Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Party 2009

On Dec. 16 we held our 2nd annual Holiday Party for the NAA NY Metro Chapter in NYC. It was a wonderful event. It was made all the more special this year by our decision to invite all our past speakers from every event to come to the party as our honorees. So besides the incredibly hard working and passionate NAA NY Metro Chapter volunteer board and committee members, we also had many amazing parent warriors and some of the most gifted and special people who gave their time to create some memorable events for us to offer to our members.

It was extremely easy to get enveloped in a lengthy conversation with any one of these groups of people. The only other time you have the chance to gather this many interesting and caring people under one roof is at one of the many conferences. However, in this instance there was no work involved, just purely enjoying one another's company and being able to reflect on the events of the past year.

The party was put together in the same style that almost everything is regarding the NAA NY Metro Chapter. And that is by teamwork. Many of the board and committee members signed up to take care of a task and then got to the party early to help set up. There is always a unique sense of comraderie among the NAA community, which makes spending time with everyone enjoyable whether setting up or enjoying the wonderful food and drinks at the party.

Now it's time for me to address the food and drinks. Kirstin Boncher, of WhatToFeedYourKids, really out did herself and impressed us all with her very lively and delicious GFCF party spread. She made some simple dishes that tasted anything but simple. Everyone loved her chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce and the vegetable dumplings in asian dipping sauce. I can't imagine how many people must have asked her for the recipes to these outrageous tasting dishes. Now let's talk about the desserts....WOW! They were out of this world. No, truly they were. Being on a gluten free diet as I am has never been so easy.

If only I could eat Kirstin's food and GLOW gluten free cookies everyday. The cupcakes were as delicious as any gluten containing ones. I dare anyone to try to tell the difference. GLOW gluten free cookies also provided their amazing gluten free casein free cookies. The ginger snap cookies and the chocolate chocolate chip were our favorites. The lemon squares, made by Kirstin, were purely decadent...need I say more.

As far as drinks, Norene Chin was kind enough to pick up everything from water to juice to soda. But she really showed us what she can do by making a hot apple cider tea punch from scratch. This was a huge hit and really put many of us in the holiday mood. My husband Mark Berger was kind enough to pick up and haul over many bottles of wine that he carefully selected as well as sampled at the party.

All in all, the party was truly a major success. I am already looking forward to next years!

Special Thanks to GLOW Gluten Free Cookies for donating their gluten free/casein free cookies to our holiday party and you can find all the recipes at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Enzymes and Autism

On November 18, 2009, Dr. Devin Houston, the founder and CEO of Houston Enzymes, presented to our group on the scientific basis supporting enzyme use in children on the autism spectrum and the practical ways in which enzymes can have a profoundly positive effect for many children. Dr. Houston was kind enough to travel – along with his wife Tricia – all the way from Arkansas to share with us his knowledge as a biochemist and a pioneer in the field of enzyme research – especially with respect to children with ASD. Dr. Houston holds a PhD in biochemistry and before founding Houston Enzymes worked in academia and research (researching with respect to enzymes and other areas) as well as the enzyme industry for several years. (photo: Sujata Setya (NAA-NY Metro), Dr. Devin Houston, Tricia Houston)

In his presentation, Dr. Houston defined enzymes, discussed the different types and sources of enzymes and differentiated system enzymes from the digestive enzymes, about which he was presenting. He discussed how and where in the GI tract enzymes were active, and why. Following all the science, he gave parents good practical advice about choosing enzyme products: what to look for in enzymes, enzyme safety, and what dosing to consider.

So many children with ASD have gastrointestinal issues stemming from a variety of causes, including GI inflammation, allergies or the immune system dysfunctions, malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies. Enzymes can be an important adjunct to special diets or a stand-alone therapy in lieu of special diets (when families are unable to, for whatever reason, implement a special diet) to help many of these children. Enzymes help us to break down foods into an absorbable form and therefore can help many children with ASD (and others!) whose own bodies cannot properly process various foods. As Dr. Houston explained, different enzymes work on breaking down different types of foods, and therefore, if you know that your child has difficulty with certain foods, you can actually choose enzyme products that target your child’s needs. As one example, Dr. Houston showed us how the enzyme DPP IV broke down casomorphin and therefore would potentially be helpful to those with a casein (dairy) issue.

Dr. Houston’s presentation helped parents and others in attendance to better understand the science behind enzyme therapy in children with ASD (and others with gastrointestinal difficulties) as well as the practical application of enzymes. His tips on what to look for in enzyme products to choose a quality product were practical and easy to follow. For example, he told attendees that “mass units” such as milligrams were not a useful in indentifying potency in enzymes – rather, each enzyme has an “activity unit” (such HUT for fungal protease) that identifies its and that activity unit is what should be provided on the packaging by the manufacturer. With respect to dosing, he advised that dose should be based on the size of the meal, and that you have to work up to a dose that works for your child – everyone is different. He also recommended taking enzymes that the beginning of a meal, in this way, the enzymes are in contact with the food from the get go. He also reminded us that not everyone needs every enzyme – if you can determine which foods your child does not tolerate, you can more specifically target your enzyme therapy with enzymes that affect those foods.

Many thanks also to Jillian, Tara and Ben (pictured below) who volunteered to help our event run without a hitch!

Autism and Shamanism at the Rubin Museum of Art

On November 8, 2009, the NAA-New York Metro Chapter proudly collaborated with the Rubin Museum of Art, a dialogue between Sas Carey and Eric Hollander, MD, on the topic of Autism and Shamanism. This event was part of the Museum’s series entitled “The Red Book Dialogues,” in which the paired guests interpret and discuss images from Carl Jung’s “The Red Book, as a jumping off point for their conversation. Ms. Carey and Dr. Hollander came to the conversation with very different perspectives, but along the way they also found some common ground. Ms. Carey is a holistic nurse, a healer, and a spiritual guide with a background in the traditional medicines of Tibet and Mongolia, in particular. She is a frequent traveler to Mongolia, where she has worked closely with the nomadic communities for many years, and is the director of Nomadicare, a support organization for nomads. Dr. Hollander is an internationally-recognized psychiatrist, currently on the faculty of the Montefiore Medical Center University Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Prior to joining Montefiore, he was the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Along with “The Red Book,” the film (and book) “The Horse Boy” served as a guiding theme for this discussion. Ms. Carey knows Rupert Isaacson (the author of “The Horse Boy”) as well as some of the shamans who treated Rowan, the child central to the film and book. She discussed that a number of shamans have described to her childhoods that sound remarkably similar to those of autistic children. I thought this raised some provocative thoughts about healing and autism, and gifts within each of us that may lie untapped. Dr. Hollander and Ms. Carey also discussed some of the other aspects of the journey to visit the shamans in Mongolia that could have helped Rowan – for example, the act of riding the horse. Dr. Hollander, in his role as interviewer, demonstrated an openness to discussing non-traditional treatment options with Ms. Carey. Because of his openness, the discussion was a lively one.

The auditorium for this dialogue was full. The audience was comprised of people from the autism community as well as people who were not familiar with autism but were interested in shamanism and other similar practices. Dr. Hollander and Ms. Carey fielded many thoughtful and interesting – and often challenging – questions.

NAA-NY Metro is thankful to the Rubin Museum for allowing us to collaborate on this event and we look forward to working with the Museum on future projects.

(Photo: Sas Carey, Kim Mack Rosenberg (NAA-NY Metro), Dr. Eric Hollander, Sabeeha Rehman (NAA-NY Metro))