“As the mother of two sets of twins, behavior modification is an important part of a happy family life. Because I am a certified teacher, I consider myself fluent in the language of b-mod. Yet shortly after the birth of my first set of twins, I found myself struggling with the behavior of one of my twin girls. This is my earliest memory of the realization that something made this child unique.
In her first year, I defaulted to classic approaches for calming an infant: check to see if she needs to be changed, fed, or put down for sleep. In hindsight, I know that her sensory perception was making her cranky. Also, she required less physical contact than her twin sister. Her sister would communicate the need to be nurtured through physical contact. My autistic child preferred her independence and when she was cranky, holding her, rocking her, nurturing her through physical contact often was an ineffective soothing technique. I attributed this to the unique character of every child, twin or singleton. Autism did not even enter my mind.
During her toddler years, she was prone to frequent tantrums, more tantrums than the average toddler. Through trial and error, I identified triggers that caused the tantrums. Strategies I used included giving her sunglasses when lights were bright. I used noise-makers to create white noise for drowning out competing sounds. We avoided certain smells, like vinegar. I still did not consider that she might be showing signs of autism.
As she aged, I treated the symptoms. When she was four, I took her to a speech therapist because she was solving problems with her body instead of using her words. Because she does not like to be touched, I had her evaluated by an occupational therapist. Because of her tantrums and aggressive behavior, we began to see a psychologist. First, she was identified as ADHD and medication supported temporary improvement in her behavior. The psychologist suggested that we might be dealing with something outside of the garden-variety childhood behaviors. When given a psychological evaluation, the results revealed that she was on the spectrum; she is considered high-functioning and has a type of autism previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome.
The autism diagnosis brought us to a psychiatrist. The doctor wanted to put her on an antipsychotic drug common to treating Asperger’s. I resisted his suggestion to put her on these medications because of the side effects and the stigma that would follow her as a child on antipsychotic drugs. I wanted to try other strategies before defaulting to the medication. For a year, I tried multiple strategies, including putting her on a “clean” diet with all-natural foods: no artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, etc. Her behavior was not improved. I gave in and put her on Risperdal, which did improve her symptoms of aggression and irritability. But I was not satisfied. Improvements still left me dealing with a laundry list of undesirable behaviors and the psychiatrist’s solution was increasing the dosage of Risperdal and trying additional medications. I was terrified of what the future held for her, a life of chemical dependency and the social consequences that come with it. I maintained the status quo and held my breath as I tried to determine a course of action.
Less than a year after beginning the Risperdal treatment, a friend shared an article about this biochemist in California (Dr. Katherine Reid) who had reversed her child’s symptoms by eliminating MSG. I was ready to try anything to help my child and my family. We were in crisis and something had to give.
In March of 2014, I began the task of eliminating MSG from our family’s diet. I found shopping with Dr. Reid’s list of hidden sources of MSG frustrating and time consuming. MSG is in almost all processed foods and was virtually impossible to avoid. Consequently, I began to make everything from scratch: bread, yogurt, cheese, crackers, candy, etc. After a couple of months, I began to see significant improvements and gradually reduced her intake of the Risperdal. She no longer takes the drug and her aggressive behavior and irritability are easily managed with traditional b-mod strategies. Recently, she was so improved that I lowered the dosage on her ADHD medication. The MSG-free diet is working!
I understand the tendency of people in medical fields to be skeptical, critical even. It is true that the effectiveness of the method is not backed up by research. That says to me that the issue deserves further investigation. Dr. Reid’s explanation of glutamates and their role in neurological function made perfect sense to me. The imbalance of glutamates in our bodies from the consumption of mass-produced foods could provide support for why so many neurological challenges plague our modern society: ADHD, depression, anxiety, autism. The U.S. is experiencing record numbers of people suffering from these neurological issues. A recent study revealed that one in 68 people suffer from autism. That is a shocking number! If food is the cause, then food is the cure. Food has been the medicine in our family. I lack the research or data to prove this but the happiness of my child is proof enough for me.”