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THE MAX: Gentle brush strokes that brought out best in Blair; BODY OF EVIDENCE: THE UNORTHODOX TREATMENT THAT COULD END HYPERACTIVE MISERY FOR THOUSANDS OF KIDS.

BLAIR SMITH lies on his bed and, for ten minutes, his mum strokes his skin with a paintbrush.

She always moves it gently in the same direction and only on certain parts of his face and chest.

Then she uses the wrong end to travel up his back. Ticklish though it should be, the seven-year-old schoolboy doesn't wriggle or try to run off.

He lies completely still and relaxed until his mum Lynn says it's over.

This is not a game, but bodybrushing, the latest treatment for children with a range of disorders such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, more commonly known as clumsy child syndrome.

Bizarre though it sounds, the change it has made to Blair is amazing.

Three months ago, he was an unhappy child and, although highly intelligent, he'd been asked to leave his primary school because the staff could not cope with him.

He would not sit still, was full of fears and often lashed out when he did not get his own way.

Lynn says: "He used to be very aggressive towards me and really out of control. I'm not getting that at all now.

"He is calmer, happier and more relaxed and we are having a lot more fun together. His new school says that he is like a different child from the one written about in the reports."

The theory behind body- brushing is simple.

All of us, in the womb and as babies, have reflexes controlled by the brain and nervous system which normally disappear as we grow older.

Foetal reflexes should disappear after 18 weeks of pregnancy, primitive reflexes by six months after birth and infant reflexes by the time the baby is 14 months.

Postural, or adult reflexes, should be fully developed by the age of three.

In some children, for an unknown reason, the younger reflexes linger for longer, preventing the older ones from developing

That means their bodies and eyes are not fully under their own control.

It can lead their eyes jumping over lines of text or skipping words as they read along, making it impossible for them to understand the meaning.

In other cases, their bodies swing round as they try to write, they are stiff in the back and legs, or they run awkwardly and with no rhythm.

They often have too much adrenalin surging round their bodies, making it hard for them to sit still and concentrate.

Instead, they tend to be hyperactive. They can even enjoy getting into trouble by doing daring dangerous things, because of the adrenalin rush it brings.

The idea is that brushing stimulates the nervous system, helping it to get rid of the outdated reflexes.

Murdo White, of Biggar, South Lanarkshire, is the only trained bodybrushing therapist in Scotland.

He says: "I feel very sorry for these children. They cannot sit still or read properly because their bodies are instinctively doing something else.

"Brushing in this very specific way works to inhibit the retained reflexes. It replaces some of the movements which the foetus makes in the mother, helping the nervous system to mature.

"It is a powerful tool. It should not be done lightly or without proper supervision.

"You can be releasing large amounts of adrenalin into their system and, if you get it wrong, you could make things worse. Done properly and regularly, twice a day every day, you will get rid of the reflexes.

"Then the children can settle down and fulfil their potential."

Lynn Smith, 31, a school helper, and her husband, Kenny, 35, a photographer, from Dennyloanhead, near Falkirk, are certainly impressed by what the treatment has done for Blair.

From the moment he came into the world as an emergency forceps birth, he was a desperately unhappy baby.

Lynn says: "He was a standing joke in the maternity ward for his screaming from the day and minute he was born.

"He would turn purple and stop himself breathing. My mum and sister weren't keen to look after him, because it was so terrifying when he did it."

At 12 weeks old, he ended up back in hospital having investigations for his obvious distress, but doctors could find nothing.

As a toddler, Blair beat up both his cousins, one four years older than him, the other eight months younger.

Lynn said: "He used to throw the younger one against the TV set.

"It got so bad she'd scream as soon as I took him into the room. With us, if he didn't get what he wanted, he would lash out."

When he was four, he developed viral meningitis. After recovering from it, he developed a range of phobias.

He can't bear the sound of white noise from a badly-tuned radio, the roar of traffic, or the rattle of a badly-closed door.

Educational and clinical psychologists now suggest that he has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, though the family is still waiting for the results of tests to confirm it. People with Asperger's are often highly intelligent, but have difficulty making sense of the world, which is true of Blair.

Lynn says: "He's very literal in his use of language. If you say 'Pull your socks up', he'll bend down and start pulling them up.

"Yet he has the reading ability of a 12-year-old."

At the bodybrushing screening process, which costs pounds 20, Murdo White did various tests on Blair to see if he could be helped.

Their first full-blown session in April, cost pounds 200, subsequent monthly reviews cost pounds 90.

Lynn said: "We're definitely having more good days than we used to have.

"It's too much of a coincidence for this to have happened on its own, just at the time we started bodybrushing."

Find out about bodybrushing on the Internet, at http://www.bodybrushing.co.uk.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Burns, Emma
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 12, 2000
Words:964
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