April is autism awareness month, and over the past couple of weeks we've taken a look at some therapies that are helping autistic kids here in the Big Country.
Now, some parents are making dietary changes to help out their kiddos.
Karla Corpus-Vela's 6-year-old son, Alex, has been diagnosed as autistic for several years, but just this January, switched to a gluten and casein free diet.
Karla said the change has eliminated stomach aches and constipation. She said Alex is now seeking out affection from his family, and there are improvements at school, too.
"His school teachers and his therapist say they've seen a difference in him, he's saying more words, more word combinations, he seems a little more focused and just all of that together makes us want to continue with it for sure," Karla said.
We talked with dietician Haley Grace to learn what happens to someone who is allergic to gluten.
"Your small intestine becomes inflamed when the gluten is trying to be digested," Grace said. "Therefore, your immune system has a response to the gluten and it attacks the intestinal tissue."
She said that attack shows itself with a whole batch of symptoms that can range from skin breakouts to fatigue and a mental fogginess. For Alex, removing casein – a protein found in dairy products – has also brought improvements.
Karla said she's found substitutes for just about everything Alex wants to eat, and that they're committed to the change for at least a year.
It's important to note that there are no scientific studies conducted to support the benefits parents say their kids are experiencing from going gluten and casein free.
However, some groups, including the Autism Research Institute, support the gluten free casein free diet.
For more information from groups both in support and skeptical of the benefits of diet changes for autistic kids, click here and here.
For basic information on what it means to be gluten and casein free, click here.