Tag Archives: processing disorders

No More Meltdowns in 5 Steps

meltdown
courtesy of pixabay

You’re almost done with Saturday morning errands, you have just reached the supermarket, and then it happens: a meltdown!  Meltdowns are not always about being defiant.  Most meltdowns occur when a child feels out of control, or doesn’t understand a situation.  Why are transitions so hard for some children? It’s not that they wouldn’t like to have dinner, or go to Grandma’s house.  The reason is more likely that they were focused on a particular activity or expecting a certain routine, and your plan seemed to come out of nowhere.  The good news is we have a few tips to help decrease meltdowns, and help you and your child feel more in control when things are about to get ugly!

1. Explain where you are going, when you are leaving and when you will return. We wouldn’t like to be taken to some mystery destination, and neither would our kids. Letting your child know what you’ve planned helps him to understand what to expect from the your outing.

2. Talk about potential disappointments and how we should react. You might remind your son about a time his favorite restaurant was closed and he got upset. “Last time you were disappointed when the pizzeria was closed, what should we do today if we our plans don’t work out?”

3. Make a game plan together. Discuss with your child ahead of time what is expected of him, what you as a parent can do to make him feel better, and what you will do as the one in charge, if the situation goes out of control. For example, I usually let my kids know why we are at Target, and what we are looking to buy. I then let them know what fun place we are supposed to go afterwards. Then I tell them, I am going to count each time you do something you are not supposed to do(being loud, not following directions). If I get to three, we will leave the cart, get in the car, and go home. On a good day, I might get to “one”, on a bad day, I might get to “three” just as we are leaving the store. Be consistent! Once your child knows you mean what you say, they’ll follow your plan too.

4. Ask your child how he feels. Sometimes the meltdown is just too much to handle right in the middle of a public area. Take your child to the car, or to a quiet place and talk it out. Let him know you understand that he is disappointed and ask him if he could explain what upset him so that you can understand better. Most children like to know that their parents are on their side. By acknowledging his feelings and trying to understand his point of view, you are showing just that! If your child is just too loud to reason with, don’t say a word or try to compete with his intensity, simply wait for him to calm down or wait for a pause so you can be the voice of reason.

5. If you know a particular place always results in tears and tantrums, you might consider not going there until your child is a little more mature. When he asks you why you haven’t taken a trip to that particular place, let him know the reason. You could say, “I don’t think we are ready for that store. It seems to upset you, and I would rather not go there.” Our children might not be aware of the consequences of their behavior. Not going to a fun place might be the necessary consequence for him to understand the importance of staying calm and using his words, rather than throwing a tantrum.

All children will throw tantrums at some point. Children with processing issues, ADHD, or Autism will have more frequent meltdowns. However with the right attitude and a lot of consistency we can survive and decrease the menacing meltdowns!

Resources:

http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/721.html

Spring forward without falling backward!

sleeping child
courtesy of pixabay

We’ve taken a vote and decided that the Monday after the Daylight Saving Time change should be a national holiday. Just kidding!

It would be nice to have that extra day to adjust to the new time, especially for families with children with ADHD, Autism, other processing, and behavioral issues. That one hour change can often throw off our kids’ systems for weeks and even cause a set back to steady progress. Changes in sleep patterns and routines affect everyone, with or without learning issues. However, there are some ways to help kids stay on track even when their bodies are telling them otherwise.

1. Stick to routines

Children with ADHD, Autism, and other learning differences are already struggling to understand the world around them. Adding an extra hour to the day can be difficult to process. We can help keep anxiety low by keeping to our regular routines and schedules. The less out of control your child feels, the easier the adjustment period will be for everyone.

2. Try shifting your child’s schedule by 10-15 minutes each day

Often letting a child know exactly what is about to happen is the best way to prepare for a new situation. Forwarding the day by a whole hour fits into the “new situations” category. About ten days before Daylight Saving Time Sunday sit down with your child and let them know that soon everyone will be forwarding their clocks forward and that as a family you will all be preparing for the time change. Children with ADHD and Autism are often visual learners. You can even make a chart or mark your calendar with the new wake-up and bedtimes to clearly show them how the time will change.

3. Light blocking shades

Too much light at bedtime can be a problem for kids with learning disabilities. Their internal clocks often use environmental cues such as sunlight or darkness to help them wake and sleep. Try using sun-blocking shades to keep out the light in the evening to help children fall asleep and to prevent them from waking up too early.

4. Extra exercise

Encourage your child to play outside or take them to the playground. Physical activity can improve sleep quality and increase sleep duration. Also, studies have shown that exercise reduces stress by increasing the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. The combined benefits of releasing pent up energy, and reducing stress can have a positive impact on helping your child adjust to time change.

5. Avoid extra stimulation in the evening, especially around bedtime

Help your child’s bedtime routine by avoiding rowdy games, electronic devices and any other activities that may energize your child and prevent them from falling asleep. Instead, encourage quiet games, reading, coloring, and other calming activities. Screens should be avoided. Artificial light from tablets and smart phones has been shown to interfere with the body’s natural sleep patterns and can slow down the production of melatonin, a chemical the body naturally produces to regulate sleep. Individuals with low melatonin levels will have difficulty sleeping at appropriate bedtimes.

6. Brainjogging

Brainjogging can help your child adjust to Daylight Saving Time too! Make a wordlist using relevant words and short phrases to help your child understand what Daylight Saving is and how it will affect his day. You can add some of the ways that you plan on helping him adjust. Look out for our word list about Daylight Savings under “My Assigned Lists”.  Most importantly, sticking to your set Brainjogging routine will help lower anxiety and stabilize any behavior issues that could arise.

Overall, it is important to be aware that the Daylight Saving Time change may affect your child’s sleep patterns and behavior. Be prepared, have a plan, and be patient!

Resources

http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/k-12-education/for-kids-with-autism-shiting-to-daylight-saving-time-is-time-of-angst-20170312

https://sleep.org/articles/exercise-affects-sleep/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

http://www.playattention.com/child

The Process that can Predict Babies’ First Words

toddler at mealtime
courtesy of pixabay

“Say Mama!” “Say dog!” Sound familiar? Most parents use similar phrases to encourage their babies to talk. What if the words we speak weren’t the only factor in what and when our babies speak? Recent studies have shown that a baby’s first words are largely based on their visual experience. What they see is likely what they will say.

Psychologists at Indiana University studied infants between the ages of 8-10 months, the period before children begin to engage in verbal communication. The babies in the study had to wear cameras on their heads for an average of 4.4 hours. For the study, the researchers chose to observe mealtimes, recording five objects for each frame. Some of these words included, table, shirt, chair, bottle, cup, food, and spoon. The results of the study showed a strong connection between the most frequently appearing objects and first nouns, words that are acquired by half of all 16-month olds. According to this study, a child with slow or delayed visual processing, would also be a late-talker. (Clerkin)

What is Visual Processing Disorder?

When people think of vision, they think in terms of how well a person can see. But vision is much more than that. The brain, not the eyes processes the visual world, including symbols, pictures, and distances. Weakness in the neuronal connections involved in these functions is called visual processing disorder. The areas of the brain required for processing the visual world are not in sync. So, for a baby who is just learning about the world, not being able to process what is seen, affects the brain’s ability to identify objects in the environment. This results in the delay in speech.

Children with delayed speech are often sent for speech therapy. But if the cause of the delay is visual processing, what should be the treatment? How can you tell if the cause is visual processing?

• Are they being exposed to common everyday objects? Or are they simply not picking up visual regularities?

• How long can they focus on an object or activity?

• Does he pay attention to visual tasks?

• Is she easily distracted by too much visual information?

• Does he bump into things?

• Does she frequently rub her eyes?

If your child does any has any of these behaviors, you will want to take him for evaluation. The sooner a processing order is diagnosed the sooner the child can begin the needed the therapies. For any learning difficulty or developmental delay, early intervention is key.

How can you tell if an older child has visual processing disorder? (All of the above apply.) Here are additional symptoms seen in older children:
• Restless or inattentive during visual presentations
• Lacks interest in movies or television
• Has difficulty with tasks that require copying such as taking notes
• Reverses or misreads letters, numbers, and words
• Has difficulty writing within lines or margins
• Can’t remember phone numbers
• Poor reading comprehension when reading silently
• Skips words or entire lines when reading
• Complains of eye strain or frequently rubs eyes
• Fails to notice changes in bulletin board displays, signs, or posted notices

Can Brainjogging help?

Yes! The Brainjogging method focuses on strengthening weak connections in key areas of the brain. Our founder, Shirley Pennebaker, discovered early on that for a student with visual processing issues, there is a difference between what the student sees and what is learned. The simple exercises in the Brainjogging program provide a targeted approach to strengthening the systems in the brain responsible for visual processing.

Learn more about Brainjogging’s targeted approach to overcoming learning difficulties by calling our main office, 1-888-7-I-LEARN.

 

Elizabeth M. Clerkin, Elizabeth Hart, James M. Rehg, Chen Yu, Linda B. Smith. Real-world visual statistics and infants’ first-learned object names. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2016; 372 (1711): 20160055 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0055

Indiana University. “Babies’ first words can be predicted based on visual attention: Study reveals that visual memory’s role in early language learning may advance treatments for delayed speech, autism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161206111633.htm>.

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/visual-processing-issues/understanding-visual-processing-issues

Strengthening this Area of the Brain Improves Reading

 

learning to read

What if we knew exactly what part of the brain is used when we learn to read? In August 2016, scientists at MIT were able to do just that! Using MRI scans in children at age 5 and then at age 8, the MIT researchers were able to isolate the area in the occipito-temporal region that is often referred to as the Visual Word Form Area, VWFA. These scientists are now working on using the same brain imaging techniques to be able to predict a child’s functional development. In other words, experts would be able to identify children who are at risk of developing dyslexia or other learning difficulties connected with issues in that area of the brain.

What is the VWFA?

The VWFA, Visual Word Form Area is a novel brain network  located in the left occipito –temporal (LOT) region of the brain. This system is responsible for the rapid, automatic, fluent identification of words. In other words, the connections in this system work together to rapidly decode strings of letters into words. Individuals with dyslexia have a disruption in this system explaining why reading becomes a big challenge.

How will this information help my child and me?

Dyslexia can be frustrating for both parents and children. Fortunately, as we have seen, researchers have been able to narrow in on the disrupted neural pathways that cause dyslexia. This information combined with the brain’s ability to change and heal itself (plasticity) gives hope to individuals and their families. The fact that dyslexia has a cognitive basis, means that to overcome the problem, you need a focused, cognitive-based solution.

Brainjogging can help!

Brainjogging is a cognitive-based, multi-sensory program designed to strengthen weak connections in the brain. The key issue with dyslexia, or any other reading challenge, is a disconnect between what an individual sees and what the brain processes. When Brainjoggers, see, say, and spell words during each exercise, they are combining proven methods for enhancing reading, with research-backed techniques for improving cognition and processing.

To learn how Brainjogging can be customized to suit your child’s needs, call 855-468-3824.  You can also email our program coordinator, Karishma, at karishma@brainjogging.com or click the button below:

Resources:

Shaywitz, S., Mody, M., and Shaywitz, B., “Neural Mechanisms in Dyslexia”, Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2006

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160808144906.htm

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/how-a-curious-condition-solved-a-neuroscientific-mystery/

Does Screen-Time Affect Behavior?

child with tablet
courtesy of pixabay

What would you say if I told you that 15.5% of elementary students, grades 1-5 have been diagnosed with ADHD? Recent data from the National Health Center showed that as of 2015, 10.2% of children ages 5-15 were diagnosed with ADHD. From 1980 to 2007, the diagnosis of ADHD in the pediatric population increased by 800 percent! These dramatic increases indicate that the cause may not just be genetic. Experts are looking to environmental factors to explain the sharp rise in ADHD among children. According to Victoria Dunckley, M.D., the answer could be in the palm of your hand.

As reported by Dunckley, integrative child psychiatrist and author of the book, Reset Your Child’s Brain, technology is having a negative impact on our children’s brain health and development. Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS), is the result of over exposure to screens in the forms of video game systems, tablets, and smart phones. Electronics can overstimulate and deregulate a child’s nervous system. The added overstimulation and stress cause children to have issues with mood, focus, sleep, and behavior. (Dunckley)

How does Electronic Screen Syndrome affect children?

Constantly interacting with the artificial stimuli that screens supply, shifts the nervous system into a stressed mode. Our brains and bodies are meant to handle some stress, but repeated stress can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt. Usually, high stress levels normalize when followed by an appropriate discharge of energy (think fight or flight). However, screen time is generally paired with a lot of sitting. Where does the energy go? According to Dunckley, it gets released in the form of a tantrum or other inappropriate behavior.  Dunckley further points out that if we were to look inside a brain engaged in screen-time, we would see that brain getting too much activity in some areas, such as reward pathways, and not enough in other areas such as the regions associated with empathy. This leads to fragmented brain development, making it less flexible and resilient. (Dunckley) One of the strongest impact of screens on the brain is with regards to sleep. The unnatural, bright light from a smart phone or tablet slows the production of the sleep signal, melatonin. Lack of melatonin desynchronizes the body clock resulting in poor sleep and disrupted hormone cycles. In fact, weight gain and high blood pressure related to screen-time could be a result of constantly high stress hormones, as well as being overly sedentary. (Dunckley)

What behaviors are associated with ESS?

  • Irritability
  • Oppositional-defiant behaviors
  • Social immaturity
  • Poor eye contact
  • Insomnia
  • Learning difficulties
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of focus
  • Tantrums
  • Disorganized behaviors

Children with underlying issues such as ADHD and Autism will display more severe versions of the symptoms. Often these children are more likely to be drawn to screens. Parents can mistake the kids’ “quiet” behavior while playing on a tablet as improvement. Try taking the screen away, and you soon realize that the screen was only masking the issues! (Dunckley)

Parents worry that their child will be the only one without a tablet, or that he won’t make friends, or learn the latest technology. That is not the case. For young children the importance of being screen free is to allow their brains to naturally develop strong neuronal connections. The brain’s most rapid growth is during the first few years of life. Assaulting those brains with digital media is preventing them from reaching their true potential academically and socially. Children benefit so much more from human interaction and outdoor play. Let our children’s brains grow and develop so that they can withstand the effects of the latest technology and be able to use the appropriately and proficiently when they get older.

What can parents do to help their children?

  1. Dunckley suggests an electronic fast, 3-4 weeks of strict removal of all electronic media. Doing so, will help reset your child’s brain, allowing you to focus on what is really going on with your child, without having to deal with the added behavior issues. (Dunckley)
  2. Encourage your child to engage in other activities. Have a family game night. Help your child find a sports team or club to join.
  3. Brainjogging twice a day can help children get their brains back in sync. The exercises in Brainjogging target the areas of the brain controlling focus, attention, memory, and processing. Brainjogging’s simple design and quick exercises make it highly effective for all children.

While most parents start their children on Brainjogging for academic reasons, the first change they notice, is in their child’s behavior. A child who is out of sync, will have trouble regulating his emotions and behavior. A child who has made the important connections in the brain is in sync will be more flexible, more resilient, and will demonstrate improved behavior and focus!

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201207/electronic-screen-syndrome-unrecognized-disorder#_ftn1

http://drdunckley.com/tag/electronic-screen-syndrome/

http://www.dailytech.com/ADHD+Diagnosis+and+Treatment+in+Children+Problem+or+Paranoia/article37632.htm

http://www.chadd.org/understanding-adhd/about-adhd/data-and-statistics/general-prevalence.aspx

Sensory Processing Disorder: The Struggle is Real!

Do you have a bright child who can’t seem to focus when asked to perform a sequence of tasks? Does your son or daughter jump from activity to activity? Do you know a child that NEEDS to climb, run, and touch everything? These are all examples of children displaying sensory processing disorder (SPD). A lot of kids with ADHD and autism, also have sensory processing issues that affect their organization and focus. I know my child is smart, if only she would just calm down for a minute! Sound familiar?

swinging
courtesy of pixabay

Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out of Sync Child recommends the “3Rs”:

  • Recognize that your child may have a sensory issue. Kranowitz suggests putting on “sensory goggles” to observe what your child needs more or less. Noise may cause your child to have outbursts. A quick run around the block, may be what your child’s body is seeking to organize his thoughts again.
  • Re-channel the behavior. Avoid punishing your child for his extra energy. Find a way for him to use that energy purposefully. Take younger kids to the playground or have them jump on the trampoline. As children get older, assigning chores around the house (think raking leaves or vacuuming) are a great way to teach responsibility and have them expend excess energy.
  • Reward the child with specific and positive words. Rather than a treat and a “Good job!”, try saying “Wow, you read that passage very well!” Avoid sugary and material awards. Praise from a parent is usually the biggest reward for a child.

Therapists will often recommend a sensory diet to help “sync’ the brain and body. Here are some activities recommended by Kranowitz, plus a few more!

  • Reach for the sky – While laying on her back, have your child stretch one are to the sky while you both count to five. Hold it high while counting to five. Then tell your child to pretend she is melting, and slowly bring her arm down for five counts. Do the same with the other arm. Repeat this exercise alternating between right and left arm and then right and left leg. This slow and calming activity encourages patience and improves coordination. (Kranowitz)
  • Copy Cat – Face your child and say, “Watch and copy what I do.” Do different movements that require balance and coordination and let your child copy you. For example, you can balance on one foot and wiggle the other foot in the air. You can even take turns being the leader!
  • Copy Can’t – In this variation, have your child do the OPPOSITE. When you reach high with your hands, your child will have to reach low. This is a great activity for building body awareness, visual processing, and motor planning. (Kranowitz)
  • Make your house sensory sensitive. – Be sure to have designated quiet areas. A quiet area can be as simple as a corner with a bean bag chair or weighted blanket. Providing a small trampoline or exercise ball in your child’s room or playroom are simple activities for releasing energy. Your child should also have a designated area for homework. His desk or table should be clear of all distractions to help him focus on his work.
  • Encourage outdoor play and exercise.- Exercise is important for everyone. However, for individuals with SPD, physical activity helps with processing, focus, and self-regulation. Biking, running, and other sports help children use excess energy, increase body awareness, and improve focus.

No matter how mild or severe your child’s SPD is, remember that many of their behaviors have an underlying cause. Refrain from over the top reactions such as, “Why do you always do that?” Instead, put on your investigator’s hat, and try to figure out what caused the behavior. Once you have the cause, find an activity or a sensory tool to help your child become more aware of his own body and regulate his own sensory issues. Brainjogging helps with SPD by helping to syncing the auditory, visual, and language pathways in the brain. A child who is better able to understand the world around him will feel more in control and will be able to remain calm in different situations. Combine Brainjogging with a sensory diet and you’ll have a calm, melt-down free child in no time at all! Resources: Kranowitz, Carol, “When Your Child is Out-of-Sync” ADDitude Magazine, Winter 2016. Arky, Beth, “Treating Sensory Processing Issues” https://childmind.org/article/treating-sensory-processing-issues/

Language Processing Disorder

Teaching Children with Language Processing Disorder to Understand Nonverbal Communication

A Language Processing Disorder can result in many failed relationships because of communication challenges. While a parent will be able to understand – and accept – a child’s misinterpretations and related behaviors, their young friends may not. This is because a child with a Language Processing Disorder may not be able to work out conflicts due to their struggles with understanding that language does not always need to be taken so literally and that body language is also an important communication indicator.

The Disparity between Comprehension and Listening

Because children with Language Processing Disorders such as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have a hard time processing sounds, they often fail to understand how verbal communication is meant to be interpreted. Throw in an additional element of nonverbal communication and a child with APD can struggle with communication in relationships when they don’t even know it.

These children may often work very hard to understand an audible message relayed by a friend only to miss the subtle message or focus too much on the literal meaning of words when the nonverbal behavior of a friend is saying something completely different. These disparities can often result in:

  • Hearing criticism when there was none
  • Misinterpreting a lighthearted tease as a unfriendly criticism
  • Placing communication in “black or white” categories, one either positive or negative

How Children with Learning Processing Disorders can learn other forms of Communication

In an effort to help your child maintain better relationships, it is important to teach them about language, sarcasm, joking and nonverbal communication or body language. For a child with APD, it can be difficult to pick up on cue’s that one’s words and body language can disagree. This is why it is important for a parent to teach their kids to pay more attention to nonverbal messages more so than the actual words as these cues are more accurate indicators of a persons’ feelings.

Ask your child the following when helping to make the connections between nonverbal and verbal communication:

  • Does the tone of voice used match the words?
  • What is the look on the face of the person compared to the words they are using suggest?
  • Is the speaker happy but is using uncomfortable language?

One effective way to approach this is by watching movies with your child and having them interpret the verbal and nonverbal communication of the characters. Learning the subtle cues of communication can help them to become better “listeners” and may help them to more effectively interpret positive and negative communication more accurately.

Auditory Processing Disorder

Does My Child’s Auditory Processing Disorder Make Him a Homeschooling Candidate?

Auditory Processing Disorder, in its most basic definition, is when the ears hear but the brain doesn’t. The lack of interpretation that the brain is missing can often make a child seem disobedient, slow of learning or hard of hearing. It is for these reasons the diagnosis for Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is commonly incorrect and is labeled as an attention deficit. Moreover, these children have a hard time understanding what is being said around them or are distracted by sounds in their environment that most people can block out. This is also why a traditional public school environment can prove confusing for a child who might otherwise excel in academia provided the right setting.

Couple the above with the fact that APD testing is usually quite expensive and the definitiveness of an APD test can’t be analyzed until a child is about eight or nine years old, and it is no wonder early education children with APD can fall so far behind. Here are some additional reasons you may want to consider homeschooling your child if you think they are exhibiting signs of APD and you have ruled out some of the other common diagnosis.

Auditory Processing Symptoms that make Homeschooling Worth Considering

There are five types of APD which makes the diagnosis even more challenging. Furthermore, the symptoms are varied and can present challenges that are far beyond the capabilities of traditional school environments. Here are some of the most common symptoms that would be better suited to a homeschool environment that would present challenges in traditional school:

  • Children who don’t respond when called by name
  • Children who are distracted by external or loud noises
  • Children who are slow or delayed when giving responses
  • Children who don’t answer when they are spoken to or respond completely off topic

All of these symptoms can create obvious problems within a school environment as a teacher would feel that a student was deliberately disobedient or hard of learning. Even when a teacher picks up on clues that a student may have APD, they still may not be able to provide the adequate amount of time that specific individual needs or may not be equipped with the visual learning materials that are required to help these children learn.

Homeschooling a Solution

Children who have APD struggle most with auditory processing but their visual processing remains intact (unless secondary issues exist). In a homeschool setting parents are able to present visual information such as graphics or pictures that allow students to retain basic concepts. These basic concepts are often the building blocks of success.

Brainjogging for Students with APD

The computer-based learning program Brainjogging is particularly useful for homeschooling because it addresses the subtle problems that exist with Auditory Processing Disorder. When children are allowed to work independently they begin to build self-confidence and begin to enjoy the educational process they may have formerly resented in a traditional school setting.

Learn more about Brainjogging for children with Auditory Processing Disorder today.