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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Puzzle Pieces of a Child

So I wish I could report that my diet transformation for my kids was right on target but I'm not one to sugar coat things. My son is eating a lot of bacon, great; but his secondary food right now is Popcorners.  Darn those people who made them!  As for Teagan, she is begging for donuts everyday and since I don't have donuts, she cries "there is nothing I can eat", every. single. morning!  So I end up shoving her out the door with a pouch of applesauce yelling "Have a great day honey!"   I guess I have more work to do.

Our kids are often like putting together the pieces of a puzzle.  As parents, we are constantly re-evaluating what works for discipline, self-esteem, diet, and school.  Then you add a challenge such as SPD and the puzzle seems to have so many more pieces to it.  This puzzles has been occupying my every thought for the past two years it seems. Are they low in zinc? Should I try B-12 injections? Do they need a swing in their room? Will melatonin help them sleep? Is school the best place for them to learn? Should I post picture cards through the house?  and the list goes on...

I'm pretty sure this has become an obsession of mine.  Heck, maybe I'll just make a career of it so at least I'll get paid to think about it all day long.  Anyway, the current book I"m reading has managed to make my puzzle triple in pieces. Where the heck was this book 7 years ago?  It is Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Jerry Kartzinel's book "Healing and Preventing Autism"  Now before you all start reminding me that I don't have autistic children, let's look at some similarities.  Both disorders are abnormal ways of responding to stimuli and/or sensations that occur in every day life.  Both are neurological disorders that are influenced by genetics and the environment.  This book addresses much much more than Austism.

What I love about this book is that much of the advice in it applies to most autoimmune disorders.  As many of you know, I have fibromyalgia, an auto-immune disorder.  My mom and her mom have thyroid disease, an auto-immune disorder.  Brayden has a leaky gut and food allergies, immune system disorders.  Teagan had a rare fever disorder as a toddler, again immune system.  Do we see a pattern here?  This book discusses everything from vaccinations, diet, and supplements to detoxification.  A must read in my opinion for every parent that has a child suffering from allergies, asthma, Autism, SPD or any other ailment for that matter.  It just might solve another piece of the puzzle!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Picky eaters redefined

It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is writing an article on picky eaters.  It appears to be an epidemic with the last few generations of children.  Our family is no exception to this latest "trend" of parenting headaches facing parents today.  However plentiful these articles and books are on the subject, it seems that the majority of them miss the ball on picky eaters.

You see there are picky eaters trying to exert control, picky eaters due to lack of exposure to healthy foods, picky eaters with no explanation or other factors, and then picky eaters with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or some other neurological impairment such as Autism.  There is a big difference between the first three and SPD.

For years, our prediatricians (we had several) all told us Brayden would out grow his eating struggles around age five.  Well, age five came and went and we were faced with much more than picky eating.  This is so hard for people to comprehend.  If you put good food in front of a hungry child, he will eat it, right?  For most kids, yes, but for Brayden no.  In fact, Brayden has come very close to hospitalization for starving himself in the past. Something as simple as a cold can make it impossible for him to eat food. Even ice cream! Another concept that is hard for others to conceive.

I'm lucky enough <insert sarcasm>  to have both a picky eater and a child with a food aversion so let me tell you  a few differences.  First of all, my son with the food aversion physically can not consume many foods.  In fact, a crumb on the table makes it impossible for him to even sit there.  The thought of eating certain foods will make him gag.  His mouth is oversensitive to the textures of food so any flaw in the make up of a certain food triggers this reflex.

Now my Teagan, who is a picky eater, has strong preferences for the same foods.  There is a direct correlation though to the types of foods she has and what she will eat.  If she is given sugar foods, she will refuse healthy foods.  But the longer she is given the healthier foods, the more she eats of them.  She is sensitive to the textures of foods as well but doesn't show the psychological distress her brother shows when forced to try them.  She is responsive to a reward chart for trying foods whereas Brayden is stressed by the thought because he knows his body won't let him get those rewards.

There is a huge difference between these two but there is one thing in common that most professionals seems to miss the mark on.  Both of their eating habits are negatively influenced by commercial and processed foods.  Much of America's diet is atrocious and it becomes harder and harder for kids these days to make good choices.  When you have a picky eater, seeing their peers eat these foods just makes it even harder for them to eat their healthier choices.  Processed foods are addicting and void of the nutrition our children need.  Even if they are fortified with vitamins, there are micro and macro nutrients that you simply can't duplicate with vitamins.  The first taste many toddlers get of processed foods can set them up for a lifetime of struggles with eating.

Think about if your child never ever had a single processed food as a toddler?  Even if they were picky, they would still eat healthy choices because it is all they know.  Somewhere my son's diet took a terrible turn for the worse and then I was faced with the struggle of keeping weight on him versus only giving him healthy food.

So what do you do with these picky eaters?  For my son, he has to have intensive therapy to work on strengthening his oral motor muscles so he can physically eat healthy foods.  For my daughter, food chaining and making only healthy choices available seems to work well.

We are working hard on making changes for our son and this is our current plan.  We have identified the non processed foods he will eat.  This includes bacon, apples, yogurt, baked goods (only made by me though), cheese and apple sauce.  Our newest plan is to only serve him these foods but make other healthy choices available that he can tolerate looking at and might find palatable.  We are supplementing with Grass Fed Whey Protein and a probiotic to help heal his gut and add calories.

For our daughter, we are establishing table rules that everyone has to follow.  We are making sure she has one choice she likes at every meal but then we pick the rest.  I know she won't starve so I'm able to be a bit less relaxed with her.

The other element that is very important for any picky eater is allergy testing.  It is very common to have a child stuck on certain foods such as dairy or breads only to find that they are allergic to them.  Our Brayden is allergic to many foods and we never would have known if I hadn't requested allergy testing.  I wish it was a standard practice at well visits because allergies to foods seems to be the newest epidemic facing our children. But we will save that discussion for another day...

So do you have a picky child?  Did this give you any ideas?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nose pickers

So I think I finally figured out this nose picking thing.  You see, as I previously explained, my two SPD kids are extreme opposites.  Brayden has an under responsive nervous system while Teagan has an over responsive nervous system.  Can you guess which one is the nose picker?

Teagan of course! That kid is an excessive picker. She even gets redirected at school for this.  If you think about it though, she feels everything so much stronger than the rest of us do. So why wouldn't she feel her boogers more? 

That also got me thinking as to why Brayden can't even blow his nose.  He probably never feels the urge to.  He can have a traffic jam of boogers in there and not even notice.

So there you have it.  If you have a nose picker at home, perhaps they feel sensations a bit stronger than you do and just need to get at it!  Gross!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When SPD returns to school...

Wow was this morning a tough one.  My poor Brayden was up half the night fretting about returning to school. His anxiety began on Saturday when he was able to count the days in his head and realized his break was coming to an end on Wednesday.  Every night he whined about not wanting to go to school.  Last night and this morning he just sobbed.  It broke my heart to send him to school.  It's times like this that I debate whether homeschooling would be better for him.  I do know that it would not be the solution to his problems and here is why.

Brayden has an impairment in his proprioceptive senses.  The proprioceptive system is the one that tells us where our body parts are in relation to each other.  It also signals how much effort we need to move our body, or objects.  For example, when you lift a box, you use this system to determine how much strength you need from your legs and arms to hoist it up.  A subtype of Brayden's motor delay in his proprioceptive system is called Dyspraxia.  This means he has trouble translating sensory information into physical movement, including planning.  It takes significant effort just for him to plan how to move through his classroom to place an assignment on his teacher's desk.  This most significantly effects Brayden's oral motor movement as evident by his eating disorder.  But it also makes it extremely difficult for him to get out of bed, get dressed and physically get to school.  At age 7, we still dress him on school mornings or it would literally take 15 minutes for him to do it.

This effects every part of his school life as it impacts his gross motor, fine motor and oral motor abilities.  Brayden is an exceptional artist yet he can't color inside the lines because his fine motor planning is so poor.  He absolutely hates gym class because he can't coordinate his movements to dance or play sports.  This effects his self esteem as he doesn't want to be different from the other kids.  Brayden's hardest struggle at school right now is math.  This is a puzzle to everyone as to what is causing him so much stress in this area.  He flips all his numbers still and becomes frustrated when told to write "backwards" as he sees it.  He is very good at math as evident from his MAP scores and his ability to yell out math problems at me all the time but writing it is very stressful.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as to why school is so difficult for Brayden.  His body need constant movement throughout the day to keep his nervous system aroused.  Unfortunately, his current class does not afford that opportunity.  Our school has just completed a full evaluation on Brayden and I will get those results tomorrow with a school meeting on Monday.  I am eager to see if he qualifies for interventions to help him.  My heart just aches for him today and I know how hard this day must be!