Florida's Premier Medical Marijuana Directory And News Blog

Cannabis Medicine and Autism: An Interview with Ana Maria Abba

| 0  

Ana Maria Abba is a 45 year old mother of two young children living in San Diego. Her son Anthony is eight years old and her daughter Sophia, six. We spoke on the phone last week, and she made the emphatic point that she has done a complete 180 from whom she used to be. Growing up outside of the Washington, D.C. area as a self-described conservative, Ana has a business degree in finance and management from Virginia Tech and an M.B.A. in marketing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She knew nothing about holistic medicine and even less about medical marijuana.

INTERVIEWER

Thank you, Ana, for agreeing to tell us your story today. Why don’t you tell me a little about your son Anthony, his diagnosis of autism and how you got here, talking to me about medical cannabis.

ANA

My husband and I were living in Malaysia when Anthony was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years old. Something happened to him between nine months and year. At a year old, things started changing, but I didn’t know what it was. I had heard about autism, but I was too afraid to do anything about it. We were still living in the states and supposed to move to Malaysia, but we were delayed and ended up staying another year. Anthony had been a very social baby and progressed really quickly. He was wicked smart. Right around a year, though, he started lagging in development and wasn’t reaching milestones. Any time I took him somewhere, he’d cry and fuss. As soon as I walked out the door from where we were, he’d stop. Now I know he had sensory processing issues, but like I said — I was afraid.

INTERVIEWER

So, you move to Malaysia and then he’s diagnosed?

ANA

Yes, he was finally diagnosed in Malaysia. I dove right into the “what do I do?” thing and started cranial-sacral therapy, Japanese acupuncture and special diets.

INTERVIEWER

Even though you weren’t a person interested in holistic medicine before?

ANA

Yes. I dove right into it. I was influenced tremendously by Marissa Ali, one of the co-founders of the Thinking Moms Revolution, and she had a support group for biomedical treatment for autism for the people in Malaysia. She helped me to figure it all out as far as supplements, doctors to use, etc. I owe her so much. That Yahoo support group was invaluable.

13022224_10153533437786787_1498457785_n

INTERVIEWER

Tell me a little about Anthony at this time — what was he like and how severe was his autism?

ANA

Anthony was considered to be severely autistic at that time. He cried even more than my newborn daughter. He was always crying. He was unhappy and in pain. He had no communication by then. Nothing reciprocal. He didn’t point or gesture. He didn’t care about his little sister. She didn’t exist. No one, actually, existed for him except for me, my husband and my mother. For some reason, we never lost our connection to him. I think it’s because we found ways to connect to him.

INTERVIEWER

So people he didn’t know couldn’t connect with him, but you three knew how to do so?

ANA

Yes. His visual processing began to deteriorate dramatically, and he couldn’t enjoy books anymore. We had always read to him, so this was particularly hard for me. He was diagnosed with strabismus, and the only game he wanted to play with me was to throw things at me, down the stairs. He loved to watch things fall, so I’d play this with him, over and over. He didn’t like playing catch anymore, either, but he did like spinning things. He was also very obsessive-compulsive, certain liquids had to go in certain cups. If I didn’t give him what he wanted, he wouldn’t eat it or drink it. The rigidity extended to going anywhere new or different. He just wouldn’t do it.

INTERVIEWER

So what sort of results did you see when you introduced the alternative therapies?

ANA

Basically, when I took him off of wheat and milk, the crying stopped. The cranial sacral work and Japanese acupuncture made him calmer. He got those once a week. I also took him to an Applied Behavioral Intervention school where he cried for at least a month. Then he got into a routine. With the start of the DAN diet, he was happier. We saw less crying, he started eating different foods where before he’d been incredibly rigid, and he was able to then stay in school. The regression in his development stopped, too.

INTERVIEWER

I’m thinking that these early alternative interventions and the success you were seeing must have been softening up what you described earlier as your “conservative” background. Maybe this was part of the journey toward using cannabis?

ANA

Yes. I’ll tell you about that. First, though, I want to say that Anthony’s cranial-sacral person was a godsend. She had gotten into the therapy because her youngest son was a drowning victim, almost died but was severely brain injured. She told me about hyperbaric oxygen therapy and how it had helped her son. In December of 2010, I started the therapy for Anthony while we were living in Malaysia. It was like a little miracle. Before a week was up, he started eating everything — meat, vegetables and fruit — things that he wouldn’t touch beforehand. It was like a switch turned on. I don’t know if it was a texture problem or something that just went away with the therapy, but he also started making sounds. Then he started singing his ABCs and began to be verbal.

INTERVIEWER

Wow. How do you account for that kind of progress?

ANA

Well, to tell you the truth, I thought he was actively dying at first. His body wasn’t functioning at all, so maybe when we poured the oxygen into his cells, they began giving him life. We did another round of the therapy, but it wasn’t as miraculous as the first. I also started giving supplements and the other DAN stuff which helped the verbal thing. But you know, “verbal” is a long way from conversational.

I

NTERVIEWER

This is wild stuff. When did you start hearing about cannabis medicine?

ANA

Well, we went back to the United States during the summer of 2011, and Anthony had by then progressed a good amount. A couple of years later, my husband saw something about Charlotte Figi and Charlotte’s Web on Facebook. We thought it was interesting — I was actually blown away by it. I wondered how this cannabis stuff made this little girl’s seizures go away. I started thinking about how it related to Anthony’s problems, particularly what I call his “exciticity.”

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about that. I’m not sure that’s a real word, but I get what you’re saying.

ANA

When Anthony’s nervous system gets overwhelmed or over-stimulated, he can’t control himself. He can’t control what he’s feeling. I call that exciticity. His trigger is joy, to tell you the truth. He tries to contain that. He used to hand-flap a lot when he was excited. That would turn into waving with both arms up. Then he began trying to contain it by concentrating, holding his hands together and trying to get control of his body. It was controllable — not like seizures — but it was difficult. When I read about Charlotte Figi and seizures, I thought it must be something like it. That’s why I started looking into it.

INTERVIEWER

S0, you’re living in San Diego now and thinking that Anthony might benefit from cannabis, but you don’t know that much about it, yet, right?

ANA

When I look into something, I really dive deep, especially when it’s controversial! I hooked up with Allison Benavides (profiled here), and I talked a lot to her. A week before Christmas of 2013, I found out about Charlotte, and during Christmas break I just dove in. By January of 2014, I had a product in hand of ACDC, a 24:1 ratio that I got from Jason David, another pioneer parent in medical cannabis. I started really slowly and titered up the dose really slowly.

INTERVIEWER

Did you notice effects suddenly or over time?

ANA

I noticed that over time, Anthony’s anxiety lessened. He was calmer. He started doing stuff on the playground more easily and faster. His gross motor skills improved, and he even started using the zip line for the first time. He was getting stronger and talking more. I was able to have conversations with him where before he was verbal but primarily echolalic and had verbal stims. That lessened to some degree.

INTERVIEWER

So, it sounds like numerous functional areas changed with the cannabis.

ANA

Oh, yes. The cannabis helped him with so many things. It kept him on an even keel. Because of the endocannibinoid system and so many receptors in the gut, it helped to heal his gut. His gut is stronger now, as is his immune system. He was just overall stronger and healthier.

INTERVIEWER

Did you try any other cannabis formulations or just CBD?

ANA

Well, we did try THCa, and it was like CBD on fire. He was so much more alert. By day three, though, the exciticity came back and I had to drop it.

INTERVIEWER

A month or so ago, when I met you at the cannabis mother’s support group, you told me that you’re moving to Texas and that your son is no longer taking cannabis. Can you elaborate on that?

ANA

My husband is going overseas for work, and I have to move to Texas to get support from my mother. Unfortunately Texas laws prohibit cannabis use, even medical and for autism in particular. I decided to wean Anthony from cannabis in preparation for the move. I had found what we call “the sweet spot” for Anthony by mixing THC into the CBD oil, and I can’t do that in Texas because of the law. I just can’t chance the legal ramifications of using CBD oil in Texas, and I just can’t afford to live here in California alone with the kids. I don’t have the money or the support.

INTERVIEWER

Wow. That’s intense. Since you took him off the oil, what did you notice?

ANA

What I’ve seen is mostly the emotional stuff — the emotional control he’d gained isn’t there anymore. His anxiety is up, his emotional regulation is all over the place. Taking him off the oil really showed me that it’s doing something to help regulate his emotions and anxiety.

INTERVIEWER

How about any changes in his digestive system?

ANA

I think the changes have mostly been emotional. I do believe that the CBD and other things I’d been doing have gotten his immune system and gut to a much higher level of functioning than it ever was. But the emotional control — the poor kid is used to something helping him. He knows that something is different, but he doesn’t know why. He shouldn’t have to go through that. It’s stupid law. That’s why I’m very against CBD-only laws. THC is also needed to wean off of pharmaceuticals. It also helps regulate the body and keep calm to the body. It’s absolutely needed and necessary.

INTERVIEWER

I am so frustrated that you can’t stay here in California. No chance?

ANA

No chance. I can absolutely not afford to live here. I don’t have the money or the support. But I will figure something out.

INTERVIEWER

Given your tendency to dive deep and do everything necessary for your son, I can imagine that you WILL figure it out. Do you have any other things you’d like to share with our audience?

ANA

Yes. I want to stress the importance of the endocannabinoid system. It’s nature’s medicine. I was very ignorant of the power of cannabis, based on what I’d read in the media. Medical marijuana, to me, was an excuse to get high. I thought that was a given. I now really wish that people would be open to new therapies and ideas, would investigate new things themselves before discounting them. If you are going off of beliefs from mainstream media or are entrenched in those beliefs, you need to look at the other side and investigate yourself. Don’t just assume that what the doctor tells you is good. Look. Investigate it yourself. When I took a look, I realized I was wrong about cannabis. I was so wrong about it. Then I had a reason to try it. I’d also like to say that I have been exploring it myself as a treatment for my own anxiety. It’s been tremendously helpful.

13059495_10153533436671787_683299312_n

INTERVIEWER

Your website is Greener Path to Health. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

ANA

Ever since Anthony’s diagnosis, the whole thing got me so angry that I started it. Basically, it talks about all the things I’ve learned on my journey. Essential oils, cannabis, energy medicine — really anything with the least side effects. Living green means not putting dangerous pharmaceuticals in your mouth. I have a very active Facebook page, too.

INTERVIEWER

I imagine you will be a powerful voice for change in Texas. What are your plans?

ANA

I intend to be a loud voice in Texas and engage with and be involved in particular with the group MAMMA, or Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.

INTERVIEWER

Thank you so much, Ana. I wish you much luck and continued strength and courage on your journey. 

13020092_10153533436861787_1941688496_n

Resources and Links:

Ana’s Website: A Greener Path to Health

Ana’s Facebook Page

MAMMA website 

Related Post

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*