Our son, Daniel, is a 31-year-old man with Down’s syndrome. He graduated from High School in 1994 with a Special Education diploma. Since then, he has been employed by a cafeteria as a bus boy, and most recently as a front-end clerk at a local grocery chain. Daniel was always a very outgoing, social, happy and well adjusted young man, who enjoyed life. He was a pleasure to be around and brought much joy to our family. He had an active life. He is a first degree black belt, bowls weekly, participates in Special Olympics and belongs to a local social club for mentally challenged people. He has a brother who is four years younger and is an Airline Pilot; they have always gotten along with each other great. His father is an attorney and his mother a Registered Nurse.

One day in March 2000, all our lives changed. Daniel had what was called a psychotic episode. He became extremely paranoid, depressed, thought he was turning into a werewolf, and afraid that there were people out there trying to kill him and his family. No one can tell us why this happened. After thorough medical evaluation no physiological reason could be found to explain Daniel’s dramatic turn. Daniel was then evaluated by a psychiatrist who prescribed antidepressant and anti-psychotic medication.

It was a challenge to find professionals, who had any experience in dealing with mentally challenged people. We saw several therapists with many different ideas. We even tried “tough love”, as suggested by a licensed psychologist, but not to the extent he wanted us to. Looking back, we feel it did more harm than good in trying to resolve Daniel’s problems. One therapist even told us Daniel’s condition was just teenage rebellion, his psychiatrist did not agree. Over the next seven months Daniel’ condition deteriorated even more. There were days when he would not eat and drank very little. We could not even give him his Glaucoma eye drops.

Finally, Daniel was admitted to Ridgeview Psychiatric Institute for eleven days. While he was there, we went to visit him. Some days he would not even come out to see us. When we did see him, the almost constant look of panic and fear on his face was heartbreaking. When he was released from Ridgeview, all he did was stay in his bed; we could not even get him to go to church, where he had been a Eucharistic Minister. He was scared to go anywhere and did not know why. We were almost sure he was hearing voices and hallucinating, but he was unable to verbalize this to us. Daniel continued attending therapy (sometimes reluctantly) weekly and he was still on medications. It was a daily challenge just to get him out of bed. Very gradually, we started going to karate and bowling but he would not get out of the car, so we sat in the parking lot. He continued to be scared but did not know why and still had a look of fear and panic on his face.

In the summer of 2001, I stopped by Atlanta West Hypnotherapy Clinic just out of curiosity and desperation. I met Barbara Sands who explained how hypnosis works. I was very impressed with her quiet, soft-spoken manner and could see she really cared. Although she had never worked with mentally challenged people she was willing and said she would get back with me after speaking with her boss. I came away with some hope for the first time in quite awhile. Daniel started seeing her in July and it took three months before he would close his eyes even for a short time. He started to look forward to seeing Barbara weekly and it was his decision to stop seeing his therapist at the Psychiatrist office around November 2001. Daniel was still under the care of his psychiatrist for medications. We saw Daniel start to smile more, talk with his friends and be more willing to go places because of the hypnotherapy sessions.

Now it is 2003 and almost two years since Daniel started seeing Barbara. He now willingly gets dressed to go to karate, bowling, church, and his social club. He once again, is stating to take pride in his appearance and some days, even combs his hair. He smiles more, is getting his sense of humor back, and enjoying life again. These may seem like little things, but believe me it means so much. He has regained his interest in football, baseball, and basketball. He keeps up, by reading sports magazines, and once again, the sports section of the daily newspaper, is his alone. He has taken a job readiness program at Tommy Nobis Center and they are trying to find him employment. For the first time in a long time, he initiates conversations while out in public and even sees things that need to be done. For example, while grocery shopping, he puts the carts back, bags our groceries and straightens cans on the shelves.

Daniel is still on medication; his psychiatrist is gradually decreasing them and wants to get him on as few as possible. There are still times, when he is scared, but they are not as often. Best of all he smiles more and his wonderful special outgoing personality is shining through. Other adults, who have known him for over twenty years, have noticed the difference. Daniel is once again putting a smile on many people’s faces. He still goes to see Barbara and looks forward to it. For Daniel this is a time when she helps him to relax mentally and allows his mind to rest. There is no doubt in our mind that the alternative treatment of hypnotherapy has been the turning point in Daniel’s recovery. Sometimes thinking outside the box of regular medical treatment pays off.

By Alice & Joaquin