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What is ILT?

If you are reading this, the chances are that you have a child who is struggling at school. Maybe he or she is finding it difficult to master skills such as reading, writing, maths or spelling. Maybe he or she can do all these things but comes home with reports about unfinished work, or work left at home.

The teacher complains about her being disorganised, untidy or even aggressive towards other children. Or maybe she is described as being unfocused and a daydreamer who never seems to listen. And maybe you agree with the teacher because you see the same behaviour at home.

Labels such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Problems, Sensory Processing Disorder are mentioned. What’s going on?


  • Can your child be deficient in zinc?

    We know that children need a balanced diet, containing good protein, fats and carbohydrates, in order to function and learn efficiently.  We also tend to worry about vitamin levels so many families take vitamin supplements.  Many of us are, however, less concerned about the levels of certain vital minerals in our children’s growing bodies.

    Dr John McKenna, who worked for years in South Africa, found in his medical practice that trace element deficiencies are more common than vitamin deficiencies. Of the trace elements, he found zinc deficiency to be one of the most common.   This is important in the light of the role zinc plays in the human body. It is a major protector of the immune system and an important disease fighter, especially viral infections which are not much helped by available medications.

    Signs of a zinc deficiency include growth retardation, poor appetite, mental lethargy and increased susceptibility to infections.  If your child has a poor appetite, Dr McKenna advises you to suspect a zinc deficiency.

    There are no adverse effects associated with low-dos zinc supplementation, although mega doses of zinc may have a negative effect on the immune system.  Dr McKenna recommends a daily intake of 10-15 mg in children (and double this for adults).  He suggests supplementation of zinc for a period of three-months.

    Following a more natural approach, you may want to increase your family’s intake of foods rich in zinc. These include whole grain cereals and legumes (beans and peas).  Oysters are also high in this substance but few of us consume these on a regular basis!


  • Some thoughts on sleep routines

    Is your child having trouble falling asleep?  This seems to be a common problem – especially around the ages of 10 – 14 and one that worries parents as we all know that children need to get a proper night’s sleep. 

    The literature available suggests that one of the more successful approaches to the problem is to ensure a bedtime routine.   This is especially effective if a child’s sleeping problems can be traced back to habits the child has developed that interfere with good sleep. 

    The first step would be to check to make sure your child’s routines are sleep-friendly. For example, one of the best ways to ensure healthy sleep is setting a consistent wake-up time and sticking to it. The wake-up time doesn’t have to be exactly the same time every day, but it should be within a two-hour window.

    Although it may seem helpful to let children sleep in on the weekends, it actually disrupts their internal clock. That makes it much tougher to get back into a weekday sleep routine on Monday. Sleep deprivation then gets worse during the week.

    Also, consider your children’s use of electronic devices before bedtime. Many tweens and teens have televisions and computers in their bedrooms. They keep their cellphones close by at all times. These devices can make it hard to disengage from stimulating activities.

    For the best sleep, children should turn off all electronic devices at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. This gives the brain time to relax and wind down, making it easier to fall asleep. It is strongly recommend that computers and TVs be kept out of a child’s bedroom. It is best for cellphones to be shut down and stored in another room at night.

    Children should avoid any food or beverages that contain caffeine or sugar at least two to three hours before bedtime. Daily exercise and other physical activity can aid sleep. But have them finish those activities at least two hours before he goes to bed. Also, even if they are sleepy during the day, encourage them not to nap. Naps do more harm than good when it comes to getting good sleep because they often make falling asleep at night harder than ever.

    For some children, when they lie down at night worries and concerns creep into their minds, making it hard to relax and fall asleep. To help clear their minds, it may be useful for them to take a few minutes before bedtime to write down anything that’s on their minds or tasks they need to do. Once they are on paper, sometimes children are better able to let their concerns go and get to sleep more easily.

    Although it is not a common condition, another source of a child’s problem could be a sleep disorder related to the workings of his internal, or biological, clock. The most common such problem with tweens and teens is called delayed sleep phase syndrome. Children who have this sleep disorder are “night owls.” According to their internal clock, their day is longer than 24 hours. As a result, they tend to fall asleep at progressively later and later times each night and then have difficulty waking up in time to go to school.

    It is important for your child’s sleep problem to be addressed. Too little sleep can make it hard for a child to concentrate and pay attention at school. It can lead to mood swings and irritability, and can increase a child’s tendency to accidents.

    Try to first address any habits that may be interfering with your child’s sleep. If changes in bedtime habits don’t help, make an appointment to see a sleep specialist in case he or she has a sleep disorder.

    The content of this post was sourced from the Mayo Clinic. 


  • Nutrition not important? Bah humbug!

    Those of you who are familiar with Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) will have realized that we take careful note of a child’s current diet as well as a history of eating patterns.  Most people discount this, believing that the fare on offer at supermarkets, restaurants and fast food outlets is acceptable and what people have always eaten – without consequences.  Many rely on ready-to-eat snacks, pastries, cakes and meals. Many believe that much of the food we give our children is healthy, such as muffins, crisps, dried fruits, fruit juices, fresh white bread and more.

    This is contrary to evidence of what foods are good for the body and brain.  Time after time, we ILT practitioners see how changing a child’s diet brings about remarkable improvements in challenging behaviours, attention problems, mood, feelings of being unwell and ability to learn efficiently.   One of the first signs that we often see is that children appear calmer and more in control of themselves.

    A combination of poor choice of food and overuse of some medications, like antibiotics, causes unpleasant side effects in a child’s systems, one being ‘leaky gut,’ which sees a breakdown in the integrity of the intestinal wall. This allows content from the gut to move into the blood stream, where it certainly doesn’t belong.  Symptoms of this often show up as a child who complains of not feeling well, being overly emotional, constantly tired and unable to focus on schoolwork.   A recent case study saw one (initially) sceptical mom returning with her child to report on changes after following a strict diet for one month. She said that she was surprised that her child had easily conformed to the restricted diet and neither complained about or resisted it. At this stage, the child turned to his mom and said “Yes, but I like that my stomach doesn’t hurt after eating anymore.”  This was the first time that mom had heard of this and she was surprised but also very pleased at the positive result.

    So consider your child’s diet and your choice of what you feed your family.  There are ways of getting healthy foods onto the table in a short time. It might take a little research and planning but the rewards are great.   And if you are struggling, there are professionals out there to help.



  • Baby-led weaning or spoon feeding? The difference it makes to your child’s eating habits is actually very small

    This article appeared in a Science newsletter on April 2nd2019.  We thought it might be of interest as so many children these days present as ‘picky’ eaters who are difficult to feed.

    It was written by Sophia Komninou, The Conversation

    When it comes to avoiding picky eating and meal time tantrums, parents are usually ready to try any method that promises their child will become a better and less fussy eater. This is in part why methods of giving solid food to infants have received a lot of attention in the last few years. Some think that the way babies are introduced to solids can change their attitudes to food into childhood or even for life.

    The most common method used to give babies their first solids has long been to offer a puree or mash using a spoon. This helps parents make sure their babies receive adequate energy and nutrients for their development – something many are often anxious over.

    More recently, however, baby-led weaning has gained popularity – and divided parents. This method sees babies selecting finger foods – such as carrot sticks, broccoli trees or other pieces of whole, baby-fist size pieces of food – and feedingthemselves. While there have been unsubstantiated claims that this method can improve a baby’s dexterity and confidence, research has associated baby-led weaning with their ability to recognise when they are full and being less fussy with their food. This makes it an appealing choice for some parents.

    However, as with most things baby-related, the reality is that many parents don’t use just one method of feeding. It changes depending on the time, day or situation they are in. Which is why, for our recently published study, we wanted to compare how different styles of feeding affects a baby’s eating habits and attitudes to food.

    Is baby-led weaning better?

    We looked at four different categories of toddlers, whose parents introduced them to solids using either: solely baby-led weaning, mostly baby-led weaning with occasional spoon feeding, mostly spoon feeding with occasional finger foods, or just spoon feeding. We asked the parents questions about their feeding strategies and eating behaviours of their toddlers, like fussiness and food enjoyment. 

    Usually, in a statistical analysis, we look at whether there is a difference between groups. But what this doesn’t tell us is how big the difference actually is. To solve this problem, we looked at the size of the difference between the groups (what we call the effect size). It helps us understand whether the difference actually matters. 

    We found that the magnitude of difference in a toddler’s fussiness and food enjoyment is minimal across the four groups. This means that baby-led weaning, spoon-feeding or anything in between might not actually be the solution to future mealtime battlegrounds some parents hope it will be. That may seem to be in contrast with what the research shows so far, but it doesn’t negate those findings. Babies will be less picky about their food if they are fed using baby-led weaning as opposed to any of the other types of feeding, it’s just not by that much.

    Socio-economics at play

    When looking at the strategies parents use to feed their children, our study did show that those who follow baby-led weaning are less likely to use food as a reward or encouragement, and have less control on eating overall. This helps their toddlers learn to make eating decisions for themselves based on whether they are hungry or full. These parents are also more likely to breastfeed for longer, introduce solids after six months and eat more frequently with their toddlers.

    However, the key difference here is not that the children were fed using baby-led weaning but instead the type of families who usually follow it. Our findings show that these parents are usually of a higher socio-economic status and more educated, which makes them more likely to follow a distinctly different parenting style and be able to afford to spend more time and money doing so.

    Overall, our results suggest that the way a baby is introduced to solids will make very little difference to how fussy they will become, or how much they will enjoy food. It is important to remember that how children eat depend on a lot of factors, including their genetic background, their past experiences with food and their interaction with their parents.

    Research findings are important when communicating complementary feeding advice to new parents, but headlines and quoted study results can often be misleading. So remember that when reports of research say there is a difference between one method over another, it’s not the whole story. The size of this difference – something that is not often communicated – matters too. The most important thing that parents can do is to try their best and introduce solids in a way that is more appropriate for their family, rather than stressing about a specific method, as research suggests might make a only a very small difference.



  • Memory magic during lockdown


    Memory abilities vary in people but the sequence of memory work the same in everyone. Depending on how long you want to remember something, your brain stores information in three different ways or stages.

    The first stage is called the ‘sensory register’. Usually you see or hear something and the brain holds onto that sensory input for only a fraction of a second before its replaced by another sensation.

    Sensory memory fades quickly unless its transferred to the next stage, called ‘short-term memory’ (STM).  When you get home and drop your car keys on the table, you see what you are doing but don’t think about it.  This is why you have to search for those keys tomorrow morning!  The image of the keys on the table never made it into your memory.  STM is an active memory, the part of your mind that holds the contents of your attention. What you choose to keep in STM is a matter of personal interest.  It usually fades within 15-20 seconds unless you consciously attend to it.

    The third stage is called ‘long-term memory’ (LTM), which is practically limitless.  The brain can hold gazillions of separate bits of information.  The longer you think about something, the longer it stays in STM and the greater its chances of moving to LTM.

    Here are some ways to test and strengthen your child’s memory abilities:

    • Do this with your child – you can help! Try to draw from memory as many details as possible of what is on each side of a R5 coin (or any other common coin).  Most people can only recall a few of the coin’s features, even though we handle coins nearly every day.  Their details are not significant enough for us to commit them to memory.
    • Fill a tray with ten to twenty small, common, related items – for example, kitchen utensils, assorted pieces of stationery or hardware. Show the tray to your child for one minute, then put it out of sight. Ask your child how many items she can recall. Most people don’t do very well with this activity but with practice and a few tricks (encourage the child to find her own ways of remembering the items), memory can be improved.
    • Teach your child the ‘Method of Loci’, a way to commit a list of unrelated items to memory. Give your child a list of items to remember, e.g. glass, broom, book, etc. Basically, you link the items you want to remember with familiar locations, following a predetermined order (such as clockwise).  For example: Imagine each items on a list as being in a particular spot within a room. The glass is on the shelf as you enter the room, the broom stands next to the shelf, the book is on the tv, and so on. Mentally take a trip around the room to visit each item.  Once you’ve explained the Method of Loci, give your child different lists of unrelated household items to commit to memory each day.
    • Teach your child how to make associations. For example, when you meet a new person and want to remember his or her name, think up something funny or bizarre to associate with it.  Say your son wants to remember the name of his new soccer coach, Mr Ruder. He might make the association with the phrase, “He’s ruder than the old coach.”  Practice by introducing yourself to your child using different names.
    • Practice making use of mnemonics (from the Greek ‘mneme’, meaning to remember). This technique helps you to remember things better usually by forming a strong association. It could be anything from a rhyme (e.g. ‘Thirty days hath September ….’) to a strong visual image to putting a rubber band on your wrist.
    • Tell your child about ‘déjà vu’. This is the feeling we all get sometimes that we’ve been in a particular place or situation before, even though we know that’s impossible. Scientists don’t know for sure thy this is such a common experience, but several theories have been suggested. Perhaps a situation feels familiar because it triggers memories of an experience that evoked similar feelings. Or maybe it has something to do with a slight lag time between the processing mechanisms of two parts of the brain.  Has your child every experienced ‘déjà vu’?

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