NICOLA TALLANT A LEADING psychologist is urging parents of children with autism, dyslexia or ADHD to give them fish oil to improve their learning powers and social skills.
Dr Madeleine Portwood will tell a major conference in Dublin next month on learning that as many as four out of every 10 children could improve dramatically - while seven per cent could be cured completely.
She said a study of 70 children aged between 6 and 11 with autism has found that a further 30 per cent showed significant improvements, began to make eye contact and socialised better.
Dr Portwood, who has worked with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and who has carried out major studies on the effects of fish oil on children, is set to present her study results at the World Autism Conference in South Africa in October. But she will speak at the Irish Learning Support Association conference in September and will use the platform to urge parents to consider giving autistic children fish oils to boost their brain power.
"I am on fish oil, my 14-year-old son takes it so I am certainly practising what I preach," she said. "The results of the studies I have done suggest that it is a really fantastic help to both children with learning difficulties and those without.
"Irish parents should certainly consider it for children who are under-achieving in schools or for pupils suffering from autism. As my studies show, four in 10 children who take it see a dramatic improvement in their concentration levels. That is a very high success level and a further 30 per cent show what we describe as significant improvements," Dr Portwood said.
She said mainstream students can also get a huge boost from fish oil with a similar percentage showing increased concentration.
Dr Portwood said parents should look out for the telltale signs of fatty acid deficiency in children which include dry, flaky skin, ezcema, asthma, lactose intolerance in babies and pin-prick spots on the skin.
The psychologist, who works at the Durham Local Education Authority in Britain, has pioneered research into the effects of fish oil on the brains of children.
"Basically, of the children involved in the trial, seven per cent no longer showed the symptoms of autism. They were mainly children with Asperger's syndrome and after taking the fish oil, they stopped being obsessional and started making eye contact and socialising better. A total of 40 per cent of the children showed significant improvement in their behaviour and another 30 per cent showed some change," she said.
Dr Portwood said she used Eye Q fish oil tablets for her trials as they are have an EPA to DHA ratio of one in four compared to other fish oils, including cod liver oil, which have ratios of three to two.
The psychologist, who has worked on the BBC show Child of Our Time, began trials with the supplement in 2001. She has already discovered that the effects of Omega 3 and 6 can improve reading ages by up to four and a half years within six months.