Special Diet Can Help Autistic Kids

Key May Be Avoiding Certain proteins

Good news for parents of autistic children: a simple diet may help.

Ask Tyler Davis what his favorite meal is, and he'll say, "Hamburger, fries, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion and Coke and hot fudge sundae, free."

Typical for an 11-year-old, except that Tyler is autistic, his mother has him on a special diet.

"He can't have regular bread. We use rice bread, pasta, we use rice pasta or corn pasta," said Debbie Davis.

The diet restricts gluten, a protein found in wheat, and casein, a protein in milk and milk by-products. The theory is, that because of an intestinal defect, autistic kids can't completely digest the proteins. And what ends up in the blood stream are substances that interfere with brain activity.

The diet has changed Tyler's behavior. A "major, major difference. He's about 80 percent better," says his mom.

The Davises aren't alone in their success with the controversial diet. So researchers at the University of Rochester are taking a closer look.

"The fact that enough families are observing differences makes it an important place to start looking," said Dr. Susan Hyman.

One major question: does the diet help because it reduces intestinal symptoms or because brain functioning really improves For families of autistic children, it's more than just food for thought.

The diet can't hurt most healthy kids. If your child is autistic, ask your doctor about it -- but make sure to get the exact guidelines so you can get the benefits without the dangers

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