Our 6 year old son has always been your typical boy… loud, messy and full of energy. Over the years his personality has started to really shine through. He is creative with a good sense of logic. He loves to build & create and really enjoys knowing how things work. He loves to play sports. He’s fantastic with numbers and loves to read. However, often times those amazing qualities get overlooked because he has some difficulties we have never been able to solve.
From an early age I could tell he was going to be a handful. Being that he was our first child, we shrugged most things off as normal. He was reaching all his milestones ahead of the curve so any difficulty we had with him we’d joke was our punishment for him being so great in everything else he does. After having our daughter 3 years later, we began to put the pieces together that something wasnt quite right. He can get so hyper at times, he’s almost bouncing off the walls. This behavior is disruptive (especially in school) and often times, it ends with a punishment. When we could see that wasn’t working, we took a new approach by ignoring the unfavourable behavior and rewarding the good. This didn’t work either. No technique seemed to make any difference.
Of course, its not all the time. He has what we refer to as good days and bad days and we never know what we are going to get. On a good day, he is quiet, focused and kind. On a bad day, he is loud, rambunctious and seems to have no sympathy for others, even if they get hurt.
Over the years, we have kept in close contact with our family doctor who has felt he was “socially immature”. She would watch him behave perfectly in her office and tell us there are no medical concerns. I have spent countless hours on google reading parenting artcles, advice columns and medical sites. Trying to find a solution. My son showed that he understood what he was doing was wrong but just couldn’t stop himself. It is like he is a toy that came without an off switch.
In my countless searches, I finally came across a blog post by another mom who wrote about her struggles with her daughter who had a gluten allergy. As I was reading through, there were so many similarities my jaw was dropped the entire time. Behavior as an infant, toddler, preschool… it was my son to a T. Then just days later, I was having a conversation with my mom who blurted out “you should look into gluten allergies” when suggesting another course of action for our son. I decided to consult our family doctor and she also felt this was a definite possibility. However, she explained the easiest way to test was to change his diet for about a month or so and see what happens.
Over the holidays I began my research. I set January 1st as our start date so I could get prepared. I went to the grocery store and bought every gluten free product I could get my hands on. I looked up recipes, read labels and researched other symptoms. I started to put things together; he has other symptoms that could possibly be explained by a gluten allergy! I had never put it all together before, on their own try seemed so small. Constant complaints of stomach aches, a reoccuring rash on his body and tires easily.
Tires easily? I should explain this one. Although he can be a hyper kid that seems to have more energy than a puppy, he crashes hard. Take hockey as an example. For the first half of a game or practice, he’s fine but then always crashes during the second half. He becomes noticeably slower than the other kids and looses all ability to concentrate, often begging to come off the ice. I always blammed his asthma or the fact that he’s so skinny, his muscles are still so tiny.
January 1st we sat him down and had a chat. We explained we were trying out some new food that might help him be heathier and more focused. He asked a LOT of “can I still eat…” questions, we looked them up as he asked and gave him answers. If there was something he couldn’t have, I would suggest an alternative. Overall, he was pretty accepting of the change and enjoyed his Gluten Free Chex for breakfast that morning.
At this point, we are one week into his gluten free diet. We’ve baked GF brownies & GF biscuits which he realy enjoyed. We’ve had rice pasta, GF bread as toast & sandwhiches, along with all the things that are still fine like meat & veggies. I’ve had to change how I prepare some of our foods a bit but so far everything has been great with no complaints.
So how is he doing?
Well, for the eating part, he is LOVING the new food. If anything, more than he loved food before! I love that we found GF Chex Cereal & GF Toaster Waffles… his two favourite breakfast items. I had a friend who is GF recommend a brand of bread and I’m so happy she did because he loves it. He’s had it plain, as a sandwhich, toasted, as a grilled cheese… not a complaint. He is enjoying the GF cookies (PC brand, who knew they made GF products?!). The only thing I think he is missing is pasta. The rice pasta is a little difficult to get used to. The texture is a little chewy and it has a different taste to it. It’s not awful though and he’s eating it but it’s the only item so far that I could see he wasn’t as impressed with.
I have already noticed some significant changes in him over the last week. They COULD be a coincidence so I’m not holding my breathe quite yet but time will tell. He is no longer complaining of stomach aches. His rash has completely cleared up. As for behaviour its hard to tell until he’s had some time back at school… but this week at hockey he behaved better than ever, was focused for the entire game and did not lose his energy or ask to leave the ice once. Both his coach (who is my sister), my husband and my parents commented on his behaviour.
Even if this change doesn’t completely solve all the issues, I think our family will be adopting a low-gluten way of eating. I’m learning that it’s much healthier and there are more and more products available. I told my son that if it turns out he does have to remain Gluten Free after our test period, I will join him and go completely GF with him. I feel like it might be a little easier on him if he has me along the ride with him.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks brings.