“Let food be thy medicine.”

This week, we are talking about nutrition! We were so fortunate to welcome guest speaker, Maureen McDonnell, RN and Health Editor at WNC Woman. She spoke to parents about the importance of nutrition for our children, for their health and their futures. With chronic illness at an all time high in our country, it is up to us to do our part to stay healthy and avoid the common, everyday nutrition pitfalls!

Next time you are grocery shopping for your family, or out to dinner, consider these well researched tips provided by Maureen. Find a way to work these tips into your grocery list, recipes and even restaurant dinners. You won’t be sorry. The benefits are endless!

Maureen’s Tips:

1. Increase Pure Water Intake: Replace soda and juice with lots of pure water or water with a splash of juice. Add a little seltzer or Perrier for fizz. Keep your kids hydrated throughout the day by giving them at least six to eight glasses of filtered water.

2. Balance Blood Sugar: If a child has difficulty focusing, his moods are unstable, he gets irritated or anxious, or he has periods when he feels weak and tired, try giving him protein every three to four hours. Don’t overdo it, but a hardboiled egg, rolled p turkey slices, a handful of organic nuts, a protein based smoothie or a protein pop will do wonders for stabilizing mood, energy, focus and overall health. For snacks, instead of sweets or fruit, try some organic hummus, organic almond butter (if your kids don’t have a nut allergy) and chop up some veggies for dipping. Make some fresh organic chicken, turkey, beef and veggie based stews and soups and freeze them for meals during the week.


3. Improve Gut Health: Improve the health of the gut by reducing sugar and by giving your kids (and yourself) a high quality probiotic. Additionally, Google “fermented foods” and start making your own homemade sauerkraut (which is teeming with “friendly” bacteria that bumps out the bad organisms which in turn strengthens the immune system). Remember, 80% of the immune system is headquartered in the gut. So if your child is dealing with an immune dysfunction (recurrent infections, autoimmune illness like rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies, etc.), start by healing the gut. Oh, and by the way, the brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for keeping us in a good mood, reducing anxiety and depression and helping us focus (called serotonin) is also manufactured in the gut. So, if you or your child have any of these conditions, working on healing the gut with a healthy, organic, non-inflammatory diet, probiotics and vegetable juicing is a very wise strategy indeed. It is often said in the holistic, integrative world of medicine, “Heal the guy, heal the child!” If your child has to take an antibiotic, be sure to give a probiotic (Not at the exact time of the antibiotic, but throughout the course of treatment and well afterwards) and continue to support the body nutritionally.


Remember, these things take time. We all want instant results. It is human nature. But this transformation does not happen overnight. Stick with it. You can do it! Take these tips and use them to build a foundation, get creative in the kitchen and at the grocery store. We know you will be better for it! Remember, we are in this with you. You are not alone!

Stay tuned, and stay up on autism!

 

This week's post is a little bit different than our normal narrative. We want to share with you all our latest project, not just because it is important to us, but because it is VERY important to the autism field as a whole. Resources for our teen and young adult population are few and far between. We hope that this story will shed some light on that fact and inspire you, wherever you are, to help make a difference! 

Liam is fifteen years old. At the age of three he was diagnosed with autism. Anyone who knows Liam knows he is the spokesman for joy, he is personable, he is kind. Liam’s childhood, despite his diagnosis, was full of friendship, resources and fond memories. Growing up, he attended a mainstream school with the support of shadows and tutors and was surrounded by peers who showed him endless love and compassion. Throughout these formative years, there were resources, there was help. Liam graduated from the eighth grade last May. This was a very proud day, but also one that brought great fear and uncertainty for Liam and for his family. Would there be resources available for Liam outside of his elementary and middle school environment? Would there be support?

Sesame Street is continuing its campaign for autism acceptance. In a recent video post, they ask a handful of teens on the autism spectrum, “What do you want kids to know?” Just as every individual’s experience with autism is unique, so is their perspective on the disorder. This week, we are excited to share with you the observations of the children and teens featured in this video.

And as always, we urge you to take the information we share and use it to spread autism acceptance in your community.

“What I want people to know about autism is that it is not always a bad thing.”
• There are many phases in the autism journey. Regardless of where you are in your journey, you have most likely considered autism “a bad thing”, a scary or burdensome thing at one point or another. With the passing of time you have hopefully reconsidered, and maybe to your surprise, discovered that autism is a blessing in your life despite its many challenges. Autism, with its every uphill battle, is a beautiful thing. We urge you to celebrate the good- the good moments, the good days, the good qualities you see in your AMAZING child, friend, parent, sibling.

Last Wednesday, we hosted our sixth annual luncheon. Every year, this event is highly anticipated by community members, staff and organization supporters from near and far. It is not just the delicious lunch that brings nearly 400 people to this event every spring. The stories and heartfelt testimonies, shared by parents, children and friends of autism are what bring this community of people together. And for one cause…autism.

When devoted parents Eric and Marian Congdon fearlessly faced last week’s crowd, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. In their speech, they paint a picture of what raising a child on the autism spectrum looks like. Their story, like their joyful daughter, is beautiful, candid and honest. This week, we are sharing their story with you. We hope it touches you as much as it did us.

“Today is about sharing. Sharing our stories, our talents, and our resources. It can be hard to share a story about living with autism.  You build up a toughness, a thick skin without even realizing it. And when you're asked to share your story, all those hurts and confusions and disappointments burst forth and try to overtake you. But, it's good to share.
And we have a little more to share...


 

In our last post, we introduced the topic of "SELF-CARE". This week, we want to continue with that idea by encouraging you to find ways to take care of yourself in the midst of life’s chaos. Below you will find tips for "emotional resiliency" created by Kathi Bivens, Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Our Whole Lives in Hendersonville, NC.

What is emotional resilience? Emotional resilience refers to one's ability to adapt to stressful situations or circumstances. More resilient individuals are able to adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties, while the less resilient might have a harder time with stress and life changes.

 

When caring for others always comes before caring for yourself…

Inevitably, raising a child with autism means caring for others before caring for yourself and your needs. At St. Gerard House, we see this every day. You are sleep deprived, emotionally exhausted, physically drained, lost, scared and overwhelmed beyond belief. You are in “Survival Mode”.

Whether your child was diagnosed last week or you have been living with an autism diagnosis for many years, we’re willing to bet you are not taking as much time for yourself as you should be. We want to encourage you to start making “self-care” a priority. We promise, in time, you will thank us. This week, we sat down with Licensed Professional Counselor, Kathi Bivens, to gain some better insight on what stress does to us all and why self-care is crucial for parents of autism.


Preparation and Planning are Key!:  As you plan your vacation, let these words be your mantra. Remember them, live by them, repeat them. You won't be sorry! The more you plan in advance, the less stressful AND ENJOYABLE your vacation will be!


How to Prepare:

Use a calendar to count the days leading up to your trip. Make this calendar accessible to your child.


Create a picture story depicting the events and preparation leading up to your trip. Include events like packing bags, the car ride to the airport, going through security, boarding the airplane at the gate, and getting on the airplane. It might be beneficial to include pictures of what the inside of an airplane looks like, as well as events like arriving at the destination airport, going to baggage claim, and reaching the anticipated trip destination. All of these pictures can be found on the Internet using Google images and various sites.