Looks an AUful lot like AUtism, but is it?

Ten years ago, Gluten Free Works was the first to publish an article outlining over 300 symptoms related to Celiac Disease. These 300 symptoms are broken down into various categories. Several of the categories – Nervous System Symptoms (disorders of the nerves and brain), Child Development Symptoms, Behavioral Symptoms, Neurological Issues, and Cognitive (Thinking) Symptoms – share several symptoms present in other developmental disorders, such as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)Autism, and Attention Deficit Disorder. These overlapping symptoms include (but are not limited to) anxiety, apathy, nervousness, difficulty making friendships, easy frustration and anger, restlessness, impatience, lack of feeling, aloofness, hyperactivity, timid behavior, violent behavior, lack of desire to get things done, brain atrophy, depression, inattentiveness, inability to concentrate, irritability, disorientation, faulty learning, poor memory, confused thinking, slow thinking, scattered thinking, etc.

I devoted about 2.5 years of my life googling these symptoms, because these were the very behavioral, cognitive and neurological symptoms I saw puppeteering my son Kyle’s development. One day I’d personally diagnose him with Sensory Processing Disorder. The next day I’d be certain he had Autism, only to refocus my attention on Attention Deficit Disorder a week later. And Kyle’s doctors, whom I typically appreciate and value, offered no more clarity than my own google search. Our pediatrician sent us to a specialized developmental pediatrician, who wrote Kyle an order to receive occupational therapy (OT) as treatment for a sensory processing disorder. He began receiving OT at Lutheran General Hospital in February of 2017. One month later, after enduring months of evaluations and rating scales, our school district gave Kyle an educational diagnosis of Autism (complete with an IEP). We agreed to the diagnosis, thrilled that our son would finally receive the school services he so desperately needs. However, even after the diagnosis, I kept questioning myself: “Sure, his symptoms look an AUful lot like AUtism, but could it be something else?” It wasn’t that I was in denial of the diagnosis. It’s just that through all of my googling, and all of my doctor juggling, my GUT kept telling me that there was something deeper going on here.

Sure enough, this past June, a biopsy done at Lutheran General Hospital, diagnosed Kyle with Celiac Disease. The damage done to Kyle’s small intestine at just 5 short years of age is just heartbreaking. No wonder Celiac Disease causes so many ugly developmental symptoms. Undiagnosed celiac kids are completely malnourished! In fact, it may take a year or more of being on a completely gluten free diet to repair the damage.

Now just because my son has Celiac Disease, does not necessarily cancel out his Autism diagnosis. Current studies published by Autism Speaks suggest that there is no link between Autism and Celiac Disease, although many parents of children with Autism praise the benefits of going gluten (and even casein) free. However, I do believe that it is 100% possible that Kyle’s early onset of Celiac Disease (during such crucial developmental years), may have fueled many of the behavioral, cognitive and neurological symptoms that are also often associated with Autism. Again, sure his symptoms look an AUful lot like AUTism, but they also look an awful lot like Celiac Disease, and there’s no question about it anymore. After all my googling, and all my juggling, Kyle has a medical diagnosis of Celiac Disease.

The message of my compare and contrast chart is this: Get your child screened. If you’re a parent spending years of your life googling symptoms and juggling doctors, get your child screened. Lutheran General Hospital offers free screenings yearly. The next one is scheduled to take place on March 11, 2018.

The Pediatric Celiac Center at Advocate Children’s Hospital-Park Ridge presents

FREE Celiac Blood Screening
For Adults and Children Age 3 and Older
Sunday March 11, 2018
Advocate Lutheran General Hospital Center for Advanced Care
1700 Luther Lane, Park Ridge, IL

Pre-Registration is REQUIRED and opens January 29, 2018

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