The Power of Edge Coaching

Since its inception in 2006, the Edge Foundation has demonstrated the power of its coaching techniques in the home, school and workplace settings. The effectiveness of our approach has been verified both in practice and by an independent research study. We wanted to share some of the elements that make the Edge coaching experience so powerful.

The Four Elements of Edge Coaching

There are 4 elements of the Edge Coaching approach that help make it so transformative.

Connection – A highly trained coach working one-on-one with a young person. Not parental, not disciplinary, not teacher, not therapist, and not just a well-meaning volunteer.

Agency – The youth directs the coaching session, not the adult. The coach asks “what is new for you this week?” Whatever the answer, the young person decides what to focus on and that becomes the agenda for the coaching session. The young person is in command.

Competence – The coach uses Edge’s non-directive questioning technique. This doesn’t direct the young person, but instead draws out a description and analysis of the problem being addressed, the young person’s goal, alternative strategies, and which strategy the youth wants to pursue in the coming week. The young person leaves the coaching session with total ownership of the problem, the goal, and the strategy to be used in the coming week. He or she feels competent to carry out the strategy for a week.

Repetition – Coaching sessions happen every week. If the strategy selected for the past week was ineffective, that is acknowledged and the coach and young person determine that a different strategy needs to be developed. This develops perseverance, grit and resilience.

What Makes Edge Coaching Different

Many programs have the first and last element: a caring adult and repetition, whether they bring in a volunteer to drill phonics or a peer mentor to talk about school problems. What makes Edge work is that we build AGENCY and COMPETENCE. We build attributes the young person is going to need throughout life – a sense of control, knowing that he or she is an effective person who can make decisions and control outcomes and practice recognizing problems and changing course when needed.

Edge uses the same techniques that executive coaches use with senior business leaders: draw out a clear identification of the issue, get the person being coached to identify alternative approaches and own a strategy, get together again in a week, identify and own the results, strategize and try some more.

Edge works with a lot of young people who have been given tutoring or mentoring but have not been offered a chance to make decisions and own outcomes. Our program has had great results even in the most difficult circumstances: with homeless youth, young people in foster care, and young people in the lowest income brackets at the most poorly performing schools.

The Core of Coaching

In the future, Edge will extend its coaching programs into new areas and in new directions. But the four elements above will continue to be what makes the Edge coaching approach one of  the most effective ways to help individuals with attention and learning challenges develop self-regulation,perseverance,willpower and grit.


What We’ve Learned About Trauma and Learning Challenges

What are traumatic events?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines a traumatic event as “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm or actual physical harm. A traumatic experience may have a profound effect on the physical health, mental health, and development of a student.” These events are often referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Traumatic events can arise from neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.

The impact of trauma on learning

Recent neurobiological, epigenetic, and psychological studies have shown that traumatic experiences in childhood can have many long term effects.They can:

  • Diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school.
  • Lead to problems with academic performance,
  • Result in inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships.

According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser-Permanente, these impacts can add up to poor academic performance, and later problems in life, including:

  • Risky health behaviors,
  • Chronic health conditions,
  • Low life potential, and
  • Early death.

Resilience can make the difference

According to a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma, past traumatic events do not necessarily dictate the future for the child.  The report authors cite the ability of “protective factors” that can counter adverse childhood experiences and  build resilience that allows a child to thrive. They state:

“Children survive and even thrive despite the trauma in their lives. For these children, adverse experiences are counterbalanced with protective factors. Adverse events and protective factors experienced together have the potential to foster resilience. Our knowledge about what constitutes resilience in children is evolving, but we know that several factors are positively related to such protection, including cognitive capacity, healthy attachment relationships (especially with parents and caregivers), the motivation and ability to learn and engage with the environment, the ability to regulate emotions and behavior, and supportive environmental systems,including education, cultural beliefs, and faith-based communities.”

Toward a practice of building resilience

Today, research is leading to a better understanding of the role that non-cognitive capabilities – e.g., grit, self-control, perseverance and delay of gratification play in a child’s ability to succeed in school.  Paul Tough, bestselling author of How Children Succeed and Helping Children Succeed, outlines this research in a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “How Kids Learn Resilience.” These non-cognitive capabilities form the foundation of the executive functioning skills everyone needs to perform well both in school and at work. Executive function coaching, a proven method for helping students with learning challenges, succeeds because it builds both interpersonal relationship skills and non-cognitive capacity.

Read more from Edge



Diet and ADHD

daily meals
nighttime, after meds wear off:three slices of pizza, a 2 liter bottle of coke, chik fil a waffle fries, half a tub of ice cream, 4 zebra cakes, a packet of ramen and half a bag of cheez its

How does your diet effect your ADHD?

Below is reblogged from the following web site

Can some food additives or nutrients affect symptoms? The jury is still out. 

Diet alone probably isn’t the driving force behind the multiple behavioral and cognitive symptoms that plague children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But several studies have renewed interest in whether certain foods and additives might affect particular symptoms in a subset of children with ADHD.

All of the qualifiers in the previous sentence are intentional. Traditional research finds no support for radical diets like the Feingold diet — which eliminates nearly all processed foods as well as many fruits and vegetables — for the majority of children with ADHD. And there is no easy way to identify the few children who might benefit from diets that prohibit particular foods.

Yet parents — and some researchers — wonder if more modest dietary changes could supplement standard multimodal treatment that includes behavioral therapy and other evidence-based psychotherapies, school support, medication, and parent education. Here’s a brief review of the evidence on the dietary interventions that have received the most mainstream attention.

Artificial colorings and additives

Since the 1970s, researchers have investigated whether the synthetic dyes, flavors, and preservatives found in many commercially prepared and “junk” foods might contribute to hyperactivity or other symptoms of ADHD. Many of the studies are small or flawed, and there is no consensus about how such additives might contribute to ADHD symptoms in children.

Interest in the topic of additives has been reignited by a well-designed study in Britain, not least because its results convinced the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (roughly equivalent to the FDA) to urge food manufacturers to remove six artificial coloring agents from food marketed to children in Britain.

The researchers designed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to test the effects of the preservative sodium benzoate and six artificial food colorings on hyperactivity in 153 preschoolers (who were 3 years old) and 144 elementary students (who were 8 or 9 years old). The researchers intentionally conducted the study in a community sample of healthy children, rather than restricting it to those diagnosed with ADHD. But they did ask teachers to fill out a questionnaire to assess hyperactivity for the children at the start of the study, to provide some baseline measures.

For six weeks, the children consumed foods and drinks free of sodium benzoate and the six coloring agents. At weeks 2, 4, and 6, the children consumed plain juice (placebo) or juice containing one of two additive mixes every day for a week.

Mix A contained the preservative plus the colorings sunset yellow, carmoisine, tartrazine, and ponceau 4R; mix B contained the preservative plus sunset yellow, carmoisine, quinoline yellow, and allura red AC.

The drinks had the same flavor and color from one week to the next, but contained different amounts of the added mix. For the older children, the daily amount of additives in mix A equaled the amount of food coloring found in two bags of candy, while the daily amount in mix B was equivalent to four bags of candy.

The researchers asked parents and teachers to assess the children’s behavior using standard clinical instruments, and also asked independent reviewers to observe the children at school. The older children were also assessed with the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test II, which uses visual cues to assess attention and hyperactivity.

The investigators found a mild but significant increase in hyperactivity in both age groups of children — across the board, regardless of baseline hyperactivity levels — during the weeks when they consumed drinks containing artificial colors. This replicated findings of an earlier study they did in 3-year-old children. Using a complex calculation of “effect size,” the investigators estimated that the additives might explain about 10% of the behavioral difference between a child with ADHD and one without the disorder.

This was similar to the effect size reported in an earlier meta-analysis conducted by researchers at Columbia University and Harvard University. Their analysis of 15 trials evaluating the impact of artificial food coloring suggests that removing these agents from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third to one-half as effective as treatment with methylphenidate (Ritalin).

But like the authors of the British study, the authors of the meta-analysis cautioned that only a minority of children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of artificial additives. They also pointed out that determining which children are susceptible is difficult, though not impossible. Although some experts have recommended testing children with ADHD for food reactions, there is no test for additives.

Parents could try eliminating the major sources of artificial colors and additives — candy, junk food, brightly-colored cereals, fruit drinks, and soda — from their child’s diet for a few weeks, to see if symptoms improve. One practical challenge to keep in mind, however, is that studies of sugar elimination have shown that parents may wrongly assume that changes in their child’s behavior reflect consumption of a “problem” food.

In one frequently cited study about sugar, researchers recruited 35 mother-and-son pairs. All the mothers believed their sons — then ages 5 to 7 — were sugar-sensitive. The researchers told the mothers their sons would be randomly assigned to an experimental group that received a high dose of sugar or to a control group that received aspartame. In reality, all the boys received aspartame. The mothers who thought their sons ingested a large amount of sugar reported that their child’s behavior was significantly more hyperactive afterward. The researchers concluded that parental expectation may color perception when it comes to food-related behaviors.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Essential fatty acids fuel basic cell functioning, improve overall immunity, and enhance heart health. By definition, the body cannot make essential fatty acids, so these nutrients must be consumed in the diet. One group, the omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA], docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], and alpha-linolenic acid [ALA]), is obtained from salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish, as well as from some seeds and oils. The other group, the omega-6 fatty acids (especially linoleic acid), is obtained primarily from vegetable oils.

While a balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is best for overall health, the typical American diet contains too few omega-3s, often in a one-to-10 ratio or lower with omega-6 fats. Researchers have explored whether a deficiency of omega-3 fats might contribute to symptoms of ADHD because these fatty acids perform a number of functions in the brain, such as affecting transmission of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and helping brain cells to communicate. ADHD and an omega-3 deficiency also share two symptoms: excess thirst and increased need to urinate. Some evidence suggests that children with ADHD may have low levels of essential fatty acids.

Only a few randomized controlled studies have evaluated omega-3 supplements for children with ADHD. A review by the American Psychiatric Association’s Omega-3 Fatty Acids Subcommittee included two placebo-controlled studies that found DHA supplements alone were ineffective at alleviating symptoms of ADHD, and another three that concluded combining omega-3 and omega-6 supplements might help. But because of the way the studies were designed, it was difficult to determine the specific benefit of omega-3 supplements.

Although other studies have been published since the APA review, none have resolved the question of whether omega-3 or omega-6 supplements might help children with ADHD. Several clinical trials are under way and may provide such answers in the future.

In the meantime, the recommendations of the APA subcommittee are a helpful guide: encourage children with ADHD to consume levels of omega-3 fatty acids recommended as part of a healthy diet. For children, that means consuming up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, and pollack, along with daily plant sources of unsaturated fats.


Deficiencies of particular vitamins or minerals — such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6 — have been documented in children with ADHD. But the results of trials testing whether supplementation with vitamins or minerals alleviates ADHD symptoms have been inconsistent.

Although vitamin or mineral supplements may help children diagnosed with particular deficiencies, there is no evidence that they are helpful for all children with ADHD. Furthermore, megadoses of vitamins, which can be toxic, must be avoided.

What’s a parent to do?

A diet or dietary supplement that eases the symptoms of ADHD would be a boon for anyone living with this disruptive disorder. So far, though, the evidence provides only limited support for restrictive diets, avoiding preservatives or artificial food colorings, consuming more omega-3 fats, or taking specific vitamins or minerals.

For now, the consensus on a sensible approach to nutrition for children with ADHD is the same recommended for all children: eat a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthful unsaturated fats, and good sources of protein; go easy on unhealthy saturated and trans fats, rapidly digested carbohydrates, and fast food; and balance healthy eating with plenty of physical activity.

A healthful diet may reduce symptoms of ADHD by reducing exposure to artificial colors and additives and improving intake of omega-3 fats and micronutrients. But it certainly will improve overall health and nutrition, and set the stage for a lifetime of good health.

Freeman MP, et al. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Evidence Basis for Treatment and Future Research in Psychiatry,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Dec. 2006): Vol. 67, No. 12, pp. 1954–67.

McCann D, et al. “Food Additives and Hyperactive Behaviour in 3-Year-Old and 8/9-Year-Old Children in the Community: A Randomised, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Lancet (Nov. 3, 2007): Vol. 370, No. 9598, pp. 1560–67.

Schab DW, et al. “Do Artificial Food Colors Promote Hyperactivity in Children with Hyperactive Syndromes? A Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials,” Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics(Dec. 2004): Vol. 25, No. 6, pp. 423–34.

Weber W, et al. “Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism,” Pediatric Clinics of North America (Dec. 2007): Vol. 54, No. 6: pp. 983–1006.

Another perspective on diet and ADHD, from Attention Magazine (published by CHADD):

For more references, please see

Do you get enough Vitamin D? Something else to consider

Believe you can succeed

Editor’s note: This week we are sharing an ADHD success story by Chad Rickner. Chad ran his first Ultra Marathon this year at age 40. He contacted us earlier this year because he wanted to dedicate run to the students served by the Edge Foundation. We want to thank Chad for raising $1,250 (matched by JSF) to provide ADHD coaches for students and also congratulate him for successfully completing his goal.

Until about 8 months prior to running in l’Eco-Trail à Paris, I never dreamed I would be running a 50km (31 miles) ultra marathon right before I turned 40. Actually, I never really dreamed I would be a runner. I always hated it. I had never even run a 10 km race, let alone an ultra. I guess interests change as you get older. (I even like eating broccoli now!)

The reason I began running in the first place was to calm and clear my mind, to lift my mood, and to just feel healthy and happy. I understand the physiology of exercise and have always understood the benefits, but wanted to see what running in particular could do for me. (Editor’s Note: see Exercise Can Reduce ADHD Symptoms.) So, I figured if I were going to run, I might as well run a long (long) way.

When doubt gives way to confidence

If I had to pick one thing about my race that stood out to me, it would be the emotional part. At the beginning of the race, I was a bit nervous, but in a positive way. I had put in the training and prepared as best as I could, but I wondered if it would be enough. As the doubt began to enter my thoughts, the race began and I suddenly felt okay. Doubt gave way to confidence and I was on my way to finishing my first ultra!

Through the first 20 kilometers, I felt pretty good. I wasn’t trying to win this thing, but I definitely wanted to finish. However, I wouldn’t really be able to know exactly how far I had gone due to the fact that I had left my phone at home, and the running app I used to track my distance was… of course… on my phone.=

I began to question myself more and more. I kept wondering where the first aid station was. I kept thinking that I should have already arrived, but it was nowhere to be found. It was also quite warm that day and I was sweating more than I was used to. Obviously, I was drinking more as a result of the temperature and ended up running out of fluid.

I began to panic a bit because I knew that dehydration could end a race pretty quickly. I was wondering if I filled up my pack completely or if I was just sweating it out. After about 20 minutes, I finally saw it, the oasis in the desert, the first aid station.

I had made it the first 28 kilometers and felt okay! I rehydrated, ate some food, and then sat down for a minute. I quickly began to calculate how far I still had to go and immediately found the doubt creeping back in. My feet hurt, I was sweating profusely, and I was just over half way there.

What had I been thinking when I signed up for this race in the first place? I was kicking myself and beating myself up over this latest venture. I don’t know if you can relate (laugh), but I have made some pretty stupid decisions that, at the time, seemed like good ideas. Can anyone relate?

So here I was sitting at the first aid station thinking that I had done it again, when all of a sudden I simply “got over myself.” After all I had put in countless hours training, additional hours reading everything I could about ultra marathons, and had the love and support of my family behind me. So I popped up and took off again… after making sure I had filled my hydration pack to the brim.

Back on the trail, I never doubted myself again. I was physically exhausted by 40 kilometers, but wasn’t going to let anything stop me (except for maybe getting hit by a truck or some other disaster.) My goal now was to get to the finish line in time to meet my wife and kids. They had travelled all way to Paris with me, and I wasn’t about to drop out now.

My motivation level soared, although my body didn’t know exactly how to catch up. For the last 10 kilometers I felt the pain, but knew that I would make it. I had always been an underachiever and had felt the pain of failure so many times before, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Needless to say, I crossed the finish line and was welcomed by my incredible wife and kids.

It took 7 hours and 14 minutes, but I made it!

Dedicating my run to Edge

I was thrilled to be able to help raise money for the Edge Foundation through my running, and it gave the race even more meaning. Exercise is a way that I have been able to “clear my head” and to generally balance my brain chemistry. I know that Edge really promotes exercise as a part of a bigger plan to manage ADHD. I’m behind them all the way, and hope to see more people support such a worthwhile organization.

Just as I felt like a success when I finished my first ultra, the Edge Foundation helps students feel successful in finishing academic challenges. Everyone wants to feel success!

 — Chad Rickner