Posts Tagged ‘self-esteem’

Sensory Processing Disorder: The struggle is real!

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

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.  You know your child is smart, if only she would just calm down for a minute!  Sound familiar?


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!

  1. 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)
  2. 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!
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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!


Kranowitz, Carol, “When Your Child is Out-of-Sync”  ADDitude Magazine, Winter 2016.

Arky, Beth, “Treating Sensory Processing Issues”

What’s your gift?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

When you think of ADHD,  do you think of hyperactive children who need medication to calm down and focus?  Did you ever consider that within this “disability”, there could be an EXTRAORDINARY ability?

Yes, children diagnosed with ADHD have difficulty sticking to routines, concentrating, and keeping themselves organized.  Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs have ADHD, such as business mogul Sir Richard Branson, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman.  All of them attribute their success in large part to their ADHD diagnosis!

Individuals with ADHD may not be able to sit calmly at school or at a desk job, but if they find something they love, they are able to focus for hours on end!  Additionally, ADHD-ers are often at their best in crisis mode.  They are out of the box thinkers that are able to intuitively reach a solution!  These are the people that make discoveries that change the world!!

Studies suggests that becoming an entrepreneur can be a positive career move for those with hyperactivity, fitting their specific talents and harnessing their highly re-active minds. The high energy levels associated with this trait can support those taking the initiative, being risk averse and running a business.

When JetBlue founder, David Neeleman was asked if he would rather be “normal”, or would he continue to have ADD,  Neeleman said, “I would take ADD.  I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”

The take-home lesson here is do not focus on what an individual cannot do.  Encourage them to enhance their gifts and strengthen their weaknesses.  You never know if the next Sir Richard Branson is living under your roof!


Transitioning to Middle School Made Easy

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

If you have a child with Dyslexia, ADHD, or even Autism, you are probably used to helping your child each step of the way.  However, as children get into middle school, they are faced with different pressures both social and academic.  How do we help our kids transition to middle school and teach them to be independent at the same time?

1.  Confirm or create a support system

  • If your child already has an IEP, the first step would be to have a meeting the Spring BEFORE she starts middle school to discuss any additional supports your child might need as they start middle school.
  • Be sure to know what supports your child already has, what works, and what doesn’t work.
  • Have some samples of your child’s work to show their strengths and weaknesses.  You can even keep track of how much assistance your child needs during homework.  This is a good indication of how much she is retaining from her classes.
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher and work together for what is best for your child.
  • Be sure to tell your child what supports will be available to ease any anxiety she might feel about going to a new school.

2.  Organize

  • Children with learning difficulties often have trouble keeping track of their schedule and homework.  If your child’s school does not provide a planner or agenda, go out and buy one appropriate for your child.  If he has messing handwriting, you might consider buy a planner with big spaces to write assignments and due dates.
  • Also, create a system for organizing school work. Assign a color for each subject. For example, science’s blue notebook will have a blue folder to keep handouts and assignments.
  • Put together a daily checklist for before going to school and before coming home.  The checklist will help your child see clearly what he needs to take to school and what he needs to complete work at home.
  • Implement a homework and extra curricular routine to keep your child on track.
  • Praise your child when he is organized and completes tasks.  He will feel encouraged to continue using the methods you have both implemented.

3.  Encourage Independence

  • Teach your child to advocate for herself.  If she is supposed to sit in the front row but has been seated in the back, she needs to be able to communicate her needs to the teacher.
  • Let your child know that you are here to help, but do not do your child’s homework.  Let her come to you for questions.
  • Listen to what your child has to say without judgement. Children are often faced with a variety of new social and academic situations.  Nagging or judging will close the lines of communication.  Listen and give advice calmly.  Let your child know that know matter what the situation, they can always come to you.  If she is able to solve a problem on her own, give praise!  The more our children can take care of themselves, the more success they will see in school and in life!







Follow the Leader!

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 by admin

Learning to follow directions is an important part of the learning process. For children with learning disabilities this can be even more difficult especially if they have processing or focus issues. Teachers often use direct instruction in which the teacher models what is being taught and then the students copy and practice what was modeled to learn the new information.

But what if we reversed the process and had the students model and the teacher follow? Would these students be able to explain and model the concepts?

When students are only taught through direct instruction, they are missing out on a stage of learning that requires critical thinking and application of knowledge. For special educators, the goal should be to have the children be able to learn and think on their own.

For students who have shown the ability to easily learn what their teacher has modeled, the next step would be to have the student model the lesson back to the teacher, or even better, he could teach another student!

This method of teaching gives the student a chance to use social skills, critical thinking, and of course working memory! More than just memorizing different lessons in school, we want our kids to be able to apply what they learned towards achieving goals!

For students who are not at the point where they are able to explain important concepts learned in school, Brainjogging is the answer.  Doing Brainjogging twice a day helps strengthen cognitive weaknesses that make processing new information and applying key concept difficult for some students.

Resources:  “Follow the leader: Letting students take ownership”, Pamela Hill,  December 5, 2016


Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by admin


As we all know, the only way to help a child with an ADHD diagnosis is to TREAT THE ISSUES! The best way for parents to be sure their child is getting the needed support and services, is to KNOW THEIR CHILD’S RIGHTS!

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has received thousands of complaints of discrimination based on disability, with 10 % being students with ADHD. The most common concern is that these students are not being evaluated in a timely manner, and are NOT receiving the needed aides and services.

Here are the facts:
1.  Schools MUST evaluate a student when he/she NEEDS or is BELIEVED TO NEED special education or services.

2.  Schools are OBLIGATED to provide services based on SPECIFIC needs, NOT GENERALIZATIONS about ADHD or any other diagnosis. (Each student should be evaluated individually without comparison to previous students or case studies.)

3.  Students who experience behavioral challenges, or seem unfocused COULD HAVE ADHD, and may need to be evaluated.

4.  Schools must allow parents to APPEAL decisions regarding identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with any disability, including ADHD.

How can we ensure our children are given the necessary services and aides to help them succeed at school?

1.  Be an advocate for your child.  No one knows your child better than their parents (or guardians).

2.  Stay informed!  Know your rights and be knowledgeable about the latest advances and research regarding ADHD.   Being aware of different accommodations and treatments will help you to make the best decisions for your child!

3.  Maintain a good relationship with your child’s homeroom and resource teacher.  Having an open line of communication will keep you and your child’s teacher aware of any important changes in behavior.

The right combination of support from parents, teachers, and mentors is crucial in helping each child succeed!


U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD,  July 26, 2016

What’s Recess?!?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 by admin

What seems like a silly question, is actually a warning sign for where our children are headed. Can you imagine a day without recess? In many schools across the country recess has been shortened and even eliminated to make more time for teachers to prepare their students for the many standard exams they are required to take each year. In fact, physical education (P.E.) classes have been reduced as well. Many schools offer P.E. only once a week!

On the surface, you might agree that to improve test scores, children need to study more. However, how can children learn if they are fidgeting in their seats and are unable to focus due to lack of exercise? Giving children time to run around and play with their peers in an unstructured environment is NOT a waste of time. In fact, scheduling such activities into the school day can actually IMPROVE academic performance in our schools!

In a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,  8- and 9-year-old students were recruited for an after-school exercise program.  Half the students were put on a waiting list and did not attend the program.  The other half attended the after school program where they played games and received instruction on various sports’ techniques.

At the end of the study, the students who attended the program were not only leaner and healthier, but their scores on cognitive exams showed the most improvement!  The students who did not exercise improved, but not by a lot.  The study showed that as children develop, their cognitive skills develop as well.  However, children who participate in regular physical activity are more likely to show greater cognitive development as they grow older.


How does exercise improve brain health and cognition?

The answer is surprisingly simple!  Exercise increases blood flow to the brain which helps enhance various functions.  As a result, exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus which controls memory and learning.  In addition, the brain produces more BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that helps protect and repair memory cells.  Exercise also boosts the production of various chemicals called neurotransmitters that help with mood.  Overall, exercise clears a foggy brain, and prepares it to learn and grow!

How can we encourage our children to get more physical activity?

1.  Sign them up for a local sports team.

2.  Swap screen time for backyard or playground time.

3.  Register for a local 5k together.

4.  Take tennis (or any sport) lessons as a family.

While preparing our children for academic success is important, if our children are not given enough time to exercise and play, we will not see their true potential as students, and as contributing members of our communities!


“How Exercise Can Boost Young Brains”, The New York Times

“Seven Surprising Benefits of Exercise”, Time

The Real Deal on Screens

Monday, September 19th, 2016 by admin

Is it me or is there an app and screen for every moment in our lives? My two year old doesn’t know the alphabet! There’s an app for that! Our baby won’t stop crying! There’s an app for that! But, what if the “app” cannot be found in our phone’s app store. What if the real “app” was within us all along!

Digital media, in particular tablets, seem to be taking over our children’s lives. At a young age, children are exposed to YouTube videos of nursery rhymes, “educational” apps, and endless cartoons that can be repeated with just a touch of the screen!  (Trust me, I’ve been there!)  But what we see as entertainment and convenience is really changing our child’s brain and in fact making it more difficult to parent!

Time and again, peer-review studies have shown that kids raised on a high-tech diet struggle with attention and focus.  Creators of “educational” video games claim that students no longer have the attention span for traditional learning.  However, giving students lessons on tablets is not helping the problem, it is making it worse!  These children are only motivated and focused in front of a screen.  They aren’t able to engage and stay focused in normal every-day tasks.  Dr. Kentaro Toyama, from the University of Michigan’s School of Information found in his research that technology helps education when the educational system is already doing well.  Unfortunately, it does little for mediocre systems, and even worse in dysfunctional schools.  Dr. Toyama states, that technology “can cause outright harm” in these schools.

At a young age, exposure to screens can be extremely harmful.  Through the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, the brain’s “motivation chemical”, babies and toddlers are conditioned to focus only when given the immediate rewards or feedback found in technology.  And while you might claim that you only allow your toddler to watch educational shows, in reality, children under 2 do not understand how the world they see on a screen relates to reality.  Young children need to interact directly with people and objects around them to fully understand how their world works.

Unfortunately our country’s education system has become highly dependent on technology.  The education technology industry is estimated to become a 60 billion dollar industry by 2018!  The convenience of giving each student a tablet, that can be updated within seconds, seems to have outweighed the risks to our children’s health.  Jane Healy, education psychologist and author of Failure to Connect:  How Computers Affect our Children’s Minds, reports that “time on the computer might interfere with development of everything from the young child’s motor skills to his or her ability to think logically and distinguish between reality and fantasy.”

The future of our families, our country, and in fact our world lies in the minds of our children.  We can encourage new ideas by giving our children tools that develop their skills to think creatively and critically, and to observe the world around them.  So the next time your baby cries, instead of finding the YouTube video for Rock-a-bye Baby, maybe you can put on one of your “old-fashioned” CDs, or even sing the song yourself!


Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Time, August 31, 2016

Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children, The New York Times, July 6, 2015

Wired Kids:  How Screen Time Affects Children’s Brains,

It’s Playtime!!

Friday, September 16th, 2016 by admin

TAG!  You’re it!!!  What looks like a simple game for children is boosting your child’s cognitive and social development in so many ways!  Studies have shown that children who are given more time to play and exercise have better brain health and cognitive skills.



Exercise in general helps to boost brain health in the following ways:

1.  Regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus which is involved in verbal memory and learning according to a study done at the University of British Columbia.

2.  Exercise reduces insulin resistance, inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors.  Together, these results affect growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the creation and survival of new neurons (brain cells)!

3.  Individuals who exercise experience improved sleep and mood, and reduced stress.  Sleep deprivation and stress are key contributors to cognitive issues.

Children who are given time for unstructured, child-driven play see a variety of benefits.  Unstructured play gives children a chance to make sense of the world around them through pretend play and games both by themselves or with their peers.  Playing with other children also helps kids learn valuable lessons in sharing, team work, and problem solving.  What seems like “child’s play” is really laying the foundation for our children to be able to cope with unexpected situations that arise in our everyday lives!


So let’s make a promise!  Repeat after me:

1.  I will not schedule every minute of my children’s day.

2.  I will give my children space to solve their own problems and resolve their own conflicts.

3.  I will play with my children, especially when asked, whenever possible.  When given the choice between watching cat videos, and actually pretending to be a cat with my child, I will choose the latter!

You are all amazing parents out there!  Let’s encourage the best in our kids and in each other!



Harvard Health Blog:  Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills

PediatricsJanuary 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1:  The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, Kenneth R. Ginsburg

Here’s why we need to provide much needed support for children living in poverty!

Thursday, September 15th, 2016 by admin

Imagine living on a street filled with gangs and crime, going to school where teachers have no expectations of your potential, and then coming home to arguing, overworked parents. Unfortunately, that is reality for many children in America. Children living in poverty often have to deal with violence and malnutrition, and these factors contribute to physical changes in the brain regions involved with memory, decision making, impulse control, and judgement.

Why does this happen? Our body’s stress-response system has a direct connection to our brain development. Living in neighborhoods filled with violence and trauma causes the stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine to be constantly released. These children’s brains are constantly in a state of flight-or-flight! Chronic stress impedes brain development and leaves the brain constantly disorganized.

The GOOD NEWS is there is a way to counter these negative effects!
1.  A strong support system at home and school gives children a sense of security. A child who comes home to loving, supportive parents can learn coping mechanisms and does not have to be in a constant state of stress.

2.  Schools can provide classes in social skills, empathy, and stress-relieving methods

3.  Cognitive behavioral therapy such as Brainjogging, can help to reduce the achievement gap in poorer communities.  Don’t underestimate the plasticity of the human brain.  When the right areas of the brain are targeted, new neural connections can be created!  Now you have a child who can learn and succeed!



Newsweek August 2016, “Growing up poor is so stressful, it can affect brain development” Erika Hayasaki

Parents of young children with ADHD should choose Behavioral Therapy over Medication

Monday, September 12th, 2016 by admin

Increasing numbers of children under the age of five are being diagnosed with ADHD, and prescribed medication.  For children ages 2-5, whose brains are still rapidly developing, medication can have a variety of side effects.  These side effects are often more severe than in older children.  Most alarming, is the fact that we have no evidence that ADHD medications do not alter the child’s brain development, since we have no long-term studies.

As such, the CDC recommends behavioral therapy as a first option for this age group. In behavior therapy, therapists help parents build skills to aid in teaching their children how to manage their own behavior.  This method has been shown to be just as effective as medication.adhd-behavior-therapy-parents-800px


Parents have an important role in treating their child’s  ADHD.  In behavior therapy, parents are trained by a therapist during sessions to learn strategies to encourage positive behavior, discourage negative behaviors, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship with their child.   These skills help children at school and home by improving behavior, impulse control, and self-esteem.  Although behavior therapy requires more time and effort the benefits last much longer, than just treatment with ADHD medications.


More Young Children with ADHD Could Benefit from Behavior Therapy: