Watch out corn #045; I#039;m on your trail

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I have a new job and a mission

It all started in fall with a visit to a doctor in Montgomery. In July I called and made an appointment for my daughter to see him.

Since he is known for his work with autistic children, there wasn't an opening in his schedule until September.

The visit went well and he provided us recommendations for helping my daughter. That is how the mission started and how my new job evolved.

Let me backtrack for a minute and provide a bit of information about what is happening with the autism epidemic. That's right - autism is an epidemic. It was declared one in 2002 by the government.

The numbers of children being diagnosed with autism is increasing at an alarming rate. Not many years ago, the number of people with autism was estimated at 1 in 10,000. According to information on the Autism Society of Alabama's website, this year one in 200 children will be diagnosed with autism.

In California, the number is even higher. Last year in that state there was a 33 percent increase in cases of level one autism, which is the more severe form of the disorder.

Of course, for my family it doesn't matter if there is an official declaration of an epidemic or not. Autism is an epidemic at our house and has been since my daughter was small.

The frustration for parents of autistic children is that so little money goes into research, even though there are researchers who offer hope for finding a cause and possibly a cure for the disorder if they had the necessary funds.

Now back to the visit with the doctor. One of the most promising treatments for autism has to do with diet. That's right; they are finding that changes in diet have a positive effect for some autistic children.

Since we knew our child reacted to some foods, it made perfect sense to give the diet a try, especially after talking with the doctor. So in September we started removing certain foods.

It didn't sound too difficult. Simply take foods that caused a problem out of my child's diet. We started with dairy and sugar. Then we took away wheat.

After a test to determine if there were any other problem foods, we also removed corn, eggs, peanuts, cane sugar, almonds, bananas, pineapple, barley and brewer's yeast.

The results were remarkable. My daughter was more focused, less hyperactive and the unexplained meltdowns decreased.

For the first time in several years, she is off medication and doing better than she did when she was taking drugs prescribed for autistic children.

However, during this process I discovered sticking to the diet becomes a mission, and it's not always easy. Ingredients in foods must be checked carefully because corn, for example, has many names.

The other day as I was reading yet another label to make sure there was nothing hidden in the small print, it hit me.

"I have a new job," I told my husband. "I am a member of the food police."

My hope is that one day a breakthrough in autism research will bring my resignation from the force.