News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: What CAN we eat?

JCCHD | Thu, April 25, 2013 | [Autism Treatment][Healthcare][Q and A ]

Q: Whenever I hear about dietary intervention for children with autism, it seems like there’s something else we shouldn’t be feeding our children. If it’s not gluten and dairy, it’s soy, sugar, corn, or something else.  It’s overwhelming—how do I get to the bottom of it?

The Eternal Question of Food

A: Dietary needs and appropriate dietary intervention for health issues can be complicated.  A qualified dietitian or nutritionist spends many years in school learning about chemistry and biology, and then spends many years in the field learning how to apply this knowledge appropriately. To ensure success, it is very important that families find a knowledgeable and qualified professional who can help answer these questions.

It’s important to realize that there is no such thing as an “autism diet,” and hearing all the buzzwords and the latest things to try usually just leads to confusion. The most important thing is to look at a child’s individual needs first and go from there, creating the healthy eating habits and dietary intervention plan that is best for your child and your family.

There are basic things that are globally recommended. A healthy, nutrient-dense diet is at the top of the list. Once that is addressed, an elimination diet of the more common allergens may be a logical next step. For people with more significant issues there are additional dietary interventions that may be considered, but all of these decisions should be made with professional help. A professional will do an assessment to identify any inadequacies in the diet and address them, as well as any need for eliminations. Diving in without this information and guidance may create more problems than it solves—no one’s behavioral symptoms will improve if he or she is malnourished.

If you’re concerned that you can’t afford to seek professional guidance, there are three points to consider. One, can you afford not to? Investing time and money into new foods and elaborate diet plans without full information may not only be a waste of resources, but may cause issues that may ultimately cost you yet more to address.  Second, be sure to look into any insurance coverage. Many health insurance plans will reimburse you for an appropriate dietetic work up. And last, if you truly are in financial need, there are grants and support programs that may help you with the costs of an appropriate consultation. Contact our Family Care Coordinator for more information on these resources.