The GAPS diet is recommended for helping children with all manner of conditions, like autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia. As I have said in a previous post, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride sees that they all have a common component - poor gut health. In her opinion (and in an increasing number of others in the medical profession) there is a link between the gut and the brain. We are most certainly seeing that in our family as we were work through the GAPs diet. We are still seeing healing taking place, nigh on 18 months after starting.
I think it is fair to say that most parents, when a child's birth is imminent, have at least a little anxiety as to whether the child will be healthy. If they are not born with an obvious health problem, then they inwardly, if not outwardly, sigh a breath of relief. Therefore it can come as a shock to them, when after a few months it becomes obvious that something is not right. Maybe the infant doesn't reach the 'average' age for the various milestones - walking, talking etc... Alarm bells start to ring. Sometimes it's a more subtle thing that mum is just aware of very early on - maybe the infant cries very loudly - screaming often. This is very worrying. She takes it to the doctor who prescribes colic medicine, as s/he finds nothing else wrong. Maybe its a lack of interaction - or lack of eye contact. Others might manifest weak muscles; unable to sit up, hold their own bottle when all the other babies even younger are doing so. It doesn't matter what is noticed, but it niggles and the mother starts to be anxious. Is something wrong? Eventually developmental assessments are carried out, with hearing/sight tests. Mother watches on very anxiously. And then the diagnosis (if you get one) can be earth shattering. Very often the young mother has no knowledge of autism/dyspraxia etc.. and so starts a long journey of learning. Children don't come with instruction sheets!
Doctors know very little, comparatively about these conditions. They have developed some drugs to help control behaviour by calming the child down (Ritalin for example), and there are therapies available, but the role of the gut is still by comparison largely ignored.
Let's look at some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Many people think of it as being primarily a reading and writing problem but it goes much beyond this. What many do not realise, is that dyslexia is on a 'spectrum' like autism, and although not known to be directly linked, they share many things in common. It comes in various 'strengths'; some have it very badly, others only very mildly. Those with mild dyslexia might only notice a tendency to get things in a muddle, but it doesn't interfere with every day life in a debilitating way. Others on the other hand are severely hampered by it as it interferes with their ability to read, write and compute as well as their day to day functioning. It can be difficult to identify as children can mask their symptoms: It rarely becomes very obvious until they are older by which time they have learnt some strategies, either helpful or unhelpful, to cope.
See this interesting article here.
Basically, it is a problem with organising information - so the dyslexic pupil will have trouble learning 'orders' of things: days of the week, months of the year, time, times-tables, the alphabet etc.... This may reflect itself in poor personal organisation. In school, they will find it hard to follow the order of the lesson and the effort involved will tire them out quickly. Therefore they will be more inclined to drift and daydream and will be easily distracted. Others may use work avoidance tactics - fussing about equipment rather than getting down to work. Others may become the class 'clown' or draw attention to themselves through bad behaviour.
At home and in class they may have difficulty processing oral/written language including having trouble following instructions.
They may have trouble saying long words, or forget words.
So already we have a long list of things that cause a problem, before we start to think about their written work and reading.
The British Dyslexia Association tell the following areas of weakness that might manifest themselves in a dyslexic child:
Of course, problems come in maths too. We have already looked at problems with ordering (especially day of week, timetables etc..) and time-telling, but confusing numbers and signs is common too. as well as ordering numbers and learning place value (i.e. units/tens/hundreds etc..)
Some people do see changes with their child by following the GAPS diet, but I would recommend starting as early as you can. Don't think it will automatically make them into a good reader! It doesn't work that way. The diet helps to clear the brain, so that more normal pathways can be established and so that learning becomes easier. Note I said easier, not easy, as no learning is easy. It always requires effort on the part of the learner. As with all children with special needs, an intensive programme of education is beneficial if they are to make good headway in all areas. It requires attention in all areas of life, not just food.
Alongside the change in diet must come exercise - especially exercise that helps to develop co-ordination as it is these exercises that help to establish correct brain pathways which help reading and spelling etc.. as young babies start to move, their movements appear random, but they are building up, step by step. For one reason or another, some children miss out some of these steps - very often those that are later diagnosed as being autistic/dyspraxic/dyslexic. They may not crawl, but bottom shuffle. Crawling is very important for developing eye-hand co-ordination, so by missing it out they do not develop the necessary brain connections needed later on. Do lots of crawling - join a soft play area and go as often as you can. All the crawling though tunnels is fantastic. Get them crawling like a tiger round the house while listening to some music. Riding a bike and swimming, for older children. Spinning, jumping on a trampoline. All of these things help to stimulate the parts of the brain that might not have had proper stimulation either in the womb or during the early years.
As it is summer you can provide extra fun in your own back garden: build an assault course in the garden - be imaginative: hoops to crawl through, tables to crawl under, a cane balanced on two bricks to make a hurdle to jump over. Time them and make it into a fun race.
Routines must be established. Find ways of helping your child to keep track of time - daily schedule charts using pictures for the very young; Talk to them about the routine. Use ordering words: before, after, while, soon, shortly, next, What do we do after breakfast? That's right - we clean our teeth. What do we do after dinner? We clear the table. What must we do before we eat? Wash our hands. Establish a bedtime routine.
It might seem very restrictive, but it will help your child enormously. Many children without problems have trouble coping without a routine, let alone those who do struggle.
A good reading/spelling programme is essential. The good news is that with such a programme, problems with reading/writing/spelling may largely be overcome. It needs to be a phonic based programme that is intensive and systematic. It needs to be started as soon as possible - ideally in nursery school years. I will look at a such a system in a future post.
Disclaimer: I am a teacher, not a doctor. A member of the medical profession should be consulted about all matters relating to your health. This information is for advice only.