The following is a guest post from Cara Faus of Health, Home, and Happiness. Thank you, Cara! We’re honored to have you here today to share your thoughts and experience with us.
Even before I had a special needs child, I valued taking a holistic approach to treating any health problems that came up. I believe that nearly any physical problem indicates an underlying issue, and so the entire body should be taken into consideration when seeking treatment. This has been especially true with my child with autism, I have found looking at her issues as a whole to be the most effective way of helping her.
Today I am going to share some of the tips that I have found that made the biggest difference in her life. Differences that have allowed her to learn more, be happier, and grow healthily.
Learning About Sensory Issues
Learning about sensory issues was one of the biggest ‘ah ha!’ moments in our lives. Many special needs children have issues with how the message of sensory input gets to their brain. In our case, my daughter is over sensitive to light and visual sensation, and under sensitive to physical sensation.
This means that she gets overwhelmed with bright lights and when there is too much to look at (think big-box stores!) and craves physical touch to the point of acting aggressive and clingy while she tries to fulfill that need. When the needs for less visual stimulation and more physical stimulation are met, she is able to regulate her emotions, learn, and is much happier!
Some ways to decrease stimulation for kids who are over stimulated:
- Sunglasses both block part of the peripheral vision and darken bright lights and bold colors.
- A cold weather headband blocks noise, wind, and cold from the ears.
- Food can be uniform in texture and still be healthy, this reduces the stimulation of eating.
- A tent or special hiding place with quiet toys can be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
- Eliminate electronic toys.
- Take the child’s clothing preferences into account and look for clothing without itchy seams or tight fitting waists.
Some ways to increase stimulation for kids who are craving stimulation:
- Provide outdoor play that provides ‘big’ sensations such as swinging fast on the swings or going up and down on a teeter totter.
- Brush the skin with a soft brush.
- Provide heavy objects to move around; cans, food containers filled with rice or beans, bags to fill and carry.
- Engage in physical play at least every 90 minutes; tug of war with a blanket, pulling other children in a wagon, etc.
- Find a tight fitting shirt to wear under other clothes, my daughter likes to wear a thermal undershirt (texture) that is two sizes too small (pressure).
Book Recommendations: Sensational Kids, Building Bridges, The Out of Sync Child
Dietary Intervention and the Gut-Brain Connection
The second simple amazing discovery that we made was that we could just remove a couple foods from my little one’s diet and many of her symptoms lessened or disappeared! Trying an elimination diet of any kind is overwhelming, but the response can be dramatic. In our child we saw a huge difference in eye contact, and the ability to learn in 48 hours, that was enough to keep me excited and motivated to continue her on the diet that works for her. You can read more about how the food can affect people with autism, ADD, allergies, and other chronic conditions in my Gut-Brain Connection post.
Some elimination diets that can be tried:
- Feingold program- removes artificial additives and salicylates
- Gluten free- Eliminates gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains.
- Casein free- Eliminates milk protein, found in any form of milk other than ghee.
- GFCF- Gluten and Casein free diet eliminates both these allergens. These molecules appear to have opiate-like affects in some individuals.
- SCD/GAPS- Eliminates all grains, starches, and refined sugars to promote gut healing.
Book Recommendations: Special Needs Kids Eat Right, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Breaking the Vicious Cycle
Focusing on Simply Enjoying the Child
In our focus to be the best parents we can be, sometimes we get too caught up in everything we feel like we should be doing for and teaching our child that we forget how important it is to simply show them how wonderful they are. Our children’s emotional well beings depend that they are constantly reassured that they are loved and accepted.
- My last tip is to spend even just 15 minutes a day with your special needs child, joining in doing what they like to do, not trying to teach or change them one bit for that period of time. Give them your undivided attention and follow their lead and watch them blossom and connect in ways that haven’t been seen before.
Book Recommendations: Sonrise: The Miracle Continues
About the author:
Cara lives with her family in Montana where she stays home with her two young children ages 2 and 4. She started Grain Free Meal Plans earlier this year, as a way to assist other families who want to try a grain and sugar free diet. She also writes about natural health, traditional foods, and special needs at Health, Home, and Happiness.
Thank you, Cara! It was great to have you here at Simple Kids today. Readers, I’m wondering what you think about simple holistic helps for the special needs child? What are your experiences?