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How Cannabis Transformed My Severely Autistic Son


Abigail Dar is the mother of 23-year old son named Yuval who experienced the first symptoms of autism when he was 18 months old. Yuval was later diagnosed with autism, a condition which affects 1 in every 160 children in the world, and 1 in every 68 in the USA.

The condition usually manifests itself at 12-18 months and is characterized by speech difficulties, inability to form human relationships and limited range of interest. It can also be accompanied with intellectual disability, tendency for self-injury, violent outbursts, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and epileptic seizures. “People who don’t live severe autism can’t really understand what it means. It’s life in the shadow of hell,” says Abigail.

Abigail and her husband relied on the advice on their doctors and the treatment he prescribed for their son. “Yuval is very restless and has a lot of anxiety, so when he was 12 years old we started giving him antipsychotic medication on the recommendation of his doctors. But he just became worse and worse. By the age of 17 he got epileptic seizures so we had to add epileptic drugs. And he also became when he was around 17 very self-injurious, biting himself until bleeding. And sometimes very aggressive towards his carers or towards me.”

Convinced that Yuval’s drugs were aggravating his condition, his parents started looking for alternative treatments and found reports that autistic children reacted well to cannabis treatment. They were unsure about it first, but decided to try it. As they lived in Israel, a country that is epicenter of medical marijuana research, the Dars were lucky to obtain a permit, although it wasn’t easy. Autism is not an approved qualifying condition in Israel, so doctors aren’t always happy to prescribe cannabis.

“When I started with Yuval, I had to appeal and he got his medical cannabis card under a mercy treatment. I mean they had no mercy giving him all these anti-psychotic drugs, but in order to get the cannabis he had to qualify for mercy treatment.” Once they put Yuval on the treatment, the results were immediately noticeable. “It was like magic. My son became a calm person, more concentrated, having a smile on his face. And over a year, he didn’t show any self-injurious behavior or any outbursts, which for me and for him is a miracle. It was life changing,” Abigail says.

Like many parents before her, Abigail decided to share her experience and take action so other autistic children can benefit from cannabis. She ran a campaign to get the condition recognized in Israel, and met Adi Aran from ShaareZedek Medical Center, who was granted approval for the first clinical study on the effects of cannabis on autism.

Abigail was aware that Yuval reacted to the whole plant better than extracts and is concerned that the study would be limited by the financial pressure and the favoring of single cannabinoids. “It’s going to be the first clinical research about cannabis and autism. And it must work, because if they gave clean CBD or isolated cannabinoids, and it didn’t work for autism, it would be devastating because people wouldn’t bother to read exactly what they gave. They would just read cannabis doesn’t work for autistic people.” This uncertainty led Abigail to launch a Crowdfunding campaign. “We have to fundraise at least $30,000 and with any additional amounts we can do more groups and more strains and really check it thoroughly for whole plant and learn what really works better for them,” she says.

In the meantime, Yuval’s progress has been amazing! “This is the person; this is my son without all the distractions that come along with the autism. He’s even started typing, saying what he wants. He typed today “I’m becoming more independent” – which is “whoa.” We’d done so much work with him, but he’s never been able to communicate his wants and needs before,” his mother says.

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