I am sure that every mother has moments where she questions the choices that she makes for her children.  Are they in the best school for their needs?  Does he have the right pediatrician?  Does he need to be involved in more (or fewer) activities?  Is he getting all of the nutrients that he needs?  When my son was 2, his physician recommended that we move towards a special casein-free diet that is followed by many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  While I was initially resistant, and unsure it this was the best decision for my child, I was willing to try anything to even make slight gains in his condition.

Christy K.

As if kids aren’t already picky eaters at that age, imagine suddenly being unable to feed your kid childhood favorites, like mac and cheese, pizza, and ice cream!  On his diet, Hunter cannot have any products that contain casein, which is a milk protein.  When we started on this journey 8 years ago, it seemed that feeding our child might be impossible!  If you really look at labels, it is amazing how many ingredients can be in what seems like a simple product. Label-reading became my life, and I was an expert spotter of ingredients such as casein, caseinate, milk, whey, dairy, lactose.  Did you know that Hubba Bubba Chewing Gum has milk in it?!

Over the years, we have adapted to this new way of life.  It was much easier living in large cities such as Austin and Tucson where vegan restaurants and natural grocery stores were in abundance.  However, in the Texas panhandle, Beef Capital of the World, vegan options have always been few and far between. While my son is somewhat of a “pseudo-vegan,” (he is a lover of anything of the meat variety), dairy-free is the difficult portion of the equation.
Thankfully, life has gotten much easier over the past few years.  An awesome company came out with a tapioca-based cheese product that looks and melts like the real thing!  The first time I made my son a pizza, he was in awe.  When I finally conquered the perfect mac and “cheese,” I knew that I was his forever favorite person in the world (he told me so!).  While I am thrilled to be able to make him these things at home, following the casein-free lifestyle still provides many challenges.  Birthday parties are the worst, with pizza, cake, ice cream… a nightmare in our situation!  I have to make vegan cupcakes (or something of the sort) for him to pack along to feel some normalcy as others are chowing down on the birthday goodies.  I pack his lunch for school every day, and going to restaurants provides its own special challenges.

While all of this is sometimes overwhelming, it feels great knowing that I am doing what is best for my son, despite the extra work.  The real pay-off is seeing Hunter’s toothy grin when he gets to have “his special cheese” in a meal, and I am rewarded with one of his big teddy bear hugs!