It has taken me a while but at last I am going to discuss my favourite topic in the whole world. FOOD! As my friends know, I am very passionate about healthy eating and have lived my life meat-free (and subsequently) dairy-free since I was a young girl. I’m not going to go into a speech about how living a life of veganism can help the environment, lessen poverty, famine and the shrinking of our all rainforests and beautiful wild species but what I am going to talk about is how eating well can help people with disabilities.
I have read a lot about diet and just from my general understanding of food and the body, choose to give Jude and the girls a very healthy, plant-based diet. They do not eat meat and only dairy on occasion. We drink oat milk, almond milk, soya milk but never cows milk. Because we are not baby cows.
I am going to take Jude to a nutritionist and see if they can offer any advice. As all knowing as I often think I am, it would be interesting to hear a professionals perspective on foods I can encourage into his diet or those to avoid to help with the hyperactivity, attention span, etc.
Here are a couple of articles that are quite interesting.
http://www.autism.org.uk/about/health/dietary-management/restricted-diet.aspx This is about concerns people may have by allowing their child to follow a restricted diet (I have none as such)
This article made me laugh out loud because it quotes someone with autism who says how they only really like bland food because they are very soothing in texture, so foods like pasta. Jude particularly likes bland food too and I wonder if it is because of a similar reason. He can quite happily eat a bowl of plain rice or pasta and often eats cereal with no milk, as this person in the article expresses is their preference. Trying to understand Jude is like piecing a puzzle together but the more I read, the more I understand. As stupidly obvious as that sounds.
I really did not think that his food preference could be in part, down to his disability but it seems to be the case. This person also mentions how they like to touch food with their hands before they eat it so they can understand what it feels like. This super-sensitivity is a symptom Jude conveys literally with every meal. I always tell him off for touching his, and his sister’s food but I guess he needs to for complete comprehension. Another little thing I have learnt about the boy!
http://www.healthresearch.com/special.htm This article is American and VERY wordy but it specifies particular vitamins and minerals that may help the varying disabilities. I read about how increasing folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C, and probably vitamin B12 can help with autism. I have no idea why this may be which is why I need to speak to a professional!
A really interesting trend I found when researching learning disabilities and nutrition was the repeated suggest of going gluten free. http://www.livestrong.com/article/481473-gluten-free-diet-for-kids-with-developmental-delays/
This article (and many others) suggests that some children cannot digest the gluten protein and in a study undertaken by the Autism Network for Dietary Intervention, it stated that children with impaired social, imaginative and communicative skills regularly also displayed inabilities to break down gluten. Could this be the answer to some of our problems? I have to say I am quite excited about this finding; largely because of my obsession with healing sickness and problems with food, herbs and all things natural but also because we may have found something that can really move Jude on.
As I mentioned, I am going to see a nutritionist so will be sure to ask about gluten free.
Through everything I have read this week, I have reflected on many ways in which disabled children are disadvantaged in more than just their engagement in the wider world. I remember when I worked as a school Governor at Jude’s school and during a meeting we were debating whether to hold a training course on behaviour management or nutrition. To me, the answer was obvious and would actually help many other areas in which parents struggle however, the majority decided behaviour management was the best one to run for the parents. Now, also during my time as Governor, I spent time within the school and remember having lunch one day with the children and noticing that a lot of the children who had packed lunch, ate an absolute ton of processed and packaged “food”. It is not food in my eyes, if you cannot identify all the ingredients. Anyway, my point is that we need to be educating parents of disabled children on ALL elements that may help their children. A lot of these parents are struggling in so many ways and life should be made easier for them. Why have I had to scour the internet and arrange an appointment with a nutritionist to try and help Jude progress further. Surely schools should be offered nutritional advice through the council for both themselves and the parents involved?! From what I have read over the years, I truly believe people can be cured of all sorts through diet and whilst I appreciate learning disabilities cannot be cured, they can certainly have their symptoms eased. I cannot wait to see the nutritionist and have started writing a food diary for her to scan over. Jude is with his father this weekend and I have asked him to do the same…he probably won’t but at least she can see what he eats the majority of the time at home. I will report back…A x