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Mouth Taping for Good Health in Kids and Adults

Mouth Taping for Good Health in Kids and Adults

What would you think if I told you that braces, asthma medication, decongestants, ADHD medications, and even CPAP machines could be replaced by a simple $2 roll of tape?

No, it’s not actually the tape that’s solving the problems, it’s just training you into the habit of nose breathing and out of the habit of mouth breathing.

Nose breathing is our natural way of breathing, with mouth breathing being part of our emergency ‘fight or flight’ system. Mouth breathing even triggers a fight or flight response on its own. Our modern culture contributes to the mouth breathing habit in a few ways.

First, our culture is higher stress than that of our ancestors, and stress triggers mouth breathing.  Inversely, mouth breathing also triggers a stress response, creating a loop.  Second, low-grade inflammation, chemical irritants, and mild allergies often result in chronic plugged noses. And the owners of these plugged noses often get in the habit of mouth breathing to get the air in.

Once again, your body, when encouraged to work properly through diet and lifestyle changes, is very capable. Little changes in our lifestyle add up to big changes in our overall health. In this case, it’s that we are too often breathing through our mouths, especially during sleep.

Mouths are for talking and eating, noses are for breathing

When we breathe in and out through our nose, we are using the normal pathway for air.  Irritants are caught immediately in our nose.  The air is warmed in our nose before hitting our lungs.

Different parts of the brain are oxygenated in different concentrations with nose breathing.  In contrast, mouth breathing encourages the high-anxiety fight-or-flight response and alters brain chemistry. (source)

Tape to encourage nose breathing:

Somnifix is specially designed for mouth taping, and it may be a good way to introduce yourself to tape the mouth. But at around 50 cents/night for their specialty tape, most of us have chosen to use regular medical tape instead.
3M Micropore tape is widely recommended for its less-sticky adhesive that leaves little residue the next day.  This tape works for many people, but some are allergic to the adhesive.
Hypoallergenic silk tape is what we ended up using due to an allergy to the adhesive on the micropore tape.

Other ways to encourage nose breathing:

Running a warm mist humidifier helps keep airways open.
Practicing nose breathing and closed mouth posture (tongue resting on the top of the mouth)  during the day.
Mindfully practicing nose breathing during exercise.
Keeping stress low to keep the body out of fight or flight response.

Mouth breathing is associated with:

Cavities, due to dry mouth
Narrow palate, requiring braces and/or removal of teeth (source, source)
Change in facial development including a smaller chin (source)
Poor quality sleep (including thrashing, snoring, and waking up grumpy)
Attention deficit during the day (source)
Allergic rhinitis (source)
Thyroid and adrenal function, due to reduced nitric oxide (source)
Increased stress response including the fight/flight response (source)
Sensory processing issues, especially oral defensiveness
Learning disabilities, due to poor quality sleep and lack of nitric oxide in the brain (source)

Is more oxygen always better?

Just like food and water, it is possible to get too much oxygen to different parts of the brain.  In the case of mouth breathing, it is shown that breathing through the mouth over oxygenates the prefrontal cortex, which causes a ‘fatigue’.

The prefrontal cortex, which also is one of the main parts of the brain affected by alcohol (source), is responsible for such things as self control, emotional regulation, personality, and delayed gratification (source).

Our results suggest that continued oxygen load on the prefrontal cortex from mouth breathing during the waking hours is one possible cause of ADHD arising from central fatigue.

Source: Increased oxygen load in the prefrontal cortex from mouth breathing: a vector-based near-infrared spectroscopy study 

Nasal breathing increases Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that is produced at least 10% more when we breathe through our noses.

The discovery within the paranasal sinuses for the production of nitric oxide (NO) has altered the traditional explanations of sinus physiology… healthy paranasal sinus epithelium expresses an inducible NO synthase that continuously generates large amounts of NO, a pluripotent gaseous messenger with potent vasodilating, and antimicrobial activity.  (source)

Nitric oxide is important for pulmonary (lung) function, and not having enough of it is associated with cardiac problems, increased cancer risk and cancer progression, poor wound healing, asthma, and more  (source).

Continuous and regulated generation of NO is essential for the health of the cardiovascular system, immune and nervous system. Decreased production and/or bioavailability of NO is recognized as being one of the earliest events in the onset and progression of many diseases. – Nitric oxide enhancement strategies

This paper discusses the necessity of nitric oxide in pulmonary function and how those who are intubated miss out on this important compound.

Dental and Orthodontia problems

As Dr. Weston Price found,  good oral health (avoiding cavities and having straight teeth) is much more of a holistic problem than just genetics, brushing, flossing, and needing braces.

Dr Mark Burhenne, DDS, talks about mouth taping, mouth breathing, and its effects on oral health in this podcast.

“Mouth breathing changes the hemodynamics of blood flow in your body and brain. It causes dry mouth which can lead to more cavities, bad breath, coated tongue, yellow tongue, or geographic tongue.

It can cause or aggravate gum disease, make you snore more and is involved in sleep apnea. If you are a mouth breather as a child, it changes how your face and airway develop and effects how you sleep for the rest of your life. Mouth breathing lessens the amount of nitric oxide that is created. It impacts the humidity of the lungs.”

From the High Intensity Health Podcast, click the link to read the rest of the show notes or listen.

Asthma

This study used a nasal dilator, not mouth tape, but showed that with nasal breathing episodes of nocturnal asthma was significantly reduced.  The study showed decreased usage of asthma medication with nasal breathing as well.

This study, though, showed no improvement in asthma symptoms in the 50 patients that had active asthma.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring both can be helped by nose breathing rather than mouth breathing. This is due to both the increased nitric oxide and the lessened airway resistance with nose breathing in sleep. Both of those processes work together to help sleep apnea sufferers get a better night’s sleep.

This switch from nasal to oral breathing is disadvantageous physiologically and mouth breathing is associated with a reduction of the retropalatal and retroglossal areas and it lengthens the pharyngeal airway as a result of further posterior retraction of the tongue, which might result in elevation of Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) during sleep. (source)

This small study found, “Upper airway resistance during sleep and the propensity to obstructive sleep apnoea are significantly lower while breathing nasally rather than orally.”

This paper talks about the $5 device Nozovent, which manually opens the nose to encourage nose breathing, “It has also been shown to result in a decrease of the sleep apnoea index and improvement of arterial oxygen saturation during sleep apnoea.”

This small study of 30 people shows improvement with mouth taping in those with mild obstructive sleep apnea and open mouth breathing.

This study showed that humidifying the air encouraged nose-breathing and in turn reduced apenic episodes.

Interestingly, nasal surgery to encourage nose breathing through the removal or polyps or correction in those with obstructive sleep apnea has been explored, and the results have not been consistently helpful for sleep apnea, though they have helped with subjective ‘tiredness’ and snoring (source).  To me it looks like encouraging nasal breathing by taping the mouth and humidifying the air are more sure-fire, and clearly less invasive, options for sleep apnea treatment.

Please remember: Sleep apnea is a serious condition and you should work closely with your doctor before modifying any of your treatments.

How to mouth tape for kids:

I have three different children with three different temperaments. This is how we tape their mouths to encourage nose breathing.

Tape to encourage nose breathing:

Somnifix is specially designed for mouth taping, and it may be a good way to introduce yourself to tape the mouth. But at around 50 cents/night for their specialty tape, most of us have chosen to use regular medical tape instead.
Hypoallergenic silk tape is what we ended up using due to an allergy to the adhesive on the micropore tape.

Encourage kids to DIY

My middle child, age 10, (up at the top, also my carnivore baby) gets a kick out of my health experiments and willingly does up his own mouth tape every night, and it’s still on every morning.

He seems to be in a better mood most mornings, but I haven’t seen any drastic difference with him.

Sneaky tape

My oldest, age 12, is my child that has special needs and thrashes around at night and sleeps with an open mouth more than the other two.

She does not like to go to sleep with tape on her mouth, but I can usually sneak in and stick one piece from top to bottom after she falls asleep but before I go to bed.  While I quickly put the tape on, she briefly wakes up and rolls over without fussing. She does take the tape off sometime later (before morning), but I know she’s keeping it on for at least an hour, and she lays more still and I don’t hear snoring when she has it on.

I also will tape her mouth when she’s watching TV (like I do for my littlest) if I notice open-mouth posture. But for the most part she will self-correct to avoid the tape, which is ideal!

She gets dark circles with sleep deprivation, and these circles have seemed to lighten.  Of note: Dark circles are also signs of an allergy (most commonly dairy).  I do think that the mouth tape is helping her sleep quality improve.

Daytime Tape for Littles

My littlest is almost 5, but I don’t quite feel comfortable with his mouth being taped closed when I’m asleep.  He has pretty good closed-mouth breathing when I check on him at night anyway, but to continue encouraging nose breathing I tape him for an hour or so at a time during the day. He doesn’t nap, so ‘quiet time’ or screen time is a good time for this.

Of all my children, my little is the most chatty, so using a movie helps encourage compliance- if the tape comes off, the movie goes off. I haven’t noticed anything specific with him, but I’d like to encourage the nose-breathing habit.

For adults:

To tape my mouth, I simply put a strip of tape on before going to bed.  Using the minimum amount necessary to remind yourself to keep your mouth closed vs to seal the mouth can help avoid feeling claustrophobic.

Stories of Mouth Taping:

Just Take a Bite talks about taping her adorable daughter’s mouth, among other things to encourage nose breathing, to widen the palate, heal adrenals, reduce picky eating, and increase attention during the day.
Beverly Meyer, of On Diet and Health, tapes her mouth for deeper sleep, less snoring, for asthma and allergies, for a more calm mind and body, and to increase nitric oxide production.
Alex Fergus tapes his mouth closed for deeper sleep and to prevent dry mouth associated with mouth breathing.

 

Sources:

 

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Parenting

My Naturally Carnivore Toddler (a Child-Led Weaning Story)

Beautiful Babies Nutrition Course

It’s story time… with the rising popularity of the carnivore diet I know there will be parents wondering if this is an okay diet for children. While I wouldn’t recommend limiting your child to only animal foods, I do have a child who self-limited to nearly all animal foods (carnivore) as a toddler and absolutely thrived.

Back in 2009, when we started the GAPS diet for autism recovery, I had my preschooler with autism and a nursling 2 years younger.

As we transitioned onto GAPS, I made GAPS food for all of us, so that meant that as the little boy started solids, he went right onto the GAPS intro diet, which essentially is soup and meat and more soup.

My Beautiful Baby Boy, 16 months

Because I was a maxed out mama, and I knew that GAPS was plenty nutrient dense, he pretty much only had access to nursing + GAPS foods as he started solid foods.  I also was only serving 3 meals a day (no snacks), because, once again, I was pretty overwhelmed with life.   I now know that not serving snacks is a fantastic way to prevent picky eating, but at the time it was because I could only wrap my head around cooking/serving/cleaning up 3 times a day.

Meat meat meat

Anyway, this little boy LOVED his meat. He cut teeth on beef ribs, and would cheer when he saw the cod liver oil coming.  Pureed soup made with chicken stock (drank from my coffee cup) was a favorite as well.

And, more than that, though I’d serve both kids a serving of vegetables, meat, and a fruit if we weren’t doing ‘Keto GAPS‘, half way through their plates (above), the kids would get up and trade spots.

When they traded, my daughter had barely touched her meat, and my son had not touched his vegetables. Then they finished the other’s vegetables and meat until it was all gone.

Naturally, they gravitated to meat for my son, and vegetables for my daughter.

Again, I think that I just *didn’t care* because I had so much other stuff going on in my life really contributed to them being able to follow their instincts for what they needed on any given day.

Young toddlers will make healthy choices

Because I had read a study (source) about how, when given access to only nutrient dense foods, young children will choose what they need for optimal growth and development I wasn’t too worried.

I was kind of fascinated by the whole process, with my children begging for cod liver oil and happily eating patties of meat and cultured sauerkraut by the bowl.

Self-Selecting Carnivore Toddler Food

Looking back, our meals were pretty simple, these are most of the foods that he ate. Remember, I did put fruit and vegetables (especially ferments) on his plate, and he just opted out of eating them for the most part. At the time we didn’t eat shellfish or pork, so he ate mostly chicken and beef.

Hamburger patties (we ate a lot of those! We had purchased a huge quantity of grassfed ground beef at a steep discount that year)
Meatballs (I did sneak the veggies in there)
Scrambled eggs
Chicken or beef stock from my coffee cup (he loved the salt!)
Chicken thighs with the skin on
Beef ribs
The meat from around beef marrow bones (osso bucco)
Liver, both cooked with onions and as a pate that he would eat with a spoon, given the chance
Cod Liver Oil 
Fresh caught trout
Salmon Patties
Later into toddlerhood: Plain 24-hour yogurt (we were mostly dairy free when we first started autism recovery)
Raw milk
Breast milk

Growth & Immune Systems

Both children were growing (we were on WIC – a food assistance program for young children-  at the time, with quarterly weight checks) and had amazing immune systems; it’s a story for another time… but when I tried to get them life-long immunity to chicken pox, it was quite the ordeal to actually get their immune systems to let them catch it!

Occasional Vegetables

This boy wasn’t completely carnivore, as he loved sauerkraut, and peeled onions cooked in chicken stock (which you might recognize from GAPS Intro day 3, start at 23:40 for the recipe), but the majority of his diet came from human milk (me! my olders were slow to wean) and M-E-A-T.

As you can see from the picture to the right, he has now turned into a strapping young man.

Together we are excited to share the encouragement that just offering your children nutrient dense foods is enough.

Between him avoiding vegetables, and my daughter avoiding protein for many meals, I was seriously questioning whether my grand nutrition experiment would work at the time.

But you can benefit from my small case study by knowing that they did indeed grow into healthy vibrant children.

Note about child-directed feeding:

I do allow my young toddlers to choose from the nutrient-dense food that I offer, at set meal times.  To accommodate growth spurts, I still nurse at-will at wakeup and sleep times.  For us, this looked like 4 nursing sessions a day, another in the middle of the night*, and 3 meals.  As they cut back on nursing sessions, we just keep the 3 meals a day.

*I’ve always relied on a 3 a.m. feed to keep my milk production up.  I made plenty of milk to feed my babies, but I noticed that my production would go down if my little ones skipped their night nursing session. Sleeping through without nursing was never a priority for me. 

As toddlers develop into preschoolers and wean, I transition more into a parent-led approach, with the kids being allowed to ask for seconds of whatever they want after finishing what I put on their plate.  I put small portions of each a vegetable, protein, and fat on their plate to start.

Young vs older children

Young toddlers are operating nearly completely out of instinct, and if they are in a ‘healthy food bubble’ where they have never tasted sugar or refined carbohydrates, they most likely will choose what they need.

As they become more strong willed (this is developmentally appropriate as their brain develops!) and notice all the other food-like products out there the growing children usually benefit from a parent-led approach to eating.

You can see more of my picky-eating prevention or solution protocol to keep parents sane and kids eating (even if they have sensory issues) in the free Picky Eating Solution webinar.

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ADHD: It’s More Than Just Too Much Sugar and Screen Time (the root is in the gut)

The ADHD gut connection

ADHD is one of the most polarizing health topics.  Hyperactivity or inattention (ADD) have been blamed on too many electronics, lack of consistency in parenting, just boys being boys, too much structured time in the classroom, not enough structure at home, food additives, or just a normal part of childhood.

Brain Rewiring & Technology

With everything becoming increasingly ‘on demand’, there are more options for us to consider and sift through than ever before.

Studies have shown that frequent internet users can rewire how their brain processes information, which involves switching between topics more frequently and retaining less, in as little as 5 days (source).

This Time article explains, “Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Consider shopping… When I was growing up, my parents left us with a sitter one evening before Christmas, hit the mall and Toys R Us, and hauled the shiny packages home in the back of their navy blue Jeep. A doll, a truck, a new outfit, and jewelry for Grandma. They chose between 4-5 options where today on Amazon we’re choosing between dozens and dozens of very similar products.

We need to be able to filter and select quickly.

Have you ever watched someone from the older generation online shop for a home appliance? It’s often an all-day event.  Ads/clickbait are clicked on, every web page is read in its entirety, and a notebook or pad of paper often makes its appearance next to the computer to keep everything organized.

This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not something that we can generally sustain for every decision that we need to make, so we’ve adapted.

Those of us who have been using the internet for most of our adult lives probably have a nearly automatic selection process that looks something like this:

Google ‘cordless vacuum reviews’
Scan the first page of Google, automatically ignoring the ‘Ad’ listings at the top.
Click on a review website that we’ve heard of before and we know not to be scammy.
Scan the website and jump to the price range we’re looking for.
See 2-3 vacuums in our price range that we want to compare prices for.
Copy and paste the model number, and paste that into Amazon, Overstock and maybe one other reputable website.
Quickly scan those three websites for the three things we’re looking for: Price, shipping speed, and warranty/returns process.
Choose the best for our needs, and complete checkout.

Though I wrote that in 8 steps, there were about 3-5 different ‘changes in attention’ for each of those steps. Is this ADD? Is this causing ADD? or has our brain adapted to efficiently use technology?

I would argue that this is a functional change that we’ve conditioned our brain to do.  After all, we probably completed these steps in less time than I would take to drive to one store and look at one vacuum model, and we’ll probably have found a better value as well.

So is ADD a natural thing?

No. A disorder is characterized by something that impacts your quality of life in a negative way, to the point that it interferes with your daily activities.

It is useful for us to scan a dozen Amazon listings for a similar toy and pick out the lowest price/highest rating item in under 30 seconds.  But similarly, it is NOT useful for us to not complete a needed task (like schoolwork, or organizing our belongings so that we can find them easily) because we can’t concentrate long enough to get it done.

Is there more to the rise of ADD and ADHD than just more technology being used in the house and less outside time? Yes.

But a missing piece, and likely a large part of the root issue, is the gut-brain connection.

When the body is healthy, we self regulate well

When we’re healthy we can self regulate.  If we’re overstimulated, or antsy, or have watched too much TV, a healthy body will crave the opposite – a walk in nature, the TV turned off, or a book rather than checking Facebook for the 925th time that day.

Just as a healthy person tends to choose healthy foods, a healthy person will also choose to limit media consumption, and to get energy out in healthy ways.

This is why some people are so adamantly pro-self-regulation with media, and why others insist that their children need strict structure when it comes to media.  My children fall on the side of needing more structure, I personally don’t have a problem leaving my smartphone in my purse, but I do turn the wifi off if I notice I’m using the email/facebook/pinterest/email loop to procrastinate writing, much like I would have moved from the kitchen to my bedroom while doing homework in elementary school.

Being able to self regulate, concentrate in the middle of distractions, and have impulse control is the sign of a well-functioning body and mind.

It’s not just genetics, the mind-body and even gut-brain connection plays a huge part.  Yes, I’m saying that your DIGESTION affects your IMPULSE CONTROL.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is characterized by inability to focus, hyperactivity, impulse control issues and inattention.  Children with ADD or ADHD often have trouble with schoolwork, with behavior in the classroom, getting long with other children, and paying attention to instruction.

ADHD does not always present with the classic hyperactivity, but rather some children may appear calm on the outside but not be able to pay attention to what’s being said during instructions.

Scientists are not sure what the cause of ADHD is, though studies including twins may show a genetic component.

(source)

What are the conventional treatments for ADHD?

 

Medications as treatment for ADD and ADHD are on the rise, being prescribed for children as young as age 3.  Before automatically judging parents and doctors for prescribing children medication, realize that this is usually after lots of thought and behavioral programs. When children can’t attend to instruction, or control impulses, it affects their ability to learn.

I hope that by starting to understand the gut-brain-impulse connection, some of these children are able to come off medications, heal, and learn as they were designed to.

Medications are usually stimulants, such as:

Adderal
Concerta
Focalin
Ritalin
Strattera

Side effects from stimulant medications like these include:

Decreased appetite
Sleep problems
Tics
Personality changes such as appearing ‘flat’ or without emotion
Increased risk of strokes, cardiovascular problems in children already at risk
Increased risk of psychiatric problems such as hallucinations in children already at risk

None of these treatments are thought to cure ADD or ADHD, but rather to just manage the symptoms.

Being on a medication with side effects like these should never be a long-term solution unless all other options have been exhausted.

Why is digestion and gut health so important?

Our gut, where we digest food, keep most of our immune system, and is even home to brain tissue, is much more important than most people realize.

The gut normally is populated with a hefty balance of good gut flora (microorganisms – yeasts, fungi, and bacteria).  It normally is healthy tissue with intestinal villi that work with the gut flora to extract nutrients needed from food, and pass them through the gut wall into the blood stream. These villi move food along the digestive tract, break it into smaller pieces so that nutrients can be extracted, and secrete enzymes needed to break down food (source).

The bacteria in our gut line the gut walls, and actually pre-digest our food for us. They line our guts to prevent food from being passed through the gut walls without first being broken down sufficiently. This gut flora is also a large part of our immune system.

When our gut is unhealthy, the flora in our gut is not protecting food from being passed through, vitamins and minerals are not able to be extracted properly from food, the body is unable to detoxify normally, and the immune system is not functioning as it should.

Lastly, the pathogenic bacteria, which aren’t kept in check by the good bacteria, send out chemical signals as part of their metabolic process through the gut wall, into the bloodstream, and then make it to the brain.

This combination of chemical signals making their way to the brain from pathogenic bacteria and lack of nutrients being adequately absorbed in the gut are a horrible combination for a developing brain.  

The ‘side effects’ of a gut healing diet?

This is what I’ve seen – these ‘good side effects’ show me that rather than further harming my body in attempt to solve one problem,we’re actually bringing everything into a balance, and the body is functioning like it should.

Eliminating picky eating
Food allergies eliminated
Seasonal allergies lessened
Better sleep
Better growth

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

Other places that a gut-healing diet has seen to help ADHD:

Robb Wolf: ADHD: Not a Ritalin Deficiency
The Paleo Mama: What is Causing the Rise in ADHD? 
Evolutionary Psychiatry: Food Elimination and ADHD
Study: Gluten free diet, Celiac, and ADHD

How to start balancing the gut to calm ADHD

First, I would look at sensory solutions to some of the behavior and impulse problems.  Can sitting on an exercise ball help this child to focus? How about running laps rather than being put in time out for impulse issues?  See more about sensory issues here – this is a non-medication tool that can help focus and calm children starting immediately, while we work to clean up the gut.

Next, we need to make healthy changes to our homes and reduce our toxic load – these are pretty basic steps but can make a big difference. Click here to get a free printable checklist for a 30-day plan to get this started in simple steps

Third, we try an elimination diet. It’s so common that removing foods that often are allergy-causing, inflammation-causing, and cause a leaky gut.

Elimination Diet & Balancing Gut Flora

Removing dairy and/or gluten will most often relieve symptoms drastically.  And then we can work our way back to really healing our gut with the GAPS diet. (click here for more information on working backwards to the GAPS diet)

Then once we are stabilized and eliminating common allergens from our diet, we can work on restoring gut flora balance and healing the gut. Most importantly, we clean up the gut.  (click here for the GAPS intro diet for gut healing and sealing)

Probiotics can help, be sure to go slow – we’ll be introducing these beneficial bacteria, which will in turn kill off the bad ones – when this happens we can experience a rush of symptoms, so it’s important to go slowly (these are the probiotics that I use)

When the gut flora is balanced, we should crave healthy food, have a stable mood, and feel nourished.

Depending on your symptoms, you may be able to modify this protocol and still see great results; possibly just removing gluten, any known allergens (often eggs, wheat, or dairy), and increasing probiotics for a time.

How did this work for us?

While we haven’t specifically had ADD or ADHD, my daughter used to be on the autism spectrum and struggled with attention and impulsiveness (and still does to some extent). Some people think that ADD and ADHD both fall on the very mild end of the autism spectrum, and I tend to agree with them.

When we are taking care of the gut by removing inflammatory foods and adding probiotics back in, I do notice a huge issue in her impulse control. When we deal with die off, from too many of the pathogenic bacteria being killed at once (see more about die off here), I tend to see the impulsivity come start to come back.

This is always an indicator to me that something if off in her diet or sensory-wise, whether we need to be taking probiotics slower, do more detox baths, or make sure we’re getting enough fresh air.

My son, I do believe that he has normal little-boy energy and I don’t notice a difference with this when he’s on the GAPS diet or not. He has the ability to pay attention in the classroom, but also craves lots of outside time, challenges like climbing, and other behaviors that some might think are ADD-like but I believe are developmentally appropriate.

I share this just to let you know that a dietary change will not automatically make your child eager to sit still and read books for hours at a time – some children naturally are like that, some children need more activity to grow and develop, this is all within the range of normal.

GAPS and Calmness

The GAPS diet isn’t like a tranquilizer or a pill that numbs your energy or mind, but rather it gives you back normal consistent calm energy.  For young boys this variety or normal may be different than what our culture would prefer.

It’s really amazing to me to see the difference that a dietary change can make – many families find the calmness and quality of life achieved by dietary changes to be worth the initial lifestyle change.

And the health habits are a life long gift that we give our children.

Related posts:

Amino Acids for Mood Help

How to make gut-healing broth cubes

There’s a War in Your Gut! (explain the microbe-mood connection to kids)

Why Sensory Integration May Be Causing Your Child’s Meltdowns

30+ Sensory-Friendly Holiday Gift Ideas for Children

More posts in this series:

Behavioral Problems? Skin Conditions? Low Immune System? It’s What We’re Feeding Them!

Eczema: Is the Root Cause in the Gut?

The Gut-Flora and PICKY EATING Connection

Anxiety: Why It’s All in Your Gut, Not Your Head

 

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You Know We Have a Special Needs Child, But Here are 10 Things We Might Not Have Told You

You Know We Have a Special Needs Child, But Here are 10 Things We Might Not Have Told You

Hannah is the reason for Health, Home, & Happiness. If I had two typically developing children, I wouldn’t have done the whole GAPS journey, wouldn’t have so much to share with you on the internet, and most likely would be in a different line of work.  She has special needs, she had autism but it was healed with GAPS, but she still has a global delay diagnosis and we’re still trying alternative treatments to heal her body as much as possible.

Further reading: What is the GAPS Diet?

I love that I have the internet available to share what I have learned with all of you. Today I’m going to talk about some things that outsiders might not realize about families that have a special needs child in them. Of course, this is all true for me, but won’t be true for all families.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know

Before I had a child with special needs, there was so much about special needs families that I didn’t understand. And I know there is still tons I don’t understand- I have avoided the whole medically fragile/multiple hospital visits route, and I know I have readers there.  I have some readers with multiple children with special needs, some with higher functioning children, some with lower. We all love our kids though, and we all have different strengths and challenges.

Today I present 10 things that many special needs families often don’t talk about, but do often feel.  It’s a given that we love our children, and you’ll hear us talk about that and the rewarding parts of raising them, but this is some of the hard stuff:

We don’t have anything extra

1.  Parents of special needs children don’t come with any extra energy or more patience or understanding than anyone else.  It feels dismissive to us when people say to us, ‘God will only give you what you can handle, He must have known you could handle it.’ Yes, we’re handling it, and we understand that you can’t imagine yourself in our shoes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for us than it would be for you.

Emotional Exhaustion

2.  Sometimes the emotional enormity of it is more exhausting than the physical aspect of having a special needs child. For children that need to be carried and lifted more, our muscles build up strength (I have some killer arms, since I still carry my low tone 47 lb 6-year-old fairly often when she gets tired), but emotionally every developmental change, school placement, choosing alternative treatments, supervising and making medical decisions are just as exhausting this year as they were last year.

Navigating Services

3.  The services that are available for children with special needs are difficult to navigate and often expensive.  Before I had a SNC (special needs child) I assumed that if you had a SNC you just went and signed up for services, and someone told you exactly what to do, what you qualified for, and always acted in your child’s best interest.  In some places that is true, but in most cases the parents have to really network with other parents to see what’s available, apply and re-apply for a correct diagnosis because the standard testing may or may not accurately reflect the child’s actual needs, and fight through red tape to get the child to be placed in the appropriate setting. And then do it all over again in 6-12 months when their developmental needs or school placement changes.

For expenses- there is so much out there, but it costs so much more than stuff aimed at typically developing children! Horse therapy- $60/session, a visit to the naturopath $200, speech therapy $48 twice a week…

Further reading: Simple Budgeting to Reduce Stress

Paperwork and Phone Calls

4.  Paperwork and phone calls.  Tons and tons of it, from everyone that even looks at our child, and many people who don’t even see our SNC, 10 pages of paperwork is often requested, they look at it for 5 minutes, and then realize we’re not the right fit.

I keep an Excel document with the names, addresses, faxes, and phone numbers for everyone who currently and in the past has worked with my daughter and print it out before we see anyone.  I call it her resume.

Phone calls are hard, just like your children, our kids also act up while we’re on the phone. But as parents of SNC we’ve learned that it’s better to spend half an hour on the phone and make sure the specialist is actually something we need to go to before we drag the kids out for half the day for an appointment.

Family Priorities

5.  Our priorities change based on the entire family unit.  Sometimes we are focusing on limiting screen time, sometimes we’re focused on a special diet, sometimes we’re focused on a behavior issue, sometimes it’s academic, sometimes it’s just maintaining the progress we’ve made so far because the family is going through some other transition like moving or having a new baby.

It’s impossible for both the child and the parent to focus 100% on everything at once, so it may look like we’re changing our mind and jumping around a lot.  Or we might be changing our mind and jumping around a lot. I promise, though, we’re not doing this for fun or because we’re bored- we’re trying to find what works best for our family.

Further reading: 101 Family Friendly Summer Activities

We need Self Care Too

6.  We soon realize that we can’t give our kids 100% of us 100% of the time.  Because parenting a SNC is so intense, we eventually realize that we have to take ‘me time’ to avoid burnout. I had the idea that as a parent I could keep pushing myself and eventually I’d get used to it.

It took me 5 years, but eventually I learned that I have to take some time out and take a break from completely giving everything for my child.  I come back refreshed, and much better able to a good job as a parent.  It’s a good mental break too, to be somewhere where you’re not just known as a mom of a child with special needs.

Continue reading: Self Care for Moms

Childcare

7.  It’s super hard to find qualified childcare for our kids!  And we often need more of it than parents of typically developing children, since our kids require more of our attention when we are watching them and might not do well on standard errands.

I’ve been fortunate to find amazing nannies to help me out part time, but because my child takes so much attention, I have to pay quite a bit more since the babysitter can’t take other children alongside mine, and she needs a higher wage than the high school girl down the street that could watch my typically-developing children just fine.

The person providing childcare has to be experienced with special needs, on top of things, and has to have a personality that meshes with our child’s.

Parenting Advice

8.  Our children’s behavior issues are not from poor parenting.  Yes, consistency usually helps, but the way these children’s brains are wired and the sensory issues they deal with make them not respond to regular parenting techniques the way a typically developing child would.

I’ve personally found that other parents have more grace with me when I put a medic alert bracelet on my daughter, it kind of gives them the heads up that she’s a SNC and I tend to avoid most of the glares at the playground for age-inappropriate meltdowns.

We still have to go buy groceries, go to the bank, and get our car fixed just like everyone else – and sometimes plans can’t work around our children’s sensory issues, so they may be fussing in the store.  It’s just how it is, there isn’t always an option to ‘do it when someone else is watching her’.

Further reading: Are Sensory Issues Causing Your Child’s Meltdowns? 

Not Easily Offended

9.  It doesn’t offend us if you ask us about special needs at all. Unless we’re newly diagnosed or still trying to figure it out ourselves, in that case it might be overwhelming. But to a family who has been ‘doing the special needs thing’ for a while, we’re happy to talk to you and help in any way we can.

Many moms come up to me and want to ask if their toddler is showing signs of autism, or other special needs, and I’m always happy to talk about it with them (they’re usually not, and of course I’m not a medical professional but I’ve been around enough SNC that I’m fairly accurate on what’s developmentally appropriate and what’s not).

We want the best for them

10.  We want the best for our child, no matter the circumstances.  That’s why we work so hard, it isn’t because we’re ashamed, it isn’t because we’re trying to change something that can’t change, or that we’re in denial, it’s because we want to make sure we’re doing everything possible for our child to reach their fullest potential.

Further Reading:

10 tips to help you interact with our (special needs) family.
You Know My Child Has Special Needs… Preteen Edition
Special Needs Mamas, You Need Self Care
It’s a Sensory Issue (that’s why they’re melting down!)

 

 

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