By Joanna Grenrock
As the parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we have been trying to advocate for our daughter and help her succeed since she was born. Any parent would do the same. However, it is a bit more challenging when a child has significant behavioral issues and comorbidity associated with ASD. When Carsyn* was born, we knew something was wrong, but ASD is usually diagnosed at around 3 years of age.
Our story is different: Carsyn missed most of her milestones from the beginning. She didn’t walk until she was almost 3 years old, and her speech was so delayed that we didn’t think she would be verbal at all.
When she started preschool at age 3, she couldn't keep up with the other kids and refused to participate in the simplest tasks. At this point, we knew that we needed to research medications to help her be open to learning and to calm her behaviors and anxiousness. The internet was in its infancy, but we researched everything we could about doctors and medications.
We started our journey with trials of dozens of medications that didn’t work or had serious side effects. We became very worried about her future and ours. Then we found a psychiatrist who had an innovative approach to medicine. This physician thought outside the box, which was exactly what we needed.
Carsyn didn’t fit into the same box as other children with ASD, which is why it is called a spectrum. It still took a significant amount of time to find the right combination of typical pharmaceuticals, but this physician’s approach included alternative therapies, too. One of them was cannabidiol, or CBD.
We knew nothing about CBD from a medical standpoint. We only had the uneducated stigma in our minds that it was associated with an illegal drug, marijuana. We researched extensively before we made a choice to use CBD with her.
On this research journey, we found incredible documentation and scientific research about how this amazing plant could alleviate Carsyn’s troubling behaviors and anxiousness. She also has uncontrollable tics from Tourette syndrome, and we found documentation that CBD could significantly calm her rapid movements.
One day, we were trying to get Carsyn out the door for school and she had a meltdown. We couldn’t control her. It was one of the worst episodes we had ever experienced. My husband and I looked at each other, and we knew that this was the perfect opportunity to use the CBD for the first time. We used a specific CBD oil which is administered under the tongue. It was hard to get it into her that first time. But when I gave it to her we just backed away and hoped for the best.
We could never have imagined that hoping for the best would actually be miraculous. After about 10-15 minutes, Carsyn looked at us and then said “I feel better. I’m calming down. I’m ready to get on the bus." We took her out to the bus, and when we got back inside, my husband and I cried uncontrollably about what we had just witnessed. This type of positive response was more than we could have hoped for.
Statistics About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
About 1 in 59 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder today, according to estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. And the numbers are rising. As parents, it is in our best interest to do whatever we can to advocate for our children with ASD.
In addition to what we have experienced, we’ve found that most of these parents are having a hard time managing the behaviors associated with ASD, so it’s understandable why they will do anything to find a solution for this condition. We chose to add CBD to our toolbox of possible interventions, and it may be helpful to you as well.
What is CBD?
There is a lot of confusion regarding CBD as it relates to marijuana. The fact is that CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana, which are both varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. The difference is that hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component found in marijuana. No one can get “high” on CBD because it doesn’t contain enough THC.
CBD and Autism
Many studies have explored the impact of CBD on children with ASD. It has been found to be helpful in lessening their emotional and behavioral issues, and can potentially help to improve communication skills. Studies are ongoing in clinics and research facilities around the world. It is important to note that CBD cannot cure the core symptoms of ASD. However, it may assist in alleviating the symptoms and behaviors associated with the condition.
Because of strict FDA regulations in the United States, no company can sell or market CBD oil specifically for ASD, nor for any sort of special needs. This is why when you are looking for CBD, you will need to conduct your own research to find the type that is best for your situation. Make sure the company is a high-quality supplier, they use full-spectrum or whole plant CBD, they offer a Certificate of Analysis, and their products are tested by a third party.
There is no specifically recommended CBD dosage, because it depends on how one’s body responds to it. It takes experimentation to know the best dosage that suits your child’s needs. A good starting point is 0.5 mg CBD per pound of body weight split across 3 doses per day. You can increase this amount until you achieve the desired results. When you start using any new remedy, it's important to contact your child's doctor so that they are aware of it and have no concerns regarding your child's health.
Also, let any therapists or teachers know that you've started something new and ask them to look for and report any changes in behaviors or skills. Take careful notes of any changes you observe so that you can determine the effectiveness of the new intervention. Be sure to communicate any side effects to a doctor or healthcare professional immediately.
CBD changed our lives. We could not have gotten to this point in our journey without it.
It is true that other therapeutic interventions are often necessary to help people with ASD to function in this world. However, this amazing natural plant is taking ASD care to the next level while giving people on the spectrum the resources they need to succeed. Our hope is that more and more people educate themselves about CBD, research continues to expand in this area, and that it becomes associated with getting healthy, not getting high.
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.html