For parents of children with autism and related disorders, the road to happy, well-adjusted living can be bumpy at best. Lack of clear, effective treatment options, plus the massive range of symptoms that vary from patient to patient means that containing the disorder can be a bit like trying to tame a many-armed octopus.
Out of necessity, moms and dads often become their children’s fiercest advocates, and work tirelessly on behalf of kids whose doctors have limited answers and treatment options.
Some parents have turned to cannabis-related products as a last resort, only to discover promising results and some welcome relief. Earlier this year, a cannabis magazine shared a survey of more than 500 parents and discovered that 40 percent had given CBD products to their children for autism-related behaviors, and research out of Israel has shown hopeful signs that cannabis products can produce meaningful results in kids on the spectrum. In a study from 2019, 155 autistic kids aged 18 years and younger tried CBD oil for at least six months. More than 80 percent of the parents reported notable improvement in their kids. “Some of the parents reported benefits not just with seizures but also behaviors, like self-harm,” the study’s author said.
This brings us to RSO. Also known as Rick Simpson Oil, this cannabis extract oil was pioneered by its namesake, marijuana activist Rick Simpson, who discovered its healing properties in treating his skin cancer. Unlike CBD, RSO does contain THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. As such, it includes the full range of beneficial cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Brandy Williams is one parent advocate who has turned to RSO to manage the symptoms of her son’s complicated diagnosis.
After five years of helping treat her autistic son Logan’s injurious behaviors using RSO, Brandy Williams is still getting to know him. First turned on to cannabis five years ago after two years of trying a multitude of other options for Logan’s autism-connected struggles, Brandy is now watching the ten-year-old coming into his own.
After dealing with a flare connected to Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Syndrome since August 2019, the last House Blend RSO from Item 9 Labs Brandy administered built upon his previous success with a single-strain RSO — helping Logan to heal the flare.
He’s also greatly improved his available vocabulary and while not fully conversational, he’s giving specific instructions and can answer the phone while adding a verbal greeting, something Brandy says has never happened before.
“I’m learning things about Logan I didn’t even know,” says Brandy, adding that Logan’s communication is the best it’s ever been and eye contact is no longer overstimulating – with receptive speech, self verbalization, motor skills, and sleep and stomach issues noticeably improved.
With five different qualifying conditions, Logan often has trouble finding medicine to treat all of them. Other companies have donated oil, and Brandy says each blend has helped to some degree, but noted this house blend of RSO was different. “The more strains we add to his oil, the better the outcome,” says Brandy, adding that there are no medicines used to treat the core symptoms of autism despite 88 years of study, save for antipsychotics to treat associated irritability, even with studies suggesting endocannabinoid system deficiencies could be related. “A lot of kids with autism have impaired immune systems…along with more CB2 receptors than their neurotypical peers — as long as he has cannabinoids in his body, it’s going to prevent the seizures. Some oils work better than others, on varying levels.”
As a Petition Specialist for the national group Mother Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MOMMA) and Chapter Director for the Arizona chapter, Brandy has so far helped patients in 13 states obtain better access to RSO for autistic children and is still working hard to do the same here in AZ, but obstacles abound. “We’ve had more opposition here in Arizona than any other state. Louisiana passed their initiative in about two months. Michigan was a struggle,” Brandy says, who doesn’t know where the opposition is coming from, having worked in other conservative states.
“I’m going to keep trying to add autism until somebody listens,” Brandy says, planning to continue her work regardless of legalization plans because she knows this patient population deserves it. “I’m not going anywhere.”
If you want to find out more or get involved, check out Brandy’s superhero activism at mammausa.org