Our series, Red Flags, is covering very common – yet please don’t consider them normal – childhood issues many parents are seeing these days. If you’re seeing Red Flags in your children, how do you go about tracking what reactions you are seeing, and what they are impacting (elimination, behavior, sleep, etc.), and how do you keep your sanity while keeping track of everything? From experience, I have some suggestions on how to keep it together without your head exploding.
The first thing is to find a method that works for you. Are you a techie? There are apps you can download for notes, foods, appointments, etc. I was not a techie, and I needed the paper trail. I had a one-page “journal” sheet that I printed out and put on the fridge every morning. It had areas for the date, meals and snacks, sensory diet activities, general behavior for the day, room for bowel movement info, therapies done that day and, lastly, supplements. I also left room for additional notes. I would write on it as the day went on and then file it away each evening in a notebook (or when the stack on the counter started falling onto the floor, let’s be honest). This gave me a great record to refer to at doctor appointments. I could see at a glance what the reaction to certain foods and supplements were and how long a symptom or reaction lasted. Knowing there is an issue is a portion of the battle, but explaining it in a way that leads to help is something different. Notebooks are another great way to keep track. You could start a notebook for each child and do a page for each day. Finding whatever works best for you, and is something you will stick to, is the key.
Next, track EVERYTHING. You never know what detail may help a physician or practitioner (or you) nail something down or trigger some important clue. Did you introduce a new food, and then your child was up all night? Sometimes only after the fact can we look back and see patterns and connections. So much gets missed as our minds comb websites, research studies, and listens to doctors, and that only gets worse if we are sleep deprived.
Start or stop one thing at a time. You cannot tell if there is a reaction or a new symptom if you introduce too many things at once. Do you have a hunch that dairy is an issue? If you take it out of your child’s diet butalso add in a new supplement, which worked? The diet change or the supplement (or both)? Finding clues means isolating the variables to be sure that you are getting accurate data. I would even note issues at school, exposure to things in the community, etc. Do you live in an area with a Homeowners Association? Often common areas are sprayed with pesticides and toxins. Maybe your sensory defensive child was FINALLY digging their toes in the grass and rolling down hills as a part of their behavior therapy. But then you notice welts or a rash at bath time. Connecting those dots will go a long way in pinpointing what are issues for your child and how to avoid or mitigate reactions in our toxic world.
Bravo for thinking critically about these common, yet entirely not normal, reactions our children are having these days. And, with a few simple tricks, you can also keep track of the vital data that will make understanding and addressing these issues a lot easier.
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