“Free-Range” Parenting

by Bob Doman

Utah just passed the first “free-range” parenting law in the country. Hurray, Utah! As many of you parents are aware, it has become increasingly more difficult to raise our children without interference. The new law redefines “child neglect,” allowing parents to use common sense.

The new law redefines neglect so that you now can now permit a child, (without fear of child protective services coming after you) whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity, to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, or to engage in independent activities, including:

  • Traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling
  • Traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities
  • Engaging in outdoor play
  • Remaining in a vehicle unattended, except under appropriately defined circumstances
  • Remaining at home unattended; or engaging in a similar independent activity

Teaching children to be independent and responsible is a cornerstone to helping them develop into capable adults. More and more children are being “raised” under a protective umbrella and are not being given the opportunity to learn independence and responsibility and to think for themselves.

All of you parents living outside of Utah, beware you may get arrested and prosecuted for using your common sense and your understanding of your child when making decisions regarding their independence and safety.

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The Power of Parents

Yesterday (March 21st, 2018) I had the honor and privilege to speak on World Down Syndrome Day to a few hundred folks in Bucharest, representatives of Down syndrome organizations and parents and therapists from around Romania. It was a wonderful group who were all anxious to learn and to help their children. From speaking with many of the parents after my presentation, they appeared to universally know that they needed a lot of help, were very receptive, and were more than ready to take control of their children’s lives.

There are a number of important points that I have been trying to communicate to parents, educators, therapists, and doctors through the years that were all pertinent and well received by this group, including:

  • Parents are the experts on their children.
  • In order to be successful, we need to work with the “Whole Child,” which requires acknowledging the parents’ expertise and giving them the training and authority to take the lead in their child’s development and education.
  • If we are to maximize neuroplasticity, we need to provide the child with very targeted input on a daily basis, the reality of which is that it generally requires if not the direct involvement of the parent, then at least the supervision of the parent.
  • Parents everywhere in the world can be empowered to help their child regardless, or even in spite of, the available “professional” help or lack of the same.

As I have worked around the United States and internationally, it has been wonderful to see parents realize that they uniquely have the power and ability not only to help their children, but that they can actually generally do a better job on their own, given a targeted neurodevelopmental program designed just for their child—a program designed to help them fulfill their vision for their child.

Perhaps it’s time for a bit of a parental revolution! If not a revolution, perhaps at least a paradigm shift.

—Bob

Wheat and Gluten: Parents Beware

 

In recent years it has been interesting to see how the word “gluten” has gained such a huge level of public awareness. As an example, there is a standardized word recognition test we use that includes the word “glutton.” Ten years ago it would have been unheard of to have a child read that word as “gluten,” but today the majority actually do. It’s almost humorous to think that many of these same children have a gluttonous appetite for gluten.

There is some confusion as to what “gluten” is. Many people use the words “wheat” and “gluten” pretty interchangeably, so there needs to be some clarification. First of all, all wheat contains gluten, but gluten is found in other grains as well, including rye and barley. But the vast majority of gluten we consume is from wheat and products containing wheat.

So, what is the big deal? Humans have been eating grains for over 100,000 years. How could wheat and other gluten-containing grains be bad for us? And aren’t they on the food pyramid? Science does have a way of catching up, and truth be known, there are a whole lot of things we have been doing for a whole lot of years that are not good for us.

There are many issues with gluten. Some of the problems caused by gluten include digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating; as well as fatigue, brain fog, depression, and just feeling tired. If we add to this list additional common symptoms of wheat allergy, such as nausea and vomiting, hives and rashes, nasal congestion, eye irritation, and difficulty with breathing, we are starting to build a pretty good case for avoiding wheat and foods containing gluten.

The case builds. Let’s talk about celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects about one in a hundred individuals. In celiac disease gluten produces an immune response that attacks the small intestine and adversely affects nutrient absorption. If unaddressed celiac disease can lead to very serious health problems, such as Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, short stature, intestinal cancers, and neurological conditions like seizures and migraines—serious stuff!

One of the benefits of seeing many thousands of children over many decades is that it affords me the opportunity to see patterns. Some jump right out at you and others emerge over years. One of the more graphic examples of the impact that such experiences can have, and which strongly reinforced some of my concerns of gluten, occurred on one of my trips to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati I stay at an Embassy Suites Hotel that offers made-to-order breakfasts. On the first day of the trip I went down to the big open area where they serve breakfast to get a cup of coffee, and I spotted my first family of the day. The child I would be seeing shortly was happily eating her breakfast of pancakes. This child, a pretty typical teenage girl, and her family came into my meeting room at 9:00. At about 9:15 while she was in the middle of taking a math test, she actually dozed off and literally fell off her chair! Her breakfast had kicked in, and rather than giving her energy it put her to sleep. As fate would have it, on my second morning I had virtually the identical experience, seeing my first child of the day eating pancakes and again falling off her chair while taking the math test. Wow! When I think of all of the children starting their school days with pancakes, biscuits, and cereals, all of which are generally accompanied by dairy and sugar, it’s no wonder that teachers have to work hard just to keep their students awake. I’ll talk about diary again at another time, but have you noticed how they have changed the dairy commercials? They no longer say, “Milk, it does a body good!” because the data has forced them to modify their statement to, “Got milk? Good for you!”

As a group I have notice that many of the children with Down syndrome who have gluten in their diets tend to have more issues with constipation and other digestive issues, congestion, low energy, and weight problems. Sadly, many parents just perceive their child as being “low energy” kids, when what they are seeing is just a reflection of their diets. Many kids on the autism spectrum and those labeled with ADHD tend to exhibit a wide range of issues that appear to at least partially originate with gluten-related gut issues which increase their stimming, DSAs, hyperactivity, distractibility, and even aggression.

I work with one teenage boy on the spectrum who generally functions very well with his academics, processing skills, and behavior who craves wheat to such an extent that he searches the cars of workers on his family farm, looking for crumbs; and if he finds even a crumb, he crashes for up to two weeks. (“Crashes” as in becomes almost non-verbal and wants to stim 24/7.) If so little can produce such a neurological crash, it makes you wonder if even a little gluten could be harmful.

I mention these kids as examples of specific responses with specific kids. I caution families all the time that the example of one can be a disaster for the many who jump on a bandwagon because one parent, or even a few, provided anecdotal reports of apparent cause and effect with a specific “treatment.” But collecting clinical data from many hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals and evaluating that against the research is what science is all about.

A very noteworthy additional piece to this puzzle is that many children crave wheat and/or gluten to such an extent that it has a very significant negative impact on their diets and nutrition. In all my years of seeing kids, without a doubt the number one food I see children crave is wheat and crave it to such an extent that it’s difficult for many of the parents to get the child to eat a variety of healthy foods. A child who is permitted to fill up on bread isn’t going to be highly motivated to try spinach. Often, the only solution is totally eliminating wheat/gluten from their diets, at least temporarily, before we can get the children to significantly expand their palates and their diets.

Are processed gluten-free alternative foods healthy? What they add to these “Frankenfoods” to make them taste good is probably not “healthy.” Check out the labels and see all the stuff they added to make the food taste good, not to mention all the added sugar. Would you believe that there are over 60 different names for sugar used on your food labels?

Bottom line: It appears that for many, if not most, of our children foods containing gluten or even “gluten free” foods are not a great choice. If you choose to keep these foods in their diets, please keep your parental antenna up and be mindful of all of the possible associated issues. It should also be mentioned that the foundation that you are working from in helping your children develop is their health. The physiology affects the neurology, and the more issues your child has, the more important it is for them to have the best diet that you can possibly provide for them. A vitamin pill isn’t going to compensate for a lousy diet.

If you choose to have a poor diet yourself, so be it; but you, not your children, are responsible for their diets.

—Bob Doman

Natalie Kling on Gluten

Natalie Kling is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and she talks about an important subject—gluten. Natalie is one of our valued NACD nutritional advisors and consultants.

The Little Things That Shape Lives

Lincoln Logs & United States Puzzle Maps

by Bob Doman

Great Gift Ideas for Holidays, Birthdays & Special Occasions from NACD

Our staff at NACD has been busy creating lists of toys and gifts that we can recommend for parents. We have been asked time and time again to help parents find toys and gifts that will be fun, useful and that will hopefully help advance their children’s curiosity, development and education. As we have gone through this process of researching toys and gifts, we have all thought back to the gifts we bought for our own children at various stages of their development and gifts we received as children as well.

As parents, we are often in a quandary as to what to buy. Sometimes there is something our children are begging for that we may reluctantly purchase, but more often than not we wander through the stores, catalogs and websites looking for inspiration. Sadly, within days or weeks of having purchased gifts for a birthday or holiday, we find these gifts neglected and start deciding what closet to relegate them to.

Pondering the parental dilemma of what to buy for the child, I decided to look at the word “toy” and to see if we were perhaps starting off with a quest grounded in a misconceived perception. Going to the trusted Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I looked up the definition of a toy and discovered perhaps part of the problem. The significant pieces of the definition included: “something for a child to play with, something that can be toyed with, something (such as a preoccupation) that is paltry or trifling”. If this is in fact our underlying perception of a toy—a paltry, trifling thing to be toyed with—it’s no wonder most of what we buy for our children could fit under a general heading of “garbage” and often sadly, expensive garbage.

I believe what we want to do as parents is find things that are fun and entertaining, but also things that actually do something for the child. Learning can and should be fun, exploring can and should be fun, creating can and should be fun, building, designing, imagining and thinking can all be fun. These things do not sound like “toys”. What perhaps differentiates a “toy” from what we really want is a new educated perspective. What can I give my child as a gift that will be fun, but significant?

When I was a little boy, my parents, my little sister and I would often go visit my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was the custodian of his church and my grandparents lived very modestly. Throughout my childhood, there were only two toys at their house for us to play with. One was a set of Lincoln Logs and the other a United States Puzzle Map. Lincoln logs for the uninitiated are wooden dowels of different lengths notched at the ends so that they can be stacked like the logs in a log house and other various pieces that could be used for roofs, windows and such. The puzzle map had each state as a puzzle piece and on the piece, you could find the capitol and some symbols that indicated anything from what they grew or did in the state to historic landmarks. I wouldn’t want to guess how many hours I spend with these two “toys’. But, I can tell you that I built many different structures with the Lincoln Logs and enjoyed being creative and seeing how many different things I could design. I believe that because of my Lincoln Log experience I spend time as a teen designing houses and actually went to college with the plan of becoming an architect and designing energy-efficient, economical semi-subterranean houses. I was perhaps a little ahead of my time in 1965. A summer job working with special needs children changed that direction, but I have designed and build three houses, one of which is my present home. That inexpensive “toy” actually helped in making me who I am today.

I suspect that I could identify where every state was by the time I was four or five and could have drawn a map of the United States from memory by the time I was six—I can still do it. I never had an inclination to be a map maker, but I did develop a strong interest and knowledge of geography, which became a subject in school at which I excelled (there weren’t many) and has led to my traveling to all 50 states and seeing a lot of the world and being much more intellectually and socially conscious and aware than I would have otherwise been. I still remember as a child being amazed that so many of my friends had virtually no interest or curiosity about the rest of the country, let alone the world. I suspect their grandmothers didn’t have puzzle maps at their houses.

The right things at the right times can have very big and significant impact.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, take some time and give some serious thought before purchasing a gift. See it as an opportunity to help shape a life—that certainly is not a paltry or trifling thing.

 

To view the list of gifts our NACD staff has put together, visit:

http://www.nacd.org/gifts/