A Review of Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism

It is always great to see a celebrity bring more attention to the cause of autism and to the fact that so many children do not get the services (and the amount of services) needed to make progress in treatments. So my first initial thought was that it was wonderful and my second was not as positive when I found out WHO the celebrity was that wrote Louder Than Words. Jenny McCarthy’s other books were short, graphic, and profanity-filled so I did not hold out much hope for this book being helpful in any way. As a parent of an autistic child who has “recovered” to some degree, I found parts of this 202 page book offensive. Read on for why…

The foreword is written by David Feinberg MD MBA who is the medical director of Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. He talks about what autism is, how to recognize the signs of autism, and a note on Jenny McCarthy. What really stuck out to me in this part was this sentence- My vision is through this story, these nonafflicted families won’t dodge those with an autistic child in the supermarket or at the mall, but rather embrace these children and families with compassion, support, and prayer. Amen. I do hope this is true and the book will bring more awareness and acceptance of our children.

All autistic children are alike and all are different in various ways. No, our children are not all like Rainmen. But all do have issues with speech, socialization, and fine motor skills. Only a small percentage will have issues with seizures. Jenny McCarthy starts the first chapter of the book at the time her son started having seizures. The seizures continued and Jenny was worried sick that it would affect his heart or give him brain damage. The hospital would not get a neurologist into see her son on Easter. So they had to wait. The hospital gave him morphine over and over every time he had another seizure. After trying a couple of medications, she was able to get into another neurologist who pronounced her son as autistic and put him on a different medication for the seizures. This medication worked to stop the seizures.

She started trying to find a cure and calling churches and relatives for prayers and healing. The Mormons came to her home to say a blessing for healing over her son. Jenny McCarthy says in the book that she had always thought that her son’s mannerisms were cute and just his way, not signs of autism. Such as the hand flapping which signifies stimming, she thought was his way of flapping like a bird. He also loved to play with any type of gears and liked escalators. Now the doctor is telling her that those are traits of autism. Through the book she talks about her husband not being there, all the days at the hospital, staying up at night when their son is sick…he just is not into it. She asks him to leave a several times and he finally moves out towards the end of the book.

A mom tells her that there is a window of time to get her son help…that she has to pull him out of autism. (I do believe this to be true but not really in the sense that they speak of it. Speech and occupational therapies, working with the child at home, parents being intensely involved in therapies can equal great gains for autistic children. They are speaking of chelation and IV therapy, minerals, special diets, of curing the autism which I do not believe that there is a cure. Help, yes. Improvement, yes. Taking the autism away? No. That is NOT giving up as Jenny insists in her book, that is knowing our children and knowing autism is a part of whom they are.)

Before reading up on autism, Jenny would almost read her child’s mind, know instinctively what he wanted and give it to him…then she started trying to get him to say the word before opening the door or getting juice for him. To encourage his speech and from the first time, he was able to say a word very close! I love her enthusiasm! Most parents do not seem really to get down and dirty and do therapy at home with their child. They expect the therapists and schools to do it all. Children make so much more progress when their parent continually does therapy. I think of new ways to teach my daughter every day, all day. Really it only makes sense! At MOST in normal circumstances, a child is going to go to therapy 5 days a week, one hour each time. Double that if the child is going to two different types of therapy. (This is not usual though as parents have to fight for just two hours of therapy a week but it is possible with persistence.) Parents can work with the child outside therapy and get many more hours in each week. That is why I attend all therapy with my child and learn how to do it and what to do to encourage progress. This is what needs to be changed, parents should be required to attend therapy sessions! Jenny watched for a short time as therapy started and saw how the therapists interacted with her child. Then she did this at home with him.

She then starts Googling for information and found a website that claimed autism is reversible. The more she researched, the more she came to believe that her son’s issues were due to vaccines. Her son started to have fevers once he started being in classes around other children. Every time any of them were sick, he would pick it up and stay sick longer. His immune system was not as strong as the other children, Jenny thought. She talks about the waiting list for therapy and special schools for her son. She had to start paying out of pocket to get home therapy for him, as the waiting lists were over a year long. We did not have that issue, my daughter was diagnosed early and started therapy even before her diagnosis. Maybe it is a difference between living in very large cities and smaller cities.

Jenny ordered a book on special diets and eliminated wheat and dairy from her son’s diet. Within days, she noticed major improvements. This was after her son tantruming worse than ever, she thinks this was withdrawal symptoms. Jenny recommends mothers of autistic children to buy an iPod so as not to go crazy over the screaming tantrums. Her son started speaking in sentences after two weeks.

At the special school where they did the therapies, Jenny talks with other moms about alternative treatments…she notices the room divided. Moms who agree and are going to DAN! doctors and the ones who are not. She calls these other moms, woe is me moms. I mean really. These are moms at the same therapy where Jenny McCarthy took her son! If these moms were doing nothing to help their child, would they not be at home instead?? Just because they did not believe in pumping more chemicals into their child, does not mean that they are less concerned and proactive than Jenny or anyone else! Her son Evan’s speech doubled when she started him on B12 shots.

Then there is a chapter called Crazy Evan about her son being what she called psychotic. Doing what all of us mothers of autistic children are used to….throwing things, getting angry over being given the wrong cup, the chair not being in just the right spot. Within two weeks of starting Diflucan to get the yeast out of his body, Evan laughed at something funny on television which is a huge breakthrough for an autistic child! At the end of the book, Jenny has a summary of her beliefs on the cause of autism and the way to make it better for some children (she does say it works for some children, not all). There is a short list of resources, websites, DAN! doctors in the back.

Finally I loved Jenny McCarthy’s easy, friendly style of writing. I did not care for the amount of cursing but that is what you get in one of her books. I am happy that she did not write a book about curing autism per se as I saw reported constantly. I was afraid parents would go out and try extreme treatments thinking that it would work for their child too and then be disappointed or worse, harm their child in some way. I have heard of deaths caused by some forms of treatments so am wary and would never just hand my child over to someone for treatment without me being right there. I am so happy that her son improved and was helped by aggressive early therapies. I believe that will help all children, early speech and occupational therapy as well as ABA. Some alternative treatments can be dangerous and should be discussed with the child’s physician prior to beginning.

DAN! doctors essentially “detox” the child, to get the chemicals out of their bodies causing the autism is the claim. To do this, they pump the child full of other chemicals that I am not so sure about. I am on board with trying anything but when it comes to putting foreign stuffs into my child’s body–that makes me nervous!

Autistic adults get very upset when anyone talks of a cure as they are who they are. They get very offended and say well let’s cure other types of people who are in the minority too.