As odd as it may sound, your child's diet may be a big factor in his behavior. Problems such as tantrums, not sleeping, lack of awareness, irritability, gastrointestinal issues, and many others, might be caused by what your child is eating. Many parents have seen huge benefits by putting their child on a Gluten-Free/Casein-Free (GFCF) diet. Simplified, a GFCF diet eliminates ingredients such as wheat flour, milk and other dairy products. There seems to be a correlation with children on the Autism spectrum (Autism, PDD-NOS, ADD/ADHD) and those that simply can't process these proteins, or are actually allergic to them.
Susan Ellis found her son Ryan, (finally diagnosed with Autism/PDD-NOS at age 3 ½), thrive after eliminating these items from his diet. At almost four years old, Ryan had violent tantrums, would not listen to any direction, and did not understand what common objects were called or that people had names. He simply didn't care to know about such things. After only two weeks of eliminating milk and gluten, he began putting words together to make sentences! He began noticing things around him. He began pointing to artwork that he had created in school that had been hanging on his wall for over a year. He called out what they were almost like he had never seen it before and his mother had just put it up the night before. What seemed like a drug “haze” that had engulfed Ryan for years began to dissipate, and Susan began to see glimpses of her beautiful and happy boy emerge.
Susan says that baking and freezing has become just one of those routine things that her family does. Although she and her husband are not on the diet, they know that it is critical for both of their sons to remain GFCF. They bake double batches of GFCF muffins, waffles, pancakes, cupcakes, zucchini bread, etc, and freeze them. They simply defrost them overnight for the next day. Ryan, now age 6, loves to cook too and helps to measure and mix the batter!
Trying the GFCF diet may be the quickest and least invasive option you can try with your child. It might be a frustrating and seemingly overwhelming task for a few weeks, but if you can see the results that so many other parents have seen in their children, it is well worth the effort!! Here are some helpful places to read more about being GFCF.
Autism Web - Web Site
This is a wonderful website to learn about the GFCF diet and find books and helpful tools for helping your child on the spectrum:
Savory Palate Web Site
Cooking Free by Carol Fenster, Ph.D. Easy GFCF recipes that also offer many substitutes for those that may also have to avoid other ingredients such as eggs, soy, etc.
Stephanie Smith - Eating Away Autism
Stephanie Smith was Susan's GFCF consultant. She has written a self-published guide to being GFCF that is down-to-earth and easy to read.
Another big piece of the puzzle for each child suffering with Autism, may be found through additional bio-medical intervention. Typical pediatricians may not understand nor look into underlying causes of your child's symptoms. Your child may be suffering from candida overgrowth, extreme vitamin deficiency, metal toxicity, and many others.
Even though your child may be eating a “healthy diet”, doesn't eat lead paint chips, etc; the problem may lie in how your child's body is processing, or not processing, typical food or environmental factors around him. He may need massive dosages of B12 or other vitamins just to ensure that his body will actually absorb the “recommended daily amount”. Your child may not be able to eliminate metal toxins that typical children may come in contact with everyday, and which may build up over time and cause neurological issues. Sometimes a simple supplement like DMG, may eliminate an obsessive compulsive behavior!
Around the country, there is an increase in bio-medical doctors called DAN! Doctors (Defeat Autism Now) that specialize in treating children on the Autism Spectrum.
Susan's Story about biomedical intervention
Although the GFCF diet was a huge piece that helped Ryan get back into our world, one of his biggest issues is candida overgrowth (aka yeast). When Ryan's yeast levels are high, he has difficulty with basic comprehension-even regarding the simplest of tasks, he can be very emotional, have explosive tantrums, and have trouble sleeping through the night. Natural yeast occurs in every body but remains in a delicate balance with good bacteria that keeps it proportional. When antibiotics are used that kill off the good bacteria, the yeast can overpopulate. Similar to when women get yeast infections after they take antibiotics, high yeast in Ryan escapes his gastrointestinal track and causes neurological problems. When we notice these symptoms start to rise, we take an anti-yeast medication prescribed by his bio-medical/DAN! Doctor, and he becomes his sweet self again within a week. He is a completely different child when his yeast levels are high! To keep his yeast in-check, we also give him pro-biotics (acidophilus) everyday, and keep his sugar and fruit to a minimum each day. Yeast feeds on sugar. Even too much fruit can raise natural sugar levels in his body, and quite frankly, it just isn't worth it. He suffers too much when he can't comprehend things and is frustrated.
Ryan and Cameron do have moderate levels of metals in their bodies that we eliminate (detoxify) regularly through prescriptions. But there are many more natural methods available to help with this. We have found several vitamin deficiencies, and food allergies that cause behavior issues with both boys. We mix these vitamin supplements in applesauce and melted raspberry sorbet every day. Ryan's eye contact has drastically improved since we introduced oral B12 drops daily. Vitamins and supplements can provide an amazing effect! Ryan used to be very obsessive-compulsive about lining things up and putting things in the color spectrum of the rainbow. Ryan takes DMG twice a day - a tasteless powder that we mix in strawberry applesauce. The obsessive behavior stopped within a week! One summer I kept forgetting to give him his afternoon dosage for about a month, and sure enough, his obsessive behavior returned. Sometimes, accidents like this can make you more aware that biomedical intervention really can make a difference!
Therapy and early intervention will be a key component in helping your child succeed. Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA), Floortime, and others can be researched on the web.
An informative site that details therapies and books about each program is:
Susan's story about therapy programs
After two months of Ryan on the GFCF diet and other biomedical interventions, Ryan began ABA therapy. It was truly amazing! Now that Ryan was out of his “haze”, he was able to learn. And he learned that he loved…. to learn! He worked very hard and had fun each day. The success for us was using positive motivators that HE enjoyed. Introducing $1 toys that had multiple pieces all different colors would work like a charm-Ryan liked to put things in the rainbow color spectrum. If he worked and was rewarded with a pink rubber worm, he would work hard to get the red one, the yellow, etc. Try to find therapists that match your child's personality, and a reward system that makes it fun and rewarding for your child. I can't even imagine where Ryan would be without ABA therapy. Through this intensive, but positive, therapy, he has shown all of us how smart he really is!!
Ryan has received speech therapy and occupational therapy since he was two years old. We also tried Hippo (horse) therapy for a year. I truly believe having success in any therapy is dependent upon having a good therapist! If your parental “gut” is telling you that your child is not enjoying therapy or benefiting as well as you would expect, try changing therapists. A good therapist should make steady progress with your child -- finding ways to make therapy fun and rewarding, and base their approach on each child's personality and ability.
Another therapy that helped Ryan is Therapeutic Listening Therapy. This therapy is performed with special music using headphones. It helped Ryan with his sound sensitivity and improved his attention and focus. This therapy must be initiated and monitored through a certified therapist. For more information on this therapy go to the link below:
Visuals: Social Story Books
Simply put, if your child learns better visually, use more visual methods to communicate and teach. It is amazing the power that pictures can have on children on the Autism spectrum! Creating a simple, social storybook can help your child finally understand something that both of you may be struggling with each day.
Or it could help your child understand some new change that will be happening soon: a trip, a new school, going to a baseball game, etc. If you find that you are telling them something over and over, but it is just not “getting through”-try making a simple picture story about it.
When creating your story, remember to make it simple. Use lots of pictures, short sentences, positive terminology, and include your child's name in the story. Make it happy, and make sure the outcome that you want to have is demonstrated in a positive manner. The internet is full of images that you can use.
Go to the link below for many free pictures and ideas that focus on social and self-help issues:
1. Make “if/then” cards when you need them (ex. If you scream, then time out).
2. Make your own picture schedule for the day to help relieve anxiety.
3. Photograph food choices to help them make a choice and feel more in control.
Today, there are numerous ideas and resources on the web if you search “social stories”. However, here are some additional links:
Learn more about writing social stories:
To buy some social stories already written, but which you can personalize and customize:
Visuals: Other Videos
Our programs are wonderful videos for children living with Autism who are learning to write and draw.
But other videos are also available that can also help special needs children learn other skills.
Watch Me Learn Web Site
Created by another mother of a child with Autism, Watch Me Learn videos are fun and engaging and have real children model many play skills. They will be exposed to a variety of skills, concepts, and conversational speech. These videos are great for using simple sentences, which are very helpful for a child to understand and imitate sentences appropriately.
Model Me Kids Web Site
Model Me Kids has several videos which teach social skills. Their videos are a little more advanced and may be a bit more appropriate for higher-functioning Autism, Aspergers, or older children on the autism spectrum. The videos are well done and have children modeling correct behavior and also incorporate the use of generalization in their concepts.
Baby Bumble Bee Web Site
For basic vocabulary, Baby Bumble Bee videos are great for early learners. They might also help with verbalization since they do a great job of repetition and generalization of visuals.
Baby Babble Web Site
The Baby Babble video was created by two speech therapists. This video concentrates on basic vocalization.
Click Here to go to Talking Child.com for additional information
Products & Games
There are many great toys and therapy products that your therapist may use with your child. Numerous products, games, and therapy equipment can be found in special needs catalogs. These catalogs are free, and a great resource for any parent with a special needs child: