9. Talk about your thoughts on the diet aspect of helping your child with autism. Do you believe it helps? If so what diet helps?
Many anecdotal reports attest to the positive effects of dietary changes in the behavior of individuals on the spectrum. Some diets that have helped people include:
- eliminating gluten, the protein in wheat,
- eliminating casein, the protein in dairy products,
- limiting sugar
- limiting refined and highly processed foods
- increasing Omega 3 fatty acids
- increasing Vitamin B6, taken with magnesium (which makes the vitamin effective)
But there is no support for the claim that any dietary change can ease symptoms of autism for ALL people. Therefore, only try dietary changes with caution, under the supervision of a registered dietician and/or physician, and keep careful records of the changes in your child’s behavior and learning.
Many families try a gluten-free, casein-free diet, but only approximately 30% stick with it. That is because those items are typically more expensive, and the diet simply doesn’t work for some. When the diet works, we see individuals with autism feel better leading to better therapy sessions and overall behavior.
There are a variety of dietary interventions which are utilized by families of individuals with autism. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support the efficacy of these dietary interventions. When families ask me about whether or not they should put their child on any sort of diet, my advice to them is always to consult their pediatrician and an allergist. Their child may have a specific allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods. This can only be determined, however, by an allergist who will be able to conduct all the test necessary to make this determination. If the child does have an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance then these food items should obviously be restricted. If the child does not have any of these issues, there would be no medical reason to restrict the child’s diet like the dietary interventions suggest.
The other advice I give to parents is to make sure the child is eating a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet which is low in unhealthy fats and excessive sugar. This is great advice for any parent. Sometimes parents report their child is a picky eater or refuses to eat specific foods. If this is the case, they need to consult with a nutritionist and a behavior analyst to help them develop an effective feeding intervention.