Byline: EMMA BURNS
WALK into any classroom in Scotland and you'll find at least one child who is struggling to survive at school.
Some can't sit still, don't listen, shout out and even lash out. They often have no friends and their constant disruptions infuriate the teacher.
Others can't master the basics of reading and writing. Often bright kids, they become more and more frustrated and depressed as they slip behind.
There are even some who can't skip or throw a ball or ride a bike or even walk through a room without bashing into some-thing. They're not just slightly clumsy, they're chronically unco-ordinated.
These three problems - labelled as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and dyspraxia - cause misery and confusion to thousands of Scots children and their families.
Dr Gordon Booth, former regional educational pyschologist for Grampian Region, says around one per cent of Scots kids have ADHD, four or five per cent have dyslexia and two or three per cent have dyspraxia.
That's less than in America, where between 15 and 20 per cent of kids are classified as having one of the three conditions, a figure that has trebled since the mid-1970s.
It is still a worryingly high number. And, of course, it's only extreme, identifiable cases which are recorded, but these conditions aren't black and white - there will be many more, milder, cases which remain unrecognised.
What's more, children made miserable by failing at school may turn into depressed adults. The Mental Health Foundation says that emotional problems such as depression and behavioural problems do not just vanish as children get bigger.
Half of kids with emotional problems at the age of 10 still have them five years later. The same is true of 75 per cent of children with behavioural problems.
That means it is incredibly important to tackle them early, before children become so isolated and friendless that they are set for a lifetime of unhappiness.
But what can you do? This is an area of medicine where nothing is clear-cut. Experts differ. Some very respected scientists, such as Professor Steven Rose, director of the brain and behaviour research group at the Open University, based in Milton Keynes, don't even believe ADHD exists.
Others, such as nutritional consultant Dr Jackie Stordy, believe it is clearly identifiable and linked to dyspraxia and dyslexia.
She believes changes to what we eat have caused an imbalance in the long-chain fatty acids that make up 60 per cent of our brains. In children with a genetic predisposition to dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD, this can cause the condition to emerge. For her, the answer is for the kids to take fish-oil supplements.
Janice Hill doesn't believe in ADHD, even though her daughter was diagnosed with it and prescribed Ritalin, a controversial amphetamine treatment.
Scottish guidelines on its use are expected in the next few days. They will almost certainly acknowledge the existence of ADHD and say that Ritalin should be part of a carefully-monitored programme of treatment for children who are severely affected.
Janice - founder of parents' support group, the Overload Network - would like parents to get their kids' hair analysed first. She found that her daughter Deborah was suffering from five different nutritional deficiencies. When they were put right, her so-called ADHD disappeared.
Here, Professor Rose, Dr Stordy and Janice explain how they see the problem.
It's just a special label
PROFESSOR STEVEN ROSE
THERE is evidence that what is called dyslexia is associated with brain problems. The concept of ADHD is much more problematic.
It is not based on evidence of brain processes. The diagnosis is made from an observation of the child's behaviour.
Children who get this diagnosis are clearly problematic to handle. I am not disputing that. What I am sceptical about is that it is a medical condition with a genetic base. I am also sceptical that it can be dealt with by diet control.
There is evidence that in a small number of children - one in 1000 - there is brain dysfunction with genetic involvement. But we are now meant to believe that between five and ten per cent of all children are affected. In my opinion this is syndrome-itis - giving labels to what used to be called naughty children.
It is fashionable to look for a genetic explanation for everything. I am not convinced that this is to do with children eating at McDonald's rather than having nutritious school lunches.
And I am uneasy about the use of Ritalin. I would start by looking at the child's social relationships, with parents and teachers.
The key to the child's difficult behaviour is more likely to be found in his (it is more common in boys than girls) learned attitudes than in his genes or what he eats.
PSYCHOLOGIST DR GORDON BOOTH, ABERDEEN
IN SOME cases problems could arise from a child's circumstances, but in other cases it could be inbuilt. The advice I give is tailored to individual situations. What would be appropriate for one might not be for someone else.
There can be a consitutional problem in a child, such as over-activity, that might be treated medically. But if it's more to do with the situation a child is in, such as circumstances in the family or school, it might be treated by trying to change the situation and the child's behaviour.
I would look at whether a child is getting too little or too much attention. You have to begin by assessing a child's needs. It's important to treat a child consistently.
A professional can work out if the problem is constitutional or due to circumstances. I would see how the child reacts in different circumstances, how long they can sustain attention given an interesting task and whether that child is very distractable when doing something he enjoys.
Once you have established whether the problem is constitutional or situational then you can advise on management and procedures. Any child needs clearly set out limits and role models. The obvious role models are the family.
A very real condition which is all down to fatty acids
NUTRITIONIST DR JACKIE STORDY EXPLAINS THAT PROPER DIET IS THE KEY TO CONTROLLING ADHD
ADHD has been identified in every nation where it has been investigated. There are clear definitions and ways of measuring the degree of the problem.
Researchers in California have found an abnormal gene in children with severe ADHD, making them less sensitive to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
There is no doubt that ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia run in families and that some children are afflicted with two - or all three - of these handicaps.
An increasing number of children and adults are being diagnosed with these ailments. Why? There seems to be an association with a deficiency of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) which are needed for normal rapid-fire communication between neurons in the brain.
Some people have an inborn error of metabolism, making it difficult for their brains to convert essential fatty acids in the diet into LCPs.
Making it worse are changes in food manufacturing processes and a decline in breast-feeding. These changes, which began in the 1900s, have accelerated at an alarming pace.
We eat less fish and more convenience foods, which are often full of hydrogenated fats. We use vegetable oils for cooking instead of lard.
The effect of all this is that we are eating far too much of some fats - the omega-6 fats and hydrogenated and trans fats - and not enough of the omega-3 essential fatty acids that the brain needs to turn into LCPs.
If our brains don't get omega-3 LCPs, they take the most similar fat they can - omega-6. But the molecules are the wrong shape.
The result is like trying to build a wall with bricks that don't fit.
The chemistry of the membranes around the nerve cells changes. The messages between brain cells get scrambled. Nothing works efficiently.
There are simple changes everyone could make - use rapeseed oil or soya bean oil instead of sunflower, eat more fish and avoid hydrogenated fats. It is more important for children with ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Consuming more of the good fats will win the battle for your child's mind.
Studies in Oxford, by Dr Alex Richardson, have proved that people with ADHD - and those with dyslexia - improved when they were given Efalex, a supplement containing omega-3.
It doesn't help everyone, but it seems to make a significant difference to 80 per cent of people with those three conditions.
It also helps children with asthma, eczema and hives, because an LCP deficiency makes the lining tissues of the skin, lungs and stomach more permeable, so materials that should not penetrate them get inside the body and cause inflammation.
When supplements are given, the tissues become less permeable.
It can take weeks or even months to have an effect as the levels slowly build up in the brain and it should not be given to children under three, unless directed by a doctor.
The key lay in vitamin deficiencies
JANICE HILL SAYS ADHD DOESN'T REALLY EXIST
MY daughter Deborah was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of nine. She was my fourth child and her behaviour was so off the wall that my husband and I used to call her Myra Hindley.
At 18 months, she hurled herself 17 feet over the bannisters because she wanted to fly. She used to turn the hoover on at two or three in the morning. Once she whacked one of our pet mice over the head with a stick.
She used to beat up other kids and at school she was doing badly at maths and English.
We were advised to put Deborah on Ritalin by her consultant. I didn't want to, but I was worried I was depriving her of something that could make life easier for her.
So I went out on the street, approached a young chap and said what I wanted and why.
When I took the first one, I could tell within 20 minutes I'd had one. I felt very, very focused. I started to laugh. I thought: "We are giving this to the wrong people. We should give it to the teachers and the parents."
But within days I was having trouble sleeping. I couldn't settle down at night and my appetite was completely gone. I had a problem with my eyes and I was having palpitations.
My family didn't know I was taking it, but they noticed I was very aggressive and having severe mood swings. After 10 days I'd had enough. No way was I letting Deborah take that. Instead, we sent a sample of her hair off for analysis to Biolabs in London.
They said she had low levels of serotonin in her blood, low magnesium, low gut acid, so she couldn't absorb nutrients properly and she needed vitamin B6 supplements.
Then I took advice on how to handle her. My husband and I had to be much clearer about what we were saying. We both had to give her the same signal. It took two years to get all the deficiencies and other physical problems sorted out. By the time we'd done it, the ADHD was over.
I believe ADHD is a convenient label for what is a very complex set of problems. The behaviour exists, the impact on the family exists and the impact on the child exists. But I don't believe ADHD exists.
We have analysed the nutritional deficiencies of a number of children whose parents came to Overload and they were all deficient in zinc and essential fatty acids.
It is appalling that children are not given a physical examination when they are diagnosed with ADHD.
No-one checks to see if there could be a physical reason for their behaviour.
The Overload Network's advice line is 0131-555-4967.…