Who has a child who struggles to get their thoughts on paper? They are often clever kids, but if you ask them to write anything down, then it can seem like an impossible task.
I can relate to this so much, as my son with dyspraxia used to take an hour to write just a sentence, needing at least two trampoline breaks in the middle! Yet he was very articulate, had an incredible long-term memory and was a proper bookworm.
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Why do some kids find writing so hard?
- Sometimes this is because of a weak core and hypermobility which can lead to a poor pincer grip and difficulty writing.
- It can be because they have issues with eye-hand co-ordination or a delay in fine motor skills due to dyspraxia or dysgraphia, where they often have untidy or illegible writing.
- Poor handwriting skills may be a result of poor spelling skills, as underconfident spellers might hesitate more often when writing words.
- Dyslexia might also hamper getting thoughts down on paper, especially if letters are reversed or they have underdeveloped writing planning skills.
- ADHD kids with speedy brains might have difficulties with writing and it is common for them to reverse or omit letters, words, or phrases when they write – they may make more mistakes. ADHD kids may also struggle more with expressive writing.
- Even with high functioning autism, English comprehension and writing stories often seems to be the hardest aspect of learning and can be a skill that is hard to develop.
- If writing/drawing was on track but it has recently gone backwards, then this may be something more neurological and can be a hallmark symptom for kids with autoimmune neuroinflammatory conditions such as PANS/PANDAS.
What nutrients does the brain need?
Eating the right proteins and fats really matters when it comes to developing writing skills.
Protein power – The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is associated with writing. It is also responsible for movement, reasoning, judgement, motor planning as well as problem solving. This front part of the brain requires regular nourishment with amino acids, in particular tyrosine and phenylalanine to help to make dopamine. This dopamine helps with motivation to write and also can make it more joyful to write. These two amino acids are abundant in protein rich foods which you can get easily from eating plenty of meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, quinoa, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Choline – the unsung hero – The parietal lobe, which is just behind the frontal lobe, is also important for writing skills. It helps to interpret words and language and is important for spelling and writing by hand. This area of the brain needs acetylcholine to help it function. Acetylcholine is made from choline, and choline-rich foods include eggs, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, lecithin, cheese, fish, chicken and almonds. The gut bacteria lactobacillus is also a key building block for making acetylcholine, so think about feeding your child lots of kefir and yoghurt, or top up with a good probiotic. This is one example of how our gut is our second brain and what we feed our children’s gut microbes may in turn help with their educational achievements.
O-mazing omegas – Most of the fat in your frontal lobe is made up of DHA which is a type of omega 3 fat from oily fish and helps with learning and cognition. This makes it a particularly important nutrient for kids with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD to consume on a regular basis. So if your child is struggling to write, feed them plenty of omega 3 fats in the form of oily fish and seafood such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, crab and prawns. Fish pâté on toast at breakfast or as a sandwich filling on crackers are both easy wins. You can also include oily fish in your family weekly suppers.
If they won’t or can’t eat fish then give them plenty of walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hulled hemp seeds. However, remember that they will need A LOT of these foods as it is hard for the body to convert plant ALA omega 3 into the DHA omega 3 that the brain needs. Research has found this conversion from ALA to DHA in the body is at most 10% and maybe as low as 0.1%. The conversion is more blunted in males and when there are nutrient deficiencies present. You can also get some DHA in organic whole milk and grass-fed meat as well as special omega 3 rich eggs, so switching to better quality forms of these foods make another easy win. If you feel a supplement would be easier to build in as a habit, then choose a good quality potent omega 3 fish oil or vegan marine algae oil.
As you can see, it’s eating the right proteins and fats that really matters when it comes to getting your brain down on paper and being able to articulate what is going on in your mind via the written word. So, my top tip for your child who struggles to write is to do your best to boost up their choline and omega 3 intake. If you need more help with your child’s nutrition, then please feel free to get in touch with our clinical team who specialise in neurodiversity.
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