When we began the diet (you can read about this here) everything we read said it takes six months. We saw dramatic improvement in little man's behavior almost immediately. The longer we've been on, the more progress we've made. Introducing probiotics helped even more, as well as our changed tactics.
So when all of a sudden a few weeks ago, little man took a huge leap with his coping skills and behavior we were like "what's going on?"
Honestly it didn't even occur to me that we were at the six month mark, and that this was due to a diet we have been on for what seems like ages.
I have briefly mentioned a time or two that bedtime was an extremely difficult issue for us. Right from day one, when I brought my little bundle home from the hospital sleep deprivation was the name of the game.
As little man got older, we tried different tactics to help him fall asleep, but nothing seemed to work. Bedtime became a source of anxiety for all of us. Poor Max would get himself so worked up which resulted in screaming and intense stimming (self-stimulating) behavior. My husband and I were ready to run away after years of sleepless nights and dead end frustrations. Nothing seemed to work.
We talked to our doctor about it several times and were told to let him cry it out, which only resulted in Max's several hour long meltdowns and me in tears. Then we were told it was a phase and that he would grow out of it. As is the case with any person, when you are not getting the all important sleep requires to refresh and rest, you get cranky; and cranky Max was. The situation snowballed and it became clear that fatigue was intensifying the poor behavior, and the poor behavior was taking us even further away from being able to settle him. Vicious cycle.
With all of the progress we have made, and there has been a ton, bedtime just didn't make the list. He began speaking more, playing more, being more affectionate, calming faster, handling outside situations with more ease. We have even been able to have several successful meals in restaurants! Imagine as a parent, your child not wanting to talk to you, sit beside you, hug or kiss you, sometimes not even wanting to be in the same room as you. Now imagine one day, your child abandoning that separation and seeking you out for comfort, and love. Offering kisses of his own accord, showing you things he's interested in. It was like he was letting me in for the first time. Still though, come 8:30, madness ensued. I can honestly say that I began to lose hope that this particular issue would be resolved.
As I was saying, a few weeks ago Little Man's behavior and ability to handle stresses took a massive leap forward on the progress scale, and low and behold, bedtime came with it. We took a vacation at a rented cottage for a summer-end family activity. I was concerned that Max would have difficulty adjusting. He did not, however. It was amazing. He settled right in, had a blast and began his upward movement on the bedtime ride. We don't know if it was the fresh air, the lack of stimulants, or the change of pace, but whatever it was, it worked! There was concern as the week was coming to a close that once we returned to our home and settled back into the normal routine, that we would lose the progress made. First night we were perched on the edges of our seats waiting for him to come out of his room, but he didn't. Next night was the same. Scepticism still lingered, but slowly dissipated over the next few weeks.
Now we still do have the odd night where things don't run perfectly smooth, but it is short lived and on a scale of 1-10 (1 being perfect, 10 being how they used to be) things never climbs above a 4. I`ll take it. My husband and I were honestly boggled as to why now? Why after all this time? All those tears? All of the changes we had made were long ago implemented, we had seen results. It was my husband who said whilst we were discussing the puzzling behavior, "Hasn't it been six months on the diet? Didn't we read something about giving it six months to see the full impact?" I was like: OH.MY.GOD.
Seriously? You mean to tell me that not only is this even more reinforcement that we made the right decision to put Max on this diet, but DH remembered something that I didn't? Honestly I think that's the part I had the hardest time sorting through. Seriously, he can't remember where we are going five minutes after we get in the car half the time. ;)
Ultimately what I think this post boils down to is DON'T GIVE UP! We were told by our family doctor when we first put Little man on this diet, and then again by his pediatrician just last month that it was too much work. Basically it was a pain in the ass for parents to have to do something everyday that may or may not have any effect.
Ummm... Excuse me? Pardon? I'm sure I didn't just hear the only two people I can go to for my child's health tell me that it wasn't worth the inconvenience even though there is over 80% reported positive feedback from parents of kids on the spectrum. Now I'm not sure if this is not being recognised by some doctors because it is not a pharmaceutical, or because it doesn't "heal" autism, but I think it is a no-brainer. As a parent, it is your responsibility to do what is best for your child. There are many things that are difficult and time consuming, that are not only best but expected of you. Not all autistic children will benefit the way others do on this diet, but what if they do? Wouldn't you want to know? Wouldn't it be worth six months of your life to find out?
I believe this is truly one of the wisest decisions we have made for Max and that this diet has played a key role in our success thus far. Going GFCF was a challenge, but it's just normal everyday stuff now. Things are only difficult until you do them for a bit, and then they just become culture.
For helpful hints and recipes check out some of my other posts.