The gluten-free diet has proven effective with so many children on the autism spectrum that thousands of families continue to make the leap as they test the waters in a new dietary sea. Many parents of children following a gluten-free diet report an increase in spontaneous and more complex language in their children, as well as a decrease in aggressive or self-stimulatory behavior.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, bulgar, and rye and provides the structure and texture in baked products. Breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and crackers may contain gluten. Popular substitutes for gluten include rice, quinoa (red and yellow), cornmeal/corn products, tapioca, soy (check for allergies), buckwheat, brown rice, and millet.
Many products are now labeled as gluten-free but the FDA has yet to set guidelines on the practice. A proposed definition of gluten-free includes products that do not contain any of the prohibited grains or any product that contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Essentially, a food could be labeled gluten-free if it falls under the recommended threshold. The terms are expected to be finalized by the end of the summer this year.
One mother, Kristen Crawford of Union, New Jersey, has recently made the switch to gluten-free products for her son Cooper, 5. "I didn’t jump into the gluten-free diet immediately after his diagnosis. Now, after he has responded to other therapies so well, I thought I needed to try it to see if it makes a difference in his focus and behavior.”
Despite the numerous gluten-free products currently on the market, Crawford cites some difficulty in making the switch. “Finding substitutes for his favorite foods has been challenging as far as taste and texture. He is not a picky eater but he knows what he likes.”
Crawford credits her own research and preparation- particularly in providing gluten-free treats for Cooper during school and family celebrations- with making the transition as smooth as possible. She says she is giving the new diet three solid months so she can monitor the effects and will then decide if she wants to continue the regiment.
Parents of children with autism are in a better situation now than they were ten, even five years ago. There are many more products available at major grocery stores and not just specialty shops; there are more doctors willing to sit up and take notice of new and innovative research and therapies; and, of course, there's the internet, where information and support are only a click away. This trend must continue so all families of children on the spectrum have opportunities to create the healthiest life for their children.
Fill your shopping cart with these delicious gluten-free treats!
Need a sweet treat?
Enjoy Life Snickerdoodle Soft Baked Cookies
Annie's Bunny Cookies, Cocoa and Vanilla
Dr. Lucy's Sugar Cookies
Barbara's Honey Rice Puffins
Kellogg's Gluten-Free Rice Krispies
EnviroKidz Organic Amazon Frosted Flakes
Crunch that packs a punch
Simply 7 Hummus Chips
Back to Nature Sesame Seed Gluten Free Rice Thin Crackers
Glutino Gluten-Free Vegetable Crackers
A slice of heaven
Everybody Eats Multi-Grain High Fiber Loaf
Kinnikinnick Soft Mutigrain Bread
Ener-G Gluten-Free English Muffins
Jennifer Cerbasi works as a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey. As owner of The Learning Link, LLC, she also works with parents in the home to support children's academic, social, emotional, and physical health through a variety of services. Jennifer utilizes her training in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in both settings to foster children's development. Jennifer writes articles about current topics in education for the Fox News website. For more information, go to www.jennifercerbasi.com