English breakfast tempers tantrums

Can children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) be treated by a change of diet? One family thinks so. They discovered quite by accident that a diet including fruit, meat and a traditional English breakfast of bacon, beans and sausages ch

Can children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) be treated by a change of diet? One family thinks so. They discovered quite by accident that a diet including fruit, meat and a traditional English breakfast of bacon, beans and sausages changed their four-year-old's behaviour. Report by ANGELA SINGER.

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy showing signs of ADHD has changed his behaviour after an alteration in his diet.

Charlotte Norris, a mother of two boys who runs a slimming group in Ramsey, found that her four-year-old son, Charlie, was able to concentrate better at his nursery school after eating a traditional English breakfast.

She changed her own eating habits because she wanted to lose weight. He wanted to eat what she was eating and, as she lost two stone, he gained half a stone and the ability to calm down and concentrate.

According to his nursery school, as well as his mother, when Charlie changed his diet, he became calmer, happier and less stressed.

Charlotte said: "Charlie joined my diet by accident. He wanted to eat what I was eating and I was having a breakfast of sausages, eggs and beans and bacon and he would have this instead of a sugary cereal.

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"Now he eats meat, which he wouldn't eat before. My husband does all the cooking. He is a postman and he is home in the afternoons. He adapted all our meals for my diet and we now cook everything from scratch. Charlie likes to help him cut up the vegetables. He also likes to cut up fruit salad, which he loves."

Before he went on his accidental diet, a consultant paediatrician had said that, though doctors would be reluctant to diagnose ADHD at such a young age, it was likely that once Charlie was settled into school, he would be given this diagnosis.

Dr Karina Hart, consultant community paediatrician at St James's Hospital in King's Lynn, described Charlie as having symptoms of restlessness, impulsive behaviour and fleeting attention.

She noted in a letter to Charlie's parents that he had difficulties with social interaction with other children, though he was fine with adults and was "rather obsessional".

Jane Handley, playleader at the Village Children's Centre in Wisbech, where Charlie has been a nursery pupil (he starts school in September) said: "After Charlie's diet changed, he came into the nursery much happier and less stressed."

She added that the nursery had a policy of giving the children fruit only for snacks and parents were often surprised that children who would not eat fruit at home would enjoy it at nursery.

She said: "We work with the parents. If a mum has concerns, she can discuss it openly and freely with us and we will tackle it together."

Mrs Handley said Charlie's behaviour had changed remarkably. Giving an example, she said: "All our bikes outside have numbers and Charlie always wants to be the first to ride bike six. If he didn't get the bike first, he used to have a tantrum and lie under the table and kick and scream. We made a point of not letting him have first turn on the bike.

"Now we'll go outside and if someone else has the bike, we will say to him, 'what must we do, Charlie?' and he will say 'we have to wait our turn' and he accepts this. Sometimes we make sure he does have first turn on the bike because we want to reward him for his good behaviour.

"He is very bright and when he is interested in something, he wants to know everything, he takes the questions much further now."

Charlotte, who also has a baby, Lloyd, now 18 months, decided to lose weight after reaching 14 stone and seeing her reflection in a window posing for a photograph at a family party.

This time last year she was exhausted, overweight and had started taking anti-depressants. She has now lost three stone.

She said: "I had no energy, I was very depressed and because I was tired all the time, I would go for quick energy fixes of cake and chocolate. I tried to diet and I did lose a stone and a half at one point, but I put a stone back on again in two weeks. It was comfort eating."

Charlotte lost weight with Slimming World and is now running her own group at The George Hotel in Ramsey.

She said: "I came off the anti-depressants and I now have much more energy and the confidence to go back to work and Charlie is a much happier little boy. He is about to start school soon and I am sorry the holidays have ended because I am going to miss him."

INFORMATION: Charlotte Norris's Slimming World Group meets at The George Hotel, Ramsey at 7pm on Monday nights. Membership for 11-15-year-olds is free. Contact her on 01945 467548.

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