His mom knew from the start that her son would be a challenge. He was born at 7 pm and at 2:30 in the morning he was still wide awake.
Bradley slept a maximum of two hours a night, and took no naps. His mom thought the sleeplessness might be related to teething; his first two teeth were in by the time he was 2 months old, and he had a full set by 8 months. The baby had chronic ear infections and he lived on antibiotics. As he got older, the ear infections were replaced by sinus and bronchial infections.
But despite the infections and sleeplessness, there were some very bright spots in the young life of this remarkable little boy. He was walking and climbing stairs by eight months and at one year old, when babies are typically into the "Mama, Papa" mode, Bradley was speaking clearly in complete sentences!
Bradley nursed until he was one and a half, when he weaned himself (see box at right). His food preferences were as atypical as his other traits. He didn't like apple juice, but preferred grapefruit and cranberry juices. (It seemed - from hindsight later on - that he was intinctively avoiding natural salicylates. Cranberry is considered a Stage Two food even though, technically, it is a "benzoate" rather than a salicylate.)
Although breastfeeding has been shown to protect a baby from ear infections, some babies react to foods in the mother's diet, or to the mother's immune reactions to foods she is eating (Wilson 1983
). It is not known whether Bradley's mom experienced any reactions herself to foods she ate while breastfeeding him.
Things began to change. Since his dad was away much of the time, doing his residency as an internist, Bradley and mom began to eat out at fast food restaurants and use some of the additive-laden cereals and convenient drinks. During this time, what had been clear speech gradually deteriorated, until by the time he was three it was virtually impossible to understand what he was saying. The frustration for his parents was terrible, but for their son it was even worse.
Bradley was diagnosed as "97% unintelligible with severe articulation disorder and dysfluency (stuttering)." His hearing was normal, and he could fully understand what others were saying. He began speech therapy at that time; the therapists tried to provide Bradley with a means to communicate and, hopefully, reduce his level of frustration. Despite the fact that he tested out as very bright, the therapist predicted "Bradley will always be in a special education class; his speech disorder will always be severe." Bradley hated the speech therapy; he was frustrated and angry most of the time.
From the time he had been a baby, Bradley always had unusually red ears and cheeks. Now his mom read that this could be caused by problems in the diet. Several friends suggested that artificial flavors and colors might be the culprits. His mom had worked with autistic children and knew there were diet therapies, so she asked the pediatrician for more information on this, but he did not have any suggestions.
She finally saw the Feingold Program mentioned in a book and asked the pediatrician about it. He was clearly exasperated with her for suggesting diet, and advised her not to try it. However, both parents decided to go ahead with a trial of the Feingold diet. Bradley's dad felt that even if it didn't help, at least the family would be eating healthy food.
By the time the family began the Feingold Program, the speech therapy had helped Bradley's speech improve from a "severe" to "moderate" articulation disorder, but it still meant that few people besides his mom could understand what he was trying to say.
The family began the Feingold Program by taking away the additives, but did not remove any salicylates. Within a few days, both parents noticed they could understand Bradley without struggling to do so. One week after they made the dietary change, the diagnosis would be changed from "moderate" to "mild" speech disorder.
The family had found a new speech therapist who came to the house after the first week of the diet. The therapist looked at the paperwork and spoke with 5 year old Bradley. "How old is this evaluation?" she asked, believing it was a year or more out of date. "It's one week old," Bradley's mom responded.
The new speech therapist was impressed with the effect of diet, especially the time when she watched Bradley experience a reaction. Although very careful to eliminate the unwanted additives, Bradley's mom had not removed all of the salicylates. During a therapy session, they took a break and she gave Bradley an orange. The change in his behavior and speech was profound, and his therapist was amazed. She noted that he was fluent at the beginning of the session and in control, but within 15 minutes of eating the orange, Bradley could not even do simple speech exercises.
Unfortunately, the pediatrician was not interested in re-examining his prejudices. In response to the dramatic improvement in Bradley's speech, he said the one week jump from moderate to mild was "a major developmental gain" that had nothing to do with diet. He consistently refused to help locate un-dyed medicine, or to cooperate in any other way, even when Bradley father - a doctor himself - showed him medical studies that suggested positive benefits from the diet. The family finally fired the doctor and found a pediatrician who listens to his patients.
As she removed more of the salicylates, Bradley's mom began to see how they were connected with the red cheeks and red ears Bradley had had since infancy. Even more exciting, he was finally able to get to sleep easily.
Today, at 10 years old, Bradley has a minimal residue of his problems. He has a very mild stutter, but it is no problem for him and has not stood in his way. He makes friends easily, excels in many sports, and is doing well in school. He received the highest score in his school on a standardized test - so much for the early prediction that this little boy would "always be in Special Ed."
The family has said good-bye to: ear infections, sinus infections, red ears and cheeks, sleep difficulties, and nearly all of the speech disorder. Bradley has some seasonal allergies, and avoids overdoing the salicylates, but he's too busy enjoying life and pursuing his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout to let these nuisances stand in his way.
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