Parents reach out to me often for information about how to use cannabis to support their kid’s mental health. Except I’m not your girl. I don’t really have much personal experience using pediatric cannabis this way. High CBD has never calmed my son down and since it does control his seizures I try to just leave his brain alone.
But a number of families in our group have kids with autism who often struggle to maintain and this community is pioneering the use of all kinds of cannabidiols (they’ve moved way beyond high CBD and THCA). Our local San Diego chapter of TACA is a great place to connect with other families and learn more about healing atypical behaviors in general. Our friends Ray Mirzabegian (in Los Angeles) and Jae Maedler (in Philadelphia) are both the parents of children on the autism spectrum who have supported hundreds of families and provide consultations. And of course the pioneering nonprofit The Realm of Caring provides solid education, guidance and support. For those wanting a doctor there is always the famous Dr. Bonni Goldstein.
But for those of you like me who have reasons not to explore cannabis further just what do we do with these negative moods and behaviors?
We also reach into the autism community! These moms always know and tend to be the most creative, wise and empowered mothers I know. There are 2 recommendations all my friends made I wish I had listened to earlier: going to see a biomedical doctor and starting Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.
I was intimidated at first, not knowing what a biomedical approach really is. I imagined gluten free meals, detox protocols and learning more than I am comfortable knowing about parasites. However our experience was very straight forward and functional. In fact, mind boggling so. Check out how genius this is – our biomed doctor ordered blood work, looked at what my son was deficient in AND SUPPLEMENTED.
“Good heavens, our problems are much bigger than vitamins can solve.”
WRONG! Since we had invested so much in getting in to see this doctor, we committed to follow his treatment plan to a T. In 6 weeks to the day we noticed:
1. significantly improved sleep (Not one doctor had ever assessed his horrible sleep before.)
2. increased emotional regulation and less meltdowns
3. increased memory and academic progress
Our child was unrecognizable – in a good way! It’s been a real game changer and I am grateful my friends were finally able to convince me to look outside the box since my son isn’t technically on the spectrum.
If this method speaks to you, there are doctors in San Diego who practice this approach. I know a lot of families seeing Dr. Goh who really like her treatment center. We opted to drive to Orange County to see Dr. Rossignol instead. He’s been a great fit for our family because he:
1. has 2 children on the autism spectrum. He gets it and that level of understanding goes a long way with me.
2. advises me to listen to my mother’s intuition and listens to it too. I feel heard.
3. is informed by research, common sense and what he has observed serving hundreds of children on the spectrum.
4. can sign legal documents that other integrative practitioners cannot because he is a M.D.
But what I LOVE THE MOST about Dr. Rossignol is that he wants to EMPOWER PARENTS and put his detailed method online here. This is a must read for anyone considering biomed.
The second recommendation we took was starting in-home ABA therapy. Because my son doesn’t have an autism diagnosis this was admittedly challenging to get our medical insurance to pay for. I heavily wielded the neuropsych eval that recommended “highly structured behavioral therapy” for my son. Coupled with my literally insane persistence, I eventually wore someone down.
Its been a great fit for us. Their cute, friendly therapists come to our home 3 times a week for 2 hours each visit. They take over right after school (when we are both at our crankiest) and work with him one-on-one, reinforcing positive behaviors and offering alternatives to negative ones. My son looks forward to their visits and actually does what they teach him. We are BOTH having way less meltdowns. (I admittedly also got back in therapy. It only seemed fair since he’s working so hard.)
And the third resource that I’ve started sharing is pharmacogenomics testing because sometimes moods and behaviors do need more to regulate. These tests help parents determine with their doctors which psychiatric pharmaceutical medications may have a better chance of working based on your child’s genetic profile. They ideally cut down the trial and error roller coaster of trying to find a good fit. You can learn more about them here.
If there is one thing that having a child with neurologically atypical behaviors teaches us, it’s that everyone is different. Because our kids don’t neatly fit into diagnostic categories it often becomes important to look outside the box. Once you realize your kid may never fit into a bell curve, anecdotal evidence actually becomes very meaningful. I know a success story for all the interventions: from hyperbaric chambers to chiropractics to neuromovement. I would never tell a mother her successes aren’t so just because science can’t replicate what worked for her. Instead I would pick her brain.