February 14,2009   Partnering With Staten Island Mental Health Society

 

 September 24, 2008 Integrated Socialization Program 

 

Pair, who have clinic in Woodbridge, N.J., give lecture on Island

Monday, November 24, 2008
By AMISHA PADNANI
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- They weren't quite "recovered." That's a tricky term to use when talking about children with autism.

But two controversial researchers who gave a lecture on Staten Island said many autistic children who tried out their alternative methodologies saw major improvements.

 

About 200 Staten Island parents attended the presentation last week at IS 24, where Dr. James Neubrander and Dr. Philip De Fina talked about unconventional ways to deal with autism.

The pair, who have a clinic in Woodbridge, N.J., said they've found that a combination of changes in diet, vitamin supplements, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and shots of methylcobalamin -- a form of vitamin B-12 -- has changed lives.

During their lecture, they showed PowerPoint slides of children's brain waves before and after trying out some of their strategies.

They also played videos of autistic children singing and interacting with other people after visiting their office for several months.

NO TREATMENT

"There is no treatment for autism, but there are ways in which we can change the environment of the brain to help normalize electrical chemical activity, which brings about positive change," De Fina said.

"Some kids respond so well that people call them 'recovered' because they don't look like the way they looked when they first started, and, diagnostically, they don't meet the same criteria as they did prior to coming."

Though the doctors said their work is based on scientific -- and not purely anecdotal -- research, Neubrander, a physician, and De Fina, a clinical neuropsychologist, said it could take at least 20 to 30 years before their theories are incorporated into mainstream science.

 

The pair has been called everything from quacks to geniuses but the goal of Wednesday's lecture was to give parents the opportunity to make that decision for themselves, said Ken Struve, executive director of City Access New York, Inc., a Port-Richmond based nonprofit that organized the event.

"Parents just want information that can put them in a better place to make decisions," he said.Indeed, reactions ranged from curiosity to pure disbelief.

TRY ANYTHING

Many parents at the lecture said they were determined to try anything and that they planned to set up consultations with the doctors.

Others were skeptical that the alternative -- and expensive -- methods could really help, mainly because they felt the researchers didn't provide enough information.

"I came because I thought they would have some specific data," said Lori Taliercio of New Dorp, whose 11-year-old son has autism.

"Instead, I feel like I'm sitting at a real estate seminar and they're trying to sell me something."

But a Rossville father who attended the lecture said he has been taking his 8-year-old son to Neubrander for six years and that he has seen drastic improvements.

Through the doctors' recommendations, his son has stayed away from milk and frequently receives B-12 shots.The treatments certainly aren't cheap and could set parents back a couple of thousand dollars every month.

The initial visit, including an electoral mapping of the patient's brainwaves, costs about $800, Neubrander said.Most patients have neuro feedback sessions twice a week at about $100 each session and B-12 shots cost several hundred dollars a month. The more treatments a parent wants for their child, the more it costs.

For some parents, every penny would be worth it as long as it gets their child out of the corner and into the playroom to interact with other kids, said Chris Caruso, Executive Director of Kids Connect USA, a Rossville-based integrated socialization program for children with autism and other disabilities.

URGES CAUTION

Mrs. Caruso, who wasn't familiar with the two doctors, she said she would caution parents to do careful research before jumping into anything.

"Parents really want to do anything, anything at all, to help their child," she said.

"They're desperate for any kind of solutions. That's why I always tell parents to do their homework and to find out what's going to work for them." Amisha Padnani covers education news for the Advance. She may be reached at padnani@siadvance.com.

Autism researchers