Every aspect of the life of a child with learning or developmental disorders has to be studied and modified in order to give the child the best chance of achieving his/her true potential.
Attention should particularly be paid to the following key areas:
1. Play (guided, therapeutic play).
3. Physical development.
6. Lots and lots of affirmative affection and love.
7. Discipline – for an ordered life.
I would like to just discuss a few pointers on diet. We have found that a change in diet makes a huge difference to attention spans and mental acuity as well as helping to correct deficits in physical growth and development.
A lot of parents are aware of the ‘food pyramid’ and have implemented those suggetions. Children with LD and developmental disorders require even more care as the diet not only has immediate effects on behavior but is also critical for normalising the functioning and development of the brain and nervous system.
The basics af a good LD diet are: Adequate calories and nutrients + a shift in the composition of the diet so that 40% is protein, 35% fat, and 25% complex carbohydrates.
Quantity is not as important as quality but do see that your child gets just enough calories.
Add more fried things – side dishes and snacks.
Mix the oils used in food preparation. Too often adults’ fears of too much cholesterol means that families stick to one safe oil, say sunflower oil. There’s nothing wrong with sunflower oil, but for kids other oils can help with the development of their nervous systems. Add oils like Olive, Sessame, Safflower, Rice Bran, and Corn oil, and you can also happily let the children have other dairy fat rich things like cheese and butter. Fish oil (cod liver oil) and other omega 3, omega 6 supplements we have found to be very helpful.
Use more herbs and spices in your cooking. Many exotic ingredients like mustard seeds, black pepper, cardomom, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed, sessame seed, corriander seeds and leaves, and mint are very good because they contain essential oils that are useful for the body. A few spices, especially red chilli powder (caprica) and turmeric we have found to be generally unhelpful. Nuts are an excellent source of essential oils – almonds, cashew nuts and macadamias are especially enriching.
Vegetables and fruits should be present in every meal. Let the kids have their favourites in any quantity but do see that the yellow vegetables are represented (e.g. carrots, pumpkin). Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage are very good but some creativity may be required to get the children to eat enough of them.
Carbs should be complex, especially for kids with ADD/ADHD. Honey, molasses, treacle, pure maple syrup, and date syrup, are very good sweeteners. Stay away from sugar (sucrose) and glucose as much as possible. Fruits of all types are good. Dark chocolate is good as are homemade icecream and fruit cocktail. Fruit preserves that have no stabilizers or artificial preservatives are fine. In fact it is best to stay away from anything with artificial stabilizers, food colorings and preservatives as many of these have effects on mood and can worsen hyperactivity. Bread should best be whole grain, but a number of children are sensitive to gluten so check that out and if necessary try a gluten excluded diet for at least a week to see whether it helps.
Don’t store anything in the fridge, if at all possible – FRESH IS BEST!
Changes in diet will result in both immediate and slower changes, and if you are a sensible parent you will pay close attention to this very important aspect of your child’s life. make sure to keep track of dietary changes or anything ‘new’ that your child eats in your journal.
Anyone interested in the Challenge ‘eggetarian’ LD diet (very Indian) can mail me and I will send you a copy. There is no ONE CORRECT diet that will work with all developmentally challenged kids, so keep working on it and learning as you go!