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Dr. Julie Buckley On Treating Underlying Medical Conditions of Autism

Posted Jan 12 2011 12:00am

Drbuckley-330-exp-Hoac_cover_drbu By Anne Dachel

A few months ago, I watched the trailer and the complete video to Shots in the Dark ,  a film about vaccine injury in multiple countries.  It showed, among other things, parents with autistic children who told their personal stories.

I listened to a doctor featured on the video, Dr. Julie Buckley, pediatrician, Ponte Vedra, FL.  In a scene showing several swimming children, Dr. Buckley described what has happened to the children we see at play.  She tells us, "The children who are here, their parents will tell you, were definitely injured by vaccines.  They were fine and then they were gone.”

She voices apparent frustration. “So, if I have parents screaming and I have science confirming, that there's a problem with exposure to mercury, and there's a problem with exposure aluminum, and there's a problem when you take a broken immune system and give it three live viruses on the same day, then why don't we want to fix that?"

Dr. Buckley gestures toward the swimming pool and says, "This is ridiculous that there are this many children in one little town, in one little pool, all of whom have the same story."

She's joined on the rest of  the video by a lot of parents and medical experts from the U.S. and other places, all saying the same thing: Vaccine induced illness is an immense problem in multiple countries.  It's a gripping thing to watch.  You'll see U.S. Rep. Dan Burton at a congressional hearing in 2004 asking, "Has thimerosal ever been tested by our health agency?"  And William Egan, FDA Acting Director of Vaccine Research and Review, responding, "Only in those early tests that you know of that were done by [Eli] Lilly [in 1929]."

Later in the film, Dr. Buckley is again featured saying, "Let's fix the underlying problem and make them better." 

That brings me to her book, Healing Our Autistic Children

That is an attention-getting title.  It's something rarely heard from any doctor.  It offers hope.  It tells us that there are things we can do to help these children.

In the beginning of her book, Dr. Buckley writes, "Medical schools and hospitals teach there is no treatment for autism.  For them, recovery flies in the face of the current medical model.  Yet, in case after case after case, the recovery of autistic children is exactly what happens when their gastrointestinal problems are addressed, for example and their physical systems are normalized. 

"Frankly it eludes me how a doctor, a person who was once trained in sublimely intricate and intertwined processes of the human body, could fail to comprehend the connection between fixing a child's compromised immune system or irritated bowel and all of a child's system beginning to function more harmoniously." 

And Julie Buckley personally understands exactly what thousands of parents have gone through because she's been there herself.  When her daughter was four years old, she regressed into autism.  Refusing to accept the mantra that recovery from autism is not possible, she went in search of just exactly that for her daughter. She treated her daughter’s symptoms, and sure enough, she got healthy.  And her autism improved dramatically.  Dr. Buckley holds out the same hope for other parents.


Her book is described as “part personal story of her battle to heal her autistic daughter, part guide for parents, Healing Our Autistic Children explains simply and accessibly the new treatments and diets that have already proven effective for many families. Told through the case studies of her patients, the book is divided into four typical visits to Dr. Buckley's pediatric practice so that parents can see the progression of initial treatment. Written in a warmly engaging voice, parents new to the diagnosis will:

  • learn about clinical treatments that work
  • understand how different foods affect the body and how to begin implementing diets
  • learn to navigate the medical system and advocate for their child
  • bridge the communication gap with their pediatrician
  • discover that recovery is possible."

Asked to elaborate on what a “biomedical approach” is, Dr. Buckley offers these thoughts -- “the biomedical approach is a lot of work from a parenting standpoint.  It puts the whole family through its paces.  Starting the diet and maintaining it was a tremendous challenge in our home.  Getting supplements in was a time consuming effort twice a day until she learned to swallow pills.”  She adds, “but it makes so much sense once you understand the science behind the approach.”

Elaborating on that science, she explains that “our understanding of what has happened to our children is really very simple.  In the face of environmental exposure and toxicity, two processes get started in the human body--  a chronic inflammatory response, and oxidative stress.  These processes, when that human body cannot adequately address them, further manifest as methylation chemistry deficiencies, Th1/Th2 immune imbalance and immune dysfunction, and inflammatory bowel disease.  Our approach addresses these medical issues at a cellular and biochemical level.  Interestingly, very, very often, as we address these medical issues, the behaviors and learning issues we identify as Autism Spectrum Disorders improve dramatically.”

You can hear the warm affection in her voice when she is asked to talk about her patients. “The first young lady I ever treated was, at four, a head banging non-verbal autistic girl.  I met her at ten, and her mother had already made huge improvements in her health and as a result, in her behavior.  We began working together, and six years later, she is campaigning for her learner's permit.  She is in a small private neurotypical school and routinely tells me about which boy she likes now, and dreams of becoming a nurse practitioner. She willingly talks to other parents whenever she's in the office, and gives hope to many other families talking about how she used to feel and what she thinks have been the most useful things we've done for her over the years.  She is quite clear on this- while most of the things she has done have been useful, the biggest wows have come out of diet, hyperbarics, and detoxification/antioxidants.”

Asked about her personal journey walking the autism road, Dr. Buckley says that “in searching for answers for my daughter, I've had to learn integrative medicine from the ground up.  What is miraculous is that finding answers for her has almost certainly saved my life twice already.  Once in recovering from debilitating degenerative disk disease and terrible asthma, and the second time in beating cancer.  While I would not have her live through the illness if I could do it differently, I am grateful for the lessons autism has taught me personally and professionally.”

Her daughter’s journey has been dramatic -- dramatic in its onset, and dramatic in her recovery. She tells the story with quiet certainty. “There is no question for us what caused our daughter's autism.  We had a wonderful four year old daughter who was riding in the tube behind the pontoon boat on vacation, we went home for her well child visit and got her boosters so she could start into her pre-school program. 

“Within days of that visit and her four year old vaccines, our daughter was gone.  She stopped singing, stopped praying, stopped talking, stopped reading, had a distended belly that looked like she was pregnant, and there was orange diarrhea on the walls at my house.  She had meltdowns for no apparent reason, was sick every time we turned around, and moaned her way to consciousness every morning.  And no matter how I tried, I was unable to comfort her.”

Fortunately, there is good news eight years later.  Her daughter is doing very well. “Though still quirky and socially not quite like her peers, she has friends, loves film camp, is learning to love with the help of her family and her service dog.  She has recovered about 70 IQ points, is labeled gifted, completely mainstreamed without assistance, and is a mean gin rummy and backgammon player. 

“Physically the disease of autism still manifests -- her inflammatory bowel disease is pretty well controlled, her immune system is still a disaster that requires management, her endocrine system is not balanced at all, and she has recently started with seizures that have proven difficult to control.”

Acknowledging the true marathon that the austim journey is, Dr. Buckley says “we have come a very very long way from the child who had a CARS rating of 49, but we still have a long road in front of us to the wedding and grandchildren of which my husband and I dreamed when she was born.”

Addressing the question of whether autism was harder to deal with personally or professionally, she talks about the precarious situation in which the medical community finds itself.  “I think that the medical community is trapped in an untenable position.  We, who live and breathe autism daily, understand all too well the mantra ‘If you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism.’ 

“These children are a nightmare in a medical paradigm that allows for 4-7 minutes per patient visit.  There is no way for the pediatrician to even begin to be able to hear the issues with which our children live, never mind begin to address them. 

“Medically complex children like ours usually have several specialists involved in managing their area of expertise, and rarely is the whole child addressed as one interconnected being -- much more often individual issues are addressed individually by specialists focusing on one organ system at a time; unfortunately, humans are made up of individual organ systems, but they all cohabitate in one body and they are all interconnected, interwoven, and are inextricably interlinked.

“Now imagine an exhausted physician who goes home at 7:30 to a family that is anxiously awaiting them, finally gets that family in bed, and as the doctor heads to bed, exhausted, with the intention of trying to read some of the medical literature for the week, she falls asleep half way through the summary/abstract and remembers, at best, what the title of the article implies. 

“Into the bargain, the media and the mainstream academies are busy reassuring the world and its medical professionals that the concerns so many parents have about environmental exposures are unfounded, scientifically invalid, and can be safely dismissed.  A referral to a specialist is made, and the primary care practitioner feels they have done their best, and they move on to the next child waiting to be seen -- the epidemic of autism and its myriad medical complications ensure that the waiting room is never never never empty.”

Asked about the state of autism treatment as the epidemic swells, Dr. Buckley voices some optimism.  “Fortunately, the tide is beginning to turn, I think.  There are more and more people attending conferences that address the integrative medicine approach to health.  More and more of these attendees are medical professionals.  As the ‘return to health’ approach to illness gains ground and popularity, and as patients and parents improve their ability to communicate the methods they are using, physicians are increasingly willing to listen and to learn.  Though it is exhausting, I think all of us who understand that autism is a treatable medical illness have to continue to try to dialogue with those who are less convinced.  As my daughter developed seizures and has entered puberty, I have had to go back to the specialists in my town for help with management of these new problems.  It is terribly difficult.  It is uncomfortable.  It is frustrating.  It is daunting.  But it is imperative.  And little by little I think I may be gaining some ground.”

Asked about how to foster her passionate desire to fix this autism epidemic in other physicians, Dr. Buckley replied, “I think what will get doctors on board faster than anything else is witnessing with their own eyes, the recovery we are garnering in children with autism.  If we as parents can keep the dialogue open, and keep our children in front of their eyes, then there will be an increasing disconnect between what they see with their own eyes and what they are told they are seeing. 

“If we, like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, keep tugging at the curtain, it will not matter how loudly the Wizard shouts "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"  Doctors will see the man and understand the realities with which our children with autism are living.  And it is the nature of a physician, once they see and understand what is wrong, to work tirelessly to fix it.” 

The optimism in this woman seems endless.  Almost as an afterthought, we discussed her most recent challenge -- surviving breast cancer.  The Oct 23, 2010 story, “Breast cancer survivor: She got by with a lot of help from her friends”  (HERE)  describes her ordeal, and how she learned to let her patients hold her up, support her and care for her in a time of great need.

We are so fortunate here in the autism community to have truly heroic people like Julie Buckley on our side.  I'm in awe of this woman.  Dr. Buckley has a very fitting favorite quote that appears as a part of her email signature:

"When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say 'I used everything you gave me.'" Erma Bombeck

And I’m sure she will have done just that!


Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.

Lee Silsby logo 09 The treatment category is sponsored by Lee Silsby , the leader in quality compounded medications for autism.

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