Autism moms are obsessed with understanding the unique needs of their kids. For years a group of us posted our questions and answers on an invitation-only site aptly called “Dr. Moms.” The site was run by the top Dr. Mom, Judy, who works day and night trying to understand the needs of her beautiful son, Alex, who is severely affected by autism.

Judy has searched the world for answers to the dietary and immune issues that are common among those diagnosed with autism. After success with Alex, she convinced many of us to try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The elimination of refined sugar, grains, and starch helps relieve the painful intestinal distress suffered by many of our kids. It worked well for Elizabeth.

Another common trait associated with autism is an overly active immune system which never shuts down, not even when its job of fighting off a cold or flu is done. It is always hyped up in full fighting mode, so much so that the immune system begins attacking itself, causing inflammation from the intestines to the brain. This constant internal fire is thought by medical experts to cause some of the odd “autistic behaviors.”

After studying the research and discussing it with her doctor, Judy decided to try a controversial and counterintuitive therapy of introducing porcine whipworms, a tiny worm commonly found in pigs, into her son’s intestine. Before you retch at the thought, hear the science.

For millions of years, humans lived symbiotically with parasites in our intestines. These parasites have been stamped out in most parts of the Western world because, in some circumstances, they cause anemia and protein deficiency. But researchers have now discovered that in areas of Africa and Asia where the worms still live within the population, there are virtually no cases of asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory disorders. Autism is also unknown there.
Scientists believe these worms help regulate the immune system to protect against these conditions. Leaping forward, some doctors are now researching and treating patients with these “good” parasites for conditions such a Crohn’s disease, colitis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, allergies, and—drum roll, please—autism.

Relentless Judy found a way to get the pig whipworms from a German company which imported them from Thailand. The worms worked wonders for Alex, but replacing them every two weeks was prohibitively expensive, so Judy struck out to find an affordable alternative. She did additional research and found that hookworms can survive in the human body for decades and produce many of the same benefits.

Unfortunately, hookworms are not available in the United States, but that didn’t stop Judy. She flew across the country with her parents, two sons, and family physician and drove in the middle of the night to Tijuana, Mexico to get these worms for her family. The drug wars were raging, and they heard gunfire in the distance as they tried to find their destination. Just as they were about to turn back for San Diego, Judy saw the hotel’s neon sign.

Eight weeks after adding the hookworms, Alex demonstrated his first academic skill ever. Despite the best efforts of a decade of special education, Alex had never been able to identify a shape or a letter. On that beautiful morning, his teacher came downstairs and showed Judy a piece of paper with nouns written in one column and verbs in the other. For the first time, Alex showed the world that he could read by correctly sorting words. Two and a half years later, with the hookworms doing their magic, he is progressing through Hooked on Phonics at the age of seventeen. Alex is doubly hooked.

Lesson 1: It’s never too late for our children.

Lesson 2: Educational and medical interventions go hand-in-hand.

Judy’s relentless quest for healing worms qualifies her as a How Person.