Becoming A DAN! Doctor
by Richard E. Layton, M.D.
For almost 40 years I have experienced a unique medical career. The first half included medical school, pediatric residency and 15 years practice as a conventional pediatrician. During the past ten years, I became aware of the dramatic increase in autism, and that immunizations contained a mercury-containing preservative. I found the overuse of antibiotics and the increasing number of immunizations given to babies in the first year of life frightening.
I gradually began combining my conventional background with new techniques I learned from complimentary medicine. NOW I can address children’s behavior and developmental issues more comprehensively. In the past several years, my primary medical interest has been in autism spectrum disorders including attention deficits.
What Happened to Me?
In 1985 I read that craving a specific food can be a problem. I thought of two children in my practice. The first, a peanut butter junkie had severe migraine headaches, diagnosed as a psychosomatic illness by a highly regarded pediatric neurologist. After removing peanut butter for 10 days, his migraines disappeared. The second child had debilitating abdominal pain, again considered psychosomatic. Wrong again! A milk avoidance diet cured the problem. These two children changed my future.
Traditional vs. Complimentary Medicine
I, like most physicians learned to diagnose and treat disease in medical school. I took no courses on the importance of listening to parents/patients, using common sense, making clinical judgments. Fortunately, my medical school education has been very effective in treating life and death problems such as acute infectious illnesses. For my patients with autism, hyperactivity, language and developmental delays, relying on double-blind controlled studies and objective lab data is often less effective than listening, looking for possible underlying causes and trying elimination diets.
My Medical Career – Part II
In the mid 1990’s I began working with Kelly Dorfman and Patricia Lemer, DDR co-founders. They introduced me to occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, vision therapy and auditory training. They encouraged me to attend DAN! Conferences and learn about the biomedical issues in autism. I am delighted that I followed their advice.
I have just returned from my fourth DAN! Conference, and I learn something new each time. The medical lectures on nucleotides affecting methylation, transulfuration and the role of oxidative stress, have helped me understand my patients’ needs more fully. I have now become a more complete physician as a DAN! doctor.
Call to Physicians
Many parents and physicians are looking for non-invasive ways to help children with developmental problems. Here is my list of helpful treatments that I have added to my tool chest:
- Take an Extensive History: Physicians must make clinical decisions based directly upon an individual’s unique history, not simply presenting symptoms. Two patients with the same symptoms could have them from totally distinct causes. A headache could stem from tension, MSG poisoning or a brain tumor. Each requires a different action. Not until I know where a patient has come from do I know where my treatment will lead.
- Change the Diet: Removing problematic foods can make a dramatic difference. The Feingold Diet is especially helpful for those with hyperactivity. The Gluten-Free/ Casein-Free (GF/CF) diet is the single best biomedical intervention for many children with autism. I have seen so many improve dramatically with this marvelous treatment. One can expect language gains, increased social skills and improved behavior in a large majority of children. At the latest DAN! Conference, many spoke enthusiastically about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), effective especially for those with gut bugs.
- Add Nutritional Supplementation: Working with Kelly and other nutritionists, I have learned how to tailor treatments to individual children’s needs. I now order specific and different laboratory tests to determine if a child will benefit from a variety of vitamins, minerals, anti-fungals or chelating agents for treatment for a leaky gut, heavy metal toxicity or digestive problems.
- Develop an Extensive Referral System: Becoming a member of the DDR Professional Advisory Board has introduced me to an amazing range of talented professionals from a variety of disciplines. Every day I refer patients for treatments that complement mine. As I heal children physically, they are better prepared to take advantage of therapies that focus on language, cognitive, social-emotional and academic skills.
In summary, I am enjoying being a physician the more I learn and help. Attending DAN meetings, consulting with DDR experts, listening and learning from parents has been a wonderful experience. Thanks to DAN, DDR and parents, I have been able to improve the way I practice medicine.
Richard E. Layton, M.D. practices specialized pediatrics, allergy and preventative medicine in Towson, MD. You can reach him at 410-337-2707 or go to his website.[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 9, Number 3 - Summer, 2004]