I just wanted to give you a personal story about my experience with ADHD and autism, and hope that you can glean in on my experience and maybe it can help you make some better choices about a difficult decision you have right now in regards to whether going the natural approach or the medication approach to best serve your child in that situation.
A close friend of mine suggested that I share my personal story with attention deficit disorder and healing it naturally. I have mild ADD, most of my friends have ADD or somewhere on what’s called the spectrum, so autism spectrum disorder goes all the way from severe autism to minor, and attention deficit disorder in kind of in there.
There’s also sensory integration disorder. That’s where you’re sensitive to people chewing. You might be obsessive-compulsive about organizing things. Maybe certain fabrics or textures just make you nuts. I know for myself, Styrofoam, ugh, I can’t do Styrofoam. There are certain people that have to cut the tags out of all their clothes or they like soft fabrics or they don’t like clothes at all. They like to run around in just their underwear or their shorts.
This is all autism spectrum disorder and there are a lot of people that just have this and they don’t know what’s wrong. I can only share my experience and my story. First of all, I am a retired massage therapist and I’m a Reiki Master and I was in the holistic healing arts for a very very long time. I was very anti-medication for myself and for my children, for my child. When we found that we had a child on the spectrum with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, I started to do some exploring.
It’s really been a journey. Let me just tell you about my son Ian and what was involved. First of all, he was a very difficult baby. He would throw up every day. He’s get angry and couldn’t calm himself down and then he’s projectile vomit. I could hear the cry coming and I would end up taking him to the bathtub and he would throw up. That went on everyday for two years. I had no idea my child was on the spectrum. I just thought I had a really difficult child.
Then by some kind of blessing, we found out that my older child actually has a wheat allergy, and so we took wheat out of the diet and Ian stopped throwing up. Just like that. Never did it again. I thought, what was that? I heard rumblings about this anti or non-wheat, non-dairy diet for children that had autism and at that point, we found out his speech was delayed so we put him in speech. Then I remember one of the teachers, first thing in the morning would hug him, and I’d say why do you guys hug him? I mean, I think that’s great. She said, well, it kinds of puts him together. It was the beginning of my understanding of what is occupational therapy.
Creating a massive sensory experience such as compression shirts or crawling through a nylon sock or pushing a ball through a nylon sock or being in layered hammocks on the tap layer and trying to climb into the bottom one, or being on a scooter on your tummy and smashing into a whole bunch of bags bowling-ball style. All this is occupational therapy.
We got him into that and what it does is it sends calming receptors to the brain. It’s like babies like to be swaddled. They like to be wrapped really tight. When you’re squeezed, it does something to calm the brain. That was something that we learned about.
Swimming was phenomenal. We did that and we actually eventually got him into martial arts and that was good for awhile but it started to get stressful for Ian. We found at the end when Ian would get stressed out is he had what was called “tics”. He’d start to pull his hair and he actually pulled a pretty big bald spot at one point.
This is where we started to initiate medication. This was hard. This was a value change for me. When you say you’re never going to do something in your entire life and as a parent your integrity really matters, but what I got to thinking about is what’s more important right now, my pride or my child succeeding in this world?
I thought it’s like if my kid had a limp and I was embarrassed that he had to use a cane or if he needed glasses and I was embarrassed that he would have to wear glasses. I thought, no one can see that he would take these medications but then I started to learn about the brain and how it stabilized his brain, and how autism spectrum disorder is actually a deficit on the frontal lobe of the brain which there are six key functions, and I apologize, I don’t know them all right now.
Part of them are consequential thinking, so what happens if I do this; sequential thinking, having to do stuff in order; sense of consequences, so not understanding that this action will cause that; social cues, just all sorts of, it’s fascinating
There’s lack of blood so these medications cause blood to go to the frontal lobe. Some of the more natural substances that help with this are caffeine. I know a lot of people with ADD that smoke. I don’t have nicotine helps with that but stimulants help focus the brain and depressants make them more hyper. This is why ADHD people, when they drink alcohol, become obnoxious and annoying when they’re adults, but if they have a cup of coffee, they’re suddenly inspired and motivated and centered, or maybe a soda.
Anyways, getting back to Ian, so we did all these different natural things and then eventually we did explore the medication, and what we found was a child that thrived. In addition, going back a little bit, after the removal of wheat for another year, we explored that and then we went a level deeper and we took dairy out of the diet.
It was fascinating to me because his vocabulary quadrupled and he started making eye contact. When I see parents that are like, well, that diet’s too hard. I’m like, you know, that’s what we said and once you see the change in your child and the whole family’s got to be on board. You can’t have Dad eating donuts in front of the kid. You’ve got to find gluten- and dairy-free donuts.
There are so many wonderful choices now. When we first started this, it was $8 for a loaf of bread. $8, and now you can get a loaf of bread for $4, and you make your own. There’s aisles and aisles at the grocery store of gluten- and dairy-free, so it’s really just about finding the substances that are healthy for your children to eat but it can be done. It wasn’t impossible to do it. It just took baby steps and it took me being creative with recipes.
Bottom line, you need to do what you need to do as a parent to be a better parent. What do I mean by that? Well, if your child is getting kicked out of school, if your child is constantly the problem child, is that really fair to the other children or to the teacher? If your child needs continuous redirecting and needs an aide and you’re not willing to change the diet, not willing to change the medication, are you really serving that child? Are you positioning them for success in their life? How is that situation affecting them socially? How is it affecting the teachers? And resentments, and animosity.
I think there needs to be some kind of component with Mom and Dad that they’re involved with the diet, involved with structure. That’s another thing we did, heavy structure, very structured life. Very structured with bath time and food and all these different things because that’s what Ian anchored on. It was, okay, this is what needs to be done in order to get this.
I have to parent my children very differently. Ian is very much a reward-based child. Consequences don’t work as well on him because he doesn’t think about that. He doesn’t hear that. Okay, if I don’t practice my piano, I’m not going to get to do this. I have to frame it a little bit differently and say, okay, when you do all of these different things, then come to me and then they’ll be a reward.
I’m not sure if that’s good parenting or not but right now it helps and I get a positive behaving child. He also gets graded on a 1 to 6 at school for performance, how he was doing, how he was engaged, all of that.
Again, fundamentally you’re going to have to do what’s best for you as a parent. You’re going to have to make choices that are in alignment with your integrity, alignment with your value system, but also in consideration of what’s going to be best for your child and the car providers in your child’s life because it’s a lot for anybody to manage a child on the spectrum all day long.
Everybody knows that you love your child and everybody knows that you’re going to have their best decisions at heart, but remember to make a choice that you feel good about but that is also serving them in this world.