By Claudia Kalb
Feb. 28, 2005 issue – It’s a winter night in Northbrook, Ill., and brothers David and Jason Craven are on the move. They’re watching a “Baby Beethoven” video. They’re bouncing on a mattress in their basement playroom. They’re climbing up their dad’s legs. David, 7, and Jason, 5, with their mops of brown hair, look physically healthy. But both boys are suffering from a devastating developmental disorder: autism. David speaks only about 10 words, still wears diapers at night and sucks on a pacifier. Jason drinks from a baby bottle. Neither one can vocalize his glee as he plays. Neither one can communicate pain or joy in words. Neither one can say “I love you.”
Since their sons were diagnosed, both at the age of 2, Barry and Dana Craven have tried a dizzying array of therapies: neurofeedback, music therapy, swimming with dolphins, social-skills therapy, gluten-free diets, vitamins, anti-anxiety pills and steroids. To reduce the boys’ exposure to environmental chemicals, which the Cravens believe might aggravate their conditions, the couple replaced their carpeting with toxin-free wood floors and bought a special water-purifying system. They even installed a $3,500 in-home sauna, which they think will help remove metals like mercury and arsenic from the boys’ bodies.
Warm and loving parents, the Cravens spent $75,000 on treatments last year alone. “I’m willing to try just about anything if it makes sense,” says Dana.