Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about their child’s behavior. Today’s question comes from Tom and Alissa who write,
“We have been told by a number of other parents that nutritional supplements are important and that we should be giving our child supplements every day. Which supplements should we give? Which supplements actually help with behavior? Which supplements help with autism?”
First, thanks for writing. I think you are being smart by asking the right questions regarding nutritional supplements. We know that the use of nutritional supplements has become more popular in recent years, and not just for children with autism. For example, a typical google search on nutritional supplements will reveal over 25,000,000 hits. Everyone is talking about the use of nutritional supplements. I am certainly not qualified to talk about which nutritional supplements are right for your child. I can, however, share what I have learned about nutritional supplementation. Then you can take that information with you when you meet with a qualified health care practitioner who is trained to help you and your child.
Second, we know that some people, including children with autism, may have nutritional deficiencies. Speaking personally, I was anemic from the first time I tried to donate blood (early 20s) until 2 years ago. Because of this, an iron supplement seemed like the appropriate treatment. Additionally, I was on the path to osteoporosis. Again, taking Vitamin D and Calcium seemed like an obvious treatment. Thus, it seems likely that nutritional supplementation is actually required in some instances.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Third, we know that some medical conditions can prevent certain individuals from absorbing the nutritional supplements they take. Conditions such as Celiac can cause inflammation in the GI tract. This inflammation can prevent the supplements (and nutrition from food) from being absorbed properly. Thus, treating the underlying medical condition should be a first goal.
Supplements Improve Behavior
Fourth, we know that some nutritional supplements can actually improve behavior. For example, the research on melatonin has been shown to improve the sleep of individuals with autism. Zinc supplementation can also result in improved taste and other sensations. Join us later this week as we review a study on the effects of fish oil on behavior.
Research on Supplements
Finally, a number of studies have been conducted, or are being conducted regarding the use of other supplements for children, including children on the spectrum. This includes the use of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, omega fatty acids (fish oil), and Vitamin Bs.
So, my advice to you is to meet with an appropriately trained health care practitioner so that he/she can help you identify any underlying medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies in order to determine what your child may need as part of a regularly balanced diet.
Good luck and please keep us posted on the progress and findings.
Readers, please share! Do you take nutritional supplements? Do you give them to your children? Does it help?
If you have a behavior question for Missy, email askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com.