Food and diet. It’s a very important topic of conversation for me and even more so because of Jude’s disabilities.
Since he was tiny, I have gradually become more and more aware of the benefits of a plant-based, healthy diet particularly for growing minds and bodies and especially those minds and bodies who are struggling a bit more than others. I have touched on it before but it astounds me how unimportant the discussion of nutrients, food and good eating habits seems to be to special needs schools. Is it just me being a bit obsessed or am I missing something?
Having been on the governing body at Jude’s school a few years ago, I have been at school during lunch times and I won’t lie, it horrified me what I saw in some of the packed lunch boxes. Now, it is always argued back at me that not everyone can afford to eat healthily but I just simply do not buy this suggestion and I’m pretty sure I could write out a weeks menu for very little money. For example, one of my children’s favourite meals (even Emmeline eats it and she barely eats anything) is a big bowl of rice, lentils and peas cooked in tinned tomatoes/passata. I don’t mean this to sound pretentious or arrogant, my point is merely that people are not as educated in nutrition as they should be and unless they have a deep interest in the subject, are unlikely to investigate it to any depth.
There are little tips that can help keep costs down, for example bulk buying fruit and vegetables from a market, especially if you turn up at the end of the day as traders often give you fantastic deals just to offload their stock. Also, cook in large quantity and save portions for later in the week. I often make huge pasta salads that the children seem to really like.
Would it help people if I posted cheaply made, nutritional meal ideas? Please let me know in the comments section or message me directly.
There is a fabulous organisation that obviously feels as I do about nutrition being so important called the Caroline Walker Trust http://www.cwt.org.uk/about-the-trust/ Their main aim is to improve public health and wellbeing through better nutrition and they focus in particular on the poorer areas of society which obviously includes disabled people and those living with disabled family members (see my post on employment a few days ago).
Below is a link to their nutrition guidelines for children and adults with learning disabilities:
This guideline discusses various learning disabilities and highlights vitamins and minerals that may be of particular importance for people with specific conditions. I have copied out a few sections that interested me most…
“There is some belief that dietary restriction or dietary supplementation will benefit people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), although there is only weak evidence that these strategies are beneficial. The most common dietary treatments suggested are the exclusion of gluten and casein from the diet and/or nutritional supplementation, for example with high doses of vitamin B6 and magnesium.”
For brain development, they suggest an increase in Omega-3 oils. See quote below:
“Omega-3 fats – Fish oil
Oily fish such as herring, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, trout and fresh tuna
Other omega-3 fats can be found in oils such as rapeseed oil, soya oil, walnuts and almonds, pumpkin seeds, organic milk and green leafy vegetables. However, there is no evidence that these omega-3 fats protect against heart disease.”
I contest the suggestion that fish oil is the ideal place to gain decent amounts of Omega-3. In our family we take Omega-3 supplement oil in the form of plant algae which is where the fish actually gain their high level of Omega-3. With the problems of over-fishing and the depletion of stock within our seas (not to mention the environmental impact of fishing), I think it is careless to recommend increasing the consumption of fish. We take these:
You can order them online or buy them in Holland and Barrett.
This website is fascinating, particularly this page on autism – http://www.foodforthebrain.org/nutrition-solutions/autism/about-autism.aspx
“We have known since the 1970s that a nutritional approach can help autism, thanks to the pioneering research by Dr Bernard Rimland of the Institute for Child Behaviour Research in San Diego, California. He showed that vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improved symptoms in autistic children.”
Have we known this since the 1970s?? Does it not amaze ANYONE AT ALL that since I gave birth to a severely disabled child ten years ago I have not had one ounce of support in regard to diet and nutrition?? It horrifies me to my absolute core.
The topic of nutrition is so so in-depth and complex and just looking at the few morsels of information I have touched upon in this post, it shows that the constructive advice and support of nutritional experts is imperative in order to help learning disabled children be the best people they can be. As of tomorrow Jude is on a strict diet and I’ll keep a diary to see if we can see any changes to his behaviour/attitude/general self. What’s the worst that can happen?!
Focus will be B6, magnesium, Omega-3 and vitamin C.
B6 helps anxiety, mood, appetite, red blood cell production, immunity and general nerve functioning. Foods such as bananas, watermelon, peanut butter, almonds, sweet potatoes, green peas, avocados, hemp seeds, spirulina, chia seeds, beans, rice bran, chickpeas, prunes, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, pineapple, plantains, hearts of palm, artichokes, water chesnuts, all squash and pumpkin, brussels sprouts, green beans, pistachios, figs, nutritional yeast, baker’s yeast (active yeast), garlic, sage, peppers, kale, collards are all high in B6.
Magnesium – Helps nearly every function of the body but particularly the immune system, muscle development and it can cut the risk of heart attack. Found in beans, nuts, whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, green leafy vegetables, bananas, tofu, fish.
Sorry this post is a bit random but I wanted to highlight the complexities of nutrition and diet and again justify my suggestion of offering the skills of a Nutritionist to all special needs schools.
Additional links http://www.theautismcentre.co.uk/articles/effect_of_Magnesium_Deficiency.html