Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gluten Free Fun

I've read that a lot of children with apraxia have either gluten allergies or an intolerance.  But, I figured since Kiddo doesn't really seem to have digestive issues, eczema and other common symptoms of a gluten allergy or intolerance he didn't have problems with gluten.  But, the more I read about how having a sensitivity to gluten can affect not only the digestive system, but the neurological system made me want to try going gluten free and see if it made a difference in Kiddo.  I read a few apraxia forum posts about it, and most moms said they saw a difference in their children's behavior and speech when going gluten free so I was further convinced I wanted to try it.

So, after discussing with Hubster, we decided to take the plunge.  We put away all the glutenized snacks (that's what I've dubbed anything with gluten in it now) and replaced it with expensive, gluten free snacks.  And I was delighted to see both kiddos gobbled them up without complaint.  We got gluten free chicken nuggets and gluten free bread for Kiddo's beloved PB&J.  (Did you know a gluten free loaf of bread is $6?!?  And with less slices than a glutenized loaf?  And it goes bad faster than a glutenized loaf?   Ridiculous, but that's a different story.)    I told the teachers at his preschool that he was on a gluten free diet and if they didn't have a gluten free snack that day, that there were plenty in his backpack.  All seemed to be going well.

But then Saturday night came around, and I freaked out.  The kiddos love being in the nursery at church and nursery workers serve the children glutenized goldfish and animal crackers.  I debated bringing our snacks with us, but knew the kiddos would not go for it when they knew where the glutenized goodies were.  In fact Kiddo signs "fish" within minutes of being in there because he's kind of addicted to glutenized goldfish.  So hubster and I agreed we'd let them eat the glutenized stuff.  Couldn't kill them to eat it once a week, right?  And if they seemed to have any problems after church, well then we'd know it's the gluten.

I'm happy to report they are alive and well, and eat glutenized goodies every Sunday at church.  As well as occasionally when we go out to eat, since the preferred thing to eat at restaurants is glutenized chicken tenders.

So, Kiddo is on an extremely limited gluten diet.  Little Brother not so much.  After that Sunday nursery experience, well we figured since we doubt Little Brother has a gluten sensitivity, he'll just share in the gluten free snacks with Kiddo and he can eat glutenized stuff with us for breakfast, lunch and dinner while Kiddo enjoys his gluten free food.

And it seems to be working for us.  I have seen an improvement in Kiddo's behavior and speech, and I don't know if it's completely because of the diet, but I'll take any progress we can get.  We're planning to do the limited gluten diet for three months, and if the improvement continues, then the diet will continue.  If it doesn't, well we'll give him more gluten and see what happens.

Changes in his behavior:
  • He seems much more aware of what other people are doing, in which before he was kind of oblivious.  Example, he was chasing Little Brother around the house after we returned from an appointment, and I kept telling him to leave Little Brother alone.  This made Kiddo very upset, and I realized after a while what was going on.  Kiddo was upset that Little Brother was wearing his shoes in the house.  Kiddo knows when we come in the house we take off our shoes and put them on the shelf and he wanted Little Brother to do the same.
  • Kiddo seems to be wanting more attention.  For example, he will pat me if I'm not looking at him when he wants to show me something.  This is his way of saying "Mama, look at me!"  I keep encouraging him to tell me "Mama" instead, but hey I'll take it.  He never did anything to try to get my attention before except whine or wait for me to notice he wanted something.
  • He started taking naps again.  Around November he stopped taking naps, but still slept the same number of hours at night.  But a few days after the diet change he started taking a 1-2 hour nap again in the afternoon.  I personally LOVE this.  Especially if his nap overlaps with Little Brothers'. ;)
  • His appetite has increased.  He's always been a picky eater, so I wasn't sure how he'd do having his diet all switched up.  But he has surprised me, by trying (and liking!) pretty much everything I've give him to eat.  He's also now a big fan of apple slices with peanut butter, which before he wouldn't even try, but now he has them pretty much every day with his lunch.  He's also eating a little bit more meat, which I'm thrilled about, because I've worried he doesn't get much protein (hence all the peanut butter I try to get into the kid).
  • He'll "talk" in the phone or while Skyping with family members.  Before, whenever we would try to get him to talk on the phone, he wouldn't say anything or would act all grumpy and defiant.  But now when we give him the phone or let him see the computer screen while we Skype he repeats what we ask him to, he attempts to answer the questions he is asked, and he's much happier in general.
  • He has become aware of when he needs his diaper changed and has even pooped in the potty twice!  He had no interest in the potty chair before, nor do I think he was ready before, but we're working on it now.  
Again, I don't know if these things are related to the diet changes or not, I just figured I'd share all the changes I've seen in Kiddo in the past few weeks since we started the limited gluten diet.  

Changes in his speech:
  • He is starting to figure out how to make new sounds.  We've been working on his p, b, and m sounds for a long time and he has such a struggle with them.  (Speech lesson for those not familiar with this: These are the sounds babies generally learn how to make first, because they use the lips and so babies can see what you're doing when you're saying them and can imitate them.  Kiddo, on the other hand, isn't very aware of his lips, and so he has a much easier time with k's and g's which are said in the back of the mouth rather the p, b and m that are said in the front).  We have to keep reminding him to close his lips to get the sound out, but it's slowly becoming easier for him, and so his words are sounding clearer.  Example, for "open" he used to say "o-e".  But now that he is beginning to say his "p" sounds, he says "o-puh".  Still not perfect, but I personally think "O-puh" sounds a lot closer to the word then "o-eee" and that just makes me happy.
  • He is learning how to answer questions!  Before he would stare blankly at whoever asked him a question or would just repeat the last word or two.  But now he's learned how to answer "What's your name?" and "How old are you?"  He also answers when you give him a choice between items (before he would just point at what he wanted rather than say it).  He will answer a yes or no question if you end the sentence with yes or no (For example: Did you have fun at school today, yes or no?).  So I am able to learn a lot more about what is going on in his head and in his life by asking him questions, when before if I asked a question I didn't get a response.
  • He speaks in phrases much more.  Before, if he would speak, it usually would be one word, and usually if we asked him to say it.  Occasionally he would tell us what something was using two words, such as 'red car' or 'blue train'.  But now, he's said quite a few phrases, and most of them spontaneously (meaning I don't prompt him or teach him the phrase, but he is knowing when and how to say it himself). 
A few of his newest phrases:
  • Fun school
  • Go to school
  • Go poo-poo
  • Go under (when he wants us to put a blanket over him)
  • Want Bird please (when he wants the tablet so he can play Angry Birds)
  • More eat
  • I want eat
  • Big ball/little ball
  • Big doggie/little doggie
  • Baby wake (when Little Brother wakes up from nap and starts crying)
Some research on gluten-free diets and apraxia if you're interested:

Scientists Characterize New Syndrome of Allergy, Apraxia, Malabsorption by Children's Hospital and Research Center at Oakland
Cure Your Child with Food: The Hidden Connection Between Nutrition and Childhood Ailments (aff link) by Kelly Dorfman  (Love love love this book!  I had read it last year, but skipped over the chapters about gluten because I didn't think Kiddo had a gluten allergy or sensitivity.  My mistake, as the entire book is awesome.)
The Gut-Brain Connection by Tsarmom (A post on my favorite apraxia blog)

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