Monthly Archives: February 2013

What to look for – Artificial Coloring

Food coloring spreading on a thin water film i...
Food coloring spreading on a thin water film in the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was asked by a friend if I could list which products have artificial dyes in them. I am afraid I am not patient enough to go through all the possible food items but will give some good links to the info that I have read on the effects and dangers of food additives, in particular artificial colorings.

I have always thought of myself as a fairly healthy eating kind of person, but have found, instead, that through the years and the “need” for convenience I have allowed many convenience foods into our home and diet. When I started giving artificial dyes the boot, I found I had to be aware of the different types of dyes, which ones were the “worst” and then look on every single ingredient list on every single food item if it were not from the produce department itself. Even then, did you know that oranges are dyed? The peel anyways.

Wikipedia has a great little rundown of the basics. Go there first. I would highlight that synthetic colors are made from petroleum and coal tar. That alone makes me go…wha? Also, in bold they list dyes that are the known suspects to cause behavioral issues. Namely, Blue No.1, Red No. 40 (which is used in most of the candy etc out there), Yellow No.5 (tartrazine) and Yellow No. 6.

Personally, if a food has “artificial coloring/dyes” listed I just say no. Oh, I have used tomato soup (which surprisingly does use coloring) and ketchup occasionally and it seems to be ok, but to be safe, I limit them.

The list of foods that contain the “bad dyes” is seemingly endless. I have found them in potato chips, chocolate cake mixes, noodle mixes, cereal, “natural” juices, fruit snacks, jams and jellies and those are the things that didn’t seem obvious to me like Jello and Kool-Aid.

Interestingly, artificial food dyes have been banned in many European countries. In fact, I read that the United States must make it’s products with natural food colorings if it exports them to Great Britain. I cannot remember where I read that but will be looking for it to link up here.

If you would like to cut artificial food coloring from your diet my advice is to be familiar with the different names for the dyes and look at the labels. It’s a lot of work but trying to KEEP it out is even more difficult. As I mentioned in the last post, schools, churches and other people’s’ houses are all littered with it. I cannot control everything that goes into my children’s’ mouths so I just grin (not) and bear the behavior when we know it’s been ingested. If I don’t know it’s been consumed, I am sure to find out with all sorts of behaviors. Like I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t even know that my 8 yr old had consumed it until I asked her after a rash of craziness. I told her that I knew she didn’t want to be like that and that it’s one of the big reasons we are eliminating colors from our diets. She seemed to (try and) understand.




Getting rid of Artificial Dye

The Food Coloring
The Food Coloring (Photo credit: Matthew Bland)

Yes, it’s the mother of all that is cruel in a child’s life…to take away artificial colorings. Afterall, aren’t those shiny red candies the BEST ones? Isn’t that too-red-for-words juice at the potluck table the only thing that will quench thirst? Even if I did bring a natural juice that tastes BETTER.

Yes, I am a cruel heartless mother who has taken her kids off of dyes. The damage has been done, and my little Aspie thinks it’s the end of the world. He thinks that red dye makes food tastier. Mmm hmmm….

It just may be the end of the world, because the word artificial is on every food label there could be! I haven’t even uttered a word about taking all artificial everything out of our diets yet, but it’s coming. Oh yes, the days is coming.

But let’s deal with the really bad food dyes, shall we? A plethora of research has been done (google it if you want, I don’t have the chutzpah to do it tonight and link it) to show how these food dyes have infiltrated our diets and a ton of foods you would never think would be littered with them, are.

What they cause are behavior issues, to start. This is what I deal with in my family. This is what I will talk about. Artificial food coloring have also been linked to cancer among other things. But behaviors are what I’m talking about.

In our family, we have one Aspie. Aspie children have behaviors that are a little more bizarre than the usual kid on the street. They may say things out of the blue that don’t really have relevance. He may concentrate on a particular subject for YEARS. He may cry after a frustrating go at something. He may be afraid to use the phone because it puts him in an awkward social situation that he can’t predict or script. Sensory issues bring out ticks, uttering that doesn’t make sense or doggie noises. Anxiety is a trigger for a lot of everything.

As he grows older and more mature these behaviors are becoming less and less pronounced overall unless, and I say unless as a foreshadowing…we have food dyes. Yes, I said it. I’ve noticed the difference myself. From a calm, caring, focused (for him), easy to redirect child, comes a hyper, bounce around the house, and impossible to redirect child. He’s bouncy bouncy bouncy. And while this would seem healthy as an exercise, it’s not particularly helpful when trying to complete schoolwork at home. He starts talking NONSTOP. This is a child who is conversational (one-sided, mind you) to a fault. He loves to talk, but after consuming dyes, he is a run-on sentence. Run-on sentences said at a speed no one could track is exhausting to the listener. All this said while bouncing.

We know how to partay! ahem.

then there is my second oldest who, bless her beautiful heart, reacts to Red 40 by becoming  ruthless assassin. She is smart as a whip and beautiful to boot, but infused with that deadly chemical anyone who looks at her the wrong way gets a full throttle beating, if you know what I mean. The claws come out. It gets ugly, fast. This is a recent (last wee and this week) observation as we had Valentines (can we say red and pink candy galore?), then she snuck a red candy yesterday and I figured it out only after a rash of karate moves to unsuspecting victims. Oh, perhaps they had it coming to them at some point, but that was not the case here. I totally called it and she confessed. I had no idea at the time of the exasperated conversation, that I was right, but knew she was eyeballing a candy from her sister’s stash that had RED 40 written all over it’s pretty red flower face. And she had taken that candy despite my earlier “NO!” to her.

So then,  the youngest two. I have just kept them away because we are staying away from it as a family. I am trying to have a healthier menu overall. My third child, has had some behavioral issues in the past, but is coming around nicely. I need to track his behavior when he’s been around the dastardly chemical enhancer. So far, the oldest two have kept me busy when something has been ingested so I’ll have to pay more attention to the younger two.

It is when they have functions at school, church or at friend’s houses that I can’t control what they eat. My one son (ironically, the one that doesn’t seem prone to behavioral outbursts at the time) kept himself from eating any of the food/candy that had dye in it on Valentines, in his class. So proud of him! He may be self-regulating himself that way and that is terrific!

How to keep them away from it for those times when I’m not with them, though. OY!

Any ideas on this from experienced parents?

When momma bear gets frustrated

Malayan sun bear (aka honey bear) at Burgers Z...
Malayan sun bear (aka honey bear) at Burgers Zoo, Arnhem, the Netherlands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After years of trying to get the cogs of the “Machine” to move (aka, lighting the fire of action under the butt of the school officials) today seems to have pushed the limit for me.

I was taking Honey (the youngest) to a new appointment at the school. This one was for a Family oriented SLP session. In the session, they are to teach us what we could do to help/support Honey at home. What I didn’t know, is that the “powers that be”, hired a stranger (yet again) and this stranger (albeit very nice) came in with NO PLAN whatsoever to start session. Now, SLP’s usually have a plan based off of an assessment. She had NO assessment given to her by the school, who was coordinating this event. She only had a  name (Honey’s) and knew nothing about her and her issues. When she came in late (roads were bad)  I was already worked up. But when she said she had nothing to plan and didn’t know where to go with the session, I about skyrocketed! I don’t just come to these appointments because I love them, you know. I come to a professional so that they can help US.

First off, school board, why are you hiring yet ANOTHER SLP that my child does not know? Thre are plenty of SLP’s that have worked in our school. Why one from almost 2 hours away? Why does it seem that you don’t care that children with special needs need consistency and relationship for there to be any cohesive plan. I won’t go on…I could rage on for a while.

Secondly. why wasn’t the SlP ready for the day? Who didn’t get the paperwork to her in time. She had a WHOLE extra week to plan because our inclement weather delayed our meeting last week.

I got STEAMED. And was about to give “whoever” a piece of my mind for not having the professionalism to give her the right paperwork. I was abrupt with the secretary then immediately apologized for my rudeness. The the principle came out, to whom I said “I’m so upset I can’t speak.” He took me to find one of the people who needed to be addressed and we found her right away. I explained the situation to her and she seemed just as ticked that the needed paperwork was not there. Yay. At least she had expected everything to be in order and had done what she could to make it so.  That means she wasn’t responsible.

It turns out I was not actually that upset about today’s mishap and miscommunication. Yes I was upset, but rather much, I’d say.  There was a  larger frustration at hand. The incident today triggered my frustration with the last 6 years and how this school (or rather the special ed dept) has been difficult to work with, not professional and will not think “outside the box”.

The gal that does Hannah’s planning IPPs and everything is new and I like her a lot. She coordinates the program. She just has really challenging things to work with. Won’t go there. I will another time.

At the end of the day, I may need to apologize to people I may have barked at and paced in front of. I think it pressed that button of frustration that has mounted over the last few years. That’s what I need to address and I will.

He doesn’t know

He knows, but he doesn’t know.

There is a boy at school with the same name as my boy. When I met him, I knew. I just knew. I saw it before he even reached out his hand to shake mine. The act of shaking my hand took me by surprise because I knew he was like my son. Like him, but not exactly. I wondered if there was just a sense about the whole thing.

Do other Autism Spectrum Moms just know? I don’t know, because I don’t really know any other moms with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) kids. I do, but I don’t. I should really get to know them better. No one had to tell me that this child was on the spectrum, or on some sort of spectrum.

But he shook my hand, which is strange for an ASD kid, so maybe I was wrong. Maybe my Aspie Mom sense was all tingly for nothing.

Then there was this one day when my boy said “This kid is really weird. He does strange things and is just really weird.” I almost snorted coffee right up to my brain, but suppressed it. My Aspie son was making social judgement on another ASD (at least in my head) child.

How do you tell your Aspie child that he’s weird too?

You don’t.

“Why is that kid so weird?” He asks me.

Um, uh, “I gotta go to the bathroom” I said and in my head continued …”and hopefully you’ll forget that you asked that question.”

Just how do you explain it? I mean, I tried. I told him kids are different and we are all valuable even if we do things differently than others. I told him that some people have disabilities you can’t see but affect the brain and that makes them act different and not process things like others. Inside my head voice continued, “Like you.”

I’ve just never really seen him as weird or different or disabled. I’ve never talked to him about being disabled or special needs. I know that others see him differently and with these labels. In fact, I pursued a label to get him help, but I don’t see him that way…not really. Having a diagnosis helps me understand his behaviors like never before. I like knowing what we are dealing with and how to help him thrive in this world. I  have never had the right words to say “Hey son, other people see you as ____.” I have told him that he has “Aspergers Syndrome” and what that kind of means. Really, how do you explain that to a child who thinks he’s “normal”? He just wants to be like everyone else.

I see my son as having a kind heart that bleeds with sensitivity. He loathes to see anyone hurt, whether it be human, animal or insect. He won’t even throw a spider outside on a cold day. Oh no. He’d rather keep them safe in a plastic container in the basement room with him, only to have me find it months later…*shiver* The value he places on life is a beautiful thing, though.

He’s been asking deep, introspective questions since he could form sentences. He asked me why God let bad things happen when he was three years old. What three-year old child asks that? That scratches the surface of questions he would ask and I would have no clue about how to answer them in a way that would make sense to a small child. He would often have me stumped. I’m happy that he is at an age where he can understand many more concepts and it is easier to answer those questions.

My son is a child that will go to great lengths to help and please his parents and friends. His willingness to do things when asked (as long as it’s not school related) is a shining beacon to those around him. This is a beautiful thing when you need him to do the dishes, but can be a harmful characteristic when friends start to influence.

Some people may see my son as obsessive, but I think that he just has focused interests. So what if he can’t think of anything besides Star Wars for three years straight. I’m ok with the fact that every spring he gets excited about looking for insects to take care of and love and try to take inside. I’ve become ok with it, and he’s become ok that the insects stay outside. Every fall we deal with the disappointment that the frost brings. No more insects to love and inspect except those little beetles and spiders that just won’t die when they find their way inside.

But how do you explain an invisible disability to a child who is so incredibly able to do so much?

We talk about strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. When he struggles I relate to him in the struggle and give him examples of those who have overcome to do great things. When his strengths stand out, we are quick to encourage him in them. Like the bug thing.

He doesn’t know. So how do we tell him? Do we have to?