SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Autism hits one in every 150 children. It's the fastest growing developmental disability in the country and the numbers are even higher in Utah. According to a University of Utah study, one in ever 133 births, a child is diagnosed with autism.
It can be devastating, frustrating and expensive for the nearly 7,000 Utah families that are raising a child with autism. A Draper family went outside conventional wisdom of medical doctors to try some alternative therapy.
Four-year-old Colton Smith loves to play with his big sister, Briton but it hasn't always been that way. Colton has been on a dark journey that took him away from his family. “He would just be off, said Colton’s Mother, Shawnee Smith, “like he didn't know I was his mom holding him.” The smiths say Colton was a happy baby, always smiling, started talking at nine months, and didn't bother to crawl on his way to walking. At 18 months, however, they say everything changed after he received immunization shots.
“About three weeks after, I started noticing not responding to me calling him,” said Shawnee.
Colton stopped talking and no longer made eye contact recalled Colton’s father Mike. “He would play for hours, in his room, door shut, by himself.” Testing showed Colton had severe autism. Doctors told the Smiths Colton might never speak again, they should prepare for a life of constant care but hardest to accept; “You don't know, does he know we're even here? Does he even recognize who Ii am, does he see me?” said Mike.
Among Colton’s symptoms: Sensory over-load in crowds, around loud noises, with textures that kept him from eating, and a compulsion to lick strange surfaces. “We took him to our gym going swimming and there was this drain with some brown water in it and I turned around and he was down licking this brown water,” said Shawnee, I thought, ‘AHHH! He’s going to die!’ He was just sent down here with an incredible immune system.”
He was given traditional methods of treatment such as early intervention schooling at Jordan School District where he learned behavior skills but he remained locked away in his own little world. A friend of the Smiths recommended an alternative treatment, combining holistic medicine with chiropractic.
Mike was skeptical. “I thought it was crap and there would be no way we're going down there and there would be no way you are going to be adjusting my son's spine!
Dr Troy Frazier prescribed homeopathic remedies to get rid of toxins and to build up to Colton's nutrition. He cut sugar, preservatives and additives from Colton's diet. “Just getting the offenders out is good but then you have to put the good stuff back in,” said Dr. Frazier.
After six months, the Smiths saw major improvement and a glimmer of Colton coming back. “He would come and sit on your lap and look at you. It was huge because he hadn't been doing that at all,” recalled Shawnee. They agreed to get chiropractic treatment. Dr. Frazier said his focus was getting Colton’s neurological functions restored and concentrated on adjusting his crania, neck, back, spine, and hips.
After the first week of adjustments, the Smiths say more of Colton returned to them. “He was starting to chase after his sister's friends. It was just like it woke him up,” said Shawnee. And then came a day etched in Shawnee's memory. “I think the best day of my life was when he said, 'Momma' after a year and a half of silence.”
The Smiths say another unique therapy has virtually stopped Colton's sensory issues with crowds and textures. “I noticed a big change the first time he rode,” said horseback riding therapist, Tamera Tanner.
Tanner developed a method of therapeutic horseback riding after realizing her horse’s walking pattern is the same as an infant’s crawl. “I you don’t crawl correctly,” Tanner said, “Your brain doesn’t get mapped correctly.” Remember, Colton bypassed crawling as an infant, which is common with children with autism. “Some doctors consider autism… a brain injury and so you have to re pattern the brain.” Tanner, who has a medical background, says in brain injury patients one side of the brain is used more.
Only a small portion of the Missouri Fox Trotter breed has the natural gate needed for Tanner’s therapy. Tanner says that’s because the horse’s motion stimulates the two sides of Colton’s brain to work as one, a process called; Cross Hemispheric Integration.
Also emerging from therapy, something often difficult for children of autism to comprehend, a sense of humor. After his ride Colton teased Tanner by throwing some dirt at her. Now most parents might want to scold but for the Smiths, it’s another break through moment. “Him throwing dirt at Tammy is, ‘Whoohooo! That’s very new for us,” said Shawnee, “for him to tell knock-knock jokes and get it… he started doing that on the horse.”
Mike says, although, skeptical at first, he can't argue with the results. “It doesn't matter if you believe or not. You have to look at facts for facts and look where he is today.” It is a place that seems far distant from the bleak prognosis two and a half years ago. “It's been wonderful to see this has worked for us and hopefully it can work for someone else,” said Shawnee.
Colton now speaks in complete sentences and has a vocabulary of 300 words. The Smiths admit their son's progress is not all miracles, they say it is a constant process they caught early which has made a big difference. If treatments stop, Colton digresses.
Those treatments are not covered by insurance. Dr Frazier is working to create a non profit organization that would help to fund treatment for special needs children. Tamera Tanner is also in the process of getting scholarships for her horseback riding therapy.
To contact Dr. Troy Frazier/ Absolute Health Chiropractic and Nutrition Center: 801-221-1151. Website: www.absolutehealthcenter.net
To contact Tamera Tanner/Hoof Beats to Healing: 801-836-4325. Website: www.hoofbeatstohealing.com