The diet and supplements that will help a child with dyslexia
What you need to know:
Getting your child assessed is also useful as it allows them to work with a special needs teacher to minimise the problem, and receive special privileges such as more time for exams.
While dyslexia does tend to run in families, “nurture” not just “nature” can play a part. Dyslexic children often find reading difficult, have a poor working memory and a faulty sense of direction and, despite what many people believe, it can occur at any level of intellectual ability. So, in addition to special needs teachers*, children with dyslexia can benefit enormously from the right nutrition. And the most important factor to consider is an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency.
The outward symptoms of an EFA deficiency include rough dry patches on the skin, cracked lips, dry hair, soft/brittle nails, and excessive thirst. Dyslexia (and other learning difficulties) are the inward signs. All these conditions involve poor communication between the nerve cells in the brain. It is the EFA that is needed to ensure the neurons keep talking to each other – when they don’t, concentration, visual, behavioural or even sleep problems can arise. In fact, research has clearly demonstrated the benefits of these fats both for dyslexia and another associated condition, dyspraxia.
Around half of the dyslexic population is likely to be dyspraxic, and vice versa, and while it is less well-known, it is equally prevalent. Dyspraxia is a lot to do with poor coordination and children with the condition have difficulties in carrying out complex sequenced actions: tying up shoelaces, doing up buttons, and catching a ball. Handwriting is another tell-tale sign – it can be extremely difficult to read. While there is no known cause for the majority of those with the condition, research suggests that it is due to nerve cells in the brain not developing fully.
So how do we go about supplementation? First of all, you want one that lists out the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are essentially the active components and if a manufacturer hasn’t listed them, it’s likely that levels are quite low. For a child with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia, the actual dosage will depend on age but they generally should have at least 500mg each of EPA and DHA. At my clinic, I have often seen the difference in as little as four weeks.
There are a number of inferior products on the market, so look for a product that’s been screened for PCBs and dioxins (these are the toxins found in the sea and can be found in the fish bodies that are used to make the oil), so paying a little extra is probably justified.
* Getting your child assessed is also useful as it allows them to work with a special needs teacher to minimise the problem, and receive special privileges such as more time for exams.