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Ways to help babies' brain development

Ways to help babies' brain development

Placing babies tummy down from birth may avoid attention deficit disorders

A New Zealand-born grandmother who has become an international expert in early child development says that mothers should place babies tummy down, when awake, 'from day one, at every opportunity.'

Maureen Hawke, director of the Brisbane Learning Connections Centre, says that being tummy down when awake is essential to the early "wiring" of babies' brains and helps to avoid later attention deficit disorders that are usually treated with drugs.

"Telling mothers to put babies on their backs to avoid sudden infant death has been successful in reducing cot death but can lead to delays in acquiring milestones such as crawling and speech," she claims. "Being tummy down at all times when awake helps babies gain head control, move forward and develop early visual focusing skills and coordination."

Maureen Hawke is a former paediatric nurse with 25 years' experience helping children with learning difficulties, attention disorders and behavioural problems. The daughter of the late Henry May, Internal Affairs Minister in the Kirk administration, she has lived in Australia since 1967.

Her programs to prevent and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been taught to thousands of parents and schoolteachers in Australia and internationally.

She is visiting New Zealand April 7-8 to launch Bright Start, her program that helps parents and families promote crucial development of their babies' brains from birth to two and a half years. She will also examine the potential to introduce programs to help New Zealand teachers deal with ADD/ADHD children in the classroom.

She says her programs have been shown to accelerate learning and improve classroom behaviour.

Maureen Hawke is concerned at the rising number of children with attention deficit disorders who often end up for years on 'kiddie speed', the methylphenidate prescription drug Ritalin, and Dexamphetamine.

New Zealand and Australia rate third equal in the world, behind the US and Canada, in Ritalin use. Prescriptions for the drug here have risen dramatically from 3,000 to 72,000 a year in ten years, according to published figures (June, 2002). Part of this rise is accounted for in the more frequent prescribing of lower doses.

According to the New Zealand Guidelines for the Assessment and Treatment of ADHD, the prevalence rates for ADHD among children range from1.4 per cent to13.3 percent but a rate of five per cent is used as a rough guide.

The Guidelines also suggest "ADHD in children under five years is an important target for intervention if it is severe and persists" and adds that in adolescence "major depression may develop in up to 25 percent of young people with ADHD" with academic performance significantly behind their peers.

Maureen Hawke says there are many causes of ADD and ADHD including genetics, visual and auditory processing difficulties, processed food laden with artificial additives, and toxic chemicals.

Her Bright Start program helps parents to counter some of these pitfalls. The program is available on the Internet at her web site,

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