The Plot Thickens: Enter PANDAS (Not as friendly as it sounds)

We have had both a relieving and panic-inducing piece to James’ puzzle revealed recently.


It started a little over a month ago when he was miserable with these bizarre ulcers on the bottom half of his tongue. We thought it might have been either an allergic reaction or something viral, but we went to see the pediatrician in case there was anything we could do about it. Turns out that this was a complete Godsend of a reaction.


This past year, I have had this unnerving paranoia about strep. Though his throat was only slightly red, and he did not have a fever, we asked if they could swab him. And it was positive.


So immediately we made an appointment for his little sis and also had her swabbed. The past two times he had strep, she unfortunately had it as well. We thought we had some kind of virus running through the house, so we wanted to make sure we were not mistaking strep for a virus. And her test was negative.


Because of no obvious strep symptoms, this made me wonder if James had ever actually gotten rid of his previous strep infections. And made me wonder a bit more about PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). As the name reveals, it’s an autoimmune condition brought on by strep bacteria that affects the brain. Symptoms include:


  • OCD
  • Tics
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Bedwetting or change in urinary frequency
  • Separation anxiety
  • Sudden onset


Check, check, check, checkity check



We asked his pediatrician about it, and he mentioned we could retest him for strep after antibiotics to see if they had done their job. A week after we finished the course of antibiotics, we did just that. The rapid test in the office came back negative, but the culture came back positive with Group A Strep. Later, blood work showed that his antibodies for strep were SEVEN TIMES the high number of the normal range, thus indicating PANDAS.


Though this was terrifying information, things finally started to make sense. One of the big signs of PANDAS is the sudden onset, often pinpointed to the day that your child turned into a different kid. We are now wondering if he encountered this bacteria, which triggered an autoimmune response, 2.5 years ago. It seemed like overnight my calm, sweet baby boy became angry, aggressive, and completely unpredictable. His favorite songs would bring on screaming and tears. A moment of laughter could turn into rage in a second. We started walking on eggshells waiting for the next explosion. Food pickiness went through the roof and overall rigidity went with it. It felt like we lost him.


With all of the changes in his life, including the new baby, move, start of school, and just general age, it was easy to write off these behavioral changes. But deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. This poor child has been so sick, y’all.


So we are in the process of figuring out how to restore his health with this new information. Thankfully, we have a good start on this path with his anti-inflammatory diet. We are also under the care of functional medicine practitioners who are leaving no rock unturned. They are taking a completely comprehensive look at him, thinking about how to boost his immune system, seal up the gut lining and blood-brain barrier, and get rid of the strep (which is also likely in his gut). I am SO GRATEFUL. I can’t begin to tell you.


Unfortunately, when someone has a disability or diagnosis, it is so easy to write off their symptoms to that disability or diagnosis. “Well, aggression can be part of autism.” “Lots of kids who have autism have GI issues.” Or “sensory challenges go along with Down syndrome.” But why?? What is happening in the body to cause these symptoms? What is the root cause? I am elated to be under the care of people who are looking at what is physiologically going on inside his body to cause these behaviors or symptoms. And I am so hopeful that I’m getting my baby back. Only God knows to what extent his healing is taking place..but it is taking place.

Ep. 6- Dana Elia, RDN: Everything You Need to Know About Gluten


Dana Elia, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND is a registered dietitian nutritionist as well as the owner of Fusion Integrative Health and Wellness in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Dana has over 20 years of experience in medical nutrition therapy, integrative and functional nutrition, and health and wellness coaching.  Additionally, Dana is an adjunct faculty member at the PA College of Health Sciences.  She has extensive experience teaching classes on a variety of health-related topics- both for the general public, as well as continuing education programs for healthcare providers and professional organizations.

In May 2017, Dana was granted the Fellow status (FAND) within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which recognizes her commitment to the field of dietetics and celebrates her professional accomplishments and pursuit of life-long learning. Dana is also currently working on her doctorate in clinical functional nutrition through Maryland University of Integrative Health.


Check out Dana Elia’s practice, Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness,  here:

Follow Fusion Integrative H&W on Twitter @FusionIHW

Follow Fusion Integrative H&W on Facebook-

**If you have any additional questions about gluten sensitivity testing or related items, email Dana at


Dana Elia

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Dana’s personal journey to realize the power of food in healing
  • What a gluten sensitivity is
  • The difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Why gluten proteins can be so problematic for humans in general
  • Why gluten sensitivities are on the rise
  • The importance of focusing on naturally gluten free foods
  • Symptoms of a hidden gluten sensitivity
  • Dana’s personal non-negotiables for health of mind, body, and soul


Link to episode in iTunes:


Additional resources:

The Institute for Functional Medicine- Find a Practitioner-

Alessio Fasano, M.D. – Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders: People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone:


Ep 5- Ashley Turner, ND: On Her Daughter’s Healing from GI Dysfunction and Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part II)


Make sure to check out Part I of Dr. Ashley’s interview here, during which she tells the incredible story of how she and her husband restored health for their daughter who once had severe GI dysfunction and autism spectrum disorder through functional medicine.

In Part II of the interview, you will learn:

  • How this health trial with her daughter has shaped her family
  • How she transitioned from the standard American diet in her early years to nutrient-dense food
  • Encouragement for those transitioning to a more holistic lifestyle
  • The unique experience patients should expect when coming to her and her husband’s practice
  • Encouragement for parents who are working to restore health for their children
  • Dr. Ashley’s two biggest non-negotiables for her family’s health of mind, body, and soul

Link to episode in iTunes:

Check out Dr. Ashley Turner and Dr. Kevin Turner’s practice here:

Follow their practice on Facebook here:

Follow Dr. Ashley Turner on Instagram: @dr.ashleyturner

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Ep 4- Ashley Turner, ND: On Her Daughter’s Healing from GI Dysfunction and Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part I)

Dr. Ashley Turner is a naturopath, wife, mom of three girls, homeschooler, operator of her family’s small farm, and owner of Restorative Chiropractic and Functional Wellness Center in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, along with her husband, Dr. Kevin Turner, who is a chiropractor. Together, they practice functional medicine to look for the root cause of health concerns and equip the body to heal through chiropractic programs, customized nutritional protocols, and professional detoxification.

Dr. Ashley and her husband found functional medicine when their two-year-old daughter was experiencing severe GI dysfunction, sensory challenges, and other symptoms of autism. Through her and her husband’s dedication and education, they were able to restore health for their daughter and move her off of the spectrum. Through their quest for healing, they have now been given the gift to guide many on their own healing quests through functional medicine.

Check out Dr. Ashley Turner and Dr. Kevin Turner’s practice here:

Follow their practice on Facebook here:

Follow Dr. Ashley Turner on Instagram: @dr.ashleyturner

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • The onset of her daughter’s symptoms and the consequences of using MiraLAX for her
  • How she and her husband pivoted to functional medicine to help their daughter
  • Using diet as a foundational component of healing
  • How the gut and brain are intimately connected
  • Ideas for removing environmental toxins within your control
  • The types of detoxification that helped her daughter heal
  • MTHFR and why it’s important to look for signs of gene expression rather than relying solely on genetic testing
  • The importance of healing gradually
  • The resilience of kids in healing

Link to episode in iTunes:


Part II of the interview with Dr. Ashley Turner


Ep 3- Thomas Heath, DC: Healing Leaky Gut with a Whole Person Approach

Dr. Thomas Heath has been practicing chiropractic and functional nutrition for over 33 years. Chiropractic is a family tradition— his wife, father, great-grandfather and sister-in-law are all chiropractors. His two youngest sons are studying to become chiropractors.

The majority of Dr. Heath’s patients come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Some travel from around the world — Brazil, Israel, Ireland, Mexico, Kenya, and New Zealand. Dr. Heath is certified in Professional Applied Kinesiology with extensive training in postgraduate nutrition and functional medicine, Quantum Neurology and NET (Neuro Emotional Technique).  He has taught nutrition classes to chiropractic doctors, medical doctors, and naturopathic doctors.

Dr. Heath uses a “whole person approach.” This approach to wellness means looking for the underlying causes of any disturbance (which may or may not be causing symptoms at the time) and making whatever interventions and lifestyle adjustments needed to optimize the conditions for wellness. Using this unique approach, Dr. Heath is able to help patients accelerate and/or maintain their journey to good health.

Check out Dr. Heath’s practice in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania here:

Dr. Heath

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What motivated Dr. Heath to move from traditional chiropractic to integrating functional nutrition
  • Potential contributors to immune system suppression
  • What leaky gut is, its symptoms, and what you can do about it
  • The importance of Vitamin D3
  • How grains and lectins can disrupt the microbiome
  • The health problems associated with GMOs, chemicals, and pesticides
  • The importance of looking at the whole person to promote healing


Link to episode in iTunes:

Ep 2- Unicorns, Dancing, & Skittles: How Sheree Clark Turned Her Cancer Diagnosis Into a Journey of Beauty and Love

Meet Sheree Clark from Clearwater, Florida. Sheree is the owner and founder of both Words by Design and The Watering Can & Co. She has built a life using her gifts as an artist and photographer to create inspired home décor and art work for unique and beautiful spaces. Very recently, Sheree was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. But how Sheree chooses to view her quest will leave you truly inspired.

To follow The Watering Can & Co, see here:

To check out Sheree’s art work through Words By Design, see here:

To follow Sheree’s inspirational live videos, see here:

View More:

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Sheree “owned” her cancer diagnosis and framed it as a journey of love and connection
  • The power and energy of words
  • How to create an environment in which you can thrive
  • Strategies when the overwhelm kicks in
  • How to lovingly and positively support and connect with loved ones who have cancer



To the Parents of My Former Students Who Have Special Needs

We recently received James’ latest IEP (Individualized Education Plan) report with his reevaluation results and official dual diagnosis- both Down syndrome and autism. The latter I can’t really deny any longer. When I first received it, I didn’t fully read through the report because 1) self-preservation, and 1a) there are only so many deficits you can read about at one time.


But it forces me to ask myself some hard questions-

Do these reports ever get easier to read? Why do they affect me so much? Do they affect how I define success? How DO I define success?


I guess in a way it’s the ultimate comparison…nobody ever wants to be on that left side of the bell curve, especially more than two standard deviations. It feels like while you’ve been fighting so hard to keep up, you just received a big notification that you lost.


So I sit here with the report tossed behind me and my journal in front of me and my sweet boy next to me. When I went to get him from quiet time in his room, he clearly said, “Downstairs, Let’s go. To couch. Want snack.” Completely unprompted. That’s a darn big deal. Those are the moments that don’t show up on reports like these.


These reports don’t measure value. They don’t measure joy. They don’t even really measure true growth. It’s impossible for them to show the amount of growth that one strong little boy has made. They don’t talk about resilience or perseverance, about hard work, or limitless love.


Oftentimes you wonder if we really need all of these assessments and ways of sorting. I know his teachers don’t define him through these assessments. I don’t define him through these assessments. But it forces us to look at him through that lens.


And each time I read one of these reports, I think about my own days as a teacher. I wish I would have had the deeper perspective I have now when delivering these kinds of reports or any kind of assessment about a child, especially one who had a special need, whether it was on paper or not.


To those parents of my beautiful former students, I hope I conveyed these things to you, but if I did not…


I wish I could tell you how I know how much you worry and how hard you work.


I wish I could tell you how I realize just how much you’ve entrusted me to let your baby shine when you can’t be with them.


And how much you would prefer not to create waves or go against the grain.


How you know how much teachers have on their plates, but your biggest responsibility is to stand up for your baby who is your whole world.


I wish I could tell you how your child is far more than any deficit a silly report lays out.


And how I pray they find their perfect place in life, that they’re happy, and shine like the bright star they are.


And sure, there’s a place for assessment and numbers and data. When used appropriately, they help us plan. They allow us to receive services we need. They help us grow.


But they in no way measure the love and purpose your child has brought into the world, through your love and purpose.


Nor do they measure the love and work that your child’s teachers have poured in.


And they for sure doesn’t measure how hard your baby has worked, how much they have grown, and how they have blessed those around them.


Sending you so much love, a big high five, and potentially, a glass of wine 😉


James sandbox