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

From frustration to focus

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Do you worry about your child’s grades?  You aren’t alone.  Every week we are contacted by parents desperate to find help for their child. He’s flunking in school.  She’s so disorganized she can never get a paper in on time so her grades don’t reflect her ability.  He’s unmotivated by rewards – even paying him for A’s doesn’t seem to help.

A common focus of concern for parents is grades.  And no doubt your child carries a lot of internal stress about his or her performance in school – whether she admits to it or not.  But we’d like to suggest that this focus on grades is a distraction from helping your child see what she needs to do to take charge of her life.

We believe an ADHD coach can help make the difference in your child’s life and we have the research to prove it.  We encourage you to put yourself in your child’s shoes and think about what does motivate him or her.  School performance is a means to an ends, it is important, but not the only thing that measures success.  After all, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both dropped out of college to passionately focus on their dreams.

We’re not suggesting dropping out is the solution, but we are encouraging you to shift your focus to what inspires your child, what are his or her dreams and what is holding them back from success.   Overcoming these obstacles is the focus of coaching.

Motivating your child

  • It’s not your job to get your child a coach.
  • You can’t force him to call.
  • You can’t tell him what to work on in coaching session.
  • You can’t sign him up.

What you can do is help your child envision the possibilities that coaching will open up for her.

Coaching isn’t about fixing her.  It isn’t a tutor, therapist or mentor.  It’s unlike anything she’s ever tried before. A coach is your child’s partner in helping him accomplish his goals (not yours).

Coaches help the students they work with decide what they want to achieve, develop a plan to accomplish those goals and take the steps needed to reach their dreams.

An ADHD coach should not be a punishment

Instead of saying “Your grades better come up next term or you’ll have to get a coach,” we suggest focusing on your child’s point of view.  Think about opening up the channel for conversation with your child and trying some conversation starters like:

  • What is most challenging for you right now?
  • What frustrates you most about your life?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What do you envision for yourself after you graduate?
  • What are your worries?

Your child may not want to talk to you about these issues.  And that’s okay.  It’s an important part of their development to want to tackle these issues on their own.  But you can still counsel and guide them towards a coach.  After all, a coach isn’t a punishment, a coach is a resource to help you set goals, learn new skills and hone the edge you need to make your dreams come true.

The Edge Path

Traveling down the educational paths of high school and college are quite challenging with ADHD. If you need a guide to help you navigate the paths safely and efficiently than Edge Foundation’s ADHD Coaches are the guides you seek. Let … Continue reading

Make hyper-Focus work for you

Make hyper-Focus work for you

How is it possible that someone with ADHD can focus for hours on something that’s interesting?  It’s a common misconception that people with Attention Deficit have a deficit of attention.   It would be more accurate to say we have trouble paying attention appropriately.  This intense concentration we sometimes experience is called hyper-focus.  It’s the other extreme.  Sometimes it’s as inappropriate as not being able to focus at all.

The ideal solution is to arrange your life so that the things you tend to hyper-focus on are things that bring you closer to your goals.  For example, if you are an artist, it would be advantageous to get lost in a painting and oblivious to the world for six hours.  But if you’re an accounting student and you have a final exam tomorrow morning, getting lost in that painting is probably not going to result in a good grade.

Here are seven strategies to help you manage ADHD hyper-focus:

  1. Identify the types of activities you tend to hyper-focus on.
  2. Don’t start any hyper-focus prone activities close to bedtime, or before doing something you’re likely to procrastinate on.
  3. Make it a point to be aware of your mental state at all times.  We often don’t even realize it when we’re hyper-focused.  Being aware of when you’re in it is the first step towards getting out of it.
  4. Practice being fully present.  Use mindfulness exercises to stay in the here and now.
  5. Use timers and alarms to be cognizant of how much time has elapsed since you started the activity.
  6. Change your physical position to help break a hyper-focus as soon as you recognize it.
  7. Plan milestones in your projects.  Stop every time you reach one.

Hyper-focus can be a wonderful gift if it’s used constructively, for things we truly want to focus on.  It can be a curse if we hyper-focus on things that don’t matter at the expense of everything else.  Controlling it is the tricky part.

Editor’s note: Do you hyperfocus?  We’d love to hear what you are passionate about and what do you do to keep the rest of your life in balance.