balancingthebowl1.jpg Our six year old son, Justin owns a very impressive portfolio of miniature cars; totaling over 400. He keeps close tabs on all of them and knows the make and model of each one. Sound Typical? He has never eaten a sandwich or slice of pizza and, by the age of two-and-a-half he started reading fluently, but didn’t speak spontaneously until he was nearly four. Still sound typical? To some 12 million Americans who suffer from one or more food allergies, the idea of never having a sandwich or pizza is all too familiar. And for each 1 in 150 children with autism, the common delay in speech and highly specialized skills summon feelings of both despair and amazement in parents like us.

Following months of undiagnosed body rashes, chronic vomiting and numerous hospitalizations, Justin, at the age of seven months, was rushed into the emergency room, suffering from throat and facial swelling and near-loss of consciousness. Later that evening, an on-call emergency room doctor instantly recognized the signs of food allergies and recommended allergy testing. At the age of nine months, Justin was diagnosed with severe allergies to wheat, rice, barely, egg, milk, soy, peanut, and tree nuts. Then, following over two years of no speech, repetitive behaviors and limited social interaction, Justin was diagnosed with autism as he approached his third birthday.

From a mom’s perspective, I wrote and published, “Balancing the Bowl: Food Allergy Cooking and Autism Awareness,” a user-friendly cookbook that has allergy-free recipes and advocates the use of diet, detoxification and nutrition supplements to help autistic kids function better. My husband, Chris and I noticed signs of both conditions very early on. However, in hopes that our pediatrician was right, we followed his instruction to “wait a while and see what happens…” Although we noticed an enormous gap in development between Justin and his peers, starting at birth, we wanted to believe he would get better – that Justin was simply going to be quiet and reserved, as the pediatrician suggested. Despite the ongoing advice to wait for Justin to reach his milestones, we finally followed our own instincts and initiated a pursuit for answers. We switched pediatricians and made a request for a referral to a neurologist for testing.

Research has shown that black children with autism are likely to be diagnosed an average 1 ½ years later than their white peers. Black children with autism are more likely to be misdiagnosed as having organic psychoses, mental retardation and/or selective mutism. A large factor in the late diagnoses or misdiagnoses may be in the clinician’s tendency to interpret the signs of autism differently in black children. 1

The staggering rate of 1 in 150 children calls for parents to educate themselves and each other about appropriate developmental milestones and the early warning signs of autism.

We must insist further investigation into any intuitive feelings we have, without fear of rejection by a professional and seek assessment from the local early intervention program, available in every state

Upon Justin’s food allergy diagnosis I developed and published allergy free recipes in “Balancing the Bowl, Edition One.” Later, we discovered that Justin’s diet, free of gluten (from wheat, barley, rye and oats) and casein (from milk) was helping to alleviate some of his symptoms of autism. Following further research into “dietary intervention” for autism, we learned about the benefits of adding nutritional supplements to the diet and undergoing a detoxification process. “Balancing the Bowl, Edition Two,” contains more recipes free of allergens and gives a more in-depth look into the diet and autism connection. In our experience and in the experience of countless other parents of autistic children, so much can be done through diet to help improve overall functioning:

Balancing the Bowl, edition 1 is a food allergy cookbook and resource guide, developed to help those suffering from multiple food allergies. Balancing the Bowl, edition 2 also contains recipes free of common allergens, and is also completely gluten-free. In edition 2, readers will find a more in-depth-look into the autism-diet connection and will find 20 “raw food” recipes as an effective way to detoxify the body, boost the immune system and to deliver “whole” nutrients to the body.

Through diet and therapies, our son has improved tremendously. He is in mainstream first grade and is thriving beyond our expectations. We have gained so much knowledge and support from other parents who made their stories and experiences available to us. We have learned that when faced with the challenge of being different, we must first seize the opportunity to research and learn, then reveal all that we learn to enrich others globally. The cycle of giving must continue to flow.

1 Excerpts from Race Differences in the Age at Diagnosis Among Medicaid-Eligible Children with Autism, David S. Mandell, Sc.D., John Listerud, M.D., Ph.D.

Both editions of Balancing the Bowl can be found on www.balancingthebowl.com or through major online book retailers.

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