Alternative Health vs. Standard Medicine

Alternative Health vs. Standard Medicine

I was always one to stick with “traditional” or “standard” medicine because of my background in the healthcare field. My view on types of treatments has changed after my son, Jy had encephalitis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The definition of “traditional” or standard medicine from the  World Health Organization is “Traditional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.”

The definition of “complementary/alternative medicine (CAM)” from the World Health Organization is “The terms “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine” are used inter-changeably with traditional medicine in some countries. They refer to a broad set of health care practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition and are not integrated into the dominant health care system.”

Often, traditional medicine is covered by insurance. Because alternative medicine is not generally part of a “country’s own tradition or standard,” insurance often does not cover treatment. Lack of insurance payment often sways many parents not to use alternative medicine. It’s not cheap.

After Jy had been discharged from Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Ut, he underwent nine months of “traditional” physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Traditional or standard treatment helped tremendously, but he was still not the same. He could do all the basic functions: walk, talk, run, eat, jump, read, etc., but he was slow to process. It was like he was always a few seconds behind when playing soccer again or when trying to read. He began to stutter because he tried to read as fast as his brain told him he could, but it would not come out as quickly as it used to. His reading words per minute (WPM) decreased from over 100  to 40-50 WPM when he first returned from the hospital. He has since increased to 60-80 WPM, depending on the passage.

Putting my medical background aside, as a parent, I did not feel comfortable with where he was at (and neither did my husband). I didn’t think we did everything we could to help Jy recover to baseline or as close to it as possible. I believe it is important for parents to go with their instinct or that gut feeling. I chose to take my son to a place called Brain Solutions. They provide alternative health therapy called the Tomatis Method. I could try and explain this method, but this YouTube video does a better job.

The Tomatis Method alternative health therapy has helped Jy work through his emotions like no other therapy has been able to do. He took conversations literally, which often made him emotional because he didn’t understand the context of jokes. He needed Adderall for ADHD which developed after the encephalitis. We are evaluating how he does off the Adderall while on the Tomatis Method. Additionally, through screening at Brain Solutions, they discovered that Jy possibly had auditory processing disorder (APD).

“APD, also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (or CAPD), is a complex problem affecting thousands of school-aged children. These children can not process the information they hear in the same way as other children because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. Something adversely affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.” Best Hearing

Jy was officially tested by Best Hearing in San Diego. He did have auditory processing disorder, and there are four types! I had no idea. Dr. Best narrowed down the type Jy had and gave me a specific treatment plan for him which included the Tomatis Method. Dr. Best and Brain Solutions recommended visual processing screening for Jy.

There are many visual issues that I don’t feel comfortable explaining. Here is an excellent article on visual processing issues. Additionally, Jy saw Dr. Kareen Yeung Landerville in Las Vegas for visual processing therapy. She completed an extensive eye exam on him (2.5 hours!) (not covered by insurance).  I had no idea there were various visual disorders which can be misdiagnosed as ADHD or other problems. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Landerville’s Las Vegas Center for Vision Therapy.

“There are 17 visual skills required for reading and learning, including the ability to point the eyes together, to focus the eyes, and to move the eyes across a page properly.  These skills are often not tested in most vision screenings.  Passing a vision screening, which tests only distance vision, leads parents to believe (incorrectly) that nothing is wrong.

The eye exam from the eye doctor’s office is designed to test how healthy your eyes are and to see if you need glasses or contact lenses.  The routine eye exam is not designed to test ALL of the 17 visual skills required for academic success.

If any of these visual skills are not working properly, it can make reading and learning an unnecessary challenge.  Some children develop behavior problems, while others avoid reading or simply refuse to read.  Usually, the child is bright, causing parents to be confused by the child’s difficulties.  Often the child is labeled hyperactive, lazy, or slow.  What makes this even worse is that many of these problems can easily be mistaken as learning disabilities or attention problems such asADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).”

Ultimately, I have learned that there is not a perfect system to health. I believe both alternative health and standard or traditional medicine have benefits. Jy benefited from both types of therapies. What is most important is that parents listen to their instincts. Health care providers know what they are trained or receive via experience. No two patient cases are exactly alike. It is up to the parents to do what is best for their children. Parents know and care for their children more than any health care provider; this is a given. Listen to the advice from your trusted health care providers, but do not hesitate to do your research and find whatever form of treatment (standard or alternative) will benefit your child the most.

I give my love and support to all the parents and caregivers who are fighting for the best outcomes for their greatest loves: their children. Keep at it!




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Ipuna Black

Ipuna Black

I’m the mother of four children and have worked in the area of pediatrics as a nurse since 2001. A few initials I have accumulated include: PhD in Nursing, MSN in Nursing, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and RN. My seven-year-old son was hospitalized in 2015 for almost two months with encephalitis and Guillain Barré syndrome. This gave me a deeper perspective on health and wellness for children, and Healthy Kids Play was born. Healthy Kids Play is a child health and wellness blog sharing resources and information to help parents make informed decisions to keep our children healthy and playing. My mission is to help parents, caretakers, educators, and researchers raise healthy kids by sharing resources and information on the multiple influences on child health (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental). I hope to inspire others to keep our children playing. After all, they are our next generation.

Jy’s Bickerstaff Brainstem Encephalitis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome Update


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