I have had such amazing feed back about our beginning journey with Sensory Processing Disorder. Over and over again parents say, “it’s like you are sitting in my living room writing this story about my child!”
I appreciate all of the support you’ve offered me with success stories from your grown kids, and those of you who have trusted me and reached out for support and advice about your own struggling child.
I thought I’d answer some of the top questions I’ve been asked about my son and our experience with SPD in a series of blog posts. Today’s question: Could it also be food allergies? Have you tried going gluten free?
Funny you should ask. We do have some serious food allergies in our family, though my son never had to deal with them. I carry Epi Pens always because of my other children. Plus my husband’s father has Celiac and has for over a decade. So yes, I considered food allergies.
I was suspicious that wheat was affecting my SPD son. I felt like it was making him angry. Could it really make someone angry? It was as if there was ZERO time between when my son was upset and his reaction. I think he’ll always have a shorter fuse but if i could just give him a few extra seconds to use the behavioral techniques he’s learned to calm him down, we might have success. The problem: there was no time. It was like his brain was hijacked. All. The. Time.
Finally I got serious and pulled him off of wheat. He’s been gluten free for 8 weeks (minus the occasional slip up). I can’t even begin to explain the difference going GF has made!
Now this is not supported by our doctors. His allergist (he has seasonal allergies) referred us to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist and I can’t get in to see them for another month. Between you and me, I’m not sure they will be any help either since I suspect the gluten affects him neurological, not in his gut.
Either way, I know what I know and I’m sticking to it.
Behavior With Gluten
When my son was eating gluten he was constantly hyper and had WAY too much energy. He hit things and people. He climbed everything. And he was always angry at someone. From a therapy perspective, it took me FOUR solid days of therapy-intense activities to regulate him. One day we would have our actual therapy session, the next day I’d set up an obstacle course in the yard with heavy lifting and pushing, the day after that we’d go to the trampoline park and the day after that find a fast food joint with a play center. People, I can’t keep up with that! I have three other children, a husband and two businesses!
Behavior Without Gluten
Without wheat, he only needs ONE therapy-intense activity a week. He is calm and friendly – even to his younger brothers! He is thoughtful and sincere. Recently we had family visit that we haven’t seen in a year and they hardly recognized him by his behavior alone!
He still gets angry sometimes and has a hard time with transitions but I have that chance to reason with him, even negotiate. That is all I needed – a chance to help him THINK. Phew. What a blessing.
At first, when we took out wheat, he craved the gluten and the first two weeks were a hard battle. I wanted to cave so many times. We kept a list of “GF” days on the calendar. I’d mark them in red and just try to string one more day to the list. My son was rewarded with pom-poms in his jar each GF day.
But has I showed him he had gluten free options (even yummy ones) he was much better. Now he doesn’t crave wheat and never asks for it (I can’t believe it). He even TURNED DOWN Halloween candy with wheat in it, over and over again. He watches his siblings eat toast and doughnuts and barely mentions it. This kid is a trooper! I think deep down in his 6-year-old body and mind he too knows he feels better without wheat.
What About Sugar?
I know you are thinking, “sugar is bad too.” My mom and SIL tell me so all the time. But here’s the truth as I see it: large amounts of sugar do make him hyper (as with lots of kids) and he does have a really hard time self-regulating candy intake. But sugar is not the culprit…gluten is.