Clayton had problems for most of his young life. Almost from the moment he was born he was sick. He had perpetual ear infections, colds, flu, and serious nasal allergies. He felt VERY poorly a lot of the time, and as a parent that was extremely difficult. The last thing you want is for your children to be sick, and Clayton was sick almost all the time.
What was even stranger was that Clayton had a very difficult time sleeping. Obviously, when you have kids, you expect that for the first six months or year they aren't going to sleep through the night. But even by the age of 10 Clayton was still waking up every night and having such a hard time going back to sleep that he would wake us up and get in bed with us.
If you're a parent, you can imagine how hard that was for everyone in the house. We were all sleep deprived. For poor Clayton it was worst of all. It was like he barely slept for the first 10 years of his life–he must have felt like he was going crazy.
These problems were difficult to manage, but it was when Clayton started school that we realized how severe his problem actually was. Once we were able to compare his development and social skills against the other kids in his class, it quickly became clear that Clayton had a real problem.
"Almost from the moment he walked into the door of his kindergarten classroom, we could see that he had impulse-control problems."
Listen to Audrey describe the process they went through to uncover Clayton's Diagnoses.
He could barely sit still and no one could get him to calm down. And it wasn't only his teachers who had a hard time with him. Clayton's classmates couldn't really understand him either. He was socially isolated.
We decided to have him repeat kindergarten to give him a chance to grow up a little and see if that would improve things. To be honest, it didn't really change much, but by the time he was done with his second year in kindergarten, it was clearly time for him to move on to first grade.
That's when Clayton's problems with dysgraphia came to the surface. Put simply, dysgraphia is a severe writing handicap. A person with dysgraphia can usually grasp things intellectually (which was never a problem for Clayton–he's a bright kid) but can't put his thoughts down on paper in a legible format. Obviously this was extremely debilitating in a scholastic setting, where virtually everything you do revolves around reading and writing.
To help us work through some of these problems, we took Clayton to a well-respected pediatrician in our area. He analyzed Clayton's symptoms and in short order diagnosed him with ADHD. The doctor explained that Clayton's thought patterns and behavior were consistent with the diagnosis and suggested Ritalin as an answer to our problems.
By that time Clayton was already taking inhalers, nasal sprays, and sinus medications for his severe nasal allergies, so I can't say I was thrilled at the prospect of piling on another drug. But the problem was so bad that I was open to just about any solution that presented itself. We put Clayton on Ritalin.
I'll admit that in the short term those drugs really helped. They helped him manage his impulse control issues, which allowed him to function better at school. But there was a price to pay ...
"At the end of the day there was a rebound effect and Clayton would come home and be all over the place."
He also started losing a lot of weight because the medications suppressed his appetite, he still wasn't sleeping, and he continued to be sick much too often. Nonetheless, we stuck with this program for a few years, because it was more manageable than our previous situation. We kept Clayton on the drugs and managed his symptoms at home the best we could.
By the time Clayton was in fifth grade, we were having regular meeting with teachers, counselors, staff psychologists, and administrators in his school district to arrange special accommodations for his needs in the classroom. This is a fairly normal procedure for kids with special needs and includes things like allowing him to sit away from windows since he was sensitive to light and sound, keeping him at the front of the classroom so he could pay attention, and even creating provisions so he could take breaks if he needed to.
Even with all these measures in place, Clayton still struggled socially and academically. And at home every day was a challenge. We needed to find an alternative.
I was actually a patient of Dr. Hyman's at the time (I have some health issues of my own), and when I mentioned Clayton's problems to him one day, he told me about his UltraMind Solution.
Knowing about Dr. Hyman's work from my own experience, it made sense to me that there must be some common threads that tied together all of Clayton's problems. But I must say that I was a little surprised at how simple the solution turned out to be.
The premise behind Dr. Hyman's program is that foods you are sensitive to can create widespread systemic imbalances in your gut and immune system and this, in turn, can lead to problems in the brain. Assuming this premise is true, I realized that more medications weren't the answer–the answer was simply eliminating the foods Clayton was allergic to.
The big foods Dr. Hyman talks about in this book are gluten and dairy–two major culprits that lead to brain disorders. He suggests eliminating these foods from your diet to see if it makes a difference in your brain function. If it does, you are most likely allergic.
Now by the time I started thinking about all this in relation to Clayton's condition, I was already on a gluten-free diet myself. So it wasn't a big leap to make the change in Clayton's diet as well. I knew where to buy gluten-free versions of just about anything you would ever want to eat. I kind of understood how to modify his diet already. So we decided to give it a shot.
"Within months of eliminating the foods Clayton was sensitive to, he went off all his medications, including Ritalin."
Listen to Audrey explain the dramatic change Clayton experienced after eliminating
The change was so dramatic that people have a hard time believing me when I tell them. He stopped taking his inhalers and all the rest of his medications, because he just didn't need them anymore. And at that point Ritalin became a thing of the past–almost overnight he began excelling in school academically and socially.
By adding nutritional supplements, like magnesium, other seemingly miraculous events took place. Clayton started sleeping through the night for example. For 10 years Clayton had a hard time sleeping. The first day he took magnesium, he slept through the night without waking once. No wonder he refuses to get into bed without taking it now. Can you imagine? Ten years without sleep and then one capsule of magnesium makes the difference–I doubt he'll forget to take his magnesium for the rest of his life.
One day a few months after we started the program I was going through some of Clayton's homework. I save examples of his schoolwork every year like a lot of parents do. As I was looking over some of his handwriting samples something struck me like a ton of bricks–his handwriting had completely changed. I went back to some samples from a few months before and I laid them side by side. The difference was so dramatic I was stunned. Because so few people believe me, I want to share them with you. Here they are:
Around the same time, we had another meeting at Clayton's school. Every teacher and counselor there talked about the change in him. They said, "This is a different kid than we saw at the first of the year. We don't know what you did, but whatever it is keep doing it! It's created an amazing turnaround."
"I'm so proud of him. But it's not just me; he can see the difference himself."
These changes are so important to him that at 12 he's packing his own lunch to go to school. He's got all his foods in order and he takes care of it all himself. He also notices what happens when he slips and goes off the diet or doesn't take care of himself–how quickly things change. He says, "I can't think straight when I don't eat right." That kind of awareness at 12 is just unreal to me.
He also realizes now that he is much smarter than he was ever given credit for. His ability to focus is so much stronger than before. Clayton's always been bright, but now he's succeeding in a way he never did in the past. His writing is obviously improved and that helps his grades in English, social studies, and other subjects like that. And his math skills were always great. In fact, he can do so much math in his head that his teachers used to ask him how he got his answers. Now he can actually slow down and show them!
Overall he's just excelling at this stage and doing unbelievably well. He recently joined a math club with fifth, sixth, and seventh graders and he regularly outperforms kids who are two or three years ahead of him.
Sometimes social issues come up around the foods he eats. At one point all his friends were drinking soda. They're kids, so of course they all love it. They have it at parties and drink the stuff all the time. But Clayton knows that for him the extra sugar will just not be to his benefit. So he never drinks it. The kids give him a hard time about that. They say, "You're an alien if you won't drink soda." Clayton's so self-confident now that he (with his 12-year-old humor) looks back at them and says, "I know I'm an alien. I'm from 'your anus.'"
As he goes through these kinds of social experiences, increases his success at school, and stops worrying about being sick all the time, it builds his confidence and he's able to go out and do more things. There were times before when he wouldn't sign up for extracurricular activities at school because he didn't feel well or didn't want to go places. That's just not an issue anymore.
Not everyone is as lucky as we are. Not everyone has direct access to Dr. Hyman the way I did. How many parents out there are frustrated because their kids can't get the treatment they need? How many children live a life that is less than it could be even though the solutions to their problems are as close as their refrigerators?
I don't know the answers to those questions. What I do know is that Dr. Hyman can help, and his new book The UltraMind Solution may hold the key to healing many kids, just like it helped Clayton. Try it. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
North Gransby, CT