The mystery of autism may never be solved, but research is giving doctors new hope in trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Doctors are starting to find links between children with autism and other diseases that may play a role. One of those links now has a name, it’s called “Lyme Induced Autism”.
19-year-old Mary Hendricks was diagnosed with severe autism and developmental delay before she was 2 years old.
"She had a little bit of language and lost it. A little bit of eye contact and lost it," said Mary’s mom, Tina Hendricks.
But there was something more going on with Mary that was going undiagnosed, and it stayed that way for 17 years.
"She was having these developmental issues, but she was also sick," continued Tina.
Mary was sick with digestive problems, skin infections and internal problems that caused Mary to be in pain for a large majority of every day. The Hendricks took Mary to doctor after doctor in hopes of finding one that could pinpoint the problem, but each doctors visit seemed to be only a quick fix for the immediate issue.
"If she was awake she was moaning, crying out in pain, biting herself, chewing on herself, banging herself in the head," said Mary’s dad, Danny Hendricks.
That cycle continued for 17 years, until the Hendricks were sent to an Autism Specialist who had a whole new take on Mary and the issues that had taken over her life. That specialist asked Tina about her own health history.
Tina told the doctor that for years she had battled her own health issues; including colitis, fibromyalgia and symptoms that seemed like a never ending bout with the flu.
"He said the key to diagnosing Mary, is diagnosing you," Tina told FOX40.
The specialist ordered a Lyme Disease test for Tina and it came back positive and a few days later, Mary also tested positive for Lyme. Tina says before she got pregnant with Mary, she found two ticks on her skin. She removed them and never really thought much about the possibility of Lyme.
"If a child has autism from birth, many times it's because the child inherited an infection from the mother. I do think that Lyme disease, especially congenital Lyme is a cause of autism ," said Autism Specialist Dr. Lynn Mielke.
Dr. Miekle says Mary contracted Lyme disease from Tina through pregnancy and she believes the Lyme played a big role in the development of Mary’s autism. Immediately, Mielke started a full assault on Mary’s Lyme symptoms and in a matter of weeks the success was beyond their expectations.
"As we treat Mary for her Lyme, some of her check list autism symptoms are disappearing," said Tina.
"For her to wake up, smile and giggle and laugh .. we haven't heard that for years," added Danny.
Miekle told FOX40 the severity of Mary’s autism may prevent her from having improvement beyond minimal, but for the Hendricks even small improvements translate to be huge miracles.
"I have had patients in my practice with autism who when we treated their Lyme disease, their autism improved so much that they were no longer autistic,” said Mielke.