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Encourage Children to Become Experts

2018.05.15 by


Autistic pianist


Children love to succeed, especially in activities they find compelling. That experience of success creates a desire for exploration and further discoveries. And eventually those successes lead to a level of expertise that is especially rewarding. The fuel that paves the path to expertise is passion.


Every child has particular innate skills and talents. There is a huge range of diversity of talents, and often children need to do a lot of exploring to discover their areas of interest. It is a parent’s job to identify those natural skills and encourage them, and parents can often recognize particular interests from an early age. It may be music or sports or art or an academic subject. It may be a particular topic, like spiders or dinosaurs. It may be a particular medium, like clay or photography. Parents can pick up on these interests and make space for children to explore them. In a previous article I talked about identifying strengths in children. The purpose of all this attention to skills, talents, and strengths is for children to experience success and the self-confidence that comes from doing something really well. When that success comes from self-motivation, then the rewards are far reaching.


Once children identify an area that interests them, then they can learn on their own, and with the help of enrichment, teachers, and mentors they can eventually develop mastery. If it’s an interest in nature, animals, or art they can explore those areas themselves and parents can join in the fun. They can learn how to garden or draw or sculpt with a few supplies. They can learn about airplanes or dinosaurs from books, videos, and exploring the Internet. Museums, libraries, and field trips can be especially enriching for kids with a particular fascination. Children with a gift in motor skills and a dream of becoming a sports star will need coaches and teams and a lot of parent involvement. Musical talent will require lots of encouragement and lessons and practice.

The value of all this activity and pursuit in a particular area is that children learn how to study one thing in great depth. If they become an expert in identifying insects or sports figures, then those research methods can be applied to history projects and physics problems. An early interest in a musical instrument can lead to a college major and a career in musicology or on a concert stage. The skills they develop in exploring their own passions will generalize to many other areas of life. Their ability to probe the depths of their chosen field will allow intense involvement and deep understanding of other topics later in life too.  Expertise gets kids respect from adults, accolades from peers, and a big chunk of self-worth.

If you want your kids to be self-confident, self-reliant, and excited about learning, then identify those talents and encourage those interests. No matter what kinds of learning disabilities or physical disabilities children might have, they can develop mastery and it will serve them very well.

(The photo is Matt Savage, an accomplished and autistic jazz musician)



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Strengths and Talents in Teens

2018.02.23 by


Teenage girls doing homework

In this article I will focus on personal strengths (and weaknesses) particularly in teens. At this age, it’s important for teens to have an awareness of their personal strengths so that they can choose paths that foster their interests, talents, and areas of expertise. This knowledge will lead to success in school, extracurricular activities, jobs, and future careers.

To identify our strengths, and relative areas of weakness, we can look at specific areas of functions known as intelligences. The theory of multiple intelligences holds that we have different areas of personal talent that we can identify.

Some areas of mental functions seem more natural to us as individuals. These are tasks that we perform better than others. Some people are more proficient at language tasks like reading and writing and crafting words. Others have a special talent for mathematical thinking or for music. And some people are gifted in the realm of physicality, sports, and athletic achievement.

The theory of multiple intelligences has identified at least eight realms of innate talent. Identifying these in ourselves allows us to realize our natural gifts and develop our potential with more careful attention. We can form a path of study and future goals that fit our own natures.  Everyone has some degree of talent in each of the identified areas, but some will be more predominant than others. And many fields of study will tap more than one type of skill. For example, an engineer will need talent in the realm of visual processing as well as mathematical skill.

Language or verbal/linguistic intelligence is highly valued by our culture, as opposed to a village culture or agrarian culture that might place more value in other traits, like physical prowess. We all have an innate ability to learn language. Some of us are more proficient and love to read, appreciating the flow of words and the sound of written language. A gift for language processing will serve people well in many different careers that require writing reports in business or science and of course in the academic realms of literature, linguistics, or the study of foreign languages.

Mathematical and logical intelligence is a natural ability to think in abstract terms about numbers and math. It also includes the areas of logical sequences and programming. Obviously, this is a huge field of study for many people in our highly technological culture, a field that is still blossoming and requiring more and more minds. The world of careers that require math skills includes engineers, teachers, architects, and computer programmers and designers.

Visual-spatial intelligence involves the ability to visualize tasks and the world in three dimensions. Natural fields for individuals with a talent in this realm include art and sculpture, engineering, architecture, and choreography. But a talent for visual processing also leads to an appreciation of the world around us and some of the most profound expressions of human culture.

These three (language, math, and visual processing) may lead to valued careers that have a clear path, but other factors of intelligence have their own important place and contribution.

Musical intelligence is very specific. It has little crossover with other careers. But musical talent is easily overlooked because of lack of opportunity. It may take a perceptive parent to notice and encourage musical ability in a child. And often teens discover their musical interest later in life than some other areas, and begin a musical career with guitar or membership in a musical group without any previous musical training.

Interpersonal intelligence includes the ability to communicate easily with others. It may take the form of a natural empathy or compassion towards others that leads students to pursue the fields of medicine, nursing, psychology, anthropology, religion, or other helping professions. This natural tendency to be social and interactive with a group of friends or a larger community can be very fulfilling, and the natural desire to be involved with others can translate into rewarding careers.

Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to be self-aware and introspective, mindful of what our minds are doing, our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. Anyone will benefit from the ability to kiow themselves. But those with a special interest or skills in this area may gravitate to the fields of philosophy, religion, and therapy as professions.

Kinesthetic or motor intelligence includes abilities in physicality, sports, connection to the body in space. Many people feel most comfortable learning by doing rather than by thinking. Athletes have a strong motor intelligence. Fields where this skill is especially important include athletic coaching, physical therapies, work with horses, mechanics, gardening, farming, and careers in the world of sports.

Naturalistic intelligence is a connection to the natural world. Astronomers, biologists, zoologists, botanists, explorers, nature photographers, hikers, outdoor guides, camp leaders, and park rangers all have a passion for the outdoors and nature, and for understanding our interconnectedness with the natural world. And of course the real

Everyone has all of these traits, talents, and intelligences. Some are much more innately present and some are developed over a lifetime because of interests, environment, encouragement, and training. We all have strengths in particular areas, and these need to be recognized and fostered because we are happier and more fulfilled when doing those things that feel closer to our hearts and passions.





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The Flu is Here

2018.01.04 by


Father Checking Son's Forehead for Fever ca. 2003

A significant flu epidemic has arrived again this winter. It is characterized by fevers, chills, stomach symptoms including vomiting, and a cough that can become severe and persistent. If you need help managing the different stages of the flu or finding the right homeopathic medicine for your symptoms, I am happy to consult by phone.

The first thing to consider about this flu is prevention. The flu vaccine has once again proven to be ineffective. Instead fortify your immune system with daily vitamin D and elderberry, and consider taking a medicinal mushroom formula. Using a xylitol nasal spray (Xlear) can prevent viruses from multiplying in the nasal membranes if you are exposed.

Then keep a Chinese herbal antiviral formula on hand to treat any symptoms that arise. Any Yin Chiao formula is good, (including Lonicera “honesuckle” and Forsythia). Many manufacturers produce these, for example Cold Away tablets or Yin Chiao junior liquid by Health Concerns, Children’s Clear and Release liquid by Golden Flower, and other formulations. Another Chinese herbal formula for flu is Gan Mao Ling. Use these at any onset of colds or fevers.

A western herbal formula of Echinacea and elderberry can be used at the same time. Examples of these are Wellness Formula by Source Naturals or Viracid by OrthoMolecular.

Finally, treat all flus with the appropriate homeopathic medicine as well.

The two most frequently indicated homeopathic flu medicines over the past 100 years have been Gelsemium and Bryonia. There are significant differences in the symptom pictures of these two medicines that make it easy to decide which is the better fit. They are not the only medicines used to treat the flu, but between them they will probably fit the majority of cases.

Bryonia and Gelsemium type flus both come on slowly over a 6-12 hour period. You begin to feel gradually worse over that time. By the second day you have aching muscles, feel pretty bad, and usually have a headache. Bryonia has more pain in the front of the head, which is definitely made worse by moving the head, or moving the eyes, and feels better from pressing the hand on the head. Gelsemium has pain in the back of the head with stiffness and aching in the neck and across the shoulders. Gelsemium does not want to move much either, and you may feel worse from moving around, but you avoid movement primarily because you are so tired. The characteristic state of Gelsemium is lethargy and fatigue. By contrast, Bryonia is tired but also restless. Bryonia discomfort is worse from motion, but at the same time you feel the urge to move about restlessly in the bed. No position seems comfortable. Bryonia is thirsty, Gelsemium is not. In fact Bryonia is generally warmer and drier. Bryonia wants air and cool temperatures to calm the heat. Gelsemium is chilly and sensitive to cold; cold shivers go down the spine. At the same time Gelsemium is clammy with the fever, and feelings of heat and cold may alternate. Bryonia has more coughing and chest symptoms, a painful cough that aggravates the sore throat. The Bryonia cough will also cause chest pains, and the inevitable reaction to this situation is to press the palm to the chest to minimize the movement caused by coughing.

Gelsemium does not have the energy to be emotional. Bryonia is irritable, worried, and fretful. Bryonia wants to be left alone, Gelsemium is too exhausted to respond.

Contrasting Gelsemium and Bryonia

Gelsemium                                    Bryonia

Chilly with chills down spine      Warm with desire for cool air

Thirstless                                        Thirsty

Dull, sleepy, heavy                        Dull, but irritable, worried

Worse from movement                All symptoms worse from movement, but restless

Headache at back of head,          Headache in forehead, better from pressure, worse motion

with stiff neck



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New Year’s Resolve

2017.12.31 by


Many of us take time to set some resolutions for the coming year. Resolutions are always well-intentioned. At this time of year we may have the opportunity to reflect on our lives, and resolve to do some things differently. Or we may seek to begin some new directions and forge new paths. Whether we keep these resolutions during the year or not, this kind of reflection itself is beneficial.

In general, resolutions have something to do with changing ourselves, becoming a better person – an admirable pursuit. This may take the form of activities that improve our health, eating better, losing weight, getting more exercise, or resolving health problems.  Or resolutions may involve improving our mental well-being, getting out into nature, meditating, reading a book, or studying more. Or they may relate to how we interact with other people in our lives. We may wish to act more kindly, or express more concern and care for others.

Resolutions can arise from self-reflection, self-criticism, or even self-compassion. We all have a tendency to be hard on ourselves (and others). We may want to also consider self-acceptance. Everyone is actually trying their best. We can always muster greater effort, but in the spirit of kindness we may want to also consider what a good job we do. In the midst of resolutions, don’t forget to give yourself credit for your accomplishments and admirable qualities. Just the fact that you want to make a resolution says a lot about your good intentions.

The year ahead will undoubtedly contain opportunities to apply our resolutions and also contain challenges for us to face and overcome. Our resolve will help us face those challenges.

One way to help maintain our resolve is to set an intention for the day. Ask yourself, What is it that I highly value? What do I wish for myself, my loved ones, and the world? Take a few deep breaths and spend a moment thinking about these questions in the morning or during the workday. Then at night review them as well. Just asking these questions can help to maintain your resolve.




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Gifting, Generosity, and Gratitude

2017.12.25 by


Christmas Presents

Gifts are a wonderful expression of generosity. If your tradition includes giving gifts this holiday season, you may want to take a moment and consider the motives and dynamics of this generous pursuit. Children can be included in a discussion about the purpose of exchanging gifts. That purpose is the personal benefit of generosity and gratitude. And the lesson can extend over the entire year. Give whatever you can. Give the gift of listening, attending with concern and interest. Forego your own personal interests and appreciate the spirit and interests of that other person in front of you. Appreciate the interconnectedness of everyone and don’t take relationships for granted.

Make gift giving personal. It is especially amusing when the season turns into a gift unwrapping frenzy, which leaves parents dismayed and disappointed in their carefully crafted purchases. Personally handing gifts to their recipient is an expression of caring. “I thought you would really like this.” Even if the gift is from “Santa,” parents can say, “This looks like something special for you.” Children already know their parents are psychic. Slow down the whole whirlwind of the holidays and there will be less post-gifting let down. Savor the flavor of generosity. And express gratitude. Model gratitude for children. “Wow that is so amazing. I bet you are feeling really grateful you got that.”

Giving gifts is an outflowing of generosity. We may have stress about choosing the perfect gift for that special person, and apprehension about whether they will like it. We may have expectations that we will get a certain response from the recipient. Or we may give with a spirit of generosity and no desire for any reciprocity or recognition.

At this holiday season we can remember to express gratitude. There is a great deal of evidence from clinical studies that feelings of gratitude are beneficial to our mental state and level of happiness and even our health.

On a daily basis we can expand our awareness by being grateful for everything. The world is complex and functions in a hidden and fundamental network that we take for granted. We can start with gratitude for our families and friends, then expand to the awareness of objects that we use, the trees and lumber industry that provide our paper, the farmers and distributors and stores that supply our food. Even the workers that pave our roads. Everything in fact is interconnected, the cycle of oxygen and carbon dioxide in nature, the cycle of birth and death, the miracle of our daily existence. Be grateful for everything.


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