Vitamin A Treatment Spurs Breakthrough for Child

by Alberta Lindsey

Until he was about one year old, Wesley Sykes had a bright smile and was a lively, robust child. Then his parents, Seth and Lisa Sykes, noticed he wasn‘t picking up words as other children were, and the word like sounds he had been making stopped. His smile disappeared. At 18 months, he stopped responding to his name. At 21/2, Wesley was diagnosed with autism.

Wesley would sit on the floor and spin plates. He would dangle a string in front of his face. He would go into the middle of a room and just spin. He would sit for hours sifting sand or dirt through his fingers, without building anything.

"This is a horrific illness," Mrs. Sykes said.

In October, Wesley began taking natural Vitamin A in a study conducted by Dr. Mary N. Megson, a developmental pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University‘s Medical College of Virginia.

The change in Wesley, now 3 1/2, has been dramatic. Three days after beginning the vitamins, Wesley knew his name and began to make more sounds. "I hear ‘mom‘ and ‘yay.‘ That‘s a huge step for him," said Mrs. Sykes. Much of the autistic-like behavior, such as spinning objects, has stopped, she added.

Some of the other children in the study also improved within a few days of treatment. Megson said, "This is not a cure but a piece of the puzzle."

Dr. Bernard Rimland said: "Dr. Megson may be onto something quite important. All kinds of clues need to be explored."

A growing numbers of parents and researchers suggest a link between autism and childhood vaccinations. Like Wesley, many children with autism develop normally until they are 15 to 18 months old. "Then suddenly, they shut down," Megson said.

Her theory is that receptors in the brain that control vision, language and perception may already be weakened in some children because of a genetic link. Many children with autism have parents with night blindness. In these children, some vaccines may act as an "off" switch to already weakened receptors.

Natural Vitamin A may switch on these receptors. Although high doses of Vitamin A can be toxic, Megson‘s patients take safe, carefully-monitored doses.

Bradford Hulcher‘s son, Sam, 9, also in Megson‘s trials, has not improved. Hulcher, co-president of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Autism Society of America, said, "But I‘ve talked with many parents who have seen remarkable improvements in their children."

Rimland said the number of autism cases is increasing, and he blames it on the growing number of vaccinations given children. By the time they start school, children routinely have received 21 shots, amounting to 33 doses of vaccine because some shots contain multiple vaccines. "We hear about the benefits of the vaccines but don‘t discuss the benefits to stockholders. It‘s a multimillion-dollar industry," he added.

Last August, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher said at a congressional hearing that shots are an important part of the nation‘s public health policy. But several parents testified about problems they believe the vaccines caused their children, including death.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says there is no convincing evidence that any vaccine causes autism or any kind of behavioral disorder.

Hulcher disagrees. "I had a child who died [13 years ago] after getting a DTP [diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis] shot. He got the shot on Wednesday and died on Friday. I was told there was no link. The medical examiner said he died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."

Regardless of the cause, early diagnosis and treatment of autism are important, said Mary Swingle, an infant development specialist. As Wesley‘s home educator last year, she helped him become more social, even accompanying him to preschool to help him engage in school activities.

Dr. Irene Carney, director of Wesley‘s school, has a doctorate in special education and has taught children with autism. She saw dramatic improvements in Wesley.

"At first, he wanted to do what he wanted to do and wasn‘t interested in responding to our expectations. Eventually, we got him to do things at the same time as the other children. He developed meaningful relationships, and we saw him initiating games, teasing and laughing," she said.

Mrs. Sykes says,"Dr. Megson‘s research is giving so much hope for children with autism, where there has been so little."


[The author is Staff Writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article is used with permission of the newspaper and was published in New Developments: Volume 5, Number 3 - Winter, 1999-2000]

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