When I was a child, we had a swimming pool. My parents gave me the job of keeping it clean. I would vacuum it daily, but most of the time it still had a greenish tint with murky water. Finally, we brought a water sample in to the pool supply store. They put it into a machine that tested the water and calculated exactly how much acid, base, or chlorine that we needed to put in to the pool based on the chemical makeup and volume of our exact pool. We left the store with an exact recipe of chemicals to put into the water. It was like a magic trick! Within seconds of the chemicals hitting the water it started to clear, and within minutes they were sucked into the filter and circulated through leaving the water sparking clear. I guess that watching that magic trick made a big impact on me because it is always the analogy that I think of when I am trying to heal my children. First, clean out the dirt. Then, get the balance of nutrients right, only then they will sparkle and shine.
So, where do you start?
First, clean out the dirt. This means making sure there is no infection, parasite, or environmental condition such as mold or allergies that are impacting their health. No behavior intervention will work if your child is sick. You wouldn’t have high expectations for behavior, chores and school work on days when they have a fever, so you can’t have these expectations if they are suffering with an underlying medical condition.
To clean out the dirt, you must also eliminate as many chemicals in their environment as possible. Children with ASD, ADHD, and PANDAS tend to be more sensitive to environmental toxins so it is essential to free your home from them. An easy place to start it with cleaning supplies. Throw out all the harsh chemicals in your home and buy the natural alternatives. Nearly every major store carries the natural versions of every type of cleaner. There are also dyes, perfumes, and other chemicals in soaps, lotions, and shampoos. Make the switch to the natural alternatives as well.
Clean the air by making sure the furnace filters are changed regularly, use air purifiers, and have houseplants. Use low VOC paints and other building materials when remodeling. Check bathrooms and under sinks and eliminate mold when it is found.
Clean up your child’s diet. If their environment is clean, but they are still eating highly processed junk food full of preservatives and food dyes, you have not eliminated chemicals. Gluten and dairy are inflammatory foods and many kids are sensitive to them. Eliminating them for a few weeks will help you know if your child is reactive to them and if they should be permanently eliminated from their diet. I know that kids have their favorites and making diet changes is hard, but it is a necessary transition. Start slow, change one food a week. Take them shopping have them help pick things out. Teach them how to read labels and have them join in with the process of more natural eating.
Next, have vitamin and mineral levels checked. See if something is out of balance, and if it is, consult with your doctor concerning supplements. Give them what they need to help get them in the right balance. However, you cannot rely solely on supplements alone to maintain proper levels of nutrients. You must increase the amount fruits and vegetables that your child is getting. This is not easy, especially for those of us with picky eaters or kids with OCD and sensory issues. Chop up the vegetables into tiny pieces and add to their favorite dishes. Make fruit smoothies and encourages them to help. Whatever it takes to get them eating more to get the vitamins in their natural state.
Only after cleaning up their diet and environment, healing infection, and balancing nutrients, can you make higher expectations of your child’s behavior. You wouldn't give them a beer and then be mad at them because they were drunk and acting weird, so you can’t expose them to toxins that effect behavior and expect them to think clearly, sit still and behave. Sometimes eliminating chemicals and foods that they are sensitive to solve behavior problems with little need for behavioral intervention.
I feel so strongly that diet and environmental changes are essential for children's health, I started another blog dedicated solely to helping families eat healthier. It is full of recipes that are gluten, casein, and food dye free. With lots of tips and ideas to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables. I hope that you find it helpful!