2013 August 14 by Dr. Randy
Time again to buy school supplies and pack off your kids to the first day of the next year of school. Here is a checklist to help set them on the right path this year.
Talk to your kids about healthy foods that they will actually eat in their lunches. This is a good opportunity to discuss processed and whole foods choices. Fruits and cut up veges that contain antioxidants and vitamins are preferable to foods that contain chemical additives and added sugar. Explain that corn syrup is not an ingredient they want to include in their lunch choices. Sandwiches with whole grain bread and nut butters or cheese, meats, and veges are a good choice, or wraps that include vegetables will provide some variety. Snacks of dried fruits and nuts or granola bars are also healthy options. Be creative and let your kids suggest possibilities. You might be surprised by some of their new preferences this year.
Schools will urge you to get the latest boosters of various vaccines including measles, whooping cough, and Gardasil (HPV). Don’t be bullied into getting any vaccines that you question. You can always obtain a waiver for any vaccines you don’t want. Research the specific vaccines and decide whether they are right for you. Trust your own judgment once you have done your research. Read the sections of vaccine choice books like the Vaccine Guide to decide where you stand on a particular vaccine.
If any issues around learning skills (reading or writing or math), achievement, or attention came up during the last school year, be prepared in advance to address these with your child’s new teacher. Take a proactive approach to inform the teacher about any concerns you may have. You may want to consider starting some nutritional supplements that optimize brain function. These could include fish oil with at least 400 mg of DHA and Phosphatydilserine ( 100 mg) for attention. Other supplements can be useful for maximizing attention functions if you have concerns. Check out my educational presentations on learning and attention at the CureChild website.
Start getting prepared for homework. Establish a homework time schedule taking into account after-school activities. Get some hourly planning sheets so your child can plan out the evening. Have your student estimate how long their assignments should take and write in specific subjects on a time planner. This will make your child responsible for homework estimation and completion.
Getting a good night sleep will help ensure alertness, efficient learning, better ability to focus, and success in school. This means at least 8 -10 hours of sleep for your school-aged child. Make some rules about a time to turn off screens and a time for lights out.
Physical exams and health forms
Get all of those forms together for the school year and make sure you have a check-up form completed by your doctor if your packet includes one. For patients in my practice I reserve time in my schedule for those last minute physicals.
Long distance medical care
I am available for Skype or Facetime visits for anyone who lives outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. Send me an email at CureGuide@gmail.com to set up a consultation. We can discuss your child’s learning issues, or immune function, or any medical problems.
2013 April 12 by Dr. Randy
A simple and very effective way to improve attention functions in children is to make sure they are getting daily exercise. Keep your kids moving and involved in physical activity programs.
Exercise increases the production of several neurotransmitters which are known to improve memory and attention, and decrease impulsivity. These include dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Exercise, especially sprinting, also increases Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain that improves the communication between nerves. For a detailed explanation about how exercise improves brain function, read Dr. John J Ratey’s book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
Short bursts of exercise will increase these neurotransmitter levels in the hours following exercise, for example during the school day. This can result in more effective learning. But a prolonged exercise program will also raise these neurotransmitter levels over the long-term, providing a persistent benefit to attention functions.
Wigal SB, et al. Exercise: Applications to Childhood ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders 2013 17: 279.
2012 September 9 by Dr. Randy
Here is my latest article on ADHD and attention problems at the SAFBaby website. Click here to read the full article.
Attention problems have become an apparent epidemic. Why are so many kids diagnosed with ADD and ADHD today? Why are so many kids routinely prescribed medication with potentially harmful side effects for these issues? The subject of attention it is a huge field. I will try to summarize some of the main issues from the perspective of holistic pediatrics.
There are many contributing causes to the epidemic of ADD:
- Not the least of these is the expectation that children need to sit still for hours at a time at early ages doing repetitive academic tasks like worksheets. Many children will attempt to avoid these tasks by not paying attention. (Read more…)
2012 August 20 by Dr. Randy
The school year is about to begin for America’s children and drug prescribing will be back in full swing after the lull of summer vacation. Parents are being informed that their children will not be admitted to school without their required vaccinations. As parents rush to their pediatricians for completion of school forms, vaccine boosters come fast and furious. Whooping cough, measles, and hepatitis vaccines are now administered to schoolchildren in record numbers.
Parents are not informed that these vaccine boosters are not actually needed for school entry. Quite the opposite. Parents are pressured into giving vaccines even against their wishes. But in all states vaccine exemptions are readily available to parents. Nearly half have philosophical exemptions so that parents can merely submit a note stating that vaccines are contrary to their personal beliefs. In the remaining states parents can obtain a religious exemption, which can also be determined by a personal belief.
Vaccines are controversial for many reasons, not the least of which is the risk of serious adverse reactions. The association between vaccines and autism and ADHD has many parents worried about their children’s safety. But if the increasing number of required vaccines for children is causing an increase in learning disorders and attention problems parents can be assured that other drugs will be prescribed for these problems.
Prescriptions for ADHD have skyrocketed to record numbers. Children are expected to sit quietly and passively in classrooms regardless of their individual learning styles. If a child learns best through exploration and active participation, they may be seen as disruptive. Lack of conformity to the expected norms of behavior can land children in the pediatrician’s office for prescriptions to calm them down. These prescriptions for supposed ADHD behaviors attempt to manipulate brain chemistry and neurotransmitters, sometimes with disastrous results. Side effects of these medications may include insomnia, tics, sedation, and suicidal thoughts. And yet children are routinely medicated with antidepressants, amphetamine-like stimulants, and other ADHD drugs at the request of teachers and schools.
The Holistic Alternative
There are alternatives for parents to all of these drugs. If children have a resilient immune system, then they may not need vaccines to artificially stimulate antibody production. A whole foods diet and a few nutritional supplements will produce a healthy and vigorous immune system with the strength to resist and control infections. Herbal supplements like Astragalus, elderberry, and medicinal mushrooms all have the ability to activate and balance the immune system. Nutritional supplements such as whey protein, vitamin D, and probiotics also support and activate the immune system.
There are supplements also that can improve children’s attention functions and sharpen mental processes. The Omega three fats in fish oil promote healthy communication between nerves that results in efficient mental processing. Other supplements can safely develop more alertness and focus in children. Holistic pediatric specialists are well-trained in using these supplements. However, taking a different perspective on children’s behavior helps to keep a sense of balance when viewing these symptoms. For example, a child who is impulsive and easily distracted will flourish in an environment that encourages active learning. And of course these active, inquisitive, and restless children become the stars on the soccer field and basketball court. They become the innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders in their future careers. It’s a matter of perspective.
It is time that we re-evaluate the use of drugs to control symptoms in children when safer, more effective methods are available.
2012 May 22 by Dr. Randy
Fire Child, Water Child: How understanding the five types of ADHD can help you improve your child’s self-esteem and attention. Stephen Scott Cowan, MD. New Harbinger Publications. 2012.
What an amazing gem of a book! I call it a gem because, like a diamond or ruby, the deeper you look the more facets and marvels you discover. I have heard Dr. Cowan lecture on the subject of attention problems in children several times. His ability to perceive the nature of each individual child is inspiring, but each time I wanted more clues to the management of their behavior problems. This book provides it all.
There are many excellent books about children’s attention problems and ADHD, but none of them provide the unique perspective of Dr. Cowan’s analysis and method. He applies the sophisticated understanding of Chinese medicine to the perplexing pediatric topic of ADHD. In the process he shows that ADHD is really a style of behavior. Each child can be understood through the filter of the five elements of Chinese medicine. Dr. Cowan brings this process alive with case examples and vivid descriptions of the characteristics of each type. Once parents understand which of the five types best describes their child’s behavioral style, then they can apply specific remedial tools to encourage their child’s emotional and spiritual development. This process is not a simple one for parents, but Cowan carefully and sensitively takes parents along the journey of discovery to understand their child through the perspective of the five types and to apply a wide range of interventions best suited to that type.
The interventions that Cowan proposes are calculated to bring the individual child’s style into a greater balance and harmony. Although these interventions vary for each type, they have a common thread. All of them provide positive and life affirming activities and environments to encourage that child on the path of healthy development. The activities may include meditation, music, artistic pursuits, board games, martial arts, certain foods, or types of chanting depending on the child’s type. Environments may include more exposure to nature, more direction and structure, or bringing certain types of sounds into the child’s space.
Not only does he describe the five children’s types and show the best activities to bring out the strengths of that type of child, he also takes a major leap into the realm of true child development. As a developmental pediatrician, Cowan brings a wealth of understanding to the process of maturation. With the tools and models of Chinese medicine and philosophy he maps out an emotional and spiritual developmental path for each type of child. Although he presents this sophisticated model in simple terms that parents can understand, this application of Chinese medical principles to child development represents a major philosophical breakthrough in developmental pediatrics. Cowan actually maps out the maturation of each type of child in the direction of their higher purpose.
This complex understanding of their child will probably require several readings by parents. Over the course of a child’s elementary school years parents will return again and again to reference these sections about their child’s type to further their understanding as their child grows and develops. I would highly recommend this book to every parent who wants to understand their child and help them grow emotionally and spiritually, whether or not they are struggling with attention issues. Similarly, pediatric clinicians and therapists will find in this book a wealth of information to benefit the children in their care.