Dietary intervention

If I steal stuff like a biscuit, I get really bad tummy ache and feel really mean sometimes and sometimes really silly and I can't stop being angry. - Joe Jackson

However despondent I feel at times, however doubtful of my own parenting skills, however much I blame myself, logic usually fights back and tells me that my children are all part of a big family, all parented solely by a mother, all are the recipients of much love and attention and all have a good home life and want for nothing. These are the facts.

There is far more to Joe's behaviours and difficulties than environmental factors. If these were the only cause, then there is no reason whatsoever why any biological intervention would make any difference to his behaviour.. .and believe me, it certainly does! As the difficult birth and the subsequent bowel problems slowly became a painful blur in the distant past, one thing that remained constant was the fact that Joe was hyperactive and had enormous difficulties concentrating. Whilst his expressive language developed, his receptive language showed significant deficits and despite much therapy, this persisted.

As the years passed, Joe's behaviour, concentration and hyperactiv-ity became unbearable but I would soldier on, trying desperately to keep the problems a secret for fear ofonce again being labelled a bad mother or worse. After Ben was born and diagnosed as autistic I came across the gluten- and casein-free diet and its reported benefits. I began to research in more detail and realized that foods were affecting Joe's behaviour too.

Joe was already predominantly gluten- and casein-free but yet tiny bits ofgluten were still in his diet. I read information on excito toxins such as monosodium glutamate (flavour enhancer) and aspartame (an artificial sweetener) and realized they were affecting Joe. After removing these from his diet, his behaviour changed so radically that I thought it would be plain sailing from then on. I was wrong! It soon became apparent that Joe was reacting behaviourally to far more than gluten and casein, and while these were making a vast difference to all of our lives, there were still days when Joe would be wilder than at other times, still days when he would suddenly become violent and aggressive and still nights when his sleeping habits were more disturbed than usual.

I trawled the internet and came across the Hyperactive Children's Support Group. I read avidly about the Feingold diet (see Useful Websites) and how children like Joe reacted behaviourally to many artificial additives and preservatives and many foods. I began removing colourings, flavourings, nitrates. In fact I followed the diet to the letter. Once again Joe improved dramatically. However (don't you just hate that word?) soon became apparent that there was more work to be done. Although his hyperactivity had massively decreased, he still had days when he was wilder than usual and I became an excellent detective, searching for clues as to what might be changing my busy, hyperactive little boy into a wild animal. I eventually had allergy tests performed and discovered Joe was allergic to sesame and again, changing his regular sesame bars for another biscuit resulted in another dramatic change in his behaviour.

For all of you parents wondering whether dietary intervention does make a difference then all I can say is to give it a go, even if it is only for a short while. Some children respond so dramatically that the symptoms of AD/HD virtually disappear whilst other children make vast improvements but still need further intervention.

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