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Healing without Hurting: Treating ADHD, Apraxia and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally and Effectively without Harmful Medications Hardcover – November 7, 2014
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Book Review: Healing Without Hurting, by Jennifer Giustra-Kozek, LPC, NNC
Last year, I had the honor of reviewing Marcia Hind’s book, I know You’re in There. Since then, Marcia and I have talked frequently on Facebook. We share a common bond that most of us autism moms share. It’s easy to find that support in one another when you are living similar journeys. One day, while talking with Marcia, she recommended I review another book. Ironically, the book she recommended, Healing Without Hurting,by Jennifer Giustra-Kozek, LPC, NNC, was already on my Amazon order.
Jennifer’s book is about treating ADHD, autism, apraxia, and the like using a natural approach versus medication. Jennifer is a psychotherapist who wrote her book based on years of experience treating patients with ADD, ADHD, autism, OCD and other diagnoses, in addition to the journey of her own son Evan, born in 2006.
As a psychotherapist, Jennifer has firsthand knowledge that she shares with us of the negative effects that medications can have on some children. Because of those negative effects, she wanted to explore all other available option for both her patients and her own child. Thus began her journey to find healing without hurting.
The first three chapters of the book recount Evan’s birth and the five and a half weeks he spent in the NICU as a preemie. Jennifer writes poignantly about the many illnesses Evan had as a baby. As I read through those pages, I thought of our TMR red flag blog series. Evan had red flag after red flag, including chronic ear infections, bronchitis, sinus infections, fungal infections and sleep issues. In addition to the medical red flags, Jennifer writes about the behavioral red flags that also began popping up. Like so many of us, she worried about her child and wondered what could possibly be going on with her son.
Chapters 4 and 5 detail Jennifer and Evan’s journey to diagnosis: moderate to severe apraxia, pervasive development disorder, ADHD and sensory processing disorder. It also discusses the many co-morbid conditions that frequently accompany the neurological diagnoses.
Chapter 6 outlines commonly used medications. As a psychotherapist, Jennifer has been working with clients on stimulant drugs for approximately 15 years now. However, when Evan received his diagnosis, she found herself in a professional/personal struggle. All that she had encountered in her professional world, told her that “non-medicated” children faced additional risks if their needs were not addressed. The mother in her struggled with what she had been taught professionally. She did not want to medicate Evan. Her maternal instincts kicked in, and she was determined to listen to them, alternatively finding other treatment for Evan, all the while feeling that although medication may be necessary down the road, she needed to exhaust more natural options for treatment first. Within this chapter, she discusses a number of frequently prescribed medications and what these medications are intended to do when prescribed to treat ADD, ADHD, aggression, anxiety, OCD, etc. She includes information on MedWatch which was created by the FDA to alert consumers of potential side effects of medication.
Chapter 7 describes the road to alternative treatments. Many of us have chosen this road. Understandably, many of us want to exhaust all other possible avenues before having to put our five-year-olds on medication for sleep issues and/or aggressive behaviors – often “for life.” Jennifer’s book discusses other possibilities.
Chapter 8 explores possible genetic mutations that may be underlying our children’s conditions and explains to find out if your child has one or MTHFR gene mutations. Healthy gut flora, vaccines, excessive ultrasounds, viruses and bacterial infections are all discussed within the pages of chapters 9 and 10. General anesthesia can be a trigger for many of our kids. Jennifer discusses Evan’s history of going under anesthesia many times by the age of four and the possible contribution that had on his developing immune system. She goes on to further discuss how NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique) helped to determine Evan had developed a sensitivity to the anesthesia that needed to be addressed.
Chapters 11 and 12 discuss the all-important gut-brain connection and the malabsorption problems. Research has shown that gut issues are widespread in children with the “psychological” diagnoses of autism, ADHD, OCD, etc. Jennifer goes into detail, describing numerous nutritional supplements and what their roles are in supporting our children’s bodies.
Chapters 13 and 14 discuss Evan’s personal journey with alternative protocols. Chapters 15-18 cover topics that are important for every family with a child with ADD, ADHD and/or autism: food sensitivities, processed foods, and GMOs. Jennifer provides a detailed checklist for possible signs of gluten and dairy sensitivities. I cannot stress enough the importance of these chapters. Understanding the effect that food has on our children’s health, what food sensitivities are and what they can do to our bodies, and understanding how to eliminate those sensitivities can be crucial for restoring the health of our children.
The more I read, the more excited I got about the chapter titles. I remember thinking to myself, WOW, Jennifer managed to get it all into her book.
Chapters 19 and 20 discuss neurotoxins, heavy metals and neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are important to understand because they tell us why our kids go into the fight or flight response. If your child has aggression issues or emotional outbursts, read these chapters.
Chapters 21-23 discuss the use of supplements and non-traditional therapies such as neurofeedback, chiropractic care, horseback riding (hippotherapy), and even essential oils! There are so many options to choose from when navigating through the alternative route of care. So many of us have done traditional therapies in addition to different modalities for healing our kids.
She Refused Her Doctor’s Wishes (Drugs) for Her Son’s Autism. Two Years Later and the Results Speak for Themselves
KozekBy Jennifer Giustra-Kozek , LPC
At 4 ½ years old, my sweet and loving son Evan was diagnosed with ADHD, Apraxia and high functioning autism – Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Although mostly happy, he started displaying episodes of anger and become anxious and obsessive/compulsive (OCD). He began fixating on many things and lost the ability to sleep soundly.
I often felt hopeless and frustrated with the progress of his recovery during our intense therapy sessions and I knew from experience as a licensed psychotherapist that medication would be introduced as the only other viable treatment option.
I recognized that medication may provide immediate relief, but because I am a psychotherapist also knew that these medications can cause many problems and come with numerous side effects. In some cases they even cause increased anger, depression, fogginess, anxiety, numbness, seizures, tics, paranoia and even psychosis.
I witnessed many of these effects on the children I saw for therapy. Some moms came back to tell me that it turned their child into someone they did not recognize. However, I never really questioned the authority of the medical professionals.
“Who was I to question a doctor that had many more years of experience and schooling to back their theories?” I thought.
A photo of young Evan eating dinner. PHOTO: Jennifer Kozek
As life would have it, all the training and education I received in graduate school and by prestigious psychiatrists about the benefits of medication would be challenged when I had my own child with similar symptoms.
I have discovered that although well intentioned, many mainstream doctors are too quick to prescribe medication to cover up symptoms without digging deeper to find the underlying causes and numerous nutritional deficiencies plaguing our kids.
Our children become out of balance (biochemically). Their immune systems go haywire and their guts become inflamed due to food intolerances, processed foods, food dyes, chemicals, GMOs, yeast, etc. This often can cause inflammation in the brain and nutritional deficiencies – leading to frequent illness (chronic ear infections, illness, bronchitis & asthma) and ultimately neurological dysfunction.
I discovered that we have more neurons lining our intestinal wall than we have in our brain and spinal cord combined. The gut and brain have a very intimate relationship. So, when the gut isn’t happy, neither is the brain. I have also uncovered a few gene mutations preventing the proper utilization and metabolic functioning of essential nutrients necessary for proper brain functioning. These disorders are often linked to constipation, food allergies & sensitivities, heavy metal build-up, adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems and hypoglycemia.
I was extremely skeptical at first.
However, as I started doing a tremendous amount of research, I became to uncover the root causes of these disorders. I started addressing Evan’s gut issues with the help of an awesome naturopath and other functional medicine doctors and began healing him from a deeper level.
We started by healing his gut wall and eliminating all of his offending foods and reducing inflammation and gut permeability so that the nutrients he was eating and the supplements we were giving him would get absorbed properly.
We continued treating Evan with nutrition and biomedical methods. We starting taking advantage of the many Eastern Medicine therapies and treatments such as acupuncture, and energy healing, as well. I discovered that over the course of treatment Evan started improving exponentially in all areas of development, including, emotionally, socially, physically and academically.
I highly recommend that this “avenue of healing” be explored if your child suffers from ADD/ADHD, PDD, Asperger’s, Allergies, Apraxia or Autism.
An improving Evan (in his Boy Scouts uniform) and his father.
The Differences We Began To See
When Evan was tested at age 5 ½ his level of development was only that of a 3 ½ year-old. Developmentally he was two years behind his peers. However a year later after implementing the alternative treatments Evan’s testing demonstrated a huge improvement in all areas of development. His testing showed a dramatic increase in progress. At 6 ½ his level of development was that of a 5 ½ year-old. Now he was only one year behind his peers.
There is a tremendous jump in Evan’s expressive language and speech articulation; it is more complex and conversational. His comprehension skills are also much better. He is able to formulate a thought and carry out his set of plans. He is now formulating new ideas and trying them out on others.
Evan’s true personality started to emerge and it was discovered that he has a very dry but funny sense of humor. One day while Evan’s grandma was cooking a new stew recipe that included cinnamon her “special ingredient” she hit her wooden spoon against the pot and a piece of the spoon flew off. She warned us all to watch out for it because she had no idea where it flew. After dinner, grandma asked if anyone could taste what the special ingredient was and without hesitation Evan said, “Spoon.”
After putting the alternative treatments into practice and addressing underlying nutritional deficiencies, Evan’s progress catapulted. He was able to stay on task and presented less careless. He has less difficulty listening and following directions, and no longer seemed to get as distracted by background noise. He listens to his teachers and responds appropriately when asked a question. He is able to retain information and speaks more clearly to convey his ideas.
Socially he is also doing much better. He is making eye contact more often and now greets his friends at the playground. He no longer enters into a trance-like state. He no longer detaches himself from the world. Evan talks to strangers in waiting rooms and has whole conversations. He is able to assert himself and tell people what he likes and doesn’t like and what he wants and doesn’t want.
He is less anxious and no longer grunts and screams when he is upset. He is coping better with change of routine and with frustrating situations. He is no longer throwing himself into fits of uncontrollable rage, throwing his toys, hitting others or displaying sudden mood swings. In addition, his sensory issues are lessening greatly. Loud noises and uncomfortable clothing no longer bother him.
His pre-kintergarten treatment plan included a communication device to help Evan to write and communicate. However, he lost his need for such a device. His fine motor skills have significantly improved and he is able to write his letters as well as many of his peers. He is also able to communicate clearly and express his thoughts and ideas in a sequential way.
We now see a confident little boy who is eager to join in group activities. His motor planning ability has jumped up from extremely disordered to barely noticeable. We notice an increase in imaginative play and although not perfect, there is a greater independence in daily activities of living.
On Evan’s seventh birthday, his grandfather was joking around with him by saying, “Mmm your cake looks so good – I think I’m going to eat your piece.”
In the same breath without skipping a beat, Evan replied, “That’s okay grandpa, I’ll just eat yours.”
Demonstrating a marked improvement is social ability, an increased self-esteem and tremendous growth on so many levels.
He got the joke, stood up for himself, responded with amazing wit, and delivered it in such a loving and non-aggressive way.
We are so proud of him in so many ways…
Medically we notice that his sweet cravings lessened and he was no longer overly thirsty. The dark bluish circles under his eyes disappeared. His eczema and fungal infections cleared. He has not been sick except for a few minor colds and has only missed a few days of school since starting the regime. He no longer suffers from sinus infections, respiratory infections, or eye infections. His constipation issues continue to improve, he is no longer straining and his bowels appear less sluggish. He no longer suffers from nightly head sweats and the quality of has sleep has improved as well.
Teachers, therapists, his swimming instructor and family members have all made comments on how well Evan is doing. They say, “I don’t know what you are doing, but whatever you are doing we see a huge difference in Evan, so keep it up.”
Evan is now 8 years old and progressing well. When I recently asked him, “What do you think helped you more – all the intense therapy or your diet changes and vitamins?”
He looked at me with the biggest smile and with huge inflection in his voice and said, “Mom, they helped each other work better.” So we continue with appointments with the homeopathic physician to address any emerging health concerns or imbalances. And we continue his dietary modifications for now and we continue with his therapies in order for him to catch up 100%, in an effort to optimize his health.
A happy Evan and his sister Elaina.
- Every child is unique, so treatment plans need to be tailored specifically to address underlying immunologic, digestive and metabolic conditions.
- There is no “magic bullet,” no single treatment alone that can significantly reverse the effects of ADHD, apraxia, or autism. All cases are individualized, and each child needs a well thought-out and integrated approach to move him or her along the road to improvement and recovery. Find physicians and practitioners who will conduct a thorough investigation of underlying issues and will listen to you and address your concerns rather than dismiss them.The best way to find a doctor to begin your journey is to Google Naturopath (ND), Defeat Autism Now doctor (DAN), Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs Physician (MAPS), Functional Medicine or Integrative Medical Doctor (MD) in your area.
- Be consistent with your treatment strategies and goals. Treating intestinal permeability and other issues may take time, hard work and perseverance. E.g. If you need to eliminate certain offending foods as part of the protocol – cheating will delay the healing process!
- Dietary changes and protocols can seem overwhelming at first – so move slowly, but steady. Uncover, one piece of the puzzle at a time – so you know what is working.
- Know that you may need more than one practitioner to address all of your needs.
- Request a complete metabolic work-up to include blood, urine and fecal testing. A complete metabolic workup and treatment is recommended to make a fuller recovery. Unfortunately, only addressing one piece of the puzzle will yield a less positive outcome for some children.
- TRUST YOUR GUT! You know your child best. Our intuition is our best guide!
- Do your homework and ask your doctors a lot of questions.
Jennifer Giustra-Kozek is a licensed psychotherapist with 15 years of clinical experience treating clients with a range of heal disorders including Asperger’s depression, ADHD and more.She’s also the author of Healing without Hurting: Treating ADHD, Apraxia and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally & Effectively without Harmful Medication.
About the Author
Jennifer Kozek has a Master's Degree in Community Counseling, and a Bachelor's Degree in English/Criminal Justice from Western Connecticut State University. She is an accomplished licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She has over 15 years of clinical experience treating clients with an array of health disorders including Asperger's, depression, anxiety, OCD and ADHD.
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It contains a wealth of important information and is loaded with excellent ideas if you want to heal damage to both body and brain and minimize future exposure to potentially dangerous environmental factors which many people, myself included, are causing neurological damage. This is the wave of the future.
I suffer from a neurological disorder called Misophonia. An extreme emotional reaction to many sounds. I am going to add many of Jennifer's suggestions to my treatment protocol. They all make so much sense.
It goes more into depth on a number of topics that I have been posting about here lately.
I will be following many of Jennifers suggestions. I am amazed just how much territory she was able to cover in under 350 pages. It is a small investment that could pay big dividends.