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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Changing Your Child’s Brain

There are numbers of us who have adopted kids with challenges in terms of their brains, maybe due to early childhood neglect, or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).  Whether learning disabilities, or emotional challenges exist, whether there’s an official alphabet-soup diagnosis of letters strung together by a neuropsychologist, or you simply have a hunch that they’re not operating at 100%, you hope for the best.  And try whatever kind of interventions and therapies you can find and/or afford.

The good news is that brain research has come a long way.  Once upon a time, we were all led to believe that the brain was semi-set in the first few years of life.  Now we know different.  The brain can change and be redirected and adjust all throughout life, similar to how it would need to adapt for a stroke victim learning to walk, talk, or read all over again.

For these kinds of changes to result, there must be conscious intervention to promote the higher level brain functions, such as executive function.  If your child has poor impulse control, he must be shown how to respond differently when he finds himself in a “fight or flight” situation.  He must start to use words to explain what he is feeling, rather than lashing out or shutting down.  He must learn new coping mechanisms to self-calm.

Relaxation exercises such as breathing or other aerobic activities, and repetition exercises such as a set daily schedule may also help the child to gain mastery of situations where he once felt out of control.  The goal is to get him to think and respond appropriately to any challenge, as opposed to immediately reacting in the old patterns and ways.

Many of the (honest) experts report that these brain exercises may be done at home.  This is not the exclusive domain of trained professionals, though they can certainly point you in the right direction.  In an earlier blog, I’ve directed readers to some of the LiveStrong brain exercises (http://www.livestrong.com/article/158993-left-brain-and-right-brain-exercises/?utm_source=undefined_R1 and the many others listed in the sidebar).  Here are a couple of additional articles which may shed some light. on the subject, along with excellent insights from Dr. Daniel Amen (http://www.amenclinics.com/).

http://tinyurl.com/8ovpvdh

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/09/3-types-of-change-your-brain-adapts-2-of-3/

I’m no neurospecialist, just another parent.  I liken the brain growth to grapevines, having spent a lot of time in Italy over the years.  If the small tendrils on the grapevine are allowed undirected and unrestricted growth, they will sap energy from the main vine, and therefore from producing grapes.  In order to increase productivity, the wild, helter-skelter growth must be chopped away each year.  In similar manner, the brain must be trained and directed and new neural connections fostered.

In our family, we actively try to replace bad thoughts of inability and weakness with good thoughts of capability and strength.  Negative behaviors can be substituted by talking it out and saying what we could do the next time around that would result in a positive behavior.  We eat nutritious food that will maximize the brain’s function and we exercise in a physical sense to jumpstart the brain’s operations.  As parents, we repeat expectations over and over in a calm, nonthreatening review.

We’ve seen progress in areas where once, it was not imagined possible.  Our kids don’t live by diagnoses, and indeed, we may be in the minority where the diagnoses don’t tremendously matter.  If they need help in reading, that’s what we focus on.  If they can only think in concrete ways, we try to mix in the more abstract.  No matter what it is, change is possible, even if we need to adapt and tweak our approach.

And that’s good news both for them, and for us.

 

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Jessie says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I’ve been saying this for years about my 5 year old with FAS. I just know the brain is an amazing thing that we can rewire, reteach, and change. We are very consistent, structured, routine and I know that helps him. We see improvements from time to time and that pushes us to try a little more! Thanks for making me feel like we are on the right track when so many doctors poo poo my ideas. 🙂

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