Hyperactivity: Is it “Just” the Sugar? Pittsburgh Parent Magazine October 2015

Honored and thrilled once again to have an article I wrote, published in the October issue of Pittsburgh Parent Magazine.

Sugar Sugar Sugar! Is it really the root off all Hyperactivity- evil? Read to find out more! And don’t forget about the DYES!

PDF File of Article here: Sugar Pittsburgh Parent October 2015

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T.I.M.E. for Mitochondrial Disease Awareness

Where did the summer go?

It is September and time for Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Month.

Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week will be celebrated September 20-26, 2015. But here at Babyfoodsteps we think there is enough information and enough awareness that needs to be spread, to talk about it ALL MONTH LONG!!


The theme that babyfoodsteps is focusing on this year is a little acronym we came up with:


What does it stand for?

Toxin Induced Mitochondrial Etiology

What does that mean?

Well for a number of years if you have followed this blog, you have learned as we have learned about MITOXINS. These are exposures in our environment that can induce mitochondrial harm, dysfunction and even disease.  When I first learned about mitochondrial disease, I was told it was a RARE GENETIC disorder. The more I learn, with each passing year, I continue to discover more and more about another type of mitochondrial disease very few talk about: Acquired Mitochondrial Disease.

It is time to change that.

It is time to talk about ALL ETIOLOGIES of this Disease… including those that are TOXIN INDUCED leading to an Acquired form of the disease that is NOT always present at birth and NOT 100% genetic in origin.

Please join me for a month of awareness here on the blog and also on our facebook page. Feel free to post questions in the comment section or email us with questions at babyfoodsteps at symbol gmail dot com.

Mitochondrial Disease Awareness

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Back to School 2015- Planet Box lunch!

Today my kiddos headed back to school! 1st and 5th grade I can hardly believe it!

It has become tradition in our house for a fun and creative back to school lunch in our PLANET Boxes.  I have written about the planet box and how much we love them here, here and here, and this year is no different! These lunch boxes have been a God-send for us for managing food sensitivities!

What is for lunch today?

For Lady A- Nitrate free turkey with mango butter, That’s it bar (pear/apple), GF muffin (made with love from grandma), snap pea crisps, organic baby tri color carrots, dye free jelly beans!


For Big B- Nitrate free turkey rolls, organic apples, non-GMO kettle corn, tri color organic carrots, a chocolate chip cookie and dye free jelly beans.


And they are off – for what I am sure will be an amazing start to an awesome year!


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Is Autism Medical? Pittsburgh Parent Magazine September 2015

I had the privilege to write this article about the scientific and medical underpinnings of AUTISM in the September 2015 issue of Pittsburgh Parent Magazine.

PDF Version here: Is Autism Medical?

Pittsburgh Parent Sept 2015

Autism is Medical 1

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T is for Titer


Over the past few weeks, I have had a few conversations with some moms that really got me thinking about a topic that is about as controversial as they come… vaccinations, and in particular: over-vaccination of our children. These conversations including this experience that a mother shared with me, compelled me to share what I know about vaccine titers, just in time for back to school, when undoubtedly, many of you will need this information when you receive the note home saying Johnny is past due for his shots or he can’t go to school (not true in every state, but that is a topic for another blog).

To set the stage, first watch this video about Fido, man’s best friend, and while watching it replace in your mind “baby or child” everytime they say the word “puppy or dog“.

So what exactly is a “TITER”? Well in my chemistry days it meant to do a Titration with a Graduated burette to determine the “end point” of a reaction. Exciting huh? Today it means so much more to me as a mom.

Wikipedia describes it this way-

titer is a way of expressing concentration. Titer testing employs serial dilution to obtain approximate quantitative information from an analytical procedure that inherently only evaluates as positive or negative. The titer corresponds to the highest dilution factor that still yields a positive reading.

Huh?? So what does that have to do with vaccination? Well, a titer test is a blood test that measures the amount or concentration of antibodies (usually IgG antibodies) that a person has made against a specific pathogen which the person has been exposed to naturally or  through vaccination. By comparing the titer result with the reference range for the test, it can be determined if the person has produced enough of an immune response to have presumptive (key word!) immunity. Why presumptive and not definitive…well that is the thing… no one (or test) can predict definitvely, even after vaccination, if a person is exposed to the same antigen or germ again, if they will get sick, many many factors play into this beyond what a lab test can tell us (things such as are they on immune suppressing medications, are they ill with another pathogen, are they vitamin deficient, the list goes on and on).

So what does this mean for our kids? As you may be aware the pediatric vaccination schedule has grown exponentially in the last 30 years. From 23 doses of 5 vaccines in 1974  (or 3 vaccines if you got the MMR) to 49 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6 today.

Take the DTap shot for example:

Children should get 5 doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at each of the following ages:

• 2 months
• 4 months
• 6 months
• 15–18 months
• 4–6 years

Each subsequent dose of DTap is referred to as a “booster” in order to “boost” the “immunity” of the first dose.  Some children depending on their immune system, may mount an adequate immune response after the first dose or maybe after the third, and not need the rest of the vaccine series. But because we practice a “one size fits all” approach to pediatric medicine in the United States, most if not all children will get all 5 of the boosters, whether they need them or not. What if your child has an adverse response to dose 1 and you are worried what may happen when they get their next booster? Drawing a blood titer may be one way to determine if they need those other boosters.

Since titers are a blood test, your doctor or pediatrician can write a perscription to order this bloodwork from your local lab or hospital. I have put together the following chart with the CPT and test codes for various vaccine titers at 2 of the largest commercial labs (LabCorp and Quest Diagnostic) in the United Sates here —> Titer Chart PDF

Titer Table

Once you get ther results of this test you can talk them over with your doctor or pediatrician and see if Johnny really needs x,y, and z boosters after all. If his titer levels show presumptive immunity, then you can ask you physician for a letter stating that, which you can turn into the school for their records.  If his levels are not high enough, then you have a very crucial decision to make about giving him that next booster, which is only a decision a parent can make for their child when they have done their homework and gathered enough info to make and INFORMED vaccination decision. Remember- YOU are your child’s best advocate!

There are many resources out there that talk about titers including a few labs where you don’t need a doctor’s orders to get the testing done-

A good definition of what a titer is and why you may want to test one-


This resource is for college admission and how to use a titer test for admissions-


Two labs that offer direct to consumer titer testing:



And for your furry four legged friends out there (dog titers):

The Bark

Clinical use of serum parvovirus and distemper virus antibody titers for determining revaccination strategies in healthy dogs.Twark L1, Dodds WJ.

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One Mom’s Experience: Vaccine Titers

This story was shared with me, recently,  by a mother who chooses to remain anonymous, about her experience with obtaining titers for her child. In her own words…

I have always wanted to be a mother, for as long as I can remember, having children has always been a non-negotiable part of who I am. My husband and I were fortunate to have a healthy baby boy (all 10 pounds of him!) in 2005. An equally large “little sister” made our family complete in 2008. My husband and I took precautions to keep our children healthy, including vaccinating them on schedule. Our son had all of his vaccinations through age 8 and our daughter had all of them up to age 5. We did yearly flu vaccinations to keep them from getting illnesses that could otherwise be prevented. That changed in 2013, after my daughter had what I believe was an adverse reaction to the Flu Mist vaccine. Read on.

We were surprised when our son began showing signs of motor tics around age 5. Not to worry, said the neurologist, “The best thing is to do is… nothing at all because most tics go away in a year, and you shouldn’t worry about these little things” he continued. It never occurred to us that these tics could be related to vaccination.

But they didn’t wane; in fact they increased. More worrisome was that the motor tics were soon joined by vocal tics. Diagnosis: Tourette Syndrome.

When our daughter started excessive eye blinking, we trotted off to the ophthalmologist and were told that eye blinking was a common occurrence. Furthermore, drawing any parallel between our son’s Tourette’s and her blinking was irrational. Again, no one, including my husband and me, considered that they might be related to a vaccine.

As health-conscious, compliant parents we kept on track with our children’s vaccine schedules, never questioning vaccine safety,efficacy or possible side effects.

In the fall of 2013 we returned to the Pediatrician’s office for well-child visits, and this time chose the Flu Mist vaccine, to avoid a needle stick. We left the office feeling like we had done everything we were supposed to do keep our children in the best possible health. I even got the Flu Mist myself while I was there- I loved how concerned and efficient our pediatricians office was to take care of me in the same visit.

Several hours after we returned home my children were playing in the living room, when I heard my daughter scream, “Mommy! Mommy! I can’t control my leg- make my leg stop!” She was thrashing on the floor, her leg appearing as if an invisible force was causing it to jerk violently in and out. Her foot came up towards her buttock and then shot straight out. This jerking and kicking continued for minutes, and when I could do nothing to stop it, my daughter became increasingly upset. Her leg continued as she were trying to kick something as hard as possible. She was crying and screaming and neither she nor I had any idea what was happening to her body.

I called the pediatrician’s office to see what they had to say- I wondered if it could be a reaction to the Flu Mist. The curt response was, “She has a tic disorder, what do you expect?” I replied, “No, she blinks excessively- that is all that there is to her to her tic disorder.” Why wasn’t the doctor more concerned?

I later learned that tics can be an adverse reaction to a vaccine. I also learned that an adverse reaction can be immediate or delayed, making it difficult to draw any conclusions about cause and effect relationships. Most importantly, I learned that the U.S. government provides a way to report an adverse vaccine reaction through the pediatrician. I asked my doctor to file an adverse reaction report, but was told by the nurse that my pediatrician would not support that action.

My daughter’s leg jerking was my wake up call. It really grabbed my attention. I never wanted to experience anything like it again, nor my daughter.

My journey to help my children be as healthy as possible led my family to a specialist, who, after extensive laboratory testing, found underlying auto immune conditions in both of my children. My son’s immune levels and markers are significantly worse than my daughter’s immune levels, just as his motor and vocal tics are worse than her occasional bouts of excessive eye blinking. My research told me that vaccines are counter-indicated for individuals whose immune systems are compromised, as my children are. Thus, I made the decision to decline the flu vaccine for all of us in 2014. We had a few colds, but not the flu.

Our daughter, age 6, was due for some vaccine boosters. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) vaccination schedule, she should receive another dose of DTap, MMR, varicella and polio by May of this year, in order to remain in public school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where we live. I noticed that the extensive blood testing done contained titers on several of these diseases, and that hers were above the levels necessary to show immunity.

In March, we returned to our pediatrician to discuss vaccinations. I was very concerned about continued vaccination with my daughter’s previous vaccine reaction to the Flu Mist, and her underlying autoimmune conditions. Even though I had acceptable titers from the measles, mumps and rubella that were less than a year old, the doctor insisted that he needed to draw current titers. Why?

My doctor’s initial response to my concern about titer testing was, “Insurance won’t cover these tests.” Hmm… I quietly wondered to myself, our insurance DID cover the earlier testing, the results from which I gripped in my sweaty palms. I didn’t confront, I was passive, responding “I don’t mind paying if that is the case.” His next response surprised me, “I don’t think there is a lab in this city (1 million metropolitan area) that can do these tests. I’m not even sure where to send you for this blood work.”

He then excused himself,and I heard him consulting with another pediatrician in the practice. When he returned, he asked me to contact the developmental pediatrician to ask where they send their patients for blood titers. I left the office with no prescription.

I called to confirm that our local children’s hospital could do all the blood titers required, and called back to report to my pediatrician. “Ok, I’ll write the script and you can pick it up on Monday.” This sounded like a good plan. But after so many phone calls on a Friday afternoon I was concerned that my pediatrician was not very well versed about vaccination after an adverse event or in the case of children who are immune compromised.

Monday I picked up the prescription for blood titers for the required vaccinations from the doctor’s office. It was folded, and in a sealed envelope- I didn’t even open it until I was home. Then that feeling of my blood pressure rising caught me as I read the bold words scrawled across the bottom of the prescription Mother does not want to vaccinate child

 How could he write this? It was a lie! I asked him to draw blood and check the levels of existing immunity in my daughter to be able to see if she even NEEDED further vaccinations. I had NOT refused vaccination!

I calmed down and I googled “Parent refusal to vaccinate.” I was astounded to learn something that I couldn’t believe was real: there are medical processing codes for refusal to vaccinate!

Here are a few of them:

The ICD-9-CM Volume 2 Index entries contain back-references to:

V64.00 Vaccination not carried out because of

V64.01 Acute illness

V64.02 Chronic illness

V64.03 Immune compromised state

V64.04 Guardian refusal

V64.05 Parent refusal

V64.06 Patient refusal

V64.07 Religious reasons

V64.08 Patient had disease being vaccinated against

V64.09 Immunization not carried out because of other contraindication

My husband and I headed back to the pediatrician to find out why he chose these words  and wrote them on the order for blood work. Does this say to the insurance company, “Don’t cover this test?” Is it a code that is sent to the CDC to track my child? Why didn’t he give me a code for “immune compromised state?”

Our long story short, the pediatrician agreed to change the code on the prescription for the titers. We had them drawn at our local children’s hospital and returned a few weeks later to our pediatricians office to find out that our daughter DID NOT NEED another dose of either the DTap, MMR, varicella or polio vaccine because her body had mounted an adequate immune response, that was still present. No need for a booster and no need for unnecessarily putting her at risk for another vaccine reaction.

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Mommy Book Report: Saving Sammy, Curing the Boy who caught OCD #PANDAS


This week I picked up this book while hanging out in Pittsburgh waiting for my son at camp. It was a quick read and one that I could not put down- perhaps because the physical and medical underpinnings of psychiatric illness are a topic near and dear to my heart, but partly because Beth Maloney tells the story as only a mom can, of saving her son from the horror of what she witnessed before her eyes. Beth, like so many other mothers I know, experienced seeing her typically developing pre-teen son “disappear” and become lost in the world of what the psychiatrists that she was seeing for him labeled as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and tourettes.  It was only through her searching and her tenacity to find out what happened to her son, that she was able to lead him to health (with a hand picked team of  enlightened professionals). Without giving away too much of the story, I think it is important to mention that the cause of her son’s “mental illness” was an infection that millions suffer from yearly- STREP. The condition her son was suffering from is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated (with) Streptococcus (PANDAS).  I highly encourage all moms out there to read this book, to allow it to broaden you mind of what may actually be going on with children who suffer from “mental illness”- from OCD to Tics, from Bi-polar to Autism… and ask yourself if medicine is doing all it can to properly diagnose and treat our next generation. In the past 3 years, I have unfortunatley gotten a crash course in PANDAS because a number of close friends have had children “catch” this illness that is unrelenting.  Recently I have heard many in the Autism community struggling with PANDAS in addition to their child’s autism.

I will end with some links to resources for PANDAS and more about Sammy’s story, which is truly remarkable. If you don’t have time to read the book, please take the time to watch these 2 videos about Sammy and PANDAS:

Beth’s second book on PANDAS

Saving Sammy FaceBook page

A resource for PANDAS testing.

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Childhood Behavior- Are they what they eat?

July 2015 Article in Pittsburgh Parent Magazine

Childhood Behavior- Are they what they Eat?

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Click on photo to enlarge and read article.

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To all the Mothers of special needs kids… on Mother’s Day 2015


Last night I read this awesome post:Why My Kids Chronic Illness Makes Me Grateful To Moms I Have Never Met

And I relized just how much my perspective on life including friendships have changed in the last 10 years…

I once browsed maternity stores with friends who were expecting around the same time as I was with my first child,  “as long as the baby is healthy” we would say…

that was long before I had any concept of  what newborn screening or mitochondrial disease was.

I once spent hours researching car seats, and cribs, high chairs and strollers

that was long before I had any concept that I should have spent a fraction of that time researching the vaccines my newborn baby would get on the first days, and months of life.

I once attended breastfeeding classes, infant CPR classes and prenatal classes with my husband, as we anxiously awaited the day we would become parents

that was long before I knew that the classes I would end up using the most information from were my college chemistry, and graduate school biochemistry courses in the wee morning hours looking for answers for my child on PubMed.

I once spent days maybe even weeks oogling and googling at my newborn son, as I basked in the glow of being a new mom

that was long before I became a mom to a baby who I couldn’t oogle and google with because she was in so much pain and discomfort in those early months that all she could do was scream.

I once joined play groups and moms clubs and spent my first child’s toddler years at zoo’s and museums and outings each and every week

that was long before I spent those same toddler years into and out of doctor and specialist appointments, trying to find out what was ailing our little one

I once fretted over which preschool my son would attend, touring half a dozen of them, camping out in line for the chance at a spot, waiting with baited breath to see if he got in

that was long before I had days and nights where I prayed that my child would be able to attend preschool, that she would be well enough to be in that environment

I once held back tears as my first born went off t0 that  preschool, and met with other teary eyed mommas for coffee to comfort each other’s anxiety over this big milestone

that was long before I would sit and comfort moms online, over the phone, or in person as their child went into surgery, when their child’s genetic test results came back , or when their child (like mine) didn’t meet the milestone that they were supposed to meet months ago.

I once was concerned with a few percentile changes on the growth chart with each well visit for my son

that was well before I would have a child who was labled “failure to thrive”

I once thought children’s medicines were safe and effective for all children

that was long before I had to learn about the dangers of acetaminophen for my second child.

I once thought chatting online to perfect strangers was reason for concern

that was long before I connected with mothers from all over the world, with children much like my own, who are on a mission to not only help one another but to change the world for the better, for every child to come…

Thank you to all the friends who have weathered the storms called life with our family over the years, thank you to all the virtual friends I have met whom I hope one day to meet, thank you to all the moms out there, whether your child has special needs or not, who work each and every day to leave this world in a better place. And to all the mothers of special needs kids out there, thank you for sharing your stories, telling your truth, loving and advocating for your child, and trusting your instincts.


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Thank you Elks!

This weekend, Lady A and I had the distinguished honor of attending the Pennsylvania Elks Convention in Gettysburg, PA.

Lady A was honored as this year’s “CHILD OF THE YEAR” for the Elk’s Home Services Program.  Unless you are a member of your local Elk’s Lodge or have had the opportunity to have an Elk’s Nurse from the Home Service Program visit you, you may not know what I am referring to. I am convinced this program may be one of the best kept secrets in all of Pennsylvania, especially for families with special needs kiddos!

When we moved here a few year’s ago, a few moms on a message board encouraged me to get an ELKS NURSE. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I called the number. A few weeks later an Elk’s nurse showed up for an appointment with us at our new home. Elk’s nurses do not provide direct medical care but instead are there to help a family NAVIGATE almost every aspect of life with a special needs child.  The Elk’s nurse, Ginger (now retired), helped connect our family with resources in our community, other parents, support groups and even nearby medical care. After she retired and Margaret became our new ELKS nurse, we were preparing for Lady A to enter kindergarten. Margaret was an invaluable resource as we navigated the ins and outs of 504 plans and the like. She even offered to attend any school meetings regarding these plans that I needed her to! What a huge benefit to have an advocate working WITH you for the wellbeing of your child! This service is offered to families for FREE with the generous support of Elks lodges all across the state, along with state grants. If you are intersted in learning more or requesting the services of an ELKS nurse in your area please call 1-800-986-4550 or visit this website for additional contact info- http://www.paelkshomeservice.org

We had an amazing weekend getting to meet all the wonderful people who support this organization as well as the entire nursing staff and leadership who offer support to families like ours.  Lady A and I want to extend a GREAT BIG

THANK YOU to the ELK’s of Pennsylvania!

Thank you for honoring Lady A and letting us take part in your conference. Thank you for showering her with attention, pins and sweet gifts! Thank you for the money you raised to continue this program. And ABOVE ALL, thank you for what you do each and every day to help families with special needs children so that their journey may be a bit easier to travel with an ELK’s Nurse Advocate by their side.

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