I'd like you to meet Jack - a great little guy I know...
Jack came with his family for an occupational therapy assessment with a number of concerns, and his mum, Bianca, was worried he might have "sensory processing disorder". Jack was having severe tantrums (lasting 1 hour at a time). He was extremely oversensitive to everyday things in life e.g. brushing his hair, little knocks to his body, applying cream, noises, temperature and textures of foods.
Prior to our first appointment Bianca had commenced the RPH Elimination Diet which saw some improvement in the length of tantrums. However, when I first met Jack he was struggling with a range of developmental, sensory and behavioural issues.
Our initial appointments focused on thorough OT assessment of Jack's skills. Jack had excellent imaginative play skills and problem solving/cognitive skills. However, he was having difficulties with many other areas including drawing and pencil/paper tasks, using scissors and dressing himself. And his hypersensitivities to a range of sensory input were making it difficult for him to enjoy regular childhood activities like enjoying playground equipment and eating a variety of foods.
During our early appointments I mentioned gut health and the GAPS protocol a few times and encouraged Jack's mum to read the GAPS book. A few weeks later at one of our OT appointments Bianca told me that she was going to do it - she was going to embark on the GAPS journey to help her and both her sons (the other was battling with allergies).
Over a period of 4 months we have kept in close contact. Bianca and Jack have implemented a range of strategies to help with daily tasks. However, one of the biggest things they have done is progress through the Intro Diet of the GAPS Protocol. It wasn't easy and we were in touch a lot. However, the results have been really quite incredible. In my opinion, using GAPS together with the therapy strategies has seen amplified results that you mightn't see with either approach on it's own. Bianca has devoted so much energy to cooking well, and encouraging Jack's skill development om a daily basis.
I'll let Bianca tell you the results in her own words
PRE GAPS/POST GAPS
1) Communication: I was looking at getting a Speech Pathologist referral as Jack was blending his sentences into one. It was like his mind was 3 times ahead of what his mouth was doing and it was hard to understand him.
No longer needing a referral, as he is speaking clearly and slowly. His vocabulary has skyrocketed and grammar improved immensely
2) Fine motor skills: He had issues holding a pencil and drawing a picture. It was just a scribble/circles. He was using a fisted grasp and changing hands a lot.
Within a week or two he was drawing trucks, then a whole scenario (ie a truck on a road, with a dam near the grass, with a sun in the sky) and as the weeks went on writing his name. And his pencil grasp and pencil control has improvd a lot - but most of all his confidence with drawing has improved.
3) Midline crossing, and dressing skills: Jack wasn't reaching across the midline of his body and this affected lots of tasks - for example, he struggled to dress himself.
Jack is now able to put on and pull up pants, put tops on (still struggles with short sleeves) and last week did a button up on a top that was already on him without any practice. He is also reaching across body naturally and easily even though this was something that was difficult to work on in therapy sessions.
4) Balance/Risk Taking: Jack was very cautious and never liked going on something that "wobbled". He didn't like climbing up ladders.
Now he is climbing down things that are a height (something that is risky), like down the balustrade of the stairs, climbing up a little way of a tree, standing on one foot. We went to a park that had a really high slide (3m high) and I said to my husband, "There is no way he will climb up there and come down"....well he did!!! And Jack said to me today "mummy push me on the big boy swing". (He never liked sitting on one, let alone swinging on one, as it was too wobbly). We took it slow and before you knew it he said, "Higher, higher". And then he said, "I don't need to sit on a baby swing anymore".
5) Eating: Never liked steamed or soft vegetables. Food had to be stone cold before he would eat it.
He is eating everything in front of him, however still doesn't like "stew" like dishes. And he is loving warm dishes and has nearly hot dishes without losing it.
6) Hypersensitivity: Jack would cry at a drop of a hat when he knocked himself ever so slightly.
He now can step on a piece of lego and he says, "Mummy, I stepped on some lego and it hurt but I'm OK".
7) Relationships: Despite having an awesome Dad Jack would never let his dad come near him. He would scream at him to get out of his room, which was really hard for his poor Dad as well.
Within a week of starting Intro Jack was speaking lovingly to his Dad, allowing him to play with him, wanting to spend time with him. It's so lovely to see him with his Dad now - just being so affectionate.
8 ) Coping skills: Constant meltdowns over the smallest things
Now it's only when he is tired.
9) Constantly had what I called the "sillies" where he was moving and jumping and spinning excessively (sensory seeking behaviours) and had to jump on the trampoline to get them out.
I noticed he hadn't jumped on the trampoline for the first 2 months of starting GAPS. I asked him why he doesn't go on it and his response to me was, "Because I have no sillies anymore."
10) I notice now when I look in his eyes there is a spirit in him and life. We didn't realise how lifeless his eyes were Pre-GAPS!
"Woohoo for GAPS! Every week we keep on winning."
Jack is now well on his way. He is now on Full GAPS (after 9 weeks of Intro Diet). He will likely need the GAPS protocol for another 18 months to two years or so. Developmentally he is going from strength to strength. His sensory processing issues are largely resolved. His behaviour is fantastic. And to look at him, the dark circles and puffiness under his eyes have improved. But most of all he is happy and settled in himself, and his family are enjoying his childhood and fostering great relationships with each other.