03 Aug

A Special Diet for Children with Special Needs

Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams

y name is Lisa Williams. I have been working professonally with children and adults with special needs for 15 years. I have experience with people with Autism, Epilepsy, Cognitive Delay, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Prader Willi Syndrome, and many other diagnoses. I became interested in this field of work at a young age. I have a sister who has a disability. I became her advocate when we were in grade school. I am old enough to remember when children with disabilities went to different schools. I was there when my sister was the first student with a disability to attend our grade school. I was there when the teachers didn't know how to care for her, and I was called out of my class several times a day to tend to her needs. I was there when she fell down the steps at school, and I was there when a ramp was put up to assist her. I think it was that ramp that got me "ramped up" about working in this field. To be in a posiion to effect change for people with disabilities has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I assist families in navigating through the incredibly complex funding systems. In addition to my position as Associate Director for a National company, I am a member of a Disabilty Awareness Work Group that educates the community about people with disabilities. I can't think of a greater way to earn a living!
Lisa Williams

Lets face it–controlling the symptoms and behaviors associated with many diagnoses can be quite puzzling. While medications can be very beneficial, they can also cause unwanted side effects. Furthermore, there is a lot of trial and error when a medical practitioner is prescribing a medication menu. So, what is a parent to do if a proper “med cocktail” cannot be found? What is a parent to do who wants to exhaust all possibilities before subjecting their child to psychotropic medications? My answer to you is to switch up your child’s diet.
Most people, when they hear the phrase “gluten-free diet,” automatically think of celiac disease. While it is necessary for people with celiac disease to eliminate gluten from his or her diet, it is also proven to be beneficial for people who have ADD/ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, thyroid disease, and other autoimmune disorders. People with these diagnoses often have a sensitivity to gluten.
For those of you thinking that the proof is in the (gluten-free) pudding, let me recount for you a story of a child who I know. He has autism and had many of the stereotypical behaviors that accompany autism. As he grew older, he became physically aggressive. His physician came up with a med cocktail that, indeed, decreased his behaviors. However; these medications totally changed his personality and left him a bit lethargic much of the time. After discussing their displeasure with the change in their son, the parents were told by the doctor to try a gluten free diet. This child was able to be successfully weaned off of all but one medication. He is displaying far fewer behaviors, and his own personality has returned.
To be honest, I don’t know if every family who tries this has the same results, but there is certainly no harm in trying. Once upon a time, it was very difficult to eat a gluten-free diet. However; this type of diet is growing in popularity, and most grocery store chains sell gluten-free brands. Out of curiosity, I took a group home menu that was developed by a dietician. I was able to find gluten-free products item for item on the menu at my local grocery store. So, if your entire family doesn’t want to switch to a gluten-free diet, you can still serve the same menu to everybody in your family. It should be noted that households that switched completely to gluten-free diet to support the need of the child report over-all better health across the board.
In  no way do I mean to discount the benefits of pharmaceuticals. I have seen much success with the right med menu. This article is meant to provide an option to those families who have not had luck finding the right med menu, or who want to exhaust other options before going the route of medications. I advise families who want to consider this change to talk to your child’s doctor about the benefits of a gluten-free diet.
Bon Appétit!

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