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    GAPS and Learning Problems

    September 28, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Do any of you have a child that seems to struggle with…well…with almost everything? I have never known exactly what to think of my second child. Her older brother is very bright and seems to learn by osmosis at times. I vowed to never expect her to be like him or to put pressure on her because of him. Not everyone is academically inclined. But the truth is that I’ve had a hard time knowing what was within the realm of “normal” and what was not because he is so unusual.

    A number of times over the past year or so, I’ve asked myself…Is she slow? Or is this a real problem? Do I just need to wait until later? Or is there something I can do to help her? That I ought to do to help her? It really is an area for wisdom, and I don’t pretend to know the answer for every child.

    One of the things that has been painful to watch is that this child really wants to know. When she was four, I watched her work so incredibly hard, just to learn her alphabet. I’ve never seen a child work so hard before. I was ready to throw in the towel and wait until she was older, but she didn’t want to do that, so I indulged her {for only 5 or 10 minutes per day, of course}.

    Last year {first grade}, I had one goal, and that was to get her reading and narrating. I didn’t really do that, but this allowed me to put my focus in one place and not really worry about other things so much. She has done well in narrating, at least I thought so, but the reading was still a struggle.

    I wasn’t introduced to the better-late-than-never stuff until very recently, so I’m still letting those ideas percolate. I am far more willing to let math wait than I am reading, so when this child continued to want to do reading lessons–she was never resisting them, mind you–we just kept working away, even though I felt like it was at the pace of an inch worm!

    We did the typical first grade stuff–math, reading, narrating, writing, and so on, and I felt secretly like she struggled in every area. It wasn’t that she was doing terribly, but that every single thing seemed like such a struggle for her.

    I know that this can build character. I know that some children need to just wait until later {but doesn’t their desire also wait until later when this is the case?}. I know there are probably some things that I have been and still am overlooking.

    But with all of this said, I must share with you that after about three weeks on the GAPS diet, it was very evident that this was going to help her. She improved tremendously in math. Her narration is much more detailed and includes more proper nouns. She is suddenly speeding through her reading lessons at a tremendous pace. She finished the Treadwell Primer, a Frog and Toad book, and is into the Treadwell First Reader. I haven’t really worked with her on it, and yet her handwriting has improved. She even had some remains of baby talk that I was concerned about–did she have a slight speech impediment?–that is basically gone {she still has an orthodontic appliance, so it is hard to tell for sure}. She has had trouble verbalizing her thoughts in the past–she is very quiet because of this–and yet I heard her talk on the phone on Sunday with her grandma for at least fifteen minutes, something she has never had the patience to do in her entire life. And she was funny! And she talked a lot.

    So much of this could be chalked up to it being a new school year and a lot of children advance quietly while they play over summer. However, we did two weeks of school before beginning the diet, and it was a case of the same. old. thing. It isn’t that she never improved in anything, it’s just that it always seemed so slow and so hard for her. I know slow and steady wins the race, so I was trying to play the Patient Mom while I was privately fretting over words I see thrown around these days…dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dysphagia. For two weeks, I worked with her.

    But now? Now, it is a ton of fun. I’m not going to lie to you. It is far easier to work with a child who gets it. Now, obviously there are a lot of reason why children don’t get it, and I’ve already mentioned some of them. But for this particular child, it looks like her chronic tummy ache and history of food allergies were more connected to her learning problems than her age or level of ability. It has truly felt like a miracle to me.

    GAPS is hard work, and that is why I put it off for years after reading about it. Our problems didn’t seem so big that they merited that kind of sacrifice and effort. I am so glad that we reached the tipping point because this alone makes it worth it to me. My daughter is able to become more of what she was created to be.

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  • Reply Betsy April 1, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Brandy. I know it’s been years since you wrote this, but I was searching your blog for things you had written about dyslexia. My 10 year old son has been trying hard to learn to read for 2 years and it’s just not clicking. Math is also a struggle. I am just trying to figure out what step I should take next. Is your daughter still benefitting from her time on the Gaps protocol? Would you still recommend it? I know you’ve talked about changing your views on probiotics. How about the rest of the protocol? Do you have any resources you can recommend that I look into?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 2, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      I now tell people that I think GAPS should be a last-ditch effort. It is so hard and can be detrimental to health in other ways (my kids ended up with bad cavities from such a limited diet), that I just don’t think it is worth it when there are still other options to try.

      My number one recommendation is The Nemechek Protocol. I gave the book my Book of the Year Award a while back. My daughter has been on NP for over two years now. Dr. N says not to add other supplements UNLESS you have tests showing they are medically necessary. I am glad we did only NP for 18 months, but also glad we added some things. I am still seeing progress all the time. NP is the best thing I ever did for our children!

      • Reply Betsy April 2, 2020 at 10:07 pm

        Thank you! I have looked into NP because of your writing. I am going to give it a try.

  • Reply Rahime October 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Yay!! So amazing, and I’m sooo glad you’ve decided to do this while she’s quite young. 😉

  • Reply Kristen @ Dem Golden Apples October 1, 2012 at 2:52 am

    This is great news, Brandy. We will continue to pray for her. So interesting!

  • Reply Anonymous September 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Can I ask you a question?

    Do you mean to say that even after removing her from everything she is allergic to, you still needed to go on GAPS to help her out?

    My son has probably a mild case of ADHD. We just had him tested for allergies, and he has a leaky guts. He has trouble with his handwriting. He would love to read, but it is so hard for him that he’s rather not. I was hoping that by removing the allergens and getting his leaky guts fixed (and treating yeasts), things would improve for him without using GAPS. But if I read right, maybe he’d better try GAPS as well…

    THank you

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      Yes, and for three likely reasons, though of course there may be more.

      (1) Most children with food allergies have a leaky gut (as you mentioned). If the gut isn’t healed properly, they will continue to develop new allergies. GAPS does a few things very aggressively that can seal up the gut fairly quickly, though I believe they need to be maintained for a while in order to be more permanent and also some children have WAY worse guts than others, so there is a spectrum here.

      (2) Some of the problems with these types of children are due not to allergies, but to bad digestion. Two of my children, for instance, are taking Betaine HCl (basically: stomach acid pills). If a child has a leaky gut, poorly digested proteins can slip through, but poorly digested proteins are a sign of problems in the actual stomach organ.

      (3) Some of the problems are due to gut bacteria–leaky gut among them, but bacteria help us digest our food and some also synthesize vitamins we need. So taking the probiotic pills during a therapeutic diet is a good bet on populating the gut with beneficial bacteria, and then eating the fermented foods {like sauerkraut} over the long haul help to maintain.

      I’m not saying the GAPS diet is for everyone, but if you’re up against a wall like I was, I think it is a good option…

    • Reply Neptune September 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      THanks for your answer!

      And just doing all that: taking probiotics, and using Betaine HCl, and healing the guts wasn’t enough for her? Or do you use GAPS to do all that for her?

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      GAPS basically is all of that–for instance I never would have considered give the HCl to a child without reading it in the GAPS book first.

      If I could boil the GAPS protocol down very simply I’d say it is:

      special diet + probiotic supplements + HCl if necessary + other supplements in special circumstances (one of mine needed magnesium in the beginning…long story) + detox baths + time

      So yes the GAPS diet is more than a diet and doing all of that for her (and the other children, though she was one of my more severe ones). Sorry if it got confusing there! I use the word “diet” but you are right–it really is a bit more than that, though the diet part is the cornerstone.

      The detox baths are to help ease detox symptoms, which some people get on the diet. My children have all *liked* them, and I personally have needed them. They are basically a cup of Epsom salt or baking soda or cider vinegar to a tub of warm water, soak for 15 minutes.

  • Reply amy in peru September 30, 2012 at 2:56 am

    wow. that’s amazing. so amazing that i might not believe it, if it weren’t you that said it!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 30, 2012 at 3:25 am

      To be honest, *I* have trouble believing it. The first few days, I really thought we were just having “good” days and I was waiting for the bad ones to come back. It is just now sinking in that this is our new normal. Not that she’ll never come up against something hard again, of course…

  • Reply Mystie September 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Oh, I’m so happy for her and for you! Yes, I do think that when delaying is the called-for tactic there is resistance and frustration. I’m glad you found what was holding her back and, more importantly, the solution that worked!

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