child with adhd, autism, and learning disability

They Called Him “Unschoolable”


Today I’d like to talk about Joseph. He’s in Grade 4; he’s got ADHD… and autism. When Joseph first came to Maxi Mind, he couldn’t read, he had virtually no social skills, and at 9 years of age, he had already been in and out of 8 different schools.

What’s the outlook for kids like Joseph… kids that have ADHD?

Stats from Health Canada and other official sources paint a grim picture.

Fully 1/3 of them do not complete school

At least 1/2 seriously abuse drugs or alcohol

And when they drive, watch out. They have triple risk of crashing a car.

So what do you do? The standard answer is … medicate.

But when you do that, the ineffects and the side effects are generally intolerable.

Health Canada says there are 1800 different meds prescribed annually to children. All meds may have side effects, but of the 3 very worst ones with side effects – two are drugs for ADHD.

Joseph’s parents were looking for an alternative. We gave him a Maxi Mind Brain Training Course and although he still needs support, his improvement was dramatic.

After just 3 months of Maxi Mind, he was able to read and write … in two languages! He started making AND keeping friends. He spent the next 3 years successfully at the same school and today he’s getting himself ready for high school.

It’s because of clients like Joseph that all of us at Maxi Mind get such great satisfaction from going to work each day.

If you know a child in the Greater Toronto Area who could benefit from a Maxi Mind program simply fill in our contact form for a free consultation.

Hiding a bad report card from school

How to Properly Deal with a Bad Report Card

For parents with children in schools across the GTA, the month of November is when the first report cards are sent home.  The first report card of the year is an important one because it gives you feedback on how your child is doing early enough that significant improvement is still possible.

Here are 7 steps to consider regarding how to properly deal with a bad report card.

1. Has Anything Changed at Home or School?

Before approaching your child to learn what they think the problem was, you should ask yourself as a parent has anything changed at home.  Did you move recently? Did a family member get sick or pass away?  Is money tight and causing a lot of stress?  A change in your home environment can have an impact on what happens to your child at school.  Similarly a change in school can also have an impact.  Is your child being bullied? Did they get a new teacher? These are problems that need to be addressed and together you can work through them to help create a healthier environment for your child.

2. Set the Right Strategy

It can be very easy to just react out of emotions when you see the bad report card.  The danger is that your emotions may be highly charged and cause a negative reaction from your child.  It is important to take the time to think through the right strategy and approach when speaking to your child to ensure the best outcome. 

3. Speak with Your Child

When talking to your child it is important that you try to start off by noticing the positive aspects of the report card.  Point out some of the things that you are proud of first before getting into the negative.

Some of the points to bring up in the conversation can include:

  • Are they aware of the grades and comments that they received?
  • Why do they think they did so poorly?
  • What help did they try to get to ensure they did better?
  • What are the feelings they have towards the report card?
  • What suggestions they have for doing better next time?
  • How you can help them achieve this?

Make sure that by the end of the conversation they know that you care about them and are willing to help be a part of the solution. 

4. Talk to the Teacher

Once you’ve heard your child’s side of the story, it is usually a good idea to speak with the teacher as well.  This is helpful because you can hear the insights that the teacher has about your child and try to ensure that the strategy you are implementing at home will be reinforced in the class room.  It is also always good for the teacher to know that you are actively working with your child to help make improvements in these areas.

5. Create an Action Plan

Now that you’ve properly assessed the situation you can create an action plan.  This plan should include things that your child will do to improve, how the teacher will help and provide feedback, and what you as their parent will do. 

6. Regular Check-ins

Just because you have a plan of action doesn’t mean that the problem is solved.  Schedule weekly and then monthly check-ins with your child to monitor their progress.  Call the teacher to see if they have noticed improvements and adapt your action plan as needed to stay on track.

7. Seek Outside Help if Necessary

Sometimes the solution can’t be solved between you and your child alone.  For whatever the reason that is okay.  As long you go and seek outside help that specifically addresses the area of need.  At Maxi Mind Learning we work with children that have trouble focusing, learning, or controlling their behaviour.  Our program is designed to give them the mental tools necessary to boost their grades and put them back on the path to success.

For more information that is specific to your child, get a free consultation today

ADHD Diagnosis – What’s the Real Epidemic?

ADHD diagnosis and treatment have reached epidemic proportions. According to official US stats, the diagnosis rate went up 42% between 2003 and 2011. The prescription rate has been climbing much faster – 28% in just 4 years.

What’s at the root of this? Is it twitch media? Is it food additives? Is it the environment?

Here’s a huge study from the International Journal of Epidemiology. They reviewed thousands of research papers on ADHD and discovered something remarkable. When you use strictly standardized diagnostic criteria, the incidence of ADHD does not change from country to country or from year to year. Kids are kids are kids.

So what IS changing if it’s not the incidence ADHD itself? It’s the rate of diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis and treatment is the epidemic – not the condition itself.

Let’s pause for a moment and look at three simple facts:

#1 – diagnostic rates are highly variable.

In the USA it’s about 10% of kids, in France it’s a tiny fraction of that – Much less than 1%. Are the kids really so different? The short answer is “No.” The medical model is different.

#2 – Where is the huge bulk of mega-pharma dollars that get funneled into wooing and supplying doctors with ADHD meds? You guessed it. Right here in North America where diagnostic AND pharmacological treatment rates are so high.

#3 – Some big names in medicine are finally calling for a sweeping change in how and even IF we should be diagnosing for ADHD and (by the way) many other disorders as well.

Leading the charge are people like Dr. Allen Frances, author of Saving Normal and Chairman of the DSM-IV, the entire British Psychological Society, and a new Ontario coalition of neurologists who are basically trashing all the diagnostic labels and analyzing behaviours instead.

This is great news for us as parents and especially for our focus-challenged kids.

Here at Maxi Mind Learning we are perfectly in tune with the new alternative trends in medicine. We look at the full range of behaviours that are getting in the way of a child’s success and happiness and then coach them through brain stimulating activities that teach them to master their focus and boost their learning skills. And all without meds.

Get a free consultation today and discover a drug free solution for your child’s ADHD

ADHD Diagnosis – Is it a Road to Nowhere?

If you have a child who has trouble paying attention in school, one of the most confusing things you have to deal with is trying to understand why.

Your typical Dad might be saying, “Hey, he’s just a kid, he’ll grow out of it… I was like that too… he’s just bored… he’s just lazy” or something like that.

Mom might be saying, “Something’s up with this kid. I have another child two years younger who can focus and learn much better… He’s been like that since he was little… He’s not trying to mess up but he’s always disorganized, late, and lost in any group activity… Nothing seems to work.”

The school may be saying, “This child probably has ADHD – you should have him assessed and he probably needs medication.”

So you go for a 5 minute appointment with your pediatrician who prescribes ADHD meds and you’re done.

Or maybe you go the fancy route: First a two-day assessment with a clinical psychologist for around $3,000 and then you get a 30 page report that says he’s got ADHD plus possibly a Learning Disability or some related disorder and THEN you go for the 5 minute appointment with your doctor who prescribes meds and THEN you’re done.

So all that gives you is a transient chemical band aid that may or may not help the focusing and learning. Then there are in-effects and the side effects, which may prove horrendous, if not immediately, then over time.

Is this the best that medicine has to offer? No, but it is standard practice.

Maxi Mind Learning offers an alternative to standard practice. We like to call it Best Practice. Scientifically developed and medically endorsed, our Brain Training Methodology has helped many hundreds of children in the Toronto area master their focus and boost their learning skills.

Whether you do or don’t have a diagnosis, whether your child does or doesn’t take medication, you will want to help your child overcome those focusing and self-regulation challenges that are getting in the way of his success at school and in life.

To request a free initial consultation, just fill out a contact form or call 416-858-9868.

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How’s Your LD Radar? Here are Some Learning Disability Early Warning Signs

Early intervention is best practice in whenever problems crop up and it’s especially so with regards to kids’ success at school. The longer your child goes with an undetected learning disability (maybe better to think of it as a learning difficulty than a disability) the more time and energy that will be needed to get them back on track.

As a child moves up through the school system with a learning disability that goes undetected, they continue to fall further and further behind the other children.  Teachers with large class sizes will have a harder time to give each child the individual attention required to pick up on these issues.  Therefore the earlier you are able to identify potential challenges that your child faces, the better off your child will be.  Early detection can allow you to put in place the necessary strategy and tools to allow him to continue to learn and grow alongside his peers.

Here are a few tips from Dr Arnie Gotfryd, Maxi Mind’s Educational Director, to provide parents with some early warning signs that you can look out for to detect issues early.

  1. Children that don’t crawl properly. There are several ways that children find as they gain mobility.  If your child is crawling in what appears to be a non-conventional way then it could be caused by a neuro-connection issue in the brain.
  2. Premature children are more likely to have a learning disability. If your child was premature than you should keep a closer eye on their development.
  3. Ear infections early on or children that need tubes inserted will have a higher probability in language learning delay later on
  4. While we do live in a world of Velcro, children that can’t learn how to tie a bow or a know are known to have more problems with reading and writing. Typically children begin to learn to tie between 4-5 years of age but don’t master it until 6-7.
  5. Most toddlers have poor balance and coordination as they are just starting to develop these skills. As he moves beyond this stage, if balance and coordination continue to be a problem then it may be caused by deficits in sensory and motor development.
  6. Other sensory issues to watch for include being excessively disturbed by sudden, loud noises, being overly or under sensitive to gentle touch, or getting overwhelmed in crowds or at busy road intersections.
  7. Poor rote memory for letters and difficulty with decoding or sounding out words.

While these signs are good indicators, they are not foolproof. Many factors need to be assessed to get a clear picture.

Have personal questions about a potential learning disability with your child? Get a free assessment today and discover how our program can help.

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How to Boost Your ADHD or LD Child’s Social Skills

It’s official – Emotional intelligence and the social skills they enable turn out to be even more important in life than our academic or technical skills. The healthy development of social skills is essential for children to succeed in school and in life.  This development takes place through interaction with other children typically in informal settings.  For some children, social skills come easily and naturally.  However for others, especially children with ADHD or another learning disability, it may be more difficult.

The reason why these children have a harder time with social skills than others is because they may not able to focus on, process, store, and retrieve information based on subtle non-verbal cues like tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.  While some children with ADHD or an LD do not have trouble with social skills, they are the exception.  Most of them have difficulty in this area and require additional help.  While they can be charming and engaging which is a part of socializing, they tend to not read people well, be more emotionally immature, and play with younger kids in order to act similarly to them.

One of the ways children socialize is through games or playing sports.  Children with a nonverbal learning disability will have trouble processing on the sports field.  This will make it difficult for them to keep up.  Children with ADHD will have trouble keeping their eyes on the ball or following a strategy in a team environment.  These added difficulties increase the likelihood that they will not want to participate anymore.

The ability to socialize at recess is very important.  Kids that can’t ‘make it’ at recess will very often also find it difficult to make it in the classroom.  This is especially true for group work or activities, putting them at a disadvantage in school.

In conversations they will lose track of the topic and go off on rants or tangents causing the other party to feel ignored and not listened to.  They will talk much more than they listen, or will withdraw because they are in their own world and don’t get yours.

If your child has ADHD or a learning disability it is important that you provide him with some extra help when socializing.  The goal is to work with your child at socializing at an age appropriate level to allow him to develop alongside his peers.

Here are some useful tips for practicing social skills with your child.

Role Playing – Practice makes perfect.  By practicing social encounters in a safe environment with you, your child can develop the experience to understand the social situation.  You can make a game of it and display different emotions.  Your child has to guess the emotion that you’re experiencing and then figure out what the appropriate response might be.

Coach Before Social Encounters – When your child is about to enter a social situation that he has typically found difficult, a little preparation can go a long way.  Let him know how many children there might be, what activities they might do, and the potential problems that may come up.  Speaking out the problems and possible solutions with your child allows them to go into the situation with a plan.  While he may falter and return to his usual responses, with enough coaching slow improvements can be seen.

Ask Follow up Questions Afterwards – After a social situation it’s always good to ask your child follow up questions.  Find out what went well and what could have been improved.  Rather than provide your child with the answer to a problem that he may have encountered, ask them what might have been a better way to handle the situation.  What a child is out of the event and removed from the emotions he can think more clearly.  By being conscious of alternative reactions, he will eventually be able to think while the event is transpiring.

While these tips can help improve the social skills of your child, if he has ADHD or a learning disability, it’s important to also treat the condition.  With the proper treatment, he will be able to develop the social skills necessary to be successful in life.

Have personal questions about ADHD or Learning Disabilities? Schedule a free assessment today and discover how our program can help your child.

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Non-traditional approaches

We came to Maximind after searching for a therapy for our son, to help address his increasing inattentiveness at school and home. Although skeptical, having tried several other unsuccessful therapies, we began to see positive changes in his behaviour within the first few sessions with our assigned therapist, Alana. By the end of one round of sessions, our son went from having very little attention span to being able to sit and complete his homework on his own – something that would previously require constant reassurance and refocusing, and would often take several hours out of the precious little post-work/school time we had every day. We have no qualms about recommending Maximind to others who may be considering non-traditional approaches to addressing their child’s attention and/or behavioural issues.

– Dylan S.

Lotus latern with Free your mind text

Getting a Grip: The true story of how Sandy overcame depression and panic disorder

Sandy’s story is remarkable. She overcame clinical depression and a panic disorder with sheer will-power and now lives episode-free without medication.

It was 2002 and while I was happily planning away for our wedding celebration, life suddenly turned upside down and what was supposed to be the best time of our lives ended up triggering my long battle with anxiety, depression and panic disorder.

Just two weeks before this big day, my fiancé was rushed to emerg with a sudden illness. This not only caused him great pain but since he was self-employed, his income crashed to zero. The wedding could go on, but I had to deal with all the last minute preparations and to top it all off, our honeymoon was at risk. Stress was through the roof.

When we moved into our home, I started to not feel well. I was very weak, short of breath and light headed. I would go to work and start breathing heavily, get light headed and shake. I was in and out of the hospital more frequently than I could count. I kept thinking I was having a heart attack and wondered if I was going to die.

One time I had gone to the hospital and could not get out of the car. I had blown off so much carbon dioxide I had literally paralyzed myself. The nurse made me breathe into a paper bag to calm myself down.

I went from doctor to doctor and got into therapy. I was prescribed Paxil, which I took for a few months then realized I did not want to depend on medication to relax me for the rest of my life.

I started looking into yoga for healing stress and anxiety. I was enjoying the classes and found it helped. I then started reading about the condition and different ways to help yourself. I used energy healing as well. Gradually I got calmer and started to understand my feelings and my triggers. It was literally mind over matter.

I would not be where I am today without putting strength and energy into myself and knowing that I have to heal myself and my mind to stay balanced and lead a successful life. I truly believe that if I could do it, you could do it to.

Sandy P.

What is Real Therapy for ADHD

A common term in ADHD circles is the word “therapy”.  This term is used both by those seeking help and the professionals providing ADHD therapy for children.  The issue with using the word “therapy” with ADHD is that it presumes that ADHD is an illness or a medical condition.

Calling ADHD an illness is not accurate.  While the behaviour of a child with ADHD may not be in the normal range, it is hard to call it an illness when it is not symptomatic of disease.  There are no blood tests to determine if a child has ADHD, and it is not a virus or bacteria in the body that needs to be expelled. It is just a convenient label for a set of behaviours, regardless of how and why those behaviours were caused.

There is definitely a hereditary link with ADHD traits, and there are phsyiological differences that are typical in the ADHD brain. Less frontal lobe activity, less connectivity between hemispheres than normal and so on. Very often, these are just a matter of development – it’s based on the way your brain is ‘wired’. It is rather like being tall if your parents are tall rather than a disease passed down from your parents.

Simply put, this is a classic case of the medical industry going overboard and diagnosing/treating the ups and downs of life.  This was expressed by top psychiatrist Allen Frances in his book titled Saving Normal – an Insider’s Revolt against out-of-control psychiatric diagnosis, DSM-5, big pharma, and the medicalization of ordinary life.

With this in mind, we need to reframe the word therapy so that we don’t think of ADHD as an illness.  Instead we should look at it for what it really is – a pattern of development in the brain that results in a variety of traits which can include: distractibility, restlessness, impulsivity, carelessness, low frustration tolerance, and weak social skills. Perhaps a better way to define “therapy” can then be how to treat these traits to improve these behaviours and tendencies.

Forms of Treatment for ADHD

Special School Accommodations

One form of treatment for children with ADHD is to provide special accommodation in school, or modification to help your child cope.  Some examples of accommodations can include: providing longer time to complete tests, headphones to block outside noise, or a shadow to ensure your child is provided with more direct attention.

The challenges with this type of treatment is that first you must determine which accommodations will provide the best result for your child, and then work with the school to see if it’s possible to provide these accommodations.  But more importantly, this is just a compensation strategy which will not help your child overcome the challenges he is facing.  Many children don’t grow out of ADHD, and you can’t provide these types of accommodations for the rest of his life. Therefore it is better to only use this strategy in the short term to compensate until a longer term solution is found.

ADHD Medication

Another treatment option is medication.  Medication can have very mixed results.  Based on our own numbers at Maxi Mind with over 300 families that have gone through our program and hundreds more that we have consulted, here is what we’ve seen with children on medication.

Approximately half of all of our clients have used or are currently using medication.   One third of the children that are using medication had overall positive results at least in the short-term.  Another third found that while they had some improvements, the side effects fully counteracted the advantages.  The last third found that the medication route was a disaster, with such extreme side effects that they had to quit the meds altogether.

Overall, we see that medication as a use of therapy is not really an effective option.  Not only are there mixed results, but is also really just compensating and never dealing with the real issue of ADHD.  Due to these factors, we have seen that parents are leaving this option in search of better therapy methods.

Counseling as ADHD Therapy

A third treatment option is to get counseling for your child, for yourselves as parents, or both. Psychologists are typically called in for this purpose but there are also Life Coaches, ADHD Coaches, Psychotherapists, the list goes on. These consultants provide tools and strategies on how to understand their issues, cope with them, compensate them, and sometimes overcome them. This may be effective to some degree but typically won’t be able to reach the core issue that is occurring in the brain.

Cognitive Training Software

A fourth approach is the use of specially developed cognitive training software as treatment. There is a belief out there that if you can make the games fun, children will on their own play their way to wellness. There are literally hundreds of companies out there with offerings of this type, each claiming to save the day.

The theory is that parents should be able to sit their child in front of a computer and let the software provide the therapy. Cogmed and Luminosity are two of the leading names in this industry. The problem is twofold: The software, even when used properly, has very limited effectiveness for helping kids in what they need most – a good shot at a reasonably happy and successful school experience. The second issue is that because you have to do these specific games many times over, the kids get bored and stop doing it before the full effectiveness kicks in.

Another issue is that despite many medical studies on it, the Cogmed software is based on the belief that working memory is the issue causing ADHD, which has now been proven to be at best only part of the problem with the ADHD brain.  And online games like Lumosity offer a stimulating pastime, some long term benefit, but again, nowhere near enough to make that life change that kids need.  With strong marketing that overpromises results, parents are tempted to try it for their children but in the end they are disappointed time and time again.

Maxi Mind Methodology for Children with ADHD

Maxi Mind Brain TrainingTM was developed as a true therapy, an effective treatment that is both fun to do for kids and will actually make those major changes in focusing, learning and self-regulation that parents want to see for their child.

Unlike other treatments that just provide a quick or temporary fix at best, Maxi Mind gets at the root of the issue – Connectivity in the brain – and does so with activities that are scientifically developed, medically endorsed and proven effective.

The child is coached through physical exercises while listening to engineered music and then through biofeedback activities that have him controlling a computer using his mind alone – a real brain boost!

To learn more about the Maxi Mind Brain Training™ Program and to learn how it can benefit your child, contact us for a free preliminary assessment today and discover how our program can help children with ADHD traits.