Saturday, January 5, 2013

Overcoming Food Obsessions-autistic children

Overcoming Food Obsessions


The general public often doesn’t realize what parents of autistic children are keenly aware of: It is a physical condition as much as a mental one. Research shows that more than 50 percent of autistic children have gastrointestinal problems such as Crohns Disease or colitis. Some scientists theorize that autism begins in the gut, with the gastrointestinal walls being damaged and allowing toxins to leak into the bloodstream and affect brain activity.


For this reason, parents of children with autism must monitor not just their children’s behavior but their eating habits, too. In particular, products containing gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) and casein (found in dairy products) seem to exacerbate autism symptoms, apparently because the person’s body cannot digest them properly and the incompletely digested (and therefore poisonous) proteins are leaking into the circulatory system.


A gluten-free, casein-free diet, known as GFCF, has become very popular among parents of autistic children. Some members of the medical community continue to be skeptical of it, but other doctors and organizations -- including those working with Defeat Autism Now (DAN) -- wholeheartedly support the GFCF diet.


Many parents report remarkable improvements in their autistic children after removing gluten and casein from their diets. They find their children having longer attention spans, making better eye contact and in general behaving less aggressively and more “normally.”


The difficult part is implementing the diet. Cereals and dairy products comprise a major part of the typical American diet. People with gluten allergies already know how hard it is to find gluten-free products; adding dairy to the list of prohibited items makes it that much more inconvenient.


In addition, many autistic children will latch on to particular foods they like and refuse to eat anything else. Since so many foods have gluten or casein, chances are good that something on your child’s “favorites” list will be an offender. Also, because gluten and casein foods act as opiates, autistic children may crave them in particular -- the very foods that are doing them the most harm!


So weaning your child off these foods can be difficult. To start with, many parents find it best to eliminate dairy. A lot of people are lactose-intolerant, after all, and dairy products don’t make up nearly as big a part of most people’s diets as gluten products do. It’s fairly easy to replace casein foods with other things.


Gluten is trickier. Not only is it in a lot of foods, but even foods that don’t have it are often contaminated with it, due to having been processed in the same facilities. You’ll need to examine ingredients lists carefully, and check with the manufacturer directly if you’re in doubt.


Often, parents say their autistic children won’t eat anything else, and they worry they’ll go hungry if these foods are taken away. It is necessary to be loving but firm, and not to give in if your child behaves badly in response to having his or her favorite foods taken off the menu. Within a few weeks, you’ll probably see a change in your child’s behavior, and you may be surprised at what he or she will eat that previously was unacceptable.


Activities for Autistic Children

Activities for Autistic Children

Please can you offer some activity-based suggestions and PE/games options for autistic children that they can do at home or at school. Looking at two age groups here 7 – 10 and 11-16.


Parents, teachers, and other caregivers often get so caught up in educating and providing structure to the lives of autistic children that they forget that, above all, he or she is a child. Like any other child in his or her age group, your autistic child wants to have fun. While some activities may not be suitable for those suffering from autism, there are a number of fun games to play with autistic children, many of which can get them involved with others or help them further develop motor or social skills while just focusing on having a good time.


Autistic children in the elementary school age range can benefit greatly from song. Even children who do not verbally communicate with words can learn to hum along or play simple instruments, such as tambourines or whistles. Using sounds that are repetitive and with educational lyricshelps autistic children learn school lessons but also gives them an outlet for some of the sensory stimulation they need, such as yelling. Play follow the leader with the instruments to help the children focus their attention and improve socialization skills.


Depending on how mature your child is, he or she may also not only be able to participate in regular childhood games, but greatly benefit from them as well. These activities, including tag and other games, can be learned more easily than you think. Stick with games in which the autistic child is not forced to have close physical contact with other children, as this may be hurtful for autistic individuals. Also, remember to play to your child’s strengths or what he or she wishes to learn. If he or she has a problem with yelling inappropriately, for example, encouraging him or her to be involved with a game of hide and seek may help curb this behavior.


Autistic children often wish to be included in games with non-autistic peers, and so this may help with the learning process. At home, focus on games that involve closer contact with trusted family members. For example, make it a game to get across the room without touching the floor. Perhaps the only route in some instances is to be carried. Remember that each child is different developmentally, so stay in tune with how challenging the activities should be.


As your child matures, he or she may want to be involved with organized sports. This should be encouraged, but choose your sport carefully. Golf, baseball, and other sports that do not involve strong personal sensory stimulation may be better for your child than something like tackle football. However, be open to all possibilities. Be sure the team’s coach understands your child’s disability and is willing to work with him or her.


At this later developmental stage, also continue encouraging learning activities. Sensory games work well to further teach these children, and as they mature emphasize the importance of appropriate behavior as you are playing these games. Using things like water balloons in games your child already enjoys is often as fun for children with autism. Also realize that an autistic individual has trouble seeing things from another’s point of view. Therefore, they may be less likely to enjoy games in which something must be kept a secret from another person (like go-fish).


Overall, you and your child need to grow together. Remember that although he or she has many special needs, sometimes your child needs to simply be a kid as well. Encourage play along with work, and realize that games and activities for autistic children may fulfil two key elements, socialization skills for life and learning to enjoy playing with their peers.

There are many more resources and information about diagnosing, controlling and treating Autism in, The Essential Guide ToAutism