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When nationally-known dietitian Elizabeth Strickland brings her free program entitled “How Nutrition Can Help Autism, ADD, ADHD and Learning Challenges” to the TD Convention Center Saturday, she will bring a wealth of experience other parents will be able to learn from.

That’s because she herself had two sons who struggled with learning challenges. Her youngest son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, receiving diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, sensory integration dysfunction and more.

“I’ve been there and done that,” Strickland said by phone. “I’ve been through all the testing, the behavioral tests, the different therapies, trying medications and things that weren’t successful, trying different routes, and dealing with the school system and how challenging that can be — so I can really relate to parents. I know what they’re going through.”

As a registered dietitian with 30 years of experience, Strickland has worked with children of various developmental disabilities. She said it was her youngest son’s diagnoses that led her to discover the link between nutrition and learning development.

“I initially took the basic medical approach for my youngest son on the spectrum and was following physician recommendations and psychiatrist recommendations for different medications, and they all failed miserably,” she said. “That forced me to look at other options. I branched out, looking at other ways to treat him, and it ended up being very successful.”

Strickland’s appearance, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. – noon Saturday, is being sponsored by the Greenville County Medical Society Alliance, a non-profit, volunteer organization composed of approximately 200 physicians and physician spouses. Laurie McCotter, president of the organization, said she, too, is a dietitian and the mother of two children who are learning challenged.

“While planning the projects our group would undertake this year, I kept those two passions in mind,” she said. “This is a field of nutrition which is relatively new and rather confusing to parents and professionals alike.  By bringing Elizabeth to Greenville, I hope to give parents the opportunity to learn sound, research based information that will help their families.”

On Friday, Strickland will present a program to students at the USC School of Medicine in Greenville, and her program on Saturday will be followed by a one-hour question and answer session to allow parents and health care professionals to generate discussion.

Strickland, who is author of “Eating for Autism: The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child’s Autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD,” said research over the past five years has proven a correlation between nutrition and autism. She plans to discuss those findings and give parents information to implement their own plans using recommendations on supplements, vitamins and foods.

“When they walk away, there’s going to be an ah-ha moment that food and nutrition make a difference,” she said. “We take food for granted, and we really don’t think about how it impacts our brain, especially a young child with a developmental disability. Even one nutrient deficiency can impact their brain function and how they respond to different therapies.”

She said even parents of non-special needs children can find value in the discussion, and all parents are welcome to attend.

“Parents will go home not only with information but concrete ideas of what they can do different with their child’s nutritional interventions,” she said.

McCotter said anyone planning to attend the program should register online at www.hownutritioncanhelp.eventbrite.com.

Want to go?

What: "How Nutrition Can Help - Autism, ADD, ADHD, and Learning Challenges"

When: 10 a.m. – noon Nov. 19

Where: TD Convention Center, Greenville

Cost: Free

Register online at www.hownutritioncanhelp.eventbrite.com.

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