Monday, April 30, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Four

Thanks for joining me on my series of posts about our daughter, H-Bob, and our discovery of her dyslexia and the effects of her diet. If you'd like, here are links to parts one, two, and three. Read along and find out how we took the first steps to evaluate and tackle major changes to our diet.

August 2011

Well...we bit the bullet. H-Bob and I were going to attempt to eliminate gluten, dairy and sugar from our diets. Just to see what might happen. Although most professionals...and remember, I'm not one--just a investigative type of mom...recommend at least a six week period of avoiding these foods, I was just hopeful to pull it off for two weeks. How could one exist without these food? What would you eat?  The whole concept was very intimidating and daunting to me. That shows you just how entrenched we were in our standard American diet (SAD). The clincher that gave me the determination to see this through was that as I flipped back through her food journal, I could see the relationship of what she was eating to her outward actions.

Nevertheless, just the thought of eliminating these foods from our diet made ME panic. Why was I so worried? I could go back to eating the same old way anytime, right? The next week was the WORST of our lives. I can truthfully say that the two of us went through withdrawals that must be equal to anyone dealing with an addiction. I did not go through the cupboards and throw out the offending foods as there were four other family members who absolutely did not want to be involved in this experiment. But, oh, I wish I could have. To walk by the bread and butter. To not have milk in my coffee. No pasta. Not even any steel cut oats. Processed foods were out of the question as they usually had sugar. I thought I was going to die. And H-Bob basically did. There were tears and crying and yelling and screaming. But by the end of the week, something remarkable happened.

Our intense obsession over these foods was over. The storm of sorts was gone. And we did survive. Not only survived, but H-Bob was feeling good. Those unpredictable, daily multiple meltdowns were oh-so drastically reduced. I will admit though, it did not have a perfect ending. I couldn’t keep H-Bob on that strict diet any longer than about ten days. I caved. Perhaps if I wasn’t trying to support her and eliminate the same foods from my diet at the same time, I could have kept up my resolve. But it didn’t happen. So I allowed her to choose…gluten or dairy to add back in. She chose dairy, thankfully, and we marched on for a second week without gluten.

Then I began to start noticing other things. H-Bob’s several times a week ankle joint pains were a thing of the past. Her tic was gone. She smiled a lot more...was more aware of things around her...and seemed to have a veil or fog lifted from her being.  She flew through her vision exercises. The roller-coaster emotions disappeared. All those things that made her life stressful were falling away. Maybe all those glowing reports by other parents whose children were on a gluten-free diet were accurate after all. Now let me say here again before I forget...I am not a doctor or a researcher or a professional of any kind. I’m not making a suggestion that you or anyone else you know can follow in our footsteps and experience the same results. But just the same, I want to


It really did work for H-Bob. Now after that required announcement, back to the diet thing. I was becoming a believer in gluten intolerance. Dairy did not seem to produce any undesirable effects. Sugar, on the other hand, seemed to exacerbate things but not on the level it was.

Another aspect that I was delving in to was that of fatty acid supplementation. Although limited, there is research to support that many kids on the spectrum scale are found to be deficient in omega 3 EPA/DHA. Effects from this supplementation do not appear as quickly as a diet change and sometimes take up to a month before any positive results are seen. But I was still looking for a missing component and this could be it. H-Bob’s GF diet had eliminated many of the mood and attention issues but there were still the issues of the way her brain seemed to have difficulties in processing information. We noticed that short term memory was pretty non-existant. ADHD anyone? She seemed completely inable to visualize anything internally. Part of these issues her vision therapist commented would be addressed after her vision abilities stabilized to where they should be. So we added an omega 3 supplement that had roughly equal parts EPA and DHA in it.

We were seeing such great improvement in other areas that I became a firm believer in everything else that naturopaths and other doctors of functional medicine had been using to help autistic, ADHD, and dyslexic children. So there were a couple of other things we did during this time. I began H-Bob on a probiotic as I became aware of the leaky gut syndrome that can cause autoimmune reactions to gluten in the form of her leg pains. We also added in a complete children’s vitamin. I have never felt totally secure in the fact that those gummy-type children’s vitamins actually are very potent, and due to her nutritional deficiencies (caused by her limited diet and malabsorption by her leaky gut) I tracked down a powdered vitamin recommended by Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The UltraMind Solution, whose nutritional advice was invaluable in helping to understand the dietary changes we needed to make.

We were probably four to five weeks into these supplements and noticing that none of the other negative symptoms were returning. Besides that, there started to appear additional unexpected benefits. One day while working on her eye therapy practice work, H-Bob startled me by exclaiming that something ‘switched on’. She was so excited she could hardly explain it to me, but while working on her divergence and convergence exercise she said that her ability to cross and uncross suddenly ‘turned on’. Something she had struggled to overcome since the beginning of her eye therapy. From that point on, she was 100% able to complete those exercises. Her therapist could hardly believe the improvement she made that week. We noticed that she could grasp the meaning of numbers while working on math. Her thinking skills were improving as well. Everything was moving along on an inclining scale upwards.

But then, life took over. DH had a fishing trip scheduled with a buddy and his kids. They were to spend an extended weekend camping. Cooking their guy food. Buying treats. All the bad stuff. I tried my best to convince DH that gluten was out of the question but knew that he didn’t really see the day-to-day effects that her new food choices were having on her. The day they came home, H-Bob bounded into the house with a red licorice rope in one hand and a soda in the other. Oh my. It wasn't long until it was all too clear that there was a diet connection here. After a miserable couple of days getting her back onto track, we were once again back to gluten free.

This was definitely a turning point in H-Bob's life. From here on we experienced positive gains. But our journey was far from over. School was about to start. Would any of these changes be evident once structured learning took over again? That will be the topic of Part Five.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Three

Thanks for joining me on my series of posts about our daughter, H-Bob, and our discovery of her dyslexia and the effects of her diet. If you'd like, here are links to parts one and two. Today we delve into the issue of diet which kept surfacing everywhere I turned while researching learning disabilities and attention issues.

July 2011 

Since the concept of diet being more than just what one puts..or doesn't put...into their mouth kept haunting me, I started to maintain a food journal, just for kicks, recording what H-Bob ate and what moods, attention span, cognitive abilities she expressed. Simultaneously I began to read everything I could about diet and ADHD. At this point I had already come to terms that all of our children had exhibited ADHD symptoms and had different learning patterns that enabled them to learn better in a homeschooling situation. But H-Bob combined all of the other three children’s most difficult traits into one bundled-up child. Not only did she maintain a short attention span when it came to reading-type work (even though we had a partial explanation for that with her vision difficulties), she also had intense phobias that would change from time to time along with other conditions that would fall under the label of compulsive disorders. At time she would have tics involving various parts of her body (the current one was blinking her eyes which was getting quite intense). There were violent mood swings with extreme bouts of crying over melancholy music or recalling sad memories. She really was the poster-child of a difficult child to raise.

So as I began to actually record these items, we began to realize how intensely they controlled her life. There were many many books and on-line sites that I gleaned information from. The evidence was overwhelming. Children experiencing these conditions seemed to be directly affected by their diet. These issues would drastically improve once they eliminated foods that they could not tolerate, cleaned up their systems of toxins, and began supplementation with DHA and EPA Omega 3 fatty acids. But how could this be true and not once have had it cross my information path? I’m a pretty well-read person and this had been completely under the radar to me. Even the fact that her pediatrition never threw out this information floors me.

Here is a list of some of the most compelling books I read through that summer while standing in the gardening watering and simultaneously trying to read a book in the other hand.

The Kid-Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook - best concise explanation of how dairy, gluten, and sugar can affect your child. 

Digestive Wellness - a more in-depth read detailing how digestive issues can have a far-reaching affect on all body systems.

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics - very detailed information on special diets, intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, and toxicity and the role they play in ADHD, autism, Aspergers, and dyslexia.

The Ultra Mind Solution - another very detailed book on nutrition that applies mainly to adults and the concept that diet is a contributing factor to any and all conditions detrimental to one's health and overall well-being. 

The LCP Solution - this provided more support for the role of Omega 3 in the diet and the effects of its deficiency. 

Brain Allergies - an older book that first opened my eyes as to how food sensitiveness can provoke psychological responses. 

Changing the Course of Autism - this book is specifically targeted at those on the autistic spectrum, but the diet, nutritional deficiencies, and toxicity issues are still applicable to dyslexics. 

So much information crammed into so many different books all to be inhaled and interpreted into what I began to feel was a very short window in order to begin to consider drastic changes in our diet. I must say that various encounters with friends whom I learned were making dietary changes for various reasons gave me the hope to travel down this path and that just perhaps we weren't alone.

Next up...the results of our food journaling...and what we discovered.


Links to and part four.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Two

Thanks for joining me on my series of posts about our daughter, H-Bob, and our discovery of her dyslexia and the effects of her diet. You can catch part one here.

 June 2011 

It all started with a Tweet. Someone who mentioned that she had just purchased a copy of How to Raise Your Strong Willed Child. It sounded like a good title to investigate. We used to tweet back and forth how H-Bob and some of her children exhibited over-the-top, strong-willed-child attributes. I tracked down a copy at our local library and started reading. It confirmed that I indeed have a strong-willed child. As an infant she cried continually...was sensitive to light, touch, all sounds, and motion. As a toddler, she was still whiny, a picky eater, always in motion. These all fell under the different personality traits outlined by the book. Fascinating and affirming that H-Bob was not the only such child on the planet.

Not so much a personality trait, but we noticed as a preschooler she had no interest in the printed letter although she loved to be read to and became skilled at drawing. Beginning reading lessons were met with resistance. Being able to distinguish sounds seemed difficult. It seemed as if she could not understand the concept of rhyming words. What we learned one day was forgotten the next. And forget anything that had to do with math. But back to the book. Sprinkled through the book were those disclaimer comments…if your child exhibits this or that, you might want to consider the possibility of a learning disability. Those little things that pricked at my insides and said, “What are you going to do with that information, now?”

There were references to several different other titles and online information to consider as follow-up materials to the book. I promptly checked out stacks of titles from our local library (just check my Shelfari shelf on the left-hand side of the blog) and entered the world of dyslexia. It didn’t take much more than that to clinch the fact that this was what we were dealing with. School was out for the summer, so we proceeded with what we had on our own. I brought it up with her wonderful vision therapist who told me her son was dyslexic and had eye abnormalities similar to H-Bob when he was young. She had already suspected that H-Bob was dyslexic but didn’t mention anything. H-Bob’s eyes needed to ‘see’ effectively before anything else remedial could be introduced. Interesting that she did not consider dyslexia a liability at this point. I would learn in time that dyslexia is a gift and not something to be feared.

As I mentioned in my much briefer posts here and here at the time, I’m not one to take things lying down. There simply had to be a reason for her dyslexia. Current information seems to point towards a hereditary link. To my knowledge that did not exist in our family. What else could there be? Here began my search. I first scoured the web to find more information that I knew where to start with. Luck had it that the first book I picked up at the library was Disconnected Kids. If I thought that Raising Your Strong Willed Child was an eye opener. This was a life-changer. Dr. Melilo outlines his take that dyslexia and anyone on the austism/Asperberger spectrum are dealing with conditions on just one front, with individuals with dyslexia being extreme right-brained and autism/Asperbergers on the left-brain scale. Due to various conditions, the two halves of the brain can become disconnected and either of those conditions can occur. One section of his book outlines how to test at home for those conditions, and the dyslexia became very clear. These situations can be reversed according to his protocol with retraining the brain to communicate to the other side through occupational therapy activities and by a diet change. We promptly started with activities that started communication between right and left brain and could see that anything left-brained oriented was so difficult for her. She lined up true to the symptoms of someone who has limited use of the left hemisphere...not too coincidentally, the language processing side of the brain concerned with reading.

There is way too much information to condense here…I’m already feeling like I’m rambling even there is so much to say…but getting to the diet part. That seemed like a bunch of crock. How could eliminating gluten, dairy, and sugar change the way one felt or thought? That’s all H-Bob lived on as she was such a picky eater.


That was the key, although we didn’t yet realize to what extent it would change her life.

Next journaling and a new side to nutrition that we had never been exposed to.

Links to part three and part four.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part One

As I sat with my mother at her optometrist appointment a few weeks ago, we started talking about an article on gluten sensitivity that was published in our local newspaper, The Oregonian, that I had brought along to read...a full-page spread in their Living Section on gluten sensitivity issues. My mother has always been interested in nutrition and has tried to follow my train of thought on our discovery of gluten intolerance with H-Bob after her dyslexia diagnosis. It seems so foreign to her that wheat…the substance of America’s breadbasket…could be so offending. It was then that I realized that was my exact sentiment nearly a year ago, and it would seem that I should share our story. I wouldn’t have believed where we are today from the viewpoint of a year ago. Not one tiny shred...even to the point I would have bet my bottom dollar on it.

 As I previously blogged in Overcoming Dyslexia and It's Dyslexia...So Now What?, H-Bob’s learning difficulties seemed to stem from a dyslexic situation that I finally allowed myself to follow down that particular rabbit hole. After all, who wants to admit their child has a learning disability. But the evidence was there, and I had been choosing to ignore it.

She’ll grow out of it.
Just a delayed learner.
She’ll catch up next year.
But it never happened. So hang on. Here’s our wild ride.

January 2011 

I had scheduled a vision screening at H-Bob’s charter school for her realizing that part of her reading difficulties could be based on her visual tracking. We had a similar experience with Camo Queen back when she was in sixth grade that was easily resolved with vision therapy. At the end of the screening, it was apparent that we were on to something. H-Bob’s tracking was off as was her ability to cross and uncross her eyes. And quite a bit at that. Her initial appointment with the optometrist revealed that her visual processing speed was at that of a kindergartener. He was amazed that she was reading at all. In her world, the words would be overlapping, dancing on the page, and coming in and out of focus. No wonder our attempts at reading were stuck at the beginning Bob Book levels. At this time H-Bob was nearing the end of third the age where the effectiveness of reading intervention hangs in the balance scales. After several months of therapy, H-Bob had been working hard at the different exercises that were prescribed. They were hard, strained her eyes, forcing them to behave in the way they needed to. But there was progress. Things were going to work out.

Well, things have a way of working out, but perhaps just not the way you envision.

Next forward to June 2011 and an encounter with another life-changing book.

Links to part twopart three, and part four.

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