By Dr. Sherri Singer, Psy.D., Attention, Behavior, Processing & Learning Expert
For Parents who have been through too many learning support programs for their child with little or no success:
I meet so many parents who are sad and tired because they have tried everything for their child including learning program after program and tutor after tutor, and have not gotten to the success level they want to reach. While no one thing can be the absolute cure, since children like everyone else are multi-dimensional, there are things that can be happening to make any academic based learning program not do as well as it could. Working on math, reading, spelling, study skills or any other straight academic program in a smaller group than a classroom or a one on one situation does not take into account the following problems that many kids deal with. If they have these problems, the one on one or small group will not create a different learning pathway than the large classroom does and only takes these problems along for the ride. Even more important is the fact that if the child with problems is learning to be comfortable in only a 1 on 1 situation or a small group, their skills at being able to function in a larger classroom, which will be imperative in their future education, will suffer and they may continue to have the same problems. We are training them now for what they need to do later. Getting them used to a temporary fix that will hurt them later, will do nothing to help them in the long term. I focus on changing the following to help them be able to navigate any academics and any learning environment with less frustration and more success, so they get used to what they will need to do later on. These are not generally trained in academic based support.
1.) Processing Speed. Processing speed is the ability to quickly perform cognitive tasks. The faster a child’s processing speed is, the more completely they will be able to perform the task without getting lost. Many forms of help try to slow information down to accommodate the child’s speed. Since the world does not usually slow down for us, I prefer to work on speeding up the child. Since this is not an academic task, but rather a foundation skill, many programs can miss this.
2.) Multi-tasking/Simultaneous Processing. This is the ability to handle more than one task at a time. Many of the kids I meet lean on one skill more than another. Many times, this can be described through school reports as the child being a "visual learner" or "auditory learner" just to name a few. The usual way these kids are dealt with is to change the position they sit in, in the classroom or to focus the work toward their way of "learning". Again, the adult world does not often have the ability to change how things are presented as evidenced by the many adults I have helped who cannot keep up at work, so my choice is to help the child train at handling multiple processing skills at the same time. My thought is if they can handle multiple inputs at once, they can be more successful, less stressed and forever drop the label of what kind of learner they are.
3.) Short Term Auditory Memory/Sequential Processing. This is the ability to do things in order step by step. Can’t tell you how many parents I have seen who tell me that they tell their child to do several things and the child gets to the first or second thing and then either gets lost and has to be asked again or just goes and does something else. It can look like defiance or ignoring, which can get parents angry, but if the child is having this problem, it isn’t about defiance or ignoring, but instead, about a weak skill. Strengthening this skill can mean a world of difference for the child’s ability to do everything asked without getting lost along the way.
4.) Distraction tolerance. This is a term I have developed as a way to describe training that helps a child learn to ignore distractions. We are in an educational world of larger class sizes than ever before. For those kids and even with kids who are in smaller classes, at times, noise can throw brain timing off and create lots of frustration. Training to ignore that noise can mean a world of difference to the child’s success level. Again, the usual route for this in most programs, is to try to control the outside world and stop the noise or frustration. That is simply not possible to do and certainly you cannot control all environments your child will be exposed to throughout life. Training the child to live within the noise and work through it and get beyond it, is the true way to help the child.
5.) Behavioral Interference. Many programs deal with only learning or processing. This area is where I feel I have so much more to offer to families, because in addition to all those other things mentioned, I also specialize in stopping behavior while working on processing and learning at the same time. With the behavior interference gone, the learning and processing work can go much further and be very successful. Much behavior I have witnessed in my 26 years of helping kids and families is caused by frustration. No child ever wants to do poorly or be defiant. When a child feels something isn’t working right for him or her, he or she becomes frustrated and annoyed, showing all kinds of different responses. Some are cryers, some become anxious, some act out, some get super angry. All of those are an unnecessary distraction from normal life and happiness. Some parents I have met think very incorrectly that the child is just a "bad child" or there is something internally wrong. I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify and maybe kids I have not met have other issues, but for those I have met over 26 years, and I have met so many, frustration, based on faulty brain timing and processing issues, is the main issue with behavior being the response to it. The problem is that when you work only on learning or academics, and you don't focus on that brain timing or behavior at the same time, you are doing nothing to deal with helping the behavior problems/habits and you are not lightening the child’s load. I know how to do both for 30 years.
6.) Frustration Tolerance. Kids get frustrated. We all do. The response to it is really important. If we respond to a child’s frustration by making work less time or less difficult, how does that help the child later on when the work is more difficult or heavier? Again, the adult world does not make those contrived changes that the educational one sometimes does. So should we be working hard to change the work and walk on eggshells to stop the frustration from happening, or do we train the child how to work through the frustration and find a better way to cope with it while staying on track? I opt for choice 2. You may say it is not possible to do this, however, I have done it with lots of kids along the way. Is it easy? Not for every child. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Can it be done even with the kids who are expert at it? Absolutely. To be able to see a child calmly handle a mistake without running away from it, avoiding it, getting upset or complaining is priceless. At least that is what the parents tell me. It isn’t rocket science. Just guiding the child through and doing it enough times and letting it become rote.
Too many times, we get worried about a child’s frustration because it makes us uncomfortable and we want to soothe the child. While that is a normal parental response, and we feel cruel if we don't try to help, it makes the frustration response more profitable than the child learning healthier ways to cope and move beyond the emotional response to keep working independently. I train the healthier ways to cope and then we do it and do it and do it and do it until it becomes daily normal life and natural habit. Once parents get past the initial taking it on and staying calm and relaxed, the rest falls into place.
7.) Working memory. This is the ability to keep information in memory while doing other things. It is somewhat dependent on other things I have mentioned like processing speed and multi-tasking. If processing speed is not fast enough, holding things in working memory can be very tough and ultimately end in failure and frustration. If working memory is poor, trying to teach academic subjects 1 on 1 will be just as difficult and without staying power as in a large classroom. The memory skills must be trained to see a different result. Trained is not about talk therapy, but instead about repetitive practice and exercise.
Many parents I have worked with have gone from program to program, desperately searching for the one that works. The problem that many parents I have met all have in common is that they are all looking in the academic/subject based realm. If the underlying, foundation processing skills are suffering, programs that don’t train those are going to continue to have the same outcome. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not have any problem with academic based instruction via tutor or learning program. Those are good things to do. It’s the timing of them that is a problem. Processing skills and brain timing must be operating correctly first, prior to academic help. Once processing skills and brain timing are doing well, those kids will need to have academic and tutoring help and catch up to finish the process. These kids who are not processing information well, are so overwhelmed that they cannot begin to focus on the academics, so after fixing the skills and helping the child learn to cope, time with a tutor and or academic based learning program is a good direction. The order is not a choice though. If a child goes through tutoring or a academic learning program or help and does fine, then you know that the child’s problem probably does not involve anything deeper, but if you are a parent who has been through too many programs, too many tutors, too many meds and too much struggle and nothing is changing or you are seeing minor movement, you are probably looking at some processing or brain timing problems and those will need to be worked with first to see any changes.
Remember, though, the behavior will not just go away if you do the foundation work. Those behavior habits are there to protect the child-defense mechanisms. The habits will continue to exist until you take them on and I highly recommend you do that with supervision of someone who knows how to help you respond correctly. Any other response could create a worse problem and we don’t want to go there. I am excited to offer parents all of it in one place.
Contact Dr. Sherri today
Had something really interesting happen in our own home a few years ago that I thought would be really helpful to other parents who deal with behavior and information processing problems with their kids. My disclaimer here is that it is not hard science-just an interesting connection I noticed, and if it can be helpful to other parents, I am happy.
I consider our kids to have behavior and processing levels commensurate with their age levels and they are very good kids. The 2 older ones had much better progression with their processing skills then the 3rd and like all parents we try to provide help. We just thought it was a difference in the kids and never thought anything different.
One night, I went into the kid’s room (they all like to share) after they had fallen asleep, and I noticed that even with the blinds shut completely tight, the street light was shining through the openings and creating a lot of light on the walls. Although I had seen it before, I had not really noticed how bright it made the room and how it aimed right at our youngest's bed. Since I had just read about the benefits of totally dark sleep and the negative effects of sleeping with light in the room ( I am an avid reader of things that can effect behavior and processing in kids), I thought this might be important, so I decided to try an experiment that had some interesting results.
With or without the light in the room, our 3rd child’s sleep was definitely not the same as the first 2 as they were so close in age, that they got lots of sleep. Having a 3 year separation between the 2nd and 3rd made for a more difficult sleep set up for the 3rd since of course the first 2 would want less sleep and the 3rd was all too glad to help that cause. We would enforce 10 hours a night according to lots of sources I had read, and it was successful most of the time, but not always easy to attain.
Anyway, we went out and bought a simple, dark brown, thick curtain to go over the blinds, and put it up to block out all of the street light. Within just a few days, the changes floored me. Our 3rd who seemed overwhelmed a lot of the time, and more apt to have tantrums and shut down faster, as well as having some communication issues, was all of a sudden more patient, communicating better and not as fast to tantrums. Much more smiles! As the days went further, we saw more changes. He seemed to mature 2 years in a couple weeks. We hadn't changed anything else.
We were thrilled with this and it made me think about all the parents I had talked to in my practice about these very issues for years. I’m not trying to trivialize behavior or processing problems and certainly it isn’t always just this simple. It’s also not the same for every child, however, having been as interested in helping parents and kids with the effects of sleep, diet, and exercise on behavior/processing as I have been for years, this excited me and I wanted to share my experience with other parents.
My reading supports this change:
According to Dr. Vincent Ianelli, M.D. from About.com Pediatrics: "Experts are recognizing that not getting enough sleep can have significant effects on children. In addition to appearing sleepy, they may have a short attention span, be hyperactive, or irritable. People should sleep in the dark or in a dimly lit room. The reason is that melatonin, a natural hormone that our body produces and which helps stimulate our going to sleep, can be inhibited by light."
If the behavioral part doesn’t worry you enough, chronic exposure to light can cause health consequences too. Researcher Joshua Gooley, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston supports that concept. "Given that chronic light suppression of melatonin has been hypothesized to increase relative risk for some types of cancer and that melatonin receptor genes have been linked to type 2 diabetes, our findings could have important health implications." Gooley says.
It may seem, like a "no brainer" to provide enough sleep for your kids, like we were trying to do, but when there is light in the room either accidentally or a bright night light, it seems it can contribute to some troublesome things.
Many parents ask me about the child who is afraid to go to sleep in the dark? My suggestion would be what we used to do when it came to night lights. We would have them on until everyone was asleep and then turn them off. It was painless.
I would love to hear your comments and stories of change below if something like this works for you ...
Homeschoolers definitely have to put up with less activity around them during school then regular classrooms in the public school, but they still have distractions, and most do not have formal training in how to tolerate the distractions.
Many parents that I have spoken with have actually pulled their child from school based on this exact problem. The problem being that in a public school classroom, the class sizes have grown by leaps and bounds while the control and discipline has dwindled making for a disaster of a learning environment and the reason why public school education has tanked. At the same time, in the same classrooms, the ADHD diagnosis gets bandied about and the suggestion comes to change the child's placement in the room, instead of looking at helping to build up the child's internal ability to ignore distractions through practice. But this article is not about the tragedy that is the public school classroom. Many homeschoolers experience similar things because no environment is perfectly quiet and non distracting. and most kids are not formally trained in Distraction Tolerance which is my term that I coined many years ago with the training I do with kids.
Most people are not aware that you can train distraction tolerance through practice and make it easier for anyone, child or adult to ignore what is going on around him or her and continue doing their work. Logical to them and maybe unfortunately, most people go the other direction and try to make the environment less distracting, quieter, and more controlled and get upset when something or someone disrupts it. Very unfortunately that is the exact wrong thing to do and can make the child's abilities to ignore weaker.
Somewhat like the idea of allowing a baby to cry a little, learning to self soothe while falling asleep and not having the perfect quiet environment for that sleep, so the child learns to sleep in a non perfect environment and have the ability to self soothe, paying attention and sustaining work during school activities without the perfect quiet environment around you is similar.
For those who homeschool in a small home or one room, this can become a problem and those homeschool parents need to change their thought patterns from trying to keep control and keep quiet, to training the child how to put up with any distraction and keep going. To make that an automatic process for the child. That is the child who will be ultimately successful. To find out how to do this or to talk more, click here and we'll talk.
This Nature Valley Ad hits you between the eyes about kid's addiction to technology and what they are missing
THE VIDEO BELOW WILL HIT YOU HARD...
As a mom who is very good about making sure our kids spend most days out in the world and moving around, this video brought tears to my eyes. I wonder what the future will be like for people who communicate better with machines then with other people. For those who would choose a screen with pixels over the colors and grandeur of the outside world.
I don't know if it is applicable, but I have seen many behavior changes in kids, that seem related to this addiction to technology. We were eating out and it was a place where kids could run, which was fine. We noticed that lots of the kids seemed to have a problem knowing where they were in relation to others. One of the girls who was definitely old enough to know better was playing ball almost sitting in my daughter's lap as she sat and ate her pizza, almost as if the girl didn't realize my daughter was there. Like she was still in a video world and no one around her was real or would respond. I believe there is something related to the cyber world about this. A world where characters don't respond in a human way.
I remember watching the first editions of the Wii games coming out and in particular, the Disney Pixar "Cars" game where the cars would crash and just bounce and there was no damage to the car or anyone else. I remember thinking about how dangerous it was to have kids repetitively playing a game where you could run over people and things and you had no damage. I brushed it off after thinking it until I heard my 8 year old tell me , while we were sitting at a stop light, about how I should just go through the cars. We had a really good talk after that statement when my worst fears about that game world were confirmed and our kids don't spend that much time on their screens, but that programming still got through.
We had the video games in the 70's and 80's when I was a kid, but the car crash showed damage and your car was destroyed along with one of your turns. You did not get to roll over others or crash into them on purpose. At least I don't remember that. I think this lack of reality they live in in the screen world, and lack of consequences in that world is dangerous and very destructive.
What about communication. Kids have gone from the playground and riding bikes and running around to playing Minecraft as on screen presences and talking to each other without looking at each other's faces. Again, this is not how humans are supposed to communicate. Is it awesome that we have that tech to be able to do this? Sure it is, but if it becomes the only way someone communicates or the most prevalent way, we are no longer social beings, but rather just become pixels on a screen as well.
Don't even start me talking about the point of view shooter games. I think there is a big reason why there has been such an increase in violent kinds of behavior especially among kids. It is not about guns. It is about constant point of view training of how to shoot as many people at once in these games as possible, without any consequence or damage again. The element of human reaction and emotion is taken out and replaced with points and laughter. Not cool! These games remind me more of simulators for how to kill. I wrote an article called "Innocent Games or Murder Simulators" many years ago and since that time, the games have become more vivid and the violent acts have increased as well.
I completely value the boon that computers have been to all of us. The ability to research something without getting up to have to go search microfiche is awesome, especially for a visual migraine sufferer who would get dizzy and sick for the rest of the night after scrolling on those awful machines. That said, people are not built for living in a virtual world. We have been provided with a beautiful, real world around us, with so much to see and do. This video shows the stark differences in what is happening to our humanness and our connection with that world around us and while I know that in many places it is too cold to touch nature right now , it is so important to balance things for kids so they have more than just a cyber world to live in.
Next week...Find out why quitting activities is not ever a bad thing for kids...
Hi Dr. Singer,
We have a growing problem in our family that I believe, is going to ruin relationships. We have a son who is a Sophomore in High School. My husband intensely wants my son to play football and because of that, my son joined the football team. Now, he confides in me that he is miserable and does not want to be playing football and that he never wanted to play football. He told me he did it just because his Dad wanted him to. I have tried to talk to my husband about it, but my husband is a prior football player himself and will not hear of his son being any different than he was. I feel that this is going to permanently damage the relationship between my husband and son and I have tried to communicate this to my husband, but he seems to have tunnel vision about this. He thinks that the relationship will be fine. What do you think about this situation? S.S.
I agree with you that the relationship may be at stake here and it is time to do something about it. I see a lot of parents every year who tell their child what he or she will do activity-wise, instead of asking what the child really likes to do. I am a believer that a child should do some form of activity, but it needs to be an activity that the child can feel good about, enjoy and look forward to. If it hasn’t happened yet, I believe that your son will start to resent his father greatly if he continues to play this sport he hates so much. This is not his father’s life, it is his. Once that resentment starts to build, you may start to see acting out on your son’s part and even worse yet, I have seen kids grow up to become adults who never talk to parents again over things like this.
My immediate recommendation to you is to get in for some family counseling. Your son needs to communicate how he feels to your husband in a safe, protected place, where he can feel that people will back him up. I know you have tried to be the “go-between” to protect your son and try to have him heard, but my gut feeling from what you have said, is that your husband will not hear this from anyone within your family. I think you need a neutral 3rd party to really get it across to him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it will be as easy as 1,2,3. I think it will take some convincing, but I do think he needs to know how your son feels from your son, not you.
I would also caution you about trying to do this without a neutral person to mediate this for you. It sounds very highly emotionally charged for the whole family and that can escalate quickly. So, I am not advising you to sit down in your family room and do this on your own. When done with a counselor, the counselor can keep control of the situation and balance it.
If your husband refuses to go to counseling, I guess I would tell you to make sure he knows that the teenagers who become the most defiant and aggravating are the ones who have felt unheard and not cared about. The ones who are angry. This most certainly fits that potential. If nothing else works to get him to go to counseling, try to appeal to his sense of his own peace. Ask him to imagine what it will feel like when all this pent up anger, in your son, starts to come his way. I can tell you that I have head lots of awful stories about that very moment and the parents who I hear it from are in no way, at peace or happy at all. Think of it this way: if your son spends his life feeling insecure, angry and in turmoil because he was forced into something, like all teenagers, he will see to it that the person causing this pain for him will also feel insecure, angry and in turmoil. Trust me, it’s better to not go there.
You didn’t mention whether your son had an alternative interest. I would encourage you to make part of the counseling the development of your son’s other interests. Things he can get involved in that are more his thing. He needs to feel important for his choices (as long as they are healthy, good choices.) He needs to feel supported and like people are proud of him for him and his choices. Right now, he is living your husband’s life. He needs to live his own. You already know that. Now it’s time to make his Dad know and understand it and do the right thing.
Want to talk to Dr. Sherri now? I am but a click away...
Happy New Year to all! Hope your Holidays were great. To start 2016 I wanted to put some things in perspective. I heard a song recently that made me cry. I was waiting in the car for my husband to come out of a store and this song by Billy Dean came on the radio. Yes it is older, but I listened to it and looked at my kids and I was overwhelmed with feelings. This song is a country song and whether you like Country music or not, I think the message of this song is universal or should be universal.
Too often, we get lost in the rat race and push our kids too hard too fast. Too many activities. Worrying too much about their activity level and whether they have attention problems. Wanting them to be smarter or faster or better than the next kid. Putting them in school too soon. Getting mad at them too often. Sending them back to bed too soon after a nightmare because they need to learn to be tough.
We all want the best for our kids, but sometimes (me included), we don’t look at the big picture. This song really helps put in perspective the big picture. I am going to print Billy Dean’s wonderful lyrics here and encourage everybody and anybody who has kids to get this song and listen to it at least every once in a while if not daily.
"I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute
How it amazes me, you're changing with every blink
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon
So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little
I've never felt so much in one little tender touch
I live for those kisses, prayers and your wishes
Now that you're teaching me things only a child can see
Every night while we're on our knees all I ask is please
Let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little
So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around
It's time to let them go
So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little
Let them be little"
In 2016 resolve to love them, nurture them, let them play, put the work aside for them and you and spend some time just being and having fun, take care of them and put them on the right path to knowing how to balance their own lives!
Want to talk to Dr. Sherri now? I am but a click away...
Hi Dr. Singer,
Halloween is here again. Woohoo! Yippie Skippee. I am not a big fan of Halloween in the first place, but this year, I am having an especially hard time because my pre-teen daughter wants to go as Miley Cyrus. I have a lot of difficulty with any costume that that chick wears on stage and don’t want my 13 year old daughter dressed in it. Of course, I am getting a mouth full from her as well as some of our neighbors. Any words of wisdom for how to lay down the law? P.N.
The good news is that it’s coming soon so it will be over soon too! Just do it, mom! Lay down the law. If the costume is too much (or shall I say too little) don’t let her go there if it is your desire for her. Actually, I see several problems here. The costume is one thing and I will get to that in a moment, but if your daughter is idolizing Miley Cyrus, there may be more discussions that will need to happen. Her costumes are the least of her problems from what I see.
Now depending on where you live, there may be an obvious issue that can maybe help?! When Miley Cyrus wears her outfits (pieces of material????), it is usually on stage, indoors, under very hot lights so she doesn’t freeze. Might your daughter be outside at the end of October? Maybe quite a difference. Of course that doesn't help for indoor parties right?!
The type of situation you are talking about here is really no different than any other behavior that parents and kids differ on. She, like any kid, will want to do lots of things that you don’t want her doing and somehow you have to be able to stand up to those things. If saying “no” to your daughter is tough for you, you need to get beyond that and that becomes the real issue which may be tougher. She is at an age that this may become common. You will need to be on top of more than costumes.
I have only one thing to say about the neighbors. Forget them! Who cares what they think, at least on this topic. You can be friendly and nice about rejecting the comments, but the truth is, this is your daughter and your preferences, morals and values must prevail for her. Don’t be surprised if you get a bunch of “guff” from both your daughter and them. If you believe in what you are telling her or what you are asking her to do, and it is in her best interest, it cannot be wrong. Also, there are a lot of parents out there these days, who are very permissive and are allowing their very young kids to do things that are really not in their best interest. Just like your mom used to say to you, “if your friends were going to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” What is good for your neighbors is not necessarily good for you. Also, be ready for your daughter to tell you about how willing the neighbors are to let her do what she wants. Don’t’ let it get to you. Just follow your instincts and do your best and know that what might be tough to do now for her and what might seem ill advised to her, will most likely be something she will thank you for later in life, especially after she has her own daughter! November 1st is only a little bit away! Good luck !
Need to talk to Dr. Sherri ? Click here...
Want a question answered on Dr. Sherri's blog?
One of the things I constantly struggle with as a homeschool mom, is how much should be required that is strict curriculum and how much leeway I should give for creativity. I had such a proud mom moment a few days ago that supported the creativity side big time and it will be one of those moments that glows forever!
A little background....I have always cherished my time reading with our kids before bedtime. Since the 1st day of bringing our 1st baby home, every night was cuddling up breastfeeding and reading those wonderful little books with the cute, colorful drawings. We had and have quite the library and some of my favs still get read to this day. Through all 3 kids, every night, with only a few exceptions has had our cozy, warm, reading time. I am thrilled to say that even though they are 13, 11 and 8 at this point, they still love to gather round and do this with me, although now, even though still reading, it is an exercise in humor a lot bc I will spice things up and change words mad lib style to make sure they are paying attention and to get a laugh out of them. Or I might make the sound of something like a car instead of saying car and they and I have a laugh riot. It is a boatload of fun. The lexile ranges our kids have makes me proud of this happy habit and memory. I knew I was on the right track when our daughter's 4th grade testing came out at College age lexile range and the challenge became finding books that would match her range but be appropriate in content for a 9 year old.
Ok so, more of the background...when I had our second child, a nurse was not exactly used to a woman who had no epidural and did childbirth naturally as I did. She got kind of nervous and over exuberant and pushed my neck too hard during labor. Needless to say, she caused a nerve problem that made my mouth go numb, caused fear of a stroke and sadly, got in the way of my nightly reading for our second child. The only period of time I lost the every night marathon. The nerve healed eventually and thankfully all was ok, but the time lost with that reading always made me sad. We have more than caught up now, but I think that different beginning for our 2nd child, made the love of reading that our first child thrived on and thrives on, a lesser force for our second.
So my way of approaching this for him was to not be forceful about it trying to be respectful of that different beginning and honoring and celebrating the wonderful differences in our kids. While our 1st is very strong with reading and writing, our second is super strong with math and science. Not that I don't want them to learn all of it and they do. While our first born is already blogging, writing fan fictions and setting up websites at 13 years old with lots of followers, our 2nd has never been much of a writer or comfortable with creative writing but is amazing with building things. Everyone has their own wonderful strengths. A little humorous side note, our 3rd who is named Trace, was amazing with picking up Spanish when he was only 1. One of our friends made the comment that this made sense since he was our 3rd child and named Trace (Tres). We got a good laugh out of that for sure!
So the other day when our 2nd came to me to share with me the stories he has started writing, mind you, with no force or pressure from us to do so, that he is making into a serial fan fiction of his own, my heart swelled with so much pride it nearly burst! Huge hugs and happy support and interest were easy! He had watched both myself and his older sister writing a lot on PC, telling stories, writing articles and blogging. OF course theses kids had grown up with a newspaper columnist mother for most of their lives, so the idea of writing was never a stranger in our house, but to see him so excited and proud of his new story about crazy cows, which made me laugh out loud, was an awesome addition to any day.
I have always been a proud and strong advocate for allowing kids to find what they love to learn about and to write about, to get that kind of experience. I have seen so many kids be forced into writing bc it is supposed to make them learn to love it or experience it when it is meaningless to them, to find out if they do. My theory was supported in this experience, that forcing someone to do something that is not in them at the time, will not force a love of it. The person has to be ready to love it in their own creative way and once they do, it means something to them.
Yep! That was a great day!! Have you had one like that?
School at home is rarely quiet. For those of us who have multiple kids we are schooling, we know that noise is an inevitable part of our day. Many parents have pulled their child out of school because the child has trouble focusing in the classroom and they feel that the home environment will be more helpful for the child to have the quiet he needs to work well. While I am an avid fan of homeschooling and a homeschooling mom of 3 myself, I will say that there is something bad that can happen from this. An environment that is too quiet, can actually harm a child’s ability to focus and concentrate. Yes I did just say that.
As a processing skills and motivation expert for almost 30 years, I can say that the kids who learn to work in a noisy environment will be much more able to handle the noise in the future and not get put off of their work by it. This does not mean I am advocating a classroom over homeschool as I am aware that homeschool has many, many benefits. I am simply saying that keeping it too quiet can harm a child's learning. Somewhat like the parents that are super quiet for their baby sleeping and they can’t understand later why the child needs perfect quiet to sleep. Many will tell you that having some noise around is a benefit. This does not mean I want you to flood your child with noise while they struggle and feel overwhelmed. Quite the contrary, I am talking about a supportive training that if done right can get rid of the overwhelmed feeling around noise.
But what kind of noise and how much? If your child is learning in your quiet kitchen and the sound of the tv and dishwasher is all he has to contend with, his distraction tolerance is going to be very low and when he gets out in the world, he will have a much harder time acclimating to noisy environments and continuing to work. There is a real tendency these days, with so many kids being diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism, to make the environment a perfect one for the child to feel comfortable. To make it so contrived and artificial that it becomes unrealistic. The problem becomes that this perfect environment does not stay perfect or controlled later on in life and that can create some bone crushing frustration and unhappiness as well as failure.
Since the time ADHD became a diagnostic category, I have seen a move in too many parents and teachers to take these kids out of stimulating environments and put them into controlled ones. I believe this cripples the child further as training to live and work in a perfectly controlled, quiet environment is not realistic and is just way to kick the can down the road to a place where frustration and lack of distraction tolerance skills can be much more limiting and worse and the costs much greater.
My way of doing things is to train kids with the correct support, to be able to handle all noise and activity around them while they work so they can learn to take it in stride. If they are able to handle noise while they work, their distraction tolerance goes way up. This is a training that is done in a specific way with specific timing so kids can acclimate without too much frustration. Not just throwing a bunch of stimuli at the kid.
Kids in classrooms of 35, don’t really have a better advantage over homeschooled kids because that is too much activity and too much noise and usually these days, not under much control.
Homeschoolers have a bad disadvantage though, when they work with little to no noise, because they go out into the world trained for that, and many times, that is just not possible. After working in a quiet or quieter environment for a number of years, when faced with too much noise or activity, these kids can feel very overwhelmed.
Making sure a child is trained to be able to handle the noise and activity around him or her while working can make the difference between a child having many options for their future or just a few. I’d rather train them young so they can comfortably handle whatever comes their way as opposed to needing the continued special environment for their lives.
These days it seems that everyone is either on a medication or recommending one. NOT ME. I may be in the minority, but I beleive that most problems we face these days are ones of lifestyle that can be reversed through lifestyle choices as well. I especialy get upset when I see young kids being labeled and medicated for behavioral or attention related issues, even at super young ages.
Let's cut to the chase. Meds are cheaper and faster especially in the insurance world. If meds stop the problem immediately, that person doesn't need sessions to work it out. Finding out what the core habit is that supports the symptoms and working it out is rare these days. It takes time to change habits that people get stuck in and sometimes those habits feel safer or people are used to them and don't want to stop doing them so meds feel easier, especially with the promises made on the non stop commercials we see every 2 minutes on tv. Of course, if you listen carefully to the list of side effects, once you stop laughing or crying, as the case may, be from listening to the quivering pile of bleeding jello you can become from their list, you realize the symptoms you are trying to get rid of, are part of that list of side effects, but it is at the end of the list and who can keep up with the fast talking to find that out?
The sad part is that the lifestyle changes I speak of are mostly easy and not as big as people think. Actually the problems I have seen people go through switching meds and dosages have been much more stress and more difficult then making the right lifestyle choices to get the symptoms to stop.
After meeting with literally 100's of families over 30 years of practicing, sleep deprivation/ interruption, food choices and 1 other thing that I will get to shortly are 3 of the top problems in my mind, that cause the very attention, behavioral and anxiety problems parents see and want to help their kids with so intensely. But the super interesting part is that these parents see the problem as some biological issue causing the interruption in sleep rather than the lack of sleep causing the symptoms. Too many people do not know about how to make a child and a room conducive to good sleep and therefore have no other choice but to think that it is biological when it might not be. Did you further realize...
...that food choices and especially at school can cause the symptoms and also the sleep problems. Have you seen the choices for school breakfasts and lunches? I have. There is no doubt in my mind why kids are easily labeled as having attention or anxiety problems when maybe they don't. More later on this...
Here is that 3rd mystery thing I mentioned earlier...Are most kids allowed to exercise and move around like they are supposed to...BUILT FOR... or are they kept in a fluorescent box all day long made to sit still and quiet, and in structured after school activities with the same fluorescent lighting. Lighting that, by the way, can cause attention and behavior problems by itself?
Many say these meds r safe with no dangers. Ok so if that's the case, then why do the names of the meds constantly change and why do you see lawsuit commercials on a daily basis? Do we know for sure that a child's brain goes back to normal chemistry if you try a drug and then go off of it or is there some alteration that stays? Many parents I have met and worked with feel that is enough to steer clear of anyone who recommends meds. All the violent mass acts being committed these days mostly by young people and mostly by young people on lots of meds. Do we know for sure that this is not a causative factor or at least part of it? All questions that parents have brought up to me when they have left the therapist they were with who recommended medication, or worse, refused to work with a child without that child on meds, and those parents wanted no part of it. and came to me, someone who does not do that and instead focuses hard on all the lifestyle things that could be changed to get symptom reduction.
The truth is there are 2 kinds of parents out there and I don't judge either kind, but truly think that one needs to know more about what ELSE is happening. The first parent is one who trusts in meds and wants a super fast and cheaper alternative to taking the time to change the lifestyle habits and the second parent is the one who wants to do it through lifestyle changes. I happen to be about the 2nd option and always have been. Some parents would get angry at me for saying this and would tell me that I don't understand the lifetime of stress the child has created for them and how it is the last option they have and they have to use it.
To them I would say, that as a mom of 3 with one of mine being on the spectrum and also having an everyday education into researching lifestyle habits and how they effect these kinds of symptoms, I DO know and I have helped many people to change that perspective too. Maybe they have just not looked at an option that educates them on how to change the lifestyle the right way for results.
For example, did you know that most kids are not sleeping long enough hours and that some of the food they eat can keep them awake at night or not in deep sleep which by itself can create really nasty symptoms? Just that for 1 night can create horrible symptoms that would send any parent running for the hills. Did you also know that if you feed a child the wrong kinds of foods in the morning for breakfast, let's say for school breakfast, that this child can have a severe blood sugar drop afterwards that can look a heck of a lot like an attention problem? Adults get the drop too when they eat cake for breakfast. Whoops did I say cake? I meant, a waffle or pancakes. Same thing ya know! The difference between the adult and the kid is that the adult is not strapped into a chair in school, forbidden to move and being watched and scrutinized for any hint of biological disorder to pop on meds. Unfortunately these days the adults are doing it to themselves.
I'm not railing against all meds and I am certainly not advocating or recommending to take or not take meds. I am also not suggesting that those with a verified biological condition stop taking them. People on heart or diabetes meds need them to survive. That's different. I just think that for kids, behavioral, anxiety or attention based issues, medication should not be the first thought, the first action or the rush to judgement before doing a thorough examination of all lifestyle habits to see what can be changed, especially just bc it is the shorter term or cheaper option.
See what lifestyle changes you can make for your child...
Contact Dr. Sherri
Dr. Sherri's Blog
How have you helped your child's processing today?