As soon as I learned of Ryan’s diagnosis, my endless research frenzy began.  Fish oil supplementation was one of the first big concepts I saw pop up time and time again.  It was specifically being linked to improvements in children with speech and spectrum disorders – showing up as surges in ability to talk, behavior, focus and even eye contact. 

So what is it about fish oils that could possibly cause this kind of response?

And so it was, that I learned about essential fatty acids (EFAs).  And that these stinky little fish oils just happened to be chocked full of ’em.  

What are Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and Why Are They Important?

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats.  Some types of fatty acids are “essential” because we need them to live, yet we can’t produce them on our own, so we must ingest them through the foods we eat. 

Fish oils contain the essential fatty acids:  Omega-3 and Omega-6 (the “good” fats).  There is a ton of research proving these EFA’s benefit just about every age, and just about every aspect of the body.  To name a few:

  • healthy brain and eye development (even baby formula has Omega supplementation nowadays!)
  •  treating eczema and maintaining healthy skin
  • healthy heart and arteries (lower incident of heart disease)
  • maintaining mood through prostaglandin modulation
  • Keeping cell membranes working properly and efficiently
  • treating Diabetic neuropathy
  • and so much more. 

Seems EFAs are pretty critical for our bodies to function properly, however the vast majority of people aren’t getting them with today’s diet/lifestyle.  And, since our apraxic/spectrum kids are typically extremely picky eaters, I’d be shocked to learn that one of the 10 (usually crappy) foods they’ve agreed to eat is fish.

If these were so great, why didn’t our pediatrician ever mention them?  Why didn’t our speech therapist (at a top 5 nationally ranked Children’s Hospital) recommend we try?  I quickly learned that if there isn’t a supporting clinical study proving the benefit specific to speech (which would cost $$$ to do)…most traditional doctors/therapists won’t (or aren’t allowed to) venture out and recommend.  Fish oils/EFAs are safe for all ages, but I was never told about new studies that linked them to benefits for kids like Ryan.  What a shame…because after one week on fish oils Ryan’s communication exploded.

How Did They Impact Ryan?

Ryan was 27mos and, although he made lots of grunting noises, he was officially non-verbal (only a small handful of words others could understand).  A communication explosion for him showed up as significantly more effort to communicate, more imitating, initiating communication without being prompted.  It was noticeable.  Even more interesting, a few months later, when Ryan was 33 mos old, we went one week without the fish oils in his diet.  During that time, Ryan severely regressed.  The gains we’d seen from speech therapy from the couple of months prior seemed to have disappeared.  He was hyperactive, defiant and even his speech therapist commented on how sudden and significant the change was.  We couldn’t figure out why…until we added the fish oils back to his diet.  Within 3 days he was back to normal.  Light bulb went off – OH  MY!  These are working more than we ever realized!    

Since that time, we’ve been big believers in the importance EFAs play in all of our diets, but especially for our kids who need a little extra boost.  Good news is that the CHERUB Foundation is currently raising money to fund research that will clinically validate the benefit of fish oils for children with speech/language delays and disorders.

Want info on which brands to use and dosage specifics?  Click here

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