Social skills classes for kids recovered from autism

Nate will be 10 years old in less than 2 months (!), and he is doing very well. He does well in school, has good friends at church, has several interests, and is a responsible boy. While we continue with our wholesome nutrition and natural medicine lifestyle, we still want to do all we can to help him have the tools he needs to succeed. So last year, he began going to a once-a-week social skills class, and it has been fantastic. What is interesting is that this type of class is almost nowhere to be found for kids Nate’s age! There are therapy offerings all over the place for young children, but what about when those young children do well and “graduate”? There is almost nothing for them when their “quirks” start standing out among their peers.

At 5 years old, Nate was considered “recovered” from autism and no longer qualified for a diagnosis. He was doing great! But it didn’t mean he was a different child; he was still Nate and still had his quirks. He loved touching babies’ hair; he would often talk about topics he wanted to talk about and never thought to ask questions or seek to understand others’ feelings; he was extremely literal and precise (“Teacher, you said we would be going outside at 10:00, but it is 10:01.”); he had a constant desire to be first (in line, through the door, etc.). But other 5 year olds never noticed those quirky behaviors or at least didn’t think anything of them. Fast forward 3 or 4 years, and those quirks started standing out. Eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old kids notice a lot more and, while they’re exploring their own identities, they begin to point out differences they see in others. Those kids who were quirkily cute at 5 years old are now annoyingly different at 9. To make matters worse, dealing with slight ridicule and letting things roll off one’s back and navigating “playground politics” are tools that especially don’t come naturally to kids like Nate. It’s a vicious cycle!–because kids who lash back at and respond poorly to slight ridicule are often the ones who begin being more-than-slightly ridiculed.

So while our “recovered” kids are often extremely smart and do well academically–and therefore are not deemed to need any assistance–there is a great need for social helps in middle and later elementary school. And the need for this type of service will only increase, as more and more 2- and 3-year-old boys and girls are being diagnosed on the spectrum.

At the center we go to (, classes are filled with 4 to 6 close-in-age peers, and they work on lots of things in one hour! Here are some things Nate’s class has worked on or works on every week:

– impulse control
– how to work as a group on things like choosing and playing a game
– sportsmanship
– talking about the difference between “laughing at” and “laughing with”
– remembering to ask questions and listen to others’ responses
– what types of topics are good for 9- and 10-year-old boys to have conversations about (besides just Minecraft)
– therapist takes video of the kids talking with each other and then goes over the video to point out good things and areas for improvement (usually interrupting and not listening)
– how to greet each other (no hugs)
– what to do if you feel like crying at school (and talking about how they’re now too old to do that)

This is not “play-based therapy” where the kids don’t know why they’re there and think they’re just playing. This is a social skills class where Nate knows he goes to learn “how to be a better friend and make friends.” The therapists get the most out of each hour in training, reminding, and helping the kids–which I appreciate. We have been thankful for these classes and have seen improvement in Nate’s interactions at school!

Delicious breakfast treat: healthy French toast

imageA few weeks ago, I made this French toast for the whole family, and they loved it. We don’t normally do bread–even gluten-free–so this is a treat!

Target carries Canyon Bakehouse bread (I’ve tried both the Mountain White and the 7 Grain) and–as a treat–the ingredients are pretty good! Also, according to their website, their breads are non-GMO.

6 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

2 t cinnamon

1 13.5-oz can full-fat, organic coconut milk (I usually get canned Native Forest)

16 slices / 1 loaf of healthy bread (Mountain White and  7 Grain both worked well)


Directions: beat eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a shallow dish or bowl, then stir in milk. Dip bread in the mixture, coating both sides. Then place the bread on a preheated griddle or large skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes until browned, then flip. Remove to a plate and keep warm in the oven, if needed. Serve on plates with plenty of grass-fed butter and organic grade B maple syrup, and maybe some sliced strawberries or blueberries!

What are GMOs and do they matter?

GMOs are genetically modified organisms–plants or animals whose cells have been inserted with a gene (genetic engineering) from an unrelated species in order to take on specific characteristics. The crops most commonly genetically modified are corn, canola, soybean and cotton. (source)


While the reasoning behind beginning genetic modification may be good (trying to strengthen crops against pests, producing greater quantities of crops, etc.), the results have been negative for humans’ health. Disturbing the natural, created order of foods at a cellular level causes “unpredicted alterations” (Weston A. Price Foundation – source below) and unintended consequences:

The gene insertion process, whether accomplished via a “gene gun” or through infection by Agrobacterium, can really mess up the normal functioning of the plants’ DNA. It can create mutations, deletions, and altered gene expression near the point where the gene is inserted and elsewhere. Then the transformed cell is cloned into a GM plant using tissue culture, which can produce hundreds or thousands of additional mutations throughout the plants’ genome. In total, a GM plant’s DNA can be 2-4 percent different from that of its natural parent. In addition, up to 5 percent of the natural genes can alter their levels of protein expression as a result of a single insertion. (source)

These unpredicted alterations caused by genetic engineering “can result in new or higher levels of allergens, toxins, carcinogens and anti-nutrients” (same source). Click through to my source for numerous examples. These increased levels of negative contents have been shown to provoke immune response, permeate the intestinal wall, and damage gut flora–and all three of those reactions have far-reaching, long-term consequences themselves (e.g., many neurological disorders with a gut-brain link like autism, ADD/ADHD, depression).

In addition, beyond the cellular changes in the organisms themselves, a main reason behind genetic modification is to make plants resistant to herbicides. “The vast majority of GMOs are herbicide tolerant—they allow specific herbicides to be sprayed on fields without damaging the GM plant. Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, tolerate applications of Roundup herbicide” (same source).

The bottom line is that I do not want to put these toxins (from the genetic mutations themselves and from the herbicides) into my body or into my kids’ bodies. 

How to avoid GMOs

If you, like me, want to avoid GMOs, there are some steps to take.

  1. First, certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs.
  2. Second, when reading an ingredient label you’re unsure about, you can be pretty sure the following ingredients are GM: amino acids, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, natural flavorings and/or artificial flavorings (this seems to be a favorite way for labelers to hide lots of nasty stuff!), high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate, textured vegetable protein (TVP), vitamins, and yeast products (and here is a more exhaustive list).
  3. Third, you can buy fewer packaged products and switch to a more whole-foods, unprocessed diet that includes organic produce and meats from verified sources.
  4. Finally, you can visit The Non-GMO Project and click FIND NON-GMO to find products, restaurants, and retailers that do not use GM ingredients. (I also appreciated this article about avoiding GMOs when eating out.)

On a side note, I do not believe it is the government’s job to ban things like GMOs. I believe it is people’s right to research and decide for themselves and, if they decide not to consume GMOs, to buy those more expensive foods that don’t contain them (rather than the government dictating everyone must buy the more expensive choices). There is a current movement to try to get labeling mandated; personally, I’d appreciate clearer labeling, but not at the cost of higher prices for everyone. Even without labeling changes, it is possible for a consumer to do his/her own research and know which companies and which types of ingredients to avoid.

The measles outbreak, fear mongering, and vaccines

A recent measles outbreak, which started at Disneyland and has infected approximately 70 people, has put “the anti-vaccine movement” on the front pages of every news outlet. The media, always eager to sensationalize, has turned this into a full-blown epidemic and placed the blame on people who do not vaccinate. fear-2 How about these article headlines?

or this quotation from ABC News:

Others have delayed getting their children vaccinated because they still believe now-discredited research linking the measles vaccine to autism. “Some people are just incredibly selfish” by skipping shots, said Dr. James Cherry, a pediatric disease expert at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Like every other mainstream news story I’ve read, the ABC story above oversimplifies, discounts, and discredits parents’ views. Most people I know who do not vaccinate their children have made that choice for myriad reasons–and one of those reasons is usually not that they “still believe” defunct research. (And it bugs me to no end that the media automatically discredit that research without linking to any supporting information. It’s like they believe the research is discredited just because all the other media outlets have said so–so now it’s truth.)

Briefly, here are the reasons we do not vaccinate:

  • Vaccines contain some terrible and toxic ingredients, like human cell lines from aborted infants, formaldehyde, ammonium sulfate, MSG, thimerosal (mercury), and more. Even the CDC website lists these ingredients on its “you don’t have anything to be worried about” page (see that page or the PDF listing all ingredients also on that page). In addition, our bodies don’t know how to process the synthetic ingredients in vaccines, and so those ingredients end up being stored in our “long-term storage centers”–our fat tissue. (source and source)
  • There are lots of side effects. The CDC placates us by saying, “Any vaccine can cause side effects.”
  • Our child who was vaccinated (Nate) has a history of being affected by environmental toxins (like vaccines), and we don’t want to assault his body again.
  • We believe strongly that parents should be able to make the decision about whether to vaccinate their child.

In addition, because two of our kids do not have the MMR vaccine, here are some steps I take to help support our immune systems naturally:

  • We all take a daily dose of high-quality probiotic (good gut flora are very beneficial for immunity!) and cod liver oil
  • I apply essential oils to my kids’ necks, heads, and feet each morning before school.
  • We eat a wholesome, nourishing diet.

Finally, what if we do come in contact with the measles virus and one of the kids contracts it? Well, once symptoms arise (this article spells them out), I would help along a low-grade fever like I always do (email me for the details on how I treat a low-grade fever and the steps I take to prevent ear infection and aid the immune system). Finally, in one of the articles linked below, one researcher found that cinnamon oil made measles cases milder. I have some cinnamon bark essential oil on hand. I don’t imagine getting the measles would be pleasant at all, but at this point I still feel strongly that we do not want to vaccinate, especially with the MMR.

Here are a couple of excellent articles on this topic I’ve read:

– A fantastic article my husband Jon found with extensive research – The Truth About Measles the Mainstream Media is Suppressing

and another source with similar information by the same author: Measles and measles vaccines: fourteen things to consider

– Article written in “regular words” by a chemist – Herd Immunity: Three Reasons Why I Don’t Vaccinate My Children… And Why Vaccine Supporters Shouldn’t Care That I Use Vaccine Exemption Forms

Our before-school morning routine

Weekday mornings are always a bit of a rush, but there are a few things I make sure to do every day to help ensure our kids have a successful day. By successful day, I mean avoiding sickness as much as possible, being kind to others and respectful to teachers, paying attention in class, and staying calm and anxiety-free.

– probiotics and cod liver oil: the kids line up before breakfast to get their dose of high-quality probiotics (we use this one) and spoonful of cod liver oil (here is ours). Probiotics help populate the gut with beneficial bacteria and are a natural immunity booster. Cod liver oil is excellent for brain health, focus, and overall nutrition.

– nourishing hot breakfast: I want to fill the kids’ bellies with a nourishing, good-fat-filled, protein-rich breakfast. Here is what I typically make.

– essential oils: while they’re eating breakfast (or sometimes afterward if I’m busy), I put various EOs on the backs of the kids’ necks and/or behind their ears. Comment with your email and I will give you all the details!

31 Days: my favorites


Welcome! Today is the last day in the 31 Days writing challenge, where I’ve posted every day (except three) for the month of October. Here are my favorite posts from this month:

Raising chickens to overcome fear of animals – I loved this post because I got to put up pictures of our chickens when they were cute little chicks, but also because this was a real issue with a real solution we experienced in the last year.

Food at school – I like being able to give practical, easy-to-implement tips like in this post. My favorite “treat” recipe is also included in this one.

Nourishing recipes worth taking time for: broth – broth is such an important part of natural, whole foods nutrition!

Recipes that saved my sanity – more practical tips, links, and recipes.

A nutty treat – I rarely do recipe posts with pictures, but this one was fun.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’ve detailed our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries.

Why I write

I must admit, I thought I would have at least a few people read and comment on some of my posts this month. However, that wasn’t my main motivation for writing every day. My hope is that, by writing our experiences, I might help someone, at some point. I know my blog isn’t the fanciest, doesn’t have lots of photos, isn’t expertly designed, but if it comforts or teaches or helps another family going through similar trials, it’s a success! I would have been so encouraged to have found another mom like me when we were in those first couple of years of diagnosis and therapies with Nate.

So in that vein, if you are here for the first time and are dealing with a new (or old) autism diagnosis, try these posts:

Intro to treating autism

2014 check-in

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Q&A time

I’m enjoying this 31-day journey of writing every day, compiling our experiences, and thinking through what has become important to us nutrition-wise over the years. Is there something I haven’t covered that you are wondering about? Leave a comment, and I’ll answer your questions in another post!

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Eating well when eating out


It’s certainly possible to dine out and eat well, and there are many posts that already exist on this topic! Here are a couple:

The Primal Blueprint Guide to Dining Out

Dining Out, Paleo-Style

Cooking at home will almost always be more nutritious than dining out, of course. And yes, we want to be prepared with quick-to-make and easy-to-prepare nutritious meals in our pantries at home. But sometimes we just have to eat out! When those times occur, I think it’s mostly about common sense and grace. Use our common sense when looking at a menu or asking about ingredients, and then stick to the most whole-foods options we see. Then have some grace on ourselves when we have to choose something less than ideal.

For our family, there are a few places we go regularly. Chipotle is one of my favorites! For the kids, we get a salad (the boys have their lettuce pushed to the side because they don’t like everything mixed together) with carnitas and guacamole, no dressing. Lucy also gets the pico de gallo on hers. I love that Chipotle lists all their ingredients on their website, including GMOs (which their tortilla chips do contain). We also eat at Chick-Fil-A. The kids get the grilled nuggets and a small fry (a treat!). Finally, In-n-Out gets a large chunk of our eating-out money. The kids get either plain meat patties (the boys) or a hamburger protein-style with grilled onions and tomatoes only (Lucy), plus they share one order of fries. Are these choices the absolute best? No. But they are much better than what we used to do. Also, when we do go to a sit-down restaurant with the kids (which is rare), we can usually find a few things to order: plain hamburger patties (check there is nothing added to the hamburger and ask it be cooked with no extras besides salt and pepper), plain steak, side of avocado, side of steamed vegetables, etc.

It’s certainly possible to stick to nutritious eating when you go out. I often find, though, that the price tag for the kinds of foods I want to order for the kids dissuades us from eating out as much as we used to!

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

A recipe worth the wait

This is my favorite patience-trying recipe, worth it in so many ways.

Making it this way preserves the raw garlic benefits (mostly from allicin, which is formed from garlic when a compound called alliin in garlic comes into contact with the garlic enzyme alliinase when raw garlic is cut, crushed or chewed. When you heat or cook garlic, alliinase becomes inactivated, preventing the production of allicin).

Pickled garlic

Fresh garlic cloves (several bulbs worth)
Apple cider vinegar
Honey, raw
Jar with lid
Wax paper

Carefully peel the cloves of garlic without nicking them. (If you nick them, they will look funny but are still usable). Peel enough to fill a jar. You can use any size jar.

Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. If the jar’s lid is metal, cover the mouth of the jar with wax paper and then screw on the lid. (I’ve found it easier to use a glass jar with plastic lid.) Place a label on the jar. Keep at room temp and shake daily for 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks, pour off half the vinegar. (Save this for using in cooking). Add honey to fill to top. Re-cover and shake. Shake daily for another 6 weeks.

The garlic is now ready to eat! You can eat them as a treat or take at the first sign of illness.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.