An Autism Recovery Story by Scott Shoemaker
I posted a version of this story years ago as a guest blogger before social media existed, and for about 10 years, it came to the very top of the search engines when anyone searched for the phrases “autism recovery” or “autism cure”. I never really liked the word cure when it relates to autism, but many parents that I worked with and helped back then told me that searching “autism cure” is how they found the story and me, regardless.
The owner of the blog, Pat Sullivan, told me that my story was by far the most read blog he had posted, and it would get hundreds and sometimes thousands of views each day according to the analytics which was a lot back then. Eventually, the Internet Gods buried it and the search engines and wiped much of the information about me and my son’s recovery clean within 2 days after an interview I did on a bus telling my story. I have updated this story and am sharing it here to maybe give hope to those who may be struggling with a child on the spectrum.
The events of this story happened on a beautiful fall day back in September 2005.
A couple of days ago, I took my (just turned) 6-year-old son Jacob to his flag football practice. I usually bring his (almost) 3 ½ year old little brother Joshua with me, and he sometimes likes to run around with his brother and the other kids before practice. While I was speaking with another parent that was there and not fully paying attention, I looked up to see the coach putting a flag belt on my younger son Joshua. We laughed at first thinking that he was putting the belt on him by mistake, and he just did not notice that it was my younger son. Joshua is very tall and stocky for his age and is commonly mistaken for being older. He is bigger than the smallest 5-year-olds on the team. The league has kids ages 5-7.
After the coach was done putting the belt on Joshua, I called him over to me and showed him how the flags worked. I was trying to distract him, because I was worried that now that he was wearing a flag belt, he would not want to leave the field while the others practiced. I thought that he may disrupt the practice by having a complete meltdown and I would have to somehow deal with it. This was something that was very common only weeks earlier.
To my surprise, the coach yelled over to us, “C’mon, Joshua, let’s go!” Joshua looked over at the coach, and then up at me with his big beautiful beaming blue eyes. I did not know what was going to happen, but my instincts told me to let him go.
I said, “Well go on, Josh!” I was terrified at first and sat and watching nervously. He ran out onto the field and kneeled on the ground with the other kids with a smile from ear to ear as the coach spoke to them all as a team. A few minutes later, I was astonished as he got up and ran a few laps around the field hanging with the others as if he had done it several times before.
From there, he stood next to his 6-year-old brother in a circle with the others as they proceeded to do jumping jacks and other calisthenics to get warmed up. He needed no direction or help. He watched the others and imitated them. He was one of them.
He practiced with the other kids for a full hour, doing everything that the coach had asked him to do. He would get into a football stance and line up with the rest of the kids and move when the others did. Sure, he struggled with the concept of football and what to do when he got the ball or when to grab the flags off of the guy with the ball, but most 3 1/2-year-olds do as well. He was having the time of his life, smiling after every play. He was a football player.
At the end of the practice, I thanked the coach for letting Joshua be a part of practice. I told him that what he did really meant a lot to me and both of my sons.
He said, “Actually he did great out there. We were shorthanded and I loved having him out there. He did everything I asked him to. The other kids had a lot of fun with him today.”
I then proceeded to tell the coach Joshua’s ‘little secret’. I said, “Coach, I do not think you realize the impact of what you did today. You see, Joshua was diagnosed with autism 7 months ago, and was barely able to communicate with us or follow any type of instructions until we started treating him for toxic metal poisoning 3 months ago.”
The coach seemed a little shocked and taken back at first. He told me that he had not even the slightest clue that there was anything wrong with him. He asked me how old he was. I told him that he was almost 3 ½. He looked at me in amazement, saying that he had a 3 ½ year old son at home that had no interest in going out onto the field with the older kids.
He dug deeper, and I further explained that this was the same little boy who (until only a few months ago) had days where he would entertain himself by spinning around in circles all day with his eyes rolled back into his head and had little interest in other children. Back then, he would not even turn his head to look at me when I came home from work or walked in the room if he was preoccupied, not even if stood next to him and screamed his name a dozen times at the top of my lungs.
The coach was shocked and really did not know what to say. He saw I was a little choked up and quickly realized that what he had unknowingly done meant a lot to me and saw how it had impacted me. The fact that he did not know that there was anything wrong with him was also something I was not used to.
There are so many times that we do little things in our everyday lives that make an impact and touch the lives of others when we do not realize it (like the coach). Today, I sent this story to a girl whose 2-year-old stopped talking after a flu shot in December. The boy was later diagnosed with autism. The girl forwarded it to some of her friends and family. One girl that she forwarded it to (who does not have any affected children) emailed me and said that she cried when she read it and thanked me for sharing it. She pointed out the fact that I, myself, had touched someone else simply by writing this story and probably did not realize it.
***Notes on Joshua’s Progress after 3 ½ months of heavy metal detox…
We have been treating our son with TD DMSA from the Lee Silsby Pharmacy in Cleveland for a total of 9 rounds, or just over 16 weeks, in a 3 days on 11 days off protocol. He also gets TD glutathione and an abundance of supplements daily.
When he was tested 5 months ago around his 3rd birthday, his comprehension level was that of a 13 month old. He was considered 22 months behind. Two months after he was tested, he had made little progress. That is when we started treating him. Since then, his progress has exploded. The results that we have seen with him are amazing. He was just retested, and he is now considered only 10 months behind in speech and comprehension (31 months – he is 41 months old). If these tests were accurate, that means that my son’s comprehension level jumped ahead 15 months in only a 3 month period of time!
Here is an outline of progress that he has made in the last 3 months.
Before we started, Joshua was afraid of his little sister and would not go near her or take any interest in her. After the first 3 days treatment, he started playing with her, giving her toys, her binky, laughing, and interacting with her. Now that is all he wants to do! He also gave her a hug and a kiss that same day on his own. It was astounding.
Now he looks out for her, telling her “no, sissy” when she is doing something she is not supposed to and he walks behind her holding her hands to help her walk. He also tries to have conversations with her. Besides chelation, she has been the best thing for him.
He stopped spinning himself immediately after his first 3 day treatment, and has not done it since. Keep in mind that this was an every day occurrence.
He learned how to wave hello and goodbye, and now understands that when I leave for work in the morning that I am coming back, and he no longer screams when I walk out the door. He gives me a smile and a hug, says good-bye, waves and sometimes says I love you, Daddy! I get choked up every time I leave the house.
His eye contact is EXCELLENT compared to before. It is not even as issue now. Before I would have rated it slightly above average for someone with his condition.
He learned to take off and put on his own shoes and he lets us brush his teeth without fussing anymore.
He used to want to watch the same movies over and over again ALL THE TIME. Now, he hardly watches the TV, and when he does, it is usually something that his older brother would watch that is more age appropriate that would have never interested him before.
He will now turn around immediately if I (or others) call his name at a normal tone on the first try instead of having to stand next to him and scream progressively louder a dozen times.
He no longer has tantrums of any sort.
His comprehension has gone through the roof. I can literally tell him to do anything for me and he understands. He previously only understood a few phrases. I am constantly testing him with tasks, and 9 times out of 10 he will understand and do what I tell him.
His interaction with other children has also improved drastically. He seeks out other kids and tries to play with them on the playground we take him to. He used to just watch them or sit by himself and play with the toy du jour.
He is speaking in longer phrases and picking up more words every day. We are starting to have conversations with him. He maintains excellent eye contact and uses proper facial expressions and voice inflection during these talks.
He has just started pointing, asking questions, and commenting on things that he would have never noticed before.
Example: He walked up to me today and pointed to a cut on my ankle when I was lying on the couch and said, “Oh, No! What happened? Are you alright? You have a boo-boo.” I told him that I fell and got hurt. He walked over to a cedar chest and got a blanket. He then covered up my ankle very gently and said, “There… All better now”. Three months ago, he would have not even noticed it and would have said nothing. He probably would not have even interacted with me unless I tried to initiate a conversation with him first, and that is a stretch.
His stimming has decreased. He still does the hand flapping thing occasionally, but not as pronounced or as much.
He attempts to (and sometimes does) get himself dressed.
He washes his own hands.
Please keep in mind that all of this progress has been in the last 3 ½ months. His speech therapist has told us that he has progressed faster in the shortest amount of time than any other child that she has ever worked with (she has been doing this since 1988). She has also told us that he is the only child that she has worked with that has been going through this treatment that she knows of. We originally did not tell her, because we wanted to see if she noticed a difference (she did immediately). She has since sent other parents to us.
One other note… This child has never had any other behavioral interventions other than one hour of speech and OT a week. He is not on a GF/CF diet because he is not g&c intolerant according to a few tests that we gave him. There is nothing else that I can attribute his progress to. My wife and I make it a habit to constantly challenge him and test him, and he never ceases to amaze us.
I hope you enjoyed my story.
Joshua lost around 70% of his “autism” symptoms in only 6 months, and 90% of them within a year. He would later go on to recover and lead a normal life with no supports.
Today, Joshua is enjoying college and taking honors classes. Years after I posted this story, I posted a recovery video to actually show the progress that he made during this same time. It went viral, was shared over 30k times and viewed millions of times but was later taken down by the social media Nazis. Today, it has been reposted, but largely shadow banned.
You can find it here.