My First Grader Can’t Sit Still – How We Are Making it Work

I haven’t talked about my son’s health and related school issues in a long time.  I have some great updates to share.

A few weeks ago we attended a meeting at his school along with the school counselor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, his teacher, the special education teacher, and the occupational therapist.  The goal was to discuss his attention and behavior progress and whether or not he will need an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.  The slightly arrogant psychologist began the discussion by letting us know that she had observed our son and said he was unable to pay attention longer than three seconds.  She immediately lost all credibility with me, as I found that unrealistic and slightly offensive.  My son has a great attention span when it is something he is interested in.  Thankfully the rest of the school staff was much better at assessing our son’s behavior and learning abilities.  His teacher expressed that she does not feel he has a learning disability, but definitely has trouble sitting still and focusing.  This matched what I have observed at home.  During our homework time he will fidget, rub his eyes and face repeatedly, yawn, look around the room and fall off his chair attempting to distract himself from whatever school work I am asking him to focus on.  I have been able to help him focus and complete work, and so I know wholeheartedly the “three-second” school psychologist is not correct in her assessment.

After we all agreed that my son needed a more tailored approach to his education, the school staff dropped the bomb that he will need a diagnosis to qualify for an IEP.  I have been avoiding having my son diagnosed with ADD or ADHD because I do not want any labels following him through life like a stigma.  Honestly, I feel that ADD and ADHD are over diagnosed.  I also do not feel that my son’s lack of attention on reading or writing qualifies as a disease.  Children are in a full day of school at 5 years-old and are learning to read, write and do basic math.  When I was in kindergarten 27 years ago, it was mainly focused on building social skills with some basic language and math skills worked in.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is for a 5 year-old to sit still at a desk and listen attentively for so many hours a day.  Kids should be filled with energy and imagination.  They should be dreamers and creators.  Of the other moms I talk to from my son’s school, many of their children have been diagnosed with ADHD, usually boys.  A lot of them.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  Maybe instead of trying to force these kids into a system which doesn’t work, they should instead design a system which works better for these little energetic dreamers.  Which brings me back to the IEP.

While I really do not want a “diagnosis”, I know that they can call him whatever they want, I will never tell my son he is anything but perfect.  So I begrudgingly agreed to let them all meet with him one-on-one in the coming weeks to determine his “diagnosis.”  We are now set to meet again in a few weeks to discuss their findings and what changes we can make to help him do better in school.

Even though we have not yet implemented an IEP, my son has actually been doing a lot better lately in school.  He is still behind, but we are nonetheless thrilled and relieved to see progress in his behavior and attentiveness.  I think a lot of it is him growing and maturing, but I have been doing some things at home to help him feel balanced.

#1 – Address Gut Issues / Food Intolerances

A few weeks ago, I listened to an interview with Pam Machemehl Helmly, CN, entitled “A Balanced Brain Makes for a Balanced Child.”  It was part of the Children & Teen’s Health Summit and unfortunately can no longer be accessed for free.  It was a very interesting interview regarding treatment of AD/HD in children.  Pam stated that between 70 and 80% of the individuals diagnosed with AD/HD were dealing with gastrointestinal issues.  In the interview, Pam shared that many important neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, such as serotonin and around 40 others.  Neurotransmitters are chemicals which send information throughout the brain and the body.  If a person is lacking adequate neurotransmitters due to gut dysbiosis, the brain cannot function properly.  This means that the gut is largely a cause of AD/HD in children.  If your child has food allergies or digestive issues, you will want to pay special attention to this factor.

My son has allergies to gluten and soy.  It is so easy to let him have a little gluten here and there, or go out to eat and know he’s eating soy in some form.  (It’s hidden in everything.)  I have noticed again and again that his attention and overall state declines when I get lazy with his diet restrictions.  Lately I have been making a huge effort to make sure his food is free of any ingredients which will make him feel unwell.

It is also important to give kids a real food diet with as little preservatives, artificial coloring, overly processed sugar and other franken-ingredients as possible, otherwise they will not be operating at their best.  According to the Neurogistics website:

Individuals diagnosed with AD/HD share similarities among behavioral symptoms. However, the underlying causes may be heterogeneous due to a combination of several, biological, psychological and social factors.

Additionally, research has indicated that several biochemical factors may play a role in AD/HD. This includes food allergies and sensitivity to food additives such as flavor enhancers, coloring agents, as well as preservatives. Heavy metal toxicities (aluminum, lead, mercury) and other environmental toxins from air, food and water, vitamin deficiencies (B1, B3, B6), mineral (iron, selenium, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium) and amino acid (tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine) abnormalities, essential fatty acids (omega-3 series) and phospholipid deficiencies, thyroid disorders as well as genetic predisposition can all play a role in AD/HD.  (Source)

#2 – Vetiver Essential Oil

Dr. Terry Friedman conducted a study, which can be found here.  The study showed that inhaling Vetiver essential oil three times daily resulted in increased beta-theta brain wave ratio.  (Beta waves are in an alert state, theta waves are in a sleep or daydreaming state.)  Researchers concluded Vetiver essential oil was effective in promoting concentration.   I put this oil in my diffuser, which is a difficult task but is the only way I have been able to consistently have him inhale it three times a day.  The oil is very thick and syrupy so it takes a little time and work to get a few drops out, but I feel it is worth the effort.

If you are going to be purchasing essential oils, make sure to research your source and be certain they are 100% pure.  Contact me if you are interested!

#3 – Taking Breaks

It may sound like common sense, but taking breaks during homework time really helps.  Once the fidgeting starts, I let my son take a play break for 5 minutes.  I make sure he understands he will be coming right back to avoid a tantrum.  It gives him a little relief and he comes back a little bit fresher.

Usually when he comes back after a break, we will start working on a different homework page than the one we were working on when he left.  His homework is usually divided into multiple sections per page, and so it helps to switch it up between subjects.

#4 – Exercise

A while back, I listened to this video from Kids In The House which explains that exercise increases dopamine and epinephrine, which are neurotransmitters  which ADD medicines are designed to increase.  The expert in the video, Dr. John Ratey, has several videos explaining how exercise helps the brain learn better, pay better attention and even grow socially.  According to Dr. Ratey,

Kids and adults learn better once they’ve exercised for a multitude of reasons.  Three ways of thinking about it:

One, it makes the learner a better learner, makes them more receptive, more focused, more motivated, more interested, less worried about capturing the material;

Second, it prepares the brain to learn. It actually releases chemicals in our brain that help our brain cells, 100 billion of the, be optimized to grow. That’s the only way we learn anything, is we take in information and our cells grow.

The third reason exercise is helpful is that it stimulates something called neurogenesis or making new brain cells. Everyone wants to hear about this, but it’s probably the newest and most controversial aspect of why exercise helps.  Exercise, more than any other drug or factor that we know of, helps create new brain cells, especially in the area of the brain that is involved with learning.  (Source)

With this information in mind, my husband and I bought this mini-trampoline for our kids this past Christmas.  On some of the homework breaks I explained above, my son will jump on the trampoline.  Its a really useful thing to have on-hand for long winters or rainy days.

Incorporating all of these things has helped make homework less of a struggle and has helped my son pay attention better, at home and in school.

What methods do you use to help your kids pay attention?  Please share in the comments below!

Additional Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25078296

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22688187

https://www.neurogistics.com/TheScience/WhatareNeurotransmi09CE.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin

Natural Antibiotic Alternative – Essential Oils

It’s official, I will never be without oregano essential oil in my medicine cabinet.  My body is so messed up lately.  I feel like everything is upside-down.  I was pregnant in the end of October, felt terrible for three months, had a miscarriage and now I just feel weird.  It is times like these when I am so incredibly thankful to have a medicine cabinet full of homeopathy and essential oils.  Whatever I need, I have it on hand.

Let me back the truck up a second.  This story is mainly about my finger.  My pointer finger had been hurting for two weeks and was slowly becoming more and more swollen.  At first I thought I had injured it.  Something in our toilet is broken and the water runs non-stop unless we turn the water supply off on the back of it, which hurt my fingers after doing it 17 times a day.  But I stopped using my swollen finger and it was still getting worse.  This past weekend, the pain was so bad I could not sleep.  I started to wonder if I had an infection, even though there was no discoloration or anything gross looking.

I decided to start taking a supplement blend of essential oils to reinforce my body’s natural defenses.  I had several discussions with my husband about the possibility of my finger falling off, and who wants to deal with that.  Losing a finger, or hearing your spouse talk about losing their finger.  I started taking the oil blend supplement in the morning and at night.  After the second time, my finger was throbbing less.  After the third time, the swelling was retreating from my knuckle and pretty much only the tip was hurting.

Here is what was in the supplement I took:

  • Extra virgin coconut oil
  • Clove flower bud essential oil
  • Lemon rind essential oil
  • Eucalyptus radiata essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil
  • Cinnamon bark essential oil
  • Oregano essential oil
  • Thyme essential oil
  • Lemongrass essential oil

I will save you all the gross details, but it turns out it was infected.  I don’t know how or why it was infected, which is kind of scary.  And gross.  I accidentally managed to drain it (surprise!) on my third day taking the supplement.  Also gross.  I am so glad I was already flooding my body with oils which provide immune support.  I am going to keep taking it until my finger is back to normal.  Now that I found the source of the problem, I have done things like soaking it in hydrogen peroxide and alternating topical use of this homeopathic gel with Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Rosemary & Eucalyptus Oils diluted in coconut oil.  The supplement was what I took when I was unsure what I was dealing with and when I couldn’t get to the source of the infection, which was under my nail and skin.

Excuse the terrible editing, I had to remove the product/ brand name to be able to publish my testimonial.

Excuse the terrible editing, I had to remove the product/ brand name to be able to publish my testimonial.

If I would have gone to a doctor, they would have put me on some extra strength antibiotic which would have further damaged my sensitive digestive system.  This would in turn create more problems for my already wonky hormonal state because important feel-good hormones like serotonin are made in gut.  The gut is very important in all aspects of health.  Protect it at all costs by avoiding chemical drugs the best you can.

Having essential oils on hand is a must.  The supplement I took is designed to boost the immune system in times of stress.  These oils mentioned above are high in thymol, carvacrol and eugenol which have been proven in studies to be “capable of inhibiting or slowing the growth of bacteria, yeasts and moulds.”  (Source)

My finger was the second reason I needed to take this supplement in the last month.  The first was after my D&E procedure following my miscarriage.  Although I was prescribed chemical antibiotics, I again chose not to take them.  In addition to the reasons I explain above, I avoid antibiotics because I understand how much damage they cause to the beneficial bacteria in the human body.  Often times antibiotic use can allow destructive pathogens, such as candida, to overgrow creating additional health problems.  A healthy population of beneficial gut bacteria is crucial for so many aspects of health, including proper immune function, healthy digestion, brain health and even healthy skin.

If I didn’t already have this supplement in my cabinet, I would have had to take the antibiotics to avoid possible infection.  A big part of living toxin-free is preparation.  You need to have a stocked cabinet to be prepared for general illnesses or conditions.

**Please note that in order to protect my freedom to share my personal testimonials, I cannot affiliate with any brand of essential oils.

Why I Took a Break From Essential Oils

It has taken me a long time to write this post because I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened and most importantly why and how it happened.

Back in September, I was having health problems related to histamine intolerance.  I occasionally get migraines, but around this time they were coming every few days.  This left me in something like brain fog almost all the time.  My skin started itching too, on my neck and face.  I was using Lavender and Frankincense Essential Oils mixed with coconut oil to try to help the itching, yet my skin began to break out in hives and what looked like my son’s eczema.  I became afraid to eat anything because the histamine intolerance is triggered by a long and random list of foods, read more here.  Finally, my husband suggested I stop using all treatments, including the oils and let my skin calm down.  I listened to him, and slowly my skin irritations cleared.  At this point I was not connecting the irritation to the oils, still blaming the histamine intolerance and assuming it was just suddenly increasing in severity, possibly due to recent weight loss and detoxification.

A few weeks later I put Frankincense on my face again, on my 3rd eye point.  I used to like to do this for connection and clarity.   This time it did not go so well.  My skin was red and itching within an hour of application.  I washed it off with carrier oil and the irritation cleared after a few days.  I didn’t understand why all of a sudden my skin was not tolerating the oils, but decided to wait a few weeks and let my body calm down.

Sometime in late fall, I tried a firming eye gel recipe with aloe, witch hazel and Frankincense Oil.  I put it on my poofy eyes right before I was leaving to drop my son off at school.  Immediately, my sensitive under-eye skin became red and was burning.  Thankfully this time I immediately washed it off with olive oil and the irritation cleared within a few hours.  That was a close one!

So I have discovered that I can no longer use essential oils, even the purest, on my face or neck.  I do not understand why.  In the past I applied them neat to my skin frequently and experienced no issues.  Were the oils pulling the excess histamine through my skin in order to detoxify my body?  I have no way to verify that, and honestly find it far-fetched.  Is my body just super sensitive and can’t handle the oils?  Possibly.  This is the reasoning which led me to take three months without applying the oils to my body.

Recently, I really began to miss what the oils add to my being.  I miss the connection to my spirit, the feeling of calmness and clarity, and how centered and grounded the oils make me.  Diffusing the oils works amazing, but sometimes I want the extra kick that applying the oils topically provides.

I mentioned before that I am pregnant, 14 weeks.  This pregnancy has been really different that my prior two, in good ways.  My body is craving yoga movements, vegetarian foods and my essential oils.  (Last time I wanted pizza or Mexican food only, no wonder I felt awful most of the time!)  A few weeks ago, I started using my oils again!  I have noticed that I cannot use the oils on my neck or face, but everywhere else seems okay.  I know the skin on those areas are more sensitive, but I still am not sure why I once could use the oils in those areas and now cannot.  If anyone has a theory on that, please share!  🙂

How I have been using my oils lately.

Diffusing:

  • Peppermint and Lemon together is an amazing combo to energize a room.  I diffuse this in the mornings and afternoons when I need some energy.  It leaves me feeling sharp and clear.  Love, love, love this combo.

Topically:

  • Frankincense – After I shower, I apply this oil along with some thick carrier lotion to my feet.  I love this oil, it is one of my favorites.  I am so glad that my body does not react when applied to less sensitive areas!

So that’s my story!  Have you ever had issues with using essential oils?  Or better, how have you been using your oils lately?  Please share in the comments below!