Irish Times Health Supplement: Homeopathic solutions to learning problems

Another positive article from the Irish Times Health supplement, published on Tue, Sep 13, '05.
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Homeopathic solutions to learning problems

Parents of children with behavioural difficulties are turning to homeopathy. Elaine Keogh reports.

Parenting is frequently enjoyable but rarely easy and for parents of children with additional learning needs or behavioural problems, the prospects that alternative or holistic treatments could benefit the children are often as welcome as orthodox ones.

A Dundalk-based homeopath believes that combining homeopathic remedies with a series of specific exercises called co-ordination therapy can help children with dyslexia and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

She has treated 14 children with dyslexia, some who also were diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD, and their parents believe it has benefited them.

One mother says she has seen significant changes in her now 12-year-old son's ability to carry out everyday tasks that normally do not require a second thought from a child without dyslexia and the related co-ordination problems.

After he completed a 12-week treatment programme with Jacinta Dempsey, a qualified classical homeopath, his mum, who did not want her name published because of the stigma still attached to the condition, said: "It is as if he is 'tuned in' for the first time. He can now tie his laces which, although he was 11 [ years old] when he first went to Jacinta, he could never do. Because you cannot get running shoes with velcro instead of laces for someone of his age, he would just sit in the playground at school in case his laces opened. Now he plays and has been invited to his first party."

Improving a child's ability to carry out both gross and fine motor tasks means improving the way messages travel from the brain to the muscles and Jacinta believes, but cannot prove, that the combination of homeopathic remedies and the exercises can improve this communication by thickening the myelin sheath.

The sheath is a fatty covering on the axon that carries nerve impulses to nerve cells and the sheath provides insulation but, Jacinta believes, in dyslexia this sheath is thinner and "the impulses get lost along the way or the speed at which they are passed is very slow".

"The treatment triggers the thickening of the myelin sheath and allows messages to pass to both sides of the brain at a quicker speed," she says but acknowledges there is no scientific proof to substantiate this.

She is adamant that the combination of the two therapies is preferable. "It allows you to treat the whole person. I look at every aspect of them and encourage their strengths and gifts rather than just looking at what they cannot do within the education system.

"The exercises help children physically and build their self-esteem while the remedies help their emotions and genetic make-up. I don't believe you can 'cure' dyslexia but you can alleviate the effect it has on their life and skills and, therefore, the huge frustration these children feel."

The exercises she uses were originally developed in Scandinavia while the method of combining them with homeopathic remedies came from Israel. It is based on the theory that all traumas in our life leave "marks" on our muscles and these can manifest as tension in the muscle tissue.

If there is a problem with the connection between the brain and the muscle, you can experience poor co-ordination, difficulty in learning and taking in information and have problems concentrating.

Jacinta says babies whose deliveries are not normal and where a forceps was used or who did not crawl properly may not have developed all these connections and many children with dyslexia were assisted deliveries and/or did not crawl.

"This treatment consists of straightforward pattern writing, eye-tracking and co-ordination exercises which all help to improve their gross and fine motor skills.

"The aim is to improve the connections between the right and left hand sides of the brain and also between the brain and the rest of the body. Massage plays an important role because it helps reduce muscle tension and help the body adjust to the new movements," she explains.

Homeopathy practitioners believe "like cures like" and the remedies come from plant, animal or minerals and the delusion of inadequacy plays a large part in remedy selection. "I choose a remedy after looking at how the person views themselves and how this relates to the world around them," she says.

A number of parents were quite happy to speak about how they believe it benefited their children. Paraic's mum said that he had a speech problem as well as dyslexia when he went to see Jacinta, who is herself the parent of a child with dyslexia, and saw an improvement over the first few weeks of the programme.

"He was very hyper and would not sit still to do his homework. It used to take nearly two and a half hours to do his homework from school because he would be at the table one minute and then he was just up and away. He also found spellings very hard and could not remember things he had just learnt; his short-term memory was bad.

"He did make progress and he just did the exercises. By the time he had finished the programme with Jacinta he was more content and seemed more focused in what he was doing. His concentration went up and he was less aggressive; he used to get into trouble with his sister for bumping into them but his co-ordination improved and his confidence went up as well," she adds.

She also discovered he had been bullied at school but he found a non-aggressive way to stand up to the bully and has become more independent.

More information is available from Jacinta Dempsey at jacintadempsey1@eircom.net