I remember hearing about diet for children with autism at the Wow Divas Autism Awareness Seminar in 2011. Since that time, I have tried to read up on the benefits of diet for people on the spectrum.
In 2012 I read a book, Facing Autism by Lynn M. Hamilton; the author talked about how the GFCF (Gluten Free, Casein Free) diet and supplements helped her son, among other things (You need to read that book).
|Cover Page for the book, Facing Autism|
Recently, I met a nutritionist, Ijeoma Ugwu. Talking with her, I appreciated more, the effect on diet for people on the spectrum.
For many years, there has been a debate, if children on the autism spectrum need to be on a diet. Why bother suffering a child and restricting diet? You tell parents not to give sugar to the child, and they will say they pitied the child and gave the child juice, sweet, biscuit, cakes etc. For some parents, it’s the thought of segregating the child that makes a special diet a no-go area for them. Many children are picky eaters, so what happens when the only thing the child can handle is what the nutritionists say are bad? I know children that eat only rice, nothing else; what can the parents do?
From my interaction with Mrs. Ugwu, and some parents who have taken the diet route, children whose diets have been tailored to meet their needs have shown a lot of progress in speech, and behaviour. She said that nutrition can help to address hyperactivity, poor gross and fine motor skills, and seizures. According to Mrs. Ugwu, nutrition affects symptoms from the cellular level. For example, hyperactivity can be a result of yeast overgrowth, and that can be addressed through proper diet. Some children show poor gross motor skills, so they may have challenge in chewing food, holding pencil, or they get tired easily. This may be as a result of Mitochondria dysfunction, and this can be addressed through proper diet.
As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I am sure that you have heard about diet, but you may not have considered it before now. A mother told me recently that the doctor that diagnosed her son said that they should stop giving him sugar, but somehow she and her husband still give him sugar. Another father said that the autism centre that the son attends told him to stop giving him sugar, but the boy was taking a soft drink as he told me. I guess many parents don’t bother with diet because they don’t know how much effect it will have on their child.
Although children with autism respond to different treatments differently, there have been so many testimonies of children responding better to therapy, as their diet is changed. Last year, a child I worked with showed huge progress, and paid better attention during therapy after her parents agreed to stop sugar. Although she was still a bit hyperactive, she learnt to be calm while in class or in her one-on-one sessions, and that made therapy more fun and effective. But somehow she started “snatching” her sister’s drinks, and the behaviour just changed.
Many parents can testify that their children get more hyperactive or aggressive after they eat a particular meal. It is therefore important that parents begin to consider the option of removing food that may not be good, and introducing food that is good to the child’s diet.
If I have not said it before, let me say it now, sugar is not good for your child. Giving the child sugar is not giving the child a taste of the good life, it is harming that child. The nutritionist is the one that can tell you exactly what your child should eat or not, but I know that fruits and vegetables are good. Mrs. Ugwu said that the greener the vegetables, the better. Turmeric, garlic, onions are better options than seasoning cubes for cooking. It is better to use your chicken or meat stock to season your food than the processed seasoning cubes (maggi in Nigerian language).
I don’t know if my post has convinced you to consider changing your child’s diet, at least I hope it encourages you to speak to a nutritionist. I’m sure Mrs. Ugwu will not mind you sending an email, and I believe that she will respond. You can reach her on email@example.com