There are so many theories and protocols about helping our children with autism. Some make sense. Some don’t. I had a parent ask me yesterday, “I want to know what I can do RIGHT NOW to help my son. I don’t have time to wait for a new doctor to see him or to wait for government help. The waiting lists are way too long!”
Since I’m no doctor, I can’t offer medical advice, but as a parent, I can give you advice from a mother’s perspective. It’s best to go back to the basics and keep things simple. It just so happens that my advice is also the advice of many different doctors and other parents with children on the spectrum. (Hint, hint: the following advice is good for the rest of the family too!)
- Reduce the sugar in your child’s diet. Make a real concerted effort to do this and you will see some results. Sugar makes our kids hyper, fat, insulin-resistant, and encourages yeast overgrowth in their bellies. It comes in many forms from candy, cakes, bread, chips, juice and sodas. Try to remove as much sugar as you can. If you must replace it, use stevia or pure honey.
- Add more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many parents allow their kids to eat junk instead of organic fruits and veggies. Get ‘em in there any which way you can; pureed, shredded, chopped, sautéed, fresh or even cooked if you have to. Make sure every time something goes in your child’s mouth, there are some fruits and veggies going in too. This is such an important area for our kids on the spectrum and such a challenge for us parents that I’m always experimenting in the kitchen and posting free recipes for you to try on this website. Please try them out and feel free to post your comments afterwards.
- Hydrate your kids! This goes hand-in-hand with the first two tips. Most of our kids don’t drink enough water. Many of them are dehydrated, which can cause all kinds of problems, given that the brain is 80% water. If you want your child’s brain working better, make sure that it has plenty of fresh, clean filtered water going into it throughout the day. My son doesn’t like plain water, so I fill a sun tea jar (with a spout on it) with filtered water, ice and orange slices every day. Not only is he getting the water all day long, but a little extra Vitamin C too! You can change it out with lemons, limes, cucumbers or any other fruit to change up the taste. Green tea is great for brain function as well, since it contains chemicals that actually enhance both mental relaxation and alertness.
- Make sure your child is getting the right kinds of fat. Take out the bad fat and put in the good stuff. I’m talking about removing hydrogenated fats found in junk food and most prepackaged foods. I’m also talking about making sure your child is getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids to help promote balanced emotions and a positive mood. If you can’t get your child to eat sardines and salmon, at least make sure she’s getting a quality fish oil supplement. Many fish oil supplements have contaminants and heavy metals in them, so make sure you do your homework here. Some of the other good fats you need to introduce are monounsaturated fats found in nuts, avocados and olives.
- The final one is Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. A lot of our kids are so busy all day long that it’s easy to sit them in front of the television, computer or video games for the afternoon when they get home from the school or daycare. I’m guilty of it too. But guess what? That actually can damage their brain activity. Many studies show that all that screen-time can introduce too much electronic stimuli, which can reduce IQ, shorten attention spans and limit attentiveness. We need to pump oxygen into those growing bodies, instead, so go for a walk around the block, ride a bike, do some simple calisthenics (remember windmills, marching, sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks), buy an inexpensive rebounder trampoline or go outside and kick around a soccer ball every single day. This is a great place for parents to set the ground rules and be a good role model. Your kids will follow your example.
Raising a family is a tough job, but when you throw in a kid (or kids) with autism, it makes it that much tougher. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. So try your best to follow these five simple rules for a healthier life. You and your kids will soon be thinking more clearly, have more energy, grow stronger and even sleep better through the night. What could be better than that?