Camel milk a boon for autistic patients
Mother of autistic child advocates the milk after seeing the positive effects.
Despite being met with the odd raised eyebrow when lecturing on the benefits of camel milk in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Christina Adams is a true advocate of the ‘white gold of the desert’ and has seen the positive effects for herself.
Zeba Khan from Autism UAE with her son at the Dubai networking meeting on the effects of special diets on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASF) Therapies at The Majlis Dubai, First and Finest Camel Milk Cafe. — KT Photos by Leslie Pableo
Speaking to Khaleej Times on Monday following an Autism Networking Meeting in Dubai, Adams says she threw herself into the world of autism after her now 16-year-old son was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of three.
“As soon as I got the news, I began researching every little thing about ASD, which eventually led to me lecturing about the disorder to other parents.”
And it was some years later following a chance meeting with a man that Adams’ research into the benefits of camel milk in relation to ASD really came to the fore.
“My son was busy reading at this literature festival and we saw this man with a camel which obviously peaked our interest. They are an animal rarely seen in the States,” she says, adding that the Palestinian-American owner regularly travelled around the US with the camel giving educational presentations.
Being told the camel’s milk was used to make soaps and lotions, the two began talking in depth which is when Adams asked if the milk was used for any other purposes.
“I don’t even know why I asked that question, but his answer really struck a chord with me. He told me that hospitals in the Middle East were using the milk on premature infants and that it might be non-allergenic.”
Adams says that one statement gave her a “moment of intuition” and she wondered whether there might be something in the milk that could help her son.
“I just thought if they were giving it to premature babies then perhaps there was something nutritious in it.”
That same night she began researching the links between camel milk and the effects it has on symptoms relating to autism but says there was “hardly any literature on it.”
Undeterred, Adams says she “just had this feeling” so kept going and going. The following year in 2006, she found an article published by a veterinarian who had conducted some research into the beneficial attributes of camels milk on children with ASD. After giving the milk to a small number of participants, he noted some improvements — although they were limited improvements rather than long-term results Adams says.
“But this was enough to tell me I was on the right track.”
Adams then set about getting her hands on some of the milk herself, and with a friend travelling to the Middle East offering to bring some back for her, she continued on with her research.
But getting the milk over to the US wasn’t an easy task.
“The milk was taken away from my friend at the airport, so I had to go down all the right avenues. I got in touch with some doctors in the Middle East and got a medical note from my son’s doctor too, and eventually, the raw milk reached us.”
And it was a “quite a thrill” laying her hands on the milk for the first time she says.
Some weeks later, Adams decided to give her then 9-year-old son half a cup of milk before bed, and the visible changes the next morning were remarkable.
“He had increased language, increased emotional flow and great eye contact. Even his executive functional skills were much better, like tying his shoelaces. For parents with an autistic child, this was a noticeable change in normal behaviour.”
Adams continued giving her son half a cup of milk everyday, but after moving to a full cup, the improvements started to decrease.
“He started to develop small ticks, and some of his behavioural habits started to return, so we just simply switched back to half a cup and he was fine,” she says.
Now at 16, Adams’ son still takes the milk regularly, albeit not daily, and she says the benefits it has had on his disorder have been ten-fold. And despite saying no to some things, he always says yes to camel milk.
During Monday’s meeting at The Majlis Dubai - First and Finest Camel Milk Cafe in Jumeirah, 25 participants, including parents of autistic children and professionals alike, took part in the session sharing their own experiences of living with children with the disorder.
Organised by Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products (EICMP) in cooperation with Autism UAE, Stepping Stones and ChildEIMC, Adams says the session allowed for great interaction.
“The beautiful thing about interacting with parents with autistic children is we are all in the same family and we shared some great stories today. Some who had tried camel milk and it worked, and some who haven’t.”
She says everything in the autism world is a trial and error process, with almost everything medically unknown, so the best advice she can give is to try what you can. “I always tell people to run things by their doctor. I provide firsthand information but they need that medical opinion, that’s what is vital.”
To find out more about Christina Adams and her work in the autism field, or to find out if a change in diet can potentially help your child’s disorder, log on to www.facebook.com/christinaadamsauthorautismadvocate or follow her on twitter@camelmilkinfo.
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