| Hands on Help
In Katie Losty’s clinic in Sandycove, Co. Dublin an angelic ten-year-old Ross Harte is in the middle of the
floor, doing jumping jacks and marching movements, arms and legs moving in opposite directions. It’s not
easy. Most adults couldn’t do it. But, for Ross, this exercise has made the difference between being labelled
“slow” and becoming a confident child.
Before Ross met Katie, he was “slagged” by schoolmates for being “stupid”. The primary school curriculum
focuses on literacy and numeracy. Children like Ross may be bright, yet they turn letters and numbers
backwards and cannot read because the words “dance” on the page - a condition sometimes described as
dyslexia. Unable to conform and do their homework neatly, they soon grow out of step with their peers.
In the playground at school in Kilbarrack, Co. Dublin, when Ross tried to participate in games, he would
constantly hear from his classmates “You can’t do that because you’re stupid.” Ross stopped trying, thinking
to himself, “what’s the point I’m dumb?”
As a result, Ross had low self-esteem. A sensitive child, he showed no behavioural problems in class and
teachers did not report a learning difficulty until he was nine. Ross simply didn’t try, looking “blank” when
his mother sat with him for hours at a time, trying to help him with his homework. “If only they had told me
about his problem when he was vie,” his mother, Yvonne, says with some regret. “The early years are so
A beautiful child, Ross has compensated by retreating into a world of his own. he spends most of his days
outdoors, building dens and go-karts in the woods. He has an impressively detailed plan for a go-kart that will
become a sleigh when it snows. Nine of Ross’s uncles are carpenters who built the Viking ship that floats on
the River Liffey. Ross wants to be a carpenter when he grows up and, while other boys fantasise about
playing for Manchester United, Ross dreams of helping a friend’s father to lay a wooden floor in his attic.
“All the kids who come to me are so creative and bright,” says Katie Losty, the massage therapist who was
instrumental in radically improving the way Ross viewed himself and his capabilities. Yvonne found Katie
because she knew Ross needed help. She kept her ear to the ground after realising that the help offered by the
local health clinic was insufficient. The clinic provided a six week programme of Speech and Language
Therapy but Ross showed little improvement and there was no follow-up. At nine, he had the reading
capability of a six-year-old.
Not knowing where to turn, Yvonne was surfing the internet looking for programmes for children like Ross,
but could find no clinic closer than the U.K. Then, on a television programme, Yvonne heard about Katie
Losty who treats learning disabilities like dyslexia through massage therapy, acupressure and co-ordination
Trained at Axelsons Gymnastic Institute, a complementary medicine college in Sweden, Katie tailors each
twelve-week therapy programme to the needs of the individual child. An important part of the therapy is
Katie’s ongoing conversation with the child during massage, when she subtly teaches them how to turn
negative messages about themselves into positive statements. Children with “special needs” may need a
longer programme and it is essential that parents reinforce the programme with a daily 20 minute home regime.
The theory behind Katie’s work is that children who have difficulty concentrating and who turn letters and
numbers backwards, lack a connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Significantly, they
never crawl on all fours as babies. They either find a unique way of moving across the floor (Ross pulled
himself along on his elbows) or they go straight to walking. “Parents don’t realise how important crawling is -
if only we had,” says Yvonne.
These children lack the myelin sheath in the brain that enable neurotransmitters to communicate between the
brain and the muscles. As a result, they have the sensation of their body not doing what they want it to do,
resulting in poor co-ordination and difficulties in concentration.
To help such children build these connections, Katie uses a combination of massage, co-ordination exercises,
acupressure and eye “tracking”. Tracking, which is increasingly used by behavioural psychotherapists dealing
with trauma victims, uses eye movements to repair the brain.
Massage is probably one of the most under-rated therapies known to us. Research shows it strengthens the
immune system, reduces anxiety and stress hormones, increases blood and lymphatic circulation, boosts levels
of calming hormones and even increases weight gain in premature babies.
After twelve weeks on Katie’s programme, Ross’s reading age jumped from age six to age nine. Yvonne was
committed to doing Ross’s exercises with him at home daily. Ross’s school, when they realised how
determined Yvonne was to help her son, offered daily, one-to-one resource teaching. For the first time, Ross
started getting positive marks. “It was as if Ross had been switched off but suddenly `woke’,” remembers
Homework that Ross did in two hours now takes 40 minutes. “I write my numbers the right way round
now,” he says proudly. “I just seem to know inside what feels right.”
“Ross is more confident, he has greater self-esteem, he is more content and he has a tidy school-bag,” says
Yvonne about the transformation in her son. “He can now read with expression whereas before he recited the
words blandly. The first time he read me a story expressively, I wanted to go out and celebrate.”
In co-operation with Axelsons, Katie is currently training massage therapists around the country to provide
dyslexia training and massage. She is able to assess and refer children to therapists in local areas.
Katie Losty, Sandycove Health Clinic, 57a Glasthule Road, Sandycove, Co. Dublin.