Two years after his daughter with autism spectrum disorder began the world’s first treatment that sent electrical signals to the brain, an Ontario father says he is making “amazing” progress.
9-year-old Ellie Tomlyanovic of Barrie, Ontario. She suffered from severe and dangerous self-harm. But in December 2020, she became the first patient to enroll in a study to see if deep brain stimulation therapy could help control tendencies to self-harm. This treatment has been very successful.
In an interview with CTV’s Your Morning, father Jason Tomlyanovic said, “Just knowing that she knows what’s going on puts into words what it’s like for us. “It’s incredible to see how much she’s improved in the last six months.
According to Tomlyanovic, one of the biggest changes has been her ability to express her emotions and communicate with her parents.
“A lot of things have changed for us. She lets us know what she needs now. She chooses a variety of fruits and muffins — her favourites.
Ellie’s parents spent up to 10 hours a day trying to keep her from getting hurt, holding her down and even resorting to sedatives and antipsychotics. Now I can go hiking and swimming with her daughter.
“We can take her out for hikes. We have a pool for Ellie this year. She has been there all summer. She loves going to the pool and we It opened up her life and more things she could do, ‘what we can do,'” Tomljanovic said.
This treatment works by sending small electrical currents to disable circuits or areas in the brain that doctors think are not working properly. Doctors had to implant her two electrodes in her brain, which were connected under the skin to wires that were connected to a battery. In October, her battery was replaced with a rechargeable one that attaches to a custom-made vest made by a local seamstress.
“It was a bit of a work in progress,” Tomljanovic said. “It took about a month for her to get used to wearing the vest. It’s working fine.”
Tomljanovic says he’s most excited to be back in the pool with Ellie over the next year as the weather warms up.
“When you see her smile and jump, it’s unbelievable how much she loves water. I’m looking forward to it.”
See the full interview with Jason Tomljanovic at the top of this article.
Using files from CTV National News medical correspondent Avis Favaro