The Memory Mullet: ‘Business in Front’ meet ‘Party in Back’

If you’re an adult of a certain vintage, you probably remember the mullet. It’s a hairstyle that’s hard to forget. The hairstyle of choice for aspiring rock stars, the cut had two distinct features: short hair in front and long hair in back—or, as it was affectionately coined, “business in the front and party in the back.” Personal tastes aside, this was probably a tough cut for stylists to achieve (and a tough style for me to draw, obviously!). How do you take short hair in front and long hair in back and create a style that looks cohesive? No doubt, it was hard work for even the most experienced stylist. At The Possibilities Clinic, I talk with parents and students about memory a lot. I draw a lot, too—on the newly installed whiteboards—to try and illustrate abstract concepts from neuroscience, like how memory works.  When I speak with students about memory, I often hear this: “I have a bad memory,” or “I studied hard, but I completely blanked out on the test!” My next question is usually, “Well, how exactly did you study?” The answers tend to have similar themes: highlighting the textbook, reading notes repeatedly, writing out notes over and...

Spring Into Speech

As we approach May (which happens to be Speech and Hearing Month), the weather is finally starting to feel like spring! When I look at the weather report for the upcoming weeks, I start to smile thinking about all of the fun things I can do outside. The options are endless.  I can explore the city, work on my garden, visit outdoor attractions, etc… All these exciting, outdoor activities provide new, naturalistic opportunities to facilitate language development. And the best part is, they are fun for the both you and your child! But before we dive into some fun activity suggestions, let’s talk about some strategies we can use to promote your child’s language development. You can facilitate language development with your child by using the following strategies during play, conversations, activities etc… When speaking to your child, you should be face-to-face with him/her. This gives your child a visual model of how to articulate speech sounds and teaches your child the social communication skill of using eye contact. During play follow your child’s lead. Use his/her interests to spark conversations and play. This will give you the most opportunities to facilitate language. Use self-talk to describe what you are doing....

How To Optimize Development While Waiting for an Assessment or Therapy

When I see families for assessment of development, learning, attention or behaviour, many recommendations are patient- and condition-specific. However, others are useful for any child with any developmental concern. There are many aspects that contribute to healthy child development, many of which are modifiable. No diagnosis is required for these interventions so anyone can start them at any time. Here are some things to consider: Early intervention is key! Referral: If there are red flags at 15-18 months, a referral should be made. Wait lists range from several months to over one year so a child still may not be seen until 2.5-3 years. If concerns dissipate, the appointment can be cancelled. Speech and language assessment: Any parent or physician can refer to Early Abilities/York Region Speech and Language/ErinoakKids etc...

Hair-Pulling, Skin-Picking, and Other Repetitive Behaviours: Can the cycle be broken?

Max is 14 years old. Max has been picking at the skin around his fingernails for two years, particularly when he is stressed, anxious and bored. His repetitive picking has caused bleeding and scarring, despite Max being routinely told to stop by parents and his family doctor and despite his many attempts to stop (e.g., putting Band-Aids on all fingers to prevent picking). Max feels alone, ashamed, frightened, and confused about his picking. After some googling, Max thinks he might have a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior disorder. What are Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs)? BFRBs is a term used to describe a number of ongoing repetitive behaviours (including hair-pulling, skin-picking, nail-biting, teeth-grinding) that result in physical damage (e.g., bleeding, noticeable hair loss, skin lesions) to the body despite considerable efforts by the sufferer to try and stop these behaviours. BFRBS cause lots of distress (e.g., shame, isolation) and impairment (e.g., avoidance of social situations, missed school) despite efforts to try and stop these behaviours. BFRBs are not simple habits that are easy to just stop if one tries hard enough (or else all youth I see with BFRBs would have definitely stopped!). Instead, BRFBs have underlying brain mechanisms and factors that cause urges (e.g., itching, tingling,...

FREE LECTURE! Making Memories Stick: Study Skills for School Success in ADHD

A Free Lecture for parents and professionals who work with children and teens with ADHD and Learning Disabilities, or who may struggle in school. Based on their observations that students with ADHD who study hard for tests and exams still struggle to remember the information at test time, Drs. Almagor and Miles will discuss effective memory strategies that are fun and creative, and that will make information more memorable for students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities. In the Q&A session, the experts will answer your questions about memory, ADHD and Learning Disabilities strategies inside and outside the classroom. Speakers: Doron Almagor, MD, FRCPC and Brenda Miles, Ph.D., C.Psych. When: Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7pm Where: University of Toronto’s George Ignatieff Theatre 15 Devonshire Place, near Bloor & Bedford Avenues Registration is FREE (sponsored by Camp Kennebec), but you must register in advance at https://www.campkennebec.com/adhd-experts-talk/  ...

Possibilities Pick

Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities Author: David Flink Publisher and date: William Morrow/ Harper Collins Publishers 2014 Readers: Parents, teachers, clinicians, secondary and post-secondary students Category: ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Advocacy Link to purchase: http://amzn.to/2ANye0f Let me be honest from the outset. Often books for parents are text-heavy, uninspiring, and do little in the way of clearing a path for action (at least in my opinion). So, when I stumbled upon this resource that promised to be inspiring—with the word “inspiring” right in the title—I thought maybe this book might be different. Keyword: might. Guess what?  David Flink delivers, and I love, love, love this book! Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities is a book that crept up on me. The first few chapters are straightforward and informative. In Chapters 1 and 2, Flink covers the basics of Learning Disabilities (LD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and explains the danger of well-intentioned but misguided pleas to “just try harder.” Chapter 3, appropriately called “Take Action,” is a call for advocacy as Flink outlines, very concretely, how to support students with learning needs from all sorts of angles—by becoming familiar with education and accessibility laws, exploring interventions...

Parenting Children and Teens with ADHD

Being a parent is sometimes difficult. Being the parent of a child with ADHD is often Difficult with a capital “D.” Perhaps the parenting techniques and tricks you use successfully with other children just don’t seem to get the same results. Maybe the behaviour and challenges you see are so overwhelming you don’t even know what to try or where to begin. So often, the parenting strategies and approaches that we normally use aren’t fitting and our usual bag of parenting tools just don’t work. If you have experienced any of these challenges parenting your child or teen with ADHD, you are not alone: trouble getting your child’s attention trouble getting your child to listen to you long enough to hear all of what you say children forgetting instructions or rules children getting distracted and not finishing tasks having to ask your child to do something 1,000 times dealing with your child’s impulsive behaviour and decisions struggles and fights during transitions (e.g., morning routine, bedtime) children having BIG emotions or meltdowns children being easily frustrated or angry children experiencing low self-esteem and feeling they are always “bad”   Having ADHD is not an excuse for your child to get away with not following rules, not being respectful, or not trying their best. It...

The Practice of Mindfulness

In the most basic terms, mindfulness can be seen as the practice of paying attention to the people, places and things around you. This includes personal behaviours, emotions, and their related triggers and responses. Jon Kabat Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” This definition adds flesh to act of paying attention and differentiates being mindful as being present and attending to every moment while not holding any judgment or opinions about what is happening. How many adults can find moments in their week where they are truly mindful? The intent behind this state of present-focused awareness makes it harder than it sounds and practicing being mindful can help us self-regulate throughout our day. Self-regulation is our ability to maintain an optimal state in the given context by adjusting our level of alertness and engaging in behaviours that are socially adaptive. How does mindfulness come into play?  The “moment to moment” awareness from being mindful requires the ability to focus and also recognize the many thoughts, feelings and sensations that happen to and around us. This skill...

Signs Your Child May Have Autism

Are you worried that your toddler or preschooler may have Autism? Has your child’s preschool/kindergarten teacher expressed concerns about behaviour or social skills? Has your child’s Speech-Language Pathologist suggested an assessment? Below are some warning signs of a possible risk for autism. Red flags in toddlers: By 6 months: • No regular big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions By 9 months: • No regular back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions By 12 months: • Lack of responding to name consistently when called • No regular back-and-forth gestures such as pointing (with index finger), showing, waving or reaching By 16 months: •  No spoken words beyond “mama” or “dada” By 24 months: • No meaningful 2 word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating Red flags in pre-schoolsers: • Delays in language or speech skills •  Intense temper tantrum • Any odd repetitive movement patterns such as flapping arms/hand, pacing, walking on tip toes, jumping on the spot, rocking, twirling • Avoids eye contact • Difficulty adapting to changes in schedule or environment • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest - often involving numbers or symbols (e.g. memorizing or reciting information about shapes, letters, maps, train schedules, sports statistics) • Obsessively lines up toys or small objects • Spends long periods watching moving objects such as a...

Keeping Learning Skills Sharp During the Summer: Five Ways to Do It

Summer can be a time of relaxation, fun, and long, lazy days in the sun. It’s also an opportunity to keep kids’ skills fresh and to minimize measurable loss of academic and learning skills, known as ‘summer learning loss,’ during out-of-school time. Here are five ways to help your child to make the most of holiday time while keeping skills sharp: Schedule it: Keeping a daily or weekly schedule in place that builds in both downtime and activities need not be confining for families. Scheduling can facilitate planning ahead for parents, keep a sense of reliable routine in place (especially important for children who may struggle during unstructured time), and build excitement and anticipation about upcoming events.  Parents and children/teens can work together to build a plan that’s right for them. Read (and write) all about it: Summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on reading and to read together. Gather recommendations from your local librarian, children’s reading lists, or from friends and family and compile a list of must-read material geared to interest, age group, and reading level. Converse about the characters and themes, and encourage children to extend the story through their own writing or recordings. Pick out...