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Supplements and Learning Disabilities

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about what causes learning difficulties in children, and what (if anything) can help in that respect. We all know there has been a steep rise in diagnosis of a raft of learning disabilities from aspergers to autism, and a huge number of new cases of attention deficit disorders. The discussion around ADHD is vast. How many new diagnoses are authentic? Is it a stand-alone disorder or one that accompanies other disabilities? What, other than prescribed medication, can help kids calm down, re-focus, get better sleep, concentrate in school, and support their brain function.

I am an experienced parent in such matters. I have a child with a list of differentiations long enough that I do experiment with different ideas to support her educationally, socially, and emotionally. She has Nonverbal Learning Disability with a co-diagnosis of ADHD. I have come to believe that she is not ADHD per se, but that it’s part of the larger picture which includes a severe social disability and some gross and fine motor issues as well. And her entire life has been plagued with terrible sleep patterns and not enough rest.

We know that no one is at their best when they are not getting good sleep. We also know that kids with LD’s seem to have trouble settling synaptically in order to get quality, deep enough sleeps. So that’s been one approach for me – work on my daughter’s sleep so that it’s deeper, longer, and she gets better REM. The solution in this case has been to give her melatonin. We started it when she hit a particularly blue period earlier this year. I thought, help her sleep, that will help her cope. For the most part, it has helped. She thinks better and is less emotional when she has slept well. Assured Natural offers Brad King’s Ultimate Sleep and Preferred Nutrition’s SleepSense.

But that’s not all we can do to help her cope and perform better.

Another proven supplement for brain development is Omega fish oils. Not only do these important and beneficial omegas help with development, but we have also seen studies whereby they help Alzheimer’s patients, and at least slow the progression of the disease. I’m not thinking that omega’s can repair my daughter’s neuron activity, but if it can help to strengthen it, then we are a leg up. Not only that, but omega’s are so beneficial in other ways that we can’t go wrong giving a spoonful to each child then ourselves as well! Check out our partners Sea-licious for a variety of omega fish oils offered in so many great flavours that no one will turn their nose up at it aged 3-93.

Another really important recent finding has been in realizing the importance of magnesium balance. Recent studies point to many adults being magnesium deficient. Now it has been discovered that magnesium deficiency is often found in children with ADHD. The statistics are staggering and cannot be ignored: 95% of kids with attention deficit disorder were found to have very low levels of magnesium. When children were supplemented with 200 mg a day for six months, there was an increase in magnesium levels and a decrease in hyperactivity. It also helps with muscle relaxation and is another step toward supporting better sleep as well. Supplementing with magnesium is not harmful, though one should start slowly as it can affect the child’s digestion. You could use powdered versions of magnesium such as MagSense or you could supplement with capsules such as Preferred Nutrition’s Magnesium.

I have never medicated my daughter. It was a choice made from the early days of her diagnoses, and I have stood fast to the decision even as some of her learning disabilities have become increasingly obvious as she gets older. But I do feel that there is some help for her and some hope that supplementing her carefully instead of prescribing medications WILL make a difference to her and her ability to learn, concentrate better, and to sleep more soundly.

It’s common sense, really.

To your good health!

- Karen Gasbarino-Knutt



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