Will’s Rainbow Connection: Guest Post by Michele MacLennan
Hi! My name is Michele and I live in the northern suburbs of Illinois. I have three lovely kids – Aiden (8), Will (6), and Kaitlyn (almost 4!). I am a stay at home mom which is a full time job and then some. I am active in cub scouts with my boys and in community theater, and I have started a blog, “Food to Dye for .” Not long ago we started the dye-free, preservative-free life.
It’s not something I thought I’d be doing a year ago, and to be honest I thought overall we ate pretty healthy.
I had started with a cooking blog a few years ago that I did from time to time. It was just about trying to do things from scratch from time to time. I had known for sometime just from dieting and trying to lose weight that we should eat less processed food just because of the salt and additives in things.
So we’d eat homemade meals like two or three times a week, frozen pizza and a few pre-made frozen dinners. We still ate McDonald’s and fast food a few times a week at that time. The kids ate Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, crackers…and it was no big deal overall. They had the occasional candy and my husband always had Oreos or some other kind of cookies on hand…he’s a cookie nut.
This all started with Will (my middle child) when he started Kindergarten in the Fall of 2011. Will has always been a sweet boy, but has had some sensory issues. Loud noises from a fire truck to the vacuum cleaner would send him over the edge. He would get in your space with out much thought about it, and you had to repeat things 100 times to get his attention. I know it sounds normal but trust me it was way more-so than what is normal.
At the beginning of the year we had an incident at school where he freaked out over the loudness of the flushing of the potty in the classroom! You can imagine my horror when the teacher called to tell me Will ran around the Kindergarten room with his hands over his ears and his pants around his ankles from being scared at the sound. I can laugh about it now, but something was clearly up with my son.
Sure we had dealt with issues in preschool where he would not sit still, but after some time, that had passed so I was not worried about him being ready for school.
By the second month of school I was routinely getting notes and calls about his behavior…he would not do his work, he was spacing out, he would break things. We tried “stop lights” charts, we tried smile charts, everything from positive re-enforcement to threatening to take things away.
I’m not proud of the last part of that, but when you are at the end of your rope you start to try anything you can think of to get them to somehow do what they are supposed to.
All of these things by the way, would work for a day or maybe a week, and then we would go right back to where we started.
The low for us had to be in December when I got a call from the Assistant School Principal that he had been sent to her office. It seemed he was flat out refusing to do any work, or sit, and was ignoring the teacher.
What Kindergartner goes to the Principal’s office!? They suggested an evaluation with the school psychologist which just sent my head spinning. This was Kindergarten! What was going to happen in the future when things got much harder!?
It was December and the holiday break came, and I was looking at everything I could get my hands on for ideas on how to deal with this. I was terrified that he was going to be labeled a problem kid or we would need an ADD evaluation, which was about the only thing I was coming up with as an answer as to why he was doing this.
Then I had a chance conversation with an acquaintance of mine about this, and she asked the question that changed everything for us – Had I looked at his diet? His diet!?
She had read something recently about a connection with food color and/or preservatives and ADD-type behavior. So I looked for everything I could find on this, and devoured the information. I was not expecting much, to be honest. I had read that the FDA did not feel there was a true connection, though there was more research being done.
We pulled everything with food coloring, and that was no easy task. I was lucky though to find some great blogs (this being one of them) online to help guide and support me…the remainder was trial and error for us.
School started back up and the notes and phone calls stopped. His smile chart was full of smiles! His teacher pulled me aside about a month later asking what I did, Will was a totally different boy. He was paying attention, doing his work, answering things in school!
The change was remarkable and other than a few days here and there (and one bad week that luckily got back on track quickly), we have had great reports from school! Even friends could see the difference in how calm he was! At home he was a lot easier to get to cooperate and his behavior with his brother and sister was worlds better.
I can recall one day, before we made the change, asking Will what was going on. His answer was “I don’t feel like my brain is in control of my body, Mom.” He now tells me that’s not an issue and he will even tell people that he can’t have food color it because makes him feel weird. It’s pretty amazing that he will ask about what is in something now.
It still amazes me how many things have food color in them! Yogurt, crackers, candy, cereal, mac and cheese – it goes on and on. I’ve talked about it before but I think our food industry has hit a low when you see that most pickles have food coloring in them. Really? Pickles are green, if they are not neon green, I will still buy them.
I hope maybe this story might help someone…it’s a daunting thing to try to figure out what is going on when this happens with your beautiful child. Knowing there are others out there who have dealt with it, and there are things to try, helps. This might not work for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I’d love to see everyone try to go dye-free for two weeks and see if there is a change for you and your families’ health.
Putting this junk into our bodies cannot be good for us! So while behavior or attention issues might not be how your body or your kid’s body responds to this stuff, I’d don’t know about you, but I’d rather lean to the side that does not have to find out the answer to HOW my body is going to react to it.
Many of us can relate to our children having an issue at school, so I really appreciate Michele’s honesty in sharing her struggles. Please post questions for Michele in a comment below, and check out her blog “Food To Dye For” for some great ideas.