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Learning to Love the Casein-Free Diet for Autism

The week of September 20 is Autism Awareness Week at DietsInReview.com.

Janice Wright's son's favorite food: Oyster cracker & cream cheese

Janice Wright's son's favorite food: Oyster cracker & cream cheese

Guest blogger Janice Ellen Wright blogs about her experiences with her son’s school program for students with high-functioning autism and how this experience got her sent to the principal’s office for the first time in her life. Feel free to search for controversy at Autism and Public Schools.

When my son was about four-years old, and struggling with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), a behavioral disorder of autism, I bought a book titled Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery, by Karyn Seroussi.

I had no idea what the GFCF diet was, nor did I want to know. But Seroussi was such a thoughtful writer, I kept on reading. When she wrote something like, “How can you not try removing dairy, for your child’s sake?” I knew I had to try.

I never tried gluten-free because I didn’t know what my son would eat at all. He’s picky, with many sensory oral issues. Eating out was especially tricky – between what he couldn’t eat and wouldn’t eat, we just stayed home most of the time.

My husband thought I was crazy, until we saw some improvement. Our son’s tantrums were less extreme, his ability to tolerate the unexpected increased a bit.

After about two years we tried going off it over Christmas break, and his behavior did not deteriorate, at least, no more than any kid does over a school break. He ate a year’s worth of Goldfish crackers in a month, but still prefers Tofutti Cuties to other ice cream.

Now that he’s seven-years old and can eat anything, I’ve noticed he’s trying more foods – still one reluctant bite at a time, but it’s progress. Parents of kids on the spectrum know the terms “preferred” and “non-preferred;” for my son, foods are much more black-and-white: Favorite or Hated.

We find ourselves struggling to know whether a refusal to eat is a sensory issue or a control issue, spectrum behavior or age-appropriate testing of his limits.

Everything is a battle with my son, and sometimes the food is what I choose to lose on, especially during the school year when so many social demands are made of him all day long. He eats more processed foods than I’d like, and more carbs than I’d like, but his weight and height are fine, so we’ll just keep trying new foods a little at a time, and hope his tastes expand with age, just as mine did.

September 23rd, 2009

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