Our Biomedical Doctor Offered Us The Map We Needed To Continue Our Journey.
It was nearly five years ago that Jaxon was diagnosed with autism, and although I remember it like it was yesterday, at the time, I felt like I was living in a dream. Jaxon was suffering (and me too) from uncontrollable tantrums and nothing Children’s Hospital told me (or gave me in my “folder of useful information”) was helping. I continued to follow the “doctor’s orders” but also started doing as much research on alternative treatment for Autism that I could. Jaxon was attending the maximum amount of Speech and Occupational Therapy that the insurance (Tricare Standard) would pay for but things seemed to be getting worse instead of better. A friend of mine was taking her son (diagnosed with Autism) to a DAN doctor in Florida and convinced me to get on board.
Jenny McCarthy had just published her first book, Louder Than Words, and after reading reviews about it on “Google” I immediately ordered a copy. I read through the book in a matter of days (two, I think) and things just started to “click”. I contacted a local DAN doctor listed in the back of Jenny’s book and made an appointment for Jaxon. I knew that we would need to change doctors in a few months (my husband is military and would be changing Air Force Bases) but I wanted to get Jaxon started on a treatment plan as soon as possible.
If you have never been to a DAN doctor you are in for quite a treat. In my experience, they are very thorough and very compassionate, each of our first appointments (we have seen three different DAN doctors) averaged about two hours. They all ordered a number of different tests to be done; hair samples, urine samples, samples of his bowel movements, and blood tests. Tricare (STANDARD + MOAA MEDIPLUS) reimbursed us for a portion of the lab testing, you can call ahead of time with the billing codes from your laboratory invoice and find out exactly how much they cover. Some of the laboratories will bill Tricare directly so make sure to check into that. I was shocked to learn that you can get different results among laboratories so I recommend you use the laboratory your DAN doctor uses, it might cost extra money but you really do want to get the most accurate results possible.
The first DAN doctor put Jaxon on a few basic supplements to get us started while we were in the process of moving. The second DAN doctor was more of an allergy based doctor and did a round of allergy tests followed by allergy shots. I didn’t feel that we were going in the right direction yet so I kept searching for a “better fit”. It had been almost five months since Jaxon was diagnosed when I found “THE ONE… the doctor who would turn our lives around”. She considered herself more of a biomedical doctor than a DAN doctor and she started by looking through the tests we had already had done, ordered a few more, and immediately started Jaxon on a strong antibiotic to kill the bacteria in his gut and antifungals to kill all the yeast growing throughout his body (both were covered by Tricare).
Within a matter of weeks his behavior started to change. Jaxon began to talk again and make progress at school (Pre-K) and in both Speech and Occupational Therapy. His doctor put him on a gluten/casein free diet, and a list of supplements that seemed to be a mile long (Tricare did not cover the supplements). She explained that his body was damaged and we needed to heal him from the inside out. She also explained that he was not absorbing nutrients from the food he was eating and we needed to supplement those nutrients for the time being. She promised that it would take time, but eventually this list of daily supplements would dwindle away. She couldn’t have been more right. Jaxon is still on a gluten free diet, but he only takes 1 to 3 supplements a day, depending on how his body is doing at various times of the year. We still have Tricare Standard and MOAA Mediplus insurance. Our insurance covers about 1/3 of our DAN doctor appointments because she is not a Tricare provider, and they don’t cover any of our supplements. The insurance covers all of Jaxon’s therapy (watch for my Tricare/Therapy post) and he is currently doing Speech Therapy twice a week and Occupational Therapy once a week (please email me if you have any Tricare related questions).
When I began researching biomedical treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder for my dissertation I decided I needed a logo, an acronym that would tell people what I am all about. AutismDEAL stands for Diagnose. Educate. Advocate. Live. I feel that every family needs to do just that…get your diagnosis; educate yourself, education is knowledge, and knowledge is power; then advocate for your child, you know them best, you know what is best for them, and you know what will make them better; and then LIVE, live everyday celebrating each goal they reach, or each milestone they pass, live with them, live for them, and live because of them. Always remember that Autism is journey, not a destination.
My name is Dr. Jill Tschikof; I am the mother of two, and a military spouse. We have had struggles and successes raising a child with Autism while serving in the military and I hope that my future stories will act as a form of guidance for others navigating this same path. You can find my personal blog at www.autismdeal.com; I hope that you will email me if you have any questions.