Jack's Journey: WSAZ's Melanie Shafer Opens up About Autism Clinical Trial

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two months might not mean a whole lot to most of us. But two months into a clinical trial for autism, WSAZ.com's Melanie Shafer is seeing changes in her son Jack.

"He's always talked to adults because we don't give up, we will get right in his grill until he answers a question," she explained.

It is the new chatty Jack, full of spontaneous conversation, that really has her smiling.

"It's pretty exciting, and it's funny to hear him play, even with my own children, it's just a whole different level than it used to be," Melanie said. "He was verbal beforehand; he's just a lot more verbal now."

She continued, "The other day he needed something, and I asked him 'where is it? And he immediately turned around and said, 'It's in your room, Mom.' And it just took my breath away. I was like, "OK, I will go get it!' "

Jack takes five pills a day as a part of the study. The medication already has been approved by the FDA as safe for Alzheimer's patients.

"They saw such a boost in communication in Alzheimer's patients," Melanie said. "They wanted to see how it would work in this population."

It's more than just mom who is seeing a major difference.

"But people at school are remarking how much more he is talking," Melanie said. "People at school are saying, 'I would always say hi to him in the hallway, but he wouldn't respond.' Now he is responding, now he is saying it without even them saying it first."

Jack is getting homework done faster than ever. His concentration is also improving.

"He seems to be more clear, almost like he hears me better, like it's just helping to filter out the other things that kind of overwhelm his senses sometimes," Melanie said.

She does have a few concerns. She said Jack always had nosebleeds, but they seem to be getting a little more intense. She is also concerned about the weight he is gaining.

Melanie's decision hasn't come without criticism.

"Some people have been not very nice and said I am making my baby a guinea pig, which yes and no," she said. "Any medication you try, you take the risk it is not going to agree with you."

You can find out more about the study by calling the clinical trials unit at Charleston Area Medical Center at (304) 388-9945.

Click on the link to find out where else the studies are happening throughout the United States and around the world.

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