Naturopath and weighted blanket business owner to speak about neurodiversity in children at Farm and Home Center
Intelligencer Journal - 12/5/2018
It was 1999, and Erin Gattuso’s mom was headed to the countryside to get some answers.
Gattuso’s family was constantly trying to solve her health issues while she was growing up.
As babies, her younger sisters struggled with faltering weight, more commonly known as failure to thrive. Her brother had autism, and Gattuso was prescribed attention-deficit disorder medication for much of her childhood.
Her family had access to the best of conventional care, given her father’s job as a cardiologist. And yet, they still weren’t finding solutions.
So, in an act of desperation, her mother put Gattuso and her four siblings in the family Suburban to visit an Amish doctor. (Gattuso doesn’t remember where the doctor lived, but she’s sure it wasn’t in Lancaster County.)
His conclusion: Gattuso’s mom and one of her sisters had parasites. The next day, they both were admitted to the hospital.
“In my mind I was like, ‘There’s so much we don’t know,’ ” says Gattuso, an Altoona native. “I was in second grade at the time. And so, that kind of, I think, was a really big influencing moment.”
Now 28, Gattuso is a naturopath hoping to help others find holistic solutions to health issues. She worked in San Diego with a geneticist before moving back to Pennsylvania in September to join Health by Choice, a store and practice founded by Ella McElwee, with locations in Manheim and New Enterprise.
Gattuso, who settled in Lancaster earlier this month, has given a series of educational talks since her arrival through her company’s nonprofit, Health by Choice Education & Research.
On Tuesday, Gattuso will give a free talk at the Farm and Home Center about pediatric neurodiversity and how to support children with ADHD, autism, depression and anxiety. Gattuso will be joined by Cindy Grebinger, founder of Sera Blankets, a Lancaster County company that makes weighted blankets.
IF YOU GO
What: "Neurodiversity: How to Support Every Child," an educational talk by Erin Gattuso and Cindy Grebinger.
Where: Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
More info: hbcer.org.
Naturopathy is an alternative form of medicine, operating on the belief that diet, exercise and other techniques can heal ailments without the use of pharmeceutical drugs.
Naturopathy has long been at odds with the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians in the United States. The association has worked to limit the reach of some alternative health care providers’ reach through the Scope of Practice Partnership, a collaborative effort with other medical associations and societies.
“Each year, in nearly every state, nonphysician health care professionals lobby state legislatures and regulatory boards to expand their scope of practice,” the AMA’s website reads. “While some scope expansions may be appropriate, others definitely are not.”
Licensure of naturopaths varies state to state. In California, where Gattuso formerly practiced, she was a licensed naturopath and could prescribe medications. Pennsylvania naturopaths, however, are not licensed.
“Out here, our scope is nothing,” Gattuso says. “We’re not even necessarily recognized by the state as professionals. So, that was a big pill to swallow coming back here.”
Path to naturopathy
Gattuso studied neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, with the intention of becoming a child psychiatrist. She shifted gears after working at a psychiatric hospital for a year.
“I didn’t see anybody get better after a year,” Gattuso says. “I was just so upset. I was like, I can’t do this.”
She was curious about naturopathy but wasn’t convinced it was legitimate until she shadowed McElwee. Gattuso then moved out west and received her four-year naturopathic doctoral degree from Bastyr University California.
After graduation, she worked with a geneticist to provide naturopathic care for his most out-of-the-box cases.
“I was basically thrown in the deep end and had to learn how to swim,” Gattuso says.
When Gattuso decided she wanted to return to Pennsylvania, she looked into Lancaster to see if the office here would be a good fit for her.
“I love Lancaster so far,” Gattuso says. “It’s fabulous. There’s a lot of culture here that I was surprised to find.”
Gattuso’s clients are mostly women and children. She sees patients for a variety of reasons, including neurological, immune, gastrointestinal, endocrine and pain issues. Her goals are rooted in regulating the body’s natural response systems to heal ailments.
Tuesday’s event will focus on children with neurological disorders and how genetic analysis, a nutrition plan and targeted supplements can help.
Gattuso and Grebinger were connected by a customer at the Lititz framing business Grebinger and her husband own.
Grebinger will give anecdotal experience about her clients’ success with the weighted blankets, which release serotonin in the brain and might help individuals with autism, Asperger’s, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, anxiety and other conditions. Gattuso will be there to answer any scientific questions about how the blankets help to regulate serotonin.
The weight of the blankets, altered depending on the size of the user, can produce a calming effect and allow an individual to fall asleep more quickly. Grebinger’s blankets have strips of weighted beads that slip into a cover, allowing the user to add heavier beads as a person grows, a feature especially helpful for parents of growing kids.
Since November 2017 — when LNP ran a feature about weighted blankets —Grebinger says she’s sold about 70 blankets. She has since hired six seamstresses part time to help with production.
One of Grebinger’s more memorable clients was a 5-year-old girl with autism who had never slept a night in her own bed. Instead, she slept with her mother in her parents’ room.
After the first night with the weighted blanket, Grebinger says she got some feedback from the girl’s mom.
“The mom sent me a picture of her at 8 o’ clock the next morning,” Grebinger says. “She was still asleep from the night before in her own bed.”
In addition to Tuesday’s talk on neurodiversity, Gattuso and physical therapist Carly Gossard will host an afternoon workshop about bacterial vaginosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, chronic UTIs, chronic yeast infections and other issues affecting female genitalia and urinary tract Dec. 2 at West End Yoga. Registration is $45 and available at westendyogastudio.com or 814-766-2182.
Gattuso is one of four health professionals hosting a six-week online class about reversing Type II diabetes and hypertension. The class begins Jan. 14. More information about the course is available at healthbychoiceeducation.com.
Tuesday’s neurodiversity talk is free and does not require registration.
Credit: JENELLE JANCI | Staff Writer