A Lesson Relearned

We typically eat a very “clean” diet. We eat no gluten, no sugar, nothing with added chemicals, and no MSG. I work very hard to ensure the food my family eats is as close to as nature intended as possible.  There was a potluck at church this past Sunday. My teen-aged daughter made a crock pot full of homemade soup, and we knew for certain there would be several types of homemade salads available. So, my husband did not think twice about letting our  12 yr old son with Autism  go through the line alone. Our son was helping in the kitchen while I was  running an after church club, and it didn’t occur to my husband that one of us should keep an eye on what our son was getting from the food line. Granted, our son is usually very good about choosing pure foods. Like many people on the Autism Spectrum, our son reacts to gluten, dairy protein, food colors, sugar, oxalates, and MSG… and probably other chemicals typically used in processed foods. We have spent time helping our son understand and recognize how these things effect him so that the decision to avoid an item… or not.. can be his decision, and not ours.

Most of the people who attend our church potlucks bring homemade foods, and most people label the food they bring so those with food allergies know exactly what is in the food. Our son usually reads these labels carefully, and chooses carefully, so I was very surprised on Sunday when our son had an obvious food reaction before the church event was even over.

He had been sitting with some friends, but left them and came over to me. “I don’t feel so good, ” he said. He looked a little green, and his speech was slurred.

I told him to take his plate to the kitchen and go lie down in one of the classrooms while I got his siblings ready to leave. He did as I asked. A few minutes later, when the rest of us were ready to leave I went in to get our son. He was staring off in space with his mouth hanging open, practically unaware of where he was. I called him. No answer. I called him again. Still no response. He didn’t seem to even hear me. I had to shake his shoulder twice before he became aware that I was even there. Then, it took three repeats before he understood that I wanted him to get up and walk to our van. That is VERY unlike my son.

We got in the van and drove home. On the drive, it was obvious my son was out of it. He continued to be unresponsive when anyone spoke to him, and he seemed to be staring at something in the air. He didn’t seem to understand what was going on, but just kept muttering to himself.  This behavior is highly unusual for my son. He is typically a bright kid who understands most of what is going on around him. His biggest issues are getting his words out correctly, and controlling his hyper tendencies. Usually there is very little difference between my 12 yr old son, and a neuro- typical kid of about 10. He does not struggle to understand what is going on around him, and he does not retreat into his head.

When we got home, I gave him supplements to help clear the brain fog, and sent him in for a nap. About 90 minutes later, my son said he was feeling better. He was able to get through the rest of the day without too much difficulty, but he was more emotional than usual, more immature, and kept playing with his hands.

For the last 2  days he has struggled with homeschooling. I have had to move to simple puzzles and games instead of his usual grade-level work because my son is having so much difficulty concentrating. This morning, he was confused to tears because I asked him to identify the simple subject of a short sentence.  This is something he has been able to do easily for two or three years. But, this morning, he was so brain fogged that he didn’t remember ever doing it.

I still don’t know what my son ate that had this effect on him. Small amounts of gluten don’t impact his behavior this much. I’ve talked to the person who ran the pot luck, and she tells me that several of the dishes were pre-packaged, and probably contained MSG. That information, along with the fact that the supplements I gave him compete with MSG for nerve receptors make me suspect MSG reaction.

It was a pretty strong reaction, one I hope I don’t see again any time soon.


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