Bread for Berrik….

 

When I first started making bread for my grain free, sugar free boy, I found an almond flour and flax recipe that was absolutely delicious and made a perfect breakfast toast… it was so good that I was eating it too – my favorite was with an egg, tomato and avocado on top.  Berrik stuck to the more traditional peanut butter.  In the beginning, before I discovered that I was overdosing Berrik on almonds via almond flour bread, muffins, and actual plain old almonds, I used this recipe weekly: Paleo Bread – Elana’s Pantry .  At the start of this food adventure I was trying new recipes all the time, and attempting to adapt them to meet Berrik’s specific needs.  There were many epic failures.  If you’re looking to avoid failure as you experiment with gluten free or paleo baking, I highly recommend you start with Elana’s Pantry.  She has a TON of recipes that are FREE (she also has some cookbooks for purchase that are well worth the price), and the beauty of Elana’s recipes is that they NEVER fail, AND she keeps them as simple as possible.  You won’t find a recipe with 17 ingredients on her website.  No crazy out of this world ingredients.  You can find all her ingredients at Safeway.  But I digress….

Once we realized that Berrik needed to significantly reduce his almond flour consumption, I decided to try out another Elana’s Pantry recipe Rochel’s Cashew Bread.  I have never actually made this with cashew butter, but instead have tried it with both Sunflower Seed Butter and Nut & Seed Butter I found at Costco.  I think you can probably use any nut or seed butter and have success.  This is a high protein (lots of eggs) high fat bread, which was perfect for my growing boy.  It’s SO simple to make with only 5 ingredients.  I double the recipe and add about 15 mins to the baking time to make a taller loaf.  I highly recommend using stoneware loaf pans.  I have had ZERO bread failures since ditching my aluminum pans and splurging on a Le Creuset loaf pan.

Language & Literacy

When I decided to take time off work, I knew I needed some kind of plan…some way to figure out how to help Berrik learn to read, improve his language skills, figure out what type of learning works best for him, and on and on….  It was a tall order and I wasn’t really clear on how to go about it.  There are so many ‘programs’ and theories about how best to teach a kid with learning disabilities, but since the strengths and weaknesses of every child are so unique, I found myself going in circles trying to figure out what to do or where to start.   I researched obsessively, I attended some info sessions – and as an aside, I was shocked by some programs that made incredible claims of success, but required HUGE payments up front…like thousands of dollars – and at the end of the day, it all came down to a somewhat random conversation with a friend who I consider to be the most disciplined, and thorough person I know. I don’t see her often and I was telling her about what was going on with Berrik and my plans to take some time off work.  She mentioned, in an offhand way, that her children attended a program called Sound Connections, and were experiencing incredible success.  Like goosebumps on your arms, life-altering successes.  Little did I know that one conversation would lead us down the path we are now on!

I looked up the website for  Sound Connections and thought it sounded good.  The website was less impressive looking than some of the other program websites I had seen, (which is maybe very telling – not so much money and time spent on website and over the top marketing and more time on actually helping kids?) I trust that friend of mine implicitly so I gave Sound Connections a call.  Annette Rogers, the creator of the program, called me back and we spoke for the better part of an hour.  It was a very ‘eureka’ hour for me, as Annette clearly knew about what I was experiencing with Berrik, and said some key things that really resonated.  Things like, labels don’t matter – she was not concerned with IQ, attention issues, dyslexia…etc.  She said that her program will work for any kid… for all kids…regardless.  She didn’t say, Berrik will learn to read in 3 months and will never have issues again…but she did say, that he will be literate, and it may happen quickly and it may happen slowly, but over time he will be literate.  Realistic.  But confident.  For a natural cynic, it was interesting how quickly I trusted Annette.  Added bonus, she is a speech and language pathologist, and Berrik has had expressive and receptive language delays since he was a young toddler…  Annette understood what that means, how it impacts literacy and performance in school, and her program helps with that too.  SIGN US UP.

We started Sound Connections in early June – literally the Monday after I finished work.  We now attend 3 days per week for 45 minute sessions, one on one, and do the rest of the work at home.  In another post I will describe what these sessions are like, and what it’s like to implement it at home…and I’ll tell you about how Berrik is doing!

Foreshadowing here….  I’m discovering that teaching Berrik at home, throughout the day, integrated into our day to day lives, in a way that works for him, is so much more effective and efficient than a classroom environment….  Stay tuned for more information about that!

In the mean time, if you have a kid who is struggling with language and literacy, call Sound Connections.  Don’t wait for your kid to lose all confidence or fall years behind.  And if you’re already there, years behind, frustrated, and feeling overwhelmed, then DEFINITELY call Sound Connections.  I cannot say enough about this program.  You pay as you go (a month ahead), and it is WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Taking time off work…

I’m finding it challenging to put all of the pieces together for this blog, so that it makes sense or so that there is some sense of events leading to other events.  But as everyone has experienced, life happens so quickly and there are so many events occurring on a daily basis that lead to other events and impact the roads we travel.  If it seems like we have jumped from one decision or path to another quickly and without much thought, it is not the case.  I would need a 750 page book to even begin to scratch the surface, and like my good friend Jan says no book that long is worth reading.

In the world of talking about learning disabilities and ADHD, a common language includes the world neurotypical.  I like this word because it gives me something closer to the reality to use when comparing Berrik to other kids without using the word ‘normal’ which would imply that Berrik is somehow abnormal.  For example – Berrik has average cognitive abilities according to assessments (which then add the caveat that the assessments may be an under representation of his overall intelligence due to inattention and speech delay – as an aside, I wonder how useful these assessments actually are), however he learns in a significantly different way than neurotypical kids.  To me, neurotypical means only that you ‘fit the mold’ of the school system and our educational culture.  You can sit in a desk and learn in a mainly auditory fashion.  Both our girls ‘fit the mold’ and therefore find school relatively easy.  Berrik is wired differently.  He has just as much capacity to learn, but the learning has to happen in a significantly different way.  He has had the benefit of great teachers and one less great teacher, but regardless of the skill of the teacher, he is one kid in a large class, and not the only kid who is ‘wired differently.’  The beauty (and frustration) of being wired differently, is that (just like neurotypical kids) each kid is so very different, and has completely unique strengths and weaknesses.  I cannot imagine how daunting this is for teachers with 27 kids staring up at them each day.  I knew that for Berrik, the only way his learning needs could be met is if I took some time off work to focus on learning how he learns and supporting him to reach his potential.  Lucky for me, my boss is the kind of person who understands how important this is for us, and was instantly and completely supportive.

I came across  TiLT Parenting in my constant and never ending research, and subscribed to the incredibly informative podcasts.  Last night I received an email from the creator of TiLT, with a link to the TiLT manifesto.  It describes my thought processes so well that I read it feeling like she was inside my head.   She talks about letting go and stopping trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  This is exactly what I made the intentional decision to do very recently (more about that in a future blog).  Have a read if you would like to understand what has been going on in my head (don’t worry, it’s G rated…it won’t give you access to my entire thoughts! ;-)).  Her story is different than mine, but the feelings are so shockingly similar.

TiLT Manifesto

 

Test results

Leading up to the urine test, Berrik’s attention and mood seemed to have taken a downturn.  It made for a long few weeks as we awaited the test and the results.  I was exhausted with the pace of life – I was competing in dance that month, and McKenna’s dance competition season was amping up with dress rehearsals and extra practices.  Berrik had been tiring of some of the recipes I was using, so I was attempting to find and/or create new ones.  Add all this to a full time job and a kid who is now emotional and unfocused again, and I was feeling very overwhelmed.  Thank goodness for Avi’s patience with Berrik…she has always been very nurturing with him and because of their strong relationship, she is really great at keeping him busy and happy when the rest of us are running around like chickens with heads cut off – and for anyone who has ever seen chickens butchered, you can really understand how our family was functioning at this time!

So, the results come in and they are really odd.  Many of the results that were issues in the first test had been resolved.  All markers for yeast except one were within normal levels – however the one that was not had increased significantly.  Another marker called oxylates was through the roof, and there were a couple other really strange results.  The naturopath wasn’t sure what was going on and planned to call the doc at the lab to see if she had any thoughts.  It appeared to be very random and nonsensical, particularly when compared to the first urine test.

Never satisfied with not knowing, I took to reviewing the literature about oxylates and yeast markers.  After a few hours of reading, I found out that almonds are a food with one of the highest levels of oxylates, and overeating almonds can cause oxylate levels to rise significantly.  High oxylates can result in one specific yeast marker to rise as well.  And the other odd results were also related.  While I was glad to find the reason for the strange test results, I felt a little sick.  I was essentially poisoning my kid with almonds….  Almond flour is the easiest non-grain flour to work with – so my poor kid was eating almonds concentrated in his morning toast and his daily muffin at school, not to mention eating nuts as an afterschool snack and other more occasional almond flour goodies.  Sigh.

Back to the drawing board.  I slowly weaned Berrik off the almond flour and started looking for ways to bake without it.  I also decided that sticking to more whole foods and using muffins and other baked goods less frequently would be better for him anyways.  I told the naturopath what I had discovered and when she spoke with the lab doc, she agreed with me.  After a few weeks Berrik was feeling better (and so was I….overwhelming mommy guilt on that one!  Good grief. <insert eye roll here>)

At this point we decided to do a stool test to determine with accuracy if there was any yeast left in Berrik’s tummy, and if so, what type so we could treat it more aggressively if necessary. Also wanted to see whether there was good bacteria growing in there, as that will be the key to sustained health for my boy.  It was a three sample test – I’m sure you can imagine – poo in tray, little stick to put sample in little plastic jar – x 3.  Conveniently I was at a dance competition with McKenna when this started <snicker>, so nurse Kevin was on the hook for the poo.  After 2 samples had been collected, Mac and I arrived home from dance and I had one day at home before having to head to Vancouver for work.  Within an hour of arriving home I hear Berrik yell from the washroom, “Dad, I’m going poo in the tray…. want a sample?!”  I offered to collect this final sample, but superdad and uber nurse Kevin declined and marched off to collect.  For any of you wondering how I survive this crazy life – it’s because of Kevin.  He truly picks up all the slack in every area, regardless of what needs to be done.  I often marvel at my good luck, considering we met in a nightclub after a few beverages – I credit my excellent taste and sparkling wit – and perhaps his beer goggles that evening.  <shrug>

Stool test results came back – NO YEAST!!!.  Very exciting results as yeast can be difficult to clear.  We were so very strict with the regimen for almost 5 months and Berrik was SO good with avoiding grains and sugar.  Even at birthday parties he was voluntarily decline the cake and happily eat the ‘cookies’ or other treat I sent with him.  There was no bad bacteria showing up either, but the good bacteria was low, so still more work to be done.

At this point we reintroduced grains, but still kept sugar and yeast off the menu.  Again a downturn in attention and mood.  But we had a celiac test to complete so we stayed with the wheat for about 4 weeks.  As soon as the test was complete, I took Berrik back off wheat (but left the other grains).  Within a week or two, he improved again.  Celiac test was negative, but because wheat seems to cause issues for him, we decided to just keep him off of it for now.  Luckily with all the other grains and no more fruit limitations, Berrik has many more food options and was quickly gaining back the weight he had lost on the stricter anti-candida diet.

In my next post I’ll talk about my decision to take some time off work….