scared and desperate parents.  Parents who are still early in the grieving stage are particularly vulnerable.  The only saving grace is that foot spas won't actually harm the child, but they distract parents from therapies that actually do help, as well as costing money that would better spent on Speech Therapy, or maybe a holiday.


So, ionic foot spas are a  total waste of time and money, unless you're really into foot spas (not judging).  Adding a hefty price tag to a simple piece of equipment also plays the reverse psychology trick of "it's really expensive, so it must be good".
A better alternative might be to make your own Ironic Foot Spa; ignore the snake oil salesmen and spend a few quid on a good book or new bag.  It won't cure your child's Autism, but it'll make you feel a whole lot better.




Friday, 18 May 2018

Autism & Surprising Therapies

So, my teenage daughter is trying to teach me how to take selfies, and I can't seem to move past the fact that I look less like a pouty starlet, and more like a constipated toad who may have left the immersion on.
My signature look of 'slightly worried amphibian'  makes me deeply grateful to whichever technical genius invented the delete button (with second prize going to whatever kind soul dreamt up soft focus).  But no amount of air-brushing will erase our egos and vanity, which ultimately do nothing but prevent us becoming the best version of ourselves.  When we live in fear of imperfection, we avoid the opportunity to look dumb and make mistakes... and we never grow out of our fearful, self-critical shell and become the rock stars were meant to be.


"That creme de la mer is NOT working!"

So while my daughter is making herself look fabulous, and I'm searching for a handy paper bag to bury my head in, my autistic son is busy giving zero fucks about his appearance, or other people's opinions of it.  The child is supposed to have special needs and yet he's innately wiser than the rest of us.
As with many autistic people, Finian's ability to shrug off self-consciousness gives him the freedom to fail, to very publicly make mistakes and to ultimately achieve his goals without wanting to crawl into a hole and die from shame.  He wears humility like a badge of honour, and it serves him well.

I am trying (painfully slowly) to get over myself ,  and to learn that shame and rejection are part of the learning process.  There will always be people who roll their eyes at our efforts and take pleasure at our failures, but people like that mean nothing to my son; he continues to learn to communicate, to socialise and to have fun despite them.  So, the person supposedly in need of lots of therapy, is actually my best therapist, and is a pretty cool role model into the bargain.

Non-autistic people are raised with a oppressive set of rules and conditions that shame us (for the most part) into being controlled, "well-behaved" citizens.  But fear of breaking these imposed rules, and risking judgement and rejection from others, only stifles our creativity and breeds savage unhappiness and a dull world.

It's good to live in a time when our patriarchal society is slowly relinquishing it's role as the controlling parent and is starting to trust people to make their own decisions;  I'm only in my 40's and already I've witnessed the introduction of divorce, same-sex marriage and hopefully repeal of the 8th amendment in the coming week, so it makes me optimistic that this pattern of progress will continue.  When I was a teenager, being gay, divorced or a single parent made your life unbearably difficult; it makes me feel proud to raise my kids in a country where these attitudes are dying.
If society can learn anything from wise people like my son, trusting people to grow and learn from our own decisions (and sometimes mistakes), can only result in happier souls and a much better world.

Normally, I don't like surprises, but realising my son is an unexpected therapist is like looking for daisies and finding a rose garden. 


no toads were harmed in the taking of this selfie

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Autism & Aromatherapy

So, a weird thing happens as I get older (which is not limited to my body drifting in a more southerly direction and growing stubbornly wider.... although, that's weird enough); I've noticed that an inverse rule now applies to what I really know.  What I mean is, the older I get, the less I know.
Stuff that I thought was permanent and solid can vanish in a heartbeat (houses fall, banks crash and careers burn) while it turns out the more ethereal stuff is the real deal.
In a nutshell, the only thing I know with absolute certainty is who I love (with the hope that they might kinda like me back; a very effective tactic I use is to annoy people into caring about me.  Try it... worst case scenario, if they dump you, you get to write some really bad poetry about it and you'll be famous after you die).  Everything else has variables attached that make them subject to change.
One of these things I knew when I was younger was that I loved aromatherapy with all my heart; now I still love it, but in a conditional way.... kinda like a cute puppy that's adorable as long as he doesn't piss on your mattress.

Smell is very strongly attached to our memories and emotions, so it makes sense that certain fragrances can affect our humour for better or worse.  Anytime I smell a particular toffee, I'm immediately a young child in my elderly neighbour's kitchen, and she's teaching me to read (she also used to churn her own butter; how cool is that?).  The smell of blackthorn brings me back to standing in a field as a kid and watching a hawk snatch a bird out of a tree.  If I could bottle the ineffable smell of a newborn baby, a whole new level of addiction would be created that'd outstrip meth, heroin and crack cocaine combined.


not a bottle of  Shiraz in sight... must be an oversight




So, our sense of smell is visceral and immediate, and has helped us survive by showing us where food is and alerting us to dangers (I'm not sure if a person with an aversion to deodorant qualifies as a threat to survival, but at least you'd know not to sit next to him on a bus).

But are particular aromas powerful enough to affect our well-being?
Aromatherapy is the use of plant oils to improve health and emotional well-being.   Compounds are extracted from plants using distillation, and are applied topically as massage oils, by immersion in water, or through inhalation. It's been around for thousands of years... but so has arsenic, so longevity is not always an indicator of wholesomeness.  It's believed that aromatherapy works either by the direct effect of the oil on the physical body, or indirectly by influencing the emotional centre of the brain.  But the truth is, that it has little effect on either.  Apart from making your house smell nicer than a wet dog's undercarriage,  there is little evidence to suggest that aromatherapy bears any influence on our health.  Although some papers find that it reduces anxiety (which is very welcome), and many sites promote it's use to reduce anxiety associated with Autism, I think a healthy dose of caution needs to be exercised before getting to know your bergamont from your BS. 
Firstly, it's likely that the massage itself, rather than the specific oil used, is the magic that will soothe your child.  My own son loves a really deep massage, but I'm pretty sure a handful of Nutella would have the same pharmacological effect on him as a spoon of jojoba oil (and he could lick himself clean afterwards.... win-win).  I can't find any evidence to support the use of essential oils for Autism, but a pretty interesting study is underway at the moment researching the use of 18 different compounds and their effect on sleep and relaxation. 
There are also risks to consider; oils are pretty concentrated and can irritate the skin, so they should always be diluted in a carrier oil.  Allergies can develop with repeated exposure, and some are toxic if swallowed. 
Your child might be sensitive to smells, so don't rush in with a shed-load of heady scents unless you're prepared to end up wearing more lavender oil than applying it.

Although Aromatherapy is huge business, and particular oils are touted as being especially beneficial for Autism, the focus thankfully seems to be on treatment of anxiety rather than promising cures.  It can work out expensive, though, especially if you're paying for massages rather than giving them yourself. 

So, Aromatherapy can provide an opportunity to bond with your child, and maybe help your home smell better than a teenager's trainer; as long as you don't have any unrealistic expectations, and you're watchful for any side effects,  it sounds like a nice thing to do.




Thursday, 10 May 2018

Autism & Bio-Music

To me, music is like wine.
I don't understand it, I can't create it and I don't even dare sing in the shower in case God smites me dead for insulting his ears (wait a minute... that last bit has nothing to do with wine...there goes my Pulitzer prize...damn! I gotta work on my similes).  But that doesn't stop me loving it to the point of sometimes indulging in it a little bit too much. 
I know I shouldn't play music so loudly in the car that my bones vibrate in their sockets, and I definitely know that drinking more than two glasses of wine is playing a dangerous game of liquid Russian Roulette... but sometimes nothing else will do.  Sometimes bleeding ears and a hangover are totally worth it.
Although.... I could live without wine, but a life without music fills me with a barren dread.  I just can't imagine what else would fill that visceral need to share something so joyfully universal.  Music doesn't need words to communicate the deepest rooted emotions.  With music, you're never lonely;  it always gets you, no matter how you're feeling.

Coming from an extended family of musicians who could learn to play the banjo backwards before lunchtime, if the notion took them, I stuck out like a bit of a note-free sore thumb.   The part of my brain that should govern understanding the workings of music seems to have been replaced with  ice cream, and the wiring between my brain and my fingers misfires and has only ever  produced sounds appreciated by angry walruses and tone-deaf jackdaws.  But listening to music is an equally important part of the equation (I tell myself.... sometimes I even believe it); music, like any art, needs to be witnessed to really bring it to life.
The value of music may stretch broader than the social and psychological, though.
In Toronto, biomedical engineers are working hard on developing the use of Bio-Music for autistic people (as well as other groups), to be used as a interface between their emotional state and their ability to express it.  It is intended to be used as a tool to help those who have profound difficulties in expressing their emotions.  The technology of Bio-Music is designed to interpret the child's physiological signals which are associated with emotional states (such as body temperature and pulse, among others)  using sensors on their skin.  An algorithm is used which then converts the data to sound. One of the most difficult parts of being an Autism parent is being shut out from how our kids are feeling, and consequently being unable to help them.  Communication impasses are one of the most frustrating aspects of Autism and the notion of overcoming this is compelling.  Bio-Music sounds like it could be an intriguing way to by-pass this block, and could open up a new path to anticipating and preventing the emotional and behavioural difficulties associated with autism. 

But what are the practicalities of it?
It wouldn't require cumbersome equipment (as something resembling a FitBit could be used to gather data) but it isn't ready for use as a tool just yet;  for example, it can be difficult to discern between certain arousal states, such as excitement and anxiety.  It also raises ethical questions around privacy and consent.... most of my innermost thoughts and feelings are best kept wrapped in chain mail, coated in concrete and safely deposited at the bottom of a very deep ocean.  Twice.  I'm pretty sure I'd have a few more psychiatrists on speed-dial (and a  lot less friends) if  they were exposed to air.  So we'd need to be very certain that the child is OK with having his psychological innards played as a beautiful melody or a thundering piece of lunacy before having him wired for sound.


"Goddamn it, now they know I like Justin Bieber"


That said, I think Bio-Music is one to watch.  Frontiers in Neuroscience note that "bio-music holds promise for monitoring, communication and biofeedback systems for anxiety management".  The fact that it's drug-free, and physically (if not mentally) non-invasive is also a bonus. 
I would certainly be interested to listen to the musical magic going on in the head of my son.... but instinct tells me it'll be less Mozart and more Metallica, with maybe a bit of freestyle jazz thrown in for good measure. 
It's also really good to see people being innovative and thoughtful in their approach to new autism therapies;  it's a positive step away from regurgitating old quackery.  Although I'm not convinced that Bio-Music will ever become mainstream, it's really good to see science instead of sorcery taking centre stage.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Autism & Crystal Therapy

I'm pretty sure I was meant to be a magpie.
I think when the crucial moment arrived to bless me with wings and a penchant for being kinda irritating, the Great Wizard in the Sky sneezed over the petri dish I was happily germinating in, or maybe got distracted by a particularly riveting episode of Neighbours;  instead of a lovely metallic coat and the ability to fly, I got sulky hair, the pretty epic ability to snore like a warthog in a wind-tunnel, and enough cellulite to keep me very securely earthbound.
I feel short-changed.





But the Great Wizard wiped his nose and said "I suppose she'll have to do" and went back to watching soaps, while enjoying the odd laugh at my lame attempts to be human.
But some magpie genes remains spliced with my DNA, because as well as inheriting the kinda irritating bit,  I'm also utterly helpless to resist anything shiny.
Even the words 'Crystal Therapy' cause me to disengage my brain, toss it in the nearest bin (best place for it, really... it only ever gets me in trouble) and go to the happy place in my head full of sparkly beads and light-catching gemstones.

Crystals are semi-precious stones that some people believe emit energy of various vibrations, depending on their type.  They have been used throughout time as jewellery, bargaining chips and religious symbols.  Healers place them over 'blocked chakras' to help restore spiritual and physical balance, usually matching the stone colour to the chakra colour ( a chakra is one of seven focal points of energy in the body, each associated with particular systems and colours).  The idea is that you'll be drawn intuitively to whatever stone emits the properties you need at that time (couldn't see that going down to well in a pharmaceutical lab... it'd certainly make for a few stomach ulcers in quality control), but certain crystals are believed to treat certain problems; e.g citrine instils a positive outlook, while blue quartz is thought to treat a sore throat.


the only thing better than pretty crystals, is a bowl of pretty crystals



Now.
I absolutely, emphatically and entirely know that Crystal Therapy heals nothing more than my craving to be near sparkly things.  There is the tidy sum of zero pieces of empirical research proving it's positive effect on health. But if somebody invites me to relax, waves a pretty yellow stone over my solar plexus and tells me that I'm not making a complete mess of  my life, then I'm in.   As humans, we're all weird, and we all hurt, but its socially unacceptable to express too much of either; Crystal Therapy feels like a kind parent giving you a big hug and telling you 'everything is going to be alright',  no matter how big of a dope you are.   It's hard to see anything wrong with it, providing you don't expect it to cure your varicose veins or mend a broken heart.  It seems to be benign comfort without any sharp edges.

But I wondered, for all it's New Age right on-ness, does it attract the sharp-suited salesmen hawking promises of cures?
Refreshingly, the websites I looked at all go to pains to say they don't cure Autism (or anything for that matter).  They hitch their wagons to the treatment of symptoms post, with a recurrent aim to 'ground the high vibrational energies of Autistic people' (and when I watch my son spinning tireless doughnuts on his scooter, I think they may be on to something).  Sadly, though,  the only way a bunch of rocks is going to ground my son is if they weigh enough to stop him bouncing like an over-caffeinated jack-rabbit (and there's the small matter of him probably having a go at eating them as well), so they would be of no use to him in any practical way.  What I did like, though, was that all the sites I visited wrote about autistic people with kindness and acceptance, instead of as a problem that needs to be solved.  A bit more of that would be very welcome.  There is much talk about being 'blessed' with Autism, which can be a bit irritating when you're trying to teach your teenage son how to tie his own shoe laces, but on balance I prefer this to saying 'suffering from Autism'.  The only thing that suffers from Autism in our home is our mobile data bill.





It also doesn't cost very much.  A book and a few pretty stones won't break the bank, but the risk of an autistic child eating the stones is very real.  Finian probably has a rich vein of silver streaking through him with all the jewellery he's eaten on me  (I have to be be extra careful to keep him out of lightning storms and a safe distance from large magnets) and he'd make very short work of attractive rocks.  It's just something to be mindful of if your child is a chewer.

So I know Crystal Therapy should be the reserve of Star Trek,  but seeing as my logic has been collected by waste disposal and is now halfway to spending eternity complaining in a landfill, I'm finding it very difficult not to like.
In fact, don't bother using it to treat your autistic child; embrace your weird, magpie self and have a bit of fun with it yourself.




Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Autism & Tool Boxes

We all have days when the universe conspires against us; it's raining, the kids are cranky, Denzel Washington forgot he was supposed to elope to Hawaii with you.  That kind of stuff.
Even your hair is in a bit of  a mood, and refuses to do anything other than make you look like a surprised orang utan.
Throw in an autistic child screaming like a dervish because his favourite DVD is scratched and you have all the makings of a delicious Bad Day stew.  Serve up with a tasty  bit of PMS, or misbehaving WiFi, and it could be upgraded to a gourmet Hell-Fire Casserole that'll feed you, your family and your unfortunate neighbours for days.



and if a bad metaphor wasn't enough, here's a photo just to labour the point


A few years ago my counsellor suggested I develop a 'tool box' of strategies to use when I'm having a bad day.
Sitting in a calm, orderly office this seemed like the most rational, wonderfully usable idea ever presented to me;  a Go-To list of spells to magic away the madness was exactly the kind of pragmatic sorcery I needed.

I diligently set about compiling a list of all the lovely things I would do in the face of lunacy;
I would take a few deep breaths to settle down my adrenaline rush;
I would go for a long walk, commune with nature and remember that my perceived problems are unimportant in the great scheme of things;
I would mentally remove myself from the situation by becoming engrossed in a prosaic work of literature.

I would definitely do these things.
Someday.
Y'know, when I start reading the Northern Standard and become a real grown-up.

Of course, when the shit hits the fan, not only is it difficult to conjure up a few of the tricks from your tool box; it's usually next to impossible to find the damn thing at all (possibly because your child has microwaved it, or it's buried beneath a small mountain of filthy laundry that may, or may not, house a happy family of rodents).

Sometimes. a more therapeutic use of the tool box would be to fling it against a wall... or use it as a step to help you reach your emergency stash of wine and chocolate.

So I ditched the theoretical tool box and simplified it into more of a pocket-sized purse;  when chaos clings like  napalm, clear thinking deserts me; breathing becomes something I do to avoid death, nature can go commune itself, and I'd rather fry a book in lard and eat it than read one.

These are a few thing I find that truly help me; they're painfully simple, but I don't have to engage my brain too much when it's preoccupied with fire-fighting elsewhere.

This past few months we've been caught up with doing some pretty major renovations in our home, which basically means we've been living in a giant bin that contains humans instead of  rubbish (arguable point).  While I appreciate we're lucky to be in a position that we can do it, it's hard to maintain zen-like calm when you're eating dust sandwiches and have your kitchen sink balanced on your washing machine and an old stool.
So I plant flowers.






To the right of these is a huge, ugly pallet of tiles wrapped in plastic.... it's fair to say it's less than pretty, and that's only a taster of the disorganisation inside the door.  But doing something as tangible and simple as this, shows me in a very clear way that beauty is possible, even in the middle of chaos.  With no long words, or tricky breathing techniques to remember.

Orange nail polish is another of my favourite, and very effective, therapies.  I don't bother with my finger nails as it'd chip and drive me nuts, but I always try to have my toe nails painted a bright colour to cheer me up on even the grimmest of days.  No matter how many episodes of  Bob the Builder I have to endure, there are always orange toe nails.
Like sunshine waiting to escape from fishy-smelling trainers. 








One day maybe I'll master the more cerebral survival strategies, but for the moment, something as simple as orange and flowers are the best medicine.




Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Autism & Son-Rise

When I first stumbled across Son-Rise, I was hopeful that finally a therapy had been developed that would both treat autism and peel my son out of bed in the mornings without use of threats or a galvanised crowbar.
Sadly, it does nothing to help my son appreciate the joys of early mornings (it seems the only cure for dawn grumpiness is hot chocolate and a way-too-loud dose of Bob the Builder).  However, it does appear to offer an intriguing approach to autism that caught my attention.


an expression of our early morning home through the medium of  cats


Son-Rise was developed in the 1970's by the Kaufman couple, who were searching for an acceptable treatment for their autistic son, Raun.  They were less than impressed with  the therapies available at the time.  Like many special needs parents, they felt forced to forge their own path in the absence of one  that would meet their son's needs.  The core concept of Son-Rise is that the parent is trained to resist the temptation to coerce the child to join 'our' world and instead to enter the child's world.  This is done by parallel play, by echoing the child's verbalisation and by mirroring their behaviour.  This to gain the child's trust and to create a relaxed, non-judgemental environment in which  skills can later be taught.  It is a parent-led, play-based therapy that aims to facilitate the child to learn skills when he chooses to, and not according to the educator's schedule.
Parents can attend a centre for training, but most courses are on-line, which is obviously much more convenient for a special needs family.
It really sounds great.
Anything that is based on kindness, patience and the experience of the child has to be good, right?

But I began to wonder about a couple of things;

The websites are emotional manipulation on steroids.  Videos of sobbing mothers (never fathers, as far as I could see... honestly, women are so embarrassing)) crediting Son-Rise with their child's first "I love you mommy"  feature heavily (it seems that truly manly fathers don't need to hear this... they must be too busy hunting bison and wrestling bears).  There are acres of beaming families hugging children who definitely aren't eating sand or using your face as target practice.  There are proud stories about non-verbal, withdrawn children graduating college and holding down jobs.  Call me a jaded cynic, but my bullshit antenna was buzzing like a strung-out bee who had just stumbled across a meth lab.  Any therapy that needs to twang heart stings smells a lot like it's not based on much substance.  A quick search resulted in only one paper from a peer-reviewed journal citing the effectiveness of Son-Rise, but the authors were concerned that the results say more about parental attitudes than the actual effectiveness of the therapy.  If Son-Rise works, it shouldn't be that hard to prove.  Tears and testimonials are a thin veil over lack of evidence.
Despite all the talk about non-judgement and kindness, the goal seems to be 'normalisation'.   Parents talk about their kids joining clubs, going to parties and having conversations.  I didn't read anywhere that a parent was delighted that their child was out of nappies and could now sit long enough to enjoy an episode of Postman Pat, even though he's 15;  in reality, these are the dizzy heights that most of us aspire to.  There doesn't seem to be any celebration in figuring out what makes your child happy and enjoying that, and that's a sad indication of their true values.  Our kids are amazing and worthy whether they have a masters degree in Physics or in Applied Bob the Builder. And who wants normal?  It's much better fun having a kid who loves searching for the Gruffalo in Lough Muckno (and sometimes indulges in a delicious spot of tree licking), than dragging a sulky teenager through the woods who can't see the trees for his Facebook forest.

There is also much talk of miracles; 'Son-Rise; A Miracle of Love' was the documentary that brought the therapy to widespread attention, and Raun's dad self-published a book called 'Son-Rise; The Miracle Continues'.  The therapies that truly help my son don't rely on the supernatural; Speech Therapy, ABA, TEACCH and OT are grounded and predictable, and require work and persistence.  People wish for miracles to cure their child of autism; the real miracle would be to accept him as he is, work to achieve the best possible outcome for him and love him unconditionally.
The documentary title also implies that if you love your child enough, then he will be cured. There is an unsavoury undercurrent here,  that the kid who isn't cured has a parent who just doesn't love him enough.  And they do talk about cure; the Kaufmans don't hold back in claiming that Son-Rise cured their child... what they're less enthusiastic about sharing is that the first five clinics they took their son to failed to diagnose him as autistic.  It was only on his sixth evaluation that he was given the diagnosis, so it is fairly probable that he didn't have anything to be cured of in the first place.

I hate to admit that I'm also a little disturbed by a name that sounds more like a doomsday cult who enjoy nothing more than a spot of human sacrifice with their holy Armageddon.  I know that's unfair of me, but unfortunately I carry all the psychological baggage of a lapsed catholic, and I immediately think of hellish judgement days and eternal damnation of the soul when I think of  sons rising (especially with capital letters).
Or maybe they just need a better marketing team.

As with any of these miracle cures, the cost is prohibitive.  Predictably, lots of people can, and do, part with their hard-earned cash, but I have no doubt that 'recoveries' are as rare as hens teeth (unless you know some seriously scary hens).  Playing with your child is free, and comes without the cost of bloated expectations.
And while there are doubtless benefits in the methods espoused by Son-Rise, maintaining the recommended 40 hours a week  of child-led play sounds like a recipe for  super-sized headache.
Much as I love my son, my instinct tells me that if I was to mimic his melt-downs, that my husband would have (with patience and much love) flung me through the gates of a cloistered convent with instructions that he had changed his address, his phone number and his identity.   And I don't think my family would appreciate me joining my son in getting arty with my own faeces... one finger painter in the family is quite enough.    What I'm saying, is that sometimes tough love is required from a parent; when you say "you can't eat glass because I say so" you're not going to be popular, but with some situations, patience and kindness just doesn't cut it.
 
The central principles behind Son-Rise are very simple, but they couldn't ever hope to live up to their inflated claims.  

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Autism & Facilitated Communication

We all have people in our lives who aren't great communicators.






Teenage hormones don't stop at changing innocent, playful children into a raging, lust-filled monsters (damned to forever discover unwanted hair erupting from seriously weird places, and to be appalled that they find Jessica Rabbit attractive);  they also seem to lose the ability to move their lower jaw and speak in a language of  huh's? and wha's? only understood by other teenagers (and, I suspect, cavemen).
Married couples sit on the same sofa and text each other dirty jokes without exchanging a single word (my husband and I never do this.  We have earnest conversations about politics and global warming while carefully taking each other's point of view into consideration.... wait a minute, that's Prime Time.  Damn, we totally do the dirty joke thing).
Customers complain to busy waiters, without a please or a thank you, that their food isn't properly cooked, and then wonder why it tastes a little strange when it's returned (sidebar; never piss off the person cooking your food, unless you're partial to an interesting dollop of chef's saliva in your bechamel sauce. Mmmmmm.  Full of creamy goodness).
So, communication is important;  you don't need to have an autistic child to know that. But even though it's in everyone's best interest to keep the flow of communication as smooth and clear as possible, it's not unknown for therapists to over-reach themselves in an effort to encourage our kids to make themselves understood.
Facilitated Communication bloomed out of the gaps in communication with our autistic kids, and even though it seems to have grown from a good place, it is too heavily laced with bias and wishful thinking to be truly useful.

Facilitated Communication  is an awful lot like being married; you get to put words in the mouth of your partner and fill in the blanks with phrases of your choosing.  For example, when my husband is engrossed in watching thirty grown men tapping a ball around a playground, I mean pitch, we have some of the most intimate, meaningful conversations of our adult lives.  I discuss in detail the current emotional states and psychological workings of our children; he says "huh?".  I pour out all my hopes and dreams of a future filled with travel, learning and self-development; he says "grand".  I tell him I discovered the PIN number to his credit card and just ordered  a new wardrobe of clothes (plus shoes) for myself and he is suddenly as attentive as the lovesick young student who pestered me for weeks for a date back in college (the pestering thing is my version of events -  he reckons it was our mutual love of cheap beer and dodgy nightclubs that drew us together.  Either way, between us we don't have a romantic story to bewitch our kids with... beer and stalking don't make great taglines in wedding anniversary cards).
Facilitated Communication (FC)is a system of supporting the client's hand or arm while they point out letters of the alphabet on a board, or to type letters on a keyboard.   While some people with disabilities need physical support to guide their hand, supporters of this system believe that even those with good motor skills (such as those with autism, or apraxia) lack the confidence to select letters independently.  They believe that the facilitator is necessary to provide moral support, to initiate movement and to give verbal prompts and feedback.  This system was first given air-time in Denmark in the 1960's, but was soon put out to pasture to die a quiet death when they realised that it  simply didn't work.


"You called me a WHAT????"

However, it was dragged out of retirement by Rosemary Crossley, a special needs educator, in the 1970's.  Crossley met a severely disabled girl called Ann McDonald and was horrified by the institutional conditions she lived in.  She fostered the girl (who was later the subject of a movie called 'Annie's Coming Out') and wasted no time using FC to improve Ann's quality of life.  Anne lived with Crossley for 32 years until her death, and it is clear that her efforts to facilitate Ann's communication came from a place of kindness and love.  The story came to the attention of  the media and was embraced as a simple, uncontroversial teaching strategy.  With a cultural backdrop of questionable behaviourist methods and risky biomedical beliefs, FC must have been balm to the special educators souls; it didn't didn't court the controversy of ABA or challenge  evidence-based medical practice.  It's really little wonder that people liked what they saw and ran with it.

But no amount of well-meaning kindness can compensate for the fact that FC just doesn't work.  It has been shown  many times over that the facilitator unknowingly determines what is typed or selected by the client.  The use of FC has been discredited since the 1990's, but it continues to re-surface from time to time under new guises.  The Atlantic  reports that "the expectation of validity combined with the facilitator's desire to do good" may be the secret to it's longevity, but it has exposed a dark side to the human psyche when unfounded allegations of sexual abuse were levelled at parents on the strength of FC messages.  It's a pity that  well- meaning beginnings spawned such an ugly underbelly, and if cool-headed reason had allowed FC to live out it's days in quiet obscurity, a lot of suffering could have been avoided.
Facilitated Communication is a lesson in not letting the heart rule the head.

That said, it's tempting to get my husband to spell out a promise to take care of the ironing for the rest of our natural days, or to clean the bathroom more than once a decade.  It might not be legally binding, but it'd be fun to distract him from sending me dirty jokes.









Friday, 13 April 2018

Autism & Reflexology

There are two types of people in this world.
There are normal, lovely people who enjoy a nice foot massage...
.... and then there are those who would prefer to be flayed alive while performing eternal sound checks for Big Tom &The Mainliners (who would possibly benefit from a stint in rehab, judging by their name) than to have anyone come within spitting distance of their bunions.
Weirdos.
(I'm aware that this is the second time I've dissed Big Tom in this blog... I'm  recklessly courting danger seeing as I live in Co Monaghan.  Hopefully I'll be allowed three strikes before  I'm executed without trial on the shores of Lough Muckno.  
Totally worth it, though)
A foot massage is one of the few things that briefly stops me worrying about autism, the futility of existence and why bananas catapult from green to brown at light-speed, with only a thirty second window in which they won't kill you.
It's a loving narcotic, that can make all the dark stuff go away for a little while.
But when a foot rub decides to re-brand itself as a therapy, the pressure is on to make good it's promises.

There is evidence that some form of reflexology was practised in ancient China and Egypt, but it was modernised and made popular by Eunice Ingham (who was a physiotherapist) in the 1930's.
The idea behind reflexology is that the entire body can be mapped out on specific points on the feet.  Manipulation of these points are believed to identify and treat 'blockages' of energy on these points.  These 'blockages' (which are felt as tender, sometimes bumpy areas) are thought to represent ill health, which can then be restored by unblocking the energy channels through massage.






Couple of things;
If anyone presses on your feet hard enough, it's going to hurt.  So the pressure your therapist uses may depend on whether she is at one with the universe, or if the cat pissed on her cornflakes that morning.  If she's in a bad mood, she's going to press harder to make you atone for the sins of her incontinent kitty, giving the impression that you have more problem areas than you actually have.  Also, if you have the pain threshold of  a hungover kitten you will experience discomfort differently to a woman who could comfortably make the dinner and do a spot of ironing while in labour before popping off to the hospital to produce a perfectly baked baby by teatime.  What I mean is, pain is subjective and isn't always a reliable indicator that something is awry.
Also, reflexology charts vary quite widely depending on the source; the kidney point in one map might be the transverse colon in another.  So one therapist could believe she is treating your  Merlot-induced incontinence while another thinks she is unblocking six months worth of Big Macs from your large intestine.... there's enough excrement right there to smudge the validity of their claims if they can't even agree on where the shit is happening.
Various websites claim reflexology can treat the usual alternative health suspects of muscle and joint pain, insomnia, stress, hormonal imbalance, MS, cerebral palsy, autism, fibromyalgia etc etc.  It's like a drunk three year old found a medical index and highlighted the fun-looking words with a crayola.  In fairness, some websites are clear in that they don't diagnose or cure, but these are rare and most of them seem pretty cavalier with their curative wish-lists.
A number of years ago I did a course in reflexology and was taught by a lady who insisted on calling organisms orgasms.  It brightened up an otherwise tedious class and it also made me really wish I was a virus...  yeah, they might be murderous, pandemic-causing creatures, but they were definitely having  way more fun than me.   I met a lot of lovely people on this course and I believe that therapists who work in this area (for the most part) are kind, well-intended souls who want to spread a little love and comfort.   But as with other alternative therapies, there is a risk that people can delay proper medical attention for potentially serious conditions.  There is also no scientific evidence to support it's inclusion in healthcare, so if you're looking for a foot rub to cure your child's autism, you might as well roll yourself in pork and flour and call yourself an silly sausage.  It just doesn't cut the mustard.

That said, there is no getting away from the fact that reflexology is lovely.  My son loves a deep foot rub and will often wave his less-than-lovely size 9's in my face when he's feeling sleepy.  It really soothes him, and it's nice to see a bit of self-regulation going on as he actively seeks out it's comfort.  It's not so nice if he has only had a nodding acquaintance with soap and water for a few days, as he has definitely developed that uniquely teenage boy thing of having feet that smell like blue cheese dipped in battery acid.  Then, rubbing his feet is less an act of love and kindness and more an exercise in superhuman endurance.  I expect immediate access into heaven when I die.

So reflexology could benefit your child in that it might help him to relax; it might be useful when winding down for bedtime, or before a potentially stressful situation like having a haircut.  But if you're hoping it will cause a reduction in autistic behaviours, all the evidence points towards a short trip to disappointment.