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Live webchat with child development expert Professor Amanda Kirby, Wed 12 November, 1-2pm, sponsored by Haliborange

(66 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Nov-08 15:34:30

Hi, we're welcoming Professor Amanda Kirby for a webchat on Wednesday lunchtime. She's an expert in child development, with more than 35 years of specialist experience under her belt. She's written a number of books as both a parent and professional, and her team at the Dyscovery Centre Wales has an international reputation for nutritional and behavioural research.

The Dyscovery Centre is internationally recognised for its work in Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD or dyspraxia) and related specific learning difficulties. Amanda has both a professional and personal interest in DCD as her middle child has coordination difficulties, and trying to address his difficulties first sparked her interest in the area. She's currently based at the University of Wales.

She has written the Haliborange Play and Learn guide and we've asked mumsnetters to comment on the guide here. Everyone who adds their comments on the Play and Learn guide will be entered into a prize draw to win £100 of SpaceNK vouchers.

Please post any advance questions you've got for Amanda here.

Thanks, MNHQ

Hathor Tue 11-Nov-08 12:41:52

The Haliborange Play and Learn guide seems to be full of useful suggestions. But when you get to the section on age 6-8 nutrition you state categorically "Ensure they are
given a daily dose of
Haliborange Omega-3"

I prefer to give my family whole nutrition from food, as I believe it is bound to be safer, more natural and prevents the "medicalisation" of normal diet.

What dietary sources of omega-3 are equivalent to the supplement you suggest?

Is there any research into the effect on behaviour/learning of improving diet with regards to omega-3?

anonandlikeit Tue 11-Nov-08 20:42:27

My ds2 was born at 28 wks & has a dx of mild cp, asd & learning difficulties.

Most of the additional learning support & material available is aimed at very visual learners but DS by contrast is a very Auditory learner (I think associated with very poor visual perception).
What would you recommend to help him learn the basics of letters, reading & even drawing as his visual perception & co-ordination are very out of synch IYKWIM.

He can hear the phonics of a word but if you ask him to sound it out he will hone in on the strongest sound to him, he also struggles to recognise letters, shapes etc.

Any recommendations of alternative learning strategies would be greatly received.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Wed 12-Nov-08 07:32:04

anon - Tito the autistic poet (non-verbal) has a very strong auditory system - it cuts over every other sense in his case. The book Strange Son (bad title I know) talks about it and how he learned to read despite this method of processing. Obviously he's severely autistic on top so it isn't totally relevant but I think you'll find the descriptions of his sensory processing very helpful indeed.

anonandlikeit Wed 12-Nov-08 10:42:47

Thanks Jimjams, i'll have a read of that one... Something for my xmas list.

I must admit I have wondered at times is his visual perception really that poor or does his auditory processing just take over.

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 12:55:03


HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 12-Nov-08 13:00:40

Afternoon, all. Professor Amanda Kirby is here and raring to go.

She's just asked me to point out that she has 25 years specialist experience, not 35 - she was worried you all might think she's MUCH older than she actually is!

Over to you, <young> Professor.

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:03:24

Hi Hathor
Thanks for your question
We would recommend first line healthy balanced eating and fish in the diet a couple of times a week
if your child is a 'fussy' eater then you may consider a supplement to make sure they are getting what they need.
We are about to publish a study where we have considered your questions and will be able to tell you this early next year.
the jury is out at the moment but it looks like attention and concentration levels may be linked with fatty acid levels

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:05:23

If you play rhythm games to play such as rhyming games - your child can hear how words link together by sound
Try using textures to reinforce letter shapes- such as making words out of sandpaper.

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:08:27

dear southeastra
Some children have difficulties with maths if they cannot see the 'shapes' in their minds eye ( this is visual perception). Some children with hypermobility problems sometimes have problems ' controlling ' their eyes. Your child could also have difficulties with the 'language' of maths and so this may need to be reinforced.
An EP may be able to tease some of this apart
Perhaps useful to have his eyes checked as well

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:10:41


Hypermobility and motor difficulties have been linked together. this may be because of poor stability making tasks such as playing ball games harder. Some children get pain on writing and may need to have their hands supported when writing. This may also be associated with visual perceptual difficulties ( or control of the eyes ) being effected.
minimising writing will help
Go to the hypermobility syndrome association site and they have information as well as

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:14:21

hi coppertop

Gross motor skills activities- see and see practical activities for home.

trampolining, swimming
Work with him with large balls
he could be placed on his front with a rolled up cushion or towel and encourage him to roll ball to you if you can

Horse riding for the disabled is excellent as they can work on his ' core stability'

make sessions 5-10 minutes as he will need time to recover

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:15:49

wrinklyturn- Hi
We do not have any research at the moment to know if fatty acids or supplementation can help specific groups of children like your daughter I am afraid to say at present. More work needs to be done in this area.

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:19:48

Dear tinysocks
thanks for your information. Your child may be communicating but may still have some difficulty understanding . This can also lead to poor attention skills. Use visual reinforcement such as photos of what you want him to do. You could make some pictures you use regularly and make a laminated board with velcro on the back of the pictures. You could then show him the sequence of activities he needs to do.
www. has some visual icons that are free you can download.
Make sure you break down tasks into short sessions - he may not be able to concentrate more than 5 minutes at a time. Use a timer with him that rings when his task is finished and praise him

Cammelia Wed 12-Nov-08 13:23:11

ProfAmanda I just had a quick skim through your Haliborange Guide and was particularly interested in your milestones for the different ages. What have you based these on?

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:23:37

Dear Polyanna
As children get older with Dyspraxia they become more aware of their difficulties. Your son will be doing more writing and he will be able to see his difficulties and this will make him feel more frustrated. Write for him when you can and teach him typing
Some free programmes are and
see for more free typing programmes
We have some skills packs we have also written that may be useful in order to make
Visual timetables/organisation/help with writing

Caring cutlery is helpful for using as it places your fingers in the right position -we stock this: Make sure your child has his feet on the floor also so he is balanced

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:25:02

Dear Cammelia

these are developmental milestones - so based on normative data from populations.
it is always useful to remember that development can vary from child to child and so there is no average but a range of milestone times for most developmental tasks


ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:27:41

Dear Mercy
Thanks for the question
Some of the signs and symptoms you are describing including fussy eating may be linked to developmental issues and it may be worth talking with your health visitor or GP or asking the nursery/school ( if he is going ) if they have noticed any 'unusual ' behaviours also to see if this is consistent or only at home.


coppertop Wed 12-Nov-08 13:27:43

Thanks for your help and advice.

RTKangaMummy Wed 12-Nov-08 13:29:46

My son is 13 years old and had a DX of Dyspraxia and Hypermobility about 4 years ago

He was born extremely prematurely @ 27 weeks and was on Oxygen for 3 months in NNU ITU

Do you think being so prem has any influence on dyspraxia and hypermobility?

He still can't ride a bike, he did have OT and Physio when they first diagnosed him but he doesn't have either help now

Do you think there will be any difference with things like learning to drive a car? Will he be able to drive a manual car?

Do you have any ideas for improving his posture ~ he has very hunched shoulders and walks looking at the floor

We did try him with fish oils several years ago but then we started to have problems with fainting and so stopped them. Do you think they could be connected?




expatinscotland Wed 12-Nov-08 13:30:09

My 5-year-old daughter has DCD.

It's moderate/severe and she has been retained at stage in a nursery with an ASN unit.

Her attention span and impulse control issues give cause for concern.

Is there any precedence for asking her paed if medical treatment will help - e.g., ritalin?

Tried fish oils on her, no real improvement.

She spasms, particularly the hands, when excited.

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:32:49

thanks for the nice comment about the centre.There is little research at the moment in terms of using supplementation to prevent developmental disorders but a balanced diet, avoiding artificial colourants is important I would say.
encouraging language is important- face to face contact so he can hear and then as he gets older mimic sounds and facial expressions. let him also have different sensory stimuli- place him on a mat and let him feel different textures.
He is young so it is more about 'normal' exposure to his world that is important at this stage

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:36:45


Yes I think being so prem has an influence on dyspraxia . There have beenr research studies from Holland showing this.

Driving may be a problem- using an automatic is better. Some times parking and distance perception is a problem as well -- sensors on cars are very helpful. Some adults just need longer to learn so a good instructor is very important ( and patience)- my son took 3 years to learn to drive.

You may want to try Alexander techniques to help with posture. also helping improve core stability- using a swiss ball can be very good , trampolining also may be good.

I dont think fish oils and fainting are linked

ProfessorAmandaKirby Wed 12-Nov-08 13:38:09



yes talk to your paed and get her assessed for her attention and concentration
Some children have benefited by using Ritalin and have seen improvement in writing quality on it as well as aiding attention and concentration

filz Wed 12-Nov-08 13:38:18

My daughter (9) has hypermobility and moderate -severe learning difficulties. I remember a physio once telling me that hypermobility can cause delays in other areas as the brain has to think about keeping the body more stable before anything else.....I remember she suggested that my daughters feet should always be flat on the floor whilst doing close up work at a desk or table as its takes their mind off their feet! Obviously if they cannot touch the floor then put a book or box underneath their feet

Sorry i know I am not a professor

expatinscotland Wed 12-Nov-08 13:39:36

DH has dyspraxia, too, RT, enough to have DLA for life for it. He does drive! A manual. He even does it for a living!

Your son can get assistance on his exams as well. For example, DH had a reader for the theory test (he has dysgraphia as well) and extra time on the practical test.

Took him 4 tries to pass, but he did and now has a minibus license.

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