Like all moms new to the autism diagnosis, I began obsessively researching therapies online. Nearly everything I read about was unattainable due to the expense. In addition, Jake was 3 years old and not eligible for any early childhood intervention services. He did qualify for the public preschool program, which would provide physical, occupational and speech therapies. But, it was the middle of summer and he would have to wait for the school year to begin in order to start those therapies. As each day passed by, I had an overwhelming sense of wasted time. He needed help and he needed it now. I continued researching and made up my own 'therapies' to help with his motor skills and speech.
I saw a lot of information about the GFCF diet. Initially, I disregarded it. If it is so great, why didn't the doctors recommend it? It's expensive and difficult to implement, why bother with an unproven treatment like that?
Something I read stuck with me, haunting me for days. I had read about the morphine type reaction that some children experience after ingesting gluten or casein. How many times had I commented that Jake 'looked drunk' after eating? I decided that we had to at least try the diet and see what happens. I had to know that I was doing everything in my power to help him.
We were in a unique position to give the diet a true test. The kids were home with me and I had complete control over what they ate. So, the first to go was milk. I worked to wean Sarah from nursing and switched her to a soy formula. Jacob's regular milk was replaced with Soy milk. All other sources of casein were removed from their diets as well. Sarah's never ending colic was miraculously cured within a few hours of switching to soy. She still has quite a temper, but now at nearly 2 years old, she is a typically developing child.
After 24 hours without casein, Jake came out of his fog. His eyes were so bright! He woke up the next morning and walked around the house looking at everything as if it were the first time he saw it. I just stood back and watched him go. He was happy, curious, excited...so was I! Then, he looked at me. I mean REALLY looked at me. The eye contact I had craved for months was back! My boy was waking up! It was truly one of the most wonderful moments of my life.
Motivated by his rapid improvement, I decided to go ahead and remove gluten. This would prove more difficult than removing casein. I had to learn how to cook in order to replace all of his favorite foods with gluten-free versions.
He has continued to progress steadily in all areas. He still has an occasional meltdown, but overall his behavior is good. His language skills have improved remarkably. In fact, I'll do a post soon about our fun with echolalia.
Jake is now 4 and has completed one year of preschool in a special education setting. At the end of that first year, he graduated out of physical therapy and the special education classroom. Next week, he will begin preschool in a typical classroom and will continue with his speech and occupational therapies.