Friday, August 12, 2011

Special-Needs Kids Eat Right -- Book Review

My mom gave me a copy of Special-Needs Kids Eat Right by Judy Converse a couple of weeks ago and it has changed my perspective on how to care for my children.  Neither of my boys have Autism, but my younger one has Sensory Processing Disorder and my older one has anxiety, which at times is quite severe.  In the past, I have always gone through our family doctor or more recently through their new pediatrician for advice on their issues.  And the doctors have always done the best that they could, but they have never been able to fully help.

My little one has been in occupational therapy which was a tremendous help, but he's plateaued again.  And my older one has had sessions with a child psychologist, which has helped him with coping skills for his anxiety...yet, it's still an every day battle.  Each of these professionals-the MD's, the OT and the psychologist have all helped, but we still have such a long way to go.  This book helped me understand where to start.  It's understanding the root cause of these health problems and addressing those first...I understood the gluten-free/casein-free diet, and separately I knew I felt better if I took probiotics, but I didn't fully understand how to make it all work together to improve my boys' overall health and their physical, neurological, and emotional well being.

Judy Converse lays out a guideline for parents on how to evaluate their children's nutritional health and how that health correlates to displayed symptoms.  Each step of the way, she tells you when and what type of professional to see, what to ask them, what things (whether diet changes, supplements, etc) will help in each case and how to make those changes.

Even if you don't have a child with special needs, this book has such good advice on nutrition that I would recommend it to everyone.  This book really drives home the point that you are what you eat...and sadly, many still don't understand quite what that means, only those of us that have seen the change in our children when we've rebalanced their gut flora and changed their diets so they are actually receiving all the nutrients they need.

Last year, after first taking my boys off of gluten (and my little one off of casein and soy, as well), I asked their pediatrician for a referral to see a dietician to make sure they were getting enough nutrients.  When I scheduled an appointment with the dietician at our local hospital, the receptionist said that my insurance probably wouldn't cover the cost and that I should call and see.  After calling, it was definitely determined that my insurance wouldn't cover the cost, they only covered nutrition services if it was for diabetes or obesity.  There is still a huge gap in our medical system that overlooks the nutritional needs of children, especially those that require special care--ones with sensory processing disorder, autism, Asperger's, ADHD, mood disorders, etc. Judy Converse says that the science and practice of helping children with bowel and nutrition problems is not new; the new part is recognizing that children in the above groups (autism, SPD, etc) usually have inadequate diets or undiagnosed GI problems that can benefit from nutrition therapy. This is why it is important to see a nutritionist that specializes in GI issues, and has experience in helping children with autism and these other disorders.

I think what I learned most from this book was to be open to trying new things, I came from a family that would go to an MD if you were sick and you would trust everything they say.  We will still see the doctor when we need him, but I've learned there are so many other sources of help--nutritionists, naturopathic doctors, homeopathic providers, and more.  And they are all experts in their areas and they each can offer healing in their own way.

I am reading this book again, and taking extensive notes, because in a couple of weeks my little one has his first visit with a nutritionist (that yes, we will be happily be paying for out of pocket) and I want to make the most out of the visit as possible...and she has given me all the tools to make that possible.  This book will never be shelved in my home, it will be laying out for quick reference at all times, because it is my guidebook for helping my boys.  Please read it!

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