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One Family’s Gluten-Free Aspergers Experience

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)


Our son Einstein has Aspergers. Through various methods such as creating an environment at home that met his sensory needs, homeschooling and adapting our parenting, he had been doing very well. He managed the challenges associated with his Aspergers admirably. About a year ago, Einstein hit early puberty and many of his Aspergers traits were exaggerated. He began struggling with tantrums, frustration, perseverating, and even at times, resorting to violence. It made things difficult for us as a family, but it also made things difficult for him. He felt guilty about his behaviour and felt out of control. We tried many different approaches but nothing helped. It seemed as though medication might be our only option.

*every family’s situation is different and I certainly don’t judge other parents who choose the route of medication nor am I saying that we will never choose that option, but we have seen it as a last resort and want to try everything else first

I had heard over the years of other parents having success with special diets for their children on the autism spectrum. The diet that seemed to be the most common for anecdotal results was gluten-free. It had always seemed like it would be too much work but I wanted to try absolutely everything before I resorted to medication. So back in March, I put our whole family on a gluten free diet for 3 weeks. That time period is not long enough to know how it affected everyone, but it was long enough to know that it was worth keeping Einstein on it.

He said that he had a much easier time falling asleep only 3 days into the diet and began to find himself becoming less easily frustrated and more peaceful. I was convinced that it was working and I began to see my sweet, gentle boy coming back! It was well worth the extra expense and time.

The Husband was not convinced that it had made that much of a difference however. After a few months, Einstein himself began to have some doubts about the effectiveness of the gluten free diet and began to cheat here and there.

Then came last month’s camping trip. The Husband took four of the kids for just over a week. Before they left, I stocked them up…gluten free hot dogs, buns, hamburger buns, graham crackers, marshmallows, cookies, snacks, and condiments. This way, Einstein could enjoy all the camping food and stay on his gluten free diet. Apparently, the gluten free eating lasted only a few days. I won’t get into too many details about behaviours and challenges for the rest of the camping trip, but suffice it to say that Einstein and The Husband are both TOTALLY convinced that the gluten free diet is a necessity!

The hardest part of switching to gluten free is not so much making separate meals for Einstein, but thinking of what to make. Some things are easy such as if we are having a pasta dish, I simply cook gluten free pasta for him but other things are much harder. One of the things that I have found difficult is that I often do a day of freezer meals that last a month or more and save me so much time (and money) but most of them have ingredients such as condensed soups or dry onion soup mix which contain gluten. This week, I am getting together with a friend whose daughter is Celiac and we are going to make gluten free freezer meals for our families. I have planned out the meals and though it took more research, we have a good selection and I think it will turn out well. I have created a printable list of 100 gluten-free snack ideas. This week, I will also be filling the freezer with things such as frozen yogourt drops, gf Rice Krispie squares and gf muffins.

I know that results will vary from person to person, but for our son, switching to gluten free has made all the difference in the world with his Aspergers. He is able to control his thoughts better and his behaviours and is able to function again.

Has it been hard? Very. Has it been expensive? Very. Has it been time consuming? Very. Has it been worth it? Definitely!

If you are looking for gluten free recipes and ideas, you can check out my gluten free category, my gluten free freezer meals series, and my Gluten Free Board on Pinterest.

Comments

  1. I know gluten free seems to help me with my mental health, not sure why it helps but it does!

    I had a teeny bit of bread to day. Oh my. Mistake…I may miss bread but just not worth it. 🙂

    Glad Einstein is having so much success with his diet…sometimes I eat a little gluten as it is like I *forget* what it does to me and just need a little reminder as to why I avoid it!!!

    • I didn’t notice a difference for me when I went off gluten, but many of my friends have gone off it and it has done wonders for them.

      • Sometimes is takes not only getting off gluten, but also all cow milk products and things like GMO apple products (juice, etc.) to see the difference,
        But then it can be so profound you’ll never go back.
        It’s hard to go off cow milk, because it’s in just about everything.
        But just remember: cow milk was designed (no matter whether you believe in God or evolution) for baby cows. Not for baby humans. It can wreak havoc on our digestive systems. And therefore wreak havoc on a child’s moods, health, behavior, etc.

  2. Sharla I went off gluten exactly a year ago this week. I have to admit that I really never noticed anything until about 3.5 weeks. The first thing I noticed is that my ring was loose. I wasn’t loosing any weight so I was a bit confused. Then I realized that I had lost my gas. I wasn’t bloated anymore. It really took about 8 weeks for me to notice a huge difference. I have other food issues that I just finally took care of this spring/summer. However I really notice if I have something with gluten in it.
    I am not sure if you follow me on Pinterest but if you do my recipe box has a lot of gluten free options. (I am the only one if my family gf so I have both sets of recipes) I also have some great freezer recipes and slow cooker recipes that I am going to make into freezer recipes on there.
    When you start using yours please let me know how they turn out.
    Thanks

  3. Is Einstein not picky? We did gluten-free for a few weeks two years ago and I think there was an improvement. However, my son is so picky that there is such a limit to the things that he would eat. When we took away the gluten, it took away most of what he would eat! And finding worthy substitutes were sooo hard. He didn’t like the taste, texture, etc. And then the expense. Oy! I really what to do it again, but we just can’t afford it, especially if he refuses to eat it anyway!

    • Einstein is pretty picky and when we first started the gluten free diet with him, I was ready to give up, but I was able to find things that worked. I have a shelf in the freezer devoted to his food…gluten free breads, muffins, tortillas, a few store bought things for the days I’m desperate (gf burritos, meals, etc.), pizza crusts, pancakes. The first few gf pastas we tried were terrible but we found a brand that he likes and it’s easier to cook (Tinkyada). I shop for all the gf foods on the first Tuesday of the month which is 15% off day at the grocery stores here and I look for coupons and sales. I stock up when things go on sale. I have a post with all the gf snack ideas I could think of and I referenced that a lot at first because it was so hard to think of things. Einstein’s not a huge vegetable eater although he will eat broccoli so that makes it more of a challenge. He does like some soups and it’s easy to make gf soup. Also there are more and more gf alternatives available. You can even get gf luncheon meats and hot dogs now which are pretty kid-friendly. Breakfasts are difficult, but he likes the gluten free Rice Krispies and I have been able to get them at a great price lately. He prefers gf Chex but it’s been too expensive. He will also eat eggs and of course likes gf pancakes and waffles which I make here and there in bulk for him using a gf mix and then I freeze them for him to use a few at a time.

      • For breakfast ideas, you can find GF oatmeal and then add fruit (or applesauce if he likes it) and honey for a yummy GF breakfast. The ‘Envirokids’ brand of cereals are also GF and quite yummy!

  4. I want to try this for myself and my sons, but honestly, I find it so overwhelming. I wish it didn’t have to be so hard. I needed this post to give me some motivation. What I need to do is menu plan. I find that also overwhelming, though I know it would make life easier in the end. Where do you find coupons for GF stuff?

  5. Just found you tonight. You and I should be friends. 🙂 My husband and I have 7 kids also. The first 4 are ‘homemade’ and the last 3 are adopted through foster care. Of my 7 kids, 3 are ‘Aspies,’ 1 is adhd & dyslexic, 1 is only sensory processing & developmental delays and the other has a whole lot of everything & anything possible. It’s always a party over here! I just have 1 ‘neurotypical’ angel. We went GF almost 2 years ago and it has made a world of difference. We also went completely natural (no additives, preservatives, etc) and added natural supplements and amino acids. It has worked so well that even our super high maintenance one is off his meds successfully. This is not to say that it isn’t always interesting with that many sensory issues and complications going on, but diet can certainly make a world of difference. Good job, mama!

  6. Corissa says:

    I have celiacs disease and the time and effort needed to maintain my gluten free diet is frustrating! It’s even harder when everyone around me does not have to maintain this type of diet. I am glad to hear that this diet is successful for your son, I have heard many stories such as this for children on the spectrum. I work in early intervention services as an occupational therapist. I am very interested in nutrition, obviously gluten free! If you have any questions I would love to help in any way I can!

  7. Even my older son, who does not have Asperger’s but does have ADHD and all the normal ups and downs of puberty, mentioned that on the gluten free diet he finds it easier to control his temper. You can imagine the progress my Aspie is making (thank goodness!). As a single mother on a teeny tiny food budget….it is worth it to be gluten free!

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