Experimental Autism Therapy Provides Hope For Family

By Kayley Mendenhall, Chronicle. This is presented for our readers’

information only and should not be construed as a treatment endorsement by this newsletter.
Chip Minalga is a blonde-haired, brown-eyed, skinny 10-year-old
child who loves to be chased by his older brother. He wants candy he’s not supposed to have and, according to his dad, dislikes going to school as much as most children his age.

But unlike his peers, Chip suffers from autism.

He can’t speak, has trouble making eye contact and spends much of
his time shaking his hands and wiggling his fingers near his face — a
self-stimulatory behavior common among autistic people.

Chip has bad headaches and his mom, Pam Tate, said she knows he is
frustrated by his inability to communicate.

“I don’t know what to do,” Tate said. “You watch your kid in pain
all the time. You just don’t know what to do.”

Finally — through an extreme and experimental treatment — Tate
feels she’s found hope.

In the next month, she and Chip will move into a specially-designed
“clean room” in their home and live there for a year as part of a program
devised by Karen Slimak, an environmental toxicologist from Virginia.
The idea, Slimak said, is that autistic symptoms are caused by the
body’s exposure and reaction to volatile organic compounds — chemicals
used in paints, chlorinated water and petroleum products, among other things.
To test her theory, she began taking sick people and removing their
exposures to the compounds one at a time.

“One of the things that is absolutely true is that you can not be
affected by things that you are not around,” she said. “If you have no
exposure, you can not be sick by those things.”

Slimak has seen nearly miraculous results in 49 autistic children
who have gone through the program.

Tate has researched the program, interviewed parents involved and is
ready to invest $50,000 and a year of her life to helping her son.
“He can’t go on like this and I can’t put him in a home,” she said.”I
think this woman has figured it out.”

Chip’s treatment begins in the clean room, where he’ll basically go
through detox. He will live in the room for one year, and Tate will spend
all waking hours with him.

They will wear 100 percent organic cotton clothing without elastic
or zippers. And because Chip’s body will be releasing toxins, Tate will wash
his mouth with hydrogen peroxide every half hour and bathe him in it every
90 minutes. “This all makes sense to me,” she said. “I have tried everything

All the traditional treatments.”

Tate won’t be able to work and Chip won’t go to school. They’ll
spend every day in a bare room with an air-lock door and a high-tech filtration
system. Chip’s diet will include only exotic fruits and vegetables like
dandelion greens and okra and meats that haven’t touched plastic.
Jeff Minalga, Chip’s dad, said he is worried the clean room will be
too much of a lab setting for his son. But he equated the process to an
alcoholic going through detox and said sometimes going “cold turkey” is
the best.

“Initially, it sounds like a lot of involvement,” said Mike Edwards,
Chip’s family support specialist at Family Outreach. “They haven’t had
that many kids go through it. There is always that concern about whether it is
truly effective or not.”

But if all goes as planned, Chip’s speech will eventually be
restored, he’ll be able to live outside of the clean room and by the time he goes to
high school, he could be at the same level as his classmates.

“It will take four or five years before he can walk free in the
world and (not) worry about diet or restrictions,” Slimak said. By then,
“they’ll be ready to move on with their life and never look back.”

Tate and her family have organized a fund-raiser to help cover costs. Country band, Johnny Steele and the Decline of the West will play from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. Friday at the Filling Station. The cover charge is $5 and donations are welcome.

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