Forget Fidget Spinners! (Yep! We Said It.)

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Check out our advice on holistic help for attention struggles.

You probably know that fidget spinners were originally designed to help kids with ADHD (specifically, the hyper part). But if you’re looking for other holistic help for your child or teen with attention struggles, read on. 

A growing number of research studies are revealing the impact that many of our choices have on how well we pay attention. Among these choices are what we eat, how we move, and even how we exercise our mental skills.

 

The impact of diet on ADHD

According to a study published in the international Journal of Attention Disorders, kids who eat a typical “Western” diet are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 14. The study looked at the eating patterns of 1,800 adolescents, classifying diets into two categories: “Healthy” or “Western.”

A Western diet, as defined by the study, includes a lot of fast foods; sugary, fried, or processed foods; and high-fat dairy. A “healthy” eating pattern consists of a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish.

The results showed an association between being diagnosed with ADHD, and a diet high in dairy, sugar, fast food, fried foods, and processed foods.

Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, leader of Nutrition Studies at Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research where the study was conducted, suggests that “a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function.”

Other studies support the idea that diets rich in fatty acids can improve ADHD symptoms. For example, a report released by the University of Copenhagen reviewed the scientific literature on diet and ADHD. According to Dr. Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, who is heading the study, research shows that “fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms” of ADHD. She also said that the review indicated that elimination diets are also promising.

While experts agree that more research is needed on this topic, it makes sense that parents of kids with ADHD should opt for the healthiest dietary choices possible. The Amen Clinic has published a list of the 50 best foods for the brain. You can find the entire list here, but here is a sample:

Avocados
Bell peppers (yellow, green, red, and orange)
Chicken, skinless
Beets
Blackberries
Yams and sweet potatoes
Broccoli
Wild salmon
Cranberries
Kiwi
Almonds, raw
Oats
Tuna
Bananas
Turkey, skinless

And if you think that healthy cooking is time consuming, consider pulling out your crock pot. Preparing healthy dinners in a slow cooker is a great way to avoid all that cutting and slicing in the kitchen at the end of a long day. Try this recipe:

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

The impact of physical exercise on attention struggles

“Exercise turns on the attention system,” says John Ratey, M.D., as associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. When he talks about the “attention system,” he explains that he’s talking about the brain’s executive functions, including sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention.

The author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. Ratey says that, “On a practical level, [exercise] causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

He goes as far as to tell people to think “of exercise as medication,” adding, “For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but for most, it’s complementary—something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

Dr. Ratey specifically mentions taekwondo, ballet, and gymnastics as activities that give the attention system a good workout, although he said that even walking for half an hour, four times a week, will make a difference.

The impact of brain training on attention skills

One-on-one brain training is a form of cognitive training that pairs clients of all ages with their own personal brain trainers for intense mental workouts. A one-on-one brain training program at LearningRx, for example, consists of working face-to-face with a personal brain trainer about five hours a week. Programs typically run for 12 to 32 weeks, depending on the program.

LearningRx is the largest one-on-one brain training company, with 80 centers in the U.S. and an additional 40 global locations. And while LearningRx does not diagnose or treat ADHD, it does strengthen the brain’s foundational cognitive skills, including the skill of attention.

One study measured the attention performance of 5,416 children and adults who came to LearningRx having been diagnosed with ADHD. On average, these clients scored in the 42nd percentile in attention, indicating that their attention skills were below the skills of 58 percent of their peers.

After completing a LearningRx brain training program, the average performance in attention for these clients rose to the 66th percentile. In other words, after brain training, attention performance went from “below average” to “above average.”

If your child is struggling with attention, changes in diet, physical activity, and brain training can make a difference.

To learn more about brain training, contact a LearningRx Brain Training Center near you.

Summer Adventures Ahead

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LearningRx Reviews Tips for Traveling with a Child with Special Needs

If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, you may have already found yourself wrestling with the transportation of wheelchairs or special medical devices, or dealing with sensory issues, restricted diets, or social fears. As you’ve probably learned, preparation is your best offense and defense. To help make your next trip a little simpler, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when planning your vacation.

Tips for booking your trip:

  1. Consider using a travel agency that specializes in helping people with special needs. Flying Wheels Travel (com), for example, helps people with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses experience accessible travel around the world. Autism on the Seas (www.autismontheseas.com) offers cruises for people with autism, Down syndrome, and other related disabilities.
  2. Choose a destination that caters to people with disabilities. Morgan’s Wonderland (com) in San Antonio, Texas is a theme park designed to accommodate children of all abilities. Every ride is accessible to guests with disabilities. Many major state beach destinations now offer free or low-cost beach wheelchair rentals.
  3. Check out your seat options on Seat Guru (com). This site lets you evaluate seating based on legroom, seat width, and overhead storage capacity, as well as DC power, food, and internet accessibility. This will help you determine where your child might do best on the plane. You’ll also want to consider proximity to the restroom and whether a window, middle, or aisle seat will work best.
  4. When figuring out the best time of day to travel, weigh as many factors as you can. It’s important to identify the time of day your child travels best, but don’t forget to factor in other dynamics. For example, if flying at night when your child is normally asleep sounds like a good plan, will you be more exhausted? Will you need to wake your child to deplane for layovers? Will a later flight be more susceptible to cancellation or overbooking?
  5. Get a note from your doctor. A letter from your pediatrician explaining your child’s condition/disease/disorder can be helpful when you’re asking for special accommodations (e.g., being seated together when a flight is nearly full) or upgrading. Offer to fax or email the letter to the airline or travel agency, and carry a copy with you as you travel.

Before your trip:

  1. Review the airline’s (and TSA’s) rules in advance. You don’t want any surprises if you’re traveling with assistive devices or wheelchairs, and you may even learn that there are special baggage claim areas or check-ins, like the TSA’s Precheck lane. Check-in online at home if possible.
  2. Evaluate medications. Plan so you won’t run out of medications while you’re on vacation or immediately after returning home.
  3. Identify pediatricians, specialists, or urgent care facilities in your destination city before you need them. If you suddenly need to seek medical assistance for your child while on vacation, it’s best to know in advance where you can go—especially at night or on weekends.
  4. Practice the travel routine at home. You can read a book about going on a plane, practice the procedures at home with a “mock flight,” or even visit the airport in advance to get your child used to the sights and sounds.

Make your packing list far in advance. Include five or so things you HAVE to bring (e.g., medications, passports, tickets) with the assumption that other things can be purchased on the trip if necessary. The more preparation you put into the trip, the more you and your family can enjoy it!

The Season of Brain Drain

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Don’t push your kids down the Summer Slide

The average student loses approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months, and teachers spend about four weeks reteaching materials that students have forgotten over the break. What’s a parent to do?

One way to target weak mental skills quickly and effectively is through an intensive LearningRx brain training program, says Tanya Mitchell, Chief Research Officer for LearningRx (www.LearningRx.com). “With our intense game-like exercises, we work on brain skills like logic & reasoning, attention, memory, processing speed, and visual and auditory processing. But, to help prevent the summer slide, parents and kids can use free, fun games and exercises at home, in the car, and even online.”

Here are just a few of the free and fun brain training games Mitchell recommends:

  • Mental Tic Tac Toe: Similar to traditional Tic Tac Toe, this game uses a “mental” grid numbered 1 to 9. Players remember where their opponent has already been and call out an unoccupied space. The player who calls an occupied space loses.

          What it helps: Attention, logic & reasoning, and working memory

  • Needle in a Haystack: Take a page from a newspaper and time your child as she circles all occurrences of a specific letter. Focus on increasing both accuracy and speed.

          What it helps: Visual processing speed

  • 20 Questions: Think of a person or object and give your child 20 chances to narrow down what you’re thinking of by asking yes or no questions. To help them improve their logic & reasoning, teach them to strategize by using questions that will significantly narrow down the categories, such as, “Are they alive?” or, “Is it bigger than you?”

          What it helps: Logic, reasoning, memory

  • Poetry: Have your child choose four words that rhyme and then ask them to use those words to create a poem or a rhyming song. Or say a word, then have them come up with another that rhymes. Keep this pattern going as long as possible, then start with a new word.

          What it helps: Auditory analysis, verbal rhythm, memory

Simply getting your child to read every day is another powerful way to slow the Summer Slide. According to Scholastic Parents Online, research shows that reading just six books during the summer can keep a struggling reader from regressing.

Earth to Space Cadet!

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How ADHD manifests differently in girls

Just because your daughter doesn’t “act out” in school doesn’t mean she doesn’t have attention struggles. While boys’ ADHD symptoms tend to be more “external,” girls’ symptoms tend to be more “internal.” Check out this handy infographic about ADHD:

 

Speaking of ADHD …

Over a six-year period, 5,416 children and adults (mean age 12.3) diagnosed with ADHD went through LearningRx programs. The cognitive performance of these clients was measured before and after brain training, and the largest gains were seen in IQ, auditory processing, long-term memory, and broad attention. After LearningRx brain training, IQ scores improved by an average of 15 standard points, and broad attention skills improved an average of 24 percentile points. Want more proof that your child’s brain function can improve? Read the full article with 10 scientific resources to give you hope:

https://www.learningrxblog.com/2016/09/12/theres-hope-10-pieces-of-research-that-show-your-childs-brain-function-can-improve/

Can You Hear Me Now?

Interpreting what your kid’s teacher says

As you head into conferences, or any time you talk to your child’s teacher, listen for these red flag phrases:

“I know he’s smart, but …”

  • His work doesn’t show it.
  • He makes sloppy mistakes.

This phrase is a good indicator that several cognitive skills are very strong, while others are deficient and causing a bottleneck for learning.

“He’s below grade level in reading.”

Studies show 85 percent of all learning-to-read problems are caused by weak phonemic awareness skills, which give us the ability to hear, blend, unglue, and manipulate the smallest sounds in a word. Reading struggles can also be caused or compounded by deficiencies in visual processing, memory, attention, and processing speed.

“He takes a long time to…”

  • Finish schoolwork.
  • Answer questions.

Some kids take longer because they’re perfectionists, but weak cognitive skills are generally to blame if a child is always the last student done with an assignment, can’t seem to complete tasks, or takes hours to wrap up standard homework loads.

If you hear any of the red flag phrases at conference time, or if the teacher says your child has several of the above signs, it may be time to schedule a cognitive skills assessment. After determining which skills are weak, you can focus on the most effective way to target and train those skills.

 

About LearningRx
LearningRx, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest one-on-one brain training organization in the world. With 80 Centers in the U.S., and locations in 40 countries around the globe, LearningRx has helped more than 95,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier, and perform better. Their on-site programs partner every client with a personal brain trainer to keep clients engaged, accountable, and on-task—a key advantage over online-only brain exercises. Their pioneering methods have been used in clinical settings for 35 years and have been verified as beneficial in peer-reviewed research papers and journals. To learn more about LearningRx research results, programs, and their 9.6 out of 10 client satisfaction rating visit http://www.learningrx.com/. To read testimonials from real clients visit www.learningrx-reviews.com.