When my husband and I first realized, at three years old, that my son had autism, we were relieved. I know that sounds strange to say but the realization gave us a reason for why we were having such a challenging time with him. We had always assumed we that as first time parents we were just having a hard time with this parenting thing. So it was a relief to know we were being presented with more than your usual infant and toddler trials and tribulations.
As soon as we recognized what was going on with my son we got him on the waitlist for assessment and an official diagnosis. We knew we might have several months before his name came to the top of the list so I figured there must be something we can do in the mean time. So I started researching.
At times like this the internet can be your best friend and your worst enemy. It is a huge wealth of information, some good, some bad and most of it somewhere in-between. But what I couldn’t ignore in all of my research was the huge amount of testimonials and references by other parents to a gluten free and casein free diet in relation to autism. Parents were talking about the significant improvements they were seeing in their child after starting this restricted diet.
I decided this GFCF diet was something I could implement while we waited for our assessment. Well! I had no idea what I was in for! Talk about overwhelming trying to take things like milk, yogurt, bread, crackers and cheese out of a preschooler’s diet. But, through several meal disasters, a cranky child and a few tears from me, we persevered.
One evening, about one month into the diet, we were sitting as a family watching television. Suddenly, my son turned to me and said, “I am so happy. Dada is cuddling with me.” I looked at my husband and we both started to tear up. My son had never used the words “I” or “me” before. And, not only had he just used those words, he had also expressed an emotion and the reason for that emotion! We knew then that we were onto something and all of our hard work with the GFCF diet was starting to pay off.
From then on the improvements mounted. My son’s speech took off. He was no longer restricted to echoing everything we said. His usual routine of huge meltdowns, several times a day, started to go away. His social skills improved. His repetitive behaviours stopped. He no longer had split second, unpredictable, mood swings, at least not more than your usual preschooler. His digestion improved and so did his bowel movements. I finally didn’t have to count how many days in-between bowel movements because he went every day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The diet didn’t cure my son. He still had challenges. And he still does to this day. But the improvements have been amazing. He is now available to learn. He just finished grade one and we are so proud of him.
I know that the diet, in combination with other interventions, are the pieces of the puzzle that will help to bring him a happy, fulfilled life. And isn’t that what we all want for our kids? We just want them to be happy.
I am such a believer in this diet that I now help other parents transition their child with autism to the GFCF diet. It’s second nature to me now so it’s great to be able to make it easier on other parents who want to give it a try. I’m even taking courses to become a registered nutritionist so I can expand my services. I joke with people that I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up until I met my son. Now I have something that I am passionate about and I will always be grateful to my son for bringing this experience into my life.