I complained a lot to friends about my daughter's behavior, and in the spring of 1975 a friend - whose husband worked for a congressman - went to a certain amount of effort to get Dr. Feingold's book, Why Your Child Is Hyperactive, from the Library of Congress for me. She suggested I read it. I took one look at the title and thought "This doesn't apply to us," because we aren't dealing with hyperactivity per se, and ADHD had not yet been invented.
I read the book to please my friend, and I found it a little shocking and interesting, but I didn't see a connection. My husband Harry, being the reader he is, read it while I had it, and he saw a connection between his own symptoms - particularly back when he was a child - and what Dr. Feingold described in the book. At that point he had been suffering from migraine headaches which were getting worse each year and becoming more frequent. So he began to pay attention to the synthetic additives and trying to avoid them. Meanwhile I gave it a half-hearted attempt and changed a few of the things I was giving to my daughter. I thought if I changed some of the foods, I should see some improvement - but I didn't. I figured when I saw no improvement "Oh good - I didn't want to do this anyway."
Then one day Harry, who was being more careful than me, ate lunch at work, including cottage cheese with a maraschino cherry on top. Even though he removed the cherry, he ate the little bit of colored juice left on the cottage cheese. About 2 hours later he could feel another migraine starting. We were both stunned, because it was only a few drops - that was when we both realized that for a sensitive person it only takes a tiny little bit.
So I decided I really had to give it a fair try for Laura too. The next morning when she got up I gave her very plain food that I knew would be OK, but I didn't know what I was looking for in the way of symptom change. The following morning when she woke up, there was a profound difference in her: She could make eye contact, she heard what I said. She gave me answers that made sense. Things continued to improve. The diet continued to work - except on the occasions we went off it or made mistakes. We got along on our own for about a year, and we did well, but we were not in contact with anybody else on the program. It never occurred to me to write to Dr. Feingold.
One day Harry was back in the cafeteria again, eating lunch, and he heard somebody say "Dr. Feingold." He went over to the man who said that and introduced himself, asking "What about Dr. Feingold?" It turned out that there was going to be a meeting of volunteers who had formed support groups throughout the country. This was going to be their first conference, gathering in Washington, DC to form a national organization. He encouraged us to attend, and gave us the name of other parents in the area, so we called these folks and we made plans to go to the conference, right nearby in Washington, DC. We figured we would join one of the local support groups, but when we got there the closest support groups were in Philadelphia and Florida - and we were in Virginia. So before the conference ended, we had met with other parents from our area and we knew if there was going to be a support group in the DC area, we had to create it.
I had never been involved in anything quite like that, and had no idea what to do, but some of the other parents who had more leadership experience took the lead, and I contributed what I could. To my amazement, I gradually became very involved, learned how to give a Feingold presentation, learned how to give a radio interview, how to write newsletters, and how to deal with printers, which in itself is a challenge.
I had never intended to get so involved in the organization but it's such an exhilarating and rewarding thing to do that I found it awfully hard not to do it. In those times when I would get angry and frustrated with the way families and children are being treated, I would use the anger as energy to propel me to do more. Today I find that it would be very difficult to not do this. There is still so much work to be done. I just can't not do it.
I continue to look forward to the day when the work I am doing will be unnecessary and irrelevant because the link between diet, behavior and learning will be so well recognized that everybody will know what we have known for so long.