Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Surviving Halloween on a Special Needs Diet

It's an exciting time of year. Change of seasons, finally settling into school routines and the promise of fun-filled holidays ahead. With Halloween right around the corner, it is the first of many food-oriented holidays and party-filled evenings to come.

Are you prepared to handle the masses of treats and sweets freely flowing over the coming days?

Here are 5 ways to avoid sugar highs and mood swings with plenty of tips to follow through:

1. Arm yourself some with information as a back-up for when you are wavering in resolve and about to give in to your child's (and your!) desire for the bottomless bag of treats.

Just 2 tablespoons of sugar is enough to reduce your immune system's function for 4 hours! Cold and flu season is here and this is not the time to feast on pure sugar. What we DO need is a load of vitamins and minerals, which are basically non-existent in a sugar-loaded diet.

Blood-sugar issues can mimic ADHD type symptoms: irritability, inability to concentrate and focus, anxiety, etc... We certainly don't need to add to our children's issues here!

Simple sugars interfere with absorption of important minerals like calcium and magnesium, as well as B vitamins. It's well known that ADHD / Autism Spectrum children are most likely deficient in these important vitamins and minerals. Not only will too much sugar reduce their intake of these, it will also interfere with the absorption of what little they do consume.
2. Provide plenty of acceptable treats that won't break the list of the biggest risks: no artificial ingredients like colorings, flavorings and preservatives, gluten and casein (meaning most grains and dairy), refined sugar... you are probably laughing right now asking what's left for Halloween treats!

Homemade treats can be simple and just as yummy if you familiarize yourself with the new ingredients and preparation methods.

Look for healthier (though not actually healthy!) options for candies at your local health food store or online. These still contain sugar, so they aren't optional. But, being realistic with transitional needs, they are a starting point for making better choices.
3. Pre-plan on alternatives for what to do with the motherload of candy that is absolutely irresistible sitting around waiting for you to change your mind!

Agree on a pre-determined exchange for the entire bag. A toy or special outing in place of everything. Make it something special that is worth giving all that up, but not so much that you break the bank for a bag of junk candy! For older children, a simple money exchange is enough.

If you have several parties to attend as well as actual trick-or-treating, I would agree on an exchange for everything together. Otherwise, you will be haggling over tiny bits and pieces coming in from all sorts of places as well as the multiple party collections.
4. Continually discuss the why's of eating healthier and the benefits they will receive for it.

Of course, do it in context when appropriate and don't turn it into nagging. When the situation arises, like the sudden appearance of candy at Halloween, talk about what those 'foods' do to our bodies and why it's better not to eat them. Keep the focus on positive benefits of our good choices.
5. Actually get rid of it!

Don't let it sit around waiting to tempt you when you least expect it.

It is probably best not to do it in front of your child. You don't want any last minute panic attacks when it comes down to it. Make sure it's not just sitting on top in the trash can, either! Bury it under something else!
As with every holiday and special occasion, try to focus on the fun of the season or event and not on the food you're missing. Whether the party is at home or away, you should make the activities and costumes your focus. Have fun with it and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mild Symptoms of Autism

I remember the joy I had some 11 years ago when I came out of the theatre with my bundle of joy. A handsome boy, Jeremy had been given to me as a gift and I intended to bring him up in the best way I know how. I had fun with him as a baby and at some point when his speech was slow in coming I just thought that it is because he is an only child. At the age of three, I took him to school so that he could enjoy interacting with others and he enjoyed it so much. He never threw a tantrum when I woke him up to prepare him for school. In fact there were many days when he was already up before I went into his room.

I had a good rapport with his teachers and especially the headteacher and would take time to talk about his progress in school from time to time. At one point the headteacher suggested that I take him for speech therapy as this would help him with whatever challenge he had in that area. I took him to one of the best institutions and it helped us greatly. I learned a lot about speech development and I continued this faithfully for about a year.

At this time I had to move from where I was staying due to some challenges and this meant changing schools too. I again enrolled Jeremy in the premier schools in that area and he was doing well in school. One day I got a call from the teacher informing me that Jeremy would not stop crying and this was still early in the day. So instead of reporting to the office, I went straight to school and I got him and we went home. Of course by this time he had calmed down completely.

The teacher requested for a meeting with me the following day after work and I obliged. When I got there, I met also the headteacher to this prestigious school that was larger in capacity and so we had never met. We got into the office and it seemed that the headteacher did not want my child in her school because, as she put it, he was abnormal. Imagine my shock at hearing those words. How can my son be abnormal? Just because he cannot communicate as others do. I was miffed to say the least and yes, Jeremy never stepped into that school again.

So I decided to look into the matter further and I got a government testing center to assess Jeremy. That is when they broke the news to me. My son is mildly autistic, they said. It was a shock. I did not even know what that means so it meant continuing with therapy at the same institution but from a more informed perspective.

I think the reason why it comes as a shock to many when they learn of Jeremy's condition is the fact that you would never tell unless it was told to you. He has his moments when he get quite hyper and some have thought him to be just a spoilt child. But generally, he is calm, thanks to prayers and wisdom in raising him. I do watch his diet somewhat but I have decided not to be limited by it so he eats what we eat. He is very responsible and quite adorable especially now that he has a little brother.

I believe he is growing out of it and yes he does go to school - regular school and not any special institution either. As a family we do not think of him as limited in any way and treat him like we would treat others. I believe this has helped him to not view himself differently and us to know that he can outgrow it and he will soon be out of the woods.

If you have an autistic child or any child with special needs, take heart and believe that you can do it. They need you to believe in them and treat them as such. You owe it to yourself to trust that God gave you a beautiful gift to shower with love and affection.