As this series closes today, I wish to thank all those teachers and parents who helped to stoke the fire for five long weeks. Mrs Oluwayemisi Bukunola Amaku, my sister and a school owner, tirelessly made copies of the series for the parents of her school pupils. Mrs Yinka Ogunde, of the concerned parents and educators network, a friend with me on Facebook and a regular commentator on ills in Nigeria’s education system, was all set for events on autism in children when this series came about. She immediately got into it, inviting attention to the posts in www.olufemikusa.com. There are far too many parents than I can mention here. I believe Mr Godwin Kabowei , of Nasarawa state, can stand in for them. His telephone enquiries , sometimes as long as one hour, are engaging , and he keeps apologising for eating up my time. What else would I do but give it to him. At 48, he believes he and his family have walked on dietary pathways contrary to the creation plan, and he was brimming with zeal to pull everyone of them off the cliff. Then there is Abike Bodunde. I am sorry to call her by her maiden name. We have not met since the 1980s, and I’m not familiar with her marital name. We grew up together in Somolu area of Lagos from where she went to the united states for higher education. I was surprised to receive a Nigerian phone call from her after the first part of this series. She had just returned to Nigeria for good and had obtained my telephone number from one of our relations, a former commissioner of information and strategy, Mr Dele Alake. In the United States, she studied education, not Journalism as I had thought, and had 2 masters degrees in Special Education. In the United States, she taught ADHD children. 1) Mr Rafiu Dotun Odunaye, an avid reader of this column for decades has since retirement from public service been living in Abeokuta where he holds public sessions in offices to educate his listeners about the existence of this column. Last Thursday, he distributed photocopies free to workers at the federal institute for industrial research, Oshodi (FIRO). He says his health profits from suggestions made in the column and he wants other people to also benefit from them. Back home now, she plans to set up a private school on special education where ADHD children are expected to have some respite. Her work inspired my thoughts and intuition. I cannot thank any less my faithful researcher, Oluwaseun Kayode Kusa.It has been tough,I told Mr Kabowei, getting him to give up bread, MSG, fish rolls and all those stuff which must have led his paths to chronic insomnia. Now,he sleeps almost like a baby and is a better focused person. For parents like Mr Kabowei who wish to turn adult children around, I advise caution and friendliness. Some other time, I may share personal experiences with you. You don’t out down your foot like a general commanding the other ranks. When I banned bread in my home in the 1990s, my wife and children still ate it behind me. My wife will say (names withheld)bread or (names withheld)bread was better than Agege bread. If I saw bread wrappers around the house, I did not complain. Sometimes, they kept but forgot left over bread for days or weeks in the kitchen store cabinet. If I ran into it, I merely smiled and brought it back to the dining table, with all the mold and maggot, and quietly went my way. If they cited it there, they would take it to the dustbin outdoor and clean the dining table with dettol and keep quiet. If I noticed this, I will bring back home a loaf of bread whenever I went out. At the next meal together, I will place it on the table and invite them all to eat. No one would. We would all have rib cracking laughter, I will then shred the bread and keep the crumbs where they belonged… the dustbin.
The series began with a plea that parents whose children are diagnosed with attention deficit(AD) or Attention Deficit and Hyperacidity Disorder (ADHD), consider natural therapeutic options, and not swallow prescriptions of RITALIN line hook and sinker. An example was given of a south African woman whose private investigations suggested to her that it could cause developmental problems and even shorten life span. Thereafter, natural options were suggested which included gotu kola, essential fatty acids(omega 3 oil in particular), lecithin, zinc, grape seed extract, magnesium, chlorophyll, and the green plant powders, such as those of spirulina, kale, spinach, nettle, chlorella, cilantro etc. Before we proceed, I would like to invite attention to the anxiety and plight of another south African woman who exposed her ADHD son to RITALIN. Like the experience of the first woman, this one, too, comes from the book HEALTHY KIDS, co authored by Mary Ann Shearer and Charlotte Meschede. In the earlier sections of this series, I recommended their book to parents whose children were not doing well at school, and to parents whose children were flying high and wanted them to fly higher still.
In a case study on Scott Anderson, the author reports:
“Scott was diagnosed as possibly ADD at the age of five, after complaints from teachers that, despite having an average IQ he was disruptive, had difficulty sitting still and was on the go all the time. Many tests later, he was finally placed in a remedial school for grade one. In the second half of the year, his teacher told us he was not coping academically and his self esteem was, therefore, taking a knock. She suggested he may cope better on medication and, after several independent specialists confirmed ADD, he was put onto RITALIN from Monday to Friday every week.
“strangely enough, it was the doctors’ suggestions that he needed medication that seemed to hit us harder than the fact that he needed to attend remedial school. In retrospect, I think it was the confirmation that our child had a problem that could not be solved by attending a special school, that he also needed a schedule seven drug was hard to accept. As parents, we experienced the full range of emotions this decision produced, and it was not a decision that was likely made by any means. We felt denial in terms of ‘There must be a mistake with the diagnosis-it can’t be that bad’ guilt in terms of ‘ what did we do wrong’? An overriding concern that our child was different and we knew so little about his disability. Lots and lots of research and reading later,we realised how fortunate we were that Scott’s problems, in comparison to many children with ADHD are mild.
“Over the years, many people have made comments like ‘ There’s nothing wrong with him, and he behaves like any boy his age. Many of these comments were made by well meaning parents and grand parents who saw an active, naughty little boy Just like any other but never saw the frustration he experienced when trying to complete a table top activity. These comments further complicated our thought process as we also didn’t see our child in an academic situation each day.
“As we don’t have any older children, we were not able to determine what normal behaviour is, anyway. However, there was that underlying feeling that something was different, however difficult it was to identify.
“That is no denying that Ritalin worked for Scott. Looking at his school book (and how I wish I had kept it) From one day to the next, no one would know that the writing was that of the same child. What a difference between the handwriting of 9 October before he took medication to 10 October his first day on Ritalin. We actually read it.
” During the years that Scott took Ritalin, we, in conjunction with his paediatrician and relevant teacher, took him off for several two week periods during the school term. On each occasion, the Connor’s report, (Assessment of ADD) were completed and, at the end of each period, based on the results, he went back on to the medication. Interestingly enough, although his academic ability decreased dramatically while off medication, so did the social skills and behaviour. This was explained to us as a defensive reaction as a result of not coping in the classroom.
“We are fortunate that the only side effect Scott experienced was loss of appetite. We tried to make up for this at weekends, although we found that the medication stayed in his system for a couple of days. School holidays were more successful , although he has never really been well covered.
“Scott’s tendency to being underweight resulted in me encouraging the intake of any food -regardless of the nutrient value- in fact, the more calories, the better. Everything I avoided in order not to put on weight, I encouraged Scott to eat. An average consumption would begin with cereal (sugar coated or with added sugar) and milk, eggs, toast and fruit juice. School lunch would include a sandwitch or some other wheat product(Chelsea buns were the most popular) along with some sort of treat (normally a sweet, a bag of crisp, sugar coated dry fruit sticks or a chocolate bar). This was accompanied by a 750 milligramme bottle of flavoured energy drink. On arriving home from school, it was more cereal, perhaps a few biscuits, and possibly another treat if I wasn’t looking. This was sometimes accompanied by a glass of commercial milkshake (only chocolate flavour would do). Dinner consisted of a protein, starch and veggies and was often accompanied by more cold drinks(more of his favourite energy drink or fruit juice). It suffices to say he went through lots of air freshener.
“The second last two week test off Ritalin was conducted in October 2000 when he was in grade seven. The independent teachers who completed the Connors report gave the result to me. It didn’t take a professor to see that this child could not cope without the medication. The decision to continue has always been based on the well being and self esteem of the child, rather than the ability of the teacher to cope. This may be better explained by stating that Scott now attends a private assisted learning school where class numbers in grade seven are limited to 12 and teachers specialise in remedial education principles.
“In April this year, after years of experiencing digestive discomfort, Scott was tested and found positive for gluten and lactose intolerance. In addition to being taken off these products, it was suggested that he be taken off animal protein short term to give his system time to settle. Two days later, while in search of gluten free products, I bought a copy of THE NATURAL WAY. I read fast. Overnight, it was also good bye to sugar, colourants and preservatives, and two weeks later, after discussing with with the paediatrician and school, it was goodbye to RITALIN as well. It was suggested that Scott take CALMONIN instead and he is still on this (calmonin is a vitamin and herbal supplement manufactured specifically to treat hyperactivity and nervous tension).
“Formal support only, believing I was relatively healthy, I agreed to join Scott in the NATURAL WAY dietary plan. For the past month, we have stuck religiously to our plan. It has not always been plain sailing but it must be said that it has been a lot easier than I expected . ” In a moment of optimism, I gave away all the no-nos in the pantry. In retrospect, it was the best thing I could have done , but how I missed dunking the rusks in my afternoon tea. We have tried every possible type of milk substitute available and I know the contents of each shelf at health shops in our area. I can tell you the ingredients of most of the products we eat and I have become an expert on ways to disguise nuts and seeds in just about any meal. As Mary Ann so rightly pointed out, “children are not in the least concerned about the nutrient value of any food.” I have also learnt the value (in some cases) of the customer care hotline offered by some retailers and manufacturers.
“So, where are we now? The Connors report conducted yesterday showed there are still areas in the classroom where Scott has difficulty. However, the difference between these tests and the ones conducted six months ago, is that the problem areas are manageable. He cannot cope without the RITALIN.
“While Iam willing to give the entire credit for the development to his way of eating, Iam also aware that his emotional and physical development may be contributing. He is now 14 years old and is going through puberty.
“And me, 42 years old today, and feeling better than I have for years.The main difference is that I have more energy and I feel healthier”. Iam really enjoying the flavour of my food and don’t experience that heavy feeling after eating my meals.
” We still have a long way to go. We have an 11 year old daughter who feels deprived of her sweets and coloured drinks. She also feels resentful her brother is getting a lot of attention. Not that he asks for it, but checking the content of food and drinks before consumption has become almost a way of life for us. My husband who has lost 3 kg in a month, has taken to eating tuna and biltong (he thinks in secret) in an effort to starve off the craving for animal protein. I have yet to master the art of eating certain fruits in the car on the way to clients. I have established, through trial and error, that the consumption of oranges and bananas triggers migraines, but there are times when Iam driving that I long for a banana-It won’t drip on my business suit or leave tell tale juice stains on my blouse. Have you tried to eat unpeeled kiwi fruits while you are driving in heavy traffic? How about a juicy pear?
“In conclusion, if I could manage our ADD child all over again, I would put his diet first and the medication last”.
South African children are luckier than Nigerian children when it comes to discovering and helping AD/ADHD children in the classroom. Do we have a semblance of Connors Report in Nigeria? I would like to take AGEGE GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL in Lagos as an example of a Nigerian public school indifferent to the special learning difficulties of a Nigerian school child. In the first of the six forms, that is JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL or JSS1, there are about 100 girls in a classroom. Four girls share a desk meant for two.There is no electricity fan in the classroom which stinks with stench of human sweat. The room is dark somewhat. The lone teacher is overwhelmed. How can he or she detect an AD or ADHD child, let alone help him or her? In private schools which are not as densely populated per classroom, teachers stay silent, for the parent, often ignorant about AD and ADHD, may think the school is not good for his or her child, and relocate him or her elsewhere where better attention and teaching are not guaranteed. School owners hate child relocations in a competitive system.
So, the challenge in Nigeria falls more on parents. And the starting point is on the diet. Foods enriched with naked sugar, other sweeteners , colourings and preservatives create acidity in the blood, lymph and brain. Acidosis in the brain creates inflammation which impairs brain cells that specialise in learning and memory building, classification, storage and retrieval. Children should not be beaten or tongue lashed if they are slow learners. They are not necessarily school fees wasters. Why they are poor or slow learners should be investigated and sorted out. One of these reasons is overgrowth of a yeast or fungal form called CANDIDA in the intestines. Fungal toxins encourage the formation of brain disturbing chemical substances such as deltorphin, demorphin, alcohol and acetyl aldehyde. Candida is a member of several bacteria families present in the intestine. It is an unfriendly bacteria family. Friendly bacteria keep the population of candida bacteria in check. But certain factors overturn this natural mechanism. In the womb, many babies consume the antibiotics their would be mothers consume for various ailments. Antibiotics kill the friendly bacteria but spare candida, a yeast or fungal form. Antibiotics in the feed of chicken is consumed in the flesh and in the eggs. Antibiotics in the flesh of the cow are in its meat and milk. Then, children consume all sorts of antibiotics for all sorts of reasons as they are growing up. Candida overgrowth in the intestine shows on the tongue as oral thrush. If you know how to read the location of the organs on the tongue, as in reflex zone therapy, you may tell which organ(s) are most affected from the mapping of oral thrush. When the intestine is overgrown with candida, a systemic candidiasis may occur as not only the toxins of candida enter the bloodstream but the yeast or fungus itself comes along, colonising various organs and making them unable to function properly. This is why some people may suffer from diabetes, others cyst and yet others from hormonal imbalances and infertility. Candida Invasion of the brain has been linked with autism and dyslexia.
Because the symptoms, of systemic candidiasis are similar to those of AD/ADHD, and because sugar is implicated in AD/ADHD, and fuels candida overgrowth, AD/ADHD sufferers are often checked for candida overgrowth or systemic candidiasis.
Some of the symptoms of candida overgrowth are 1)headache 2)brain fog 3)forgetfulness 4)skin issues such eczema, psoriasis, hives and rashes 5)toe and nail fungal infections athlete’s foot 6)fatigue 7)fibromyalgia 8) irritability while hungry 9)chronic bad breath 10)diarrhea, gas, constipation, bloating 11)chronic feet and hair odour in children 12)sugar cravings and cravings of refined white flour products, such as bread etc. 13)short temper 14)chronic bladder infections. 15)oral thrush. 16)painful cracks at the corners of the mouth. 17)anxiety , irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 18)genital touching. 19)sleep disturbances. 20)painful joints. 21)sensitivity to perfume, cigarette smoke etc. 22)bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma. 23)autism etc. 24)ear infections such as otitis media
Alternative medicine has a large treasure trove of remedies for these ailments which may include goldenseal root, mango seed extract, oregano oil, aloe vera, grape seed oil, caprylic acid, olive leaf extract, beiberine (from goldenseal or Oregon grape extract) and gallicin from garlic), among many others. One of my favorite proprietary blends is amazon AF. It is made from the barks of a number of trees and plants in the amazon rain forest which researchers have found display remarkable resistance to yeast and fungal infection or growth even when they are exposed to them. The best protection, ladies and gentlemen is to avoid foods which contain artificial sugars, sweeteners, colourings, preservatives, antibiotic residues, pesticides and those other modern day food contaminants which mother nature did not intend in the creation plan we put into our bodies or those of our children.