MAYWOOD — Like any parent, Chiara Aguedelo beams when her 3-year-old daughter plays with friends or tells her about her day. Aguedelo's smile at these otherwise normal activities might be bigger than most because she knows just a few months ago they would not have been possible. For that, she credits a novel treatment option involving marijuana.

While Audrey might look like your normal 3-year-old girl, she has had to work through what her mother called "gross motor delays" and was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder. The sensory issue was so severe that something as simple as a person walking by or a closing kitchen cabinet could send her into a full meltdown.

Chiara said after a considerable amount of research they decided to try a THC-free version of cannabidiol oil. The oil is an extract from the marijuana plant and is being widely used to treat a variety of treatments. The version of the oil they give Audrey does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive part of marijuana. She said the oil she gives her daughter is legal, and that because it doesn't have THC she felt comfortable giving it to her.

CBD oil first crossed her radar through mom groups she was a member of, and the more she learned, the more she felt comfortable with it. Now she is eager to share her story to help others learn about the treatment. It started with a conversation with Audrey's pediatrician.

"They said that if it's something that helps, then to try it. If it doesn't work then we're doing all the right things anyway," she said. "It's not hurting or affecting her in any other way because we're still continuing what we're already doing."

What they're already doing includes speech therapy, occupational and physical therapies, all of which she said they've seen new levels of success since they started giving her just a few drops of the oil daily back in May. Her dosage with the oil includes taking three drops orally at night and two drops in the morning. After starting with a smaller dose she said this seems to be the "sweet spot" for helping her effectively.

"I totally see a difference. Within the first month I saw that her aversion or anxiety when she would hear a certain noise was less," she said. "It's not a magic remedy or anything, but I've seen a lot of improvement in her. I can only hope to see more improvement over time."

The girl who didn't like loud noises or having things touch her is now just another happy 3-year-old playing in the sandbox, or finger painting, which makes her mother very happy. With lots of questions about medical marijuana and the benefits of CBD oil, Agudelo said she thinks it's important that people talk about the treatments, but also knows it can be a touchy subject for some people.

"There's a lot of judgement in every aspect of being a parent. This I feel is something we can't judge for each individual family," she said. "You don't want to see your child suffer or struggle or be sick. That's a really tough thing to endure. It's like gut wrenching to watch your child suffer like that."

Agudelo said even people she has known for a long time have doubted whether Audrey needs the treatment, or whether it is actually helping her. Questioning whether her daughter has a sensory processing disorder did not dissuade her from pushing ahead with the treatment, because she could see just how much it was helping her.

By talking about Audrey's struggles Agudelo said she hopes there will be less judgment and more openness to the idea that parents just want to help their children. She said she knows that often people think medical issues, especially with children, should be private, but that the stories and experiences can be helpful in a variety of ways.

"I appreciated the community that I found online for this, and for Audrey's sensory processing disorder," she said. "I really appreciated hearing everyone's stories. I figured why wouldn't I, she's doing so great. There's a light at the end of that tunnel."

Agudelo knows that even with this oil there are bound to be countless changes in Audrey's journey ahead. Her dose might change, her treatment schedule and needs might be adjusted, there might be more complications ahead. But for now she is just glad to see her daughter smiling and telling her all about her day.

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