The Dark Side of Learning Struggles

Thank you, Torin, for opening your heart.  Thank you for telling us about the dark side of learning dysfunctions.   And, thank you for showing us the way “up and out!’


                  Humor is good for the soul.

If you look up the definition of a strong, supportive family, you are certain to find a cheery photo of Torin’s family. These Irish folk live with gusto and give with abandon!  Torin could not have been born into a better home.  Yet, despite all the familial undergirding, Torin’s mind and emotions slipped into “dark places” as his learning struggles persisted.  This is the story of Torin’s struggle and triumph.  It is his bully pulpit to the world.  Hear his message: “People who learn differently are NOT stupid!”



My Harry Potter Days
Reading, reading, reading!   It drove me crazy.  I just couldn’t catch on to it.  Every time I would look at the words on a page, they would shimmer and blur.  I remember being ten years old and kids teasing me, mercilessly.  It was very painful to be reading easy readers at ten years old. As a result, I did everything in my power to keep my reading struggle a secret. During breaks at my karate class, students would sit around and do homework.  I certainly didn’t want to appear different, so I would take out my big Harry Potter book and pretend to read.  I don’t know if I fooled a few kids; I certainly didn’t fool myself.  My mom worked tirelessly to find just the right reading program, therapy, etc. that would unlock my prison.  I tried them all, but my reading continued to be shaky.  Night and day, I felt like I wanted to give up!  My one solace was the great outdoors.  From the time I was a preschooler, I lived outside.  It was my escape from the books and what society expected of me.  Surrounded by nature, my imagination soared.  During these times, I would ponder my dilemma.  I would explain to my mom that my brain was trying to learn.  It was as if my brain was a wall, covered in glue; however, some patches had already dried, so when instruction was thrown at the wall, elements would either slide down or stick - depending upon which part of the wall they struck.  Unfortunately, most of the instruction didn't stick. The games I invented were endless, but  time was marching on and something had to change.  I knew that I was getting older, and the games had to be left behind because the "world" expected academics from me.
 


inTime a Fresh Coat of Glue
I am very grateful for all that I have received.  My parents have provided me with many wonderful interventions, and I have been lucky to have had wonderful therapists, too.  I've  gained something valuable from each one. They've  helped me to understand "who I am."  They have also helped me to understand that "I can do anything if I take it one step at a time."  Here are a few of my brain retraining therapies:  vision therapy, inTime sound/music therapy, craniosacral therapy, chiropractics, nutritional counseling, and more.  Looking back, I realize that each modality played a part in rewiring my brain.  The one therapy, however, that seemed to have supplied the cohesion for all my therapies was inTime by Advanced Brain Technologies.  In 2015, I met Pat Mattas, Authorized Provider of inTime.   Pat encouraged my parents to consider inTime sound/music therapy.  InTime is a rhythm-based sound/music program that uses frequency to stimulate and retrain the brain.  For me, inTime was a new coat of glue.  I pictured my brain as a blank wall covered with inTime glue.  The inTime program helped all my other therapies to stick.  Before using inTime, the gains which I made in my therapies would slip away within 24-hours.  I noticed that inTime and vision therapy worked synergistically, getting my brain prepared for learning.  My gains stayed with me.  As a result, I began to see improvements in my academics.  At last, things started working together.


 
The Truth about Learning Struggles
Lest my journey sounds a little too commonplace,  I want to remind you that learning struggles cut deeper than most people realize.  Even astute parents can be misled into thinking that all is well with their child.  This was true of my family.  I had my family’s full support, yet, they had no idea of the depths of my despair and how I truly wanted to throw all academics away, forever.  I wanted nothing more than to yell at the world, "Enough, no more torture!"

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Permit Me to Explain
Kids can be so mean!  “Stupid” and “Retarded” are a few of the names that wounded my heart.   I lived in embarrassment.  I constantly wondered - Why am I so different?  Many times I asked –Why me?  And I thought – rather hopelessly – How will I ever get through this?  As I watched my parents spending thousands of dollars on therapies and putting their lives on hold while they tried to meet my needs, my thoughts began to spiral downward.  Like a yoga mantra, all I could hear in my head was  - You are stupid!  You are worthless!   To make matters worse, I was becoming both physically and emotionally tired of the academic battle.  As I focused on the negatives, I slid further and further into a hole in my mind that was difficult to overcome.  I was totally overwhelmed by my negativity and could not break the cycle.  When I told my mom that I was feeling stupid, she would reassure me that I was not , but  I wouldn't believe her.   All moms tell their kids that - right?

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Climbing Out of the Hole
Eventually, I reached my lowest point; however, my salvation was birthed in that graveyard.  In utter frustration and desperation, I cried out for help.  I surrendered.  No more struggling.  No more effort.  I can honestly say from the moment of “letting go” – all things changed for me. I began to see the positive things in life; all the great things that I had been missing out on while wallowing in my negative thoughts.  I saw that if I tried even a little thing, I could succeed.  It was better than not trying at all.  I started to embrace the love that I have for my family as well as their love for me.  I respected all of their efforts in helping me.  I realized that there is a place for me in this world - no matter what.  I learned not to let others invade my thoughts regarding who I am or what I think.  I’ve learned these things the hard way, but I am here to help anyone who reaches out.


 
Torin’s Words of Wisdom -

Emotions are your warning signal.  They serve a purpose.  Do not ignore them.

You cannot recover alone. You must be honest with others and reach out for help.

Remember you have self-worth.

Negative thoughts will destroy you. 

Surround yourself with good friends and positive people.

Find something you love to do.

Find purpose in your life.

Let other people in who care.

 

POSTSCRIPT:   Torin is doing exceedingly well!  When I interviewed him for this piece, he shared that he plans to go to college upon graduation from Home School High School.  Torin’s interests are varied:  military, medicine, and psychology.  Whatever his final destination, Torin is committed to helping others.  I am so blessed to know him.  Torin is a very special soul!
 

Love and Trust Conquer Dyslexia

On a wintry morning in early 2017, I gathered with friends, Sharon and Brenna, in a quaint Litchfield, CT, coffee shop to talk about "life."  Brenna's life.  Sharon's life.  And their love for each other and God, which ultimately conquered Brenna's dyslexia.

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Such a beautiful child!  The apple of mom and dad’s eye.  Brenna was a happy, healthy baby who hit the developmental milestones on time.  She was a bundle of energy – so much so – that she was dubbed, Tigger, the infamous bouncy tiger in Winnie-the-Pooh.  There was just one puzzle - Brenna’s recurring ear infections.  Little did mom and dad know that this puzzle piece would factor into Brenna’s future reading struggles.

The Elementary School Years

When it was time to enroll Brenna in school, Sharon chose a Christian school which used the PACE curriculum.  The PACE program consists of self-instructional workbooks following a mastery approach.  By first grade, Sharon’s intuition began erupting in red flags - all was not well with Brenna.  Brenna was struggling to manage the heavy writing requirements of PACE.  Her fine motor difficulties had begun to surface.   Sharon was told by the teachers that Brenna would “outgrow her struggles,” and she was “just faking it.”   All the while, Sharon knew there was a real problem!   Despite Sharon’s overwhelming feelings of helplessness, she determined to find a way to help her child.

The Silver Lining

As with most children who learn differently, there is typically a silver lining.   While academically deficient in one or more areas, struggling learners often exhibit wonderful strengths and giftedness in other areas.   Brenna’s silver lining was music.  As a young girl, Brenna showed a remarkable ability to memorize both music and lyrics.   She performed solos with ease.   In addition, Brenna was also quite gifted at memorizing Bible verses.  Brenna’s music and Scripture memorization earned her trophies as well as the much needed boost in confidence.  Unfortunately, Brenna’s musical abilities were not enough to stem the rejection from classmates who saw her as different.  The isolation was hurtful and troubling.

The Middle School Years

By fifth grade, a change had to be made.  Brenna’s academic difficulties were compounding.  Her greatest struggle was reading.  Mom felt that God was leading her to home school Brenna.   The decision was finalized.  As a home-grown student, Brenna’s musical giftedness could be nurtured and encouraged. She engaged in voice, flute, and piano lessons.  Brenna became a member of the Connecticut Children’s Chorus and toured in France.  The Warner Theater in Torrington, CT, also became home to Brenna as she discovered her love for acting. On the academic front, however, Brenna continued to struggle with reading and writing. Sharon hired a tutor who introduced Brenna to the Wilson reading method.  Brenna’s reading ability and confidence soared when she was introduced to the Star Wars book series.  The uptick in Brenna’s reading aptitude was only temporary.  The reading demands became increasingly more difficult as Brenna advanced in grades.  Sharon began re-experiencing the sinking feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  She was facing another crossroad.

The High School Years

It was at this crossroad that I met Sharon and Brenna.  Mom felt that God had led her to me (and I’m so glad that He did!).  I knew from the start that Brenna was going to be just fine.   My focus was to foster a strong self-confidence in Brenna.  I had learned from experience that when self-confidence is present – the impossible becomes possible. I had determined that remediation would NOT look like a return to elementary school.  No – Brenna and I would forge ahead with the rich language and syntax of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Together we wrote essays, created beautiful PowerPoint presentations, and immersed ourselves in Victorian culture.    It was clear to me that Brenna possessed an inner strength and intelligence which would carry her through to her dreams and aspirations.

The Community College Years

Brenna’s home school graduation represented a beautiful milestone.  Brenna and her parents decided that attendance at a community college would be the next best step.  Brenna attended Tunxis Community College (TCC) in Farmington, CT, before enrolling at Cedarville University in Ohio.   Brenna’s years at TCC were the proving grounds for her transition from academic dependence to academic independence.  While at TCC, Brenna was supported academically by her mom and me.   Brenna worked very hard to become independent.  She recounts that while at TCC, “I didn’t have much of a life.  It was either school or church.” 

The University Years

In preparation for Brenna’s entrance into Cedarville University, Sharon had a neuropsychological evaluation done on Brenna.  The results of this evaluation secured the coveted accommodations which were critical for Brenna’s academic success at the university.   Ironically, Brenna’s lovely singing voice was her ticket into Cedarville (silver linings do pay-off).  Brenna persevered through the myriad of adjustments related to college and her growing independence.  One of these adjustments included the wrenching decision to change her major.  With the help of family and friends, Brenna transitioned from being a music major to an education major.   Ultimately, education was the path which Brenna was destined to follow.  Brenna graduated from Cedarville University with a BS in Special Education, a minor in music, and a minor in Bible Studies. 

A Word about The Listening Program

In the midst of Brenna’s university experience, Sharon and I reconnected.  I shared with her about my new neuroscience finding – The Listening Program (TLP).   I knew that it would help Brenna in dealing with her anxiety which was related to the stringent academic demands.  I also knew that it would train her brain for peak performance.   Thus, Brenna was introduced to The Listening Program.    Within a few weeks, Brenna noticed that she was calmer and more organized.  In fact, it is Brenna’s belief that she passed the Praxis exam (on her first attempt) because of TLP.   As a side note, Brenna lost her TLP equipment in the final days at Cedarville University.   This was quite a loss!   Thankfully, almost four years later, Brenna received a random phone call from a college friend who had Brenna’s TLP in the back seat of her car.   Thank you, Lord!

Sharon Shares Her Heart

Trust God at all times.
Never stop praying.
Cultivate empathy and compassion for others.
Be sure to give back.
Seek early intervention when you think your child has a problem.
 

Brenna Shares Her Heart

Trust God
Keep going even if it seems like you are behind.
Conquer the battle between “I can and I can’t!”
Be personally convinced that you can achieve your dreams.
Know that what you have learned in your personal “struggle” can one day be a blessing to others.

 

 “She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.  She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”  - A.Dancu

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.  She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”  - A.Dancu

Your Child Can Learn to Write!

Final in a three part series on dysgraphia

This wraps up my three part series on dysgraphia - the handwriting and expressive writing difficulty which plagues many children.  In this message, I will share an overview of Brain Integration Therapy as well as additional methods which I use to correct dysgraphia.  

Can dysgraphia (difficulty with graphomotor/expressive writing) be corrected?  Yes.  If you had asked me that question ten years ago, I would have flatly said no.  At that time, the research which I had been following proffered no correction – only accommodations.  After discovering Dianne Craft’s research in Brain Integration Therapy; however, I realized that dysgraphia does not have to be a life sentence.

Children and adults with dysgraphia lack writing automaticity because of a glitch between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Dianne Craft likens this glitch to a blocked gate, which prevents the normal transference of information from the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere.  Thus, for a child with dysgraphia, every act of letter formation is a new experience.  With so much thought and effort being given to the remembering of letter formation, creative or expressive writing becomes extremely difficult – and in some cases – impossible.

Brain Integration Therapy (BIT) uses the body to train the brain, eradicating its inefficient processing.  As part of BIT, a 20 minute set of writing and physical exercises are performed four times a week at home for a minimum of nine months.  In addition, activities involved with fine motor skills are introduced throughout the nine month integration process.  Because the act of writing needs the optimal functioning of one’s visual processing system, visual exercises are incorporated, too.

After approximately one month of BIT, the child is ready for a formal handwriting program (print or cursive). Instruction in the proper placement of letters on lined paper, the maintenance of spaces between words, and the use of one’s non-writing hand as a helper is received by the child without the typical resistance.   A once defensive or uncooperative child is now willing to self-correct and engage in the writing process because of a boost in his confidence!

The story does not end, however, with achieving legible handwriting.   It is my personal belief that everyone should have the skill to write expressively.   Children, who have struggled with dysgraphia for years, possess a wonderful fountainhead of ideas which – unfortunately – have been trapped in their brains.  As an educational therapist, I delight in helping children discover how-to release their pent-up thoughts.  In my practice, I utilize a customized writing curriculum which I developed.  Children, once frustrated with the writing process, now delight in seeing their thoughts on paper. 

To sum up, I have witnessed wonderful transformations in the writing abilities of students who have followed the Brain Integration Therapy program.  Those who achieved writing success were students who followed the steps in the BIT program as well as my customized writing program.  If your child is struggling with dysgraphia, rest assured that help is available.   Your child does not have to face a lifetime of frustration and defeat. 
 
Thankfully, dysgraphia is very responsive to Brain Integration Therapy.  I'd be happy to help your child overcome this learning struggle. Distance is not an obstacle.  Brain Integration Therapy as well as my other methodologies are adaptable to Skype classes.

Why Does My Child Hate to Write?

Second in a three part series on dysgraphia

This is part two in a series which will be addressing handwriting and expressive writing difficulties – more commonly known as dysgraphia.  In 2016, I saw a significant increase in the number of children seeking help for writing difficulties.  Thankfully, there are proven approaches to correct dysgraphia.  I am grateful to Dianne Craft who has shared her methodology for correcting dysgraphia:  Brain Integration Therapy (BIT).  It works! 

Twentieth-century Canadian writer Stephen Leacock opines, “Writing is no trouble; you just jot down ideas as they occur to you.  The jotting down is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult.”  Obviously, Mr. Leacock was not personally acquainted with dysgraphia.  For individuals suffering with dysgraphia, the jotting down is anything but simple!  Ironically, individuals with dysgraphia are often exceptionally bright people who have an abundance of complex, creative thoughts. 

Why is the act of writing so difficult for individuals with dysgraphia?   Why is it virtually impossible for them to write their wonderful ideas on paper?  Answer: a brain glitch.  

Our amazing brains have two important hemispheres – left and right – which are responsible for unique functions.  For instance, the left hemisphere is in charge of short-term memory; whereas, the right hemisphere is in charge of long-term memory.  Information must be shared between the two hemispheres to ensure normal brain function.  This information is passed from the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere via a bundle of nerves known as the corpus callosum.  A normal corpus callosum functions as a gate for information.  If the gate is blocked, a brain glitch occurs - thus dysgraphia.

When a young child is learning letter and number formations, the child, initially, uses his left hemisphere.  After a period of time, this information passes through the corpus callosum into the right hemisphere.  At this point, writing becomes automatic.  Writing automaticity never develops in those who have dysgraphia.  For the child with dysgraphia, every act of letter formation is a “new” experience.  The child struggles to remember if the letter is formed top-to-bottom, left-to-right, etc.  With so much thought and effort being given to the remembering of letter formations, it is no wonder that creative writing is virtually impossible.  Who can generate creative, orderly thoughts when the brain is toiling to recall forms?  Simply put, children with dysgraphia cannot think creatively and write at the same time! 

Thankfully, this brain glitch is very responsive to brain integration therapy, which will be explained in the last part of this series on dysgraphia.  

The images below demonstrate the power of brain integration therapy.

Please contact me if you'd like to end your child's writing struggles.

  Before Brain Integration Therapy                                           After Brain Integration Therapy

Before Brain Integration Therapy                                         After Brain Integration Therapy

                          The Writing 8 Template - A Simple Tool with Profound Effects

                        The Writing 8 Template - A Simple Tool with Profound Effects

Mommy, I Hate to Write!

First in a three part series on dysgraphia

Over the next few months, I will be addressing handwriting and expressive writing difficulties – more commonly known as dysgraphia.  In 2016, I saw a significant increase in the number of children seeking help for writing difficulties.  Thankfully, there are proven approaches to correct dysgraphia.  I am grateful to Dianne Craft who has shared her methodology for correcting dysgraphia:  Brain Integration Therapy (BIT).  It works!  

According to Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, a great debate ensues every school year, and it goes something like this:  Is this groaning and moaning about writing a discipline problem or is there really a problem?  This debate is tough because the symptoms of dysgraphia are so conflicting . . . see if these remarks leave you scratching your head in bewilderment:

  • My child can tell me the answers to questions, orally - very well - but then it takes him an hour to write them down.
  • When my child writes his spelling words, he leaves letters out of the words.   If he spells them orally, he gets them correct!
  • My child is a great storyteller but refuses to write his stories down.   If he tries to write his stories, the stories are only two sentences long.

The above scenarios are classic of dysgraphia.  Additional symptoms of dysgraphia include reversals in written letters and numbers, mixed capitals and lowercase letters, illegible math papers, poor spacing, difficulty in copying from a board or book, awkward writing posture, no utilization of the helping hand when writing, head propped in hand when writing, and difficulties learning to tie shoes, ride a bike, and skip.  As Dianne Craft so aptly puts it, “These children seem to be allergic to their pencils.” 

Dysgraphia, however, has a silver lining: it is the number one processing glitch of gifted children.  I have found this to be true in my own practice.  It is worth every effort to correct this glitch so that these bright children will be able to function to their full potential.   I am pleased to share that I have had many successes in correcting dysgraphia using the brain integration method.  I would be happy to talk with you about your child's particular need.

If you have seen your child in this description, you will be interested in my next post which will present the neurobiological explanation for dysgraphia as well as the treatment.  

 

Unlocking Reading Comprehension

Final in a two part series on reading comprehension

Our journey into reading comprehension wraps up with this final message.  This blog will  focus on identifying the strategies used by proficient readers.  Remember, word readers are not readers at all.   Comprehension is the true measure of a reader!

American writer E. B. White, author of the well-known children’s book Charlotte’s Web, maintained that “reading is the work of an alert mind.”   There is nothing passive about reading!  A reader must engage in a constant internal dialogue with the text as well as convert words-to-pictures if the reader hopes to understand.  In other words, the reader must interact with the text.  This interactive reading process is the strategy employed by proficient readers.  Whether a reader is operating at Stage 0 (pre-reading) or Stage 5 (construction and reconstruction: college and above), the reader cannot hope to comprehend unless the reading is interactive.

How can we - as parents and educators - foster interactive reading in our children and students?  There are seven steps involved in the interactive reading process which cultivate comprehension:

  • Convert words-to-pictures:  The reader must imagine the unfolding of a movie as she reads, making use of color, sight, sound, and emotion.
  • Draw on background knowledge:  The reader brings to the text prior information so that new information can be easily and logically affixed to the old.
  • Questions, questions, questions!  The reader should be encouraged to ask questions about the content before, during, and after a reading.
  • Make inferences:  The reader should be taught to actively look for connections within the text.  Inferences are not stated but suggested.  It’s connecting the dots, putting clues together, and weaving details into a big picture.
  • Isolate key ideas and themes:  The reader should consider the deeper meaning of the text.  What message is the author delivering? 
  • Synthesize (integrate) information:  The reader should sift through the details, determining what is important and what is not important, in order to summarize the text. 
  • Employ self-correction strategies:  The reader must develop an awareness of when her comprehension has become befuddled, and then be able to employ techniques to recover comprehension. 

These seven steps are common sense.  They are to be utilized in all kinds of reading - from fiction to math textbooks.  These steps must eventually be internalized in order for the reader to be successful.
 

The Listening Program (TLP) by Advanced Brain Technologies is a powerful and effective tool to stimulate the brain so that it performs at its peak.  It can be used across the age spectrum.  I have had great success in using The Listening Program with my students to achieve reading comprehension goals. I am a Certified Provider of The Listening Program.  Please contact me if you'd like to learn more.

I Can Read, But I Can't Understand

First in a two part series on reading comprehension

We are all passionate about seeing our children become proficient readers because reading is fundamental to success.   Unfortunately, some children who are excellent word readers do not understand what the words and sentences mean.  In essence, they are not readers at all.  It is to this group of dear children that I dedicate this series on reading comprehension.  Yes, reading comprehension can be taught!
 

The greatest gift you can give your child is the joy of reading!  Reading is so vital to one’s success.  In fact, the statistics are clear – poor literacy leads to unemployment, poverty, and crime.  Thus, we - as parents, educators, and a society – should be passionate about helping children become proficient readers. 


Did you know that - on some level - the path to reading is a struggle for everyone who undertakes it?  According to Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck, “Reading is the greatest single effort that the human mind undertakes, and one must do it as a child.”  Reading is developed in sequential stages:  from Stage 0, the pre-reading stage, through Stage 5, the construction and reconstruction stage, (Jeanne S. Chall, Stages of Reading Development).  Children proceed through these stages at different rates.  Regardless of the differing rates, one must remember that learning to read is a process that takes time; moreover, this process occurs with sometimes imperceptible changes which cannot be measured by standardized tests.  Even when it looks as if a child has stalled in his development, one must keep watering, day-by-day, with words and explanations.   

For the majority of children, reading proceeds naturally to success, but for a growing number of children, the reading process takes a curious turn.  While appearing to be excellent word readers (decoders), some children do not understand what the words and sentences mean.  In essence, they are not readers at all!  They might have mastered the external side of reading (decoding), but they lack the rich internal side of reading:  thinking, visualizing, engaging, and enjoying.  If children never learn to unlock the meaning of words, boredom and an intense dislike of reading will ensue. 

Thankfully, reading comprehension difficulties can be corrected.  In the next part of this series, I will discuss the keys which unlock the meaning of written words.

 

The Listening Program (TLP) by Advanced Brain Technologies is a powerful and effective tool to stimulate the brain so that it performs at its peak.  It can be used across the age spectrum.  I have had great success in using The Listening Program with my students to achieve reading comprehension goals. I am a Certified Provider of The Listening Program.  Please contact me if you'd like to learn more.

What's Causing the Brain Disorder Epidemic?

Final in a Four Part Series

When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders.  The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice.  Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began to look for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children.  This is the last part in my series which addresses brain struggles in children.

Why did this happen to my child?  This is the heart cry of parents who have children with autism, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, ODD, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, etc.  Does anyone have the answer?  Neurobiologists, researchers, and scientists are working to find the key which will unlock the mystery surrounding the epidemic of neurobehavioral and neuroacademic disorders.  Dr. Melillo is one of those researchers. In chapter four of his book Disconnected Kids, he states emphatically that “the underlying causes of the vast majority of the problems we are seeing today can be found in the environment.”

Dr. Melillo believes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that negative influences in our environment are the culprits.  The following are a few of the major contributors: lack of physical exercise, obesity, absentee parenting, television and computer games, stressful pregnancies and births, stressful lifestyles, environmental toxins, and inadequate nutrition.   Dr. Melillo explains, “Each of these negative influences is interfering with the positive environmental stimulation the brain needs to grow and strengthen.  The most egregious is physical inactivity.”  Dr. Melillo clarifies that he is not discounting the role that genes play in all of this.  On the contrary, he posits that there is evidence of a genetic tendency; however, this tendency is epigenetic.  Epigenetic means that there are “environmental influences so powerful that they can turn on, turn off, or even alter a gene’s expression.”  In other words, in the presence of negative environmental factors, genes become more vulnerable.

Can we as individuals stem the tide of these adverse environmental factors?  Not entirely. But take another look at the list of major contributors.  Are there some factors on that list that we can alter?  Because of the brain’s plasticity and the body’s desire to heal itself when given the right conditions, Dr. Melillo’s four-pronged approach (physical, sensory-motor, and cognitive exercises coupled with sound nutrition) is working to change the lives of those impacted with learning, behavioral, and social disorders.

 

 

 

 

 

When The Brain Misfires

Part Three:  A Left Brain, Right Brain Disconnect

When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr.Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders. The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice. Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began to look for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children. 

Baby’s first smile!  Grabbing and shaking hand toys.  Babbling chains of consonants (bah-bah-bah).  Crawling.  And, walking.  These are a few of the all important – milestones. With eager anticipation, parents as well as pediatricians await their arrival. Why? . . . because the proper timing of milestones signifies normal brain development. 

The timing mechanism of the human brain is a marvel!  The development of the left and right hemispheres is a splendid example. As we have learned previously, brain function is dependent on the balance between the left and right hemispheres.  Ironically, however, the brain does not grow in a balanced way.   The right brain’s development commences when the baby is in the womb and continues for the first few years.  The left brain is growing, too, but not as actively.  According to Dr. Melillo, “Around age two, growth switches mostly to the left brain.  From then on, development switches back and forth between left and right until about the age of ten when the brain reaches its adult size.”  To date, scientists have not definitively established what causes a brain’s growth to go haywire - leading to learning, behavioral, and social disorders.  Nonetheless, scientists do know that the skewed wiring of the left and right hemispheres occurs most often before birth and during the first two years of life, impacting right brain development. 

How does an out-of-kilter brain behave? How does this phenomenon manifest itself in a child?   The list is long!  A child who is affected can manifest some or all of the following symptoms:  poor body awareness; poor gross and fine motor skills; persistence of primitive reflexes; poor eye coordination; poor social skills; abnormal emotional reactions; compromised immune system; rapid heartbeat; food sensitivities; poor digestion; learning difficulties; and sensory processing issues affecting vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

All is not lost.  The brain is eager to self-correct, which it can do, if given the proper stimulation.

(Part four in this series will address possible causes of brain disconnect)

           

Children's Brains Can Change

Part Two:  How the Developing Brain is Wired

When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr.Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders. The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice. Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began to look for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children. 

Did you know that a baby’s brain is made up of 100 billion brain cells?  Did you also know that a baby’s brain is not complete; it has a long way to GROW?  As brain cells (neurons) mature, they get larger and stronger, making tentacle-like connections with each other so that life-giving information can be shared.

These vital connections are known as synapses. Listen as Dr. Melillo reveals the key to healthy synapses:  “…synaptic connections do not just magically happen. Synapses are dependent on two things for formation and growth: fuel, in the form of oxygen and glucose [food] and stimulation.”   Importantly, all the good brain food, alone, will not make brain cells grow - only stimulation does!  No stimulation = no brain growth.  In fact, without stimulation, brain cells will degenerate and die. 

What is meant by stimulation? Although the brain can create some self-stimulation (dreams), it is primarily dependent on outside sources for stimulation.  Light, sound, vibration, odor, taste, temperature, touch, pressure, and gravity are the outside sources of environmental stimuli that the brain needs to grow.  The greatest of these is gravity because it provides constant stimulation to the muscles.  According to Dr. Melillo, “repeated muscle activity is the single most important element of brain development.” 

If the brain and its synapses do not develop properly - due to lack of stimulation - the right and left hemispheres of the brain become out-of-sync.  In the words of Dr. Melillo, “To fully understand the world and react to it, a child must use both sides of the brain as a whole.”  An out-of-sync brain manifests itself in learning, behavioral, and social dysfunctions. 

In short, be of good courage.  The science of the 1970s proved that the brain can change both physically and chemically in response to certain types of activity.   So, get moving!

(Part three in this series will address what happens when the brain misfires.)

So Many Brain Dysfunctions - Is It One Problem?

Part One: Understanding the Minds of Disconnected Kids

When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr.Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders. The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice. Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began looking for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children.

What do an apple, orange, peach, and banana have in common?  Correct – they are all fruits.  What do dyslexia, ADHD, autism, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and Tourette syndrome have in common?  According to Dr. Melillo, they are all the same problem - a brain imbalance - manifesting with different symptoms.  In his book Disconnected Kids, Dr. Robert Melillo coins a term to describe this brain imbalance: Functional Disconnection Syndrome (FDS). 

Human brains were designed to function as a whole – in harmony.  The left and right hemispheres of the brain perform different functions which allow us to communicate and interact with the world.  This communication takes the form of continuous electrical impulses between the hemispheres.  If, however, the right and left hemispheres do not mature at the same rate, Dr. Melillo contends that the electrical impulses between the two sides get out of balance; thus, the two hemispheres cannot effectively share and integrate information.  Thanks to the advent of new evaluative capabilities and diagnostic imaging, neuroscientists now know that “virtually all of the conditions that adversely affect behavior and learning are actually related to one problem – an imbalance of electrical activity between areas of the brain, especially the right and left hemispheres.”  So what is the significance of this finding?  In FDS, the brain itself is not damaged.  Dr. Melillo concludes, “If the brain is not injured, then the disconnect can be fixed.”

Disconnected children are different from other children because they feel different than other children.  Dr. Melillo explains that these children are disconnected in four major areas:  they are disconnected from their bodies, their senses, their emotions, and other people.  The lack of focus, emotional outbursts, impulsive actions, learning difficulties, and social isolation are windows into the electrical disharmony within the brain.

The wonderful news is that the brain can change!  This ability to change and correct improper growth patterns is known as brain plasticity.  According to Dr. Melillo, “If the brain is given proper stimulation, it has the ability to both physically and chemically change. The brain begins functioning again as a whole. In essence, disconnected children become reconnected children.”

(Part two in this series will address how the developing brain is wired.)

What the Rocky Mountains Taught Me About Life

According to Danish philosopher S. Kierkegaard, Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.   I have spent the past few weeks looking back on a life-changing event: reaching the summit of a 14,265 foot peak in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. 

You might be thinking - What’s the big deal…a lot of people do that.  True, but for me, the goal was not solely about reaching the summit.  It was about extracting truth from the mountains to help me live forward.  In all of their formidable ruggedness, the mountains tenderly answered my call.  Now, I share these truths with you so that your life’s journey may be made a little easier.

 

Everyone’s journey is unique.

    
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One of the greatest pitfalls in life is comparing our lives to the lives of others.  This brings discouragement and disappointment.  There is a unique plan for every life. You are a one-of-a-kind person…celebrate that wonder.   I climbed at a snail’s pace to reach the summit.  My son scrambled over rocks with ease.  His dog, who was carrying his own little doggie pack, made it to the top before me.  That’s okay…. I’m me!

 

Your outcome is determined by your heart and your will.

The human heart is the vessel which contains the essence of life.   It is not only the seat of our emotions but also the seat of our intelligence.  In other words, the heart possesses the human will.   If you will in your heart to do something, it can be done.  When people lose heart, they often lose the desire to go on.  We must guard our hearts.   About 100 feet from the summit of Mt. Quandary, I lost my heart.  I just didn’t want to do it anymore.  I knew that I had the energy and stamina, but I didn’t have the will to finish the course.  Thankfully, Tyler and Jess kept calling me upward.  Their encouragement rekindled the fire in my heart, and I finished well!

 

Take time to enjoy the journey.

No more crazy rushing!  Life passes too quickly.  Now that I am 61 years old, I have some perspective on life.  Trust me…before you know it…you’ll be gray-haired, too.  So enjoy every minute.  Savor the journey.  Savor your relationships.  As the saying goes – “smell the coffee.”  This Canadian Rocky Mountain goat was resting 800 feet from the summit.  A worker was doing some trail maintenance, and this cute, little goat just nestled in the cool soil which the worker had unearthed.  No rushing…just plenty of reflecting.

 

Take one step at a time.

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing. – Barry Finlay

This is the view of Mt. Quandary from a roadside vantage point.  Mt. Quandary is the peak that touches the cloud.  When I first beheld the mountain, as we were driving to the trail head, I said a prayer.  I needed God’s help because doubt was beginning to seize me.  What I learned, as the climb commenced, is not to keep looking at the summit or the next highest peak (if the summit isn’t in view).  Continually looking for the summit leads to discouragement and defeatism.  Instead, keep your focus on the steps in front of you…give it all you’ve got…and before you know it…you’ve advanced your position.  This mentality will get you to the top of a mountain and to the top of your game.

 

Receive the help and encouragement offered by others.

Friends, family, and fellow sojourners - we need them!  Relationships didn’t always carry such deep-seated meaning for me.  (Keep reading to the end of the blog, and you’ll discover how this changed.)  First and foremost, I never would have fulfilled this dream without my son and his fiancée.  (Thank you, my dear ones!)  On the climb to the top, I met wonderful people.  Many friendly climbers stopped to offer words of encouragement and cheer.  Their ages spanned the spectrum.  Some were from Colorado.  At least three were from Connecticut.  The message was clear from these dear folks who had already been to the summit – Keep going, it is worth it!  Isn’t that what we need to hear as we journey through life?  Receive the heartfelt gifts offered by others; they will nourish your soul.

 

Take time to celebrate your achievements.

Up until this point in my life, I had never beheld a 360 degree view from a mountain peak.  There are no words to describe the splendor!  I remember thinking, God, there is no one like you. Thank you for giving me this gift.  Then, I breathed deeply (of the scarce air at 14,000 feet), took photographs in my mind (to keep for a lifetime), made a quick video, and prepared to descend (because a mountain goat was after the dog).  As in life, you will not always abide on the mountaintop.  This experience is only for a moment.  Draw strength, encouragement, and insight from the pinnacle and then move on.

 

Be mindful and vigilant when the going gets easy.

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.  - Edward Whymper

The descent never stresses me.  It feels easy compared to the ascent.  I’m home-free on the way down.   Oh, how foolish of me!  Somehow, I seem to forget that I am still on a rugged mountain which is fraught with all sorts of hazards.   Injuring a knee or rolling an ankle can occur in a flash if you are not focusing on your footing.   In seconds - fatigue, sloppiness, and brain drain can sabotage an otherwise stupendous climb.  On the way down from Mt. Quandary, I was hungry, thirsty, and headachy.  It was too late in the day to be at 14,000 feet.  My son was becoming increasingly concerned about our safety . . . so the operative word became “hustle!”  I sat down only once on the descent.  Thankfully, everything turned out well, but that is not the way to approach life’s journey.  You must remain focused when the going gets seemingly easy.  Life’s entire journey requires vigilance!

 

Love and care for yourself.

It took me twenty-four hours to recover from my nine hour climbing experience. When we reached the car, I took my boots off, reclined the seat, and went into a semi-coma.  I literally could not open my eyes.  I discovered something quirky about this kind of exhaustion - it is exhilarating!   It felt like every cell in my body was humming with life.  Rest assured, I took very good care of myself post-climb.  I ate, drank, and slept…ate, drank, and slept…ate, drank, and slept…you get the picture.  Slowly but surely, I was restored.

Learning to love and care for myself began three years ago.  Having lived for fourteen years in a hellish, abusive marriage, I adopted the survival mode:  don’t think – don’t feel – exist. Essentially, Pat vanished.   I had been churched for over thirty years, but man’s religious system kept me in the false belief that I was normal and life was A-okay.

And then one day, my concrete fortress began to crumble.  God has infinite resources to heal a broken heart.  He reached my heart, mind, spirit, and body via a music listening program known as The Listening Program (learn more).  If you know me, you know that The Listening Program (TLP) is a big part of my life and private practice.   The Listening Program transforms lives.  I have witnessed this in my own life and in the lives of my clients.  TLP addresses a multitude of human challenges across the age spectrum.  The Listening Program doesn’t change the brain; instead, it invites the brain to change itself via sound frequencies.  It is a beautiful blend of art and science.

It would be my privilege to guide you through your own TLP experience.  If you are interested, please contact me.  Your own magnificent transformation awaits!

 

 

 



Dare To Lose Your Glasses!

Vision should come to the eye as effortlessly as scent to the nostrils, music to the ear, touch of velvet to the fingertips.      -    Margaret Corbett

I hated them . . .my 1960s, pink wing-tipped glasses!  At five years old, I guess I looked adorable in them, but I knew from the start that they were not for me.   I was diagnosed with an astigmatism when I was in kindergarten.  I didn't recognize that I was having trouble seeing, but the eye doctor determined that I must have been experiencing blurred vision, especially when doing close work.  The astigmatism, as he explained to my mother, was a defect in my eye or in the lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature, which results in distorted images, as light rays are prevented from meeting at a common focus. 

I swore I'd never wear them....and I didn't ... for the most part.  Looking back, I think it was my intuition that was directing me to forsake the glasses.  Those little pink gems were never going to correct my astigmatism, but they would - in fact - continue to weaken my visual system. 

Fast forward to age twenty-one.  My second year in nursing school, I was given the wonderful news that my astigmatism was gone, cured, bye-bye!   No more wearing glasses!  Wait a minute - I hadn't been wearing them for sixteen years.  So, how did this cure happen? 

I remained "glasses-free" until I reached middle age.  You know - that time in life when one must inevitably succumb to reading glasses.  And succumb I did.  When I could no longer see clearly using CVS brand glasses, I dragged my heels all the way to the eye doctor.  He prescribed glasses with significantly high diopters.  When I put them on and looked out, I felt like I had just mainlined a Starbucks espresso!   "Don't worry," the doctor said, "Your brain just needs to get used to them."   And it was at that moment that I dared to lose my glasses in order to regain my eyesight.       

Natural Vision Therapy has revolutionized my thinking about the visual system.   By following the tenets of Natural Vision Therapy, I have been able to gradually lower the diopters on my (CVS brand) reading glasses to the lowest level that can be sold over-the-counter.  Next stop.......reading glasses in the garbage can!

Please read on as I share the Natural Vision Methods which I used and continue to use as my eyes/brain continue to heal.  My hope is that you, too, will find answers to your vision concerns using Natural Vision Therapy.

 

Natural Vision Therapy

RECLAIM YOUR EYESIGHT NATURALLY- COMPLETE PROGRAM by Greg Marsh
Wake up your eyes and your mind.  Let go of trying to see,  release strained eye muscles, and reclaim your good vision.  Go much deeper than eye exercises and learn the relaxing subtleties of the Bates Method of Natural Vision Improvement. Greg Marsh's fun and encouraging presentation style will help you regain trust in your eyes' natural ability to see.

Palming Technique to Relax and Promote Healing of the Visual System

Essential Oil Lavender for the relaxation of facial muscles surrounding the eyes. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding the use of essential oils.  Unfortunately, in accordance with FDA regulations, I am not able to share my essential oil website.  Give me a call or use my contact page, and I will be happy to share the wonderful health benefits of "therapeutic grade - certified pure" essential oils.


You Can't Go Back To Paradise

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree:  Which road do I take? she asked.  Where do you want to go? was his response.  I don't know, Alice answered.  Then, said the cat, it doesn't matter.                                                                                                                         Lewis Carroll
 

I recently listened to an excellent podcast by Michael Hyatt, Virtual Mentor.   The podcast was entitled "Change Your Story, Change Your Life."    Like poor Alice who followed the White Rabbit into a strange land, we, too, often find ourselves in places that cause us regret, pain, disappoint, and tears.  Scratching our heads we wonder - how did I ever get here?  

Truth be told - it is the result of the choices we have made along life's journey, and it is the result of the actions others have committed against us.  Whatever the force of origin, we cannot go back to paradise . . .  but that's okay.   We don't have to let Wonderland define us.   As Michael Hyatt so brilliantly states,  "Change Your Story, Change Your Life."
 

  • Take control of your story.
  • Change your perspective on your story.
  • Transform your story into a powerful narrative.

For me - I decided to stop defining myself in terms of a horrific marital experience.  I refused to get stuck in "the story."  Instead, I changed my perspective on my story - it has built iron into my soul, compassion into my heart, and wisdom into my mind.  I can never return to the paradise years as a young nineteen year old girl who had yet to make her biggest life mistake. . . but I can live from a new story. . .  finding  life, freedom,  hope, and peace.    You can, too!
 

 Photo by:  Tyler Mattas

Photo by:  Tyler Mattas

America Runs on Dunkin' - Or Does It?

Sleep - who takes it seriously in our 21st century culture?  At best, we tolerate it.  For some of us, we treat it like an enemy.   It's a "waste of time."   Afterall, nothing is happening when we sleep.  Oh, such a grievous lie! 

Sleep is the single most important behavior that we can engage in.  The brain does not shut down during sleep.  Instead, the brain and body undergo a miraculous process of restoration, replacement, and rebuilding.  Furthermore, the brain processes and consolidates new information.  A well-rested brain is a creative brain. 

Ignore sleep . . take it casually . . . and it will show.   Sleep deprivation results in loss of memory, decreased judgment, less creativity, weight gain, and stress.  Tired people are stressed people.  They are also more prone to immune deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

So, how does one create an atmosphere for sleep?

According to David Meyer, "The use of light-emitting electronic devices for reading, communication, and entertainment has greatly increased recently. We found that the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning."

All of us could use more quality and quantity of sleep.  Writer, Jim Butcher quips, " Sleep is a god.  Go worship.!"

Russell Foster, Circadian Neuroscientist, hits the nail on the head....Humans Need Sleep!

Can We Overcome the Busyness of Life?

About two years ago, I declared war on "busyness."  Prior to my declaration, I was not aware that busyness had already begun creeping into my own life; however, I was painfully aware that I was surrounded by people who never seemed to stop!  How did I know...all I had to do was ask the simple question, "How are you?" Invariably, I would be told, "Really busy!"  And then, the list of activities would unfold.

Then one day, a friend asked me "How are you, Pat?"... and the ugly words jumped out of my mouth - "Really busy!"  Busyness had come to roost in my own backyard.  Long before I spoke those words, I had begun noticing how my life had changed in the past two years.  I worked from sun up to sun down - six days a week.  On Sunday, I went grocery shopping, washed clothes, mowed the lawn, caught up on paperwork, and squeezed in a visit to my dear mom.  Before I knew it, Sunday - my only day of rest - was over, and I began preparing for Monday.   If this was life, then why was I dreading it.  

It was no accident that I happened upon an article which talked about the essentials of a balanced life.   It went like this - Everyday make sure you

work

play

learn something knew

I practice this creed, and I can tell you it works!  I even added a few Pat insights -

spend a part of each day in the great outdoors

spend a part of each day communing with God

The battle for peace in the midst of life's craziness goes on each day, but I have learned to overcome the busyness of life by leading a balanced life.

FYI: Below is a picture of me in the second grade before I was aware of time and its demands.  I was sitting high on a grassy hill outside of my elementary school.  I was the first one back from lunch.  I used to walk home to have lunch with my mom.  On this beautiful spring day, perched contentedly on a hilltop, jump rope in hand, I gazed joyfully at the puffy white clouds in the azure sky.  That peaceful little girl is still in me....and she still finds her solace in looking up to heaven.