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Confronting Autism at Carlisle Center for Holistic Medicine

Dr. Kathy Ferraro

Resources and treatment options for autism were hard to find when Katarzyna (Dr. Kathy) Ferraro’s daughter Rebecca first showed symptoms. Ferraro questioned doctors about why she wasn’t developing at the same pace as her peers, and they said the infant would eventually catch up. The official diagnosis came a year later.

Now 11, Rebecca has benefitted from the holistic health approach her parents and integrative doctor created to meet her needs. But the road to finding those treatment options was not easy for Ferraro, who now helps other parents find solutions for their autistic children at the Center for Holistic Medicine, in Carlisle.

When Rebecca’s pediatrician recommended Ritalin to treat the 3-year-old’s hyperactivity, Ferraro started to explore other options. Because local resources were sparse, Ferraro attended conferences organized by the Autism Research Institute and the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs.

Her mother also started Rebecca on a dairy-free diet that made hyperactivity more manageable. The family also incorporated a gluten-free diet and saw gradual improvement. Alternative supplements, including quality multivitamins and supplements that supported her energy production, also helped Rebecca’s behavior and speech development. Later, when it was discovered that the child might have an autoimmune condition that impacted her folate receptors, she was given a higher dose of activated folate, which improved general cognition and awareness of her environment.

At the Center for Holistic Medicine, Ferraro tries to help parents that want to help their children tackle similar issues. “The biggest thing is listening to parents and the family,” she says. “Things that may not seem like a big problem can be challenging in a family household.”

Ferraro looks at a child’s history, including how they do in school, both in general learning progress and interacting with their peers. Then she observes the child to see how they handle eye contact, whether they play with toys properly or if they’re able to use basic tools such as a pencil and scissors. Some of the behavioral clues help determine what biomedical pathways might not be functioning and could benefit from dietary or supplemental interventions.

“Although traditional medicine is beneficial and necessary in some cases, it is often a bandage to control symptoms. How did these children get their symptoms in the first place?” says Ferraro. “By looking at a child’s history, their physical needs, the labs and the environment, we can identify big players that cause their autistic symptoms.”

Ferraro has seen patients improve their behavioral and speech skills after holistic lifestyle changes are made. The results aren’t immediate, she says, but advances in general wellness such as better bowel habits, improved sleep and less frequent mood swings can greatly impact a family dynamic. “It’s great to see families find peace of mind in knowing that traditional medicine isn’t their only option,” Ferraro says. “The body isn’t fixed with a pill. It’s much more complicated than that.”

The Center for Holistic Medicine is located at 9 Brookwood Ave., in Carlisle. For more information, call 717-243-0616 or visit

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