How Toxic Stress Derails the Developing Brain

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How Toxic Stress Derails the Developing Brain

Scientists are discovering the physiologic connections between adversity, stress and academic performance. Children living in poverty are particularly at risk. They often endure toxic stress from adverse experiences, such as exposure to violence, abuse, neglect, loss of a loved on . … READ MORE

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Dyspraxia – the Little Known Learning Difference

Peter Ormerod argues that parents shouldn't force their children to write thank-you cards -- it's an exercise in insincerity, he says, and there are better ways to promote gratitude.

Although dyspraxia is fairly common, most people have never heard of the condition. Children with dyspraxia may have difficulty performing physical tasks such as speaking, jumping or gripping a pencil. Dyspraxia may also affect a child’s social skills, and kids with dyspraxia may act immaturely even though they usually have average or above average intelligence.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia affects co-ordination, spatial awareness and sensory perception. It is part of an umbrella of conditions known as specific learning differences which are defined as exceptional variations in a person’s ability, as well as problems with concentration and short-term memory. Dyspraxia affects between 2% and 6% of the population, meaning there’s likely to be at least one person with the condition in every school class or workplace. Around 70% of those affected are male.

Researchers believe that the condition may have a genetic component. Current research suggests that it is due to an immaturity of neuron development in the brain rather than to brain damage. This interferes in some way with the messages that the brain sends to the body, though the exact mechanism is not known. It usually occurs in children who have had a difficult birth–either being born prematurely or with low birth weight. It can be accompanied by other learning disorders such as dyslexia or ADHD.

Dyspraxia can affect children in a variety of ways:

  • Communication – Children may have difficulty pronouncing words
  • Emotional / behavioral skills – Children with the disorder may have difficult in social situations and can become easily frustrated and overwhelmed.
  • Academics – School work can be difficult for kids who have trouble with the physical process of writing
  • Life skills – e.g., performing routine tasks like brushing teeth or buttoning a shirt

Warning Signs & Treatment

While the symptoms of dyspraxia may vary depending on the age of your child, they generally start be seen early in life.  Understood.org provides a breakdown of the most common symptoms by age, beginning at the toddler stage and progressing through high school. It is important to monitor and record any of these symptoms so you can share them with your child’s doctor.

A general practioner or primary care physician will probably need help from a specialist to make a diagnosis of dyspraxia. These specialists might include occupational therapists, child health specialists (paediatricians), physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, neurologists and educational psychologists. An assessment can be made to determine whether a child has missed the usual milestones of development, and identify any issues with co-ordination and motor skills.

There is no medication to treat dyspraxia at this time. Treatment usually consists of a mix of occupational therapy, perceptual motor training, and speech therapy.

Childhood dyspraxia: James’ story

Happiness isn’t found at the next place

Positive Thinking Really Works

Guest post by Edge Foundation Executive Director, Sarah Wright from her September ACO President’s letter

I  recently attended the Institute of Coaching conference co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. I want to share the exciting perspective of  Carol Kauffman and Margaret Moore, who presented Positive Psychology: Science at the Heart of Coaching.

The power of positive thinking

Focusing on our problems is normal:  Everyone tends to focus on problems. It’s probably evolutionary in nature-we evolved in a dangerous world where being able to notice threats was key to survival. Therefore,  negative, troublesome, threatening things tend to capture our attention like nothing else. Yet narrow and negative thinking can lead to stress and depression, which can lower performance and reduce connectedness, both in relationships and in thoughts.

The power of positive thinking: A broad and positive focus helps you identify more resources and make more connections. Positivity-feeling good-helps creativity, perseverance, confidence, competence, and even longevity. It is tempting to feel that health, wellness, and financial success are what contribute to happiness, but it turns out that happiness predicts these things, not the other way around.

In further studies of positivity and negativity, it turns out there is an ideal ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of positivity to negativity is between 3:1 and 11:1. In other words at least 3 positive thoughts to each negative one.  In this range, people have the resources to change, grow, and bounce back from adversity. They feel both supported and challenged, which develops resourcefulness and creativity. Business teams operating in this ideal zone have the highest profitability, customer satisfaction, and performance reviews.

Too much of a bad thing:  People who live in an environment where the positivity to negativity ratio is below 3:1 languish. They don’t have enough resources and inspiration to pick themselves up out of the muck and see all the things that are available to them. Unlike the more positive folks, they are on a downward spiral. Sadly, it is estimated that 80% of people fall into this category.

Turn up the positive volume!

Notice, remember, articulate and savor what is already there. Practice noticing the good stuff, because there is plenty of it around. From the aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning (even if we made a mess making it), to the parting “Bye! I love you. Have a nice day!” (even if we had to say it several times because we kept forgetting things as we tried to get out the door), to the great coaching session where both feel pumped by the end, there’s a lot to notice and feel positive about. Notice, too, how we contributed to the good stuff, notice how we are actively creating the positive experiences. Then allow yourself to feel empowered to improve your life and develop your resourcefulness and creativity!

Is your ADHD mind an intuitive mind?

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Positive Thinking Really Works

The power of positive thinking

Focusing on our problems is normal:  Everyone tends to focus on problems. It’s probably evolutionary in nature-we evolved in a dangerous world where being able to notice threats was key to survival. Therefore,  negative, troublesome, threatening things tend to capture our attention like nothing else. Yet narrow and negative thinking can lead to stress and depression, which can lower performance and reduce connectedness, both in relationships and in thoughts.

The power of positive thinking: A broad and positive focus helps you identify more resources and make more connections. Positivity-feeling good-helps creativity, perseverance, confidence, competence, and even longevity. It is tempting to feel that health, wellness, and financial success are what contribute to happiness, but it turns out that happiness predicts these things, not the other way around.

In further studies of positivity and negativity, it turns out there is an ideal ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of positivity to negativity is between 3:1 and 11:1. In other words at least 3 positive thoughts to each negative one.  In this range, people have the resources to change, grow, and bounce back from adversity. They feel both supported and challenged, which develops resourcefulness and creativity. Business teams operating in this ideal zone have the highest profitability, customer satisfaction, and performance reviews.

Too much of a bad thing:  People who live in an environment where the positivity to negativity ratio is below 3:1 languish. They don’t have enough resources and inspiration to pick themselves up out of the muck and see all the things that are available to them. Unlike the more positive folks, they are on a downward spiral. Sadly, it is estimated that 80% of people fall into this category.

Turn up the positive volume!

Notice, remember, articulate and savor what is already there. Practice noticing the good stuff, because there is plenty of it around. From the aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning (even if we made a mess making it), to the parting “Bye! I love you. Have a nice day!” (even if we had to say it several times because we kept forgetting things as we tried to get out the door), to the great coaching session where both feel pumped by the end, there’s a lot to notice and feel positive about. Notice, too, how we contributed to the good stuff, notice how we are actively creating the positive experiences. Then allow yourself to feel empowered to improve your life and develop your resourcefulness and creativity!

Building bridges and addressing problematic ADHD social behaviors

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Addressing problematic ADHD social behaviors via coaching

Thanks to Edge Coach, Dona Witten, PhD, ACC,  for contributing this post on coaching the whole person.

Interrupting Cow

Students come to the EDGE Foundation generally because they are struggling to get through college or on academic probation. Our first task as coaches is always to help them develop the organizational skills that will help them to remember to get to class, get a term paper written, and in short, get passing grades.

But while helping a young person keep their current job as student is critical, as coaches we also have a responsibility to help them develop the skills they will need for their future jobs in whatever profession they choose. Many, if not most of those skills are social rather than cognitive. Working in teams, working with customers, managers and staff, all of these typical work activities require social skills that many ADHD individuals do not come by easily.

Limitations in executive functioning often mean poor emotional regulation and limited ability to detect social cues that are essential for regulating and modifying behavior to fit the environment. A tendency to turn conversations into speeches, to step on other peoples words, and to miss or misinterpret the social cues all around them are typical ADHD social behaviors. These behaviors often result in the ADHD person having few friends and negative experiences being with other people in social settings. By the time an ADHD individual gets to college they are carrying not only the challenges of their ADHD but also the challenges of poor social skills and a negative psychological mindset built over years of failure and rejection.

The coaching laboratory

As a coach, I pay a great deal of attention not only to what my young clients are saying about their academic efforts but equally how they are saying it. I pay attention to how long they speak without pause, how they answer emails and texts and how much they interact with me as a person. As we progress in the coaching relationship I encourage my young clients to use the coaching call as a laboratory to experiment with improved communication techniques.

As an example, we will pick a skill such as not interrupting each other while we are speaking. Then, during the coaching call I will gently call out the times when my young client interrupts. Between coaching calls I will encourage the young client to practice this skill in social settings. In the case of not interrupting others I might have her put a finger on her lips during a conversation so that she can develop mindfulness of this skill. I might also have her do something like take a deep mindful breath before she says something. All of these activities are designed to break through a deeply ingrained and unconscious habit and replace it with a more socially acceptable behavior.

Practicing new social behaviors with your coach

Over time, the coaching calls continue to be an opportunity to practice new social behaviors. The benefit for the young client is that they have the opportunity of having a positive social experience and a model for other successful social experiences. Success in the coaching call leads to confidence and success in social settings. The benefit for me as a coach is the opportunity to have a truly delightful conversation with an enormously bright and charming young adult as a whole person. Indeed, this is the reward that every ADHD coach looks for in their relationship with their client.