Been There, Done That

In this blog post, Patricia S. Lemer discusses what to do when you feel that you’ve “been there, done that”.

Tom and Annette’s Story

Annette and Tom were stunned by an article they read in Parents’ Magazine. A boy just like their Skyler had improved markedly on a special diet for children with autism. When his family removed foods containing gluten (protein found in grains) and casein (protein found in dairy products) from his diet, he had begun speaking and was now considered “typical.”

At first, Annette and Tom were skeptical and apprehensive about taking away Skyler’s cereal and milk. He could starve! But the immediate differences they saw were encouraging. He looked at them now, spoke in sentences and slept better. He still hated those tags and twiddled his fingers in front of his eyes when he was tired. They contacted me for suggestions.

Debbie’s Story

Debbie called from Maine. She’d read The Out-of-Sync Child. “It was as if Carol Kranowitz had spent a day with my Sarah. I found a good occupational therapist (OT) nearby who knew about sensory integration. She is a new child,” she said excitedly. “I’m wondering though, she’s had so many ear infections; she’s so pale. I’ve also noticed that her old tactile defensiveness returns when she’s sick. Why?”

Jane’s Story

I met Jane at a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) conference. She was a pro, speaking like a biochemist. Her pantry was squeaky clean, without a trace of anything artificial. Vitamin supplements were lined up like soldiers on her kitchen counter. Tim had been on the GF/CF diet and in occupational therapy for three years. He was now in his fifth loop of auditory training. Overall, he had made remarkable progress, but still had many “autistic” symptoms.

Jane proudly asked me if I wanted to see some photos of Tim. “Of course,” I said. Tim¹s head was cocked to the left in all four. “Who did you go to for an eye exam?”  She paused, “Oh, he sees perfectly well.” My mouth hung open. “What’s with the head tilt then?” I responded, unceremoniously.

What Now?

These are true stories of parents I have had the privilege of encountering. Annette and Tom found diet to be significant. Debbie discovered sensory integration therapy. Jane was an expert on both. On their odysseys, driven by insatiable desires to help their children, they have devoured information, learning more about biology and biochemistry than about their chosen fields. They had all “been there, done that.”

What Tom and Annette Can Do Now

Let’s examine each case. The profound difference diet made for Skyler tempts his parents to become even stricter about what he eats. They could look for other allergens that might be affecting him. However, he is unlikely to progress further without the intervention of an occupational therapist or optometrist. Important though it is, diet is only part of the big picture.

Skyler was sick for so long that he fell behind in sensory development. Although Annette and Tom should check for allergies, I told them to get both a good OT and a developmental vision exam too.

Skyler needs a good sensory diet to complement his GF/CF diet. He may also benefit from special glasses, a brushing program, Brain Gym and vestibular input. I recommended that she read Smart Moves and The Out-of-Sync Child.

What Debbie Can Do Now

Debbie realizes that sensory integration is also part of a larger picture. She needs to look at diet to address Sarah’s pallor. Her first step is to implement the Feingold diet. Removing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives will take a huge burden off her body. If she is a heavy milk drinker and a picky eater, the GF/CF diet could help her too. Debbie might also consult a nutritionist, naturopath or functional-medicine doctor.

What Jane Can Do Now

Tim’s case is so obvious that when I explained vision to Jane, she burst into tears. “Why didn’t I see it?” she berated herself. It’s easy to miss something when you are looking in the wrong room.

Jane had concentrated so heavily on diet and Sensory Processing Disorder that she had overlooked another key ingredient: vision. Any binocular, focus or eye movement disorder will wreak havoc with learning to read, maintaining eye contact, or “reading” people’s behavior. I sent Jane off to a local COVD-certified optometrist.

What You Can Do Now

Even though you’ve “been there and done that,” have you overlooked any important aspect of a child’s program? Think how easy professionals’ jobs would be if all parents were as well-informed as Annette, Tom, Debbie and Jane.

About Patricia S. Lemer LPC MEd

Patricia S. Lemer is a licensed professional counselor, holding a Masters of Education in counseling and learning disabilities from Boston College and a Masters in Business from Johns Hopkins University. She practiced as an educational diagnostician for over 40 years.

She was a co-founder and served as Executive Director of the international non-profit organization Developmental Delay Resources (DDR). After DDR merged with Epidemic Answers, she became Chairman of the Board. When she retired from the board, she became an emeritus board member.

Patricia Lemer MEd LPC

She is the author of three books, the most recent of which is Outsmarting Autism, Updated and Expanded: Build Healthy Foundations for Communication, Socialization, and Behavior at All Ages (North Atlantic Books, 2019).

Lemer wrote over 50 editorials for "New Developments," the quarterly newsletter of Developmental Delay Resources (DDR), from 1995 - 2009. When DDR wound down, she wrote an online blog, "After the Diagnosis, Then What?" from 2009-2017. Her articles and blogs have been updated and archived on the Epidemic Answers website.

Since 2019, Patricia Lemer has recorded a bimonthly podcast, "The Autism Detective." In these hour-long shows, she interviews parents and professionals about their experiences in maximizing the potential of individuals on the autism spectrum. Over 100 episodes are available on Spotify and other online platforms. To learn more, go to and

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Hannaford, Carla. Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head. ‎Great River Books, 2007.

Kranowitz, Carol. The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder. Penguin Random House, revised edition 2022.