Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The medless ADHD son

Okay, so when I started this blog, DH asked, "Are you going to try to make some money from it?" I was all, "huh?" I had no idea that was even a possibility. But it turns out, by letting there be ads on my page, I could theoretically make some money depending on how many people click through to the ads from my entries.

I mentioned in my last entry that A is on a special diet to treat his ADHD, without meds. So, guess what ads I see on my page today? ADHD meds. Guess they must have automated searches to find keywords that they think might be appropriate to the blog's content. I want to be absolutely clear, while I realize that there are some children who really do require the drugs, I strongly believe that most of the kids taking ADHD meds today could successfully manage their symptoms with dietary modifications.

When A was 4, he was evaluated by the DCIU (our county's early intervention program) and found to have an emotional/developmental delay. Basically, he didn't always respond appropriately to social cues, and had a difficult time controlling his impulses in interactions with other kids. He would lose his temper quickly and sometimes yell or even act out physically with me or a playmate when things didn't go his way.

After a little over a year of educational support from the county, I saw improvement, but had a gut feeling that there was something more going on. The impulse control was better, but still a problem. Watching him, I could see his body acting before his conscious mind could interrupt and moderate his behavior. At times, he literally appeared to be out of control. But ADHD seemed inappropriate, since A could certainly maintain focus on things that he was interested in. Still, I had to figure this out; so, I did a little research and learned that there are three different types of ADHD - the mainly attention-deficit type, the mainly hyperactive type and combined type. A seemed to fit the mainly hyperactive type. So, I found an ADHD specialist associated with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and took steps to have him evaluated.

Four months later, we finally had our appointment with Dr. Glanzman. Based on questionnaires that A's teachers and I filled out, plus tests she did with him in the office, the good doc determined that A was at-risk for ADHD. We made it clear that we would only use medication as a last resort, and really wanted to explore other options, first. Dr. G said she could recommend some dietary changes. My heart sank. I had heard about how some kids on the Autism spectrum benefit from a gluten-free/casein-free diet. I had also heard how difficult and expensive it could be to follow. But I steeled myself and was ready to take it on, if it would help my boy. Surprisingly, the doc asked if we had heard of the Feingold Program. I hadn't - so she explained that it is a program that eliminates all artificial flavors, colors and certain preservatives from the diet, as well as personal care items like toothpaste, soap and lotion. I was so relieved that she hadn't said GF/CF, I perked right up and said, "sure, we can try that!" She added that increasing the ratio of protein to carbs in his diet would help even out his blood sugar, which would also be beneficial.

A was in kindergarten at this point, and within a month of starting the new program, his teacher was thoroughly impressed. We certainly made a believer out of her. My family (especially my Mom, who is a nurse at a special needs school) was mightily impressed when we went for visits, as well. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Feingold Program has been for our family. Not only did A's behavior improve - his palate began to expand dramatically. The kid whose only plant intake had been carrots and bananas now eats just about everything under the sun! (Except apples, for some reason, they make him act up.) Of course, the whole family is pretty much Feingold-ing, since I don't buy foods that A can't have. I've noticed that N (my daugher)'s eczema has improved as well. Plus, none of us gets sick as often as we used to - and generally recover more quickly when we do.

The only thing that's tricky about Feingold-ing is that you can't just do the diet by reading ingredient labels. Trust me, that would make life much easier. Some of the eliminated substances (especially preservatives) can be hidden within other ingredients, in packaging (that can leech into the food), even a non-stick spray they used to cook the food (which would not be considered an ingredient, even though it gets absorbed). So, in order to know you're really following the program, one must join the Feingold Association (http://www.feingold.org/). Then they send you materials explaining how to work the program, including a 200-page book called the "Foodlist and Shopping Guide" which lists what foods they've researched and found to be free of the offending ingredients. I never go food shopping without it. There's lots more I could say about Feingold, food labeling and ways I've learned to make the program easier for us to follow - but I think that's another post.

So, ignore the ADHD meds ads on this page...unless of course, you just want to click to help me earn a little dough.