Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking Medical Help or Advice

Seeking medical help when you think your child has food allergies or intolerances can become quite complicated, if you let it.  Diagnosing allergies becomes even more complicated when your child is still an infant.  It's important that you do your homework first and remember that the process may take months to resolve.

I can not stress enough how important it is to keep a food journal for you child for at least 3 days, before you bring your case to the doctor.  When I say food journal, I mean a journal that includes everything your child eats, the time they ate it at, and a record of any symptoms you may be concerned about, when they occur, and for how long.  The journal must also include all bowel movements, their consistency, and frequency.  Note when symptoms improve or worsen.  Study your journal and highlight any patterns you see.  If there are no patterns, still bring it to your doctor, he/she may find them.

When you feel confident that you have a case, make an appointment with your pediatrician, and discuss your concerns.  Always remember a parent knows their child best.

Your pediatrician may choose one of several directions to pursue, if he is concerned that your child has an allergy problem.  His choice may be greatly influenced by the child's age.  Infants and children under the age of two can be very difficult to diagnose.  Allergy testing can be false positive or false negative.

Remember a doctor diagnoses by symptom.  As they obtain information, they must be sure to eliminate every other option.  Sometimes they do this first, before even referring a child to an allergist.  Two out of three of my children, were referred to a gastroenterologist before seeing an allergist. Both were infants.  Both children ended up receiving upper endoscopies to rule out other digestive issues such as celiac disease etc...  One child was sent to another specialist to have a swallowing study done to ensure that his mouth was working correctly.  The first test all of them received was a barium study.  Each baby was fed a bottle of this thick white powdery liquid.  Then, x-rays of their stomachs were taken to determine if the liquid was moving through their digestive tracks correctly.  Acid reflux is diagnosed using this study.  During the barium study it was discovered that one of my children had a hiatal hernia.  The referral may not be to a gastroenterologist, but to another specialist depending on your child's symptoms.  There may be other tests involved.  Be patient with the process, as frustrating as it may be.  Eventually, there will be results!

When discussing food allergies in regards to my other child, my pediatrician immediately ordered blood testing for their allergies.  He explained it may not be accurate, but it would be a start.  That child was 2 years old.  The blood tests did show some allergies.  He was then referred to an allergist.

In other cases, the pediatrician may feel confident that he can handle it in house.  When one of my children, just two weeks old, was having significant problems with feedings, our doctor did a simple stool test in office. It was discovered there was blood in the urine and that he had a milk protein allergy.  His formula was changed and that was that.

Once your child has been referred to an allergist, be prepared for more testing.  If blood tests have already been done, you may avoid that, but most often, and in fact all cases with my children, more testing will be done.  Most likely it will be skin prick testing.  It's not fun, but doesn't hurt as much as one might think.  (I've gone through it myself.)  If skin prick testing isn't enough, some doctors move forward and try to test for intolerances, feeding the child an item that will prompt the reaction specified.

Receiving results is bittersweet.  You learn what's been causing so many problems with your child, but now there's a set of new problems.  What do I feed my child?  Worst case scenario, you receive no answers and move on to another specialist.  It took doctors 15 months to diagnose my son with all of his allergies.  Keep in mind that specialists always have waiting lists and it may take anywhere from one to six months to get an appointment.  As long as your child is thriving (gaining weight and growing) there will be no rush to have your child seen unless a reaction is quite severe, in that case, you go to the hospital immediately.

As an end to this article I must make note, if you child is experiencing SEVERE symptoms, as noted in the previous article, do not wait to seek medical assistance.  There are times when doctors in the hospital will diagnose an allergy due to it's severe symptoms, and then will refer you to an allergist.

Questions and Discussion

1.   What was your journey like as you went through the process of getting your children diagnosed and treated? Any stories of heroic pediatricians or specialists out there?

2.   This all sounds really intimidating and overwhelming, but it has helped us to know other people have gone through it.  This gave us confidence in ourselves. Any words of advice for anyone reading who might be just starting out?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies

The most popular questions sent to Fun Without Food are in regards to food allergies, their signs, symptoms, how to seek medical help and advice, and how to make changes to the diet.  Consider this Part One:  Signs and Symptoms.

Signs of food allergies are not cut and dry.  There can be multiple symptoms.  Some children show all symptoms, others show only one or two.  In some cases, children may not show any visible symptoms.

There are many websites that explain what I am about to explain, click on this to see my favorite.  But, it's also nice to read it, written by someone who has experienced almost all of it and then some. Remember symptoms may take up to two hours to show themselves after contact or ingestion.  In rare cases symptoms may take more time to appear.

The most common food allergy symptoms include:

1. Tingling or itching in the mouth.

Make a note, that as a parent, we can not see this reaction in our children.  If they are infants and/or toddlers they will not be able to communicate this symptom.  Most often as a parent, you will notice extreme irritability and perhaps a refusal to eat.  If the child is older, they may try to itch their mouths or express that it hurts or feels funny.

2. Hives Itching or Eczema.

In my experience, eczema is one of the number one indicators that an infant has food allergies, especially if they are extremely irritable.  It may be hard to discover what food is causing the eczema, but once it's found, improvements in the skin are amazing.  Eczema can just be eczema too, and is not always an indicator, but I have only met one person who had eczema who hadn't been diagnosed with food allergies, especially in children.  Eczema can occur anywhere on the body.  My first child had eczema. At two he was diagnosed with allergies.

Hives is a very popular reaction in children.  Usually it is the first sign that is taken seriously by parents and caregivers.  Still at times it can be confused with other rashes on the skin.  Hives do not always occur where the food allergen makes contact with skin.

Itching can occur without hives.  The itchy spot can be anywhere on the body.  There are many other reasons a child may be itching, but once you have eliminated environmental and emotional factors, food allergies can be the reason.  Infants may not be able to itch, and may only show extreme irritability.

Though, not listed, I would like to add diaper rashes to this section.  Five out of six babies I have cared for have had food allergies.  The first symptom visible was a reoccurring diaper rash.  After switching diapers, trying all lotions and ointments, it was discovered that food was the cause.

3.  Swelling of lips, face, tongue, and throat, or other parts of the body.

Beware!  Swelling of the lips, face, throat, and especially the eyes can lead to an anaphylaxis reaction in a matter of seconds and should be taken very seriously.  Benadryl is usually the best way to stop the reaction from worsening.  Check with your doctor for dosage amounts.

Parents often don't catch the swelling of the tongue and throat, because they aren't visible.  If you child starts to speak differently or their voice changes in any way, these may be indicators of this type of reaction.  Often times a child will have difficulty swallowing and/or breathing.  At times their voice may become hoarse.

My second child has swelling of his internal digestive track every time he has an allergic reaction to a food. As an infant, when this would occur, he would arch back and become as stiff as a board.  Similar symptoms occur in reflux babies and children having seizures.  It was only after those were ruled out that his food allergies were discovered.  Swelling of the internal digestive track can and did lead to vomiting in my second child.

4.  Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing.

These symptoms are most commonly associated with environmental allergies, but they can also be signs of food allergies.  My third child was constantly sick, with what appeared to be colds.  She did show other symptoms of food allergies.  We were surprised at how quickly her cold like symptoms disappeared when she was diagnosed, the food was removed from her diet, and she started using an inhaler twice a day.

5. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.

This symptom is usually associated more with food intolerances, but should be taken more seriously in regards to food allergies.  In less than 24 hours after birth my second child was having massive diarrhea bowel movements every hour.  The smell was obnoxious.  He could not sleep because of his abdominal pain.  When he started solids he instantly began vomiting.  After two weeks of no sleep and a very irritable baby, we went to the doctor and had his stool tested.  This was our first indication of a milk protein allergy.

At six months, my third child was having six to ten bowel movements a day.  The smell was foul!  Her only other symptoms of food allergies were diaper rashes and nasal congestion.  She was referred to a gastroenterologist first.  They ran tests and had an upper GI scope done.  It was there they noticed eosinophils in her stomach.  Eosinophils are a sign of food allergies.  We were then referred to an allergist where they discovered multiple food allergies. Within a matter of days her bowel movements were reduced to one to two a day.

Remember, as a parent you can not see abdominal pain or nausea in infants and sometimes toddlers.  Instead you will mostly likely notice a hard stomach and/or extreme irritability.

6.  Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
The only experience I have with this symptom is in regards to my second child.  When he has an allergic reaction he is the most clumsy kid I have ever seen. At times he appears to be staring into space.  Other times he can barely walk straight.

This symptom can lead to anaphylaxis in a matter of seconds so it is important to treat it immediately.

7. Anaphylaxis

In some people, a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.  Untreated anaphylaxis can cause comma or death.  The Mayo Clinic lists these life threatening symptoms:

A. Constriction and tightening of airways

B. A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe.

C. Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure.

D. Rapid pulse.

E.  Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness.

In children it may be very difficult to notice the onset of some of these symptoms.  Other times the child's face may swell extensively.  It is extremely important to carry a prescription Epi-pen at all times if there is possibility that a child may have a severe reaction.

Questions and Discussion:

1. How did you first discover that your child was having an allergic reaction to a food? Did someone else notice symptoms first? How long had the symptoms been occurring before you made the connection to food?

2. Has your child ever gone into an anaphylaxis reaction due to something he or she ate or inhaled? How quickly did the reaction come on and how long did it take to recover from it? Ever had to use your Epi-pen?

3. Are there any other symptoms that you saw in your child that alerted you to a possible food allergy, not listed above?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to School Safety

My second son starts preschool tomorrow.  Not too long ago, we didn't think it was possible for him to even attend school.  It was a very long road, filled with frustration and tears, but it paid off.  Along the way we learned MANY important lessons.  It's only seems fair to share our experience in hopes that it will benefit another parent and their child.  And since we're not as experienced as some, we hope for more ideas and added advice from other parents.

Our journey began with a simple conversation with our pediatrician, who just happened to be the medical director of the school we wanted our son to attend.  He then initiated a conversation with the education director of the school.  I was asked to bring in a list of my son's allergies.  A meeting was scheduled between the education director and the teaching faculty of the preschool.  My son's case was presented.  I was not permitted to be present.  There was much hesitancy, to the extent that a meeting was called between the education director and medical director.  The education director was very obvious in making sure I was not a part of this meeting.  Unfortunately her efforts failed.  The medical director, our pediatrician, made certain I was in attendance.

At first the answer was no.  It was too dangerous.  Preschools are allowed to deny enrollment.  Then our pediatrician stepped up to the plate and convinced the education director to allow Adam to attend school for one hour two times a week during the most regulated times of the day.  If he could remain safe during those times, his time at school would increase.

We were elated.  A few months later our pediatrician reported to us that another meeting was to be held.  He had not heard details but the ordeal was far from over.

Meanwhile, my second son was diagnosed with Autism.  He was transitioning from Early Intervention Services (EI) to services provided through the school district.  To date, the school district had not been involved in my son's case and enrollment into preschool.

After several evaluations and the new diagnosis, a CPSE meeting was to be held.  This meeting would determine the education my son would receive for the next year before entering PreK.  I spoke with the head of the CPSE board.  She was unaware of my son's allergies.  She requested that I bring a list of every allergy and it's reaction, along with medical proof of all allergies from a specialist, not our pediatrician.

Contention was building between staff members at the preschool we wanted our son to attend.  There was talk of not modifying the classroom to meet our son's allergy needs.  Allergies do not count as a disability and therefore a one-to-one aid cannot be provided, unless paid for by the parents.  If the classroom was not modified there would be no way to keep our son safe.  More importantly, if everyone wasn't on the same page... It was a very dangerous situation.

Our pediatrician, the medical director of the school, was once again summoned to attend the meeting, and asked to bring our's medical records.  My husband and I sat down with our Early Intervention team to review our son's case and suggested IEP goals written by our son's occupational therapist a few days before the big meeting.  We discussed EI's position and requests in regards to our son's transition and next year of school.  His test scores and diagnosis of Autism would suggest that our son be considered a special education student and attend preschool five days a week.  Yet with his allergies...  The meeting would be interesting.  We discussed best and worst case scenarios, and our rights as our son's parents and his right to a public education.  The EI team encouraged us to write down all our questions in advance and have them answered during the meeting.  Our son's IEP would be developed during this meeting and needed to include address all concerns in regards to our son.  That evening I did so, but then remembered I had read somewhere that children with food allergies should have a 504 Plan.  What was the difference? Did he need both plans?  What was a 504 Plan? What was an IEP exactly?  I found the perfect explanation HERE.  I've shared some of it below.

There are two types of written plans, which must be developed and implemented by public schools regarding students with disabilities.  First, students with disabilities requiring only reasonable accommodation must have a written plan under Section 504; this is commonly referred to as a 504 plan.   Each public school should have a person (usually an assistant principal or a guidance counselor, but not a special educator) who serves as the school's "504 coordinator."  This person should coordinate the development, maintenance, and implementation of 504 plans.

504 plans should be developed by a committee, consisting of the student with a disability (if appropriate), the student's parent(s)/guardian(s), the student's teacher(s), the student's counselor, and the 504 coordinator.
Additionally, special educators often serve as advisors to 504 committees.  The student's disability and corresponding need for reasonable accommodation are identified and documented in the plan.  Likewise, the plan delineates the specific accommodations, which will be implemented by the school.  All school staff involved in the provision of accommodations should be contacted by the 504 coordinator and made aware of their duties and responsibilities.  The plan itself should be updated at least annually.

For students with disabilities who require specialized instruction, the IDEA controls the procedural requirements.  The IDEA process is more involved than that required under Section 504.  Instruction and accommodation under the IDEA are provided in accord with a plan called an Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP.  A student's IEP is a legal document which, in part, sets forth the duties and responsibilities of the school district and staff regarding that student.  It is the responsibility of special educators, regular education teachers, administrators, counselors, and other professional educators to be thoroughly familiar with the provisions of the IEP for EACH of their students with disabilities.

Our son did not need a 504 Plan because he has an IEP.

The meeting went very well.  Our pediatrician, later speaking of the event said, "If you get enough people in one room, things happen!"  Our son was granted a five day a week special education program in a classroom modified to fit his allergy needs.  He was also purposely enrolled in the smallest class (made of seven students) with five adults present at all times to help keep him safe.  All of our questions were answered and documented in the notes of the meeting.

Below is a list of questions to help you assess the situation at your school and examine school's policies.  It is taken from THIS article.

  • Where medications are stored
  • Where each student's emergency healthcare form is filed
  • Who is trained to deal with emergency reactions and how they will be trained
  • How substitute teachers will be trained to identify and treat reactions
  • Where students eat lunch and snacks
  • Who provides snacks
  • Whether the classroom can be made allergen free
  • Cafeteria procedures, including food preparation and the cleaning of tables
  • Hand-washing policies for students
  • Food policy on buses (can students eat on buses)
  • Field trip planning, including who is in charge of the medications
  • After school activities—how are teachers and coaches trained to deal with food allergies and how they gain access to medications when necessary
Also taken from the same article are questions that will help you and your school write your Emergency Action Plan.

  • What are the potential symptoms of a reaction?
  • Where should the student go for help?
  • Which medications should be administered and in what dosage?
  • Who should accompany the child?
  • Who is to stay with the other students?
  • What should be done if the student is in the lunch room, classroom, or gym?
  • Who's responsible for calling the nurse?
  • If the nurse is not present, who's next in line for action?
  • When should the person in charge call 911?

Besides addressing all concerns and questions, the school requested that we, as our son's parents, write a letter to the parents of the children in our son's class, explaining our son's allergies and requesting their help to keep him safe.  It will be distributed the first day of classes.  The school is not permitted to share information about our son with other parents.  Therefore the letter was crucial for creating awareness and safety in the classroom.

We hope for a great year!

1. What has been your experience working with school official and teachers with regards to special dietary needs or allergy issues? Have you met much resistance or have others been cooperative? Any issues related to classmates or (more likely) parents of classmates?

2. What does your child's school do to accommodate students with special dietary needs? A lot of these guidelines come from the state or federal level, but have there been any unique initiatives in your community that have contributed to improved understanding, acceptance, and overall safety in your schools? What would you like your school district to do that isn't being done currently?

3. The federal and state guidelines for education, especially for special education, can be quite murky and incomprehensible to most parents. That, combined with feeling intimidated or alienated by school personnel can be hard to navigate. Have you found any resources or information that has helped you to understand your child's educational rights? Any good war stories out there of parent-teacher meetings or IEP meetings? Does it help to know that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by this process? 

We can't wait to hear your comments!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Recipes On the Go

Last month our family went on an unplanned vacation.  We were planning on staying at our destination for a day or two, but ended up staying there six days.  A stomach bug hit our family hard.  Traveling home was impossible. Each day we woke up someone new had the bug.

We had packed enough food for our family for two days, but definitely not for six days.  I had to shop at an unfamiliar grocery store. Thankfully they had some items my children could eat.  At one point I went to this blog to find recipes I could prepare for my kiddos.  I quickly realized my staple recipes were not here.  What was I going to do?

Our family did make it through the week.  Looking on the bright side, it was a good thing that my children had a stomach bug because they didn't eat as much as they usually do.  If they had...  It's time to put these recipes on my blog, if for no other reason than they will be accessible to me when I need them away from home!


1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons oil
3/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together in mixing bowl.  Heat frying pan or griddle.  Cook pancakes until tops are bubbly and the bottoms browned.  Flip and cook.  Serve.

Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9-inch round or an 8-inch square pan.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.  Measure the brown sugar and add it.  Stir the dry ingredients well.  Mix the oil, water and vanilla together, then add them to the dry ingredients and stir just until all of the dry bits are wet.  Turn the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake the cake for 30 minutes or cupcakes for 15 minutes.

Taco Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt or garlic salt

Stir seasoning and 3/4 cup water into 1 pound browned and drained hamburger or turkey burger; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

These recipes are my staple recipes because they require no "special" ingredients.  I can find the ingredients anywhere and I can make them anywhere.

Do you have any recipes like this?  We'd love you to share!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fun for Siblings?

Having one child with a special dietary need is a challenge.  Adding siblings to the mix with or without special dietary needs of their own can be extremely difficult.

Currently, in our home, there are many children with special dietary needs of varying natures.  Some of these needs are life threatening and/or conflicting with special dietary needs of others in the house.  One child has a severe milk protein allergy, which reacts with simple contact.  This child also reacts to rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc...  Two other children have milk allergies, but not as severe.  Three children have no milk/dairy allergies, and one has a Vitamin D deficiency.  Surprisingly, except for a few baby bottle mishaps, we've been able to keep everyone safe.

One child is allergic to many vegetables.  But one he's NOT allergic to and LOVES, is one that another child IS allergic to, yet still loves.  Both are toddlers and very skilled at throwing food on the floor and across the table.

When our son was first diagnosed with 30 food allergies, I was on a quest to find as many recipes as I could that our entire family could enjoy.  Many items were removed from our home. Some still are today.  But as time has passed, and more children come, I'm learning it's very difficult to juggle every one's diets and nutritional needs.  The children who don't have special dietary needs may not eat the foods that our son can.  One of our children has Asperger's and will only eat very specific foods, some of which his brother is allergic to.

Over time we've come up with some basic rules and routines in our home to keep people safe.

1. Only water is allowed in sippy cups and/or, which can be taken anywhere in the house.
2.  Food and drinks are served at the table only.
3.  One must ask an adult for permission before opening the refrigerator.
4.  Children are positioned at the table based on their special dietary needs.
5.  All snacks and meals are served by adults, at times with some assistance from children.

We've found it very helpful to have a raised table top and to store all food in cupboards above the counter.  With so many young children, it's been wonderful to have a routine eating schedule of meals and snacks, so there is no munching in between.

There are still MANY Foods omitted from our home:  eggs, oats, sweet potatoes, beef, pork, etc...  But we do have milk and cheese, peanut butter, strawberries, and peas.  At meal time I find myself cooking at least two meals, if not three, with a choice of vegetable and side dish.  I've found that options keeps everyone happy.

We still have occasional meltdowns over broccoli and macaroni and cheese, but we've come a long way.  When we have special treats, most often they are allergy friendly for everyone.  At times we do have ice cream sundae nights though.  Those allergic to dairy/milk usually get special allergy friendly chocolate bars or cookies.  (Even alternative ice creams aren't safe for everyone.  And one child in particular, suffering from sensory issues, will not eat anything cold.) It's a real juggling act.

As you can tell, the solutions we have come up with are very specific to our situation, and it may not be advisable to do things the same way we have done them, since every situation is unique. We may also find new challenges presenting themselves as the kids get older, and the potential changes in tastes and tolerances that come with growing up. Introducing new kids could also present new challenges, especially older kids who might not be so willing to give up on some favorite things out of concern for another's special dietary needs. The keys to continued success will be flexibility and quick adjustments before potential problems present themselves and get out of hand. Lots of communication, negotiation, and praise will be important components as well. As always, reducing the emphasis of food and eating as a central part of the day and shifting the focus to family fun and activities will aid in the process as well.

Now it's your turn:

1. How have you managed the challenge of keeping your child with special dietary needs safe while also being sensitive to the tastes and preferences of others (especially siblings) who may be asked to do without a favorite food? What was the most difficult thing about this and what has been the most rewarding aspect of trying to find this very delicate balance in your family?

2. Our experience is primarily with children ages 5 and under, so we are interested in learning how things change or have changed for your family's food needs as the children have grown older. Do things get easier because the kids can communicate more clearly and be kept safe more easily? Or, do tastes and preferences become stronger and less negotiable? How have you adapted to these changes and were there any surprises that you have encountered along the way?

One final note on posting comments: we appreciate all the input and feedback we receive in these discussions, and we invite you all to post as often as you would like, even if just to ask a question. We have found that especially lengthy comments (200 words or more) do not get posted in the comments section, due to some sort of technical issue with Blogger (we still love you Blogger!) So, if you have a lot to contribute on this or any other discussion in the future, you can either:
A)  Divide it up into smaller posts or
B)  Email it to and we will make sure your entire comment gets posted in the discussion.

Thanks again for all your support and feedback. We are learning a lot from all of you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

60 Fun Without Food Easter Ideas

It's that time of year again.  I'm not sure which holiday is more difficult-Christmas, Halloween, or Easter when it comes to special dietary needs.  Coming up with Easter basket and tradition alternatives can be difficult.  Easter was a pretty exciting day in my family growing up.  The Easter Bunny would leave trails of jelly beans all over the house leading to where our Easter baskets were hidden.  Our baskets were filled with candy and gifts of jewelry, music, and a few other miscellaneous items.  I received a gift from my parents too.  Most often it was a new item to play with outside.

After eating candy all morning and our annual Easter egg hunt with Dad, we'd get ready and head to my aunt's house for a HUGE buffet of meats, summer salads, fruit salads, veggies and desserts.  There was always so much food.  Sometimes we'd have another Easter egg hunt there.  The eggs would be the ones we'd decorated a few days before.

There were a few variations in the holiday tradition, but the eggs, candy, and food were always present.  Last year was our first Easter celebration since the kids' diagnoses.  Click here to see the post from last year.  This year we're changing things up a bit. And honestly, there are still many things to plan, BUT since Easter is only a month away, it's time for Fun Without Food's Easter Ideas!

Decorating Easter Eggs

Adam's egg and adhesive allergies are life threatening, so the tradition of decorating Easter eggs is a tough one for us.  I've worked hard to come up with some alternatives.  Here are some I really like.  Some activities are not appropriate for younger children, others will bore older children.  Click on links for instructions.

1.  A Herd of (Plastic) Eggimals
2.  Ballpoint Eggs
3.  Papier-Mache Eggs (This project does require wheat flour, although I suppose you could use a different flour)
4.  Foam Sticker Eggs (Oriental Trading has a lot of foam egg craft options)
5.  Magic Color Scratch Eggs
6.  Paint Your Own Ceramic Eggs (Ceramic Eggs can be replaced with wooden eggs.)
7.  Stained Glass Easter Egg
8.  Easter Egg Scissors Skills Project
9.  Cotton Ball Easter Bunny Egg
10.  Yarn Balloon Egg
11.  Pop Up Eggs
12.  For really young children print out template for Easter Egg Scissors Skills Project and just have children color or paint the egg, and/or add stickers.

If you have other ideas PLEASE share!

Easter Egg Fillers

The Easter Egg Hunt is one of the most favorite events of the day around here.  Before special dietary needs were introduce to the family, we stuffed plastic eggs with candy.  Now we use non food Easter Egg Fillers.  Here are some ideas that we've used and plan to use in the future.  Some require a larger plastic egg.

1.  Lego or Lego Duplo Pieces
2.  Finger Puppets
3.  Miniature Dinosaur and Animal Figurines
4.  Magnets
5.  Beads
6.  Matchbox or Hot Wheels Cars
7.  Jewelry
8.  Hair Barrettes & Bows
9.  Barbie Accessories
10.  Mr. Potato Head Pieces
12.  Crayons
13. Stickers
14.  Miniature Play Do containers
15.  Stamps
16.  Scrapbooking Accessories
17.  Chalk
18.  Fisher Price Little People or Imaginex Accessories
19.  Mini Paint Containers
20.  Cash or Coins
21.  Playmobile or Action Figure Accessories
22.  Puzzle Pieces
23.  Seeds
24.  Shoelaces or socks

Obviously Oriental Trading, along with many other stores have plenty of little toys that fit in plastic Easter eggs, BUT I'm one to prefer toys or items that the kids will actually use for a long time and won't break within 24 hours.  We color code the eggs for each child so they will know which ones are their eggs.

What do you put in your Easter Eggs?  PLEASE share any other ideas that you have!

Other Way of Celebrating

There are many websites about Easter Craft Ideas, so I don't want to go into much detail about that, but besides crafts, Easter Eggs, Easter Egg Hunts, Easter baskets, and FOOD, how do you celebrate the holiday?  How do you have fun without food?  Do you celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday?  How so?

Since having children Easter is a two part celebration in our home.  The day before Easter our family celebrates the secular part of the holiday.  We call it the Day of the Easter Bunny.  Then on Sunday, we devote the day to the religious aspect of the holiday.  I've always directed the choir in my congregation, up until this year.  My 2 1/2 year old has also been a baby up until this year.  Unfortunately because of safety risks, we're having to stay home from religious services.  This is really upsetting to me, but I'm working hard to find other ways to make the day special.

Some Fun Without Food Secular Celebration Ideas include:
1. (Non Food) Easter Egg Hunt
2.  Relay Races and Games
3.  Planting a tree of flowers
4.  Learn how to weave a basket
5.  Visit a farm where there are new baby animals
6.  Nature walk or hike
7.  Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt
8.  Easter Crafts
9.  Make & Send Easter Cards to Family & Friends
10.  Go shopping for spring and summer wardrobes
11.  Visit the Easter Bunny at your local Mall
12.  Deliver flowers to friends and neighbors

Some Fun Without Food Religious Celebration Ideas include:
1.  Attend religious services (Make sure they are safe for those with special dietary needs!)
2. Attend or participate in a performance of an Easter Oratorio
3.  Read scripture passages about the life of Jesus Christ, His miracles, and/or events leading up to and after His Crucifixion.
4.  Watch a movie about the life of Jesus Christ, His Crucifixion, and/or His Resurrection.
5.  Write in a journal
6.  Religious Easter Crafts
7.  Visit a sacred place or religious historical site
8.  Write letters of gratitude to loved ones
9.  Listen to and/or sing hymns of praise and/or other sacred music
10.  Pray
11.  Create and play trivia games about the religious events surrounding the Easter holiday.
12.  Serve those in need.

What are some fun without food secular and/or religious celebration ideas that your family has?

We hope you have a very fun, safe, and happy Easter holiday!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Special Dietary Needs and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Before I had children, I was of the mentality that a child eats what's put on the table or they go without.  Eventually they will get hungry enough and give in.  Then my son Owen was born.  After a week he refused to breastfeed.  I pumped for six weeks and then switched to formula.  With every bottle we would fight him it seemed.  At times he had projectile vomiting.

As he grew in age, and transitioned to solids, the challenge of getting him to eat became harder.  The first two foods I introduced to him, carrots and peaches, seemed to make him miserable and sick.  I called the doctor's office, frantic, questioning my abilities as a mother.  Why couldn't I get my son to eat?

Finally at 8 months, we introduced him to Yo Baby Yogurt, per our pediatrician's recommendation.  He hadn't been gaining weight.  Thankfully he loved it.  There were VERY few foods we could get him to eat.  For the longest time it seemed that Owen lived off of this yogurt.  On occasion he would eat something else, but it was rare.  As he became mobile, we resorted to sticking snacks in his toy dump trucks, hoping he would see them and eat them.  It worked at times.

By the age of two, Owen would eat whole wheat pasta with sauce, grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade breads, crackers, pizza, and a few other items.  Fruits and vegetables were rare, in fact I believe Owen has only eaten vegetables less than a handful of times throughout his entire existence. Still, it seemed Owen would eat one day, and then eat nothing for three days. This pattern seemed endless.

It was at age two that we learned Owen had allergies/intolerances to dairy, wheat, pork, and beef.  I was devastated, his entire diet consisted of foods that made him sick.  Slowly, I found alternatives that he would eat, and he became free of the allergens.  He became a different child, although his eating habits continued to challenge us as parents.  We found more allergies/intolerances.

Between the ages of two and three, Owen became extremely particular about his food.  Everything he ate was a shade of brown, ranging from cream colored to dark chocolate.  Most foods were crunchy.  They had to be a specific name brand, or he wouldn't touch them.  Thankfully by the age of three, Owen grew out of his wheat allergy/intolerance and that provided us with many more options. Still his eating habits worsened.

When Owen turned four, we said enough was enough. We had learned long ago that we couldn't say eat what's in front of you or go without, because Owen needed to gain weight.  Instead we decided that for one week we would have Owen take one bite of one item on his plate, that we were eating, and then he could have whatever he wanted.

Our experiment went horribly wrong.  Owen screamed for 90 minutes.  He then decided he would take a bite.  As the tiniest piece of food touched his tongue he would gag to the point of vomiting.  This same scenario continued for a week straight.  We gave up and realized something was very wrong.

After making a list of concerns regarding Owen, we took them to our pediatrician.  We made a special appointment with him, without children present.  It was then that he referred Owen to a Developmental Pediatrician, explaining that we could be looking at something as minor as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or as serious as Autism.

On February 16th of this year, Owen was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  An Autism Spectrum Disorder comes with a completely different kind of special dietary needs.  I remember one night going to the grocery store at 11:30 PM because I realized we were out of foods Owen would eat.  My cart was filled with Wegman's Berry Corn Crunch, Tyson's Fun Nuggets, Jif Peanut Butter, Smuckers Seedless Strawberry Jam, Ritz Crackers, and Freihofer's White Bread.  I felt embarrassed shopping so late at night for such items.  I explained to the cashier apologetically that my son had an Autism Spectrum Disorder and these were the only foods he would eat.

His response was a surprise. He nodded with a huge grin, and said knowingly,

"I understand COMPLETELY.  My sister has an Autism Spectrum Disorder."

We continued our conversation.  It turns out his sister will only eat foods that are green in color. He shared specific name brands, etc...

It turned a very stressful situation into a comforting conversation.

A couple months ago I was told about the movie, Adam.  It's about a young single adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I remember watching the scene where it showed his freezer and cupboards filled with the same three items that he ate day after day.  Part of me laughed and cried all at once.  There were a couple other scenes that directly related to food that caused the same reaction.

There are many aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorders that are very difficult at times, but personally, I feel the diet is the hardest. Owen will starve himself for three days before he'd ever consider trying something new, and then he still wouldn't try it.

The sight of food causes him stress.  I honestly believe if he could avoid food all together he would.

And then comes the controversy of the gluten free, casein free diet.  There are other versions of it too.  Some doctors recommend it.  Some parents swear by it.  Others believe they have proof that it makes no difference.  Many who don't understand the prescription of it and it's possible benefits think parents of Autism Spectrum Disorder kids are crazy.

Meanwhile parents work endlessly trying to get their Autism Spectrum child to eat.


How did you "discover" the special dietary needs of your child? How did you handle the process of finding things that were, (1) safe and (2) appealing to your child? What has been the hardest part about this process for you? What has been the biggest surprise?

If you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, please share your story, especially as it relates to food issues. What has your experience been with adjusting your child's food intake to modify his or her health/moods/behaviors? What has worked for you? What is still challenging?