By Rhona Cullinan
Our beautiful boy Joshua was born on St Patricks Day 2015. He was a healthy baby and met all his milestones from birth. We did notice at times that he seemed strangely independent and wasn’t a cuddler even at night – he was more settled when we would put him down than holding or nursing him. He was a great eater and we began baby led weaning at six months and it was a huge success – by nine months he was eating practically anything. At 16 months he was a happy, giggly, chatty fun little boy learning new words every week.
At the time I was pregnant with our daughter Molly. When I was nine-weeks pregnant we discovered that Molly had a heart condition and would need open heart surgery after she was born. We also found out that there was a 70 percent chance of having down syndrome.
Fortunately, Molly was born healthy with down syndrome at 39 weeks and her heart condition was better than expected so they scheduled surgery for five months time. When we brought Molly home from the hospital when Joshua was around 18 months old we noticed he had become much quieter. He was talking less, his eye contact slowly crept away and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with Molly.
We put it down to jealousy of a new baby and didn’t over worry, but as time went on and I did more research we realised that he was actually regressing. Quickly he lost all his words, all his babble, all his eye contact, all his play and all his appetite for food.
We had lost our little boy to autism.
The more we lost the more autistic traits grew – he began to flap his arms and hands, have meltdowns at any new situation, going through shops was a nightmare – to the extent that we stopped going out, he began to eat only yellow food – chips, nuggets, waffles and minimal amounts. No fruit, no vegetables and not even chocolate would entice him – he lost weight rapidly and became pale and sullen.
He would bounce on his knees for hours on end screeching. He would scream at any time for absolutely no reason – sometimes even looking like he was hearing voices and he stopped responding when we called his name. After ruling out hearing problems we finally got the official diagnosis of non-verbal asd.
We accepted the diagnosis and committed to getting his therapies started as soon as possible.
He began occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. It was a weekly battle at any of these meetings but we persevered.
They set out goals and objectives to try to do over the following year. But his progress was slow. He had started in a fantastic mainstream creche who was very understanding and flexible as he fairly much did his own thing and didn’t mix with the other children.
One day while Molly was having a check-up at home by a nurse she could hear Joshua having a meltdown in the other room – she asked me about him and if he had autism. She told me about her nephew who also had autism and asked me had I heard about CBD or Cannabis Oil. She told me that her sister had had great success with her son using the oil. I was willing to try anything.
I had heard the name but knew nothing about it. I presumed when I heard the word cannabis that it was a hallucinogenic crazy drug that would make my son stoned so I decided to educate myself on it - She directed me to a Facebook group called The CBDs of Autism who were amazingly educated and helpful and I could read other parents’ journeys. I discovered that CBD Oil is a natural, safe, non-hallucinogenic, widely used and above all legal and available to buy in stores or online in Ireland.
After extensive research and speaking to my partner, I decided to give it a go and tried Charlottes Web Advanced.
On the first day, we gave him four drops of oil under the tongue and we must admit it tasted vile, but luckily it didn’t both Joshua. When I nervously went to collect him that evening I asked how his day was – to my shock they said fantastic he was in great form – and you'll never guess what – he ate potatoes and carrots.
In the following days, Joshua started to eat spaghetti bolognaise, egg, apple, raisins and so many other foods.
After weeks we noticed him babbling again and he was making more eye contact.
Even the creche, the physio and the occupational therapists had called me aside to know what the hell was going on – he was meeting goals set for six months time. They were shocked but encouraging when I told them.
After six months, he was kissing and cuddling his little sister Molly. He even helped give her a bottle and play with her.
He started to sleep again, he was relaxed and happy and his speech improved drastically.
He is a year on it now – he's amazing – is now making sentences and is in speech therapy to help with pronunciation. He goes to an asd unit in preschool and getting on great. He is totally interactive and even tries to make friends when we are at play barns or parties. He waves hello to strangers and waves goodbye to his friends. We can go to family occasions, to shops and to restaurants without too much stress. He eats practically everything and is a happy chatty boy again.
I’m not saying CBD oil gets rid of autism. It doesn’t. Joshua still has odd, bad days, but they’ve become rarer now.
Unfortunately Charlottes Web Advanced is no longer available in Ireland so I will be changing his oil to Myriams Hope 50 when it runs out as it seems to be having similar results. My advice to anyone inspired by Joshua's story is to educate yourself, to pace yourself, to understand you may not be as lucky to get success first go – to persevere – to find the oil that works best for your child.
But for me – I got my little boy back.