Last fall I met Dr. Julie Buckley at the National Autism Association annual conference, but I was already familiar with her work. Her book, Healing Our Autistic Children: A Medical Plan for Restoring Your Child's Health, is one of my favorite books for parents who work tirelessly to navigate the challenging waters of raising children with ASD. In her book, Dr. Buckley shares very personal experiences (as a mother and Pediatrician) about how and why autism is a treatable medical disease. It is well-written, easy to read and filled with tremendous information which helped equip me to be a better mother and caregiver to Ethan. Also, the two times I’ve heard Dr. Buckley speak at NAA, I was greatly impacted. See my most recent post about Caring for the Caregiver HERE. I hope you’ll enjoy Part 1 of our interview series. Let us know what you think!
LAW: Dr. Buckley, Please tell us a little about yourself and your personal and professional “interests” in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
JB: My professional interest in Autism developed as a direct result of my personal interest in Autism. My personal interest in Autism developed involuntarily and very abruptly when my daughter regressed profoundly at the age of four. Prior to that, I was a regular old pediatrician, graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine and a “rabid” Hurricanes fan through my pediatric residency there from 1991-1994. I met my husband on a blind date in Jacksonville, and knew that evening that I would be moving to northeast Florida when my residency was over. My transition from a regular old pediatric group practice to my integrative/functional medicine practice occurred as my daughter got sick and then began to heal. Being very much a “God sort of girl,” I understood that when we were given the gift of her tremendous recovery, I needed to pay it forward and learn how to help other people’s children heal as well. The practice continues to evolve - though autism is still our primary focus, I still have a few neurotypical children for whom I care, you’ll see the occasional NFL football player in the office during the season, and there are a few adults with various maladies that wiggle their way into the practice when no one else seems to be able to get them recovering. Whatever your problem, though, you have to come into our tiny little office with patience - we have very little physical space, but brag that a house filled with love has elastic walls!
LAW: In your book, you write about the “Five Brave, Basic Truths of Autism” with #1 being “Autism is a medical illness. It only looks like a psychiatric disorder.” On p. 21 of Healing Our Autistic Children, you write, “We have an epidemic of children with a regressive, multisystem illness in which immune systems, guts, brains, and, in fact, whole bodies are quite ill.” Please share with our readers how you discovered this and how it has changed how you practice medicine and approach patient treatment.
JB: Way back in training, we were taught to remember that a person with schizophrenia could also have hypertension or appendicitis that needs to be managed. When my daughter developed autism, her bowel disease manifested very dramatically at the same time - there was no ignoring the problem. I will never forget the photos that Tim Buie, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Harvard, showed at a DAN! Conference. A little girl had chewed her arm raw with self-injurious behavior. He showed her endoscopy photos - horrible esophagitis. He treated her with Zantac, and six weeks later at recheck, not only her esophagus but her arm were healed. I have had more than one child, as they were finally able to speak, and as we treated their bowel disease, tell me that they were always in pain. At one point I had my daughter journaling with a new med we tried. The only thing she wrote, day after day, was “My tummy doesn’t hurt anymore!”
We know that the vast majority of our children have bowel disease of some sort. And there’s not a person out there who hasn’t tried to function at work with belly pain - it is exhausting and very challenging! So I try to always think hard, before assuming that something is purely behaviorally based, to look for what might be physically wrong to cause a “behavior” in a child who can’t communicate with me about their pain.
In Part 2 of our interview, Dr. Buckley answers my questions about “The Big 3: Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Toxicity.” Join us to learn more?
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is Editor in Charge of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007 (now available for digital download via Moving Picture Books). Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.