My husband and I took Nicholas to an environmental allergist who said that if eliminating allergens from Nicholas’ diet seemed to be working, we should stick with that.
When I told Nicholas’ pediatrician I wanted to discontinue Ritalin and explore the possibility that Nicholas had allergies, we got a referral to a traditional allergist, one covered by our HMO. Doris Rapp has written that skin tests are notoriously unreliable for detecting food allergies in children. Indeed, the traditional allergist found that Nicholas tested positive for dust mites but negative for food allergies or pollens, despite the fact Nicholas’ mild asthma was usually worse in the spring. That pattern runs contrary to the typical dust mite allergy, the allergist said.
At our pediatrician’s urging, we also took Nicholas to a psychiatrist, who recommended the drug Clonidine. By this point, I was skeptical of treating Nicholas’ behavior with drugs. Instead, we eliminated those foods to which he seemed to react, including eggs, peas, chocolate, yeast, and dairy products. His reaction to cheese was the most pronounced of all his food sensitivities. When we gave him cheese as a “food challenge,” a test to see how he would react after not eating cheese for more than two weeks, he completely fell apart.
Four months after beginning the Multiple Food Elimination Diet, we took Nicholas back to the neuropsychologist so that Nicholas could complete his testing. She observed that although Nicholas still balked at some tests (not surprisingly, he wanted to play with the toys in the waiting room), he was a different child than the one she had seen the previous winter.
A director at Nicholas’ preschool had predicted that Nicholas would be sent to the principal’s office during his first week in school and subsequently placed in a program for disturbed children. But he wasn’t. He attended a full-day kindergarten. I packed his lunch and sent allergy-free substitutes when his classmates brought birthday treats. His teacher, who suffered from allergies herself, was sympathetic.
Since entering elementary school, none of Nicholas’ teachers has ever suggested that he is a candidate for Ritalin. When I told his first grade teacher that his preschool teachers thought he might have ADHD, she told me she had had kids in her classroom with ADHD and that Nicholas did not have it.
Nicholas is now twelve and just finished the sixth grade. He still builds elaborate structures with Lego’s but spends most of his free time reading. The other day, when I pulled into our parking space, Nicholas continued reading in the car. He was so engrossed in his book he didn’t come inside for half an hour. Attention deficit disorder? No way.