Significance of Diet for Children with Special Needs - Part I
Good nutrition is important for all, especially for children below five years of age, as these years are demanding for the developing child. These formative years are the ones during which children acquire many of the physical attributes and the social and psychological structures for life and learning'. (British Medical Association 2005)
This article aims to educate caregivers of ‘children with special needs', about the importance of a healthy diet, specifically for children with Autism and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
ADHD (also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a health condition that includes two components:
Inability to pay attention
Trouble focusing on tasks
Apart from medication and behavioural therapy for children with ADHD; diet also occupies a vital role in the growth and development. According to ADHD expert Richard Sogn, "Whatever is good for the brain is likely to be good for ADHD". Let us look at a few examples:
1. A high-protein diet, including beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts is highly necessary. Add protein foods in the morning and for after-school snacks, to improve concentration, and possibly increase the time-period effect of ADHD medications.
2. Fewer simple carbohydrates, such as candy, honey, sugar, and products made from white flour, white rice, and potatoes (without the skins) are easier to digest.
3. More complex carbohydrates should include vegetables and some fruits (oranges, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi). Eating complex carbs at night may aid sleep.
4. Include more Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in tuna, salmon, walnuts, olive oil, and canola oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in the supplement form.
5. Although, the effect of sugar on attention-disorders remains controversial, sugar has been known to lead to behavioural effects. Thereby, the benefits of decreasing sugar consumption (e.g., improved dental health) should be emphasized.
6. Further, elimination of some common allergy-inducing foods like cheese, nuts, wheat cereal, and chocolate and replacing them with hypoallergenic foods like lamb, potatoes, carrots, and pears could also reduce ADHD symptoms.
In short, replacing unhealthy foods such as red meats, fast food, and high-fat dairy products with a "healthy" diet rich in fish, vegetables, whole-grain foods, fruits, and legumes should help relieve symptoms for kids with ADHD.