Still not much sewing happening here (none in fact!) but I’m hoping to be on the mend soon and back to normal. So instead of the usual sewing related post here, thought I’d share one that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. There was lots of interest (and some great follow up conversations) on my previous posts (here and here) on our little family’s journey with ADHD and SPD. Thought I would share a bit more about what we’ve tried and what’s worked and what hasn’t. I wrote this post and it was massively long so I have broken it up a bit and just doing this post focusing on how diet has helped my J. I’ve also popped in a couple of pics to break up all the text (IG/old ones as I don’t like to use current pics of my kids on my blog).
One of the main reasons this has been on my mind of late is we just had our last appointment with the paediatrician (specialist doctor in Australia, not your average GP). Yep our last – barring any crazy hiccups happening. The paediatrician is so pleased with how my boy is doing, that he doesn’t feel there’s any more he can offer at this point in time. There were major happy dances and high fives happening in my head when the paed said this! He has been wanting me to trial my son J (who just turned 6) on medication, but I really don’t feel that’s the right choice for us at this time. So to have the paediatrician say basically keep doing what we’re doing because it’s working? Well I pretty much heard the heavens open and angels singing choruses of Hallelujahs. Mum (my biggest supporter) and I took the kids out for morning tea to celebrate. We know how to live it up.
So some background. J was diagnosed with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) at age 3, and ADHD has been a contender pretty much since then, but officially diagnosed at the beginning of this year (once he started school). Our OT has also said that he has executive dysfunction and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) traits but not enough for a diagnosis.
It has been a long journey. Reallllllly long. And tough. And expensive. And it’s ongoing. But it is SO worth it.
We started down our path when J was 18 months old. That was kind of breaking point. He was SUCH a busy kid. I would say he literally never sat down and that’s not much of an exaggeration. Nothing held his focus. Oh and the climbing!! Once I caught him sitting on top of the stove, and he’d just turned it on – no harm done fortunately. That was the time I dared to go to the bathroom without taking him with me. Our house was like Fort Knox with babyproofing everywhere to try to keep him safe. It took two adults to supervise him if he was out in the backyard (twice he was out there just with his dad and took off over a 6 foot fence at age 2), or if we went to the shops. I was one of those mums with my kid on a harness. Got weird looks and laughter, but you know what? My kid was safe and that’s what mattered.
But it got worse than just the busy-ness. He couldn’t sleep. He’d wake numerous times at night then get up super early in the morning. He stopped making eye contact. His speech was delayed. He used to lick weird things – the floor, chairs, trees. Then there was the problem with certain noises. The lawnmower, the blender, the vaccuum. Those kinds of noises used to make J bang his head on the floor until he had bruises on his forehead. It was awful. I read so many parenting books and they all said “All children have tantrums but they will never go so far as to hurt themselves”. Well my kid’s bruised forehead said otherwise.
I’ve been around kids my entire life – been the babysitter, taught Sunday school, worked as a nanny, studied Primary Education at uni (yep I’m a teacher). But this was beyond my scope of experience. I had talked to doctors and they told me that he was just at the “busy end of the scale” and one told me I should take a parenting course as obviously my parenting style was not working. It was my mum (who is a nurse) who gently said I think there’s something else going on here – this is not normal behaviour, let’s look into it ourselves. Long story short, that’s when we started with diet. (For those interested, the Failsafe website is very interesting – that was our starting point).
As a kid I reacted to preservatives and colourings and was considered hyperactive. So Mum suggested I start there with my boy. So we did. It wasn’t just a case of changing diet for a few days and seeing – we did it over a few weeks – just removing preservatives etc. And it helped. But it wasn’t enough. We saw a GP who was also a naturopath and she had us do an elimination diet. Holy horrible 3 weeks Batman. That was TOUGH. The GP didn’t mention that J might experience withdrawals – or how bad they might be. That first week J was off the charts awful. I felt like I was losing my mind. But we got through it. Then we had to reintroduce some of the foods. It only took two days to discover that dairy and gluten were the culprits for my boy (in addition to additives).
Interesting little side note… We have since learned that with people with food intolerances, it’s often the food you most crave that causes the most harm. Guess what J’s favourite foods were? Bread and milk. At the shops, he would beg me for a piece of bread – not the lollies lining the checkouts, but a piece of bread. So it was really hard to say no when he was pleading for his favourite foods (which are typically considered healthy!). But we persisted. We changed the diet for all of us. I was pregnant with Lulu at the time and had terrible morning sickness. I found the change in diet really helped me with that too which was a bonus!
3 years or so on and we are still gluten, dairy and additive free. We are not celiac – just gluten intolerant. It affects us in different ways. For me – it makes me irrationally cranky (don’t even look at me the wrong way! ),fatigued and gives me terrible stomach pains and really bad brain fog. For J – his behaviour is off the charts – he stops making eye contact, can’t focus, can’t sleep, has major meltdowns, his little legs are constantly in motion, even when he’s asleep! All of these symptoms disappear/reduce when he is on the diet however. That’s proof enough for me.
I will say too – I was really pleased when we first started seeing the paediatrician and he didn’t poohoo the diet idea. In fact he was very encouraging about it and totally agreed that gluten and dairy were issues for J and he was better off without them (ditto for the rest of the family as apparently it’s often hereditary). Our GP has given J supplements that also help (probiotics, zinc, magnesium, Activated B complex) and we make sure he gets all his dietary requirements from other foods (we’ve even seen a dietician to make sure it’s all ok).
Diet is probably one of THE biggest things we’ve done that helps J. I’ve lost count of the times people have said “Oh that must be so hard” or “I could never give up cheese/milk/gluten/whatever”. I just think when it comes to your kids, you do what you have to do to give them the best possible chance. And yeah it is hard, but it’s worth it, so we make it work. Please note though, I’m not saying that diet is a cure-all for ADHD and SPD. Just that in our experience, it helps. Diet, along with OT work and other strategies all combine to make a big difference for my boy. We may need to discuss medication again at some point in the future, but not just yet.
Having written all this, I don’t know how interesting it will be to most people who read my blog. I’ve debated even publishing it. But maybe it might help one parent who’s going through some of what we’ve been through. If there’s interest, I can post about the other half of the journey – the OT work etc that we’ve done as that has been a big component in helping our family. Like I said – it’s been a journey. No one thing in isolation has worked, but a combination of them has made a massive difference.
And hey, if you made it this far – thanks! I’m hoping to be back on the sewing wagon soon (reallllly missing sewing).