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@ Hungry to Learn

 

here are now thousands of school breakfast clubs springing up across the country. They have mushroomed, and here you must excuse the food pun, in response to a growing understanding of the nutritional needs of many children who are coming to school with no breakfast at all or the wrong kind of breakfast.  It happens for a variety of reasons: The Trussle Trust expect to give out over a million emergency food parcels, over the next twelve months, to families who simply don’t have enough money to live on, even though many of them are working. The cost of food has gone up while wages have not. Then there are families who don’t know how to budget and according to some school breakfast club providers, there are those who simply don’t know how to provide a nutritional diet for their children.  Then there is peer pressure. I can remember the pleading for chocolate biscuits and crisps for lunch because that’s what everyone else had. Carrot sticks and pieces of fish set the son apart from his friends and made him an object of ridicule. But is it really our business to be poking our noses into other people’s lunch boxes?



For children who come to school with no breakfast or having eaten what might be best described as a fast breakfast, there are real challenges that teachers are concerned about. Research by the New Policy Institute described how children who had eaten a good breakfast were more settled, motivated and able to learn. The right breakfast can help with problem solving, concentration and staying power.  For anyone who can remember Jamie’s School Dinner series there was also a reduced use of medication, like inhalers, and better school attendance. The right food, it seems, can make a difference to learning experiences and to learning outcomes.

For children with dyslexia, and here I draw on my own experiences as a parent,  birthday cake with green icing sugar equalled big and somewhat restless energy burst that descended into lethargy and frustration.  Porridge (pin head made in a slow cooker according to grandpa’s recipe) and fruit equalled sustained attention followed by sense of personal achievement and happiness. That’s rather simplistic I know, but what the son ate did make a difference to the way he felt about lessons, the way he worked through them and the outcomes he got.  That all made a difference to the way he felt about himself.  Food was a big part of helping him to deal with the very particular challenges of dyslexia.

There are other learning difficulties in which food is an accepted means of helping children live at their best. For instance, many children with ADHD (sometimes co-occurring with dyslexia) use food as part of their personal management strategy.  Should food be one of the ways in which we try to help dyslexic learners maximise their learning outcomes?

There has been some research done about this, on everything from fish supplements to things called LCPs, and it would appear that while the usual suspects, such as fizzy drinks and sweets, can make learning even harder for children facing dyslexic challenges compared to their non-dyslexic friends. Dyslexic learners though, do not all experience their dyslexia in the same way and the general rule seems to be that what is good for all children is even more important for dyslexic children because they face all the added challenges of their dyslexia, like memory and concentration, that a bad diet can make even harder when you are trying to learn.

It took me a while to work out what worked for my son and I imagine that mothers up and down the land are still working out what works for their own dyslexic children. What we all have in common though, is an understanding that food matters. A good diet can help make life a little easier for children and teachers alike.

For more on breakfast clubs visit the Food Trust website.

Source : http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/Blog/hungry-to-learn