Curse of the Zebra Cake: Diet and SPD

I want to start off by saying that I am not a Doctor and I am not a Nutritionist.  The information I share here is just from my own research and experience.  So make sure that you inform your doctor before any major diet changes.  You really don’t need approval to remove foods but be sure that your child is still receiving the right caloric intake for their size.  That is when it gets tricky and you may need the help of a nutritionist or doctor.  Now onto the blog post….

The day was April 19th.  A clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds hung overhead.  The field was green and lush from days of rain.  My son had played a great game of soccer following all the rules not pretending to be any kind of animal (real or imaginary) and we had enjoyed being just like everyone else.  And then it happened.  The game was over and as little hands clapped past each other in the age old rite of a game well played the after game snack appeared.

Here I was across the field holding a baby and trying to keep a 3 year old from running onto the field.  But I knew, I just knew that I could not wait.  I tossed our baby to my husband and took off running at full speed.  I was just in time to slap shot half a zebra cake out of my son’s hand, but not fast enough to stop the other half from being greedily devoured.  And not fast enough to keep myself looking from the crazy mom who uses NBA style moves to keep her kids on a diet.  I tried to save face by looking around at shocked faces and explaining, he has allergies, he can’t eat that…but the damage had been done.  Forget Tiger Moms I was a Zebra Mom.

You may be asking yourself, what is the big deal about 1 little zebra cake?  Well for a child with, sensory disorder, adhd, add, autism, tourette, or any other neurological issues, that one little cake can cause a weeks worth of set backs, emotions, and temper tantrums.  It is a complicated process going on in our bodies and when things aren’t quite working right.  Just a little bit can go a long long long way.

Diet is an issue that many health practitioners are now looking into.  Time and again they have seen children miraculously change just based on the foods they eat.  What was once just a suspicion is now becoming hard science.  So how does the diet effect a child?  It all starts with your gut!  Many children suffering from neurological conditions have leaky gut.  This means that rather than the food going through the digestive system it is passing into the blood stream instead and sometimes going straight to the brain.  That is a very easy way to explain a very complicated process, but this may help:

Leaky gut can cause a chain reaction of auto immune disease as the body begins to react to things that are not where they are supposed to be.  This is why sometimes when given an allergy test people will show an allergy to almost everything.  They are not actually allergic to everything but their body has created antibodies to the things that have slipped past their leaky gut.

The number one way to stop that leaky gut is to stop eating gluten.  It is also recommended to stop eating soy, dairy, potatoes, and corn as well.  Those foods are cross contaminators of gluten and if you are having gluten trouble you likely have issues with those foods too.  You may not have to be gluten free forever, but you do need to take this diet seriously.  Your child’s well being depends on it.

Ways to Heal a Leaky Gut:

1. Remove food irritants

2. Introduce Probiotics

3. Stick to the Plan

4. Slowly introduce foods back in after at least 6 months (if you have an issue then shelf it for another 6 months)

As their gut begins to heal their behavior will change and symptoms will start to disappear.  When we first went gluten free my son would have horrible reactions to the least bit of gluten.  It wasn’t just behavior either, he would have digestive issues, eczema flare ups on his hands and feet, and have trouble sleeping.  We have been gfree almost a year now (also all natural no dye) and he is thriving.  I also noticed that the zebra cake incident only made him a bit emotional and it only lasted a day.  I am hopeful that one day he won’t have to be on a special diet (we will always be dye and artificial free) and he can just relax a little.  Until then I will be packing lunches, packing snacks, and making sure I am always prepared.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth it.  Even if I have to slap shot a few Zebra cakes along the way.

There is soooo much more about diet that I am going to have to write several posts, my next one will be about food dye and artificial flavors.


Meditation Mandalas for Peace and Tranquility

Okay, so I am not one of those incense burning hippie types.  I do like a good broomstick skirt on occasion but I am certainly not the Birkenstock wearing psychedelic type.  If anything I am conservative and careful not to get too New Age with my beliefs.  I can appreciate the beliefs of all cultures, but am just not really into too much of that tranquility and peace, zen stuff.

As evidenced by my last few posts maybe I need a little more feng shui going on in our house.  I was gifted a set of virtue magnets (more about those in another post) and when the order came they had included a mandala coloring page.  The description said for peace and tranquility.  Stress Relief was in big letters.  I could use a little stress relief, I thought.  So I pulled out some markers and got to work.  I worked on that picture for 3 days and I am still not done.  Was it a magic tranquility pill, no.  But it does give one a chance to step back and just focus on something else for a few minutes.


I was also very surprised when my son asked to also color one, so we printed a few out and he happily colored them for over an hour.   That afternoon when he started getting a little hyper I handed him another one, he eagerly started coloring and calmed down.  Will it work every time, probably not.  But I am gonna ride this ship as far as it will take me.  He even started drawing his own mandalas.


So I highly suggest checking out some free mandala coloring pages or getting some books, they have lots available on Amazon.


Sensory Overload: Yes that is My Kid Laying on the Floor at Chuckee Cheese

Sensory Overload is probably one of the most visible signs of Sensory Processing Disorder.  There you are just enjoying your day when the meltdown begins.  For my son it usually starts with complaining that his legs don’t work.  Then he is hungry, then he gets stuck on something like that we said like we would go to get an ice cream, but his sister had to go potty first, now the whole schedule is destroyed.  Next his shirt will be too orange etc etc.  Since starting therapy and diet change these days are few but before I would have done anything to just melt into the floor when an overload started happening.


It wasn’t that I was not sympathetic to my son, it was that the whole world was looking at him like he either was the biggest brat on earth or completely nuts.  I just wanted to get out of there are retreat to a safe place.  But of course his legs didn’t work which required me to carry a limping 4 year old with “bwoken” legs all the way to the parking lot.  I am actually kind of giggling as I write this now.  Looking back it was such a hard time, but now I can deal with it and see it for the humor that “some” of it was.

So back to sensory overload.  Sensory overload occurs when a series of sensory simulations become overwhelming.  Think about how many things you hear and see in a day, now multiply all those by 1000, that is a sensory overload.

My son is very sensitive to light, a bright ray shining in his eyes, a quick light change can cause a seizure.  So we always keep sunglasses in the car.  Things that are fun and exciting for some children are a nightmare for others.  Have you ever been car sick?  Well imagine if you had that feeling every time you walked down a hallway, and then when you got to the end someone shined a bright light in your face, then blew a siren in your ear.  After a few hours of that you will snap and have a meltdown.  Someone will tell you to get it together or yell or punish you.  But you have been trying to keep it together all day!

Yes, you absolutely should discipline your sensory sensitive child, and as a parent you start to figure out when your kid is just being your kid, and when they are getting over stimulated.  Here is a video about how it can be for someone with sensory overload.

Sometimes we walk in a building and walk right back out.  But you can deal with the overload if you prepare your child for it.  We played basketball this fall, at the start of the first game the buzzer went off, I had not even thought about it.  So Little Bear played the whole game with his fingers in his ears.  The next game we told him he could plug his ears but only for 3 seconds.  He would watch that clock the whole game waiting for it to go off so he could plug his ears.  But the last game he played great didn’t pay attention to the clock and didn’t even plug his ears when the buzzer went off.  He had gotten used to it, and that was just fine.  I didn’t push and he figured out how to deal with it.

Attack of the tickles!  I cringe, literally cringe when a family member or friend starts rough housing with my son.  Why?  Well although it is good for his sensory input, the tickler will be done in ten minutes, but my son will be in sensory overload and will not stop for an hour.  He will continue to jump on the person and elicit sensory input.  When finally they are tired of it, but he is still in full throttle, he will look like the kid who doesn’t know how to listen and can’t respect boundaries.  Anything that is exciting turns into this.  He is so much better now.  But trust me this was a big time issue.  So if you are reading this please don’t rowel people’s kids up and then walk away for them to have to deal with it.  This goes for any kid even the ones with out SPD.  We walk a tight line in mommy land between complete chaos and control, don’t turn our lives into a circus…okay now that that PSA is out of the way, how can you help with Sensory Overload?

1. Know Your Triggers (sunglasses check, earplugs check, snack check, etc etc)

2.Plan for Plan B (the escape hatch)

3.It is Okay to Walk Away…(we recently spent about $60 on tickets to a dinosaur exhibit after 30 minutes it was time to leave.  My son loves dinosaurs but it was just too packed and too loud.)  Honestly I was ready to go too.

4.Let the Kid Live! (at that same dino exhibit outside the building were huge boulders, my children happily climbed from rock to rock for about an hour, it got all the stress from the exhibit out and we had a peaceful ride home.  Take a walk, get some air, whatever, let their little body calm down, nature is powerful medicine)

5.Enjoy Them for Who They Are… (I have a blog post coming that will be entitled something like “the day I enjoyed my child and flipped off the world” but basically quit worrying about everyone else and just enjoy your child!)

Lost in Sensation: Sensory Processing Disorder

My pen slowly check the boxes of a form, “can tie shoes” “covers ears if loud sounds” “refuses to wear socks” “overfills mouth when eating” the list was very long but the picture it was painting was painfully obvious.  My son had sensory processing disorder.

Of course my first thoughts were how did I cause this?  Was it because his dad was deployed his first year of life?  Was I over protective and didn’t let him play with his food enough?  Did I use the swing too much?  Again the list was endless, I felt guilty. I felt afraid, I felt angry, and most of all I was confused.  I felt guilty remembering all the times my patience was lost.  I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mother to deal with it, and if people would even understand.  I didn’t understand my self.  I was angry at all the people who told me “he just needs a good hard spanking” or “have you tried a behavior chart?”  All those people who gave me the “control your kid” look.  Or worse the sympathy “lets help your ‘special child’ look.  Didn’t they understand?  I had to be 10X the mother they were, 10X more patient, 10X more understanding, 10X more ready to pull every hair from my head.  I was confused, how on earth could I help this child?  I had read so many parenting books, mountains of articles, but Sensory Processing Disorder seemed to be on the bottom of most lists.

It was a difficult time, but armed with an amazon account and the internet I knew that I could do it!  I knew that I could prove everyone wrong.  I knew that my little orchid, this exotic child could grow into something beautiful.  All I had to do was give him the right environment and the right nutrients.  It is still difficult, but we are healing, every step of the way we are healing together.

So what is Sensory Processing Disorder, first off SPD is not Autism.  Yes many autistic children can have SPD, many children on the spectrum can have sensory issues, but you can also have Sensory Disorders without having autism, which is our case.

SPD can be caused from many things, a traumatic birth, autism, prematurity, low stimulation, chromosomal disorders, environmental toxins, being blind or deaf, and in our case seizures.  We did not know that our son was having seizures until he was 5 yrs old. I had told his previous pediatrician that he occasionally rolled his eyes strangely, she said it was likely allergies.  A few years later I took him to an eye doctor, I knew something was off, again they said it was probably allergies.  When we moved and got a new pediatrician I mentioned it to her, and she suggested getting an EEG, sure enough he was having seizures.  I highly recommend getting an EEG if your child has been diagnosed with SPD, it is a simple test that can change their life.  Since my son has been seizure free for the last 6 months I have noticed that many of his sensory issues have decreased.  We are hoping to have him off seizure medication once he is 2 yrs seizure free, but I am just happy to see his brain healing for now.

OK, back to SPD.  There are many types of sensory issues.  Most children with sensory issues will experience all of them at different times.  One day they could be sensory defensive about sounds, the next day sensory seeking.  So if someone says “well they were fine yesterday”  well that was yesterday.  Below I have linked some amazing youtube videos that I think every teacher, caregiver, and parent should watch.

The good news is that Sensory Processing Disorder can be 100% cured through therapy, diet change, and a vigilant parent.  There is hope!  I plan to write more posts about the this topic and give you ideas for diet change, sensory activities, and therapy videos.  So stay tuned, and remember that you are not the only one out there 🙂