Warning -not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. Contains some graphic detail about sickness!
Any time J is unwell he is sick. A slight cold, a cough, a fever – sick. Quite often he’s sick even when he’s not unwell. Through the winter it felt as though my kids had some sort of bug or illness in a round robin style, one after the other before starting all over again. The summer hasn’t turned out to be much better, all taking colds one after the other and running fevers.
Bronchilitis, colds, coughs, tummy bugs, sore throats, fevers, we’ve had the lot! For the younger two it’s bad enough, up through the night coughing and sweating, off nursery, crying, shivering and generally feeling sorry for themselves. For J it’s a whole different ball game. For some reason whenever he gets any kind of bug, virus or illness he vomits. We’re not talking just a little bit of sick, I mean gallons of foul-smelling, rancid stuff and it gets everywhere. Sometimes we find him lying in a pool of it in his bed at night, other times it’s dripping from him when he comes to find us, at times it’s all over the living room floor or in the back seat of the car. Once it was all over the couch and then in the bathroom as well. Yesterday it was all over his clothes, shoes and my mum’s carpet! I sometimes think he’s set a target for himself to see if he can be sick on every square inch of our house.
Because he was sick so often I mentioned it to the doctor on one of our previous visits and he prescribed gaviscon, as sickness can be linked with reflux. This only made it worse. He couldn’t take the texture of the thick liquid and so was sick as soon as we gave it to him. The doctor said to persevere as he would get used to it but, after another few times of the same outcome, I couldn’t watch him continue to be sick as a result of medicine that was supposed to help him. The doctor said he thought it could be a hiatus hernia, which meant the opening at the top of his stomach was wider and resulted in the acid being able to travel back up more easily. He then prescribed liquid ranitidine, which did seem to help a little, but to me constant medication was not a long term solution. The doctor referred us to a specialist but she just recommended the same medication in an increased dose and ongoing monitoring. So after all that he’s still sick a lot, just not quite as often as before. He can still be sick even when he’s had the medicine.
As I do with most things I don’t know the answer to, I turned to Google. It turns out gastro-intestinal problems seem to be common in children with autism. I found a few articles that made interesting reading. Some people think it’s linked to diet, others aren’t so sure. My only issue with removing the things they talk about from J’s diet is that he would be left with hardly anything he likes to eat. There’s also no scientific proof it actually makes a difference. He’s a fairly good eater and isn’t overly fussy but most of the the foods he likes contain yeast, starch and so on. I think it would actually be more cruel to see him go without the things he gets enjoyment from and enforce a strict diet full of tasteless, bland food he doesn’t like to eat.
I once read a book by Jenny McCarthy where she claims to have ‘cured’ her son’s autism through diet and therapy/school. I have to say she makes it sound great, though hard work. I am however very sceptical and think that although she may have seen some improvement in him since he changed diet and school, I highly doubt she has ‘cured’ his autism. It must also be nice to have her money and resources to facilitate such things.
After lots of research and thought I have decided that it would be more of an upheaval for J to be deprived of what he likes, force fed, badgered through therapeutic exercises and to generally enforce misery on him. He’s a happy wee boy on the whole and gets a lot of enjoyment from simple things like food, toys and play. His world for now is fairly comfortable for him, other than the things he finds difficult to cope with. Yes he can find life distressing or hard in many ways but he also gets great pleasure from things many of us take for granted or don’t even notice. Why would I want to deprive him of some of the few things he takes comfort from and finds pleasure in? I am edging towards limiting some of the things in his diet but I’m not sure I will get rid of it all completely.
If I’m being honest, the sickness is probably harder to deal with for us than for him. Yes he is distressed at the time and it’s not pleasant but he quickly forgets about it and moves on with his life. It’s us who are left scrubbing, cleaning, washing and I suppose hurting at the thought of how he feels. It’s not nice to watch him as he wretches and I feel so helpless, as there’s not much I can do other than hold him until the trembling and heaving stops and clean him up afterwards. He has no time for wallowing in pity for himself so I suppose I shouldn’t either. It’s just something we need to deal with and move on! We could all learn a lesson from him at times.