Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Julianna's GFCF diet--time to stop?

Back in the beginning of June, I started Julianna on the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diet to see if it would help improve her troubling behaviors and tantrums. I felt inspired to do this, that it was truly an answer to prayer in helping her overcome the screaming and biting that we have been struggling with for so long. And not only have we been struggling, but Julianna has, too. She had gotten to the point where she was tantruming so many times each day, that she was the one that she wanted to stop, and that it bothered her that she couldn't do it on her own. So in my mind, when you have a child that has already overcome so much already, this was something that I knew we could conquer. And it was either going to be some type of medication, or a strict diet that has been proven to help children with autism in countless studies. We did medication in the past, for about a year, and all I noticed was that she gained a lot of weight. Only very slightly did I notice any improvements in behavior.

But I still took her to a psychiatrist, for the first time back in June as well, because I couldn't make up my mind. He prescribed a few meds, she took them one day, and let's just say it did not go well. Most likely too much medication. So I then took her to a psychologist, and at first I wasn't very impressed, and the summer got busy, and we weren't able to see her as often as we should have, but I had already started the diet, and knew that I wouldn't see any results right away.

Then we took her to see this psychologist in August, and she introduced us to a discipline method called 1, 2, 3 Magic. It's kind of old, from the 90's, but as I listened to her describe the method, I really felt like this might work for the screaming and hand biting. She let us borrow some CDs so we can learn all about the method and how to implement it, and we started using it, with her and her brother, because hey, he's got some issues with misbehaving, too! Within one week, I could not believe how much her tantrums had decreased, but it sure wasn't easy. Every time I saw her start to bite her hand or scream, I would say, "That's 1." And once I got to 3, I had to drag her to a time out spot (our laundry room) where she would proceed to scream for about 10 more minutes, and then I would start the timer for the time out. It had become so routine, these time outs, that when she knew she was done screaming, she would say, "Okay, Mommy, you can turn on the timer." So doing this, over and over, was starting to work. I couldn't be happier.

And then during all of this, she has been receiving ABA therapy for 9 hours a week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, her therapist comes from 2-5 and works just with her, mostly playing, but amongst all that play, I really think Julianna has been learning coping skills as well, and how to interact better socially. Though it was a lot of hours to commit too, I didn't give in. I knew that this time for her was desperately needed. For her to get 1:1 time at home for 9 hours a week was more than I could ever give her.

So about one week ago, I noticed that the biting and screaming was almost nonexistent. I wasn't getting on her about doing it like I used to. She wasn't being sent to time out as much. And then I realized it had been almost 4 months since she started this diet. I began to think about all the elements working together in this girl, and if they were finally showing the results we had been hoping and praying for. Seeing the psychologist, doing the 1, 2, 3, Magic, 9 hours a week of therapy, and the GFCF diet might have just almost eliminated Julianna's need to scream and bite in frustration. Could it really be true? Could all of these things actually be working together for Julianna's good?

I even started a chart where she would get a stamp whenever she would ask for help instead of resorting to biting or screaming. The chart was filling up. And she also got a stamp if she went an entire day without those behaviors. She had earned a stamp for that at least 3 times, which is HUGE for her. Come to think of it, I might owe her one of those stamps because I'm pretty sure I didn't see her bite yesterday, either. I really want to pinch myself sometimes! But I can't give up yet...I have to make sure that her brain is literally changed, that those little impulses that she used to have will never come back, and I think it will take more time, and diligence on my part as well, and also a lot of patience.

So why then would I allow Julianna to eat the party food in her class today that contains gluten and dairy? Sounds crazy when you've just read how I think it has been helping. Well, the last month or so, I would get that little thought, something has to go. You know when you have so much going on that you just can't do it all? And you begin to look at your life and think, what's one thing that can go right now? Every time I had this thought, it would always lead me to the diet. And now that she's back in school, there have been a few times where mistakes have been made on the diet. And even at home, I always wonder if I'm really doing it 100%, because you do have to do it 100% to make it work. So today, I told Julianna she could eat some of that food as an experiment to see if it will affect her behavior. I have read that once a child has gone GFCF and is exposed to one of the foods, the behaviors increase dramatically again. Letting her eat these foods today will help me determine if the diet really is necessary.

I have to admit, I am a little worried about what might happen. But you can't deny those feelings you get as a mom, you know? I doubt I will get a phone call from a frantic teacher saying Julianna has gone crazy. But what I do know is Julianna is old enough and mature enough to tell me if she feels different, or worse, or that she is having trouble controlling her impulses. I trust that she can communicate that to me now. What a wonderful blessing that is. So we will see if this diet continues after today's little test....

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