DAN* protocol doctors, therapists and parents often incorporate gluten free/casein free diets in the treatment plan set to help autistic kids overcome some of the hurdles they face. And while a healthy diet may improve a person’s overall health, many parents are taken aback by the high cost of a specialized diet and though many make a valiant attempt to switch to a GF/CF* diet, they often fail because of time, affordability and an inability to get their child to eat the food.
Here are 5 parent tested steps that can help your child make the switch to a gluten free/casein free diet.
Decide to make a change.
Clear your kitchen of unhealthy food. Cleaning up the entire family’s diet will make switching easier. You don’t have to switch everyone to a GF/CF diet but there are some foods like brown rice and brown rice pasta that are easy meal substitutions. When it comes to helping autistic children with change you have to make a plan of attack, get the support of family members, confidently stick to the plan and be determined to succeed.
Set a budget.
GF/CF products and ingredients aren’t cheap. Make sure you browse these items and make note of their costs so you can set a budget. Choose simple, inexpensive food starting with lean meat, fruit, vegetables, legumes and brown rice and brown rice pasta, almond milk and water. These items won’t break the bank but choosing pre packaged goods like GF/CF cereals, bread, cookies, and cakes or even trying GF/CF baking from scratch can be time consuming, frustrating and pricey. There is nothing wrong with including treats; just be aware of the cost to you. If you are exhausted, pressed for time or simply don’t have the money, remember humans subsisted for centuries on a diet of lean meat, fruits and veggies.
Make the change gradually.
Much like weaning an infant from a liquid to a solid diet, switching to a GF/CF diet takes time. Start with something simple, like switching your child to almond milk. Serve cow’s milk and add in a little almond milk, slowly reducing the cow’s milk while increasing the amount of almond milk until they are completely weaned. Once successful, try making the switch with another food always keeping in mind this is a big change and will require lots of time and patience.
Failure is a prerequisite for success.
Kids don’t make dietary changes easily. You may have to try presenting food in a fun and colourful way or juicing fruits and veggies. Your kid may gag, spit up, throw tantrums and may downright refuse to eat but eventually they will eat what you offer. You may have to serve the one thing they are willing to eat, over and over again, offering a new food at the same time to no avail. Be assured, the day will come when your kid tries a new food. Be strong, confident, patient and non-judgmental meal time. Kids feed off a caregiver’s disposition. If they sense you’re sure the food is good they will eventually try it.
Pat yourself on the back.
Children with special needs give their families much joy. They bring out the best in people; often teaching us to view life differently. However the path to raising them and enhancing their lives can be difficult. Be patient and kind – to your special child, other members of your family and to yourself. Don’t add a new food on a day you’re exhausted or when your spouse has had a bad day at work. Don’t feel guilty about taking occasional breaks. Breaks will benefit you, your child and the other members of your family. Think positively and be proud of your efforts. Over time the diet change will fall into place.
*DAN – Defeat Autism Now (See defeatautismnow.net)
CF/CF – gluten free/casein free