Hello Health Champion!
I want to get personal with you today. As I’ve traveled the world the last few years I’ve talked to many fellow parents about kids and autism.
Even though there is more awareness about the Autism Spectrum and incredible support groups, it still seems to be conversations happen in the shadows.
I know many fellow parents who feel unbelievable stress when their child has a moment, is stared at or just can’t connect with other kids.
This is why I’m writing this message, because our amazing 3-year-old daughter Hope lives on the Autism Spectrum.
Hope has sensory processing and communication challenges, she struggles in some spaces of life, but she excels in parts of life that inspire me. If you haven’t met Hope yet, here she is and give her a massive virtual hug!
Over the last 2 years, Abbi and I have had many of those moments with Hope that society struggles to understand, but to see the amazing little girl she has grown into motivated me to write this blog.
I want all families with kids on the autism spectrum to see the possibility of what can be and know we are a community supporting one another to help our kids be their best.
For parents with kids on the autism spectrum I want to share the 4 things our family focused on with Hope. These 4 things tremendously helped her development, but most importantly made her feel connected to our family and loved more than life itself.
For anyone without kids on the autism spectrum, please share this with someone you know this info can help. Please also encourage others to step out of the shadows and realize that all kids have uniqueness to them, and there isn’t a “right way” to act or raise a child.
Ok let’s get to it and dive into 4 things we focused on as a family besides the great occupational and speech therapy Hope has rocked. Now as I share Hope’s progress it’s important to realize that every family needs a rock, and our rock is Abbi. Abbi has given all of herself to Hope these last 3 years. Her strength and patience amaze me every day.
Focus #1 – Nutrition – A balanced body creates the foundation for physical and psychological growth
Food is your foundation and for kids on the autism spectrum – it’s everything. Hope’s sensory challenges made eating incredibly difficult and her food choices would literally change by the week.
So, we focused on these 5 basic rules:
Strategy 1 – Eat PFC Every 3
The focus was to keep each meal balanced with protein, fats and carbs and have her eat every 3 hours. Blood sugar balance is a must for us all, but it’s even more crucial for kids on the spectrum. Mood, Focus, Energy, Behavior and Sleep are just a few of the things nutrition will affect.
Strategy 2 – Create a list of the go-to protein, fats and carbs, as well as high quality meal replacements.
Find the foods your kid loves and keep a consistent list. We had an evolving list for Hope and made sure they were always in the house.
Strategy 3 – Avoid all processed sugar, soda and food coloring.
The processed food would turn Hope into a different kid severely affecting her concentration, mood and temper.
Strategy 4 – Live Gluten Free
Gluten is the protein found in bready carbohydrates, it basically gives bread that elasticity. Gluten sensitivity is a real thing and it causes inflammation in your body. For Hope it directly affected her digestive system, as well as her behavior. If your body isn’t digesting food well, you don’t feel good and that affects everything you do.
Strategy 5 – Stay Organic, Nitrate and Hormone Free
Clean food creates the best digestive, metabolism and balance in your body. When Abbi initially told me how much nitrates (used in foods to extend shelf life) affected Hope, I thought to myself, it couldn’t make that much of a difference. Wow, I was wrong. It’s night and day. Many kids on the spectrum are super sensitive, so the less chemicals in their food the better!
Focus #2 – Laughter – Bring Joy into your child’s world 1% a day
I have to give a huge shout out to big brother Hunter on always bringing laughter to Hope’s day. Hunter loves life and everyday he would bring that love of life to Hope. Initially Hope would only acknowledge Abbi, and that was hard for both me and Hunter.
But Hunter kept engaging her, playing games with her, and a little more each day Hope would laugh, and eventually more joy entered her world. The laughter became a connection to us all.
Laughter became the words Hope was lacking.
The main point I can share about this focus is to keep chipping away, 1% at a time. Even though the reaction may not initially be there, the laughter begins to creep in and emotion and joy soon follow.
Hope is now a smiling and laughing machine.
Focus #3 – Love – Learn how to love your child the way they love
For an epic hugger like me, Hope’s lack of affection was difficult to understand. I intellectually understood, but emotionally I struggled. But just like with the laughter, we just kept chipping away.
Hope doesn’t like to look into people’s eyes or have face to face contact, it overwhelms her. So I focused on hugging her the way she wanted to be hugged. She would back into me for her hug and that was how we hugged for months, with very little eye contact. But as the months passed by and she continued to development, things began to change.
I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life. I came home after a long trip, walked through the airport doors, saw Hope from across the room, and all of a sudden, she looked right into my eyes, ran across the room and jumped into my arms. It was the best hug of my life!
Now we Hug multiple times every day and the back in hugs are becoming rarer by the day.
The best lesson I learned from this was to learn how to show Hope love the way she could love, rather than what I expected.
Focus #4 – Patience – Always believe in the possibility of what can be
Without patience real growth can never truly happen.
Whether it was the hundreds of late nights filled with Hope’s stored up energy and endless crying, or the weekly adventures to finding foods Hope would eat or staying calm during the epic public meltdowns, Abbi has been the rock to Hope’s growth.
Abbi is the most patient person I’ve ever met. From the moment we knew Hope was on the spectrum, Abbi dove into the research, joined communities, asked questions and fearlessly took on everything to help Hope and most importantly never hid in the shadows.
Abbi didn’t care what other people thought or if they stared, she always did what was best for Hope.
To me, Patience is having the ability to believe in the possibility of what can be. Abbi always knew she could help Hope and she had the patience and belief to be the stand that Hope needed.
That would be my message for you that I learned from watching Abbi, forget about society, forget about the limiting beliefs of others and always now that YOU can be the difference if you believe you can be the difference.
I hope this message made a difference for you today. Abbi and I realized that we can do more for the Autistic Community. We can be a difference with food, fitness and overall health, both for Kids and for Parents.
So, this will be the first of many articles I’ll write, as well as facebook lives, media and speaking engagements.
In life we must be the Difference we want to see in the world. Please share your stories with us by simply hitting reply to this email. We would love to hear from you.
And as always, Thank YOU for being an incredible part of our community!
Mark, Abbi, Hunter and Hope