[This is part of our series: Getting Your Hopes Up: Stories of Healing Thru Diet and Nutrition – stories directly from mothers and fathers, on their experience using food and nutrition to help heal their child with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays.]
Tara’s daughter’s success story of hope and healing demonstrates the power of a multi-faceted approach which encompasses a therapeutic diet, biomedical intervention, developmental therapies and functional neurology-based rehabilitation. Her daughter is now thriving!
The journey begins….Red Flags at 9 months
By the time our daughter was nine months, we noticed that she seemed to be lagging behind her developmental milestones, but by the time she was 12 months it became apparent that she lagged behind in speech and gross motor movements. As in most cases, our general practitioner expressed some mild concern but continued with the wait-and-see approach until she was almost two and her expressive speech was less than five words, at which point we received a referral to public health for a speech assessment. She also refused to stand or walk on her own, requesting to hold onto one finger of an adult (even though she was clearly capable) until she was 21 months old. We now know that this was because her vestibular and proprioceptive signals, which help her understand how her body moves in space, were being misinterpreted by her brain.
Sensory Overload and meltdowns
Our daughter often melted down and clung to me in public places or during a gathering, seemingly overwhelmed by all the sensory inputs around her. This made it difficult to attend parties or go to loud events without having to disappear from the crowds to give her some relief. I remember once having to abandon a full shopping cart at the grocery store because a false fire alarm went off and she couldn’t cope with the noise.
Incredibly Bright – Exceptional Memory – Learning Disability – Dyspraxia – Delayed Speech
My daughter is incredibly bright with an exceptional memory. Intelligence testing showed her to be of “average to above average” intelligence. (IQ tests are skewed to those who can read, and she scored high enough despite not being able to, which is why they felt she was in the above average range.) She fit the classic definition of a learning disability, and was also diagnosed with dyspraxia, but she didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria for most conditions. We constantly sat on the fringes of many different diagnoses. She couldn’t seem to learn to read or do math, and her speech was significantly delayed. Everything that required her brain to do any kind of sequential processing (like most everything we do), needed to be taught step by step, right down to how to use scissors and how to go down stairs one foot after the other.
Developmental Pediatrician – Occupational and Speech Therapy at School
We took all the traditional approaches possible recommended to us after pushing to see a developmental pediatrician, getting a psychoeducational assessment, having her hearing and vision assessed, and engaging speech and occupational therapists. We moved into the city so she could attend a school that taught in the instructional style best suited to her by the recommendation of the psychoeducational assessment, and where she could have both occupational and speech therapy delivered in school daily.
Slow Progress – Mom’s Gut Sense More Could be Done
Although we most definitely saw progress in some areas of her learning and gross and fine motor skills, the progress was slow, which meant she continued to fall further behind her peers. We were pleased to see her progress in these areas, but I still was looking for more ways to help her. I knew in my gut there had to be more.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet
I had always been an avid reader of all things nutrition, but I now know it was a superficial understanding of what I now refer to as mainstream nutrition—“healthy eating” books and magazines focused on the weight loss and fitness industries. It wasn’t until I did a random Google search on my daughter’s diagnosis of dyspraxia that I found the book by Natasha Campbell McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, that our journey to true healing began. I confess that it was two years from the time I first found this book to the time we implemented the GAPS diet. My initial reaction when I read it was probably similar to the perception of many parents of picky eaters: “My child will never eat that.”
GAPS Success + MRT Food and Sensitivity Panel – Significant Progress
During the two-year period between first discovering the book and implementing the diet, I dove head first into the research. Eventually the reasons for taking action far outweighed my fears of how I would pull it off. We implemented the GAPS diet and saw many significant improvements in her overall health (allergic shiners disappeared, eye contact improved, speech clarity improved, digestion improved), however after two years on the GAPS diet, I felt we needed to take it to the next level with functional tests to better assess gut health and MRT food and chemical sensitivity testing to identify offending foods. We launched into a three-month intensive gut healing protocol (on top of the GAPS diet protocol) to great success. We had finally made significant progress on some of her nagging digestive issues (such as slow transit time) and resolved other symptoms of leaky gut.
Methylation Support/Methyl B-12 Injections – Improved Emotional Regulation
Around this time we also added methylation support in the form of subcutaneous methyl B-12 injections and additional dietary and supplemental changes. We noticed improvements in her emotional regulation at this time. She “felt better” overall with the methylation support.
Functional Neurology-Based Rehabilitation – Big Jumps in Cognitive Functioning & Speech
In addition to nutritional and biomedical interventions, adding functional neurology-based rehabilitation in the last couple of years has made a major impact on her progress. This multifaceted therapy works to retrain the neural pathways. Since introducing this, along with diet and biomed interventions, we have seen big jumps in her cognitive functioning and improvements in her speech. We continue to make tweaks and changes every few months to optimize her healing and recovery.
If I were to do it all over again, I would not have hesitated to start a dietary intervention from day one. In addition, I would have started the methylation support and neuro-rehab with the help of a functional neurologist as early as possible to address the integration of primitive reflexes and then would have continued the neuro-rehab from there.
The Journey Continues …
Through the years, my research led me to enroll and complete my certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association, and to travel to London, England to train with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner. Even after all these years I continue to learn about new interventions that can help our children. I am currently continuing my education with the Bioindividual Nutrition Institute, Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs and with Dr. Melillo’s course on Childhood Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Disorders. I started an online community to help parents like me who are trying to make sense of the many therapies and interventions available for our children. My Child Will Thrive is a place for parents like us to connect with and learn from each other.