2. Ummm…yup. Try it. That pretty much sums it up.
I admit to my strong pro-GFCF bias. It worked wonders for my kid. According to the Autism Research Institute, the folks who brought the whole (formerly known as) Defeat Autism Now movement to the people, dietary intervention has a pretty high rate success among parents who self-report into their database of treatments. Granted, it’s a self selecting bunch of parents, but anything with a greater than 50% rate of success deserves a good hard look. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Karyn Seroussi’s Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and PDD is the book that changed my son’s life.
One piece of information I’d like parents to fully embrace is that autism has multiple components–and in a biological system, like a little boy, that system is highly interconnected. Autism doesn’t just affect the brain. It affects the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, basic metabolism, and the immune system.
A gluten-free, dairy-free diet takes a couple of bullets out of the gun. Immune system dysregulation can cause a lot of grief to kids on the spectrum. A healthy, low allergen diet relieves some of that grief.
I helped run a parent support group in the Silicon Valley for several years. The meetings were geared toward helping other parents who were interested in pursuing biomedical treatments for autism. For almost all the folks who came through the door, the gluten-free diet was a deal breaker. So many parents didn’t even dip a big toe into the water–they didn’t even try. They’d show up at a meeting, find out we were in favor of healing their kids’ guts through diet, and never return.
I am well aware that they were stressed, they were stretched beyond anything they’d ever imagined, and that daily life was hell. I totally get that. And since there was little to no support from anyone else in their lives, they just bagged.
Here are some of the excuses I heard:
- We’re Indian.
- We’re Chinese.
- We’re Mexican.
- I don’t cook.
- My son doesn’t have gut issues.
- The food tastes like crap.
- I can’t deny my boy his Wonderbread sandwiches.
- It’s too expensive.
Really, the only deal-breaker I ever encountered that made real sense to me was when a family was caught in a very difficult divorce and there was animosity from the other parent. Every other excuse I ever heard was just that, an excuse.
My favorite excuse, BTW, was always “We’re Indian.” I think it was lobbed at me–blonde, blue-eyed, corn-fed farm girl type–with the expectation that I wouldn’t know what to do with it. But my husband is Indian and my mother-in-law has been a veritable GOLD MINE of suggestions and resources for alternate grains, recipes, and support. So, yeah, that didn’t really fly with me.
And for the parents who insisted their kids didn’t have gut issues, a few pointed questions, including (please pardon my bluntness, my Midwestern reserve got pummeled out of me):
- How are your kid’s poops? Constipation or diarrhea?
- Any reflux? Excessive burping or farting?
- Bloated belly?
- Have you ever been referred to a pediatric GI doctor?
…usually uncovered the truth: Their kid had gut issues. Don’t rule it out just because it never got so bad your child landed in the hospital.
If they’d listened, they would have learned there are workarounds for just about any challenge they named.
I don’t cook. What do you eat now? Learn 5 meals you can rotate.
My son doesn’t have gut issues. See above.
The food tastes like crap. So, ask us and we’ll steer you toward the good stuff. (On a related note, anyone whose entire foray into gluten-free food consists of buying 1 loaf of Ener-G bread…Try again. That stuff tastes like crap!)
I can’t deny my boy his Wonderbread sandwiches. What else does he eat? Today we have Udi’s bread available, which has freaking revolutionized my life. Try it. It tastes like BREAD!
It’s too expensive. Beans, rice, grilled meats, basic veggies, potatoes, GF noodles…not going to add much to your grocery budget. Look at these options:
(You know how I found all those? Google. For realz. It works. Try it. “Gluten-free + budget“)
Stop buying the $6 gluten-free cookies and learn to make 1 or 2 kinds to have at home. I say this being completely guilty of buying the Udi’s full line of muffins and Lord knows what else because I’m too tired and overwhelmed to bake. And my kids routinely refuse my food.
I have three kids who need to be gluten-free for three different reasons and I’ve been sloppy with my younger two, but that’s going to change. Stay tuned.