For many years, British mother Maria Hutchings longed for her son just to be able to hug her and say "I love you." But, as she told the British newspaper The Daily Mail, Ms. Hutchings had to wait four long years to hear this expression of affection from her son John Paul.
John Paul Hutchings had had a normal start in life, but was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Never able to say more than two words, John Paul lost his ability to speak and was plunged into a world of verbal isolation.
Verbal isolation, Ms. Hutchings recounts, did not equate with silence. John Paul became given to tantrums and screaming when anything was changed. If someone sat at a different chair at the dinner table, for instance, John Paul would scream until everyone moved into their usual position. John Paul's use of words, sadly, disappeared.
Maria and husband Stuart said they felt abandoned by the National Health Service. They finally got a referral to an autism specialist, but the National Health would not pay the £2500 fee for the one-day consultation. Eventually their kindly family practitioner picked up the tab. There were no treatment options though the system, but the Hutchings were resolute that they would find something that worked for their son. And that something turned out to be fish oil.
"Fish oil unlocked my autistic son," Maria Hutchings told The Daily Mail. This was not to happen, sadly, before the family dug even deeper into their savings and spent £1000 on nutritionist fees to be told to avoid orange juice and to take vitamins. The nutritional advice did not work, either, and John Paul seemed to be getting more and more isolated. Another mother at John Paul's school mentioned seeing a program on the British network ITV about fish oil supplements, so Maria started giving her boy a fish oil product called Eye Q.
The results were dramatic. For years John Paul had scribbled with a black pen. He started drawing rainbows. He began speaking in sentences. He started reading. He could tell his mother, "I love you," and also ask what is for dinner.
Every member of the Hutchings family started taking fish oil, and one non-autistic daughter's grades in school went from D's to B's. Mrs. Hutching even started lobbying the Prime Minister for more services for British children who had autism.
But was John Paul's improvement just a fluke? Research physicians at the Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, California don't think it was.
Fish Oil and Vitamin E for Treating Apraxia of Speech
The California researchers identified a group of children with autism who respond especially well to supplementation with fish oil and vitamin E. These are children who suffer apraxia of speech. In autistic children, this is an inability to come up with the sequence of movements of the lips, mouth, and tongue that make fluent speech possible. In the least severe cases, the sufferer of apraxia may be able to communicate with lots of stops and starts. In severe cases, like John Paul's, there may be no speech at all.
These children also tended to have digestive disorders. There might be gluten sensitivity, or fat absorption problems that cause sticky stools and flatulence, or food allergies. And tests typically showed deficiencies of L-carnitine.
Giving these autistic children fish oil and vitamin E not only relieved apraxia of speech, it also helped them improve on different measures of social interaction, pain sensitivity, and eye-hand coordination. Fish oil and vitamin E seemed to bring some autistic children back into the shared world, in California as in the UK with the Hutchings family. But how can you use this combination of supplements for your own autistic child.
Dosage Not Yet Determined
Researchers don't yet know the optimal dose of fish oil and vitamin E. Since most parents of autistic children find it to be a struggle to get their children to take capsules, it's important to use a product with the highest essential fatty acid content per capsule. Either Xtend Life capsules or Nordic Naturals Chewables is a good place to start. Vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol in a 100 mg dose should confer the benefits of the vitamin with no side effects.
Is improvement for your own child guaranteed if you give these supplements? No, although it would be perfectly fair to ask for a refund on the product if you don't see results. As further information about dosages and complementary supplements becomes available, I'll post in the blog. And your comments, questions, and experiences are welcome in the Comments Box.
- Bates, Claire. How Fish Oil Unlocked My Autistic Son, The Daily Mail, 12 June 2006.
- Morris CR, Agin MC. Syndrome of allergy, apraxia, and malabsorption: characterization of a neurodevelopmental phenotype that responds to omega 3 and vitamin E supplementation. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 Jul-Aug;15(4):34-43.