Adam’s Gluten Free Surprise, Helping Others Understand Gluten Free

By Guest Blogger, Debbie Simpson

Laura asked me to write about my inspiration for Adam’s Gluten Free Surprise, Helping Others Understand Gluten Free.  I am often asked if Adam is my son.  While my son, now 23, has been gluten free for twelve years and was a positive inspiration for this book, Adam was actually inspired by many children – and their parents.
I was diagnosed with celiac in 2000 at the age of 40 after a lifetime of celiac related symptoms.  My passion to spread awareness was almost immediate upon switching to a gluten free diet and experiencing such positive results.  I didn’t realize how bad I had actually felt until I started to feel good, giving me the drive to increase awareness about this disease that affects nearly 1% of us.
Of course eating gluten free back then was not as easy as it is now.  I had a lot of learning to do, and part of that learning included internet usage in order to figure this diet out.  In turn, research had me discovering how common yet under diagnosed this disease is, along with the fact that the list of symptoms could vary greatly from person to person.  My desire to spread awareness grew as did a need to find others like me, so I started a local support group.  And months later I joined several others and co-founded the Bi-State Celiac Support Group covering the St. Louis and metro east Illinois areas.  I always found support group meetings and our annual gluten free picnics a huge rush.  Besides my family, celiac awareness became my passion.
I was a teacher’s aide at the time of diagnosis.  Of course every now and then there would be a child who could not eat a particular snack due to an allergy and it always made me feel bad.  Through the support group I met many parents whose children had to be gluten free and who also experienced being left out during classroom celebrations.  And quite honestly, when it comes to small children and the acceptance of special diets, it usually seems that parents have a more difficult time than their kiddos do.  Parents often shared with me how responsible and accepting their children were with their gluten free diet, a diet that made them feel so much better.  However they also shared a major complaint – the challenge of getting family and teachers to understand that this is a 100% diet no “now and then”, no “a little won’t hurt”, not even a crumb.   After all, the word “diet” is synonymous with “cheat a little”, isn’t it?
I eventually found myself back in school to finish my teaching degree, leaving me little time for the support group I had helped create.  But the need to make a difference and spread awareness didn’t stop – and thus the idea for ‘Adam’.
Food always seems to be such a big part of celebrations and social occasions – and is the very reason I wrote this book – because FOOD is what also separates those of us with allergies and intolerances during these special social occasions.  And when it comes to kids – it absolutely breaks my heart when one has to sit with an empty desk and to be denied the colorful tasty cupcake everyone else is allowed to enjoy.  Writing this book and helping others understand the importance of cross contamination, label reading, preparation with advanced notice, and empathy to the emotions of being left out, is my way of making a difference.

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