Yoga for Children

Why yoga for children? Ten years ago we were asking that question about martial arts. Now there are classes for children at martial arts studios on every corner. Although yoga has enjoyed popularity with adults for many years, we have only recently come to understand how helpful it can be for young children. Yoga postures and angles create pressures that stimulate the body and brain, enhancing fitness, confidence, self-discipline and focus. Yoga helps children become aware of themselves from the inside out. From this awareness, changes and growth in new and positive directions can blossom. Benefits for All Children As a Montessori teacher I learned that typical children and those with special needs are all capable of much more than we think they are. Given the right environment, they excel beyond our belief. Many professionals who work with autism, sensory integration, learning disabilities, and ADD/ADHD are using children’s yoga with great results. There is a natural affinity between these children…

Vision Therapy for Neurodevelopmental Disorders

by Maria Rickert Hong, Certified Holistic Health Counselor, AADP I am fortunate to have Dr. Randy Schulman, MS, OD, FCOVD, as my sons’ behavioral optometrist.  Dr. Schulman wrote the chapters on the role of vision therapy and optometry in Patty Lemer’s book, “Envisioning a Bright Future:  Interventions that Work for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders“, which I reviewed earlier.  Patty was the one who recommended Dr. Schulman to me, and she practices in my area. Patty has always talked about the importance of vision therapy for people with autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder (SPD), learning disabilities and other neurological disorders.  Now I know why.  In fact, Patty’s book was published by the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, which should give you a clue as to the importance of vision in neurodevelopmental disorders. Vision Problems a Cause of Many ASD Symptoms I was astounded to learn that vision problems are a CAUSE of, not a by-product of, many ASD symptoms. …

“The Diet” (Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet)

by Patricia S. Lemer, M.S. Bus., NCC Are you on “the diet”? is a query commonly heard wherever I go. At my weight loss clinic “the diet” is the protein shake that allowed me to drop 25 pounds. At the health club, “the diet” could mean The Zone, Atkins or Eat Right for your Type. Friends have used these programs to drop poundage and feel better. Most people have heard of the Feingold diet, a program that eliminates artificial colors flavors, preservatives and salicylates. It has helped many children overcome difficult behaviors. In disability circles, however, the that probably works best is a gluten-free, casein-free diet. I find it one of the simplest, most exciting discoveries in my 40 years in this field. History of the Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet Originally, Lisa Lewis dug into diet literature looking for a way to help her son. She located the research of Paul Shattock and Karl Reichelt, who link gluten and casein with…

Social Stories for Autism, ADHD and PDD-NOS

by Stephen M Edelson, Ph.D. Director, Center for the Study of Autism  Theory of mind Many persons with autism, attention deficits (ADD & ADHD), learning disabilities (LD), and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD-NOS) have deficits in social cognition, the ability to think in ways necessary for appropriate social interaction. Recent research has shown that these individuals do not realize that other people have their own thoughts, plans, and points of view.  They also appear to have difficulty understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes and emotions. As a result, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various social situations.  This has been termed as a lack of “theory of mind,” or the ability to take the perspective of another person. Social Stories An interesting technique, developed by Carol Gray, a consultant to students with autism in Michigan, helps individu­als with autism “read” and understand social situations better.  This approach presents appropriate social behaviors in the form…

Teacher Says: Help Kids Become Food Allergy Detectives

By Evelyn Porreca Vuko Science teachers and parents can turn kids from elementary to high school age into food allergy detectives.  Teach them to investigate their own bodies and to determine whether they have food allergies that affect their behavior and learning. Stage 1: Do a Little Homework. Many experts believe that nutrition and food play an important role in the behavior of children diagnosed with attention deficits, learning disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders.  Use Dr. William Crook’s book, Help for the Hyperactive Child: A Practical Guide Offering Parents of ADHD Children Alternatives to Ritalin.  Its workbook format is easy to read. Stage 2: Investigate Behavioral & Learning Symptoms. Personal investigation will help students learn more about themselves, their dietary choices and their behavior.  Use this checklist from Stanley Turecki’s book, The Difficult Child. Kids can decide on “yes,” “no,” or “sometimes.” Are you active and don’t like sitting still? Are you easily distracted while working? Do you dislike new…

Thyroid Dysfunction and Autism, ADHD, SPD and Other Developmental Delays

Excerpted from “Resistance to Thyroid Hormone: Implications for Neurodevelopmental Research on the Effects of Thyroid Hormone Disrupters, ” by Peter Hauser, J. Michael McMillin, and Vinod S. Bhatara, and from personal communication with Audrey McMahon The effects of thyroid hormone on the growing brain and on later cognitive functioning are well-documented.  It is clear that thyroid hormone is essential to normal behavioral and intellectual development. Thyroid hormone influences the development of synapses, dendrites and myelination of the central nervous system (CNS).  Doctors know that congenital hypothyroidism (low thyroid), if not treated, can result in mental retardation. They are only now recognizing, however, that mild to moderate impairment of thyroid function in a pregnant mother may adversely affect brain development, as well as cause subtle to severe intellectual and behavioral abnormalities, such as learning disabilities, attention deficits and possibly certain pervasive developmental disorders such as autism. Thyroid dysfunction and autism, ADHD, SPD and other developmental delays is common. Precise amounts of the…

Spelling and Movement

Courtesy of Achievers Unlimited, Inc. Learning to spell, a child visualizes the movements necessary to reproduce the letters that combine to form a specific word.  First, the child pictures his hand forming letters; then, he speaks the letters while writing them. As the child’s skill of visualization develops, he no longer needs the movements or auditory input to visualize the whole word. Parents can provide the movement patterns that will increase a child’s skill level to reach the gestalt of learning.  For example, a child who experiences difficulty with spelling is demonstrating an inability to visualize words. Spelling and movement:  Adding body movement patterns – such as dribbling – to the homework routine will speed up the learning process because the brain can automate the body movements.  Movement in the body allows the entire activity of spelling to move to the subconscious in less time.  As the child gains control over his body, he can spend more energy on learning…

Hippotherapy: Therapeutic Horseback Riding

By Donna M Warfield, Co-Executive DirectorCircle of Hope Therapeutic Riding, www.chtr.org Equine assisted therapeutic (hippotherapy) riding provides therapy to children and adults with disabilities including, but not limited to attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome and head trauma. Therapeutic riding is a special training program in which individuals with disabilities learn horse-riding skills. Medical doctors, physical therapists, educators, psychotherapists. and other professionals have come to recognize the numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits of riding therapy. Physical benefits can include improved balance, strength, coordination, and endurance.  Especially for the physically handicapped, the warmth and movement of the horse stimulates unused muscles. Individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities benefit in language development (there are stories of children who spoke their first words ever on horseback) and concentration.  In many children and adults, riding therapy can boost confidence and self-esteem and foster greater independence. Because learning riding skills provides multi-task learning, there can…

Fat and Brain Development

by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, co-founder, Developmental Delay Resources Fat and brain development: A diet high in hydrogenated fats (trans fats) leads to neurological development problems. One of the most dramatic changes in the western diet over the last 50 years has been a shift in the type of fat we consume. Few people understand the serious risk posed by shelf-stable or hydrogenated oils.  These relatively new fats were introduced as part of the war effort over a half century ago. With the butter shortage, these chemically stabilized oils were used widely at home and by food manufacturers who loved their cheap cost and total resistance to spoilage. What started as a food manufacturer’s dream has turned into a brain development nightmare for the last three generations brought up on fats that make a nice cookie but were never meant to be part of brain tissue.  The brain is 60% fat. Myelin, the fatty coating of the neurons or brain…

Vision Therapy from a Developmental Optometrist

by Sally Brockett, M.S., Director, Innovative Developments for Educational Achievements, Inc. (IDEA) Just like language and motor skills, vision follows a sequence of developmental stages. Infants are not born with the visual abilities they will need in order to function successfully in the world. These abilities must develop through a variety of experiences. At any point during this process, visual development may be hindered, altered or completely stopped, by injury, illness, emotional trauma, lack of appropriate stimulation, or other unidentified causes. When language and/or motor skill development is interrupted, parents and teachers seek to identify the problem and intervene with therapy or training activities designed to assist the child in overcoming the delay. A similar approach is available to parents of children who have inadequately developed visual abilities. When we speak of vision, we are referring to the ability of the brain to organize and interpret the information seen so it becomes understandable or meaningful. Even indi­viduals with good eyesight…