Nutrition: Giving our kids the best possible chance

Over the last few years I have become very interested in how what we put into our bodies and how we treat it affects the way our brains function and our general health. This has created an obvious link to looking at the best possible contexts for the learning brain and particularly for maximising the specific intervention provided by our therapists and teachers for children with primary language disorder. Joe and Terry Graedon (The People’s Pharmacy, talk about the advice our grandmothers gave us and how this wisdom is now being backed up by science.

The first thing our grandmothers (or even our Mum’s) used to say was “Eat your vegetables.” There is irrefutable amounts of research to indicated that to get the most from our diet, including physical health and brain functioning, we need to include a variety (think of lots of different colours) of non-starchy vegetables (eg leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, capsicum, onions etc). Some research indicates that 10 servings a day for an average adult is not an unreasonable expectation. Frozen vegetables can be just as nutritionally dense, but vegetables in a can or processed in some other way should be avoided, usually because of the added chemicals and sugar.

The next thing grandma used to say was “Get a good night’s sleep”. The average adult requires 7-8 hours of sleep per night and children require more, even teenagers. Sleep is the time when our brains have time to consolidate all the new information they have absorbed during the day, making new neural connections and interconnections.

Grandma also used to say “Go out and play” and “A little bit of hard work never hurt anybody”. What she was saying was your body needs to move – walking, swimming, playing, lifting. Quality exercise is not only good for physical health, but also essential for mental health and brain functioning. Grandma might have also said, “Visit your grandma”. It has become increasingly evident in the literature that social connection and support are elemental to maintaining our good health.

It has been interesting spending some time in the classrooms again over the past month or so, and being reminded of the specific challenges a lot of our students face through their language disability when it comes to eating, sleep, exercise and social skills. These factors may impact significantly on their current and future progress in learning, as well as physical, emotional and mental health. While staff provide the best intervention and care possible within the classroom context, the factors which set up students for greater or lesser success remain within the domain of the family.

This article was provided by Let’s Talk Development Hub.  To find out more contact Let’s Talk Direct.

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