Happy 2010! This month we delve into issues of particular interest to parents of kids with learning differences. We introduce a new and very exciting non- medicinal treatment option for those with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, auditory processing issues and dyslexia. Not only is it promising, but it's fun - a great combination. We also explore working with your child's teacher and making sure you're in the right school.
Teens and electronics are also a topic (twice), with news of a disturbing preliminary study about caffeine, electronics and lack of sleep for teens.
For those making summer plans, we link to information about Dr. Hallowell's summer program for kids grades 5-12 and their families, as well as his adult course on Cape Cod.
Melissa Orlov, editor
Q: My son uses Facebook all the time and I'm concerned about whether that might hurt him. Should I limit his Facebook time?
A: The larger issue isn't Facebook time but how connected your son is with his peers. Facebook in itself doesn't generally create social issues, but it can reinforce them. A recent study done by the University of Virginia and released in Developmental Psychology suggests that well-adjusted teens use Facebook as a way to further enhance their positive relationships. However, teens who have behavioral issues or who are depressed may have use Facebook in less positive ways, as well.
So assess whether or not your son has healthy relationships with his friends. If he does, then having a supportive conversation about good "facebook etiquette" and intermittent conversations with him to keep up on what's going on in his social life, including Facebook, should be enough.
P.S. Good Facebook etiquette includes: never flaming another person or ganging up on him or her; never posting pictures of illegal or inappropriate activities (including drinking); taking any pictures down immediately when requested by anyone else; only friending people he knows; keeping his personal information private; no sexual, racial or otherwise offensive remarks.
Q: Could you please let your readers know about another source of getting enough omega-3 fatty acids that involves grass-fed vs. corn-fed animal products?
A: Sure! There are a couple of reasons to consider eating grass-fed beef rather than corn-fed, the most important being that the fat content of grass-fed beef is significantly lower than corn-fed. A 3 oz serving of grain fed beef contains over 8 grams of fat, while the same portion of grass fed contains just over 2 grams (less than skinless chicken thighs, more than skinless chicken breast). Grass fed beef also includes 2-4 times more Omega-3s than grain-fed animals, gotten when they eat green grass. Eggs from chickens with a green diet can also help you get omega 3s into your diet. According to research done in 1998, eggs from pastured hens can contain up to 10 times more omega-3s than from factory hens.
If you want more information about the benefits of grass-fed foods, including scientific links, go to this site.
Editor's note: This letter from Dr. Hallowell may have been sent to some of you already. If so, we apologize for the duplication. Links for more complete information about Integrated Listening are at the end of this article.
The founders of iLs call it a "brain integration program." Although that is quite a mouthful, what the founders are trying to emphasize is that this intervention works through several of the brains systems that impact learning: the visual, the auditory, and the vestibular (balance) systems. Hence the term "brain integration."
By addressing several systems simultaneously, you can get more bang for your buck, so to speak, more bang for each minute spent using the program, more bang for each calorie of effort spent. Since such calories are not infinite, it is best to get the most out of each one!
iLs has expanded upon an auditory therapy developed in Europe years ago, and added visual and balance exercises. The program can be customized to address different purposes, e.g. reading, auditory processing, attention, autism, etc. Furthermore, iLs has designed it so that kids actually have fun doing this program, instead of looking at it as drudgery. Fun leads to compliance, and compliance leads to success.
The combination of listening to filtered music, which sounds just like standard classical music, while doing exercises, like balancing on a wobble board or hitting a ball suspended from the ceiling, works the brain in special ways. While the full neurology has yet to be worked out, the results the program usually provides are impressive indeed. A controlled study of 64 at-risk students in New Mexico showed an average improvement in reading of two years after the three- month intervention. And at a clinic in Florida, 27 out of 29 children diagnosed with auditory processing disorder were successfully remediated after completing the program.
I have been sufficiently impressed with iLs myself to start offering the program in my offices in the Boston area and in New York City. I have also become a paid consultant to the company to help them advance research into iLs and also to help them get the word out as to its effectiveness and availability.
As you all know, I am asked to endorse a host of products and interventions, and I only do so when I am convinced that the product or intervention is worthwhile. iLs meets my strict standards. Of course, we need more research to be able to predict results reliably. But children grow and develop, and they can't always wait for the prospective double-blind studies to be done.
I believe that iLs can help millions of children, as well as adults, who have ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning issues. It can also help with autistic spectrum disorders as well as auditory processing issues. A big plus is that the program can be implemented in clinics, schools and at home.
I welcome hearing from any of you with questions or comments.
Editors Note: To find out more about iLs, go to this link. You'll find this letter plus a lot more information.
Dr. Hallowell often gets questions from parents about what information about their child's learning differences should be shared with their school. They worry that their child will get "tracked" as an underperformer and this will hurt him or her in the long run.
In his book, SuperParenting for ADD, written with Peter Jensen, Dr. Hallowell offers this advice: "Be open an honest - but only after you have developed a trusting relationship with the teacher. The best results always come in situations where there is trust and respect on both sides.
Too often, when a child has ADHD the parents and the teacher get into a struggle - no one wins, and the child loses big time. So beware of the temptation to become adversarial, even if you know you're right and the school is wrong."
Dr. Hallowell suggests reaching out to your child's teacher, offering to help out if needed, and asking questions about who the teacher is, what that teacher's philosophy about education is, etc.. Get to know each other. Remember that teachers are experts and it works wonders to treat them as such.
It may take effort to get to know your child's teacher(s) and you may even resent that you need to do this. But think about your own life and how much more likely you are to go the extra mile for someone who has gone the extra mile for you. Parents who come on strong with a list of entitlements may get their requests met - but they may not be met so enthusiastically or effectively as if they had offered something themselves, first.
Special education programs can also be very useful. But carefully assess what your school's program is doing for your child. Don't assume that the program is well suited to meet your child's needs. Some programs are bureaucratic and amount to glorified babysitting, while others are truly outstanding. If you determine that your child's special education sessions or classes aren't productive, you would be better off hiring a private tutor or coach if you can possibly afford it.
So schedule a meeting with your child's teacher to ask what he or she thinks your child needs. If the teacher doesn't already know it, explain that your child has ADHD and ask the teacher what advice she might give for dealing with it based upon her expertise and observations in the classroom. Then see if the two of you can come up with a plan to address your child's learning differences. Who can help your child, and how? What other information do you need to come up with a good plan? How will you measure progress? This personalized approach to working with your child's teacher is Dr. Hallowell's recommended approach.
The end of the first semester is when many parents start wondering about whether or not the school their child currently attends provides the best fit. If you're concerned, you can work more closely with your child's teachers (see next article) and do an inventory of what you believe are your child's specific needs, but after that the next step is often unclear. Is it better to stay put (here)? What are other options? How do I understand the quality of other potential schools? Have I assessed my child's educational needs correctly?
You know from your own experiences how important having a "good fit" with a school can be for students. In a school that's a great fit, your child thrives. In one that isn't such a good match, your child can languish or worse. Professional, objective guidance when selecting a school for yourself or your child can increase the chance of a successful fit and future. Particularly in the case of families with AD/HD this kind of educational planning can save money, time and heartaches.
Renee Goldberg Ed.D, the educational planner at the Hallowell Center, helps families find the right elementary, secondary and college education. She translates test results, aptitude, special needs and talents into action and guides students and their families to appropriate educational settings. She consults with the student to develop a list of appropriate schools that have the right combination of services, personnel and programs. She also assists in the application process (including developing essays and personal statements), practices interviewing, self-advocacy skills, and in the case of a student with ADHD, helps clarify their understanding of their strengths and weaknesses so they can flourish in an academic environment.
Some families decide that it's important to keep their child in place at the current school with greater support. Dr. Goldberg conducts school visits for purposes of observation and will meet with the child's special education staff to discuss progress or needed accommodations.
If you are thinking about your child's educational experience right now and could use professional guidance, contact Dr. Renee Goldberg by phone at (508) 304-9672 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: A reader recently us sent this description her son wrote about what it's like to have ADHD. When he wrote this, he was in high school. Since it's great to get the perspective of those with ADHD, particularly teens, we include his words here:
"Sometimes my mouth will act before my brain and I say things I don't mean or haven't thought about first. It's like my mind is a road with no speed limit! My thoughts are the cars. The drivers have a 'lead foot' and their brakes don't always work. But this is only some of the time. Other times, it's like the cars in my brain are running out of gas and can't quite make it to their destination. Occasionally, the cars crash and come out completely different, or come out meshed together. No matter what the cars do, they usually end up in a traffic jam! I'll say words that are jumbled up, or I'll say sentences in a weird order. I usually have to stop myself and rethink what I am trying to say. Then, I try again. It often ends up being embarrassing."
Caffeine, Texts and Teens a Bad Combo - Some disturbing preliminary research suggests that caffeine and electronics are combining to create dangerous situations for teens. Specifically, caffeinated teens are staying up late at night, then falling asleep during classes and while driving. Though teens' biological clocks lend themselves to staying up later, it's important to get kids to think about slowing down in the evening. Suggest no caffeine after noon and the importance of transitioning into bed at night without electronics. For more information, go to this link.
Dr. Hallowell to Offer In-Depth Summer Programs - One program is specifically for kids with ADHD and their families, the other for adults and clinicians looking to learn more. For more information, go to this link.
Married to Distraction Gets Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly - Dr. Hallowell, his wife Sue Hallowell, and Melissa Orlov collaborated on Married to Distraction to be released on March 16th. "Married" is about what modern life does to marriage. Publisher's Weekly just gave it this starred review:
"It is remarkable that a couple so well versed in the woes of their patients' marriages has the capacity for the kind of optimism and clear-sighted wisdom that readers will find in these pages. The Hallowells (he teaches at Harvard Medical School and heads the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health; she is a couples' therapist) examine the new and hard- to-resist stresses placed on the modern-day marriage with a compassionate focus on forgiveness and self- reflection. Those in search of practical, concrete advice for creating and saving healthy marriages will find what they need."
You can preorder Married to Distraction at Amazon.com
Chocolate Reduces Stress - Just in time for Valentine's Day, a small study suggests that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces stress hormones.
Dr. Hallowell will be speaking in these
February 12, Lake Wales, FL - The Human Experience of ADHD - call 863-676-6091
March 25, Poughkeepsie, NY - Finding the Buried Treasure in ADHD, at Vassar College 7pm. Call 845-437-7584