Autism: When “Do To Others” Doesn’t Work

13 May

When I had my children, who were on the fetal alcohol spectrum (or static encephalopathy, as it was properly diagnosed) as well as attachment issues, I learned pretty early on that restricting certain foods from their diets had a significant impact on their behaviour.


Over the first year or so, I removed refined sugars, food dyes, dairy, and wheat from their diet. This was neither easy, nor cheap – but at the time, I felt it was worth it. I replaced these foods with others – applesauce, rice syrup, and such for sugar; soy milk, goat’s milk, or for the youngest a dairy free formula for the dairy; garbanzo flour, rice flour, quinoa, oats, and such for the wheat.

During that time, they became a lot calmer, and had really good appetites. They would, without being prompted, eat everything on their plates, and seconds as well. At each meal, they would thank me for the food, ending with, “it was very tasty.” I didn’t train them to do this, it was just their response.

I admit that they were very thin. I asked many people what to do about this, but no one had any real suggestions. Maybe avocado – which I fed them, but they stayed thin.

Another thing that I did with/for my children was to provide a rather strict routine (which helped them to remain calm, as they always knew what was coming next,) and to constantly supervise them when they were together as they had certain tendencies that might result in pain or emotional trauma for them had they not been watched.

These are things that I did for my children, not to my children – but the ministry, and others, who had more experience with typical children, responding in typical ways to foods and such, did not understand this. Their view was that my ways of raising these children was rigid, and controlling, and even abusive.

The thing was, my children were not much different from me (except they were all a lot more social, for all of their lack of boundaries scared me in this way.) I was fed a ‘typical’ diet growing up, and it made me feel really sick all the time. I would have loved for someone to have taken the time to find out what I could eat, liked to eat, and left me feeling healthy. I would have loved for someone to do that for me, as I did it for my children. I would even like that now!

Growing up in a traumatic environment, and with undiagnosed Autism, which brought with it a whole host of issues, I had many bad habits that could have been supervised away. I don’t blame my parents for not providing that level of supervision – it wasn’t done in those days. Still, I knew those habits were wrong, and I couldn’t break them on my own. It took me years into my adult life before I could overcome a lot of them, and I still struggle with some.

Having someone supervise me so closely to ensure that those bad habits were replaced by better ones, is something I ached for in my early days. In my own silent way, I was begging for help with these issues, but no one heard me.

So when I knew that some of the habits of my children could end up in pain, and brokenness, I supervised them. It is what I wanted to be done for me. It wasn’t easy. It meant a lot of juggling to ensure that as the stay at home mom, I was always watching them (no bathroom breaks while they were awake, and my husband was out, for instance.) It was tiring. It meant constant vigilance. I could have done it easier if I just let them… but again, this was something I did for them, not to them – as I would have wanted done for me.

Again the ministry decided this was rigid, controlling, and even abusive. How do they make these decisions? And in the end, they took my children from me, and the adoption fell through.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” I suppose doesn’t work in cases such as mine where what is wanted, and even needed, is not understood – because it is not ‘typical.’ But I don’t think it was fair to call it abusive.


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2 responses to “Autism: When “Do To Others” Doesn’t Work

  1. threekidsandi

    May 13, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    You were right to supervise them, schedule them, and change their diets. It has done wonders for my kids. The best thing I ever did for my PTSD/ODD kid was treat him as if he had RAD and take him off dairy, too. I also have one kid who I cannot fatten up, despite him being on a ¨normal¨ diet, and I know how frustrating that is. The constant vigilance is exhausting, it was literally two years of that before my kids reached a point of not hurting each other. I am so sorry your local ministry did not understand and did not see the gains your children experienced. I hope the children are now in a place that understands them just as well as you did. When you give them good food and respite from the constant stress of fighting you give their brains a chance to grow and ¨normalize¨. Certainly your children are better off for their experience with you, and though that might be small comfort, I do hope it still serves as some. Hugs and best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kazst

    May 13, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I can relate to what you said about diet; I too would have loved for someone to have taken the time to find out what I could eat, liked to eat, and left me feeling healthy. When I was a child, my parents did not even have the knowledge to have fed me the way I eat today: Green smoothies, whey protein replacing meat in many of my meals, baking with nut flours, mostly eliminating sugar. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and educate them.

    Liked by 1 person


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