I have shared about Matthew in the past, and our journey with him being on the Autism spectrum. However, I’ve never shared our experience with fish oil supplements and the dramatic effects they have on Matthew, helping not only him but our family as well. Before I share our story with you, I want to give a brief recap of Matt’s journey for new readers.
Matt, 10 years old, has never received an official autism diagnosis for a variety of reasons, but here is a timeline of our journey on the spectrum with him so far (the condensed version.)
Birth — 6 months: Extreme crying, believed to be colic & multiple ear infections
6 months — 12 months: Horrific night terrors begin; he begins to spend long amounts of time focused on blocks, sorting them by color. Vocab consists of two words. Can no longer receive antibiotics for ear infections because he has had too many.
12 months — 24 months: The night terrors continue, vocabulary is only at 5 to 10 words if you can make them out. Matt begins to self-inflict pain by slamming his head onto the floor/walls/anything to the point of bruising and making himself bleed. Trying to stop him/restrain him/comfort him would only make the outburst worse. Pediatrician hands us a pamphlet on discipline.
2 years — 3 years: Feeling let down by the doctor we continued to struggle with the violent outburst, which got worse, on our own. Vocabulary is only at 20 words, at least, half not understandable by people that did now know him.
3 years — 4 years: Matt’s vocabulary is still limited to 50 words. We sought out a new doctor. Matt hid under the chair for the whole appointment. He referred us to the child psychiatry department at Shands, two hours away for an evaluation. Our hour-long appointment, which included a brief discussion and watching Matthew play resulted in a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder with suggested family therapy twice a week.
4 years — 5 years: Not satisfied with the given diagnosis, we opted not to go to the family behavioral therapy and instead began to give Matt Fish Oil supplements and cut out foods with dyes and sugar.
5 years — 6 years: We had our first successful pediatrician visit ever, where Matthew cooperated with the doctor. At this point, his vocabulary was appropriate for age level, but his memory issues were glaringly apparent, with him unable to remember and recite a simple nursery rhyme, his ABC’s or safety information. The doctor suggested we didn’t follow through with a full evaluation because he had numerous patients that were just dropped from their insurance after an Autism diagnosis.
6 years — 7 years: Matt retreated into uncooperative mode while at a psychologist appointment for his annual homeschool evaluation. The evaluation could not even take place. The doctor said he believed Matt had Aspergers, but the board was soon to remove that diagnosis from the books.
7 years — 10 years: We have continued on knowing that Matt is “somewhere on the spectrum” realizing that we do not need an actual diagnosis. He has made amazing progress with his verbal skills in the last 10 years though we still struggle with his memory, emotional sensitivity and occasional aggressiveness.
How Fish Oil Supplements Have Helped
I know it is hard to believe that one little supplement could make a dramatic difference in a child’s life, but it has for Matthew. Within one week of initially starting Matt on the pills, his behavior had improved by a mile. It was also when he suddenly began to soak up language, taking him from a vocabulary that was years below his age to one that became (and still is) 3 years ahead.
When Matt is on his fish oil supplements, he is able to control his emotions better. When he’s not, if something is out of the ordinary it is as if his world has ended.
When Matt is on his fish oil supplements, he is kind and thinks about his actions first. When he’s not, he is overly aggressive and will intentionally hurt people without a second thought.
When Matt is on his fish oil supplements, his sleep is regulated. When he’s not he has a hard time shutting down the “noise” to fall asleep and get an adequate amount of sleep, which just snowballs everything else into chaos.
So many times, I have gotten comfortable when Matt is doing well and just stop buying the fish oil. The emotional outburst, aggressive behavior and sleepless nights rear their ugly head eventually and I’m kicking myself for my stupidity. We just had a phase of “bad” times and I’m happy to say that we are getting back to the good right now thanks to that precious little bottle of supplements.
March 2016 Update
Matt is 13 and we still use fish oil supplements, specifically Sunshine Heroes Omega-3 with DHA from Nature’s Sunshine. He takes them daily along with a calcium supplement (he has an extreme dairy sensitivity,) elderberry and probiotic.
We still have bad days; in fact, some days they seem like the worst possible since hormones have been thrown into the mix, but things always stay calmer when we keep up with his supplements.