Going Wheat-Free for ABC
To understand where I am, you need to see where I’ve been.
In May of this year, I took my son, ABC, to a developmental psychologist due to some developmental/behavioral issues he was having. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in his screener that both the daycare and we as parents filled out. But there it was in black and white. He ranged in the clinical level for PDD-NOS—Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified—on both screeners. PDD is associated with Autism in the respect that the child demonstrates some characteristics of autism, however, not enough to say he has classic autism. So here I am sitting in this clinical office being explained what each bracket means, where my son has fallen behind, what next steps to take and all I can see is the label. I’m sure the psychologist saw the pain in my eyes to be reading and taking in all that was being said, and she looked me square in the eye and told me, “You’re son is NOT autistic. He has a communication issue (both receptive and expressive). He will be okay.” She suggested some behavior management classes and therapies for me to consider enrolling in.
From that day on, I researched, and researched, and researched. I stayed up late reading article after article and scanning through many books to figure out what could be done to help my son. I enrolled in classes to address his behaviors, created visual charts and calendars to ease with transitions, had my son evaluated for occupational therapy to address his sensory issues, had the school district come out to address my concerns and consider evaluating him to determine whether or not EELP would be appropriate. On top of it all, the daycare suggested a modified schedule of attending three days a week for no more than half day, due to ABC’s disruptive behaviors. As stressed out, tired and somewhat annoyed with the schedule as I was, I didn’t blame them. I think it was somewhat easier for me to see it from both sides—as a parent and an educator—and how it affected the dynamics of the classroom. I also knew that they weren’t trained to deal with the kind of behaviors that my son was exhibiting—hitting, yelling, screaming, tantruming for LONG durations of time, tactile sensitivity, sensory overstimulation, etc. Considering that they are “private”, they could have asked me to leave, no questions asked but they hung in there and worked with us. I may not have seen this all then, but looking back, I’m grateful for all they did do to help us out.
Finally, in the middle of summer, I came across a book about how diet can help with children who have ADHD and/or autism. Now, I know my son has not been diagnosed with either BUT I thought if it could help with these more intense conditions, I wonder what it could do for him. I mean, he did exhibit some of these behaviors, right?! So right after the 4th of July weekend, I started the Gluten/Dairy free diet. I kid you not, within DAYS we saw a difference in behavior and communication. The diet in combination with the behavior management system I had put into place seemed to be working for him effortlessly. No MELTDOWNS! Just to test out whether diet was really working, I decided to manipulate his environment and move from a controlled setting to an uncontrolled setting. Now, when we had gone out to stores, restaurants, parties, or any other place that would overstimulate ABC, we would have a difficult time bringing him down once he reached a certain level of arousal. Once he reached this high, ABC would have massive tantrums that I would personally have to restrain him in order to control his emotional and behavioral outbursts. Yeah, the stares from strangers were fun. So that first week of going GF, my husband Ben and I took him to Busch Gardens. To be honest, we did not know what to expect. ABC could very well tantrum in the middle of the park and we would have to scrape him off the floor, throw him over the shoulder and carry him out. But that didn’t happen. We went, set the expectations, gave him plenty of warnings for transition, gave him appropriate choices and there was not one single issue. Now some may think it was the behavior strategies that were implemented, but those strategies had been already in place for 5 weeks and changes were still somewhat minimal-to-moderate as far as ABC’s behavior progress was concerned. This particular week with the change in diet was more like leaps and bounds. He was using more words, starting to express himself verbally as opposed to tantruming, following directions and demonstrating compliance, and showing more affection. This was a new beginning for us. We finally saw some light. We finally could breathe a little easier.
This entire process has not been easy. You would think that during this time I would have been flooded with support, but it truly was one of the loneliest times of my life. This was a lot to take in, in a few months time and there were only a handful of people that were truly there for me and Ben. I have had family and friends make me feel like I was crazy for wanting to even try going gluten free. I had people tell me “He’s fine… He’s just being a boy… When I was growing up… He’s not delayed… He doesn’t need therapies… Gluten free won’t help… and, my favorite …maybe you’re the problem.” I even had people compare what I was going through to someone who they knew that was far more worst off (so supportive, I know). Some were talking about me behind my back and saying that I was being neurotic and going “overboard” with the whole diet ordeal. It was hurtful beyond words and I had been angry for a long time but had to realize that it’s a lack of understanding on their part of what the school system is currently like and the requirements that are being imposed on these children with the new standards in education. It’s all about school readiness and I knew that if I didn’t get ABC a head start, he would start out behind. I also had to understand that the typical public, is unaware of how contaminated our food supply really is. I have been researching food and health for well over 2 years and had some background knowledge on how the food we think is healthy, is affecting our neurological system. And the most important thing I had to do was continue to pray for the ability to forgive and the strength to keep going no matter what was being said.
ABC has now been wheat-free for a little over 3 months and is doing well. He qualified for EELP and started school in August. He currently is receiving Speech services and is using a home-based OT plan to address his sensory and motor development needs. We have seen ABC’s language and vocabulary flourish these past few months, behavior issues and incidents have reduced significantly (about once or twice a week and the duration is minutes long). Socially, ABC is doing well and demonstrates emerging skills in interpersonal and play. Both Ben and I would have to say that we see a totally different kid. We believe the diet, behavior strategies, therapies and school have played such major roles in his continuous progress of development.
ABC’s current diet
At this time we have reintroduced dairy back into his diet but it is given minimally. We also cut out preservatives and artificial colors/flavors as much as possible,. I recently, as in just a week or so ago, introduced Spelt flour, which is from the wheat family; however, the gluten that is in spelt is soluble and easily digested. Because it is technically still wheat, I watch how much I give him. So far, so good. To learn more about Spelt, check out my post HERE.
We are currently giving ABC a potent multi-vitamin by “Kids Natural Calm multi”. He also takes a probiotic (powder form), daily, that is tasteless and easy to hide in any cold drink.
Since I started this journey with my son, I have seen huge changes in my own health. I too, gave up wheat. I also gave up most dairy, processed foods, and have limited grains and sugar from my diet. I have become quite passionate about this lifestyle and have shared my experiences with other mom’s, colleagues, friends and family which all want to know one thing: How to dump the wheat in this overly processed world. So as I learn new things, I will post and share them on here as well, and also share resources, books, links, etc. in order to help those that want to go through the same process. This is not easy; however, your family and health will reap major benefits.
I have not completely gone towards a certain kind of diet, such as, Grain-free, Paleo, Primal, Keto, Adkins, etc. I simply have made changes to my diet that I feel suit me. I am continuing to educate myself on different diets and making changes that I feel are in my best interest. So there may be posts for grain-free, paleo, etc., but I am not, at this point, strictly headed in a “one way” direction. I’m just seeing what works best for my family and I and you get to come along for the ride.
My Rules for Eating:
• Do the best you can with what you’ve got.
• 80/20 rule—80% of what I eat are healthy choices based on my own research, and 20% for error’s sake. Because every now and then, unless you have severe conditions or restraints, a screw up is validated.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our family. Hope you will continue to follow us and see what we’ve got going on in our kitchen.
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