If your child had a recent school report that stated his/her focus and concentration were lacking then maybe now is the time to do a little work to prepare for the next school year.
Getting distracted is normal for young children. Most children have times when they are restless and forgetful. In general the causes for lack of concentration among children include tiredness and late-nights, poor diet and lack of interest.
However when necessary, most children will be able to concentrate on a task and complete it, be that task tidying their room, reading a book or doing their homework. Being able to concentrate means that children are able to keep their minds focussed on a task for a reasonable period of time, the length of time depending on the age of the child.
If your child is fidgety and unable to sit and concentrate for long, and you have out-ruled the obvious causes of distraction, it may be due to physical discomfort and tension that they do not have the words to explain. As some children retain the stresses and strains of birth, gentle treatment from a trained cranial osteopath can be beneficial to help release these pressures, enabling your child to fully engage with life again. A child who is physically uncomfortable may not complain of aches and pains. The stresses have probably been present since birth, and have become ‘normal’ for that child.
They may however be affected at a subtle level and display any or all of the following characteristics:
Illnesses: The child often has a lower immune system and gets frequent infections. Learning can be detrimentally affected by both a child feeling unwell and increased time lost from school. Retained birth moulding in the head restricts the development of the nasal sinuses and the ears. Such children are vulnerable to chronic ear infections and glue ear, with associated loss of hearing that can delay speech development and interfere with classroom learning. They are often habitual mouth breathers.
Physical signs: There may be asymmetries in the child’s posture, such as holding the head on one side, or one shoulder being higher than the other. It may be easier for the child to turn to one side than the other. This has implications on the best seating position within the classroom, to allow for activities such as watching the teacher, copying from the blackboard etc.
Physical discomforts: The child may complain of headaches, growing pains, stomach aches or other physical aches and pains.
Tips to Improve Your Child’s Concentration:
Promote a healthy diet— children can often have an increased intake of processed foods, saturated fats and sugary foods. Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and veggies will help your child’s brain functions. Also, studies have shown that children should avoid foods that have food colouring in them, as they may increase hyperactivity.
Set Routines— children need to have a routine (time for meals, school,homework), a ritual of things to do. Figure out a regular routine that will suit you and your child.
Limit the use of television and electronics—too much TV and computer games can prevent children from doing activities like, reading, doing homework, playing outside, and interacting with friends and with family.
Exercise more often—Both mental and physical exercise are very important to help your child concentrate better. For mental exercises, try playing board games that stimulate your child to think strategically and focus. Guessing games or even allowing them to help you cook by reading or following recipes. For physical exercise, it has been scientifically proven that children that do at least 30 minutes of exercise per day are more likely to do well in school, focus better and generally be more positive.
Support your child—Be there to support your child when they come home from school with homework, sit down and help them as they do their homework.
Be honest and open with your child—Your children pick up on everything whether you believe they do or not. If something is going on within the family, talk to your child about his or her feelings.
A Mother’s Story
“My son Peter was born in 2001. He was 11 days overdue and was born by Vacuum and forceps and weighed 9lb and 14oz. It was a bit of a tricky labour but we got there in the end. First few days he was shocked and a bit spewy but the Paediatrician said it was the shock of the birth.
Peter was always a lively little boy and got himself into the usual “boy” things.
He reached all his normal milestones and was a happy little toddler.
When he began pre-school he was a nervous little child and knew how to play up to “mother” but there was always some little thing with Peter that needed extra attention.
He went to National school at 4 years and 9 months and the first year went ok. It was in senior infants that his teacher began to notice something wasn’t quite right with Peter. We organised the normal assessments and apart from sensory issues Peter seemed to pass all the tests. Reading and writing and general little things were a problem for Peter. He couldn’t grasp these subjects but his mind could retain facts and faculties about History and Geography that would surprise you.
After attending another set of assessments his clinical psychologist still couldn’t find a “label” or “diagnosis” for Peter as he was a great child on a one to one basis but put him into a classroom situation he seemed to drift off and lose concentration and basically fall behind. In the end I asked for a letter to enable Peter to obtain some extra help in school and he was grated 3.5 hours in the week with a resource teacher. This helped him a good bit but I knew there still something amiss.
After speaking with another teacher one day she said “did you ever consider Cranial Osteopathy?”
I must say I hadn’t and questioned her further. She said that probably after the forceps delivery his head may be tight.
I googled cranial osteopathy and came up with Frank Kelleher in Cork – we started our sessions in April/May of this year. 1 a week for 4 weeks. His head was all tight on the right hand side and his breathing was very erratic and fast for his age. Frank worked on him for about a half an hour per session I have to say from day one Peter seemed to be improving before my very eyes. I said nothing to his teacher until our 4 treatments were over to see would he notice a difference. I had a brief chat with him and his 1st words were “Peter is really flying at the moment, what’s the story”. The words I was waiting for!
Peter had a break then until July where we re-checked how things were going and Frank said what he had done stayed in place. We are to return again in October.
Peter is back at school after the summer break and so far so good. His concentration is good, his form is great and he seems so well able to deal with things. Peter would have been a child who would “loose the rag” easily and let fly and you’d have to calm him down before getting to the root of the problem which would have been quite small. He found it hard to make friends sometimes and always seemed to be on the outside of the group as he couldn’t just handle his peers. All that has changed and he’s one of the gang now.
I can honestly say I can’t praise Cranial Osteopathy enough and Frank is super with children. It was the best decision I ever made and was sorry I hadn’t researched it sooner.
Peter is a lovely calm boy and can deal with life a whole lot better thanks to Cranial Osteopathy.”
Frank Kelleher has been treating babies and children for various conditions for the last 12 years. The above information is based on his experiences treating school going children with concentration issues and being a father of 4 himself.
Frank Kelleher D.O., R.N.M.H.