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What is the latest understanding using integrative medicine to treat autism? Dr. Sanford Newmark, pediatrician and Director of the Pediatric Integrative Neurodevelopment Program at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, explains the merits of this approach. Dr. Newmark details how harnessing the best of both conventional and alternative medicine can offer effective means and new answers to support autism patients. Kaitlin Fox, mother of an autistic child, shares details of her discovery of integrative medicine and the positive results. 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of UCSF Medical Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Learn from a leading expert about harnessing the power of integrative medicine to treat patients with autism, and hear from a mom, of a child with autism, on how this approach has made a lot of difference.  It's all next on Patient Power.

Hello and welcome to Patient Power sponsored by UCSF Medical Center.  I'm Andrew Schorr. 

Well, autism is on the increase, and it's said now, that maybe in the U.S., one out of every 88 children may be diagnosed with autism or on the autism spectrum, and we'll learn more about that.  And we're going to hear from an expert on how integrative medicine can make a difference, and how at UCSF Medical Center, at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, they're very dedicated to that. 

But first I'd like to introduce you to the mother of a child, diagnosed with autism, and how the work with the center is making a big difference for her child.  So, let's meet Kaitlin Fox, who is the mother of three-year-old Dasha.  Dasha does have a diagnosis of autism.  Kaitlin is from San Francisco. 

Kaitlin, thank you for joining us.  Help us understand, let's go back to over a year ago, 20 months or so.  What was going on—or even before that—with Dasha which you didn't feel was normal? 

Kaitlin Fox:

I took Dasha to the day care at my college that I went to.  It's the Early Childhood Education Center, and I starting noticing that at 18 months the other kids were starting to do really social things, like pointing and starting to talk, do animal noises and stuff, and Dasha just wasn't doing any of those things.  And being a psychology major, I've taken some childhood development classes, so I began to kind of piece together that this wasn't the picture that it was supposed to look like.  At this point things weren't really falling in place. 

Andrew Schorr:

And so you eventually went to the pediatrician with Dasha? 

Kaitlin Fox:

I did.  I went to the pediatrician and she asked me some basic questions.  Does Dasha laugh?  Does she like to bounce on your knee, and things like that?  And she does.  She's actually pretty social in that way.  She likes to give kisses and hugs, and so I started thinking, okay, maybe this isn't a problem.  And, so, she gave me the M-CHAT, I think is what's it's called.  It's kind of a questionnaire to fill out, to see if your child is at risk for having autism, and I felt relieved after I filled it out, because I didn't think it sounded like Dasha.  So, it was only until later, that I kind of, realized I was in a little bit of denial at that point, and there definitely were some warning signs. 

Andrew Schorr:

When you finally got a diagnosis of autism, is that one of these ones where you just pick yourself off the floor, or what was your reaction? 

Kaitlin Fox:

So, the moment that I realized that she had autism was at the day care orientation for the next semester of school.  All the kids had gone away for summer.  We were doing the orientation, and all the kids had developed all these new skills, and Dasha had just not developed anything.  And, it was at that moment that I was like, this is autism, and I just started crying right then and there.  I knew what it was.  I had learned about it.  It wasn't until a month later that I had a doctor actually say, yes, your daughter has autism. 

I think, I had time to kind of slowly process it before someone officially told me, but I think the first thing you want to do is, you want to learn everything you can about it, try and see, well, what type of future is possible for my child, then. 

Andrew Schorr:

And you investigated, among other things, diet, and made some changes, and also you sought out specialized care, and that brought you to the center at UCSF.  All that work, diet and working with someone in the know, that made a difference for your daughter. 

Kaitlin Fox:

Yes.  That made a huge difference. 

Andrew Schorr:

Tell us about that.  What sort of changes? 

Kaitlin Fox:

So, one of the first things that happened was my mom came to me right after—this was even before she had a diagnosis from anyone, and my mom was saying, you know, I'm reading this stuff online and people are saying gluten and casein can be problems for children that have autism or suspected to be on the spectrum, and she was like, why not just give it a chance.  Just take it out for a little while, see what happens.  And, yeah, this is—I was in grief, and I was like, sure, why not.  What can it hurt to test it out?  My daughter had no words except for the ability to say hi occasionally, and she was 21 months at this point.  When we did it, when we took those things out of her diet, a week later she just dropped 13 words. 

Andrew Schorr:

Wow.

Kaitlin Fox: 

Right away.  So, at that point I was like, okay, maybe there's something to a different approach here. 

Andrew Schorr:

You became curious, and then devoted to what we'll describe as an integrative approach, that included dietary review and changes, so that brought you to UCSF.  How has it worked out, as far as the care for your daughter? 

Kaitlin Fox:

Well, UCSF is just kind of night and day compared to what I was working with before.  I tried several doctors whose methods seemed a little too extreme for me.  I didn't want to try anything that could possibly be dangerous.  I wasn't really getting taken seriously by the pediatrician that we had at the time, who was not in the UCSF medical group, and I started asking around, and people were saying, okay, UCSF is the place.  Go to Dr. Newmark.  He accepts insurance and all these things.  So, I gave it a shot, and it's been just honestly amazing.  It's been night and day. 

The care that we get at UCSF, sometimes I just call my mom just to tell her, after the appointments, that I'm so blessed that I have access to this for my daughter, because the doctors listen.  They care about the parent's perspective.  They're willing to think outside of the box.  They're capable of explaining the risks and benefits.  I feel like they're very invested in their patients, and especially Dr. Newmark.

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