Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Of Diet and Dyslexia - Part Five

Cliche as it is, it's hard to believe that this is the fifth post in this series. But bear with me as I try to lay out the results of our diet change with H-Bob in our attempt to clean up her diet and experience positive changes in her learning abilities. You can catch up by reading parts onetwothree, and four.

September 2011 

By the time school rolled around, H-Bob was eating a gluten-free diet with very little amounts of sugar and dairy. Interestingly enough, once she lost her carb-craving associated with the gluten, she no longer felt the need to guzzle glass after glass of milk, and that empty space in her stomach could be filled with the fresh vegetables and fruit that had been missing from her diet. She was talking a multi-vitamin, an omega 3 supplement with DHA and EPA along with a probiotic. The last piece of the puzzle that I threw in was a supplement provided by Jarrow called Neuro Optimizer. This provided extra amino acids to support healthy brain function in an attempt to help her fill up any void that might exist nutritionally. But poor H-Bob. She had a cupful of pills every morning to deal with. We had our share of struggles over this, but when you can see such improvement, it sure helps to keep up your resolve.

During August when we saw that her ability to ‘see’ correctly had drastically improved, we started to think about finding a intervention reading program to help her get from her kindergarten reading level to something closer to her grade level which would be fourth grade this school year. We settled on Saxon Phonics Intervention Program as it skipped a lot of the fluff that you would expose a younger beginning reader to. It just hammered in the basics with lots of repetition and practice across all the different learning styles in a manner that would not be demeaning to an older student. Wanting to achieve success, I followed it to the last letter not skimming or skipping anything. Information I had read indicated that dyslexics benefit from intense phonics instruction to completely reinforce the application of phonics. It was amazing to see that by the end of September, H-Bob’s reading was phenomenally better. You have no idea how encouraging this was. H-Bob’s charter school classes were beginning the end of September, and I was a bit nervous about her entering Orchestra I with her violin as she had the ability to play well but could not for the life of anything read music. Her great musical ear had bolstered her along all through last year. But to my surprise, there was vast improvement over last year. All of this was definitely paying off.

October 2011

By this time, H-Bob had settled into a pretty predictable routine of eating clean, whole foods without gluten. But if she were exposed to gluten accidentally, it was so obvious She would experience her leg pains again, but even more intense as it took only a little exposure now to affect her. Her attitude would flip a switch and she would become very emotional...whether angry or sad..and it would be intense. Her attention would wander and there would be zero focus. There's nothing like a glimpse back into the past to remind you that whole-food nutrition without gluten will be paramount to her life...and permanent.

I’ll never forget the morning H-Bob yelled from her bed upon waking that morning. “Mom, mom! You’ll never believe it! I actually had a dream last night! And there was this music. I could hear all of it. All of the parts. And there was color everywhere!” I suppose that shouldn't sound like too unusual of a dream, but for her it was.  Due to her monotone diet and resulting lack of nutrition, it had appeared that there were neural connections that weren't being made just simply because she did not have the raw materials to support her neurological system. This tended to be expressed as her inability to envision things on an internal blackboard so to speak, difficulty recalling things, plus her various learning disabilities...all things that were frustrating for her. She was ecstatic over what her mind was now able to do. It’s hard to explain how significant this felt. All of those nagging questions whether things were not quite right with her processing skills were now ironing themselves out. It was all becoming too clear that the typical SAD diet we had been eating, although healthy by many means, still did not provide her picky palate with what she needed. That combined with her supplements to support catching up her deficiencies seemed to help complete the whole pictures. The saying, you are what you eat, was really hitting home.

Her vision therapist had explained that now she had the physical ability to take in printed material, she needed to achieve proficiency in the seven visual processing skills needed to process information. Because she had lacked those many, many years of taking in and processing information, she was simply behind in those skills. The physical ability formed the base of a pyramid and the various skills would build upon the top of them. She was so great at coming up with exercises that kept H-Bob's motivation up when they could have been very repetitious. She built activities around her interest in art and animals, and it seemed that once those activities were introduced, she flew through the exercises and made huge leaps and bounds of progress.  These activities helped all across the board with her reading that was progressing nicely as well as her handwriting skills, her focus, her mathematical abilities, and  her reasoning. Pretty much everything in her life was positively affected. Here, finally, was the positive and ambitious girl that we knew existed.

I think I will be able to wrap things up with my final post as we move into where we are today. Stay tuned!

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