Below is the story of piano prodigy Jacob Valazquez’s autism journey told by his mother Tina. A true mother warrior, Tina sought biomedical treatment for her son in the early stages of his diagnosis. Here is her tale of trial, error, and success.
Jacob was born a healthy 7lb 14oz baby boy on Sept 29, 2007. Everyone from family to hospital staff commented on what a good baby he was. I fell instantly in love with him. It was a love I had never felt before. A deep protective love. A kind of love I had never experienced before becoming a mother.
After we brought him home from the hospital, Jacob started to become more and more difficult to comfort. He barely slept. It took everything I had to get him to stop crying. Then one night our worst nightmare came true. I had just finished feeding Jacob and laid him down in the bed with me. I could tell something was wrong by the look on his face. He started turning red and I realized he couldn’t breathe. I called my husband and he called 911. They took us to the ER. By this time he was breathing again, thank god. The ER doctor said he was choking on his own acid reflux.
A series of tests confirmed that Jacob had GERD and we started him on Zantac. Months later when we started him on solids we found that he could not tolerate textures of any sort. He would vomit violently turning purple each time. At the age of 18 months Jacob was diagnosed with a feeding disorder. This continued to get worse despite the feeding therapy, and he was vomiting up to 3 times a day. At age two Jacob was still not speaking and was diagnosed with delayed speech. The therapists told us his delayed speech was due to his feeding disorder.
Around this time Jacob started showing other odd behaviors, such as insisting certain lights always be on, staring at our celing fan, banging his head on furniture, and constantly running (often in circles). When I mentioned these things to our pediatrician he said, “he’s fine, he’ll grow out of it. Don’t worry, your son does not have autism.”
But he didn’t grow out of it — in fact the behaviors got worse as time went on. He could not tolerate noises such as toilets flushing or babies crying. He would totally lose it. He also became very angry and aggressive, throwing things at us and kicking and punching. He was also very sensitive to touch. I could not hug him or kiss him. When I told him I loved him he would say, “I don’t love you.”
Finally, at age four, my husband insisted we get Jacob evaluated. I didn’t see the point. I thought they were going to tell me what his feeding therapist told me — that it was my fault because he had never been made to do anything he didn’t want to do. That I was too lenient and easy on him. That he lacked discipline. It was to my surprise when the developmental pediatrician said the words, “your son has autism.” Autism? How could that be? How could my baby boy who I loved with all my heart have autism? My world fell apart at that moment. I was completely devastated.
One month later, our daughter Skylar was born. Jacob’s symptoms became out of control at this point. Everytime Skylar would cry Jacob would scream at the top of his lungs and throw things at her or try to kick her just to make her stop. We tried behavioral and occupational therapy but nothing was helping. I decided to get some books from the library on autism to help me understand Jacob better. I came across two books, “Healing and Preventing Autism” by Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Kartzinel and “The Autism Book” by Dr. Sears. After reading these books I convinced my husband to let me find a DAN doctor. I mean it couldn’t hurt to try, right? I found a few doctors in our area that practiced biomedical treatment and we finally decided on our current doctor, Dr. Udell.
On our first visit, Dr. Udell sent us home with a few supplements including oral glutathione (GSH), along with a whole slew of lab tests. After the first week I told my husband I didn’t think the supplements were doing anything and that I was going to call the doctor. My husband convinced me to give it time. Then, to my surprise, about two weeks later I was driving Jacob home from a science class when I asked him, as I always did, “what did you do in class today?” Typically Jacob would say, “I don’t want to tell you” or simply say nothing at all. But on this particular day Jacob told me every single thing they did in class from beginning to end. I couldn’t believe it! Could the biomedical treatment be working? My husband then confirmed that he had also noticed an increase in Jacob’s language.
During the next visit we learned that Jacob was allergic to wheat, casein and soy. Dr. Udell advised us to put Jacob on a gluten, casein and soy-free diet. I didn’t think that would be possible with a child with severe food aversions and a diet of only five foods. It wasn’t easy but we just decided to replace the foods he was eating with GF/CF/SF alternatives. We moved very slowly with the diet because Jacob was so sensitive to new textures. We began noticing that the more foods we introduced the more new foods he was willing to try. A few months after starting the diet, Jacob’s vomiting stopped and never came back.
While preparing for our third visit with Dr. Udell I did a lot of research and decided that I wanted to try methyl B12 shots. I had read many stories from parents reporting that their children experienced huge gains following the injections. But Dr. Udell had another idea. He felt that since Jacob’s biggest struggles were with anger and anxiety it might not be a good time for B12. Instead he suggested a medication called low-dose naltrexone. As he explained the medication I was fighting back tears. I did not want my son medicated. He assured me that this type of medication works with the body’s natural rhythm by blocking the endorphins for 4 hours while asleep, producing an up regulation of endorphins for the next 15-18 hours. He assured that me that LDN was nothing like Ritalin or Prozac. So although I was disappointed about not getting the B12 shots, I decided to give the LDN a try. We filled the prescription that day and administered it that night. The very next morning (mornings were the worst time for Jacob) he came into my room and said, “Good morning, Mommy!” It worked that fast! And It just got better from there. Jacob was pleasant and happy most of the time. He became so much calmer. We even started going to restaurants, something we had written off long before.
The next visit with Dr. Udell I decided it was time to try the B12 shots. I had done my research and was not surprised when Jacob became very hyper. What we weren’t prepared for was the anger and aggression that came back in full force. Dr. Udell advised to give it time, and so we did. It took about two months and a slight increase in the LDN before these side effects subsided. And then it happened… Jacob began not only allowing us to touch, hug, kiss, and hold him like I had longed to do for so long, he was now asking for it! I videotaped him telling me he loved me in fear that he would one day regress back. But that has not happened in almost one year! His language comprehension exploded and he’s become more aware of his surroundings. He started engaging in imaginative play and even making jokes.
During the following visits we tried different supplements, some that seemed to help and some not as much. We still continue to see Dr. Udell every few months because there’s always room for improvement, although most people would never guess that just under two years ago, Jacob was diagnosed with autism. Jacob went from a preschool specifically for children with autism spectrum disorder to a typical kindergarten class in a typical public school. His teachers tell us that he has many friends and loves school. Although we have never had him reevaluated and I am not a doctor, I personally do not believe today that Jacob would meet criteria for an autism diagnosis.
Click the links to see videos of Jacob’s amazing talent below:
ABC 10: Meet A Piano prodigy
Baby Beethoven Rocks the Piano During GMA