OUR JOURNEY WITH AUTISM
When my youngest 2 boys (twins) were diagnosed with autism in 2007 I immediately entered Google University, and began my search for answers about this neurological disorder that has impacted my boys (and us). I came across studies where children would improve by removing gluten, casein (dairy protein), and soy from their diet. And that’s what I did without hesitation. We decided to do this as a family, not have ANY of these foods in the house anymore. It was a tough year, to say the least. I didn’t know what I was doing, and my boys had some major withdrawal, considering all they wanted was gluten and dairy. They did not eat for 5 days. Everything I offered was thrown on the floor. I gave them electrolyte water on the 2nd day because I was terrified they would starve. I held strong as I read chat boards that this is common, calling it a withdrawal similar to drug withdrawal. The 5th day they agreed to try my chicken soup, and so they gf/df/sf journey began.
That was 7 years ago. They have come a long way since then. Head banging, toe walking, rocking, lining things up, staying in their own world, no speech, poor eye contact, poor gross motor, limited food selection, dark circles under the eyes, dissented bellies, and night wakening have gone. I give a lot of credit to the gf/cf diet. Yes, we have done many therapies along the way but in the first few months of changing our diet we saw that many of these behaviors were diminishing. We have not only been working on diet but also ABA therapy, speech, OT, self-help skills so I don’t want you to get the impression that diet is the only reason for their improvement, but more the catalyst in reducing behaviors, helping them learn more attentively and connect with the world around them.
The good news was that they began to improve, the bad news was I felt so discouraged and limited in the snacks, and food options I can give them. Fortunately, running a commercial kosher kitchen for a non-profit organization helped me read labels quicker, for example looking for a “D” on the front of the package would indicate it had dairy. But nothing prepared me for completely turning every recipe I had upside down with conversions. With much trial and error I have come to understand what makes things gummy, or dry, or why cakes will fall apart. All the things that come with allergen-free cooking. We were also egg free for a year 6 years ago, which made for many wonderfully yummy vegan recipes. Especially the pancakes!
Along the way, we also found out that my boys also react to tomato, corn, and potato in a bad way. Night screams, aggression, less eye contact, increased self-stimulatory behaviors would come up when I would prepare these foods. With that came the removal of most nightshade foods (sparingly will use zucchini and dried pepper spices in some recipes as these don’t affect them for some reason).
Switching over to a gf/df/sf kitchen has not only helped my twin boys, it has helped my second son, and my husband also with some of their health issues. We have discovered that the rest of the family can benefit from these restrictions. It has helped me remove my fibromyalgia diagnosis and joint pain. My oldest son doesn’t have his constant sneezing attacks every morning since removing dairy (he still eats gluten out of the home). My teenage son who had trouble focusing in school and hyperactivity is now maintaining a B average and calm as a cucumber. Life here is not easy, but it certainly is full in a good way. Mostly.
So, that’s a little bit about our autism journey.