Mindful Living for Kids

UWindsor Blog Post by: Carlin J. Miller, Ph.D

Goldie HawnMindfulness is a hot topic in the media. Football players do it. Hollywood types do it. Kids in Vancouver Public Schools are even doing it. Yet, many people really don’t know what mindfulness training entails. Mindfulness training is about learning to meditate, which means paying attention to thoughts and feelings and behaviours as they happen without getting caught up in them. The goal is to not ruminate over the past or plan for the distant future, because both block our ability to experience what is happening right now. Most of the time, mindfulness is an “anchored practice,” which means you learn to focus on a specific aspect of your experience, such as your breath or the sounds you hear around you. There is no intention to block other thoughts or to change thinking. It really is about noticing.

Mindfulness training might sound very mystical but it isn’t really. It came from a Buddhist practice and was transformed into a secular activity in 1970s by a researcher in Massachusetts who wanted to help people with chronic pain to live more full lives. Since then, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and the many related interventions designed for special populations have been taught to hundreds of thousands of people. There are even forms of it for women during childbirth, people undergoing cancer treatment, and survivors of trauma and other potentially overwhelming experiences. Programs also been developed for children in classrooms, parents, and teachers.

Mindfulness in SchoolsOver the last year, my research team and I have been teaching parents and teachers of children with ADHD to meditate in a program called Mindful Living. We hoped that as these adults, who spend time with somewhat more challenging than typical children, learned to be present in their daily lives they would be less stressed and more effective in their interactions. We also hoped they would experience greater life satisfaction and more joy. Although we have only worked with 20 people thus far (too few to present any real statistics), our participants enjoyed the 8-week intervention and many continued to meditate following their completion of the program. It also appears that they are less stressed, more mindful, and have a better understanding of ADHD. We are now working with one of the local school boards to expand this training to more teachers this spring and next fall.

Because so many of our participants suggested these strategies would be helpful for the children and adolescents with ADHD in their lives, we developed a program called Mindful Living for Kids. Our first round of 6-sessions starts on May 13th and the sessions are 1 hour in length. We will have a group for children in grades 3-5 and another for preteens in grades 6-8. Unlike meditation training with adults, this program will be very hands-on with crafts, activities, and movement-based meditation, rather than emphasizing sitting quietly. If you would be interested in hearing more information or having your child participate, please call Dr. Carlin Miller at the University of Windsor (519-253-3000, x.2226).

About the Author:

Carlin Miller is a faculty member at the University of Windsor in the Department of Psychology. As a clinical psychologist with extended training in developmental neuropsychology and school psychology, she has spent the last 20 years trying to improve the quality of life for people with ADHD and learning disabilities. Prior to her doctoral work, she was a public school teacher. She found her passion for advocacy and research through her experience of growing up in a family with multiple people diagnosed with both disorders. In addition to her long resume with many publications and presentations, Dr. Miller has also been meditating for the last decade and brings to her research on meditation the positive experience of trying to live in the present. In addition to her work with the local chapter of the Learning Disabilities Association, she is also a provincial appointee to the Board of Directors of the Windsor-Essex Health Unit. When not at work, she is a mom, a wife, an avid gardener, and someone trying to be the person her puppy believes her to be. 

dys·lex·i·a

dəsˈleksēə/

noun

a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

(Thank you Google!)

As a Learning Support teacher and specialist in treating students with Language-based learning disabilities, I often have parents enquiring about whether or not I believe their child has Dyslexia. I am not a psychologist and cannot make that call! Only a certified psychologist can properly diagnose Reading Disorders, through psychoeducational testing.

However, there are warning signs. I noticed several oddities when my son was a preschooler. My son was very intelligent! He understood everything that was asked of him, although he sometimes had difficulties following multi-step directions. He had a fantastic vocabulary and general knowledge, especially about the things that interested him. He knew the alphabet song and could easily sing it anytime it was requested. But, when it came down to pointing to the letters of the alphabet as we sang, I noticed he had no idea that each of these strange symbols meant. He had difficulties with cutting and pasting, pronouncing some sounds, words and phrases. Seeing hundreds of children every day enabled me to realize that something was up.

What is Dyslexia?

  • Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading.
  • Dyslexia is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, decoding and spelling.
  • Dyslexia may cause problems with reading comprehension and slow down vocabulary growth.
  • Dyslexia may result in poor reading fluency and reading out loud.
  • Dyslexia is neurological and often genetic.
  • Dyslexia is not the result of poor instruction.
  • With the proper support, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers.

Could my child have Dyslexia (or a language-based learning disorder)?

The warning signs…

(taken from http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia)

Young Children

Trouble With:

  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech

  • Pronouncing words, for example saying “mawn lower” instead of “lawn mower”

  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words

  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences

  • Rhyming

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

  • Mastering the rules of spelling

  • Remembering facts and numbers

  • Handwriting or with gripping a pencil

  • Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization

  • Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d, b) or moving letters around (left, felt)

  • Following a sequence of directions

  • Trouble with word problems in math

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

  • Reading at the expected level

  • Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs

  • Reading aloud

  • Organizing and managing time

  • Trouble summarizing a story

  • Learning a foreign language

  • Memorizing

Empowering your child with Dyslexia

bruceDyslexia is a very specific learning disability. Children with Dyslexia usually have at least average (and many times above average) intelligence. Once your child is able to be aware of this, they can understand and embrace that they only have a very specific challenge. This empowers them! It is way easier to know that you only have to overcome one or two hurdles than to think you are incapable. Often this is the case before the diagnosis of Dyslexia.

Let them know and reassure them that as they learn new strategies life will get easier. Reading and writing will always be a bit more of a challenge for them compared to their peers, but over time they will learn way to compensate for this and their true abilities will shine through. Sometimes these challenges help them to realize that their strengths are truly gifts.

For example, my son always had difficulty writing in his agenda. However, he always remembered his assignments and important dates. He then came to realize that his memory for schedules and date was extraordinary!

Famous People with Dyslexia

I find that my son and my students are amazed when they find out that many famous and successful people struggled with Dyslexia. One of my students recently came to me and said he would never be able to do anything academic because he had Dyslexia. I said to him that I know a lot of people with Dyslexia that were still able to be very successful! We went on the computer and looked it up. He was ecstatic and began to take on a different view of his challenges.dyslexia-banner-1000x288

Let’s take a look at just a small sampling of some people with these challenges:

  • Walt Disneywalt_disney_records
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Tom Cruise
  • Will Smith
  • Steve Jobs
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Anderson Cooper
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Andy Warhol
  • Tommy Hilfiger_41358919_orlando_getty_203
  • John Lennon
  • Cher
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • George Washington
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Woodrow Wilsonimages2
  • Nelson Rockafeller
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Bruce Jenner
  • Greg Louganis
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Jackie Stewart
  • Richard Branson
  • Henry Ford
  • William Hewlitt
  • Charles Schwab
  • Ted Turner
  • Frank W. WoolwortSteve Jobs
  • Hans Christian Anderson
  • Agatha Christie
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Robin Williams
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Jim Carrey
  • Danny Glover
  • Famous_DyslexicsWhoopi Goldberg
  • Jay Leno
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kiera Knightley
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Tommy Smothers
  • Henry Winkler

…and the list goes on!

dyslexics

Read more: http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm#ixzz3OcDLAhpr

Motivating Children with ADHD

UWindsor Blog Post by: Brie Brooker, M.A.

ADHD ChildIt is often said that being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences of adult life. But for the parents of children with ADHD, the joys of parenting often come with daily struggles to manage a child’s behaviour and to keep him or her on-task. These challenges can leave parents feeling drained, frustrated, and isolated, often wondering if there is hope that their child’s behaviour is within their control. At the same time, children with ADHD may also feel frustrated, often desiring to comply with their parents’ requests but struggling to resist competing impulses and focus on the task at hand.

So what are parents of children with ADHD to do? Overreliance on punishing undesirable behaviour can be frustrating for a child, but when it comes to reinforcing good behaviour (whether through praise or a more tangible reward), research suggests that children with ADHD process this reinforcement differently than other kids do. By basing parenting strategies on these differences, parents may increase their (and their kids’) success.

Here’s what research tells us about how kids with ADHD are motivated.

  • Reward JarKids with ADHD may need more rewards in order to achieve the same level of performance as their peers. This suggests that parents of kids with ADHD may achieve better success by celebrating even the small victories, such as completing part of a chore or homework assignment.
  • Immediate rewards have a greater impact. Research also suggests that kids with ADHD are more motivated by immediate rewards rather than the promise of a reward later. However, parents may wish to teach their children with ADHD the value of working toward a more distant goal. One strategy which has been successful for kids with ADHD is the use of “tokens”: children earn small rewards (stickers, marbles in a jar) which may be collected and exchanged for a reward after a point (for example, after the child earns 10 stickers).

These are, of course, general findings based on large groups of children with ADHD, and every kid with ADHD has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, it’s been suggested that individual factors such as ADHD medication can also impact reward processing, making kids with ADHD respond to rewards more similarly to non-ADHD kids. However, these findings may serve as a starting point for increasing success opportunities and making the parent-child relationship more rewarding for both of you.

Brie Brooker, M.A. (Doctoral student in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Windsor)

Why Participating in Research is Important

UWindsor Blog Post by: Carlin J. Miller, Ph.D

ResearchAs a researcher, I often have trouble understanding why parents of kids with ADHD would not participate in helping us better understand this disorder. I’m passionate about the process because I know the difference what scientists have uncovered in the past 20 years makes. And, I know how much is still unknown or unclear.

As a parent, I get it. You have limited time and you don’t want to spend the little free time you have filling out forms and traveling to the university. You aren’t sure it will benefit your child. Consider this post an opportunity to find out what is happening in ADHD research at the University of Windsor as well as a chance to better understand the process.

First, let’s deal with the time commitment. We, as scientists, understand being busy. Those of us who are parents experience the same time crunch you have and we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We try to ensure that every question we ask is pertinent. We try to administer measures that help us better understand ADHD but we are also trying to be helpful to you. Just the same, gathering information takes time.

MindfulnessI can use my own recent project as an example. Our group offered an 8-week program in mindfulness-based meditation to parents and teachers of ADHD last spring. Before they started the program, we had participants fill out forms about their current psychological state and what they knew about ADHD. We also kept track every week of how they were doing at incorporating meditation into their daily lives. At the end, we had another round of questions about their emotions and their ADHD knowledge. Because it was a pilot project with a very small group, the statistical data isn’t very useful, but the information provided by participants helped them track their own progress. I was also making sure that each participant was not in enough distress to need encouragement to see their family doctor. At the end, participants said the program was very helpful and they would recommend it to others. They also reported feeling less stressed, less anxious, and more competent around their parenting. If you are interested in hearing more about this project or participating in the next 8-week program for parents and teachers later this fall, call me at the University (519-253-3000, ext. 2226) or send me an email (cjmiller@uwindsor.ca). We are also in the process of developing similar programming for school-age kids and adolescents to be offered in the late fall and early in the winter.

The mindfulness program is not the only research project on ADHD or related issues at the University of Windsor. One of my undergraduate students is surveying local parents and teachers of preschoolers about the relations among preschooler temperament, parenting style, and risky play. We hope to find that a child’s personality predicts risky play and that parenting style may make a difference in play outcomes. Another student is in the process of developing an online intervention to promote on-task behaviour in university students. A student in another faculty member’s research group will begin a project in the winter to examine handwriting performance in 10-12 year olds who have ADHD and are taking stimulant differences. (You can reach that student, Tom Duda, at dudat@uwindsor.ca.)

Without ongoing research, treatment for ADHD will stay where it is today. By volunteering your time and/or your child’s time as a research participant, you are helping us improve life for many, perhaps even you.

Carlin J. Miller, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Clinical Neuropsychology
Department of Psychology
University of Windsor
http://uwindsor.ca/cjmiller

Singing the Homework Blues

As we enter the third week of school, it’s safe to say that homework has become the norm.  With my own third grader, we’ve had a few meltdowns already and I’m seriously dreading the rest of the school year.  I have been working hard to help set up some homework routines that help minimize the homework drama that ensues.  We’re not there yet, but it’s safe to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

homework_problem

Homework can be frustrating for any student, especially after a fun-filled summer without many routines.  Helping students get back into the routine of school and responsibilities can help get them get back into the homework frame of mind.  We have a routine for after-school and homework.  Some students find they work best when they jump in and start their homework as soon as they get home.  I know for my little guy he needs some time to relax (and play Minecraft) before he is ready to dive into his school work.  You know your child best; do what works for them based on their needs and their personality.  We tried homework after school and the tantrum and the excuses took longer than the actual homework.  I figure out that he needed a break after school.  A lot less tears and complaining.

Set up an area where homework is to be completed.  Homework in our house is completed at the kitchen table.  The TV is off and I make sure there are no other distractions.  That includes putting my distractions away like the paperwork piled up on the counters and my cell phone.  When it’s homework time, I give him my attention.  It’s important for him to know that I think homework is important and that his struggles are important.  That I am there for him.

kitchen table

Have everything that you need for your child to complete his/her homework readily available.  I bought a small cup at the dollar store and purchased extra pencils, highlighters,  and coloured pencils when everything was on sale at the beginning of the year.  Everything is sharpened – I make sure of it or else we are spending time sharpening and organizing the pencil container.  Homework was challenging because he’d forget his pencil case at school or we wouldn’t have what we needed to get started.  Now I keep the pencil caddy and a ream of lined-paper in a cupboard in the kitchen so that we are always prepared.

pencils

I help my son review his homework so that he understands what is required.  I do the same with my students that I tutor.  In order to do their homework they need to know what is expected.  Just recently, my son was assigned five out of 9 questions.  On the top of the page the teacher had written “Complete any five of the following questions”.  He missed that the first time he read through.  Working with him, we discussed why it’s important to read the instructions and make a checklist of what is needed.  Helping him prioritize what is needed minimizes his anxiety and confusion.  He’s learning important skills on how to break tasks down into smaller parts and how to organize himself.  All are important and transferable skills for life.

homework-tips

If your child is really having a difficult time with an assignment – speak to the teacher and explain your concerns.  Work together with the teacher to come up with a plan that works for your child.

I always praise my son for a job well done.  If he worked hard on an assignment I make sure he knows that I am proud of him.  I want him to show GRIT.  I want him to understand the value of preserving, of working hard to get through a difficult task.  He needs to know that learning from challenges (and failure) is important and that achievement doesn’t come easily.  That it is something he needs to work for.   I don’t care if his paper was perfect or if he answered every question correctly.  I want him to know that I admire him for not giving up, for setting goals and working through tough times.  I share with him my own struggles and how I have to work hard.  He knows it’s not easy for me all of the time either.  Kids need to understand that as parents we too have our own challeneges that we face.

happy-child

Be a role model.  If your child needs to read each night, read next to him.  Show him what a good reader looks like, show that you enjoy reading. Reading together helps encourage a life-long love of learning for your children.

father-son-reading-300x199

I won’t lie – I hate homework.  I loathe the conflict it creates in my home.  As a parent, it kills me to go through the battle some days.  As a teacher, I know that homework is important.  It’s teaching my son to be resilient.  It is teaching him to be disciplined and helping him practice what he has learned.  Some nights it’s a struggle to read a chapter while other nights I can’t get him to put the book away.

When all else fails consider a tutor.  There was a time when I just could not go through the homework battle anymore and I hired a colleague to work with him.  It helped.  He was much more receptive and willing to try with her.  I don’t see that as my failure.  I’m a teacher and work with many students and help them with their struggles, why did I need to find someone to work with my own son?  The short answer is that my son and I have a multifaceted relationship.  I’m his mother, he’s my child.  We have an incredible bond and are very close.  At that time with all of his struggles he needed someone who wasn’t tied to him emotionally.  He’s in grade three now and I have learned to not sweat the small stuff.  Surprisingly, some days he enjoys homework or at least it’s not a battle.  Homework isn’t going anywhere.  It will get a lot worse as he gets older.  I feel confident that we’re working towards a system that helps him and minimizes stress in the house.  Each child is different and what works for one may not work for the other.

ADHD Awareness Day 2014

LDAWE Guest Blog Post by: Dr. Sharon Burey

ADHD Awareness Day on Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where: Caboto Club

Time: 9am -1pm

Guest Speaker: Dr. Sam Chang, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Moderator: Dr. Sharon Burey, Behavioural Pediatrician

Cost: FREE

Register at: www.adhdwindsor.com  or by calling Dr. Sharon Burey’s office at 519-919-9988

Target audience: Parents, teachers, social workers, health professionals, child and youth workers, caregivers, etc.

 

Hello all,

A new school year is upon us and it is time to focus on creating an environment for our children and adolescents, so that they can be successful at school, home and in social environments.

This year’s ADHD Awareness Day has a phenomenal guest speaker in Dr. Sam Chang.

Dr. Sam Chang, is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine. He is also an accredited faculty with the Reach Institute of New York. He is the Medical Director of the Adolescent Addictions Program and admits to the Young Adult Program Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, both located at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. He is also the Provincial Adolescent Psychiatric Consultant for the Alberta Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC); does numerous clinical trials; and continues to see new consultations in his office. (Excerpt from CAADRA 2011 conference materials.)

Dr. Chang will discuss ADHD in the context of substance abuse. Following his presentation there will be a panel of community service providers. At that time, we will all find out more about existing and new services that are available in our community.

We are truly looking forward to your presence and participation. Please invite your friends and family.

I recently saw an article from the American Academy of Pediatricians that I believe as a community we need to pay attention to. It relates to the well being of our pre-adolescent and adolescent children. As we focus on creating environments that foster the success of our children, this is one concrete step that we could take as a community. I am talking about SLEEP. Sleep is the foundation of how we heal, cope with life’s daily challenges, focus and pay attention. The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for a later school start for adolescents.

I believe that as a community, we can do this. It will take the voice of parents and teachers and professionals to achieve this – but it can be done! This is something that Parent Advisory Councils could bring forward to school boards.

 

Let Them Sleep

AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation

AAP LogoStudies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

Click here to read more.

AAP Policy Statement

 

See you on October 16, 2014 at the Caboto Club.

Sincerely,

Sharon Burey MD FRCPC MPLc

ADHD Awareness Windsor
Consultant Behavioural Pediatrician
Adjunct Professor Pediatrics, Windsor Program Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Western University

Labour Day Blues…

Am I the only one that feels this way?  I’m in my 30s (and no, I’m not going to get more specific than that), and I still dread Labour Day.  I’ve always felt it’s the worst holiday of the year.  To me, Labour Day always symbolizes the end of Summer and the beginning of school.  I remember listening to the radio one year on Labour Day and something must have happened at the radio station, because they just kept playing the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” on repeat for over an hour.  I remember wondering if it was some cruel joke the radio station was playing on all of us students.  I haven’t gone to school for over a decade, and I still get that feeling of back to school dread.  Maybe if I had my own children, the feeling of dread would be replaced with the feelings of joy and happiness as I got to ship the children off to school.  I don’t know…

Regardless of my feelings of the holiday, for children with learning disabilities or ADHD, and their parents, the start of a new school year can be very anxiety provoking.  Parents worry about a wide variety of things, such as wondering if the:

  • new classroom teacher is going to “understand” the child’s disability and/or accommodation plan.
  • child is going to get the computer equipment the school promised the year before.
  • class bully is going to be in the child’s class this year.
  • etc…

During the next couple of weeks, all of these questions will be answered.  I wish the best for you and your child.  However, if difficulties arise, please don’t forget that there are lots of great organizations (such as LDAWE) around that can assist you and your family.

I also want you all to know that LDAO (our provincial organization) is hosting a webinar, “Starting the school year off on the right foot – how to help children with LDs transition back into school.”  The webinar takes place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  Please click on the flyer for more details.

Webinar