FOOD STORY: How My Family Found a New Normal

Xavier at 3

Xavier at 3.

My son, Xavier, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD when he was 4. I can’t say that that day changed our lives – we had been living with severe tantrums and mood swings for over a year already.

I can say that I felt relieved. I had a starting point. I could research.

After visiting a plethora of doctors, all whom wanted to put him on a variety of medications, I started looking into other variables that we have control over. I was hopeful that with some behavior modifications we wouldn’t have to change our lives too much.

At 5 my son entered kindergarten. That year was THE most traumatic year in my life and his.

He missed more days of school than he attended. I regularly picked him up early because of incidents. The decision was made to add him to the waiting list for The Children’s Annex (now The Center for Spectrum Services), which is a wonderful program in Kingston.

What Xavier’s time in kindergarten DID show us, though, was that this wasn’t going away by wishing or mild changes that work with neuro-typical kids, like sticker charts and bribery. We also felt strongly that medication was a path we wanted to go down only after we had exhausted all other options.

So we started researching diet and environmental variables that we had control over. I took out as many of the processed foods as I could when he was 6. His moods stabilized somewhat.

Over the next three years we refined his diet and environment, adding fish oil, melatonin and daily multi-vitamin to his diet. We removed white flour and white sugar, as well as dairy and most animal proteins. We added organic fruits and vegetables in large quantities to his diet, well over the 5 daily recommended by the USDA. He enjoys some processed desserts and snacks, although they are used sparingly.

A very happy birthday boy

Xavier this past year, right after his birthday party (a big social milestone for us, since 17 out of his 22 classmates came to his party).

What we found was that there was no silver bullet. Instead, we made small changes that nudged him closer to stabilization. As a family, we worked together until we had a program that worked for us.

Is this extreme? For a neurologically normal child, it may be. But for a “normal” Aspergers kid, severe depression, suicide and social isolation are the norm. I don’t want that for my beautiful, loving son, so I will use the tools I have at my disposal.

Is his behavior perfect? Not by a long shot, but he is back in regular classes, with no aid. What that means, in the real world, is that my beautiful son can interact normally (although somewhat awkwardly at times) with his peers without an adult hovering over the interaction to make sure it is positive. His classmates have accepted him, his teachers push him to succeed academically and he has hit so many “normal” milestones that seemed so out of reach when he was that three-year-old boy throwing tantrums in the middle of the playground.

Our family is picky about what we eat, and it can, at times, cause socially awkward moments during social occasion, but it seems such a small price for a bright future for my son.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have a food story you’d like to share? Use our Contact form to tell us all about it. 


Vivian Mandala is mom of three amazing kids, wife and a mindful business owner of Vivian Mandala Design Studio, whose mission is the create Interior Spaces and Outdoor Rooms where people can connect. She is also a grateful member of the Rhinebeck communty and the driving force behind the Rhinebeck Schools Edible Garden Campaign.

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