I grew up in a household that loved spaghetti. What’s for dinner tonight, Mom? Spaghetti! My mom had such affection for that food that she once fed a string of it to her pet fish….. I’ve passed on that love for pasta to my own kids, but now with all the hype surrounding the gluten-free diet I’m having second thoughts about this family tradition. The gluten-free diet claims that children’s behavior
can be significantly improved with the removal of food containing gluten such as pasta, bread and cookies. The reasoning behind this change is that in a small percent of the population the body’s digestive system is unable to process gluten properly. This can cause havoc on the immune system and lead to weight loss, sensory hypersensitivity and behavioral and attention problems. Yet, conventional medicine has yet to complete large, controlled studies in order to establish this thesis. However, there have been smaller studies completed, as well as testimonials from parent’s to the improvement of their child’s behavior, including classic symptoms of ADHD and Autism.
So while there is still a big debate concerning the elimination of gluten from our diets I’ll still stick with my pasta, albeit keep it to a minimum as much as possible. At the same time I will try to maintain a balanced diet- clinically proven to promote health- which includes vegetables, fruits, carbs, proteins and a small amount of fat.
And if we’re on the topic of healthy diets then another diet is crucial to keep in mind when considering our children health. We’re talking about the “sensory diet” which provides the sensory input a child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. And similar to a real food diet the key is to create a balanced schedule (with the assistance of a pediatric OT) and adhere to it throughout the day and week for a maximum effect on your child’s behavior.
The following are the types of sensory activities to be included in a well- balanced sensory diet. Consider it like the food pyramid- with the bottom including super important foods that you need a lot of, and the top ones you need just a little bit of to get by.
Bottom: Heavy work and Deep Pressure: the two main building blocks of a sensory diet. Sensory input provided by activities such as holding heavy supermarket bags or giving bear-hugs will act as a calming or focusing agent in the brain and allow the child to function effectively in their environment.
Top: Oral and Jumping: while activities in these categories are crucial it is enough to do them even for a short while in order for them to have an effect. Chewing a piece of gum- can have a focusing effect but if you chew for too long your jaw can start to hurt. Likewise activities including jumping are beneficial for a focusing effect, yet should be monitored so as not to go on for too long and risk the child developing nausea.