Article by Rita Giordano, Philly.com
Less than a year ago, Erica Daniels, a Horsham mother of two, did what once upon a time she would have considered unthinkable. She gave her autistic son, Leo, now 12, a dose of cannabis oil – marijuana.
Medical researchers generally argue that evidence for the drug’s effectiveness in treating autism is lacking and its safety unproven.
But Daniels had heard promising stories told by other parents. Still, after 10 years of seeing her son grapple with severe anxiety, temper tantrums, and obsessive behavior that too often left him seeming like an unhappy boy, she was unprepared for what happened next.
“The change was dramatic,” Daniels recalled. “We sat down and watched Where the Wild Things Are. Before, he would be jumping up and down and stimming” — self-stimulating behavior common with autism — “and watching Elmo. Only Elmo.”
Since then, she, Leo, and his sister have been able to do things together that other families take for granted: going out to eat together, shopping, snuggling, even taking — and enjoying — a trip to Disney World. She recently published Cooking With Leo: An Allergen-Free Autism Family Cookbook.
Along the way, Daniels, 43, has become what she calls a “#Cannamom,” a medical marijuana activist who believes that cannabis may the answer for untold numbers of people with autism.
An estimated one in 68 children is on the autism disorder spectrum, which can range from individuals with high intellectual functioning to those who harm themselves and cannot communicate verbally. Typically, people with the disorder have difficulty with social interactions and communication, and tend to engage in repetitive behaviors.
Daniels, who shared her family’s story in an episode of the Viceland cable channel’s Weediquette series Wednesday night, considers herself fortunate to live in one of a handful of states that recognize autism as an automatic qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Delaware is another, although only for adults. New Jersey‘s Department of Health is considering adding the condition. Other states will make exceptions under certain circumstances.