By Alisa Opar
When her daughter was diagnosed with autism in 2004, Ariane Zurcher threw herself into researching a condition she knew nothing about. Everything she read indicated a bleak future for Emma, then a toddler. It led Zurcher to believe Emma would never form deep relationships, and would probably lack empathy. She might have compulsive behaviors and meltdowns or try to harm herself. She might never speak or be toilet-trained, and, once Zurcher and her husband died, she might have to be institutionalized. Zurcher says she felt as though she were “descending into hell.”
“I was desperate to save my daughter,” says Zurcher. “We went to everybody. We tried everything.”
She and her husband took Emma to neurologists, gastroenterologists, behavioral, speech and occupational therapists, nutritionists, naturopaths, a shaman and homoeopath, a craniosacral therapist, and a Qigong master. A developmental pediatrician—who didn’t take insurance, charged at least $200 per visit and had a months-long waiting list—recommended they call a psychic in Europe; the psychic, ironically, refused payment because she didn’t pick up a ‘signal’ from them. They tried dozens of treatments that claimed to have ‘recovered’ children with autism, including numerous vitamin supplements, topical ointments, restrictive diets, chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, brain scans, a so-called detoxification system, and stem-cell therapy.
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