My Journey from Autism Mom to Mrs. USA: Bringing Hope for Healing to Our Community

August 13, 2019

By SafeMinds Guest Blogger Heidi Scheer, Mrs. USA 2019

The journey to my platform as Mrs. USA began long before I ever knew I would be sharing my story across the globe and advocating for the health of children with autism.

I have been competing in pageants for 25 years, however it was not until 18 years ago that my true platform was decided and my future mission to help change lives was born.

Like many of you, my husband and I welcomed our beautiful baby boy to the world with love and excitement. We were overjoyed when he met all milestones early, including rolling over, crawling, sitting up, and walking. We were singing his ABC’s with Barney and he loved being held and hugged.

At 18 months of age, he began to retreat into his own world, He stopped babbling and singing, and stopped responding to his name being called. He was no longer looking at us, and wanted to be off in the corner rather than with his brother and new baby sister. He was not progressing and was becoming more withdrawn and irritable and we did not know why. We consulted with our pediatrician, however he had no answers.

When our son was still not speaking in sentences by age three, we had him evaluated by the school system. They labeled him “speech and language impaired” and we enrolled him in an ECDD (early childhood developmental delay) preschool. It was there that we noticed increasing anxiety, behavioral outbursts, and continued withdrawal from interaction with peers. Four months into school, I received a phone call that I will never forget, “Mrs. Scheer, we believe your son has autism.” My husband and I were devastated.

I immediately began to research for answers, and mostly, for hope. I found countless articles and parent testimonials about special diets and biomedical protocols for children with autism, and I was determined to do everything in my power to help my son. He began speech therapy and we hired a relationship therapist to work with him in our home. I made appointments with several physicians/therapists, and we removed all grains from our home as we implemented a gluten-free diet for the entire family.

I contacted his teacher and told her he was not allowed to eat anything unless it was in his lunch box or brought in by me. When I spoke with his speech pathologist, she told me there was no scientific proof that diet would do anything for my son. I shared with her the hundreds of testimonials I had read, and told her I didn’t need scientific proof. I needed to learn from others who had walked before me, and eliminating gluten was something we could try while on our six month wait list to see a biomedical doctor.

Three months after removing all gluten, our son spoke his first sentence, “I love you too, mommy.” With tears rolling down my face, I looked up and said, “Thank you God!” We knew we were on the right track and dove in to every therapy and biomedical intervention we found to be a good fit for our son. We learned that what works for one child, may not work for another, so doing research and trying various protocols is crucial.

Over the next six years, our son was learning in a self-contained classroom and also  mainstreamed into general education classrooms for short periods in the day. Halfway into fourth grade, his team of teachers shared with us that he was ready to graduate from his current program and be fully mainstreamed…WOW! I’ll never forget the school psychologist saying, “We’ve never had a student with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) graduate from this program.”

Our son is now entering his senior year of high school, and is thriving. He has had two name roles in his high school’s musicals, has performed in choir festivals, is driving with his learner’s permit, and has competed in public speaking on behalf of his high school forensics team. He also earned his academic varsity letter for carrying above a 3.65 grade point average!

Fourteen years ago, were told our son may never speak a sentence or learn alongside his peers. Today, many parents of children with autism are also given no hope. I was fortunate to learn from those who walked before me and had the courage to share their stories, and now it is my turn to give back and guide others in any way I am able.

This is why I compete in platform-based (community service) pageants. Every pageant in which I have competed has opened the door for a new opportunity to help an autism family through conversations with judges, contestants, and audience members. Those encounters have led me to share my story though the media, which has brought me to Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Canada, and throughout the US. One of my most rewarding opportunities was meeting a mother of non-verbal twins with autism at a post-pageant event, and three months later receiving an email from her thanking me for sharing my knowledge and helping her hear one of her son’s speak his first words! We have been blessed with tremendous healing, and all those years of competing have prepared me to share our message of hope across the globe.

Not every child with autism can recover completely from autism, but I believe most can still benefit from the use of appropriate biomedical interventions to help ameliorate their unique physiological issues. When it seems like the world is against you, it is time to rise up and fight with everything you have.

As I always say, “Their futures depend on our courage.”


Heidi Scheer
Mrs. USA  2019

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