Been There, Done That

by Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed., NCC, M.S. Bus.

Been There, Done ThatAnnette 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 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 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?”

I met Jane at a DAN! 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 OT 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.

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.”

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”.

Debbie realizes that SI is also part of a larger picture.  She needs to look at diet to address Sarah’s pallor.  Her first step is to call the Feingold Association. 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 an allergist as well as a DAN!-trained nutritionist or doctor.

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 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.

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.  I look forward to hearing your stories too.