My wife and I have been married for 25 years and our second son, who is now 20, is on the Autism spectrum. I'm happy to listen, to answer questions and encourage you on your journey. Ask me anything about raising a child with Autism, advocating for your child or the ways that dietary changes can help!

Todd Thomas
Jun 7, 2017

I'm a dad, the father of three sons. My wife and I have been married for 25 years and our second son, who is now 20, is on the Autism spectrum. I'm happy to listen, to answer and encourage you on your journey.

Ask me anything about raising a child with Autism, advocating for your child or the ways that dietary changes can help! Our son has been on the Gluten Free and Casein Free diet since age 6.

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I don't think Autism as a disease.

Im one too and I think you see things different that maybe feel like a stranger but smarter than a lot of people 

Oct 15, 11:07PM EDT0

Great questions, everyone! Thanks an amazing second AMA! I'll try to check back and see of any more questions pop up, but in the meanwhile, hug someone with autism! 

Jun 7, 11:03AM EDT0

Did you send your son to a special school which helped children with similar difficulties?

Jun 7, 1:17AM EDT0

We didn't opt for a private school and couldn't have afforded it if we really wanted it. We always had him in public schools. Of course, every school is different and some are better equipped for students with needs, but with our advocating and participation, we are happy with his education. We so love and applaud special ed teachers, paraprofessionals and helpers who assist students every day! They are heroes! 

Jun 7, 10:58AM EDT0

When did you first observe anything different in your son’s behavior?

Jun 6, 3:07PM EDT0

We knew right away that something was going on... he was a very colicky baby and didn't make eye contact with us. Then there were the sensory issues... he didn't respond to touch and affection as expected and showed some extreme auditory sensitivities. He was two when he received the diagnosis of PDD-NOS, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specificed. That means that doctors also saw trouble, too, but it wasn't easily named. Age three was a real rollercoaster for us as he would seem to catch up developementally, but then immediately lose the ground he had gained, both in speech and learning. He was diagnosed with Autism at age four.

Jun 7, 10:55AM EDT0

Is there a genetic test or something which can show the diagnosis during pregnancy?

Jun 9, 7:14PM EDT0

Do you believe early diagnosis helps the patient manage the difficulties?

Jun 6, 11:32AM EDT0

Great question... we know that many people fear an early diagnosis because they don't want to label or limit their child, and that's a valid concern. On the flip side, the earlier you can start intervention and getting your child help the better!

Jun 7, 10:54AM EDT0

Did you have to hire a babysitter or a permanent nanny to care for your child?

Jun 6, 10:08AM EDT0

We didn't have to do that, but many families do. Our local church family created a special ministry of volunteers so that every time, every time, we attended worship there was a volunteer who took our son and followed him around letting him play and be as distracted as he needed to be, while we got to have an hour or so with our community. That was amazing for us, and those volunteers all told us they felt that they gained more from our son than they gave.

Jun 7, 10:52AM EDT0

How did your other kids react to your son’s disabilities?

Jun 6, 12:49AM EDT0

He has an older brother and a younger brother. His autism creates both a special stress on them as siblings and has helped create some really fun and playful memories. 

His older brother has always been fiercely defenesive while his younger brother maybe faced more stress at dealing with his emotional outburts. 

We all have great memories of playing multi-player video games together over the years, especisally Mario Kart! 

Jun 7, 10:49AM EDT0

Has your younger son ever complained to you about having such a brother?

Jun 9, 4:47AM EDT0

Do you and your wife have a regular job outside home?

Jun 5, 2:33PM EDT0

Yes, I'm a trainer for Apple. My wife works for the government in a cyber security center (she's probably monitoring us right now). Our son works for us taking care of the house and our dogs during the day, but we hope he can get a job outside the house, soon. =)

Jun 7, 10:47AM EDT0

Were your children protective of their younger sibling?

Jun 5, 1:55PM EDT0

The older one, yes, always. To be honest, the behavioral outburts were a lot for his younger sibling to handle. But yes, his older brother has always spoken of the day when mom and I are gone and his brother will live with him. 

Jun 7, 10:43AM EDT0

What measures did you incorporate in your daily lives to help your son?

Jun 5, 9:34AM EDT0

A lot of meal preparation for him while he's home during the day... but honestly, he rides his bike to Wendy's and other places to eat sometimes (burgers with no mayo, cheese or bun). He also has his own Metro card (subway), his own bank account and debit card, and folding bicycle. He does a lot of his own thing these days. Mom and I are always a phone call away.

Jun 7, 10:45AM EDT0

Glad to hear that! Are there any particular challenges that he still cannot overcome in his daily life?

Jun 9, 11:00PM EDT0

On which end of the autism spectrum did he fall on?

Jun 4, 11:27PM EDT0

Doctors and schools said moderate to moderately severe. If that was accurate then he's come a long way to the young adult he is, today.

Jun 7, 10:40AM EDT0

Is autism better managed with treatment and medications?

Jun 4, 3:35PM EDT0

Great question. It's always important to remember that autism is a developmental delay and impairment. Yes, things can get much better, but you always are beginning from a developmental period of "wiring." We all change over the years, we all learn and to some degree we all do some re-wiring over the years. Any autistic person will have a similar and unique journey.

Jun 7, 10:37AM EDT0

Did you find any marked difference in your child after following your doctor’s guidelines?

Jun 4, 9:45AM EDT0

Absolutely! Always find a doctor that is willing to guide you through this maze of information and options! 

Jun 7, 10:31AM EDT0

How often do you have to consult with this doctor? Is it expensive?

Jun 10, 7:31AM EDT0

What was your wife’s reaction on discovering your son was autistic?

Jun 4, 8:41AM EDT0

Good question. I mentioned in another post that we were house parents in our college years, live-in caregivers for adults with many different developmental and cognitive needs... she looked at me and said something to the effect of, "We know autism. We know this isn't the end of the world. We got this." And she's been our strength and superhero every day since.

Jun 7, 10:34AM EDT1

This comment almost made me cry... You are a lucky man!

Jun 10, 9:13AM EDT0

What did the doctor suggest to overcome your child’s difficulties?

Jun 4, 7:47AM EDT0

Getting the allergy testing done and changing our son's diet was the biggest factor in helping him as a young child. A prescription drug for some seizuring was important, and a sleep supplement called Melatonin changed all our lives for the better. =) 

Jun 7, 10:30AM EDT0

Do you believe particular diets or foods help curb autism symptoms?

Jun 3, 7:50PM EDT0

Yes, our child neurologist used to say that "the stomach is the second brain." 

Jun 7, 10:28AM EDT1

OMG this is the best thing I've ever heard about a diet.

Jun 10, 3:55PM EDT0

What changes have you observed in your son as he grew up?

Jun 3, 3:35PM EDT0

Almost all the usual growing pains and joys! But honestly, our son becoming verbal and being able to communicate more and more has been so good for us. Not all folks with autism are able to verbalize and that creates a real struggle for their family and friends to recognize and understand the depth of their interior world. And as he grows and matures he shows more ability to control himself and his emotions.

If you ever want to watch a great documentary on being autistic and nonverbal, yet possessed of a deep interior life, chech this out:

Jun 7, 10:27AM EDT0

What kind of extra costs can be expected if your child has autism?

Jun 3, 8:06AM EDT0

You may have some dietary needs that increase the grocery bill, early on it was really expensive for us to get a milk substitute... he had some allergic reaction with soy as well as dairy, so we had to get a powered potato milk. Today, we stock up on almond milk.

You may need a prescription or two, and those always have out of pocket costs, and we used to have to be very careful that our insurance didn't have annual or lifetime prescription caps.

More than average doctor visits and specialists mean extra medical bills and copays, and of course, if private school is your choice or necessity, that comes with a high price tag.

Jun 7, 10:23AM EDT0

But you're still handling this, right?

Jun 8, 3:07PM EDT0

Is it ever possible for an autistic person to be totally in control of their behavior and actions?

Jun 2, 8:01PM EDT0

Good question... everyone is unique. We advocate a mix of therapy, prescriptions (when needed and overseen by a doctor) and patience. Complusions are often an everyday part of life for an autisitic child, and controlloing those compulsions can be difficult. We have found the most progress over time with a mix of prescription medication to help with emotional anxiety and lots of work on naming and constructively expressing emotions before they are acted on and given life as a complusion.

Jun 7, 10:18AM EDT0

Have there been cases of miraculous recovery in autistic cases?

Jun 2, 5:19PM EDT0

Good question. I'm not going to support an idea or a less than likely hope for any family of a miraculous change in a person's development or cognitive abilities... that just doesn't seem responsible to me. Remember that each person is individual, their personality, potential and  growth will be their own. Someone like Temple Grandin is inspiring, but not the usual story for people growing up and living further into the spectrum.

We've all been suckered by "miracle" cures or prescriptions a time or two, because we all want so much for our child. Love them. Be with them. Let them bless you. We'll all get where we're going together.

Jun 7, 10:11AM EDT23