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Living in the Is: One Family’s Journey with Autism

By Kathleen Aharoni

I know an amazing woman. She—without all the coaching and spiritual work that I have done—embodies and lives all that I have been taught and now passionately pass on to others. And she has lived these ideas while traveling through, what she calls, the nightmare of having two children diagnosed with serious medical issues and on the autism spectrum, with one having severe sensory integration.

Health mastery? She, Kathleen (not me), lives this as she navigates the roller-coaster ride of raising two children with the memory of what has been, and the joy and gratitude for what now is—two boys that are autism-recovered and thriving.

At the crux of Kathleen’s recipe for health mastery is living in the is. What is this? It is being present and dancing with what is happening and what is the dream.

I offer you inspirations seeded by Kathleen. For some of you, it will offer permission to follow your gut, remove the drama from your experiences and/or give you the knowing that you can live while keeping your eyes and heart open to your dreams rather than what isn’t right.

Let’s begin.

Don’t create stories of blame, excuses, explanations or judgment. They will only distract you from your mission of dealing with what is. In Kathleen’s case, that was finding the equilibrium of wellness for her children and dealing with a range of symptoms, some more severe and life threatening than others.

Do know your vision for your loved ones and make it your is. Kathleen and her husband believed their children could live at least normal lives. They settled for nothing
less than finding a team of health professionals—from physicians to therapists to nutritionists and alternative health practitioners—who supported and believed in this vision. The result? Boys who are autism-recovered, normal and truly extraordinary.

Don’t accept symptoms as normal. Do be curious. Explore. Seek out relationships. And, don’t be afraid to try different approaches. Be in the is.

Once, when dropping off her oldest son at the occupational therapist’s office, Kathleen apologized for his gassiness. The OT said not to worry. Kids with autism are gassy. Gut problems, she said, are normal. After getting over her shock that experts knew about this correlation and simply accepted it as the norm, Kathleen let her curiosity guide her and wondered if her son’s chronic constipation, asthma, eczema, lack of pain sensations, severe peanut allergy and self-selected diet of dairy and wheat products might be related to his behavioral problems.

She then experimented. While her husband was out of town for a week, she eliminated all dairy products from her son’s diet. She didn’t share with her husband what she was doing. When he arrived home after his trip, Kathleen says he was “overwhelmed” with the changes in their son—he held more eye contact in an hour than he had during the past year!

Do research. Explore and pursue what makes sense to you. Kathleen’s husband, who is a medical doctor, remembers a teacher from medical school saying, “Half of what we teach in medicine is wrong. We just don’t know which half.” To Kathleen, the half that is wrong includes the belief that autism is a permanent psychiatric disorder, as opposed to a medical problem, which is preventable and treatable.

For me, the above statement is a reminder to be our own researcher, collaborator and advocate in our health journey and that of our loved ones. As the world and our understanding of health expand, we get to consider the many options for viewing our health as well as promoting it. We also get to create new paradigms for this continuing expansion.

Do talk to everyone. You never know who will connect you to the next most important idea or professional. Do be generous when talking about your experience. You can be the link to health or inspiration that someone else needs.

Do know that your child lives within his or her beautiful pure innocence, so whatever your challenges, they are not your child’s. Share your love, belief, celebration, wonder, etc., with your child as well as your witnessing of his or her distinctive contributions; it will allow him or her to flourish.

Kathleen and her husband have cared for their children not just in the whole-istic approach they have taken to their health, but in how they have encouraged them to pursue their own thriving. Until this past year, their children had no clue about their diagnoses. They have always been mainstreamed and encouraged to celebrate their differences, strengths, curiosities and compassion, and to know what they’d like to be different and to pursue this change—no drama, just be the is that you dream.

Thank you, Kathleen, for reminding us that thriving is.

For a complete account of Kathleen and her family’s story, go to: http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/features_julieshealthclub/2008/05/autism-recove-2.html

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2014 print edition

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