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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What can we do next to help our son 7 who is just diagnosed with autism

    Son not coping well in school. Learning is going ok but socially not knowing what to do and not much interaction with others. He has some friends. School asked me what we think of putting him on medication. How do we know this is good for him. Also someone said it would be good to have him tested for food intolerance. Do you know where to go to get this done to see if this helps? He is very active and never sits still. Sleeps and eats well. We tried lots and do our best but don't know what to do anymore.
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  • 2

    Thanks

    I am Accredited Practising Dietitian with a passion for helping people who suffer from food intolerance. I have 25 years of experience in this area ... View Profile

    Diet can sometimes be useful in managing symptoms in an autistic child.  The most popular diet currentfly for autism is a gluten-free (no wheat, barley, rye or oats), casein-free (no milk or milk products) diet, but is not guaranteed that this diet will help. 

    You mention that your son is very active and never sits still.  It may be that he also has some level of hyperactivity and this is a symptom that can respond to the elimination of certain food chemicals.  If the hyperactivity can be reduced, often concentration improves and this can help with both study and social interaction.

    There are no skin tests or blood tests which will identify whether or not a person has an intolerance to food chemicals and this applies also to intolerance to gluten and dairy.  These tests are only useful for confirming true allergic reactions to foods.  Food intolerance is investigated by the use of an elimination diet followed by challenge with the suspect foods or food chemicals.

    Any dietary modification can be difficult with an autistic child and there is a high risk of malnutrition in this group when using an elimination diet.  I would strongly advise that you seek the help of a qualifed Accredited Practising Dietitian to help you with any elimination diet to ensure that your son's health does not suffer.

  • Marian Hanton

    Healthshare Member

    On top of these options we also tried an elimination diet (look up Sue Dengate and her book Fed up with Food Allergies, www.fedup.com.au) using the RPAH elimination diet and supervised by a local dietician.

    After completing 6 weeks of a base diet and 3 weeks of reintroduction, none of my 4 family members were sensitive to the Amines, Salicylate or Glutamate. However, after returning the processed foods with colours, flavours, sweeteners, preservatives and flavour enhancers (forever known in our family as Chemicals) My migraines and irritability returned, my son's anxiety returned, my other sons hyperactivity and other Aspie traits returned.

    Food and diet can play a big party but each child on the spectrum is different, and even each child within a family are different. 

    Good luck and look for an autism support group nearby.

  • 2

    Thanks

    Moushami Kadkol

    Occupational Therapist (OT)

    Difficulties in Social Skills, Engagement, Attention, Participation are some of the most commonly observed concerns in Autism Spectrum. Also the underlying Sensory Processing Difficulties in Autism may make the child exhibit behaviours of hyperactivity, difficulty in tolerating different food textures, making friends, being distractible.

    It would be advisable to seek help from an Occupational Therapist who focuses on assessment and management of Sensory Processing difficulties so that your child learns to cope at school and try to overcome his challenges.

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been ... View Profile

    As mentioned above diet can play an important role. It may be worth exploring a ketogenic approach with your specialist or dietitian. Here are a couple of resources you may find of interest...

    http://robbwolf.com/2015/10/30/can-a-ketogenic-diet-help-autism/

    http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/autism-diet.html

  • 2

    Thanks

    Holly Melrose

    Psychologist

    I enjoy working with children, adolescents, adults, and families to provide assessment and intervention for varied developmental, cognitive, behavioural and academic functioning. My interest areas ... View Profile

    I am curious about your son's supports currently as it sounds like you have been mainly working with his school to support his needs. It is important to not rush into any treatment thinking it will solve everything. Medication may help settle high anxiety, but so will changing the classroom environment to be less stimulating and overwhelming. 

    I would suggest linking your family with a paediatrician and psychologist so they gain an understanding of your son's needs. A paediatrician will be able to advise you on medications and likely success of using alternative diets. They will also link you to support organisations such as ASPECT and ABIA, as well as an autism advisor and the NDIS (if it is in your location). A common team includes input from an occupational therapist, psychologist, speech therapist and paediatrician, depending on your son's needs. At a minimum you will need an idea of his intellectual functioning, sensory needs and speech and language skills to start planning effective interventions. Some of this may have been assessed through the diagnostic process.

    My usual first step with autism is to assess social communication, emotional regulation, and support systems to highlight needs and prioritise goals for longer term functioning no matter the age. This helps me understand all sorts of behaviour and allows a family and school to start working towards real functional outcomes like making friends and using gestures to indicate needs.

    But for you personally, a diagnosis takes time to process and it is important for you to think of the support you will need so you can best guide your son through the next several years. 

  • Marian Hanton

    Healthshare Member

    As an Aspie and a mum to an Aspie this is a fantastic answer on what to consider first and how to approach your sons care. Good luck in your journey.

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