The FASD Diet-Behavior Connection
By Karen Kershner March 3, 2006
First of all, I am writing to Mothers and Fathers out there who don’t know what to do with their child who is acting wild, defiant, crazy and out of control. Your household may be in chaos 85% of the time and you fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted and depressed, with no relief in site. This scenario described our lives with our 3 year old son we adopted as a baby and diagnosed with FAS at 2 years of age.
I am a pediatric RN and thought I could handle anything. What a shock! No traditional methods of discipline phased this child and left my husband and I frustrated and exhausted at the end of the day. Sometimes, we feared for our 4 year old daughter’s safety. Sadly, we questioned our decision to adopt this little boy. We searched for help going to numerous traditional pediatricians and even a psychiatrist. We tried various medications and experienced adverse reactions to most of them. Some of those adverse reactions were harder to deal with than his regular chaotic behaviors. Our son Kyle was also sick a lot. Numerous ear infections, flu, and fevers sent us to the ER at midnight more than a few times during his first 3 years of life.
Then we joined the local FASD support group at the FAS Community Resource Center in Tucson, Arizona, led by Teresa Kellerman. At one support group meeting, Teresa talked about the importance of diet in helping our kids’ behaviors. She mentioned the Feingold Diet and said it has been proven to be effective in kids with ADHD and that it also seems to be helpful for many children with FASD. I researched the Feingold Diet on the Internet, I found the web site (www.feingold.org), and we started the next day.
The Feingold Diet eliminates all artificial coloring, flavoring and specific preservatives from the diet. Teresa suggested adding hot dogs to the “no no” list of foods to avoid because of all the preservatives and food coloring. We saw immediate improvement in Kyle’s activity level and noticed we needed to discipline him less. At the same time, we learned about a local pediatrician who uses alternative medicine, including diet and other non-drug alternatives to treat children with Autism, ADHD and other various disorders. I called and made an appointment. He started Kyle on the elimination diet for 10 days, which restricts most foods and then gradually adds them back, one at a time, monitoring the child’s behavior to determine which foods are a problem for the child. This is not easy, but I thought it was worth a try, and I can tell you, it was worth the trouble. Within 3 days my husband and I observed Kyle sitting quietly at the table doing an art project with his sister. We were shocked and didn’t want to make a big deal of it, fearing it was too good to be true. This was in March of 2005, exactly one year ago.
We were so impressed with the effects of diet, that we decided to try the gluten free/dairy free diet, which has helped numerous children with Autism, ADHD, and FASD. See "Nutritional Interventions for Children with FASD" by Diane Black, Ph.D. on Teresa's web site. Again, it is not easy to manage, but well worth it. This combination of a modified Feingold Diet and the gluten-free/dairy free diet seems to help Kyle the most. Kyle is now manageable and even enjoyable in our household, as long as he stays strictly to his diet. He is functioning well in a regular pre-K classroom in the regular school system.
In addition, Kyle has had only one cold in the past year. We have not been to the doctor for an illness one single time in 12 months!! He is now almost five years old. Our household still has challenging days and Kyle still has FAS issues but, our household is no longer in frequent chaos and we are finally enjoying family life!!
The truth is the behavior your child demonstrates is beyond his/her control. Most parents do realize this, especially if their child has a diagnosis of ADHD, FASD, Autism, or other related disorder. But having a diagnosis and knowing how to live with it are two totally different things. Changing your child’s diet may be the key to success for your child and your family. Your child may still need medication in addition to the new diet; you will learn what works best for your individual family.
If you have questions feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck and may God Bless all of your efforts to be an awesome parent!
Teresa's note: Karen moved from Tucson and she is missed by our support group. When she attended the last group before she moved, she brought a beautiful throw with an image of a lighthouse. She gave it to me as a thank you gift and said that the FAS Center has been a lighthouse for her, lighting her the way in the darkness of of the journey in the real world of ignorance and misinformation about FASD. We hope that Karen will find success for her family in the rural environment they have chosen to raise Kyle, and that others will realize the same appreciation for the information available at the FAS Community Resource Center which is shared for all the world on the web site below. Here is a photo of the image of the lighthouse:
FAS Community Resource