Meet Dr Deibby Mamahit, a Mum of Two Kids With Autism Who Helps Parents Just Like Her
Mother's Day is a time to honour the incredible women around us who seamlessly juggle work and motherhood, who make sacrifices and who perpetually put their families ahead of themselves.
This Mother's Day, we decided to speak to a mum who is out there doing everything for her kids and sharing everything she has learnt with other parents and kids in Singapore and around the world.
Dr Deibby Mamahit is an autism and brain health consultant who has four kids of her own. When two of her kids were very young, they were diagnosed with autism. This led Dr Deibby down the rabbit hole of autism information, support, therapies and more.
However, this fearless mum was unsatisfied with what she could find here and decided to travel around the world to engage some of the world's best doctors and specialists to find answers for her beloved kids.
She later brought everything she learnt back home to her kids and decided to share what she had learnt with other parents through talks, conferences and Brainworks, a health centre that she founded to help parents and children learn about autism. Brainworks provides neurophysiological testing, comprehensive examinations and support to kids who need it.
Read on to find out more about the incredible Dr Deibby Mamahit and her health centre.
When and how did you find out that your kids had Autism?
DM It was at the end of 2008. My eldest was two years and 10 months old and my younger one was one year and six months old.
What did you do when they got diagnosed?
DM As parents, we wanted to be wrong. We wanted to believe that there was nothing wrong with our kids and that we were just making things up. So after this period of denial, we knew we need to do something. So we went to try to get the diagnosis confirmed. It sounds easy but it turns out that we really couldn't get the diagnosis right away.
It was not easy to get them diagnosed because it was deemed too early. So we didn’t get a formal autism diagnosis until they were at preschool age. My husband and I are both medically trained. So, when they were diagnosed with speech delay and global developmental delay, we knew that there was something more to it. Speech delay and global developmental delay is an official autism diagnosis.
Was the diagnosis of your kids the reason why you decided to research autism and to specialise in it or were you always interested in the condition?
DM It was as far as far can be from my previous interest. I was trained as an emergency physician, and I had my clinical fellowship at the National University Hospital. So I only started to learn about autism when my kids were diagnosed. There was no other way around it.
What made you decide to travel around the world to find answers to your son’s condition?
DM We tried every possible treatment available at that time in Singapore and the children just weren't getting better. So I started joining conferences on autism. I was trained as a Defeat Autism Now (DAN) physician as well but there is a limit to what you can learn from conferences.
So I started to write or personally persuade the autism experts I came to know to allow me to learn from them directly. For example, the legendary Dr Sydney Baker in Sag Harbour, Dr Kenneth Bock in Rhinebeck, Dr John Green in Portland and Dr David Berger in Florida and so many more amazing doctors who allowed me to learn from their clinical experiences.
I then learnt functional medicine from Bridgeport University, the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), and Soukhya Institute in India. I am also a member of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) and Fellowship in Environmental and Nutritional Medicine (FINEM).
What were some memorable experiences you had during your travels?
DM Over the summer of 2010, I met Dr Timothy Buie, a leading gastroenterologist from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital. After some persuasion, he allowed me to come and learn from him in the Lurie centre for Autism at Harvard.
I joined Dr Buie to see his clients and observed the procedures. I also learned from the famous Dr Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist who wrote the book, Autism Revolution, that there is a significant connection between the gut and the brain.
The principal investigator in Transcend, Dr Kathleen Martin, showed me their research lab as well. She showed me a special EEG that can detect electrical patterns of the brain. This interpretation is very useful in the detection of autism and it can be even used in babies. Unfortunately, there are too many red tapes around it so it is still in the lab and not widely accessible for clients.
I certainly got to learn so many things that I would not have known otherwise.
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When did you start Brainworks and what was the journey like when it came to starting it? Did you start out at a public hospital?
DM I started Brainworks very recently in May 2019. At that time, my eldest child was finally doing well in school and my second child was having breakthrough after breakthrough.
I decided to stop working in the hospital at that time to pay full attention to the children and to pursue the search for an answer for my kids. I have actually been helping many parents since 2013 but I did it primarily from my home. I gave people a lot of advice but it's just not sufficient. I need a brick and mortar space to help more people. That’s why I decided to start Brainworks.
When did you start giving talks and speaking at symposiums? What do you hope to achieve through these talks?
DM I started this in 2013. But in 2015, I was invited by Dr Toshio Inui, one of my teachers, to be a keynote speaker in one of the biggest integrative medicine conferences in Japan. From then on I have spoken in 15 different countries about autism. I've also got the opportunity to speak at leading universities such as Kyoto University in Japan.
When the audience is mostly made up of doctors, my aim is always to share with them the excitement of offering the possibility of healing to clients. Over the years, more doctors from Japan, the United States, Europe and Australia have begun to use some of the methods I proposed with great success.
When the audience is primarily made up of parents, I try to convey the hope and the message that parents are the greatest resources for their children and the fact that parents are the motor and the motivation to be better for these beautiful children.
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What is the best part about giving consultations to clients with autism?
DM The joy in helping parents to experience hope and seeing their children blossom in front of their eyes for sure. I also really love the privilege of being there along their journey.
What are some of the downsides?
DM Many people think I am crazy for saying there is an answer to autism or even recovery from autism. People say that autism is not a disease and people can't recover from something if there is no disease.
I can only say that there are so many research papers out there that link the connection between the child’s gut and brain health and the severity of autism. If we give the children the right environment and nutrition, their health will improve and so will their level of severity.
How are your kids today?
DM My eldest child is now in a mainstream school. He writes e-novels and he is a local junior toastmaster. He will reach a new milestone in his public speaking soon when he completes his 10th project this year.
My second son is now able to use his voice to speak intentionally. He has memory finally. Until he was nine, we were not able to get him to memorise a single word. He is connected to us and has the ability to learn new things.
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