Ideas To Help Your Child Take Supplements

July 7th, 2010

Vitamin supplementation is a road often traveled for families with children on the autism spectrum. Varied dietary issues, careful food choices and food intolerances make it hard to make sure each child gets all the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body.

Here are some suggestions for getting supplements and medications (as needed) into your child’s belly:

  • In jam or syrup or pear sauce over a GFCF (Gluten Free/Casein Free) waffle or pancakes

  • Cook/bake supplements that ARE NOT HEAT SENSITIVE into sauces, cookies or muffins

    • Essential fatty acids, calcium can be cooked.

    • To determine heat tolerances of supplements, please check the manufacturers’ labels. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer and/or your doctor.

    • Do not heat oils such as cod liver oil or flaxseed oil. Be sure to check labels about heat for each supplement. If there is no information on the label, contact the manufacturer.

  • In diluted juice or milk sub (hemp, almond, coconut, rice, etc)

  • Syringe them directly into your child’s mouth – follow this up with a kiss and a GFCF cookie.

  • Spoon in with maple syrup to disguise flavor

  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar on cookies or muffins

  • Teach and reinforce taking supplements during ABA sessions

  • Give supplements with a highly motivating reinforcer such as TV, computer, or favorite toy

  • GFCF Ice cream or smoothies

  • Pills! Here is the protocol we used to get our son to swallow pills:

    • Start with small pieces of Starburst candy, roll them into tiny balls and have your child work on swallowing these without chewing

    • Give small piece of candy with favorite drink and place the pill on the childs tongue. Give the drink and gently push the child’s head towards his/her chest. The liquid and gravity will help roll the pill towards the back of the throat and down the hatch.

    • For children who do not like the taste of supplements – they will be motivated to swallow pills! Even at a young age – generally four years and up.

    • DEMONSTRATE the process! Have them watch you swallow vitamins and graphically show the vitamin on your tongue, drink liquid and then show them that the pill is all gone.

  • A TACA Mom’s story on pill swallowing: “For our son, we started a similar pill swallowing program when he was 4 1/2, and practiced it in his home ABA program with his therapists demonstrating.  He REALLY wanted to succeed, and honestly gave it a good try, but couldn’t get the pill down.  I had ordered a bottle of empty small capsules from Kirkman labs for the practicing (rather than saving used empty capsules, since the therapists were demonstrating and I didn’t want them using capsules that had residual supplements in them).  While he couldn’t handle swallowing with water, he had no problem swallowing from a spoonful of apple sauce, so we used fruit sauce for about 3-6 months, then tried water again and he got it almost immediately, because he had become comfortable with the feeling of swallowing large pills, and the previous gag reflex went away.

    He only ate enough sauce to get his pills down, so a small cup might last several days (with the opened cup kept in the refrigerator).  I also liked this brand because there are several flavor options, so we rotated berry, apple, sour apple, pineapple, and peach so that he was not getting the same thing every day. This also helped prevent him from tiring of eating apple sauce at every meal. The fruit sauce helped pills of any size slide right down.  We called it his “disappearing trick”, and he loved doing it because then his juice (even though heavily diluted), still tasted a lot better with very few supplements added.”

  • There is a product available called Oraflo which manufacturers a “pill swallowing cup”. For more information please visit Oraflo and for a wide variety of other tools visit Bluff City Wholesale.

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Some children with autism cannot, or will not, swallow pills so parents need to find another way to get supplements into them. Mixing them into foods is the most popular but if you do something to a supplement that ruins it, you’re wasting your time, energy and money. To follow is an excerpt from an article that will help you know what NOT to do.

The Care and Feeding of Supplements by Mika Bradford, CN, from the September 2006 Newsletter from Kirkman Labs.

Minerals: (non organic)

  • Come from the earth

  • Can be contaminated if not purified

  • Can take the heat and cold

  • Can be cooked with

Amino Acids:

  • Do not spin them. No blender or mixer.

Vitamins: (organic)

  • Come from organic foods

  • Can be synthetic

(Ours are primarily synthetic for individuals that are avoiding multiple foods due to sensitivities but need pharmaceutical grade nutrients)

  • Can take the cold but will degrade in cooking heat

  • Can freeze

Probiotics: (Probiotics are living organisms that are naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract.)

  • Keep refrigerated.

  • Protect from heat & humidity

  • Can be frozen

  • Buy before summer heat to last through the summer

Do not store supplements in a bathroom, vitamins will become dark and may develop brown spots. It is best to keep them in a cool dry place out of the sunlight with the lid closed tightly away from moisture. If it gets extremely humid, putting the bottle in zip lock plastic bag helps keep moisture out.

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Know What You Are Buying

Do you know the differences between supplements you buy online vs your doctor’s office vs Wal-Mart? There are many differences between supplements, some are very important. Here’s what you need to look for:

  • Ingredients

    • Are they synthetic or natural?

    • Quality of ingredients.  If the company doesn’t manufacturer the ingredients, they cannot guarantee the quality of them

    • Are they hypoallergenic?

    • Do they contain unnecessary preservatives or colorings?

    • What additives are in them?

    • Is the capsule casing vegetable or beef?

    • How old are the pills?

  • Strength and dosage – most standard supplements are based on the RDA for a typical healthy child, but our kids sometimes need MUCH higher doses of some things (or none of others), so compare dosages and price, not just capsule number in bottle.

  • Can the pills be opened to be mixed into juice or food?

  • Do they make a liquid or powder version of the supplement?

Need More Ideas?

Kirkman Laboratories – a wonderful supplement manufacturer has even more ideas!

Resources

Books:

PDR Supplement A 2005: Physicians’ Desk Reference (Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) Supplement) by PDR Physicians Desk Reference for supplement descriptions and doses.

Web links:

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