Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fermented Cod liver oil

The following is a very limited overview of some of the brain building nutrients that are obtained through fermented high vitamin cod liver oil supplementation.  This is for educational purposes only.  Please make health decisions based on your own research and in conjunction with the help of qualified healthcare practitioners.

About 60% of your brain is made up of fat, much of which is DHA an omega-3 essential fatty acid.  Although some plant foods such as flax seeds contain an omega-3 that is a precursor to DHA, evidence is that our bodies do not convert this efficiently to DHA.  The only sources of DHA that do not require conversion are from sea food or animals raised on pasture.  Cod liver oil has about 500mg of DHA per teaspoon.

The following are symptoms that may be associated with essential fatty acid deficiency:

dry skin            dandruff           frequent urination                      irritability                       attention deficit
soft nails          allergies            lowered immunity                      weakness                      fatigue  
dry hair             brittle nails        excessive thirst                         chicken skin on backs of arms
dry eyes           learning problems                                              cracked skin on heels or fingers

There is research that suggests supplementation with essential fatty acids is beneficial for learning and behavior.  You can read one study here .

Vitamin D
In a review of research, Joyce C. McCann, Ph.D., and Bruce N. Ames, Ph.D., at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) point out that evidence for vitamin D's involvement in brain function includes the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. Vitamin D affects proteins in the brain known to be directly involved in learning and memory, motor control, and possibly even maternal and social behavior. Studies involving both humans and animals present suggestive though not definitive evidence of cognitive or behavioral consequences of vitamin D inadequacy. 

The more doctors test our vitamin D blood levels, the more apparent it is that we are culturally deficient.  The type of vitamin D that is recommended for cancer prevention, protection of bones and teeth, reduction of inflammation and other health benefits is primarily vitamin D3.  The most significant source of Vitamin D3 is sunshine.  Our bare skin converts sunshine to vitamin D3.  Production is inhibited by sunscreen and the skin being washed before the conversion takes place - think swimming pool.  Also depending on where you are on the globe and what season it is, there may be little opportunity to get enough sunshine for vitamin D production.  Some people increase their FHV cod liver oil consumption in the winter and decrease or eliminate it in the summer.  The are some convincing arguments that vitamin D deficiency is a major culprit in the winter "cold and flu season." The only other source of naturally occurring vitamin D3 is certain animal foods such as shellfish, lard from pastured pigs in the sunshine, butter from grass-fed cows, and egg yolks from pastured chickens.  High vitamin fermented cod liver oil has a significant amount of vitamin D.
Vitamin A

Another vitamin in high vitamin cod liver oil, Vitamin A, has been the center of much controversy.  Like vitamin D, vitamin A is fat soluble.  This means that these vitamins are stored in the body and it is possible to build both vitamin A and vitamin D to the point of toxicity.  For this reason, many advocate having vitamin D levels tested before supplementing.  In addition, there are those who would say that the safest way to obtain vitamin A is from plant sources like carrots which don't contain true vitamin, but rather beta-carotene which the body must convert to vitamin A.   The body won't convert more vitamin A than is needed.  The problem is that many bodies especially children aren't good at this conversion.  The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) maintains that when vitamins A and D are taken in a natural food source like fermented cod liver oil, they are synergistic.  WAPF states that Vitamin D increases the need for vitamin A and the two together in the proper ratio provide great health benefits and prevent toxicity of either.  WAPF would not recommend taking either of these vitamins separately as a synthetic supplement (as is the current practice in the medical community with regard to vitamin D3).  You can read a lot more about this here.
In addition to benefits for vision, the immune system, and cancer protection, the following two studies give some insight into the role of vitamin A in learning:

 Why does my family take high vitamin fermented cod liver oil?
·         For memory and mood support
·         To prevent cavities and strengthen our bones
·         To protect us from the flu and other viruses (I take cod liver oil instead of the mercury containing flu shot. More on the flu shot here.)
·         As an anti-inflammatory
·         To prevent cancer
·         To raise vitamin D levels (the three of us who have been tested know we need it).

 Why do I only use Green Pasture Fermented High Vitamin Cod Liver Oil (I'm not getting any compensation for this endorsement.)

The following is reprinted from the Weston A. Price Foundation.  You can find more information here.

Most brands of cod liver oil go through a process that removes all of the natural vitamins. The resultant product contains very low levels of vitamin A and virtually no vitamin D. Some manufacturers add manufactured vitamins A and D to the purified cod liver oil and until recently, one manufacturer added the natural vitamins removed during processing back into the cod liver oil. Fortunately, we now have available in the U.S. a naturally produced, unheated, fermented high-vitamin cod liver oil that is made using a filtering process that retains the natural vitamins.

What are the recommended doses? (according to the Weston A. Price Foundation)

The high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is sold as a food so does not contain vitamin levels on the label. However, after numerous tests, the approximate values of A and D have been ascertained at 1900 IU vitamin A per mL and 390 IU vitamin D per mL. Thus 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil contains 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D, a ratio of about 5:1.

Based on these values, the dosage for the high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is provided as follows:
  • Children age 3 months to 12 years: 1/2 teaspoon or 2.5 mL, providing 4650 IU vitamin A and 975 IU vitamin D.
  • Children over 12 years and adults: 1 teaspoon or 10 capsules, providing 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D.
  • Pregnant and nursing women: 2 teaspoons or 20 capsules, providing 19,000 IU vitamin A and 3900 IU vitamin D.
Please note that the fermented cod liver oil contains many co-factors that may enhance the body's uptake and usage of vitamins A and D; in fact, many have reported results equivalent to those obtained from high-vitamin cod liver oil with half the recommended dose, that is ¼ teaspoon or 1.25 mL for children age 3 months to 12 years; ½ teaspoon or 5 capsules for children over 12 years and adults; and 1 teaspoon or 10 capsules for pregnant and nursing women.

For the desired health results, WAPF recommends that fermented cod liver oil be taken in conjunction with a diet that includes plenty of butter (especially butter from grass-fed cows) or that it be taken with high vitamin butter oil.  Dr. Weston A. Price got truly amazing health results when using cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil in conjunction.

ILC clients may order Green Pasture High Vitamin Cod Liver oil at a significant group discount through the Little Rock Buying Club.  E-mail littlerockbuyingclub AT gmail DOT com for information.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Improving Eye Contact

Eye contact is not only a very important social skill, it also provides a great deal of help with understanding language and social cues.  Development of eye contact begins with the gazing between an infant and parent during feeding.  This early connection between holding, feeding, and making eye contact promotes a strong positive association with looking at faces and watching facial expressions, as well as bonding.

For various reasons children sometimes do not develop this skill.  This can be an indication that the Fear Paralysis Reflex has not been integrated.  When children do not easily make eye contact it puts them at a disadvantage for making social attachments, learning to read facial expressions, and actually hearing and understanding language.  If a child has difficulty with auditory processing, watching the mouth of the person who is talking can give them a great deal of assistance in understanding what is being said.

It can grow tiring to constantly tell a child "look at me" (tiring for both you and your child).  Here are some creative ways to encourage eye contact with which you might like to experiment.   
  • Get eye level with your head in your child's field of vision as often as possible.
  • Use a hand signal by putting two fingers on your chin and wait to speak until your child is looking.  Stop speaking if she looks away. (You can touch her arm to get her attention and put your fingers back on your chin to remind her to keep watching until you are done speaking.)
  • Sing a song or chant nursery rhymes together. Ask your child to watch your face and/or sing with you. Stop singing when he looks away and start singing again when he looks back. 
  • Sing a song that is responsive -you sing a line, then he sings a line, or choose a word she has to fill in each time it comes up. 
  • Whisper REALLY softly so your child must look at your lips to understand what you are saying - maybe just mouth the words so she can practice "lip reading." This is a good tactic to use if your child is doing NeuroNet and needs prompting to remember the numbers or letters when "falling."  The parent that is facing the child can mouth or whisper the prompts, to encourage your child to watch your face.
  • Say "let me see those beautiful blue eyes"  rather than "look at me when I'm talking." 
  • "Catch" your child looking and say, "I really like the way you are looking at my face when you talk.  It helps me understand."  or "I really like the way you are looking at my face while I'm talking."  If your child only makes intermittent eye contact, you might have to be quick about catching them doing it to reinforcing it with praise.
  • If eye contact is really uncomfortable for your child, he or she can practice with a doll or stuffed animal.  Show your child how to cuddle the toy, looking into it's eyes, maybe feeding it a bottle.  Talk about the toy's pretty eyes and what a special baby or bear it is.  If your child becomes comfortable doing this with a doll (maybe after a number of practice sessions), you might be able to get him to pretend like a baby for you to hold and gaze into his eyes.  This might be a good time to talk about how much you loved him as a baby, or if your child was adopted you might try talking about how special she is and how glad you are to have her in your family, how long you waited to get her, and how you waited with anticipation for her. 
  • If you are doing an ILC home program with reflex integration activities, some of these may provide an opportunity to incorporate eye contact. The Embracing Squeeze which works on integration of the Fear Paralysis reflex is good for this. Sometimes rhythmic movements can provide an opportunity as well, if you are positioned where your child can easily see your face. (This might not be possible unless the child is at the stage of doing the movements independently.) 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pieces of the Reading Puzzle

For those of us who never struggled to learn to read, it can be difficult to understand why a child is "just not getting it."  Here are 4 types of pre-reading skills to take into consideration.

1) A child may have 20/20 vision (can see the letters on a wall chart at 20 feet), but not have the visual skills need to use his eyes efficiently for reading.  Visual skills include the abilities to:
·         move one's eyes across the page from word to word without moving one's head, skipping words, skipping lines, or repeatedly moving one's eyes backward 
·         converge both eyes at the proper point in space
·         use the focusing muscles of the eyes to rapidly bring things into focus 
Children who don't have good visual skills may experience eye fatigue, headaches, double vision, and/or difficulty concentrating on near work.  Visual perception also falls under the category of visual skills.  Visual perceptual skills are needed to interpret and remember what is seen.
2) Auditory processing skills are used to differentiate and remember the sounds (phonemes) of language.   Auditory skills are used to segment the individual sounds in a word or blend the sounds together.  A child must be able to discriminate and remember sounds in order to learn their association with letters.  For example, if a child is confusing the letter b and the letter d, this could be because she lacks the visual perceptual skills to notice and remember the difference in the shape and position of the letters or because she lacks the auditory skills to hear the difference in the quick burst of sound each letter represents.
3) Sequential processing skills enable us to recognize the proper order of things.  Reading is done left to right, the number 10 comes before 11, "before" is first then comes "after," the letter "w" is before "x."  In order to decode a word one must be able to tell the beginning from the end and sequence the sounds in proper order.  To understand a story, one must be able to understand the order of events that occurred. 
4) Simultaneous processing skills are needed to recognize and process information as a whole.  Beginning readers move from decoding every word one sound at a time to recognizing familiar words on sight.  In this case the simultaneous processing requires visual memory.  Some children can decode words, but have trouble getting them into memory for later simultaneous processing.  Other children may have a lengthy list of known "sight words," but have trouble with sequential decoding skills.  These children may read well for awhile, until the words get too long and numerous to simply memorize them all by sight.
Can we help children develop skills which are missing?
...a growing body of research has demonstrated that brain development is an ongoing process that can be shaped and accelerated through the use of "targeted experience."  ...the nervous system has a remarkable capacity to "rewire" itself in response to stimulation.  By carefully targeting the signals the brain receives (through teaching, therapy, or play), existing brain pathways can be trained to function more smoothly, old blocks can be bypassed by the development of new learning pathways, and children can learn to do things they previously found impossible. - The Mislabeled Child by Brock Eide, M.D., M.A., and Fernette Eide, M.D.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Music, Rhythm, and Movement

Maryann Arman, M.A. who specializes in music education, has written an excellent article on music, rhythm and movement.  You can read the entire article along with her references here.  Below are some of the highlights.
  • Lessons (like the alphabet song) put to music help memory because the various components of the music effect different areas of the brain and activating more areas of the brain promotes better retention. 
  • Short term memory typically holds 7 bits of information.  In a song smaller bits of information are bound together into larger bits which increases the amount of information in short term memory.
  • The ability to keep a steady beat is linked to adequate linguistic development and should be developed by the age of 2 or 3.  From 1981 to 1991 the percentage of high school students who could keep a steady beat dropped by almost half.  Only 10 percent of kindergarten students could keep a steady beat and less than half of adults. 
  • Pushing children to read too early puts stress on the eyes and causes other potential damage.  Children who are pushed to read before they are neurologically ready may develop awkward and inappropriate methods, may employ meaningless memorization, and may use the wrong areas of the brain to try to process reading.   In Denmark, reading is not taught until the age of eight and their literacy rate is 100 percent.
  • The kazoo is a great musical instrument for children because the vibrations of the instrument transmitted through bones stimulate the vestibular system.  (My note: Humming also stimulates the vestibular system the same way.  This is one reason why I ask your children to exhale and hum or say "ah" during an isometric reflex integration activity).
  • Singing songs like "B-I-N-G-O" in which another letter is left out each time the verse is repeated helps children develop "inner-speech" which is important for reading and high level thinking.
  • Movement is important for learning.  The vestibular system is the part of the ear related to balance and movement.  It must be activated for learning to take place.  There are nerves that run through the vestibular system which connect to all the muscles of the body.  During the first 15 months of life all learning is centered on the development of the vestibular system.  Problems with the vestibular system can cause learning disabilities.
  • The brain works by electrical current.  It needs oxygen and water to function well.  Movement helps provide oxygen.  (My note: This is why I try to always provide water for children.)
  • Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins - neuro-chemicals that increase brain energy.
  • Movement and rhythm stimulate the frontal lobes which are important for language development.
  • Cross lateral movement is necessary for the brain to be ready to learn to read.  Cross lateral movement enables the brain to cross the mid-section of the body.  In order to read and write one must go from one side of the paper to the other. (Marching alternately touching each hand to opposite knee and crawling are two examples of cross lateral movement.)
  • A child who can't balance on one foot has a weak vestibular system and probably can't read and write.  The vestibular system is strongly related to language abilities.  Balancing in various ways strengthens the vestibular system.
  • The more senses involved in an activity the greater the success rate of learning.
  • Researchers found that spatial-temporal reasoning improves when children learn to make music. 
  • Bottom line:  Music, rhythm, and movement are important educational components.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Himalayan Salt Lamps for ILC

If you are an ILC client, you know my office is in my home.  This comes with pros and cons, but I think mostly pros.  Being able to take clients in between doing dishes and paying the bills, as well as being home with my homeschooled high school student is a pro for me.  Having parents occasionally glance into my kitchen and see the dirty dishes is a con.  Being greeted at the door by my big black lab is usually a pro for children.  I call Evan my "therapy dog" because he makes children feel comfortable and is always willing to sit quietly with a child for petting while adults are talking and "being boring." Moms and dads enjoy the comfortable seating in my living room/office while they watch us work.  (Extremely exhausted moms, have been known to dose briefly in my easy chair.)  I've had moms tell me, "It's just so relaxing in here," which I take as a high complement.  
My goal is to create a comfortable and relaxing environment for both children and adults.  I've decorated with natural earth tones rather than bright colors which can be overly stimulating, and I use natural full spectrum lighting.  I love my light bulbs from Dr. Mercola which I purchased to combat the "winter blues."  I could tell a noticeable difference when I started using them last year.  It was the first winter I can remember in awhile in which I didn't feel desperate for spring.  These light bulb are quite different from other "full spectrum" lighting.  They are designed to improve mood, concentration, sleep, immunity, energy, learning, and vision. 

While these are all desirable benefits, I do realize some children are sensitive to bright lighting (and these lights are very bright - like sunlight).  One parent shared with me today that she felt the lighting was overly stimulating for her child with sensory processing difficulties.  One reason I like to work in partnership with parents is so I can combine my knowledge of various intervention techniques with parents' innate and experiential knowledge of their own children, so I'm happy when parents share their insights with me. 

Fortunately, I do have a back-up reduced lighting plan which, as of yesterday, includes my new Himalayan salt lamps. Himalayan salt lamps release negative ions into the air which help counteract the detrimental effects of the positive ions that bombarded us from electronic equipment.  This "electronic air pollution" can cause nervousness, stress, sleep problems, concentration problems and free radical damage to our bodies.  Salt lamps not only provide health benefits, the big glowing hunks of salt are a fun addition to my earthy decor.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What are Primitive Reflexes?

Babies' brains are cleverly designed with an inborn program of development which relies on reflexes that are controlled by the primitive or "survival" area of the brain.  This is the same brain area that becomes active when a person's "fight or flight" response is triggered.  It is the area of the brain that responds to our most primitive needs for self-preservation. 

Primitive reflexes not only help babies survive, they also provide the means of motor and brain development.  Young babies do not use higher reasoning processes when it comes to movement or emotional response.  They turn their heads and suck when their check is stroked.  They grasp a finger placed in their palm.  They cry when they are startled or hungry and do not stop until they are cuddled, rocked, fed, and/or changed.  The baby responds instinctively to sensory stimulation.  And as his primitive reflexes are repeatedly activated by specific stimulation the related neural pathways develop.  Each reflex becomes "integrated" or dormant after it has completed its developmental purpose.  As the brain and body mature through this process, voluntary motor control emerges along with reasoning, language, and impulse control.

Primitive reflexes emerge in a sequential pattern starting from 9 weeks in utero.  We anticipate their complete integration by 2 years of age, but this is not always the case.  Primitive reflexes may fail to integrate "on time" or may become reactivated for various reasons including: heredity, difficult birth, disease, physical or psychological trauma, toxicity, and sensory-deprivation.

Some of the consequences of unintegrated primitive reflexes include: aberrant motor development, poor lateralization, poor muscle tone, poor binocular vision, eye motor dysfunction, perceptual problems, anxiety, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
I often suggest to parents that the "attention deficit disorder" their child is exhibiting may be age-related.  When a seven year old exhibits the attention and activity level of a 2 year old, we tend to call it a disorder.  Perhaps we should consider whether there is something actually disordered about the child's brain or whether her brain is immature. Children who are significantly controlled by the primitive areas of the brain may have a great deal of difficulty with the higher reasoning involved in self-control.  Utilizing a program of developmental movement based on the natural way brains were designed to mature can fine tune motor skills, calm emotions, develop language skills, improve attention, and increase impulse control - all of which will collaboratively improve one's ability to succeed in an academic environment. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Do You Remember How to Play?

Although I think, overall, I have parented to the best of my ability, I do have some regrets.  One of them is not spending more time playing with my children.  As a mother homeschooling young children, school lessons and housework were always pressing.  While I spent lots of time doing reading and math with my kids, I was often too busy to get very involved in their playing.  I knew that playing was important, but I failed to realize many ways I could have taken a more active role in making play a part of their "educational program."  Had I fully understood the brain maturation, language, social, and motor skills that develop through appropriate types of play; I think spending time playing would have moved higher on my priority list.  (And maybe the noise of a grown man rolling around on the floor with squealing children wouldn't have bothered me so much.)

Yesterday, I was reading that children who have difficulty with attachment and social responsiveness tend to be drawn to electronic games which provide fast paced distraction without demanding language skills or eye contact.  I often encourage parents to limit "screen time" because sitting and pressing buttons does little to develop sensory-motor skills, but this made me realize how much children are missing in language and attachment as well.    

My social worker husband, Mike, tells me there is a whole method of child therapy devoted to teaching parents how to play with their child - things like playing dolls, or Legos, or blocks - something child-directed, interactive and with "face time."  Guess some of us grow up and forget how. 

Mike's mother is someone who never forgot how to play.  We've often wondered when our 18 year old daughter and 16 year old son beg to spend a week at a time with a woman in her 70s who has no video games or Internet.  From the time my children were little, I remember Grandma Betty coloring with them,  playing with toys and playing board games for hours.  Now they work puzzles, play cards, go to movies, and tell her their deepest secrets.  Grandma knows the key to attachment.  I think I will be a very fun grandma - we'll see.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A New Year's Resolution

One of my goals for the new year was to "face the fear" and start a blog for parents of struggling learners - so here goes.  I have a friend who says, "There is nothing more satisfying than conquering technology."  46 years doesn't seem that old, but when I see the incredulous looks on children's faces as I try to explain the concept of a typewriter, I do feel rather ancient. 

This blog is designed to provide a means of communicating to the families who have sought my support for their struggling learners.  It is a way for me to follow my own teaching advice and give information consistently, but in short least I'm going to try be both consistent and short. 

I hope this blog will encourage you on your journey with your child.