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The nutritional aspects of learning disorders.

The book of Proverbs tells us that every child should be educated according to his or her own nature. In an age of standardization, tests, and stringent record keeping, this principle is often overlooked, with unfortunate results to the child.

Let us consider the following scenario. A child is not doing well in school. Teachers report lack of interest, daydreaming, and poor scores in tests. This type of problem is much more prevalent among boys for reasons not fully understood and may present discipline problems. What are we to make of this situation?

Before parents and teachers take any drastic steps, a full evaluation of the child by a competent pediatrician is imperative. The areas involved in this evaluation cover major aspects:

1. Visual Difficulties -- Does the child have visual problems or dyslexia? Perhaps he or she cannot see the blackboard or the letters in a textbook.

2. Hearing Difficulities -- Because of the large number of middle ear infections in infancy and childhood, many children are left with impaired hearing. The correction of this problem may open new worlds to the child. A special note here must be added in regard to the auditory damage done to the young by the blasting sound of various types of "music" that may be prevalent in the household.

3. Subclinical Infection -- Some children suffer from bouts of subclinical infection, usually of a respiratory origin. Allergic manifestations may also be involved, making the child feel he or she is constantly "under the weather." Obviously, this does not create a positive mental environment for learning.

4. Individual Nature -- Some children are naturally slow learners; this does not necessarily impede future intellectual development. The great inventor Thomas Edison was considered a dullard in his youth, but because of the faith his mother had in his intellectual capacity, he achieved great heights.

Physicians who treat problems in this area formerly used the acronym MBD (minimal brain dysfunction). This terminology is now considered passe. The current acronyms used are ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). As the names indicate, these problems are considered specific syndromes and various methods have been proposed to achieve improvement. We will consider only holistic or nutritional approaches inasmuch as they are the safest and have shown great promise. It must be emphasized that parents should not attempt to treat their children nutritionally via supplements without the advice of a competent professional.

When hyperactivity is part of the problem (ADHD), many parents have found improvement through use of the Feingold diet, which eliminates artificial dyes, artificial colors and artificial flavors. Inasmuch as these substances are of benefit to no one, it would seem wise to eliminate them from everyone's diet.

The author is happy to report that he was involved with a leading pediatrician in doing a double-blind study using particular nutrients in learning-disabled children (ADD). The results of this study are scheduled to appear shortly in a leading medical journal. The physician has informed this author that the positive results achieved were partly attributed to the use of vitamins, made without coal tar dyes, artifical flavors or colors, or sugar. Among the nutrients found beneficial were various members of the B complex family (especially Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6 and folic acid) and certain minerals, especially magnesium. Again, it must be emphasized that only the pediatrician can determine the need and dosage of these factors.

One area that does not usually require consideration is that of providing the child with a healthful balanced breakfast to start the day on the right track.

As in so many areas, early detection and treatment for the situation usually lead to a better success rate.

In conclusion, a special word of caution to parents is indicated. Never give up on a "slow child." Attempt to maintain, as much as possible, a state of tranquility in the home which creates a proper climate for learning. Set goals, but within reason. Praise accomplishment even if it appears to be minimal. The future well-being and achievements of a child are largely molded in the critical early years.
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Author:Zimmerman, Philip W.
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1992
Previous Article:Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.
Next Article:Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: underdiagnosed, undertreated.

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