Sleep Apnoea and Child Development

The way you measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Kidz Newz no. 145 – 19th October 2015

Welcome to KidzNewz, especially to all new subscribers, including those from Move to Learn in Sydney, and also the recent GESS Conference in Jakarta. Kidz Newz is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children. You are receiving this because you have attended one of my workshops, purchased a book, or you have requested to be on the mailing list. Thank you. Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to. Feedback is welcome. Don’t forget to stay in touch on our Facebook Page and watch out for our exclusive fan page competitions.

ANCOS – TUTTI – Conference Hobart 11-15 January 2016

I first heard about this conference a couple of years ago. It’s a bit like the hare and the tortoise – I thought I had so long to think about it I forgot! Miraculously, I am now conducting two workshops at this conference so I hope to see you all there. As I’ll also be running a trade table, do drop by and say hello.

Sleep Apnoea and Child Development

At the recent Move to Learn conference in Sydney in August, all manner of subjects were covered with the latest in research in child development. I cannot possibly go into detail about everything, but one thing I found especially interesting was to do with sleep. We all know about how important sleep is for both children and adults, but were you aware that sleep apnoea can affect not only adults but also small children? Sleep apnoea is a lack of oxygen to the brain while sleeping. Apparently even a 1-3 second lapse can be significant.

This can result in poor sleep, delayed speech or behavioural problems. If children in your midst display some of these traits, talk to the parents and discuss how those children sleep. It’s not only a problem for the parent having disturbed sleep (because the child has disturbed sleep), or for the teacher having an unruly and disruptive child in class, but most especially for the child because it can cause long-term impairment to intellectual, dental and facial development.  In other words, it’s potentially a very serious condition.

The talk was given by ENT specialist and surgeon Dr Gillian Dunlop FRACS, MBBS (Hons), BSc (Med). In an article she wrote called ‘Kids and Sleep Apnoea’ published in Adventist Health Care Limited Winter 2015, she says that the condition is caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids, due to genetic predisposal or frequent coughs and colds. In a small percentage, obesity and allergy may be significant. She says she now performs 5 times more tonsillectomies for sleep apnoea than for recurrent tonsillitis.

Night symptoms can be snoring, or making gasping and choking noises, restlessness, sweating and bedwetting, while during the day symptomscan be fatigue and irritability (and often misdiagnosed as ADHD). Generally the children prefer to eat mushy food that’s easier to swallow. They often breathe through their mouths and some dribble, while others have dark circles under the eyes. Some have a ‘cross-bite’ due to the overcrowding of the jaw, and perhaps an enlarged tongue.

“In 2010 a research study performed by the University of Chicago found that children with untreated sleep apnoea had an impaired uptake of picture based memory tasks for immediate and overnight recall. This study concluded that as acquisition and retention of new material is impaired in children with sleep apnoea, they need more time and more learning opportunities to keep pace with healthy children.

An even more impressive study was done by researchers in Boston. This study demonstrated that children with sleep apnoea who were evaluated at the age of 4 and then re-evaluated at the age of 8, with no treatment for their sleep apnoea, had impaired literacy and numeracy skills equivalent to a 10 point drop in their IQ.”

Although she claims removal of tonsils and adenoids does not impair immunity, I feel any surgery should only be performed as a last resort. If the cause of sleep apnoea is enlarged tonsils due to frequent coughs and colds, then surely the cause of the frequent coughs and colds should be checked out first. Removing the organs seems a simplistic solution in the first instance. Repeated infection, whether to tonsils and adenoids or any other part of the body, often indicates a dietary problem that should be addressed by a qualified person. But I guess she’s talking about surgery for extreme cases.

Whatever is going on for the child, be aware of a bigger picture. If you’d like to know more about Dr Dunlop and her work, go to

For more information about Move to Learn, go to

Quotes of the Week

Healthy brains think better, work better and stay well.
– Dr Jenny Brockis


Some Comments from GESS Indonesia October 2015

Thank you for your brilliant ideas. Maria Theressa, Hammel Education
Great. I loved it so much. Eva Canny, Kehittaa School (0-8 yrs)
It was excellent. So many ways to use a scarf. Martha Yohanna, Kinderland Pakubuwono Pre-nursery (2-3 yrs)
I wish to see you at GESS in Dubai. Rehab Esmat, International Academic School, Dubai.


I hope you (or the children) don’t need surgery, but if you do, you’d better make sure these guys are your anaesthetists! (Thanks to Phil Splitter – Welcome to Music)

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About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9355 4890 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

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Marlene Rattigan, Editor
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