DISCLAIMER: The program outlined in this blog post was prescribed specifically for my son by the Family Hope Center‘s team. I wrote some of the details for friends and family who wanted to know what we’re doing. I strongly caution anyone from trying to implement these therapies without explicit instruction from the team at the Family Hope Center. This program does work, so, please contact them and make plans to attend their 3-day parent conference.
We just passed the three month mark since beginning our Journey of Hope and the program outlined by the Family Hope Center. We are seeing results, so although the program is demanding, we are motivated to continue. My husband, Bruce, essentially put his life on hold so he can completely focus on working with our son, Aaron, while I work full-time.
Each activity is designed to trigger various areas of the brain and form new connections to promote healing. There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reporting about new research that proves the brain’s amazing ability to heal through physical and mental exercise. This is the hallmark of the Family Hope Center’s approach. They operate on the premise that the brain can heal. They spend time to teach parents how the brain develops, and we now understand that Aaron’s brain function is simply disorganized, and each of the therapies works to help his brain organize itself. Here is the list of all we need to fit into each day:
Reflex bags–40 times per day. This stimulates deep breathing reflexes which increases blood flow to the brain. Once the bag is covering his mouth and nose and we notice him beginning to take rhythmic deep breaths, we set a timer for 30 seconds, then we wait at least 5 minutes in between. Aaron finds this very pleasant and calming.
Crawling (commando style)–300 meters (working up to 500 meters). We do this on a hard smooth surface, so he glides across the floor. This is the therapy that Aaron resists the most, but he can get the distance done in less than 30 minutes if he focuses. This activity stimulates the brain stem, and there are important functions in the brain and reflexes that didn’t develop correctly in Aaron because he didn’t crawl enough like this as a baby.
Creeping (on hands and knees)–600 meters (working up to 1,200 meters). We laid out a path of foam tiles in our basement. Back and forth; back and forth. This stimulates other areas of the brain stem that are vital.
Sample of what this looks like
Olfactory–9 different scents per day (3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, 3 in the evening). His sense of smell is way off. Smells that we find pleasant are repulsive to him, but he loves the smell of his sweaty shoe. We find the same with his sense of taste. He hates candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, etc. However, he loves the taste of fermented cod liver oil. Is it any wonder that he was a very picky eater? His eating habits are much better now. Anyway, with each smell he needs to be able to identify it, and we are to watch for appropriate reactions to each smell. Smelling also triggers the brain’s limbic system (people on the autism spectrum typically have under-developed limbic systems):
The limbic brain’s primary function is to warn us of danger. It is associated with autonomic functions such as arousal, motivation, emotion, sex, recent memory, smell and bonding. The olfactory pathway feeds this part of the brain directly.–Family Hope Center
Listening to a special music CD–30 minutes per day. This helps him filter sounds.
Hyperbaric chamber–60 minutes per day. By far, Aaron’s favorite therapy. 4 pounds per square inch of pressure increases blood flow and has been proven to grow new tissue. We do this at the end of the day. He goes to bed right afterwards and sleeps soundly through the night.
Nutrition. We are following the GAPS diet. His typical daily diet:
- Breakfast–scrambled eggs and fruit
- Snack–grapes and cheddar cheese
- Lunch–organic, grass-fed beef patty and lentil soup
- Dinner–zucchini spaghetti and grain-free meatballs with a sugar-free pasta sauce
- 24 oz of water per day (working up to this)
- Supplements (fish oil, fermented cod liver oil, vitamin, probiotic…)
Tactile therapy (smooth and rough on skin)–10 times per day. We still need to implement this.
Social behavior and boundaries (reduce repetitive play and sit quietly in church). We notice a definite reduction in repetitive play, and we need to work on the “sit quietly in church,” though he did sit with me for 10 minutes last Sunday and did great!
Education (building vocabulary and language skills as a foundation for social communication)–We are seeing significant improvement with his social skills. He carries on wonderful conversations and joins in with games and activities with other children.
In addition to all of this, Aaron takes karate lessons twice per week and weekly piano lessons. Aaron also has a sister, Naomi, who is in pre-Kindergarten and involved with dance lessons. Bruce takes karate three times per week and is involved with prayer meetings and worship gatherings at our church. I work full-time, and I’m training for two half-marathons this year. We lead a busy and full life.
Our next milestone will be Aaron’s re-evaluation at the Family Hope Center at the beginning of May. They will repeat all the tests they did in November, then adjustments to his therapy program will be made, and we continue on.