Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Does Diet Cause Autism?

If you are the parent of a child with autism, chances are great that you are constantly seeking ways to help your child with the unique challenges that they face as they grow. In your quest to understand more about autism, you may look for ways that can help them to adjust and cope with their environment. One of the factors that you may have considered is the role of diet in its development and treatment.

In the past, there has been considerable debate among parents, teachers, physicians, psychologists and others as to whether or not diet plays any role in the development or progression of autism. It seems there are plenty of studies that support both sides of this discussion. So, what are parents who wish to provide the best care and support to their children with autism supposed to do?

While the research still remains unclear, most of us who are familiar with autism know that our kids are more sensitive to many things in their environment. Whether it’s noises, textures, movement - you name it - many things seem to affect our children more than others without autism. While it is unclear if certain foods in our diets may cause or worsen autism that does not mean that we should not take the time to be aware of the effects certain foods may have on our children.

Many parents of children who do not have autism are familiar with the excess energy and erratic behavior that sometimes occur in children when they have eaten too much sugar. If this occurs in non-autistic children, it is simply common sense to consider that our autistic kids may be more sensitive to the effects of sugar and other common ingredients found in foods, such as caffeine, chocolate, food dyes, preservatives and more.

You may wish to keep a food diary to document any reactions your child has to specific foods. Keeping a food diary may help you to discover if specific foods seem to increase certain behaviours or reactions in your child. Over time, if you keep noticing your child has the same effects to a particular food, you may wish to limit their exposure to this item.

While sugar, caffeine and chocolate are known for being likely culprits, other children may have gluten sensitivities  or even low level allergies to other food items such as nuts or milk.  While identifying a specific food sensitivity probably won't "cure" your child's autism, anything that you can do to help reduce your child's stress and sensitivity levels from factors in their environment certainly won't hurt.

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