Tips for a Healthy, Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

As we’re preparing for a short week with Thanksgiving, I know many parents who are worried about how they’re going to have a gluten-free Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is definitely a tricky holiday to navigate if you’re cutting out gluten for yourself or your keiki!

As many of you probably already know, eating gluten-free has been proven to help children with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD. Benefits of cutting out gluten – a protein found in wheat – include increased speech and language use, improved social interaction, decreasing self-stimulating behavior, improved digestion, sleep and immune function, increased awareness and ability to focus and enhancement of cognitive function.

Here are 5 easy tips on gluten-freeing your Thanksgiving table:

1.       Thicken your gravy with arrowroot. Instead of thickening your turkey gravy with all-purpose flour, whisk a slurry of arrowroot and water into your pan drippings.

2.       Embrace potatoes - or better yet - cauliflower! Mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower are gluten-free, so enjoy subbing them as your main source of  carbohydrates on this holiday. Mix them up with broth and herbs and voila, you have an easy gluten-free and dairy-free side dish.

3.       Go hearty with vegetables. Try to keep all of the additional dishes on the table seasonal and vegetable-centric. Think roasted Brussel sprouts, creamy pumpkin soups, mashed turnips or simple, grilled zucchini and mushrooms. This is not only gluten-free, but keeps things healthy for everyone else.

4.       Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to skip pies! Head to Down to Earth or Whole Foods Kahala/Kailua and pick up a gluten-free crust or two. Or, make your own by mixing gluten-free cookies and butter or coconut oil together to create a crumbly, press-in version. Most fruit and pumpkin fillings are naturally gluten-free, so just use arrowroot or extra eggs instead of flour for thickening.

5.       Make rice stuffing. Look up recipes online for rice, instead of bread, stuffing for your turkey. I’ve had wild rice stuffing with mushrooms, onions and herbs before, and they’re amazing! Try it this year: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/wild-rice-stuffing-with-wild-mushrooms-105886

 

4 Ways to Encourage Reading Fluency

I always tell my students and their parents that reading fluency isn’t always about how fast you read. Reading fluency is about understanding the meaning, tone, context and the author’s purpose. Even if you understand vocabulary, syntax, decoding and phonics, you may not be a fluent reader.

In order to become a fluent reader, SciLear.org recommends your child to have assisted practice, where he or she read passages out loud and an instructor provides feedback. Your child should also have a good model, and listen to passages being read with proper accuracy, speed and expression. Your child also should repeat their oral practice, and read authentic texts that are  relevant to their lives and interest.

So, what can you do as a parent to help your child become a fluent reader?

1.      Have your child record him or herself reading out loud. It’s a good way to monitor their progress and listen to recordings together later. Provide feedback on areas where they are succeeding, and gentle correction on words that need work.

2.      Use “Reading Assistant,” which is a software program that ‘listens’ to students and supports them with decoding and comprehension. Tasks in Reading Assistant require activities that include listening to modeled reading, reading aloud while receiving feedback, listening to your own reading and then answering ‘think about it’ comprehension questions that exercises auditory memory and executive function skills.

3.      Don’t nitpick at the unimportant words! Instead, focus on words that are important for comprehension.

4.      Work with struggling readers when you have the most energy. If you’re not going to be at the top of your game after a long day, or if you’re going to be distracted in the evening, reserve your time with your child for the weekends. Plan for success for both yourself and your child.

Right now, I’m currently offering a promotion where you can get FREE Reading Assistant with the purchase of Fast ForWord, from now through 11/30. Plus, $50 off purchase price! Contact me at susi@learn2focus.com if you’re interested.

 

Keiki Success Spotlight: Meet Jordan!

Jordan is a 4th grader diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia. His parents knew from early on that something was not right. While Jordan was extremely social and friendly, he had an explosive temper that flared up at the most unpredictable times, causing him to lose many of his friends. He couldn’t sit still, and he didn’t understand personal space. From kindergarten through 3rd grade, Jordan’s report cards were well below (WB) the average for all language arts classes.

 

Although he was diagnosed at age five with ADHD, the pediatrician and psychologist attributed his challenges with reading and writing to a lack of focus – not dyslexia. According to the article “Risks of Not Identifying Dyslexia” by SciLearn.org, “The effects on academic performance and learning are logical consequences of a difficulty with reading.  Less obvious for many parents is their child’s avoidant or camouflage behaviors. Learners with dyslexia may avoid written assignments for fear of being seen as unintelligent. Being aggressive or playing the role of the class clown are other distraction strategies a learner with dyslexia may consciously or unconsciously employ as a means of camouflaging their reading and writing difficulty.”

 

(You can read the full article here: https://www.scilearn.com/blog/how-identifying-dyslexia-can-benefit-my-child?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzEmail&utm_content=921406&utm_campaign=0)

 

Jordan’s parents tackled the ADHD issue first. They didn’t want medication, which often comes with side effects such as headaches, sleep problems, a lack of appetite and stomach pains. They came to Learn 2 Focus and we started Interactive Metronome (IM) for three months. We all saw that his attention issues greatly improved.

 

Then, in 2nd grade, with attention issues better controlled, Jordan was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. His psychologist referred him for Orton-Gillingham (OG) tutoring. Unfortunately, he saw virtually no improvement even after going through weekly O-G tutoring for almost one year.

 

That’s when Jordan’s parents inquired about our Wilson Reading System (WRS). We scrapped everything he had been taught in O-G, and started fresh with Fast ForWord for one month of intense prep, before beginning WRS. We worked on reinforcing phonemes sequentially and introduced syllable types and spelling rules until Jordan mastered them and became fluent. Using guided visualization techniques, Jordan quickly learned to first picture, then "run a movie” in his head of what he had just read.  After just three months of WRS, Jordan's report card improved from WBs to DP (developing proficiency).  After 10 months of weekly WRS sessions, Jordan has caught up to the rest of his 4th grade class in reading, spelling and comprehension and his latest report card is a mix of MP (meets proficiency) and ME (meets with excellence) in Language Arts and Science.

Jordan’s Keiki Success Story shows the importance of not quitting, and also the importance of being correctly diagnosed and finding early intervention. Many children are not diagnosed, or are misdiagnosed. This can lead to barriers to independent learning, chronic stress, low self-image, limited academics and career options and difficulty to develop other skills to compensate for those areas of weakness. Jordan was identified with dyslexia in second grade, and his parents immediately sought out solutions. This allowed him to gain appropriate support to become an independent learner and discover new abilities, talents and strengths. I am incredibly proud of Jordan’s hard work and his parents’ persistence in finding a solution for him to overcome obstacles! If you’re interesting in learning more about Wilson Reading System, or any of the other programs we offer, contact us at susi@learn2focus.com.

 

 

5 Things You Should Know About Wilson Reading System

Last month was Dyslexia Awareness month, and we had several inquiries about the methods we use for our students who struggle with reading, spelling, and comprehension.

 I’d like to highlight the Wilson Reading System, a multisensory program that targets kids with dyslexia and other language-based disabilities. WRS is influenced by Orton-Gillingham techniques, and each session typically lasts about 60 to 90 minutes. WRS has been proven by scientific research that it can help children who may have learning and attention issues. Here at Learn 2 Focus, I’ve seen firsthand how WRS can assist many keiki who struggle with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and general reading fluency and comprehension issues.

To start, here are five things you should know about WRS:

1.       A multisensory program means you use two or more senses to learn one activity. WRS uses visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile senses, helping kids make connections between sounds and words. Kids are taught to break down and blend word sounds by tapping out each sound with their fingers and thumb. It’s called a “sound-tapping” system that is unique to WRS.

2.       WRS can help students from second grade and up, and any adults who might have reading issues such as dyslexia.

3.      Wilson Reading System has been a successful method even when other O-G methods have failed for certain students. At Learn 2 Focus, we have had several children and teens who previously failed at other types of direct reading instruction, and are now developing the skills necessary to become proficient readers.

4.       WRS targets students who are unable to decode accurately, have poor spelling or often guess at words. If your child reads slowly with a significant lack of fluency compared to their peers, WRS can help them catch up.

5.       WRS can help kids develop valuable reading and writing skills such as phonemic segmentation, alphabetic principles, decoding/encoding, vocabulary development, sight word instruction, fluency, comprehension and metacognition.

For more information, visit http://www.learn2focus.com/wilson-reading-system/ or send me an email at susi@learn2focus.com!

5 Reasons Your Child Should Try Fast ForWord

When it comes to finding reading intervention programs, there’s a reason why Fast ForWord remains one of the best solutions out there for your child. As I posted earlier this week, Fast ForWord’s results are hard to ignore – I have seen them firsthand while working with keiki who come to Learn 2 Focus. It’s helped more than 2 million students around the world – these are children with dyslexia, ADHD, reading and comprehension issues, autism and more.

Here are my top five reasons why I recommend Fast ForWord to families:

1.       It’s proven by research. Fast ForWord was developed by four of the world’s leading neuroscientists – a pretty good reason on its own! But it’s also been constantly proven to work by ongoing research conducted by Stanford University, Cornell University, UCSF, Rutgers University and even the US government.

2.       There are long-lasting positive results. Fast ForWord doesn’t just work during its 12 week program. Instead, there are gains in reading, thinking, and reasoning skills that continue for years after, as proven in a study in Dallas Texas.

3.       It’s fun! Kids love how Fast ForWord uses point counters, levels, sounds and entertaining graphics that make the program engaging. It’s also adaptive, which means that kids can keep working at a level that’s perfect for their skills.

4.       Fast ForWord, unlike many other programs, is convenient. You can do it online, accessible computer or iPad via an app at home or on the move.

5.       Targets the problem – not just the symptoms. Other programs often work like a band-aid, treating the symptoms and making temporary improvements. Fast ForWord targets the deep-seated processing and working memory skills that inhibit student progress. It exercises and strengthens these skills, making significant improvements that last.

Looking for more reasons to try Fast ForWord? Check out this link below, or shoot me an email at susi@learn2focus.com.

http://www.gemmlearning.com/blog/fast-forword/12-reasons-to-try-fast-forword-app-for-your-child

Fast ForWord Works!

There’s a reason why Fast ForWord is called the pioneer of neuroscience-designed programs. Since 1997, it’s helped children and adults improve their reading, language and cognitive skills. Aimed towards treating challenges like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and more, Fast ForWord is one of the best brain training programs out there, which is why I offer the program at Learn 2 Focus.

As a parent, I understand the desire to have the best for your child. It’s important to make sure that find the appropriate therapy and training program that’s backed by scientific research. That’s why I always encourage my parents to not just take my word for it, but to do their own research and look into other options if they have any doubts or concerns. I did the same, when my children were going through significant developmental disorders. After years of research and speaking with professionals, my conclusion is that Fast ForWord works when it is used properly.

This means following recommendations and instructions, completing each session and most of all, being persistent. Yes, it takes time, hard work and dedication, but using Fast ForWord properly is crucial to seeing positive results.

According to this Sonic Learning article: “One study (Gillam, et al. 2008) found Fast ForWord’s effect on language skills was as large as 50 hours with a speech pathologist – and follow up studies until up to 6 months showed improvement…74% of the children in [our] study who received Fast ForWord Language had follow-up scores that were significantly greater than their pre-test scores six months after treatment ended.”

If you’d like to learn more, you can check out this article here: http://soniclearning.com.au/does-fast-forword-work-understanding-the-research/

 

Other research conducted by the National Center on Response to Intervention, National Center on Intensive Intervention, and the US government (three independent commissioned research reviews) had nothing but good things to say about Fast ForWord. Using Fast ForWord showed a significant increase in reading skills and English language development, reading fluency and comprehension, and ultimately had a positive impact on struggling students.

 

Meanwhile, I am offering a limited-time discount on Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant: Parents can purchase Fast ForWord for $50 off, and get Reading Assistant for free. For the first four families who respond and sign up, I’ll include free post and post Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST). Contact me at susi@learn2focus.com to learn more.

Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder?

Does your child seem to have unusual aversions to noise or light? Does she complain often about shoes that are too tight, or clothes that are irritating? Does he seem to be unnaturally clumsy, or does he throw tantrums when you tell him to wash his face?

It’s easy to assume that your children are being difficult, but before you peg them as disobedient or immature, consider the possibility of sensory processing disorder (SPD). This is a developmental disorder that causes your child to have difficulty processing all the information coming in, and they can’t understand what’s happening both internally and externally.

You’d be surprised to know that many parents are starting to observe these symptoms in their children, and we are starting to learn more and more that these symptoms could be a physiological problem. SPD is a symptom of autism, but also found in ADHD, OCD and other developmental disorders – or even, no diagnosis at all. That’s why SPD can be a baffling and alarming problem.

Here are three common symptoms of SPD:

1.      Baffling behaviors, such as screaming if their faces get wet, throwing tantrums when you try to get them dressed, having an unusually high or low pain threshold, crashing into walls and even people, and putting inedible things, including rocks and paint, into their mouths

2.      Mood swings and tantrums. Place a child at home with a quiet setting and a calm adult, and he may be fine. But when you go out into the grocery store with a ton of visual and auditory stimulation, your child throws wild tantrums – we’re not talking about just fussing, but prolonged, alarmingly intense tantrums that are impossible to stop once they’ve started.

3.      Fight or flight. Your child is overwhelmed with sensory overload that he shuts down and wants to escape the situation or become aggressive. It’s a neurological panic response to everyday sensations. The child may run out into the street away from the park because he can’t handle the auditory or visual stimulation.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, think about how SPD can be a possible result of your child’s unusual behavior. Seeking out a professional can not only bring relief to finally know what might be causing your child to act a certain way, but also bring you to a solution. Here at Learn 2 Focus, we offer therapies such as Interactive Metronome and Rhythmic Movements which address sensory processing disorder.  We help children to explore their senses and resolve their processing issues, which can help them overcome challenges at home and school. 

How Attention Works

We tend to talk about inattentiveness in our children, but we often forget how complex it actually is to pay attention. Take a look at our own lives. How often do we walk into a room and then forget what you came into the room for? Or, how often have we been sitting in a lecture and find ourselves automatically reaching for our phones?

Psychologists have been trying to figure out what attention actually is. The more we understand how attention works, the more possible it may be to help understand why some children have more problems paying attention than others.

According to this article (https://www.scilearn.com/blog/pay-attention) there are several stages of attention:

1.      Alerting

We need to be in an alert state to perform well. The chemical norepinephrine modulates alertness in frontal and parietal brain regions. Thanks to warning signals like a red light on the street, this alert state can be triggered and we can rapidly change from a resting state to being more receptive.

2.      Orienting

When you are oriented, you know where you are, who you are with, the day and time and most important, what is needed to perform the relevant task at hand.

3.      Executive Skills

This is similar to self-control, where you maintain attention to accomplish a goal. One type of executive attention that’s important for academic success is selective attention, where you can involve one sense more than or together with others. For many children, this can be a challenge. They have to move from the world of multi-sensory experiences in play, sports and media (especially on-screen phones, tablets and TV), to sitting still and selectively attending to a teacher in a classroom. This can be particularly difficult for children with ADD or ADHD, who have a physiological limitation on their ability to listen and learn on demand.

The good news is that the brain can learn attention. Many scientists have found that brain-training exercises like the Fast ForWord Language program and Interactive Metronome can train selective auditory attention or combined auditory and visual attention – give us a call to learn more!

 

Happy National Read-A-Book Day!

In honor of National Read-A-Book Day, I wanted to share the top 5 reasons why reading is so important for our children and their brain development. We always hear why it’s a good thing to read – let’s freshen up on the reasons why!

1.      Academic Boost. When kids are exposed to books, they tend to have a higher aptitude for learning once they start going to school. Since they know the basics of how words and sentences are put together, they are able to apply the same concepts with math, science and other subjects. So if you’re a new parent, get started reading to your baby early and expose them to the wonderful world of books well before pre-school. Bonus: Reading to your child can help build a strong relationship between the two of you and storytime can become valuable time spent together.

2.      Basic Speech and Language Skills. By listening to you read even the simplest of books like Green Eggs and Ham or Daddy Hugs, your child is learning critical language and enunciation skills. He is reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. Try to encourage your toddler to “pretend” read, where he pages through the book and makes squeals or coos with excitement. This is an important pre-literacy activity. By the time your child hits pre-school, he will be able to begin sounding out words on his own.

3.      Book Fundamentals. We take it for granted that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page is separate from the images. By exposing children to books early, the essential pre-reading skills are established.

4.      Communication Skills. The more time you spend reading to toddlers, the more likely they are to grow up and be able to express themselves and relate to others. They learn how to interact with people by listening to the interactions between story characters during reading time.

5.      Applying Fictional Scenarios to Real Life. By relating fictional scenarios in books to what’s happening in their own world, children are able to build their logical thinking skills. They are able to understand the abstract concept of cause and effect, as well as the importance of good judgement. When characters in stories face new, stressful experiences, children are able to relate and learn how to cope with the situation in a healthy way. 

How Infant Tummy Time Can Affect Primitive Reflexes

baby-571137_640.jpg

As I’ve shared before, primitive reflexes are certain reflexes that develop while the baby is in the womb. Some of these reflexes include the startle reflex, when your baby spreads his arms when he feels or thinks he is falling, and the rooting reflex, which is the baby’s natural reaction to suck when you stroke his cheek or when he is hungry. After a certain time, these reflexes ought to be integrated into the higher centers of the brain when the baby reaches certain developmental milestones. Usually, this is around 6 months or so. If these reflexes however are retained, there may be social, learning and behavioral problems. In some cases, it can also be a cause for ADHD and autism.

For example, a retained startle reflex could result in:

·         Motion sickness

·         Poor balance and coordination

·         Emotional immaturity

·         Inability to focus

·         Difficulty with motor coordination

·         Allergies and decreased immunity

·         Mood swings and anxiety

So what can cause these reflexes to be retained? And what can we do?

In our last interview with Canelle Demange (thank you, Canelle!), she pointed out that tummy time is extremely important for infants to explore and develop their own movements. It turns out that lack of tummy time is a possible factor in retained primitive reflexes too. If a baby is on his back or always in a reclined position such as a rock’n’play or a car seat, he may not be able to properly develop the movements that he needs. He could possibly thus retain primitive reflexes, which could lead to ADHD, autism and other developmental disorders.

So new parents, make sure your baby is getting enough tummy time!  Here are some tips:

·         You can put your baby on his tummy from week one, as long as you are watching and supervising carefully. He may not like it at first and might fuss; but know that tummy time is vastly important for his development!

·         Don’t do tummy time when he’s hungry, tired or upset. Find a time when he’s quiet and relaxed.

·         Talk to him in soothing tones and encourage him during tummy time. Babies are comforted when they know that you’re there, so go down to his eye level by lying down on the floor with him. You can also try putting him on your tummy or chest too.

·         Toys are great distractions. As his eyesight improves, you can move his favorite toy above his head and he’ll be able to track it, and eventually try to lift his head.

·         As he becomes more familiar with tummy time, you can extend the length several minutes at a time for longer periods.

For more tummy time ideas, you can visit this link below:

 

http://www.babycenter.com/0_tummy-time-how-to-help-your-baby-get-comfortable-on-his-bell_1439985.bc

5 Ways to Overcome Auditory Processing Disorder

Did your child come back from the doctor’s with multiple diagnoses, because he has overlapping symptoms? This happens more often than you think, and while there are cases of multiple disorders, there is also a chance that there is a misdiagnosis. Take auditory processing disorder (APD). With APD, the ears send imprecise, wrong information to the brain. Your child may only hear the last part of the word or have a hard time distinguishing between similar words. APD may also result in the inability to remember the first part of a sentence or a list, especially if there are distractions. According to a SciLearn article:

“Children with APD haven’t yet learned how to cope when all the sounds are muddled or when information gets lost before it can be stored properly in the brain for immediate retrieval. APD can be especially challenging in conversation because someone with APD may not receive extra time from others, which often creates feelings of frustration and confusion. A child with APD may stop listening altogether if it proves too difficult, time-consuming, or overwhelming. They simply avoid the burden of asking questions to understand a conversation that’s moving much too fast.”

All of these issues result in the child having trouble paying attention or following direction, having low academic performance, poor reading and vocabulary. Sound familiar? These are also symptoms of ADHD or autism. And often, the APD child gets mislabeled as autistic – or worse, that he is being willfully stubborn or defiant.

If you suspect your child has APD, the best way to find out is by having them tested by an audiologist. This can help you and your child rule out other disorders and narrow down to the core issue. If your child does get diagnosed with APD, the good news is that there are ways to overcome it! Here are a couple ideas, recommended by SciLearn:

1.    Use Fast ForWord. It’s a proven fact that Fast ForWord program actually enhances the brain’s ability to process auditory information. Fast ForWord is available at Learn 2 Focus, and I’d be happy to help your child overcome APD.

2.    Get Visual. Listening to words and long conversations are often overwhelming for children with APD. These children usually are visual learners, so provide context and alternate learning methods by using flashcards, videos and images.  

3.    Be Patient. APD children need extra patience to put the pieces of the puzzle together in academia. Give them time to process and understand the problem at hand.  

4.    Read Aloud. There is no end to the benefits of reading aloud! Let your child follow along to your reading and have him practice sounding out difficult words after you’ve said them. This can help improve language acquisition, reading ability and auditory processing.

5.    Be Clear as Possible. Enunciate your words, and then check to make sure they understand. When your child won’t answer a question, don’t chalk it up to them being obstinate. Ask your child to repeat your request or to answer in context, which can help you know whether your child heard you correctly.

 You can read the SciLearn article here:

https://www.scilearn.com/blog/what-is-auditory-processing-disorder?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzEmail&utm_content=921406&utm_campaign=0

3 Ways Fast ForWord Can Help With Dyslexia

Dyslexia is now a pretty well-known language and processing-based learning disorder among children, but there is still constant research going on to find out how we might be able to help find solutions for our keiki. Dyslexia is a major obstacle to our children’s education. The good news? Scientists are finding out more and more that a brain training program such as Fast ForWord can help. Here’s how:

1. Tone Doublets

Fast ForWord has a targeted audiovisual regimen, which helps children who have difficulty processing rapid sound changes. That includes dyslexia. In a study, a group of children aged 6 to 9 diagnosed with language learning impairment (LLI) as well as a control group of similarly-aged children with no diagnoses were asked to identify sound changes in nonverbal ‘tone doublets’ consisting of a high and low tone played in rapid succession, as well as consonant syllables like ‘ba’ and ‘da’.

After participating in Fast ForWord’s phoneme identification exercises for an average of 32 days, this group was tested again and their measurements showed a significant increase in brain activity. 

2. Language and Reading Assessments

There is a correlation between brain activity and observed educational performance. A sample group of elementary school-aged children diagnosed with specific language impairment (SLI) were tested alongside two control groups of children with typical language development. Children in all three groups completed a standardized CELF evaluation. Scores were lower for the SLI group, with no significant difference between the two control groups.

After this first assessment, the SLI group and the first control group received Fast ForWord training for six weeks, while the second control group did not. All three groups then participated in another audio listening session before taking another CELF evaluation at the end of the study. The results? Not only did the language-impaired children improve by about 10% over their initial CELF score – the control group that received Fast ForWord training showed a smaller but significant improvement as well. 

3. Brain Networks

Dyslexia includes phonological processing difficulties – the inability to hear distinct phonemes that can then be visually associated with written letters. Those with dyslexia showed low levels of brain response in their brain’s audio processing areas when asked to look at a succession of written letters and select the ones that rhyme. After Fast ForWord was included as part of their regular school day, not only did the dyslexic children’s performance scores improve, but their fMRI scans began to more closely resemble those of the typically developing children, suggesting that the training was actively rewiring their brains' networks to function more effectively in language processing.

 

5 Things You Should Know About Language Impairment and Fast ForWord

If you’re a parent, you probably know how important it is for you to talk to your baby from day one. Just by listening to your conversations, your baby starts developing an important foundation for language, picking up speech patterns and words to use down the road. Language specialists says that this is a naturally acquired skill, just like walking. They say that all your baby needs to hear is language being spoken, and when the time comes, they will start talking!

However, there are some kids who develop language slowly – it doesn’t come naturally to them, and they grow up with language impairments. Today, I wanted to share a blog about how Dr. Paula Tallal, one of the premier cognitive neuroscientists in the nation, discovered that learners with no language difficulties could sequence two sounds very easily no matter how quickly they occurred in time. She found that children with language problems had difficulty sequencing sounds only when they occurred quickly, not slowly. 

She helped develop Fast ForWord, a program that we offer here at Learn 2 Focus. The program has two exercises called Sky Gym and Jumper Gym, which can help these children overcome language learning obstacles through sequencing. Here are 5 important things you should know about these exercises:

1.      Sky Gym and Jumper Gym improves listening accuracy and auditory sequencing. Listening accuracy is the speed at which the child identifies and understands rapid, successive changes in sound. Auditory sequencing is the ability to recognize and remember the order in which a series of sounds is presented.

2.      The purpose of these exercises is to correctly identify sequences of two to five sound sweeps.

3.      These exercises are two of the hardest exercises in Fast ForWord, so don’t worry if your child struggles at first!

4.      In the 1990’s, Tallal and fellow researcher Dr. Merzenich began discussing how to improve the ability to understand spoken language if you had specific language impairment, auditory processing problems or dyslexia. Dr. Tallal wondered if a device could be worn that would stretch out the speech to make it longer. Dr. Merzenich told her that the brain could actually be trained to learn to process these rapid sounds by using the principles of neuroplasticity. These conversations led to the early trials of Fast ForWord at Rutgers in 1994 and 1995.

5.      Typically, if a participant is struggling with these exercises, it means they really do need to be doing Fast ForWord. That’s because it means their brain is not able to process rapid information quickly, efficiently or accurately. Remember, if you and your child keep at it, your child is guaranteed to improve the speed of his auditory processing skills. 

You can read the entire article here:

https://www.scilearn.com/blog/how-to-improve-auditory-processing-speed-using-fast-forword?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=scilearn

Part 2: Q & A With Neurodevelopmental Movement Expert Canelle Demange

What’s the connection between body movements and neurological development? When do babies start learning how to move and mature? What might cause certain basic movement patterns to be skipped?

Learn what Canelle Demange has to say in part two of my exclusive Q&A interview! She is a neurodevelopmental movement expert with her own practice here in Honolulu. She works with kids and adults who may have autism, ADHD or other developmental disorders. Her primary focus is using body movements to improve and develop healthy neurodevelopment.

How does neurodevelopment work in babies?

Think of the brain as a house you are building. You want to start with a strong foundation and that is what babies do when they are on the floor: belly crawling, creeping on hands and knees, and exploring the world.
When they have spent enough time integrating those reflexes – some of which were already developed in the uterus – the lower parts of the brain then mature.

 

Reflexes are like the letters of the alphabet. With practice you learn to combine them together and be able to execute more complex forms of movement. Reflexes organize movement and movement develops the brain.

 

But there are many things that can interrupt the maturation process of the nervous system. When we skip some patterns, we develop compensatory patterns which can be more stressful and less efficient as we perform a task.

 

What kind of things can interrupt the nervous system from maturing?

One of the reasons is that we as a culture are still not very aware of how important it is for babies to spend time on the floor. It’s a skill you need to learn before moving onto a more challenging skill. On the floor, these reflexes and patterns are activated and matured. Parents need to allow the child to spend a lot of time on the belly, where the child will first find a support to develop the “push” patterns, which gives him the strength to move himself. But when the child gets frustrated, the parents want to comfort the child. But when you know how important this process is, you will spend time with it –  today’s culture it not always willing to spend time nurturing this process.

 

For example, a lot of parents think that the sooner the child walks, the better, so they try to prop him up on his feet or sitting propped up. That prevents the child from learning the sequences of how to move himself from lying to sitting to kneeling and more. Also, when the baby spends a lot of time in a car seat or other kinds of apparatus that prevents him from moving on his own, the baby doesn't develop the coordination it takes to move from one position to the other in relationship to gravity and space.

 

On the other hand, some babies are beautifully developed, until a traumatic event happens in their life which interrupts the developmental movement growth. The nervous system goes back to a survival mode where it cannot thrive and stops learning. All the energy goes into surviving. This is what we see a lot in the case of autism.  

 

What are some examples of these traumatic events?

Falls or high fevers or being born premature are challenges for the integration of the movement patterns. Also, if the baby’s immune system is overworked trying to deal with toxic foods, toxic environment or chemicals in the body or in the air, the nervous system goes into survival mode. When the body becomes hypersensitive to all stimulus and the brain is overwhelmed trying to process information, one of the coping strategies is to shut down.

 

Other traumas such as emotional traumas prevent the integration of the developmental movement sequence and the maturation of the nervous system. These emotional traumas could be separation, abuse or neglect.

 

What can we do to prevent these events?

 

The child needs a safe environment physically and emotionally. When the child has had enough time to play with all these possibilities of movement, the brain has had a chance to mature and the baby moves with ease and confidence on his belly, crawling and creeping on hands and knees.

Do you have any advice for parents?

I would advise common sense. For the child to feel safe and grow, we need a safe environment free from environmental toxicity. Make sure the house is free from toxic cleaning products and more. Babies need to be on their bellies on the floor on which they can move, so I recommend no carpets. Instead, place them on a clean smooth floor where they have a chance to move toward something they want, so that they have a chance to practice and develop patterns for coordination and the brain functions.

As far as therapy, I would start with the foundations of developmental movement work. Without the primary organization, the brain will try its best to compensate, but that’s a lot of work and the brain won’t be as efficient as it could be.

The good news is that we develop the capacity for attention as we do our creeping – we regulate our behaviors. The brain teaches itself and at any age we can grow or regrow those connections to experience more ease and flow in our lives.

 

Part 1: Q&A With Neurodevelopmental Movement Expert Canelle Demange

Today I’d like to share an exclusive interview I did with my good friend Canelle Demange, a neurodevelopmental movement and Body-Mind Centering practitioner here in Honolulu. She’s an expert in working with adults and children to improve and promote healthy neurodevelopment through movement, especially for people affected by ADHD and autism.

Canelle is incredibly talented and knowledgeable in what she does, and was kind enough to be interviewed for this week’s blog – perfect since we have been talking about primitive reflexes and how they can affect our keiki. She’s a wealth of information, so please stay tuned for part 2 of the interview this Thursday.

For more information about what she does, you can visit canelledemange.com!

What got you interested in working in this field?

Many things got me interested in working in this field: My love for movement as a dancer, my love for teaching as an art form of communication and transmission and my love for language movement being our first and universal language. My personal experiences also, which led me to explore the therapeutic aspect of movement as a healing process. And finally, my love for depth and exploration to make a difference in this world.

How does developmental movement neurological reorganization work?

Developmental movement is the movement that babies do in the first year of life. When you go back to these early patterns of movement that organize the brain, you have a chance to heal the parts of the brain that have not matured yet. When the brain has experienced some kind of trauma, its capacity to function can fall apart. The information that our sensory system processes can become very confused and the brain then can feel overwhelmed. Reflexes are like the letters of the alphabet – with practice you learn to combine them together and be able to execute more complex forms of movement. Reflexes organize movement and movement develops the brain.

How do retained primitive reflexes tie in with Body-Mind Centering (BMC)?


In BMC, we study primitive reflexes and also study the whole sequence of developmental movement which is the process of integration of the movements that babies do in the first year of life. Retained primitive reflexes are reflexes that haven't been integrated, and in BMC, we look at the concept of "support precedes movement " and how we can facilitate the experience of these reflexes.

What are some specific exercises that you do for children with ADHD or autism?


First of all, the brain body cannot learn unless the child feel safe, so the first thing to do is to create safety through my presence and my voice. You could say this is a cellular resonance so that the subconscious brain can relax and feel safe.


Second, I do not want to give more information to the brain that is already overwhelmed or has too much information to process. So I would choose some gentle rocking rhythms that were already present in the fluid environment of the womb and will calm the brain and balance the nervous system.


Then we can feed the brain with movement patterns and I like to be playful. I also recommend doing sensory work with the child, such as compression brushing which stimulates all of the proprioceptor's that also creates the sense of safety as the body gets to know where it is in space. I also encourage a lot of vestibular work, such as bouncing on balls, twirling and more.

Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!

Reconsoildation: A New Way To Learn

Whether it’s learning a language, playing an instrument or regaining lost motor function, the ability to practice and learn a new skill is something we all need. While each of us may learn differently at varying paces, I think we would all love to be able to pick up a new skill quickly and efficiently!

According to a recent Johns Hopkins report, making slight changes during repeat practice sessions can help people master the skill faster, as opposed to practicing the task in precisely the same way. This is important for us parents who have children with developmental disorders, because our keiki are learning new things every day during their practice sessions at home or here at Learn 2 Focus. 

For the study, 86 volunteers learned and performed an isometric pinch task over the course of two or three 45-minute sessions. This entailed squeezing a device called a force transducer to move a computer cursor across a monitor. The screen test featured five windows and a “home space.” Participants were asked to move the cursor from home to the various windows in a set pattern as quickly and accurately as possible.

Those who quickly adjusted to the modified practice session the second time around performed better than when repeating their original task. This is a process called reconsolidation, in which existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge. Reconsolidation plays a big role in strengthening motor skills – everything from learning a new sport or helping patients with stroke. Those who practiced reconsolidation learned fastest, as opposed to those who repeated the same task.

Every session a student trains at Learn 2 Focus we constantly adjust our sessions, parameters, and tasks to not only keep things interesting and stimulating, BUT we also utilize the process of reconsolidation. As we incorporate this concept of reconsolidation for our keiki, who might have issues with learning new skills, coordination, or attention, we can improve function.  

Any thoughts about how to expand  the process of reconsolidation in school or at home? Let me know what you think by dropping me a line on our social media or sending me an email at susi@learn2focus.com!

You can read more about the study here:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/want_to_learn_a_new_skill_faster_change_up_your_practice_sessions

 

 

How A Retained Primitive Reflex Can Affect Your Child

When babies are in the womb, they develop primitive reflexes (PR) necessary for survival and proper development. These reflexes are usually retained into the early months of life and then normally disappear at a certain time when they are integrated into the higher control center of the brain.

There are many reflexes that come into play as involuntary responses to external stimuli like a touch, noise, heat or an internal stimulus like hunger. For example, the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is an infantile reflex normally present in all infants up until 4 or 5 months. When the infant feels like he or she is falling or in other danger, he will spread out the arms and usually cry. That’s why parents are recommended to swaddle the baby, to prevent them from waking themselves up during their sleep if the Moro reflex sets in. 

Unfortunately, if a PR is not integrated at the appropriate age, it can become an issue. A retained primitive reflex can disturb the development and integration of subsequent reflexes, and even disturb some or all functions of the higher brain centers. These higher brain centers include behavior, learning, integration of movements and more. Issues can be a part of hormonal, anxiety, depression and so forth.

Some of the ways a retained PR can affect our children are:

·         Fear Paralysis Reflex: Parasympathetic ANS issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, SID

·         Moro Reflex: Sympathetic ANS issues such as aggression, ADHD, asthma, immune system disorders

·         Palmar Reflex: Poor verbal and written expression, fine motor skills, posture

·         Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex: Learning difficulties, misjudging distances, shoulder injuries

·         Rooting Reflex: Hormonal dysfunctions in the HPA axis, especially thyroid

·         Tonic Labyrinthine Reflexes: Motion sickness, LD, Balance and visual disturbances

·         Spinal Galant Reflex: Hyperactivity, Bedwetting, Scoliosis, Gait abnormality

 

This is why 75 percent of all the keiki undergoing the Interactive Metronome (IM) program at Learn 2 Focus are also going through customized PR integration program. These PR programs we assign use sensory motor exercises to improve neural connections and integration of infantile reflexes which are no longer developmentally appropriate. For more info, feel free to call me at 808-352-0116 or drop me a line at susi@learn2focus.com.

Back To School Organizational Tips for Kids With ADHD

School is just around the corner, and in a couple weeks, your kids will be finishing up their summer break. Are you prepared for your keiki going back to school? Maybe you’re sad to see them go back, or maybe a little relieved!

With school, just like summer, there are different kinds of challenges that you may face, especially if you have a child with ADHD. One of the primary challenges is to stay organized, juggling homework, papers, deadlines, school supplies and more. For ADHD children who have impaired executive function, these organization and memory skills can be difficult. Here are 5 simple tips that can help prepare your ADHD kid for the upcoming school semester.

1. Double up

For children with ADHD, remember to bring school supplies and books back and forth every day can add significant stress. Some schools often provide a way for kids to receive a second set of textbooks to keep at home. You can stock a cabinet or close with these supplies, and post a checklist inside the door where your child can make a note whenever she or he removes an item.

2. Labels Are Your Friend

Come up with a paper management system where your child can organize homework using simple labels. For example, a three pocket-type folders in a binder can be labeled “Homework To Do,” “Homework Done,” and “Notices.” (Or, whatever label you need.) You can help your child learn to put homework and notes from teachers in the right folders.

3. Choose Wisely

When you’re shopping for back-to-school supplies, pick the right stuff. ADHD children may have motor-skills difficulties that make handwriting a challenge. If you find an assignment book or planner with larger spaced lines to write in, your child might have an easier time writing. Or, if your child’s backpacks tend to be crammed and stuffed, add pocket-type inserts where he or she can slip papers. An accordion folder can also come in handy.

4. Embrace Lists

Encourage your child to keep a daily to-do list, and divide tasks into groups according to priority (“Important!” or “Less Important”). You can also double check what your child has written, with assignments that the teacher wrote down, so you can ensure accuracy.

5. Get Colorful

Color code books and supplies by subject. For example, use green for all geography book covers, notebook dividers and files. Use red for everything related to history class, and blue for biology. This way, your child can find it easier to stay organized at home and at school.

6.  Executive Function Boot Camp

If you missed one of our EFBC camps this summer, we will be offering another during the school year.  Our boot camp can help your child with organizational skills, study skills, test taking strategies, communication, and more.  We have space for 3 more students, so consider the class if your keiki needs help with strategies in the classroom and at home.  Call us today to find out more!  808-352-0116

 

 

4 Things To Know About Social Behavior and the Immune System

Today, I’d like to share an important article that talks about the possible correlation between the immune system and social behavior. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the immune system directly affects and even controls creatures’ social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others.

Here are what I believe are the 4 main takeaways for us parents:

1. A specific immune molecule, interferon gamma, seems to be critical for social behavior and that a variety of creatures, such as flies, zebrafish, mice and rats, activate interferon gamma responses when they are social. Normally, this molecule is produced by the immune system in response to bacteria, viruses or parasites. Blocking the molecule in mice using genetic modification made regions of the brain hyperactive, causing the mice to become less social.

2. The immune system problems could contribute to an inability to have normal social interactions. This has significant implications for neurological diseases such as autism-spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

3. The relationship between people and pathogens directly affected the development of our social behavior, allowing us to engage in the social interactions necessary for the survival of the species while developing ways for our immune systems to protect us from the diseases that accompany those interactions.

4. The discovery that the immune system – and possibly germs, by extension – can control our interactions raises many exciting avenues for scientists to explore, both in terms of battling neurological disorders and understanding human behavior.

Here’s a quote by Jonathan Kipnis, chair of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience:

“Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning. So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function? I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

You can read the full article here:

https://news.virginia.edu/content/shocking-new-role-found-immune-system-controlling-social-interactions

 

Hot Topics in Dyslexia Research and Advocacy

 

Today I’d like to share with you all a video panel discussion by Understood.org, which was held on dyslexia and titled “Dyslexia Understood: Research, Instruction and Awareness.” The panel included three experts on dyslexia, who discussed the latest developments in brain research and instructional methods, and addressed how those advances can help children and their families.

The panel featured women who were knowledgeable in three areas of dyslexia: brain research, instruction and advocacy. The panelists include Barbara Wilson, cofounder of Wilson Language Training, mom and former teacher Rachel Vitti, and leading neuroscientist Guinevere Eden. Here are their main points:

1.      Brain imaging is starting to play a role in understanding the strengths of people with dyslexia. Guinevere Eden shed light on cutting-edge brain science and its direction towards using brain imaging. She said that the field of dyslexia research is changing—for the better. “The research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary,” said Eden. “You’re beginning to see the merging of genetics research with brain imaging research with behavior research.” Scientists with different types of training are coming together and bringing different tools to the table. The result is a more holistic understanding of dyslexia.

 

2.      Dyslexia laws aren’t always leading to better outcomes for students. Dyslexia laws are a good step toward getting students the support they need. But the laws haven’t always translated into results. There’s a gap in implementation, according to Barbara Wilson, who said, “You fight and get the laws into place. But why is it we don’t necessarily see that transfer to the outcomes that are intended by the law?” Any time a law is passed, in-depth teacher training is critical, according to Wilson.

 

3.      Policymakers are now taking dyslexia advocates seriously. Panelist Rachel Vitti, a mother whose gifted son has dyslexia and a former teacher, said that she tried to help her students with dyslexia, but she didn’t have the training. She believes that it’s important to raise awareness about dyslexia in schools. With the knowledge gained by research, she has seen a movement for change.

All three panelists agreed that progress is being made, but there is still plenty of work to be done. You can watch the panel discussion here:

 

https://www.understood.org/en/community-events/blogs/news-about-understood/2015/07/15/from-brain-science-to-teaching-experts-weigh-in-at-dyslexia-understood