I’m back!

I have taken a long break from writing posts for my blog or actually replying to comments. I apologize for the long delay for some of you on your questions/comments. As you know, even the strongest warrior moms need a break…so I took one. I’m replying to comments each day and hope to be caught up by the end of the week. Next week I hope to start writing again. Stay tuned to hear about our experience with yeast and leaky gut issues (yet again!).  I’m really into whole foods and diet changes, so look for posts about that and how to incorporate it into your child’s diet.

Cheers!

Antibacterial Chemical Triclosan – Another Toxin to Avoid

Triclosan has been in the news a lot lately and I thought I’d share the medical studies that showed it causes impaired muscle function along with other health concerns. This product is the chemical used in antibacterial products and is patented under the name Microban. This agent was introduced in the 70’s and we are just now hearing about it’s harmful affects on humans via the mainstream media. It’s excreted in blood, urine and breast milk, so newborns have been getting their unfair dose of it too.

For articles on the chemical read below:

http://www.rodale.com/triclosan-containing-products

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/08/14/chemical-in-many-antibacterial-soaps-linked-with-impaired-muscle-function/?test=latestnews#ixzz23bWqF36f?test=latestnews

For a list of products that contain triclosan, see link below:

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/antibacterial/products.htm

What Apps Does Your Child with Autism Use?

I came across this article today and though I’d share. I’ve heard of some of these apps, but others are new. Have any of you tried the programs or apps listed in this article? If so, please share your experience.

Computer programs and apps for children with autism

By        Published April 13, 2012 FoxNews.com

Advances in technology have provided educators with an abundance of new tools to use in instruction. This is no exception for teachers educating those on the autism spectrum.From SMART Boards to iPads to the common computer, there are a number of software programs, websites and applications that support the needs of learners with autism…

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/13/computer-programs-and-apps-for-children-with-autism/#ixzz1ry6lR0LD

Sugar. Oh how I (heart) thee!

Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies photo by Craig Cutler

This Valentine’s Day I must confess my secret love affair. Yes, you guessed correct…it’s with sugar.  I love sugar! All foods taste yummier with sugar.  Whether it’s sugar in my coffee, sugar in my pastries, sugar in my yogurt, sugar in my, well, candy…I crave sugar! Sugar is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits. It gives me that extra energy at the end of a long day. When I’m bored it entertains me with its sweet kiss on my lips. When I’m sad it consoles me better than any therapist. When I’m PMSing it saves me and others around me! (sigh) But my love affair with sugar is coming to an end.

I have finally decided that I must give up this addiction and only taste sugar’s sweet delight occasionally. Not every day. How in the world and I am going to do this? Better yet, why?!

Well, I have always known that sugar is bad for my health. But aren’t all addictions bad for you in some way? I know that in order to get fit and healthy, I must conquer my addiction to sugar. I know it can be done. I have friends that actually don’t eat it at all. I know! Sounds insane, but apparently it can be done and you do survive. So they’ve told me.

In the process of convincing others how sugar affects our health, perhaps I’ll see the benefit in going through my (painful) sugar withdrawals and know that better health awaits me.  First let’s begin with how ubiquitous sugar is in our diet. It’s not going to be easy to give it up, unless I eat mostly freshly prepared meals and snacks. I’ll have to be strong when I bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons and not have any. (groan)

Sugar is in ketchup, yogurt, cereals, breads, brownies (seriously?! I thought it was just chocolate), instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and most conventionally package good foods/snacks. I’m talking about sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS does not exist in my diet. But the sad thing is you can’t completely avoid all sugars because they are in fruit in the form of fructose. So I will have to get my sugar high from my fruits. (I wonder if anyone ever struggles with strawberry addiction.)

And then to top it all off, your body converts carbohydrates to sugar! What’s up with that?!  Whole wheat bread, potatoes, white rice…all gets converted to glucose and stored as FAT. Not fair! All the yummy things to eat in life are bad for you…unless you eat them in MODERATION. That’s the key.

You may wonder just how is sugar addicting. Well, when you eat sugar it triggers dopamine, (a neurotransmitter and neurohoromone in the brain) which is our “pleasure” hormone. What brain wouldn’t like that feeling? So of course you crave it more. I was horrified to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain! This is when I learned I was an addict. And one of the first steps in conquering any addiction is knowledge, then acceptance. So is depression the next step because all the pleasure sensors in my brain will wither up and die without sugar giving them that instant gratification on a regular basis?!

Where do I begin? Well, I’ve already started by not putting sugar in my morning coffee (latte). I use Organic Blue Agave Nectar. It has a much lower glycemic index. And that’s the key in keeping your blood sugar level and staving off diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you’re not familiar with the glycemic indices of foods, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com and learn more. Here’s a quote directly from their website.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Next, I’m going to have to give up ice-cream…oh the horror! I know there is not one redeeming health quality of ice-cream, but it’s just so, um, delicious. Better yet, I’m going to have to replace my craving with something that will satisfy me and help my body get through “detox”. Yes, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your body goes through detox. I’m told that I might experience feeling lightheaded, headaches, lack of energy (duh!), skin itching/rash/pimples, mood disorders (another duh!) and intense cravings. But apparently this should only last 3-4 weeks. That makes me feel better. (note sarcasm) I have to have incredible self-control for a month. Then it gets easier.

There are two major health reasons that I want to eliminate sugar from my diet. The first is that sugar feeds yeast in the gut.  When yeast takes over your gastrointestinal tract, it creates immune dysfunction and gastrointestinal distress. Yeast lives and feed off of sugar and foods that convert to sugar. Yeast is a huge biomedical factor in autism and ADHD and its related behaviors in children. The second health reason is cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells and helps them grow and proliferate in your body. Cancer cells thrive on cell inflammation and sugar/glucose promotes inflammation. This is the one step that I’ve failed miserably at when following the recommendations of “The Anti-Cancer Diet” book by David Servan-Schreiber. I know, I’m an addict and I need to acknowledge that fact. But still.

So I’m going to keep reminding myself that I am giving up sugar for my health and my children. Next step is to stock up on healthy snacking alternatives like veggies, fruit and nuts. I’m going to package them up in my BPA-free snack bags and take them with me wherever I go. When I’m feeling low-energy, they will give me that lift I usually seek from sugar. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome sugar addiction, I welcome them! Oh, and Happy (sugar-free) Valentine’s Day.

What do you think the ramifications will be? I wonder.

http://news.yahoo.com/experts-weigh-changes-definition-autism-170206958.html

So mental health experts are messing with the definition of autism and the diagnostic criteria. My mind boggles with what that will mean to the future children being diagnosed, and the children already diagnosed today. How will we be able to accurately track the rise in autism rates and apply research on a potential environmental contributing factor if we throw this monkey wrench into the mix?! And down the road in a few years,  the news reports will  say that autism is on the decline and some government agency will take credit for it. Not because of changes made to our environment or perhaps improved treatment options…but because the diagnostic criteria has changed.

What will this mean to children already diagnosed and receiving services that no longer qualify based on the new criteria? Does it mean they no longer need services because on paper, they don’t have autism, just Aspergers.  What would have happened if this new criteria was around when my son was diagnosed? His diagnosis was high-functioning autism. Would he have received a diagnosis of autism and qualified for the much-needed services he has received over the years? I credit biomedical intervention AND behavioral therapy for his huge gains since his diagnosis.

I’m sure there is some good news in all of this somewhere.  Maybe for the insurance companies that would have to provide services in the states that have adopted insurance reform. I don’t know about this one. I’d love to hear from you and what your take on it is.

What is Normal?

I haven’t written a post in a while and thought about which topic to start with first. But I’m thinking an update on all the good things that have happened over the past several months is deserved. Life has been pretty good, busy and somewhat “normal”. But what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism?

Well, for starters, both my sons are growing like weeds. I can’t keep enough food in the house, let alone in their stomachs.  My preteen son eats more than both my husband and I combined. His shoe size is a men’s 10 and is already 5’6″ at age 12.  I think I’m actually spending more money on groceries and his shoes each month than vitamin supplements. And that’s a lot!

My younger son with autism went through 35 treatments (dives) of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) this past summer. It was tough to keep up the treatments at a facility that was an hour drive away from home (each way). We saw immediate gains after the first 10-15 dives. His expressive language was soaring and his eye contact rocked! We slowly saw improvements come gradually during the remaining dives. His gut was improving and bacteria died off.  Focus, attention and eagerness to have friends come over for play dates all improved. We continue to see steady improvement each month. It’s very gradual and he just seems to do better and better each week. HBOT stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and increases blood vessel diameter which improves circulation to damaged organs (his brain). This process continues for up to six months once treatment is stopped.
I am proud to announce that both of my boys are now first degree black belts in Taekwondo! It is such a huge accomplishment for them, especially for my son with autism. He had to learn to focus, stay at attention, do numerous kicks, blocks, punches and all eight Taekwondo forms. Each form has 18 steps in them which must be done in sequence. He also had to break boards with punches/kicks five times during testing. Not an easy thing for a child that started classes three years ago, with lack of attention, focus and just plain disobedience to his Taekwondo Master. He also feared board breaking, mostly due to the sound it made. He is doing awesome in class now and a lot of the parents keep telling me what a different boy he is today, verses when he began. I could tell they wanted to say that he seemed “normal” now, but held back because that would be an odd thing to say.

So what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism? My boys argue over inane matters, are competitive with each other, vie for their parents attention, go to school, do homework, have friends and have overcome a lot in the past four years. Our normal may be a lot different from other families. Autism will forever touch our lives. We deal with it each and every day. Some days we see it more than others…sometimes not at all.

Social Skills and Autism

My son’s behavioral agency held a 12 week course for some of their clients on developing social skills with peers that are at the same level developmentally with a similar autism diagnosis. My son was a fortunate participant in this course on social thinking. It was based on the curriculum of Superflex and the Unthinkables created by Michelle Garcia Winner. Her website is www.socialthinking.com and it’s a great resource for parents, teachers, SLPs, therapists and family members.  The Superflex curriculum teaches children on the spectrum fun and motivating ways to develop strategies for better self-regulation across a range of behaviors. It teaches “social smarts” through the various comic book characters that depict behavioral challenges kids on the spectrum face. My son loved this curriculum and his social skills have soared since he attended these classes. Just having the ability to let him know when his behavior is “unexpected” in a social situation helps him tremendously. He identified with some of the Unthinkable characters in the book and understood how others would perceive him as one.

Another resource for teaching social skills is the book Crafting Connections by Autismpartnership.com contributors. Dr. Manny from Foxnews.com loves this book and I really like Dr. Manny. He has a teenage son with autism and features articles on this topic frequently. Watch the video by Dr. Manny on Boosting Social Skills to learn more about this book from its author.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/1163666673001/boosting-social-skills?playlist_id=86892

I have found that my 8 yr. old learns a lot through organized play dates with friends. He now initiates them and has applied his strategies he has learned on dealing with social cues and his behaviors that emerge during the one-on-one interaction with a friend. We are blessed to have some wonderful families involved in my son’s life and he has gained many friends through school, cub scouts, Taekwondo and church. If your child is high-functioning enough, get him/her involved in activities other than school to expand their social networking opportunities. You will need to meet parents of other kids, assess how their child interacts with yours and pursue those opportunities for your child. It has improved the quality of life for my son beyond measure.

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