Madelaine Portwood has an extraordinary dream which looks as if it may be about to come true.

Her dream is that, one day, children will be able to take a pill and do well at school.

An educational psychologist, Dr Portwood has spent years working with youngsters with various forms of learning and behavioural difficulties.

Now, she is in charge of a unique experiment giving 120 primary school children daily food supplements to overcome learning difficulties and boost school performance.

The early signs are that the daily pills are working and the children, aged between six and 11, appear brighter, more outgoing and find it easier to concentrate.

Tests have shown that, within three months of starting on the supplements - capsules containing a special mixture of fish oil and vegetable extract oil -

the average reading age of the pupils has improved by two or three years.

The experiment is the culmination of two years of research into the possibility of using food supplements to counteract problems such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, hyperactivity and autism.

Dr Portwood's main area of expertise is dyspraxia, the so-called clumsy-child syndrome, and she has written three books on this complex subject.

A few years ago, she attended a conference at Oxford University where eminent scientists delivered papers which suggested medical problems such as schizophrenia and maternal depression might be caused by what we eat or, in this case, what we don't eat.

Some researchers suggested that so-called longchain fatty acids, found in substances such as marine fish oil and oil of evening primrose, could help treat a range of conditions.

Many families' diets do not include the key elements of long-chain fatty acids -

substances called omega six and omega three.

Scientists increasingly believe these substances play a vital part in the way the brain works.

Portwood's own research suggested there might be a link between children with a range of behavioural and learning problems.

"The suggestion was that some conditions could have a metabolic cause. I was very interested so I decided to look around and see what supplements were available," she recalls.

Shortly afterwards, she met Adam Kelliher, a former BBC journalist who had arrived at similar conclusions about the importance of food supplements.

Kelliher and his wife set up their own company, Equazen, to produce food supplements rich in long -

chain fatty acids.

A smaller trial two years ago saw dramatic improvements in the concentration and behaviour of children given supplements containing evening primrose oil and marine fish oil.

Kelliher convinced Dr Portwood that his firm's supplements, sold under the brand name Eye-q, could do even better and offered to help her run a major trial by providing free supplements and free placebo capsules.

Dr Portwood is delighted at the way the trial is proceeding but is already looking beyond the use of food supplements to "treat"

behavioural and learning difficulties.

"If we can address the concentration issue, the attainment of children will be improved, their selfesteem will improve, they will be less disaffected and, hopefully, we will see the spin-off in education, less truancy and less juvenile offending. The outcome could be quite fantastic."

However, the food supplements are not a universal cure. Some children who have not responded to the capsules may have developmental problems which are not caused by metabolism.

Eye-q is available at leading pharmacies and healthfood stores. It can also be purchased directly by calling 0870 241 5621 or on-line through