Desperate parents with autistic children are resorting to a dangerous industrial bleach-and-salt solution in a bid to “cure” their children of the condition.
The practice has Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in a froth. He told City Press that parents and schools administering this solution to autistic kids were engaging in an illegal activity that was detrimental to the health of their children.
“What these people are doing is giving poison to kids. This poison will damage their livers and kidneys in the long run,” he explained.
Autism neurodevelopmental disorder affects the development of the brain. Children with autism struggle with social interactions and often engage in repetitive, compulsive behaviours such as flapping their hands or compulsively lining up objects.
Scientists have tried without success to develop a cure for autism. However, some people believe that it can be cured in a natural way and one of those ways is by orally administering a toxic solution known as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS).
MMS was created by an American naturopath, Kerri Rivera. It contains chlorine dioxide, a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and treating industrial water.
The solution was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010.
The FDA said at the time that it was banning the solution because it could cause serious harm to the health of autistic children. It cited that if taken orally in high doses, it could cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and the symptoms of severe dehydration.
But the concoction seems to have made its way into the South African market in the past few years, with desperate parents trying to get their hands on it from private sellers. It is not known how common the use of MMS is in South Africa, but Fiona O’Leary of Autistic Rights Together, a not-for-profit organisation based in Ireland, told City Press this week that she believed its use was catching on in South Africa.
O’Leary, who has been part of a worldwide campaign trying to ban dangerous and unregulated products being given to autistic children and adults for two years, said she knew of a few schools for kids with autism, as well as organisations and private sellers, who had been marketing the toxic solution as a “miracle cure” for autism.
“It has been brought to our attention that an autism organisation in Cape Town south is promoting and using Kerri Rivera’s chlorine dioxide (CD) protocol. There is also concern that this same organisation is selling MMS/CD to the parents of autistic children,” said O’Leary.
She said that what was more disturbing was that the department of health appeared not to be doing anything about the situation.
However, Motsoaledi said the department had not been aware of what was happening until City Press brought it to his attention.
“Had we known, we would have taken action. But I can promise you that we will investigate and get to the bottom of it.
“We cannot allow it to happen, because autism cannot be cured – and [that concoction] is illegal and poisonous to any person,” he said.
While O’Leary lauded the department’s promise to deal with those who administered the toxin, she said immediate action needed to be taken because autistic children continued to experience this form of abuse.
She explained that these kids were being forced to drink the bleach solution and sometimes it was administered via enemas (the introduction of liquid into the rectum) to rid them of “worms and parasites” that supposedly caused autism.
O’Leary explained: “Autism is not caused by parasites and neither is it curable.
“What these parents and all those who are advocating for the use of MMS are doing is gross child abuse. The so-called parasites that come out with the stools after the enemas is the intestinal lining, which sheds during the invasive and painful enema [administration].”
Two MMS horror stories
Every time *Kate Hollister forced her son *Adam to drink the bleach and seawater solution, her heart shattered into pieces.
He would scream and spit it out, but she would make him drink it again because she believed the supposed remedy known as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) would cure her son of autism.
Adam was 16 months old when he started taking MMS. She says she was introduced to this miracle “cure” by Jenny Buckle, the founder of Reach Autism (an organisation based in Cape Town).
The women crossed paths when Hollister’s son was diagnosed with autism. In 2013, Buckle told her about MMS and that it could cure autism. Hollister was chuffed, thinking she had found the solution for her son’s condition.
“I gave it to him for about three months. Every time I gave it to him, he would get sick and become moody, sad and angry.”
When she told Buckle about it, she was advised to increase the dosage. Hollister stopped giving Adam the solution when she realised the side effects were not wearing off.
Buckle, however, denied that her organisation sold MMS. She said she bought it from another parent and used it on her own children.
Fortunately, Adam did not suffer long-term side effects, but his mother is still beating herself up for making him go through the ordeal.
She says: “I feel like I failed him.”
She advises the parents of autistic children to be careful about the treatments they administer to their children.
“You are all your child has. Do the right thing,” she says.
Nadia Parker* is haunted by the screams of two autistic children every time she administered MMS to them.
“I would look at their faces and cry inside,” she says.
Parker says she had no choice but to administer the “treatment” to the children because it was her job.
She explains that they were monitored by cameras to ensure they were giving the children MMS.
“The MMS was also being measured at the end of the day by the respective parents and, if we missed a dose, we would get into trouble.
“If one of the children experienced aggressive tantrums, we would be expected to immediately give him a double dose of the MMS and, at times, up to four double doses (540ml) in an hour, depending on their tantrums.”
Parker worked at an academy for autistic children situated in the northwest of Johannesburg, where the two children she was forced to administer the concoction to were pupils. She has since resigned because of what she terms “gross abuse of autistic children”.
City Press contacted the owner of the school, who preferred not to be named, as he is related to one of the pupils taking MMS. He confirmed that his 10-year-old male relation had been on this “treatment” for about two years and it was working wonders for him.
However, he denied claims by Parker that any other pupils were being given MMS: “It is not school policy and no other child in the school is taking MMS.”
Says Parker: “I was working with these children for some time and, very ashamedly, also administered the MMS. I regret it now and would never do it again.”
*Not their real names