Before I started my blog, I met a fantastic woman online. Her name is Kim Stagliano and she has three daughters who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Kim has been a forerunner in Autism awareness and treatment. She has been featured in a book called: Embracing Autism, and her chapter is called: "Three Special Kids. No Apologies Necessary."
Here is my interview with my friend, Kim Stagliano:
1.) Demon Hunter: When did you first hear the word Autism? What kind of impact did that word have on your life and your family's life?
Kim Stagliano: Wow, you just jolted a memory from the back corner of my mind. My sister hurled the word "autistic" at me like a grenade when Mia (our oldest, she's now 13) was two and a half. Over the telephone! My husband and I went on a three day vacation to Charlotte NC. My sister and Mom were watching Mia and her younger sister Gianna. I called home to check on the girls and my sister sort of yelled at me, "Mia is autistic!" I wasn't angry with her because I knew it in my gut and heart. I would have preferred a gentler approach, but she was afraid for Mia and I knew that's where the anger was seated. Not at me. At the autism. My husband went golfing and I walked to the nearby mall to Barnes and Noble where I pulled every book I could find on autism off the shelves and sat, cried and read. Then we started Early Intervention and never looked back. I knew I had to do everything in my power to help Mia. I'm still working 24/7 for her, and her sisters, who also have the ASD diagnosis.
2.) DH: When were your daughters diagnosed with Autism?
KS: Mia and Gianna were formally diagnosed in November of 1999 after a rather pathetic evaluation at University Hospital of Cleveland. I remember telling the neurologist that other hospitals had a much more extensive evaluation process. She agreed. Their efforts were far behind the times. They probaby still are. Bella was diagnosed before preschool. Mia is currently 13, Gianna is 11 and Bella, my little love, is 7.
3.) DH: How have your daughters' lives improved?
KS: Well, I credit the non-stop biomedical interventions, starting with changing their diet for greatly improving their behavior and how they feel. We removed gluten and casein (wheat and dairy protein) and their lives got better. Plus numerous supplements and other medical care. Add finally getting into a good school district and the girls are in a very good place in 2008. I think that if we'd had better schools for the first several years of their lives my girls would be even further along. Many districts have very poor autism programming. It's a shame.
4.) DH: What do you want people to know about Autism?
KS: It's treatable. It's treatable. It's treatable. Did I mention it's treatable? And for goodness sake, don't rely on the schools to do all the work. Therapy and teaching alone are often not enough. You need to get to the internal issues your child has too. Like GI problems. Rampant in our population, but most docs ignore the fact. Mom and Dad are the first and very best therapists and caretakers.
5.) DH: Do you have a theory as to why the cases of Autism continue to rise at such an alarming rate?
KS: I do. I think our toxic environment is part of the problem. I think the over zealous vaccination program is a part of the problem. Dozens of vaccines by age three! I think having had hundreds of micrograms of mercury in childhood vaccines for over a decade was disgustingly naive and stupid. I think injecting mercury into pregnant women via the flu shot even today is insane, as is giving a flu vaccine to an infant or child. I also think better awareness and diagnosis are part of the increase in numbers. But let's face it, docs did not see dozens of patients in their practice who could not speak, flapped and spun in circles in 1980. It would be hard NOT to diagnose them today.
DH: Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview, Kim! There are so many people that know nothing of folks with special needs. Knowledge is power. :*)
KS: Thank you! To learn more please do come by www.ageofautism.com and check out our sponsors. There are parents like me who are ready to help families navigate the autism world. Use us. And come on over to my own blog, www.kimstagliano.blogspot.com You can read more about our life with the girls in my chapter in Embracing Autism.