Our oldest two have many symptoms and behaviors associated with ADHD. They both came to us with that diagnosis because, well, the vast majority of foster kids get that label quickly upon entering the system. Even though the official diagnosis guidelines require a six-month observation period during which no major life events occur. Ahem.
We’ve been up and down the ADHD road, starting with getting our kiddos off 7 a.m. sedatives (hello?) and non-FDA approved drugs (yes, really). We worked with a great child psychiatrist in Texas for about a year and tried many (appropriate) medications and dosages for both Harley and Brooklyn. Ultimately, it was obvious that none of the medications helped, so we stopped them altogether.
I believe that our kids’ ADHD-like symptoms can be attributed to two main things: prenatal drug exposure and a lack of consistent self-control training in early childhood. Neither of these things can be fixed with ADHD medication because those drugs target a specific chemical imbalance that doesn’t seem to be present in either of our two kids. But…we still have highly distractible kids who struggle with paying attention and controlling their bodies.
In the blog world, I came across something new to try: a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. I first read about it here and have spent some time looking through other resources. Much of the current evidence seems to be anecdotal, but the families who have had success with this diet can’t say enough about the good it has done for their family. PJ needed to try a gluten-free/dairy-free diet for health reasons, so we decided to give it a try with the kids, too.
After three weeks, it seems to be working! I was hopeful, yet surprised to actually see results that we can’t attribute to anything else.
Here’s what we’ve seen:
- Brooklyn put together three sizable puzzles during rest time, without changing activities or requiring attention. She also built an intricate block structure, working for an extended period of time. Seriously, y’all! This never happens!
- Harley and Brooklyn both started making 100s on their math worksheets every day. They usually ranged from 50s-80s, mostly due to poor direction following as opposed to math difficulties. They also finished the worksheets much more quickly and without getting off task.
- I’ve seen them both read books with focus.
- PJ played chess with the kids for the first time in months and reported that they both focused like never before.
- We asked them how their brains felt. They said:
- I feel much less silly.
- I feel calmer.
- I don’t feel so fuzzy.
- I can enjoy a book without skipping around.
- It’s easier for me to focus.
So what now? For reasons unknown, this way of eating seems to be helping our kids (and thus our entire family). However, it is a lot of effort to cook this way. There is no such thing as fast food or “I don’t feel like cooking—here’s a hot dog.” We’re also going to be eating on the road and in other homes all summer.
Our plan for now is to eat this way when it’s relatively convenient over the summer without worrying when it isn’t possible or practical. When we get home, I’m planning to leave the choice up to each kid. They have experienced the benefits firsthand. I will so very gladly cook this diet for them if they want to commit. However, they have to own this choice—it’s not worth my effort if they’re going to go to school and scarf down other kids’ food items. So we’ll see.
If you’re a family considering this for your kiddos: I highly recommend giving it a try! This can be a very healthy way to eat with effort and planning. Leave a comment or email me if you’d like some help getting started!