Becoming a Grandmother
by Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed., NCC
Yesterday I become a grandmother when Penelope Joy Day arrived in this world. What a miracle! Her perfectly formed body and its pre-programmed functions amaze me. Within minutes she opened her eyes, sucked like a pro, and showed us her startle reflex. So little, yet so complicated.
My wonderful daughter did everything right. Her planned pregnancy was technologically monitored and managed. Prior to conception, she switched to non- toxic pest control, checked her thyroid function and completed a detoxification program. During the long nine months, she ate mostly organic, gluten- and dairy- free, practiced yoga and Pilates, and avoided nail salons. Her husband gave her foot massages went grocery shopping. They knew they were having a daughter; learned about vaccines, and purchased toxin-free baby bedding. She had acupuncture. During labor, the midwife and doula were awesome.
This precautionary behavior is necessary because of all I have learned from my work in the past 35 years about the role The world has changed! I did none of these things. Yet I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful, intelligent, emotionally strong daughter. How was that possible?
What follows is an overview comparing standard practices a generation ago to those now, with common sense guidelines for healthcare professionals, educators, and parents to balance out unforeseen obstructions to development. With conservative estimates at one in six children having delays requiring intervention, we are forced to consider prevention.
- Managed care: Last generation’s family doctor was a friend who came to the house. Today’s doctors are a part of a huge managed care conglomerate, where they spend an average of seven minutes per patient. Physicians must train nurse practitioners to take thorough histories and do developmental screenings. Ask what children are eating, drinking and breathing, and how much sleep, screen time and exercise they are getting. Encourage healthy diets, sufficient sleep, good hydration and daily exercise. Stay current on emerging research in autism and related disorders. Attend holistic, multidisciplinary biomedical meetings, such as the Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) conference.
- Vaccines: Today’s children are mandated to receive over 50 vaccines before entering school, compared to a single shot for smallpox 50 years ago. The incidence of autism and attention deficits has increased parallel to the number of vaccines. The long-term effects of thimerosal and other toxic ingredients such as aluminum and formaldehyde are unknown. Immunize responsibly. Use only thimerosal-free, single valent vaccines. Space out shots, allowing the body to recover in between. If parents ask for a modified vaccination schedule, cooperate, rather than chastise. "Ask Eight Before you Vaccinate." Never vaccinate a sick child, or one on or just coming off of antibiotics, Take a previous vaccine reaction seriously. Refrain from using acydaminiphin as an antidote to a reaction, as it sucks up any of the baby’s glutathione, which assists in removing toxic metals. Draw blood titers before giving boosters. Schools require proof of immunity, not proof of shots.
- Antibiotics: Consider natural alternatives to antibiotics and stimulant medications. We now suspect that these powerful drugs are "dumbing down" our immune systems and triggering yeast overgrowth in the gut. Research shows the efficacy of herbal, dietary and homeopathic treatments for ear infections, colic, asthma, constipation, diarrhea, eczema and other childhood ailments, which almost always occur early on in children later diagnosed with autism.
The Environment and Society
- Environmental toxins and food additives: In the past 50 years, air, water and soil have become contaminated, and MSG, aspartame, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives have crept into most foods. Kids consume sodas, colored cereals and baked goods, which have virtually no nutritional value. The "Body Burden" study by the Environmental Working Group showed how many cancer-causing toxins "healthy" people are harboring in their bodies. Label reading is now an inherent part of grocery shopping.
Take daily measures to prevent exposure to and rid young bodies of environmental toxins. Eat organic, fresh fruits and vegetables, drink bottled water and detoxify with saunas and herbs. Use no- VOC paint and other non-toxic materials for renovations, cleaning and art materials. Assure that schools have no asbestos or lead paint. Use natural flooring instead of carpet with chemicals that off-gas for years. Buy or make your own natural cleaning products.
- Increase in fast food and eating out: Today, most of us eat an average of only three meals a week together at home, compared to three meals a day 50 years ago. Drive through chain restaurants, eating in the car on the way to and from lessons, microwavable pre-packaged and frozen entrees, have replaced the need for a kitchen. Children are missing out on not just natural foods, but the experiences that accompany them.
Eat one meal a day together …and in the car doesn’t count! Serve a varied menu of organic and home-cooked food. Experiment with ancient gluten-free grains like millet, quinoa and amaranth. Make soup. Buy cookbooks; take a cooking class. Turn off the television and computer; do not answer the phone. Let kids take their time to accept or not eat what is put in front of them. Don’t force feed, prod, plead or bribe.
- Safety concerns and technology: Babies today are moved through space in car seats, back packs and strollers. Game Boys, IPOD‘s, DVD‘s, computer games and videos have replaced playing ball, checkers and Monopoly, and building forts,. Kids go to malls instead of into the woods. Gone are the days when they would literally disappear into the neighborhood and come home when the street lights came on. Now they are connected by cell phones.
Allow children to crawl, walk and explore space. Limit screen time, and encourage warm and fuzzy alternatives, such as reading and singing, especially close to bedtime. Zoning out in front of a screen limits children’s natural sensory needs to touch and move. Videos also implant the wrong kinds of images in the mind’s eye. Games promote socialization, language, anticipation, strategizing, counting, sequencing and thinking.
- Accelerated academic curriculum and early reading initiatives: "Leave no child behind" has hastened the teaching of reading and writing to a generation of children who cannot sleep through the night, tie their shoes or speak in complete sentences. Kindergarten now looks like first grade. Our youngest students are expected to "sit still and pay attention." If they can’t, we label them "learning disabled" or as having an "attention deficit disorder." Many still have poor control over their own bodies, let alone pencils and scissors. Some stare out the window for visual relief, or wiggle and squirm to keep alert.
Make sure that children are fully five-years-old before entering kindergarten. Give those with summer and fall birthdays "the gift of time" to develop foundational skills before introducing academics prematurely. A tremendous amount of learning precedes reading and writing. Make sure children have good motor control of both the upper and lower parts of their bodies before making them sit still and pay attention. Extra time in pre-academic pursuits avoids unnecessary labeling, testing and individualized educational plans for those who will catch up, if allowed to be kids.
- Recess, P.E. art and music: Developmental specialists recognize that movement is food for the nervous system. Young bodies need "free" play to learn how to control their bodies spontaneously and to use their imaginations as much as they need a nutritious breakfast. Computer lab and foreign language classes in elementary school are inappropriate. Music and art lessons along with competitive group sports can wait.
Teachers must incorporate movement activities into the school day with Brain Gym or other "warm-ups," such as "One Minute Moves" from S’Cool Moves. Let kids play outside even in bad weather; connecting with nature is good for them. Daily recess and physical education are essential through middle school.
- Increase in 2 working parents with distance separating relatives: Out of financial necessity, stay-at-home moms are fewer. Stress inevitably arises from parents who are thinking about the kids while at work and work while at home. The most successful families have strict boundaries between the two parts of their lives. The rare family still has relatives nearby. Kids hardly know their grandparents, spending a few precious days a year with them in a whirlwind of ice cream, movies and Disneyland treats.
- Sleep deprivation: Know anyone who is not sleep deprived? Many kids have disregulated and disrupted sleep, which interferes with their bodies’ ability to heal. Sleep deprivation impairs metabolism, immune function and motor skills. It increases stress hormones, and cripples sugar metabolism. School-aged children need 10-12 hours of sleep a night, teenagers 8½ - 9 hours, and adults 7- 8½ hours. One study found that a majority of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) no longer qualified for that label once they caught up on their sleep. Buy organic cotton clothing and bedding. Traditional pajamas and mattresses are coated with flame retardants that send toxic chemicals through the skin during sleep.
- Establish day and night-time routines. Introduce time concepts to kids early. Use words like "next week, tomorrow, in 5 minutes." Keep the same sequence of events for meals, homework and bed-time rituals. Be stalwart in sticking to them, except in very special circumstances, such as on a birthday or holiday. Kids like the safety and security of routine. They do not push limits if they know you are serious.
We’re all ecstatic to see the autism epidemic starting to decline. By incorporating some of the above antidotes to a changing world, everyone can work collaboratively in the best interest of today’s children. The result will be happier, more functional families, more independent, recovered children, more productive schools, fewer burned-out teachers, more contented doctors and savings of millions of dollars in health and education. And best of all, my grand-daughter and yours will have a much safer and friendlier planet on which to grow up and prosper.[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 11, Number 4 - Summer, 2006]