by Alberta Lindsey, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Vitamin A Autism Treatment Spurs Breakthrough for ChildUntil he was about one year old, Wesley Sykes had a bright smile and was a lively, robust child.

Then his parents, Seth and Lisa Sykes, noticed he wasn’t picking up words as other children were, and the wordlike sounds he had been making stopped.

His smile disappeared. At 18 months, he stopped responding to his name.

At 21/2, Wesley was diagnosed with autism.

Wesley would sit on the floor and spin plates.

He would dangle a string in front of his face.

He would go into the middle of a room and just spin.

He would sit for hours sifting sand or dirt through his fingers, without building anything.

“This is a horrific illness,” Mrs. Sykes said.

Vitamin A for Autism

In October, Wesley began taking natural vitamin A in a study conducted by Dr. Mary N. Megson, a developmental pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia.

The change in Wesley, now 3 1/2, has been dramatic.

Three days after beginning the vitamins, Wesley knew his name and began to make more sounds.

“I hear ‘mom’ and ‘yay.’ That’s a huge step for him,” said Mrs. Sykes.

Much of the autistic-like behavior, such as spinning objects, has stopped, she added.

Some of the other children in the study also improved within a few days of treatment.

Megson said, “This is not a cure but a piece of the puzzle.”

Dr. Bernard Rimland said: “Dr. Megson may be onto some­thing quite important. All kinds of clues need to be explored.”

Exposure to Toxicity

A growing numbers of parents and researchers suggest a link between autism and childhood exposure to toxicity.

Like Wesley, many children with autism develop normally until they are 15 to 18 months old. “Then suddenly, they shut down,” Megson said.

Her theory is that receptors in the brain that control vision, language and perception may already be weakened in some children because of a genetic link.

Many children with autism have parents with night blindness.

In these children, some toxins may act as an “off” switch to already weakened receptors.

Natural vitamin A may switch on these receptors.

Although high doses of vitamin A can be toxic, Megson’s patients take safe, carefully-monitored doses.

Bradford Hulcher’s son, Sam, 9, also in Megson’s trials, has not improved.

Hulcher, co-president of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Autism Society of America, said, “But I’ve talked with many parents who have seen remarkable improvements in their children.”

Rimland said the number of autism cases is increasing, and he blames it on the growing number of toxins children are exposed to.

Regardless of the cause, early diagnosis and treatment of autism are important, said Mary Swingle, an infant development specialist.

As Wesley’s home educator last year, she helped him become more social, even accompanying him to preschool to help him engage in school activities.

Dr. Irene Carney, director of Wesley’s school, has a doctorate in special education and has taught children with autism.

She saw dramatic improvements in Wesley.

“At first, he wanted to do what he wanted to do and wasn’t interested in responding to our expectations.

Eventually, we got him to do things at the same time as the other children. He developed meaningful relationships, and we saw him initiating games, teasing and laughing,” she said.

Mrs. Sykes says,”Dr. Megson’s research is giving so much hope for children with autism, where there has been so little.”

Copyright, Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used with permission.

Vitamin A autism treatment may spur breakthroughs because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

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