I have an 8 yr old son that is affected by autism. I feel Paleo would be very beneficial to him but he is quite rigid in his eating habits, though he loves my paleo chili.
Anyone dealt with this? Unfortunately his fave foods are Double cheeseburgers from McDonalds and pizza. He is very addicted to bread and sweets. Or course I know better but he is very volatile and its easier to give in. I realize though that I have to do something more for him. He is getting older, bigger, and stronger.
I've had great success with supplements rather than medications. He was once on 4 and now only on 1 thanks to VitD, magnesium, and Omega3.
I might not be popular for saying this, but I'd say use the cheeseburgers and pizza as reinforcers for eating well. I don't know what your son's cognitive level is, but I do know that kids on the spectrum often do quite well working for a goal. Eventually you can start fading it... make it a longer and longer time between reinforcers, or try to switch to other things. It may be that if you can get decent exposure to higher quality food he'll feel better and he'll be able to recognize the relationship between his body and the food.
I think that a lot of folks on here have limited exposure to ASD. If your son was 3 years old, I'd say switch him cold turkey. At 8, you'd have a safety issue on your hands. You'll have to go the behavioral route. If you have a good behaviorist on board, see if you can get the behaviorist to create a plan for you to bring in the good food and fade out the bad.
Gluten-free will help him more than you can imagine, from my research.
YOU are the parent. He needs you to make better choices than he can for himself. His volatility may decrease once you get him off the foods that aren't working for him (wheat & sugar.)
You may also want to research the GAPS diet. Basically Paleo, with a few more restrictions to help heal the gut. Many kids with autism have benefited from this diet.
When he gets hungry he will eat.
You can try to slowly change him over, or plain and simple you can draw the hard line. He is young enough that he might fight for a while but he is not going to venture out on his own and get the food he thinks he wants.
I'm sure some people think its kind of harse but really, you can either help him or do nothing he may hate you for a while because you will no longer give it to the pizza and doulbe cheese burgers but the addiction will pass.
I've also read that a ketogenic diet has been very beneficial for autism, I have not read really enough on it but you should look into it more, maybe some others have more advice then I do on this topic specifically. As I don't see the problem being that you have a son that has autism, I see it as a problem that you have a son that is addicted to the wrong food.
I live with an autistic teenager. Our household has gradually transitioned to paleo over the past 5 years (starting with her being put on a GFCF diet). She started out on the typical autistic diet, limited to a few carb/dairy heavy foods, and we were concerned at the start about her starving herself if not given what she was willing to eat.
She now quite happily eats ANYTHING. Salads, curries, soups, chili, slabs of meat, eggs in different forms, raw and cooked fruits and vegetables of many types... She likes these things. She requests them. She has not rejected a meal I have made in the past several years. Even disregarding sensitivity issues, it's been an undeniably positive step nutritionally. She's so much physically healthier now than she was when she started!
(It has not, however, been a magical autism cure. We definitely notice behavioral improvement. She's much happier, more cooperative, and aware of other people when eating properly - we can tell when she's been sneaking stuff by her behavior. But she's still autistic, regardless.)
I don't really have any earth-shattering advice. Start with the assumption that he won't starve himself, especially if he's already willing to eat some food that is acceptable. If there are paleo foods he likes, have them available to the greatest extent possible. You may have to make a lot of chili for a while :) Introduce new things gradually, and gradually stop catering to his food preferences (ie. stop having chili available as an option if the dinner you've made is something else). As the addictions are broken, he'll probably be more willing to accept new foods, especially if he learns that he has to eat what he's given.
I won't say that no autistic (or non-autistic) kid will starve themselves rather than eat non-preferred food, but that's a bridge to cross if you come to it, not something to stop the journey before it starts. If you are really worried, focus on GFCF first, and include GFCF processed food, non-gluten grains, and so forth while you work on expanding his diet.
School is definitely the biggest challenge, with all the well-meaning people who give her graham crackers "because they have graham, not wheat", or who don't supervise her well, then call CPS when they see her sneaking a sandwich or yogurt out of a trash can because they don't realize she's autistic and/or assume she must really be hungry because it's not typical "treat" food, or when the art teacher decides they need to do still lives of boston cream pies or that the (high school age) kids can't survive a 20 minute bus ride without a daily snack. (Yes, those are all real-life examples that have happened to us!)
But you can only do what you can. None of that is really caused by the dietary restrictions - it's just that the dietary restrictions make us really aware of how much school can undermine parental nutritional choices!
Those tantrums can beat you down, so I understand giving in to stop them. But I think you might have to brace yourself for some serious tough love here. I was just reading last night that a study with 100+ kids with ADHD had 100% improvement with the removal of wheat from their diets and behavioral issues after 6 weeks. So maybe he could have that burger and you could switch out to a gluten-free bun until the wheat addiction is gone. Maybe he would go for Meatza, the best of both worlds, hamburger and pizza in one! If he is receptive you could try telling it to him straight when he is in a good mood and isn't hungry that there is something in bread that is making his tummy and his head sick, and you want to help him feel better, and that might mean trying some new foods.
It is a lot to ask of yourself emotionally and physically to weather the tantrums alone, definitely get some friends and maybe even professionals on board to get both of you through the withdrawl phase. I don't know where he is on the spectrum, but does he have any hobbies to channel frustration when he can't have what he wants to eat, like hammering nails into a board, stomping on boxes, kicking balls in the back yard? Most boys I've met, autistic or not seem to need an outlet for constructive destruction.
I'm also wondering if you could slowly crowd out the less desirable food as you slowly add in probiotics and NSO's(natural soil organisms), and maybe even L-glutamine (talk to your doc about amino acid therapy though). Does he like coconut oil, that is also supposed to be good for gut healing.
Well done with the supplements too. Keep up the good work!
I don't have any kids, and I don't mean to sound like an asshole here, but can't you just not give him other options? Put the whole family on Paleo, right? If that's all there is in the house that's all he'll be able to eat. I mean he's 8. It's not like he has money and a car to drive to McDonalds and buy double cheesebugers . . .
I imagine that he is somewhat aware of what he eats and likes to eat. And you probably deal with outside influences at birthday parties, when he is with grandparents, friends, etc. That make things more difficult for you as well as him; him not having what everyone else has is probably hard for him to understand. That said, you will probably have to deal with that for life. But you should really try ease him off of those foods and deal just with the fuss and fight that that brings out. But sooner than later you might notice that type of behavior diminish as he moves away from those toxic foods. Being a mom and seeing his reaction is hard, but not catering to those emotions is what you need to focus on. Don't feel guilty. You will probably see results right away if you can stick to it.
You should eat that way too;)
I have a 9 year old son with Asperger's. His school calls me constantly about his behavior is sues. I know in my heart that his diet has something to do with his behavior problems, he is very focused on sugary things and has a very limited food palate. I want to change his diet and it is overwhelming to think about for many reasons. I am gearing up, gathering information, I think I am going to try it. If not GAPS, then paleo at the least. All the best!
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