Parents embody a certain kind of power when it comes to fighting for their children. Especially when that fight pertains to their child’s quality of life. Band several parents together and you have a full-fledged revolution.
That’s exactly what’s happening with Clara’s Clubhouse, a non-profit organization founded by three mothers in Sarasota, Florida, whose children are dealing with sensory sensitivities and Autism. Not only is the trio breaking new ground for their kids, they’re sharing their knowledge and resources with other families, too. What sparked this uprising? Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, being used for treating autism.
CBD Treating Autism
The journey of Clara’s Clubhouse began when Nikki French met with her daughter Clara’s neurologist. “He told me she’d suffered brain damage while in utero, most likely from a stroke.” The 18-month-old was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.
French began researching CBD’s impact on sensory sensitivities. At Clara’s next neurology appointment, French mentioned her findings with the doctor, who gave the idea a nod.
Together, French and the physician did research over a six-month period. During this time, Clara received a Non-Verbal Spectrum Disorder, Level II diagnosis. Six months later, Clara began a CBD protocol. Her response was immediate. The day Clara took CBD oil, she ventured, for the very first time, into the family playroom, an echo-prone space filled with bright colors and toys. French was excited.
“This showed me CBD was helping her regulate all the sensory input she was getting,” French says. “It was like something clicked in her brain.”
Clara’s progress continued. Two months later, at a one-year follow-up MRI of her brain, all the damage witnessed the prior year had resolved.
Eventually, Clara plateaued on the type of CBD oil she’d been taking, leading to French’s discovery of Lunadoil. “November 3, 2018,” French recites. “It was the day our lives changed forever.” Clara started trying to communicate and make eye contact. By her fifth day on Lunadoil, she ate an entire meal using utensils on her own. “The addition of CBG [cannabigerol] was a game-changer for us,” French says. “It was the missing link.”
Lunadoil contains a one-to-one combination of CBD and CBG, another compound found in the cannabis plant. Today, at age four, Clara takes Lunadoil twice a day, reaching a total of 0.5 milliliters. The oil tincture is placed under her tongue, where it’s absorbed into her system. As she grows, Clara’s dosage will increase.
Anecdotal Evidence Spreads Via Facebook
Excited by what she was seeing, French started vlogging Clara’s progress on Facebook. It caught the attention of other families dealing with issues similar to Clara’s. It also caught the eye of a news channel, which featured a story about Clara’s journey. News channels in other states spread the word. French started getting phone calls from other families.
“The opportunities with CBD are endless, as is the good it can do,” she says. “I feel I have to shout from the rooftops.”
A mother hearing French’s siren song: Sarah Magro. Her son, Isaac, who’s the same age as Clara, also has Autism and attends the same pre-school and therapy clinic. Magro, a registered nurse, saw Clara’s progress with Lunadoil firsthand – Clara was starting to talk. “Finding something to help Isaac be able to say what he’s thinking was what we were looking for.”
After meeting with Isaac’s developmental pediatrician and regular pediatrician, the Magros got the green light to start him on Lunidoil in December 2018. Within a month, the team that works with Isaac – several speech, occupational and behavior therapists – started noticing changes. He began following directions, directives he’d never even acknowledged in the past. This opened the door for expanding his therapies.
“The Lunadoil made him so much more aware of what was happening around him, and the people around him,” Magro says. A downside, “With his increased awareness, he notices stuff he doesn’t like more now, too.”
As word circulated about Clara’s success with Lunadoil, French was introduced to Mindy Bittle, whose 11-year-old son Wyatt had been using CBD oil since 2017. “We had a lot of reciprocal information to share,” Bittle says.
At some point, Wyatt, who’s also been diagnosed with Autism, began displaying self-injuring behaviors, leading the Bittles to put him on the prescription medication, Abilify. The drug sent him into liver failure. Bittle began asking her son’s doctors about using a CBD tincture for treating Autism. Eventually, she received the go-ahead. Two years in, he plateaued. After meeting French, Bittle switched Wyatt to Lunadoil. His communication and interaction levels have noticeably improved, as has his willingness to try new things.
“Between different therapies and CBD, it’s definitely a collaborative effort,” Bittle says of his treatment path. “I firmly believe CBD has enabled him not to be on any other medication. And I’d much rather give him an herbal extract than something somebody cooked up in a pharmacy.”
As excited as these parents are about the success they’ve witnessed with Lunadoil, they’d like to see a push for more testing and regulation. Magro says, “I’m hesitant to go further without some sort of research behind it telling me what’s safe.” She’s concerned about the herbal-based medication’s potential to cause liver dysfunction. An initial concern she had has been allayed. “I was afraid Lunadoil would make Isaac drowsy, but it doesn’t at all.”
On May 3, 2019, French, Magro and Bittle received the articles of incorporation for the non-profit, Clara’s Clubhouse. Yes, the trio has officially banned together. The goal stated on the Clara’s Clubhouse website: “…to make sure that all children with sensory needs have access to tools and equipment to help them find coping and self regulation.”
The revolution takes flight.