If you have listened to all the possible ways you can help focus, how many times has someone told you that your child might be plain old bored? Even if you think your child has a low IQ? Even if you think your child doesn’t quite get what he/she is taught?
Listen in to learn Vaish’s 4 magic ways of finding if fixing boredom can reinstate your child’s focus!
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Is your child’s lack of attention, just boredom. You’re listening to functional nutrition for kids, a short, sweet, always under 20 minute podcast hosted by me Vaishnavi Sarathy. I’m a chemist and educator, TEDx speaker, and functional nutrition practitioner. I’m on to two kids one with a disability, but both of whom tune out when they’re not interested. One of the aims of this podcast is to move perspectives from old tired and worn out ideas about cognition and intelligence to newer, more inclusive perspectives about competence and capability. This is a season of about 10 podcast episodes, and all of them are focused on focus on the root causes that can impact conditions like ADHD ADHD, but more specifically, symptoms of low focus of hyperactivity have low or very high energy either way.
What do we mean when we say root cause? When my mentor Andrea Nakayama describes dysfunction from a molecule called three roots and many branches, and the three roots that she talks about, which are the roots of almost every chronic disease and dysfunction today, our genetics, inflammation and digestion, or genes, immunity and the gut, think of it how you like, now we can’t impact our genes directly. And there is a lot of research going on, about why some children are predisposed to add ADHD or autism related conditions. So there’s a ton of research on genes. But this predisposition does not mean that whatever condition we’re talking about needs to occur.
This brings in the field of nutrigenomics, where it is understood that the nutrients that food cannot only behave as hormones as we talked about earlier, but can actively turn genes on and off, also known as epigenetics. This is where this scope is aware we can work right. And it is not just for the nutrition and the physical environment that can affect the expression of our genes, it is most likely also the mental environment. Well, that’s the whole idea of the placebo, even though we don’t think about it from a genetic perspective, that if you think that something works and intervention, that it might just as well work for you. And this impact can go in the opposite, or negative fashion, sometimes called a no SIBO. Today we’re going to talk about boredom and attention. We can medicate we can address diet, we can address blood sugar, even we can think functionally. But until we as educators, parents or therapists are providing appropriate stimulus to a child attention isn’t going to improve.
Imagine if I sat you down, talk down to you gave you the best food etc. But just simply taught you the ABCs and refused to let you progress simply because I couldn’t understand your language and I thought you didn’t understand. Would it matter? If I give you medication? Would it matter if I gave you the best food if I addressed every nutritional deficiency you had? How would your attention be? As always, this is best explained via case studies. Or case study. One is my friend a who’s about eight years old. He’s autistic and minimally verbal and was hyperactive for many years has recently his mom has recently addressed his neuroinflammation and he’s been much less hyperactive. His school last year often reported about aggression and bad behavior. And in this context, I’m always surprised that within quotes acting out in seven year olds is labeled behavior, especially in the absence of adequate means of communication.
Which seven year old can communicate adequately anyway. But when you have a child that is minimally speaking, that has restricted means of communication, I’m always surprised that the word behavior is thrown about as much as it is. However, this behavior magically disappeared when this child was home and was being taught age appropriate material and was being treated with respect. Of course, there might be more variables here. But mom described bouts of intense focus when new material was taught that disappeared when the material was repeated even once.
Some see diagnosis of ADHD and ADHD or a behaviorally challenged child and I mean that within quotes, what I see here is a highly intelligent child who doesn’t have the energy to focus on stuff that is repeated ad nauseum. Have I told you about the story of 14 year olds that I know who have been simply taught to count in their schools They haven’t even been taught to count too much until the number 20. I believe, just because they can’t reliably communicate. Assumption of competence is critical. Especially when a child lacks the means to tell you that they understand that they know it, and they’re bored to death. Think about it.
Which 14 year old that you know, disabled or otherwise needs to be taught to count needs to be taught colors? Especially if the teacher has been doing this all their life? I mean, even if you actually assume incompetence, and the child has really not learned to count until they’re teens, are they going to learn it now? Why not just use this time to teach space science or ancient history?
Right? If you’ve heard my TEDx talk, you’ve heard the story of my son being taught his numbers and colors over and over again. And honestly, seriously, what is it with numbers and colors? I don’t know that people love to teach for years on end. But that’s another story. So anyway, my son was taught the same thing over and over for a very long time. What do you think he exhibited? What behaviors did he exhibit? A glazed eyes and intense lack of interest? What do you expect, right? This lack of interest coupled with his dad would blank expression was not interpreted as a DD or ADHD. In his case, his diagnosis of Down Syndrome and Autism mean that he doesn’t even have that privilege.
The assumption is a direct jump to severe intellectual delay, case study to in my TEDx talk, I used a quote by author Ido Kadar and this quote is so important, though, I’m going to repeat it here. Ido says, and I quote, I’m administering an IQ test to you. Your hands are in baseball mitts, your mouth is taped shut, and the room distracts with the laser lightshow.
Good luck. And if you don’t do well, I’ll assume your IQ is 52. And quote, this idea could be used for anything from assumptions of low IQ to assumptions of low focus to assumptions of random bad behavior that ABA is usually prescribed for case study to is the hundreds of 1000s of non speaking autistic so undergo this experience throughout their lives. Assumption of intelligence reveals intelligence but not just that, it also allows focus to come.
It negates the need for bad behavior. No, this is not restricted to a child with a diagnosis or a disability. Which brings me to case study three. But before I go to case study three, I feel like this is a great place for disclaimers. Right? And what is my disclaimer going to be? Obviously, I’m not negating diagnosis of a DD and ADHD. I’m not saying they don’t exist. I’m not saying intellectual delay doesn’t exist. But I’m saying that jumping to a conclusion that a child cannot focus has to be something that is thought through very carefully. We have to make sure there’s a learning disability and not a teaching disability, right. So case study three is a neurotypical child who is now 13. But I’m talking about a phase in his life when he was about nine. He was diagnosed with a DD at the time by his school, or he was it was suggested that he had a DD and he was asked like 1000s of his brothers and sisters to pay attention sit in one place. Look at me look at the teacher look at the boat sit still.
He this child was fascinated with rocks and love to collect them. And I remember thinking that Harry attended Montessori School as my daughter did at the time that he would have been given a lesson about drugs in center collect more. However, I think the lesson was for his parents at the time, who were told that this was unacceptable behavior, and this was sent home with him. It was this school that insisted on a diagnosis of lack of focus and add. Extreme focus is not a disadvantage. What are the ways to break the vicious cycle of boredom, lack of focus or response? And more boredom? Can you see that it’s a vicious cycle. Somebody assumes that you’re not understanding when you’re simply bored.
Actually, where it starts is that somebody is teaching you the same thing over and over again, you are bored, your eyes glaze out, you simply either do not have the means to tell them or they don’t believe you. It’s assume that you have low focus because you can’t sit in one place. Maybe you like movement. And because you have low focus, obviously you didn’t understand the thing that they told you. So they have to repeat what they said and teach you again. Where do you think this ends up? We are not talking about the root cause right How do we break this vicious cycle? One of the things that I found is nonlinear education. There is no need to know the alphabet in order to talk about water on Jupiter’s moon Europa. I’m going to say that again, if it’s slipped by the cracks, there is no need to know your alphabet in order to have a discussion about the existence of water, and possibly extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
There is no need to know fractional addition to learn exponents or the binary system. Very, very, very, very the input that your child receives. No one likes to listen to the same thing over and over again, no matter what it may seem like the odds are that your child has processed this input in the first 10 times it was presented to him or her. Presenting it another 100 times is pretty useless and worse. Much worse counterproductive. Number three, aim high. But without pressure. There is no need to memorize all the moons of Jupiter when we’re talking about water on Europa right. Education number four education should be joyful. If it isn’t, consider what changes might make a joyful for your child. When you have made these four changes, come back. Let’s look to see if focus is improved. That is a great time to look at other areas in your life.
If focus still hasn’t improved, right? Educate nonlinearly vary the input aim high without pressure. And education should be joyful. At the risk of repeating an idea 1000 times to you my audience, I would like to say that assumption of intelligence not only reveals intelligence, it allows for focus it brings respect, mutual respect, it brings a joy a zest for life, in the person whose intelligence you’re assuming, if this statement makes you think, what if my child is not intelligent? I would greatly recommend that a shift in mindset might help. Assume it for a few days and see what happens and give it to 100%. everywhere around us, as a parent or a teacher of a child with a label or a person with the label, we are encouraged to keep our expectations low.
To not hope for too much because hope is such a dangerous thing, right? And even when we see things that we might rightly marvel at, such as a non speaking child writing a beautiful poem, there are 1000 questions Did he really do it is a true? It is time to think about what questions actually serve us and what don’t. And more importantly, what questions serve the child. So if you’re looking for action items for yourself or your child, I would say just give a little space to observe, to wonder and not to judge. Assume all possibilities and allow for them.
Watch for interests and strengths that may sometimes be hard to express but exists just the same. Assume competence give input, vary this input. Assume competence yet again, that allows you to aim high without pressure. Make education joyful. As I’m recording this on Mahatma Gandhi’s 100 and 50th birthday anniversary I’d like to share one of his quotes. Realization of truth is not at all possible without ahinsa. I am says non violence and in the context of a child with disabilities I think of non violence as incompetence. Thank you for listening to functional nutrition for kids. I will be back with another action packed episode next Thursday. I am so happy that you were all able to join me today. Bye.