Can Learning Disabilities Be Prevented?

by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

On a sunny morning,  twin five year olds were practicing writing their names.  Cara wrote her name on the paper and proudly showed it to me.  John also wrote his name, and proudly showed it to me.  Cara’s name was written well, in the primitive spacing and angle that five year olds do.  John, however, wrote his name in total mirror writing!   As a special educator, I knew that reversing a letter in writing is typical for a child who is just learning how to write, as five year olds are.  However, I knew that total mirror writing was a whole different story.  That told me that this child was having big issues with an internalized midline, that would only lead to bigger issues when older, if not addressed early.  To further explore this internalized midline, I asked John to do the simple cross crawl exercise (touching the opposite hand and knee while standing).  I demonstrated how to do this.  He watched me, and then did a homolateral crawl (touching the knee and hand on the same side of the body).   Then I said, “You just march in place, John, and I will move your hands, touching the opposite knee.”   We did this a few moments.  As soon as I stopped moving his hands, the movements went back to the original homolateral fashion.  Meanwhile, his sister, who had been intently watching this process, said, “Look at me. I can do it!   I can even do it going up the stairs, like this.  I can do it while singing a song.  Watch me!”   John, who had been watching his sister do the cross crawl without any effort said, “This is boring.”  (as we know, this is a  euphemism for ,“hard” ).

After doing some easy, home interventions with John, he became a voracious reader, and now, is in college, majoring in Journalism because he loves writing.

When working with John, I used two very easy interventions that parents can do that consistently  make a huge difference in preparing a child’s brain and nervous system for easy learning and information processing:  1)  Midline exercises and;   2) Nutritional interventions,  particularly  the essential brain fats.

Preventing  Dysgraphia      (fine motor or writing issues)

  1. Make sure your child crawls for a few months.  If you have a little one who wants to walk early, without crawling then just spend a few minutes (at each diaper change, possibly) touching the child’s knee to the opposite hand.  This will be perceived as “crawling” by the brain, and it will make all the adequate hemispheric connections.
  2. A child’s hand dominance is usually established by age four. If your child is still “switching hands” after that age, then do an easy midline-establishing exercise called “Bilateral Drawing” to help the brain establish the correct hand dominance.  Stand behind your child at a sliding glass door.  With an erasable marker in each hand, help the child move each hand, drawing from the midline outwards.  At the beginning, both markers touch each other, then move way out as far as the arm will go. Then slide them back to the middle, and repeat this movement down  the glass door.  Do this about five minutes a day for four weeks.  After this time, the brain should have established a hand dominance for the child.  1
  3. If a child does “mirror writing”, then do some  preventive brain training.  Have the child lie on the floor.  Kneeling beside him, touch his opposite hand and knee repeatedly, while the child’s eyes are in the upper left position (stimulating the right, automatic brain hemisphere).  I do this movement with the child for two minutes.   It helps to play some music with this, which further stimulates the right, automatic brain hemisphere.   Do this exercise two times a week for 3 months.  1
  4. To further establish the midline as the child’s “plumb line” and internal directionality, help your pre-schooler with midline fine motor exercise.  Draw a large eight, laying on it’s side, on a double wide construction paper.  With the child sitting with his middle  lined up with the middle of the horizontal eight, have him trace around the track with a crayon three times (stimulating the right, automatic brain hemisphere), and then make one of the alphabet letters.  Continue this process as you go through the alphabet.  The alphabet letter represents the visual/spatial part of the exercise, and stimulates the left brain, so this becomes a whole brain activity.  With a pre-schooler, do this exercise for about ten minutes a day, probably doing about five letters, along with the three times around the track in between each letter.  This needs to be done slowly, and with your hand on the child’s hand, training his muscle memory for midline recognition and fluency.   (if your back hurts from leaning over, then you are doing it right!)

Preventing  Dyslexia   (significant reading problems)

  1. Do step one, as described above, for your non-crawler, or quick walker.
  2. If your child has a difficult time (has to think about it), performing the cross crawl movement standing up (touching opposite hand and knee repeatedly …without jumping…for one minute), then do the Brain Training as described in step number three, above.
  3. Since research shows that  Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and ADHD runs in families that have an essential fatty acid deficiency, it is good to prevent Dyslexia by giving the essential fatty acids early.  Research strongly indicates that the  DHA in fish oil helps to increase the integrity of the connections in the brain.  For most moms, this just means that they give a teaspoon of flavored, emulsified (best digested) Cod Liver Oil daily.  Since the Cod Liver Oil contains DHA  and another important brain fat,  Vitamin D,  it has been found that  many learning disabilities can be prevented.  Researchers are finding a strong correlation between a deficiency of DHA and Vitamin D and Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADD, Autism, Allergies and Asthma. 2
  4. Take repeated ear infections seriously.  These can be one of the causes of Auditory Processing problems later in life.   In Dr. Mary Ann Block’s clinic in Texas, children never have more than one ear infection, because she replaces all dairy and soy products in their diet.    If a child is given an antibiotic for an ear infection, many moms know that by also giving a good probiotic, like Primadophilus, the child’s memory and behavior are not negatively impacted by the temporary yeast/fungus overgrowth that tends to come with repeated antibiotics.  3 4

Preventing  ADD

  1. In pregnancy, research shows that moms who take adequate amounts of fish oil (especially when Vitamin D is included), have fewer issues with learning and focusing with their children. Always check with your OB before adding any supplements while pregnant or nursing.  Have your vitamin D3 levels checked first. 5 6 7
  2. Nurse your child exclusively as long as you can.  When introducing foods, make them fresh, whole foods as much as possible.   Many parents do this by just making many of the baby’s first foods by simply mashing  bananas, steamed carrots and making pureed chicken in the blender, etc.  Make sure the child is getting good fats…avocado, butter, whole fat dairy products.  If a child has had early ear infections, or antibiotics, it is good to put off introduction of dairy products as long as possible. 4 7
  3. Limit sugar and packaged, processed foods as much as possible.  Use whole oatmeal for breakfast with berries, rather than packaged cereals.
  4. If your child needs an antibiotic or steroid, also  give a good probiotic  three times a day for several months after the medicine has been given, to restore the child’s  gut ecology, the manufacturing plant for the calming, focusing neurotransmitter, Serotonin.   4 5
  5. Play much outside in the sunshine, without sun block on for periods of time. 8
  6. If the child has hypotonia (low muscle tone) research the information on the role that Vitamin D plays in this condition.  It is fascinating. 8
  7. Consider giving emulsified, flavored Cod Liver Oil for any child with speech delay, or articulation issues, Sensory Processing issues, or difficulty sitting still.  This has worked for hundreds of years with children. We have just forgotten the importance of this food in our children’s diets. 8

The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado.

1. Brain Integration Therapy Manual, Dianne Craft
2. The LCP Solution for ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dr. Jacqueline Stordy
3. No More Ritalin,  Mary AnnBlock, MD
4. Superimmunity for Kids,  Leo Galland, MD
5. Help for the Hyperactive Child, William Crook, MD
6. ”Fish Oil Supplements for Pregnant Moms Boost Kids’ Hand-eye Coordination and Learning,”  Science Daily, June 29, 2012, www.sciencedaily.com
7. “Giving DHA supplements to breastfeeding mothers,”  Science Daily,  May1, 2010, www.sciencedaily.com
8. The Vitamin D Solution, Michael Holick, MD

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