My name is Julie, and our family consists of my husband Ian, our daughter Sarah aged seven, and our sons Callum aged three and Devon aged 16 months. Last year in April Sarah was diagnosed as autistic and in November Callum also received a diagnosis of autism. Pretty interesting year, I can tell you! I knew nothing about autism, all I knew was there was something about my daughter that just wasn't working as it should. Both the children are what they call "high functioning" autistic. Which in everyday terms means that there is no intellectual disability and they have a lot of skills.

I remember now people commenting on how 'busy' Sarah was as a toddler. As she was my only child, I never knew any different. She very rarely slept, we used to be up until 1 or 2 am rocking her, pushing her, anything to get her to sleep. When she did sleep it was only for a few hours at a time. She started coming out in terrible rashes over her arms, legs and torso when she was around fourteen months old. I went to a naturopath who placed her on a very restricted diet and everything cleared up. Sarah's behaviour improved and I thought I had cured the problem. I now realise we had taken most of the problem-causing areas out of her diet. We were told that after Sarah's immune system had time to recover we could more or less resume a normal diet which after 12 months we did. The rashes never returned and we thought we had it licked.

But all that happened is the symptoms appeared in a different manner. Sarah became withdrawn, anxious, and suffered severe night terrors. When she was three, Sarah started Montessori school and then we started to notice other things. Sarah was exceedingly shy, she would not communicate with other children even after she had known them for a long periods of time. She had no recognition of colour and never described anything by its colour. We had her eyes and ears tested, but nothing showed up. When Sarah was four, Callum was born. When he was three months old we moved up to Tom Price in Northern Western Australia. We are fairly isolated here, our main centre being five hours drive.

Sarah started preschool and would vomit for no apparent reason in the mornings before school. She was tested and pronounced hypoglycaemic. I was told to feed her more often. Grade 1 presented more problems, huge anxiety attacks and night terrors lasting two hours. I would pick her up from school and find her sitting crying under her desk. Still I was told it was developmental and she would grow out of it. In desperation I rook her out of school and went back to Perth. I put Sarah back in Montessori and everything stopped - no anxiety, no night terrors, no vomiting. I eventually had Sarah assessed and we received a diagnosis but not a lot else.

Later that year Callum started repetitive behaviours such as pushing his head along the floor, staring at fans, complete withdrawal, no eye contact and delayed speech. By the time he was diagnosed I was drowning. I wanted to go back to the city, anywhere where I could get some help. I even withdrew from life myself. It was too hard to go out, I got sick of people staring, making helpful or unhelpful suggestions, it just all got too hard.

Then in November 98 a friend gave me Sue Dengate's book Fed Up. I started that day and on the first night of the elimination diet my two children slept through the night. That was the first whole night's sleep I had for nearly seven years.

I am convinced! Sarah is managing mainstream school without the stress of last year. She has made friends. Her communication skills had improved so much within two weeks of starting the program that her teachers asked me what had changed. Callum now makes eye contact with people and laughs and talks. He is just getting better and better, his vocabulary is so vast now it makes me gasp! He enjoys playgroup and is even starting to play with others.

I know a lot of autistic children will only eat a limited amount of food, and Callum is definitely in that category but I believe that it is so very beneficial to make the food they eat failsafe. I also found that after they withdrew from our previous diet, which with Callum took around six weeks, their tastes had completely changed so they didn't mind the failsafe food at all. In fact, Sarah has asked me never to give her food that isn't good for her because it makes her body feel bad.

I am grateful to Sue for writing her book. I has completely changed our lives and it has, I'm sure, completely changed my children's future. - Julie

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