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Parents of autistic child “have hope again”

Posted on: May 26, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


Dear Dr. Cannell:

We talked a couple months back about my autistic 3 year old son (now 4).  As you suggested, I began giving him 5000 IU of Vitamin D daily.  Since starting the vitamin D, I have seen the following improvements:

  1. Larry is now sleeping through the night which has a tremendous positive impact on functioning throughout the day.  (as well as the functioning of the rest of the family).  He does take a sleeping medication as well.  I do think the D has had a positive effect on the length and quality of his sleep.  He no longer wakes several times throughout the night and sleeps the proper amount of time.  He wakes up with a smile.
  2. He definitely has more eye contact.  He is mostly “present” and aware of his environment.  He seems to pay more attention to what is going on around him.
  3. He has started a picture program to help him communicate.  He was having slow progress with this at school.  He started additional home therapy a little after he started the vitamin D.  He now communicates very well with a variety of picture cards including cookie, outside and music.  When he can’t find his card, he attempts to communicate in an alternative way.
  4. He smiles much more.  Along with the eye contact, we have had a lovely increase in smiles and giggles.  He used to have violent episodes.  He is on a behavior medication but since starting the D he seems to be more emotionally engaged with others and his environment.
  5. He seems to listen more and respond to his name.  This one seemed to start when we started the D and home therapy.  I can be outside with him and if he wanders off, I call his name and he responds by stopping, listening and generally following the directions to come back.  I can ask him to do simple tasks like throw a wrapper in the garbage of turn off the light and he will do it.  He will even hold my hand and walk into stores with me.
  6. He has been interacting a little more with his older brother (18 months older).  When his brother pays attention to him, Larry lights up and seems excited, smiles and jumps up and down.
  7. He initiates more physical contact with others, spontaneously giving hugs or just being close.

Thank you so much, we have hope again.

Will he ever be “normal?”



Dear Jan,

I am so pleased. Such dramatic improvement after only two months is a sign that improvement may continue. This appears to me to be evidence that Larry’s genes are not structurally damaged, but before the vitamin D, the involved genes did not have enough of their messenger system (vitamin D) to properly express themselves. Yes, he may be “normal,” whatever that is, I just don’t know. I am hoping for a Larry who is happy and able to learn like other children.  What his brain needs now is time, time to heal from the genetic, inflammatory, autoimmune disorder that we call autism. A recent South Korean study implies the rate is now almost one child in 35, an epidemic that may bankrupt our medical and civil services soon unless pregnant women and young children start taking the correct amount of vitamin D.

Be sure that he takes no excess retinol, such a retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate, and no cod liver oil.  He also needs approximately 125 mg of magnesium, 5 mg of zinc, 2 mg of boron, and at least 80 mcg of vitamin K2, the vitamin D cofactors Americans often lack.  Seeds and nuts are good source of all but the K2, which is usually taken as a supplement. Trader Joe sells sunflower and almond butter that autistic kids seem to like.

Obtain a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D in two months with the target range being high normal, around 80-100 ng/ml.  He may require more than 5,000 IU/day to obtain such blood levels.

Stay in touch and let me know his 25(OH)D and his progress. You have my cell phone number, call me whenever you have questions.


John Cannell

4 Responses to Parents of autistic child “have hope again”

  1. OrrinsMom02

    Dear Dr. John Cannell,
    Our family osteopath Dr. Beals-Becker has been treating my son with autism since he was about 2 & he is now 9. He has shown GREAT strides….He keeps up with grade level & for the most part does great. But, he still does have HUGE melt downs once he gets home (very occasional)…a few melt downs have landed us in the ER due to him screaming himself into having chest pains. He takes 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day every morning……He started at 1,000, then moved to 2,000 & then 5,000 & then just upped to 10,000.(over the 7 years of treatment) So, the question is Dr. Beals-Becker wanted me to contact you & ask you Dr. Cannell if this amount is enough or if we should up it again….Or should we split it into 2 5,000 doses. He does have some difficulty sleeping so we weren’t sure about a later dose of vitamin D.
    THANK YOU for your time.
    Stacy Forsyth
    [email protected]

  2. OrrinsMom02

    Dear Dr. Cannell,
    I am happy to say Orrins blood work came back & his vitamin D level was at 91ng/ml…
    Thanks for your help.
    Stacy Forsyth

  3. Mark Haymond

    There is obviously some communication between Dr Cannell and Stacy Forsyth that does not appear in the blog above. Is it possible to read Dr Cannell’s response to her question?

    Thank you.

  4. Rita and Misty

    Dr. Cannell just recently gave an extremely informative presentation on the connection between Vitamin D deficiency and Autism (for an excellent Grass Roots Health webinar).

    An interesting Autism fact: In Somalia (located right on the equator), autism has no name. However, Somali immigrants in Sweden call autism, the ‘Swedish disease’ & Somali immigrants in Minnesota, United States, call autism the “American disease.”

    To learn more interesting Autism facts, I encourage you to listen to Dr. Cannell, as he discusses autism’s connection to vitamin D:


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