For the last five years or so, I’ve been writing about the effects gluten has on my family. More specifically, the effects gluten has on my two kids with celiac disease. What I have not been writing about, because I wasn’t yet aware, was that there may be an underlying cause to my two gluten-induced kids’ behavior. Autism.
I remember an old classmate of mine, whose daughter is autistic, telling me on Facebook that sometimes, behaviors seemingly caused by gluten are caused by other underlying issues; That gluten simply exacerbates other issues. I think she was right. (My kids also have celiac, so this may not be 100% true for them, but it definitely appears to have some validity.)
For the last year, my oldest daughter, who made the transition from primary school to junior high school, developed an overwhelming amount of social anxiety. She did not want to be around people and she did not want to go to school. This had never been an issue for her before. She’d always been shy, but this became far more than shyness. She actually couldn’t go. Her anxiety became too much to deal with. Her behavioral issues didn’t stop there, however. She became just as angry and mean without eating gluten as she did when she accidentally ingested some. (Although, if she’d actually had gluten on top of this, I’d be afraid of what she might be like.)
Now, after a year of pure hell, we’ve had her fully tested. It turns out, that on top of celiac disease and social phobia, she also falls on the autism spectrum. She’s high-functioning. She’s never had any learning disabilities. She’s extremely bright, in fact, she was usually at the top of her class, academically. It wasn’t until 12 to 13 years old that she started to show behavioral symptoms.
I now can’t help but wonder how much being on a gluten-free diet for the last 8 years has helped her autism to remain incognito. As for my son, although he hasn’t been tested, I would put money on him falling on the autism spectrum as well.
It goes to show: you just don’t know what you don’t know. I have to keep an open mind and realize that I’m always learning, especially about my kids.
Have any of you had this same experience?