Looking Beyond a Gluten-Free Diet

For years parents and physicians have been examining the benefits of a gluten-free, casein-free diet for children with autism.

Many report great success with such restrictions. Now, parents and doctors of children with special needs are looking beyond these diets to check food labels for dyes, additives and sugar content.

The concept of monitoring synthetic food additives first gained popularity among parents of children with ADHD, but now parents of children with autism are examining the benefits of eliminating these artificial flavors, dyes and sugar from their children's diets. The goal of eliminating these elements is to reduce inappropriate self-stimulatory behaviors and increase focus. Parents and teachers are reporting success.

"I saw a change within 24 hours. This student was laughing uncontrollably, all the time, and within the first day he was quieter and more focused," one teacher shared.

A mother of two children on the spectrum says monitoring sugar intake keeps her children's moods more even.

"When they have things like gluten or too much sugar, their moods change quickly," she said.

Taking the first step to implementing these changes can be hard for parents, especially when feeding children who only eat certain color foods or eat the same foods each day, common habits among so many children with autism. In addition, many children in ABA-based programs are reinforced with edible items, which often include candy, chips, cookies, or other highly-motivating snacks.

Americans in general have become more conscious of what they put in their bodies in recent years, as seen in the number of healthy cookbooks, natural and organic food stores, and holistic medicine options available in the U.S.

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder continue to research ways to support their children's cognitive, social, and physical growth and eliminating synthetic food additives and sugar from the pantry is another attempt to live a healthy life and solve the puzzle of autism.

Jennifer Cerbasi works as a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey. As owner of The Learning Link, LLC, she works with parents in the home to support children's academic, social, emotional, and physical health through a variety of services. Jennifer utilizes her training in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in both settings to foster children's development. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. For more information, go to www.jennifercerbasi.com.