This is the cornerstone of my son’s recovery. This is where I started. (And this is what we still maintain with the exception once a week treat of real cheese on a GF pizza crust when we order from one of the 3 places near us that makes GF pizza.)
When my son was diagnosed, I headed over to the huge Barnes & Noble and bought every autism book they had. In the stack was Karyn Seroussi’s* “Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and PDD.” I wasn’t too sure about it, but I knew my mother-in-law would ask very specifically about any dietary recommendations for autism, so I threw it in the pile. (My father-in-law had lost his battle with colon cancer the year previous, and, if ever a war on cancer was fought valiantly from all corners, including diet, my MIL waged a brilliant and dogged campaign.)
As it turns out, 2000 miles away, my mom hit the book store and the only book on autism in the Books-A-Million in Goodlettsville, TN, was the same book. My mom read it in less than a day and immediately called me up. “Put down whatever you’re doing and read this book immediately!”
So I did.
And stayed up until the wee hours reading and crying and wondering if any of this story could possibly be true. My husband came home late from a business trip and found me finishing the book. I told him we had to start the diet the next day.
He wasn’t convinced. In fact, he thought pulling any food out of Connor’s diet was a bad idea because Connor ate so few things as it was. I spent a couple of days trying new things, not embracing it fully, but thinking about it HARD.
Then hubby left on another business trip and I took a calculated risk that sometimes it was better to ask forgiveness than permission. We happened to have some soy milk in the fridge for my niece with a milk allergy. So one day I said “Hey, do you want some of Chloe’s milk?” He drank it down. Boom, milk was out.
Gluten stumped me. I could figure out how to get rid of wheat, but the finer points of being gluten-free eluded me. It took me another day or two to nail down a couple of meals and then, boom, gluten was out.
Hubby came home from his trip. I told him about my experiment. He was skeptical but willing to have an open mind. He took Connor out for a mango lassi on Saturday afternoon–basically, it’s an Indian mango milkshake. Saturday evening out to dinner Connor was running in circles and flapping his hands in the middle of the restaurant and it hit me. He hadn’t done that all week. Four days without a single episode of running in circles flapping. It wasn’t because we were out, it wasn’t because Daddy was there. It was the diet.
After that my husband agreed to a solid 30 day trial of the diet. I gave him “Unraveling the Mystery” to read on his next business trip and we launched into the world of GFCF.
About 2 weeks later my sister stopped by to pick up a stuffed rabbit toy her daughter had left behind. We couldn’t find it. Then I couldn’t find Connor. We heard him upstairs talking to himself, so we headed upstairs together. We were still on the stairs when we heard Connor singing a lullaby. He had the stuffed rabbit wrapped in his favorite blanket. He was singing a song and putting his baby to bed. We were shocked. It was his first symbolic play EVER!
I looked at my sister and said, “I’m sorry, but that’s not Chloe’s rabbit anymore. You can’t have it back. That’s Connor’s rabbit now!”
That confirmed to me that dietary changes were worthwhile. I seriously went in to the whole experiment looking for a 1% improvement. I vowed to myself that I would crawl through glass for every 1% improvement in my son.
Carrots became Connor’s constant companion and we didn’t look back. The diet was no longer an experiment, it was my new avocation.
*Six months later, Karyn Seroussi sat down next to me at dinner one night at the Defeat Autism Now conference. When I realized who she was I burst into grateful sobs.