"...verily thou shalt be fed." That sounds like a wonderful promise to me; one that I have clung to many days through this time. There are things that I have learned through this experience, but one that I feel that I have had a crash course in (with many tests!) is diet.
What does autism have to do with diet? Just almost everything. It plays such a big part in the health of a child that it is regarded as a therapy, and the very first intervention. Wikipedia defines a therapy as, "the attempted remediation of a health problem; a treatment." Why would a diet be considered a treatment for the autism spectrum disorders?
I found this excellent explanation at the first place I googled: http://www.glutensolutions.com/autism.htm
"Connection between gluten-free, casein-free diets (gfcf) and autism.Briefly, gluten is a protein, and so is casein. Gluten is a protein fraction found in all wheat, rye, barley, and most oat products. Casein is a protein fraction found in all dairy products. To most Autistic children, gluten and casein are the equivalent of poison. They leak into the gut, undigested, and attach to the opiate receptors of the autistic's brain. Essentially, many autistic children are "drugged" on wheat and milk products, as if they were on a morphine drip.
Although parents have been reporting a connection between autism and diet for decades, there is now a growing body of research that shows that certain foods seem to be affecting the developing brains of some children and causing autistic behaviors. This is not because of allergies, but because many of these children are unable to properly break down certain proteins.
Researchers in England, Norway, and at the University of Florida had previously found peptides (breakdown products of proteins) with opiate activity in the urine of a high percentage of autistic children. Opiates are drugs, like morphine, which affect brain function. These findings have recently been confirmed by researchers at Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. The two main offenders seem to be gluten (the protein in wheat, oats, rye and barley) and casein (milk protein.)"
I'll add one more protein that I learned of from Dr. Devin Houston of Houston Enzymes, and that is a morphine from the heme protein, which is found in red blood cells specifically in red meat.
As James was growing up, I realized that he was a lot different than my other two children in many ways. He was beautiful, (still is) and, although very tempermental at times, he was a very happy little boy. I overlooked so many things until it was absolutely unavoidable because he seemed so happy.
Would I have ever linked his behavior to food? Only if the Lord put the evidence right before my eyes--thank you, Lord! Looking back now, I can see it clearly. I especially remember when we would go out to eat at a restaurant. James would eat a few bites of a very limited selection, then he would get down and stand next to our booth or table for the rest of the meal. He was wound up like a yo-yo that you had a hard time reeling in--he could not be still. He had such a charming smile, however, that you had a really hard time stopping his activity.
Something else James really loved to do before his change of diet was to go to the front of the church at the end of the service and lead some of our girls in several rounds of the hymn, "Halleluia, Thine the Glory," in lots of different voices. It was hilarious at the time. Now I look back in disbelief, realizing that he had such a great time because he was essentially high on drugs instead of being a fun-loving, healthy boy. We called him "fun James," and he had the characteristic actions of someone that was under the influence. He would have a great time...until it was wearing off. Then he would become irrational, angry, and even abusive from the withdrawals. Of course, most people would not recognize the behavior if they were not able to see the whole cycle. Instead, it was viewed as "hyperactivity," and we were viewed as oversensitive.
I will share more of these stories as they come to me, but now I want to give you an assignment: watch for these children! They can be helped! There are more and more of them everyday, and they don't have to look, or be, an autism spectrum child to react to these proteins. They can be, "neurotypical," or what we would call normal. As I said before, I would have never connected food to behavior, but I can recognize a reaction in my children now quickly. There is a build-up of opiates in these children that affects their actions and attitudes all day every day. But at every new "dose," there is an increase in aberrant behavior. Notice bad behaviors; keep a food journal.
Some of the things that the gluten and casein would cause in James:
*reduced eye contact/attention
*inability to sit still
*sweating (due to food allergies)
*general disobedience-unable to share/self-focused
*falling down often, running into things
*running away from us/away from the house
Not all kids exhibit these same behaviors, and some will have others. James had some quirks that I remember and have heard of with some other ASD kids, like seeing tigers when he ingested these proteins, and having an over-abundant love of Thomas the Train Engine.
Keep in mind that adults can react to these proteins, also, and when in this manner it culminates as a mind issue such as schizophrenia, paranoia, or some type of personality disturbance. It would be disturbing to be on a morphine drip 24/7, wouldn't it?
Not all kids are helped as much as mine with diet, that is why it is called the autism "puzzle." There are many pieces to put together and mend. There are other diets and food reactions that make a huge difference in the behavior and attitude of a child. I'll talk about one that made a huge difference in my nephew, Will's, life and learning next called the Feingold Diet.
Remember that food is not the problem--just a symptom of things that need to be helped.