Monday, April 16, 2012

Autism Awareness - behaviors

To be clear, I am not diagnosed with Autism. I am diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and disorder of childhood with some hyper-kinetic behaviors. SPD does typically go hand in hand with many Autism Spectrum Disorders and the hyper-kinetic can also be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity issues. (That said, this is my disclaimer.)

For children that have SPD and that are on that Autism spectrum many behaviors are uncontrollable by the child themselves. They need help from those around them. For myself, I have "warning signs" that I exhibit prior to having a problem. Adults that pay attention to me and that get to know me learn these signs pretty quickly. My sensory issues can be closely related to what I eat and so my diet matters too.

In a classroom environment, church or school, I sometimes get overwhelmed if it is loud, bright, chaotic, etc. Mom described it very well the other day when she was explaining how her migraine made her feel. Any little thing hurt, pitches of sound, touch, intensity of light, too much activity going on, all of that can contribute to my behavior.

My "warning signs" start with a complaint. I will say its too loud or say I need my sunglasses. The next step is I get into defensive postures, climbing under tables or desks, cuddling into a trusted adult/sibling, hiding. If the issue is not resolved I get agitated. I sling my arms out at people to chase them away, not trying to hurt them, I just don't want to be social. This is when mom needs to be gotten because if it gets worse from here, it gets ugly.

Why am I sharing this? Not to leave a stigma. I share because there is plenty of time to defuse the situation. If you are dealing with a child like me, you cannot yell at them to correct them, it will only make the situation worse. Yelling at children with sensory issues is an assault on multiple senses. One of my brothers has sensory integration disorder and one of his teachers did not understand what that meant so when she would correct him she would raise her voice, his behavior would get worse, then she would yell. This would continue until he burst out into a rage of throwing objects. The rage would not have happened had the teacher been able to keep her voice calm.

My advice? Get help. Learn how to cope with the behaviors. You are not alone.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Autism Awareness Month - diet concerns

New statistics in the United States say that 1 out of 88 children are on the autism spectrum. Seems overwhelming. Wow.

Then I think about friends and myself. Many of us don't 'look' different. We might be quirky or a little hyper (more than average). But then snack or lunch time comes...

See, my behaviors are affected by the foods I eat. Mom discovered early on that I had milk intolerance. This was one that had to be taken care of quickly as I was nursing and also recovering from closed heart surgery. The doctors wanted her to nurse as long as possible so mom had to change her diet for me. No more cow's milk for her!

In the last seven years we have discovered a few things that I drastically react to. I share because they could be things for you to look into with yourself or your child.

My body does not process unnatural sugar. I can not eat things with high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, Equal, Nutrasweet, Splenda, etc in them because my body does not recognize them as sweeteners.  For me this is dangerous because I am hypoglycemic, my sugar drops low. In addition, these chemicals cause me to not be able to focus and they also affect my sensory issues.

The most harmful group of chemicals we have found that cause the most disruption for me so far, are the AZO compounds. You might recognize some of them: red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, azodicarbonamide.  Red 40 I have the worst reaction to. It increases my heart rate and I am unable to calm down for HOURS. The last time I had some I didn't stop for 12 hours and then I passed out, when I woke up the next morning my head hurt really bad, my eyes had dark circles under them and I didn't want to be talked to or touched.

In order to avoid these problem chemicals in the foods, we eat a more natural diet. When mom and dad go grocery shopping they buy things that are not processed as much so that the chemicals are not there. We avoid most food coloring just to be safe and the same with sweeteners. Whenever possible, we rely on non-processed sugars which would be fruit, honey, and natural sugar. Although for the most part we try to avoid too much sugar anyway and focus on a diet with fruit and vegetables that is supplemented with meat and beans.

My opinion is our food is one of the reasons behind so many kids having spectrum diagnosis. Mom and Dad are no where near done with seeing which foods I react to. Every summer its a new adventure. The bottom line is the less processing and the more natural, the better.