Author Archives: Max Kalles

Television: The Focus Killer

Kids watching TV

By Revi Mula

Mom, Wife, Designer, Opinionated Blogger, and Maxi Mind client.

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I was one of those pregnant women.  You know, the one who spent nine months reading all the books and magazines and become a preacher.

“I am not letting my kids watch television at all for the first year.”

“Those fast-moving videos are not good for kids. I am not letting my kids watch. It will give them ADD.”

“Television is not a babysitter.”

I had twins. I was 36 years old and had a boy and a girl on the same day.  Now let’s think about this for a second.  I am a designer.  I run my own business. My husband works long hours.  We are very busy.  We get little, if any, downtime.  Add two babies into the mix, and life becomes a little chaotic.  You get it. I bet I just described you.

When they were about six months old, we put on Sesame Street.  A great, slow-paced, educational television show.  And then we added a little Leap Frog as time went on.  We were so proud.  By junior kindergarten, our children could read quite a bit.  Their teacher was sending home senior kindergarten homework!  We heard them recite the Leap Frog alphabet song.  They understood numbers and basic addition.  And we took credit for all of it.

Tapping ourselves on our respective backs, we had ourselves convinced that television was not the devil.  It was a tool, that used properly, would help us teach our children.  We laughed at our slightly younger selves.  What were we thinking? No TV? Crazy!

But then came that Saturday.  The one where it’s cold and raining.  The day when the children no longer want to watch pre-recorded re-runs of Sesame Street and the idea of the Leap Frog song being played one-more-time makes you wish for hearing loss.  That day.  The very first day we let them watch Dora.  It was only for 22 minutes.  I swear.

It broke the seal.  We had 22 minutes of peace and quiet.  22 golden minutes of freedom.  Do you have any idea how much a parent can accomplish in 22 minutes?  Best of all, it was free.  A free 22 minute-at-a-time babysitter.

Then they watched some science show.  And then Full House.  And then something else. Suddenly it was 20 minutes after school every day.  And an hour on Saturday, another hour on Sunday.  The family movie night added 2 hours, and sometimes, when we had a lot to do, it was a couple more hours.  When they learned how to turn the television on themselves, it meant they would let us sleep in on the weekends.  So, another hour, maybe two.  By the time they were six, they were watching somewhere between 5 and 10 hours a week.  That doesn’t seem like much, does it? The average person in Canada watches 27.2 hours of television a week according to a CBCnews article

Therefore, my kids are average.

What we didn’t realize almost 2 years ago, was the change in them.  They became irritable when the television was turned off.  Irritable to the point of arguments erupting in our otherwise peaceful home.  Then they became disrespectful.  My daughter started mimicking the characters on her shows. Imagine your littler girl; all attitude, head cocked, finger’s snapping, rude talk.  My head felt like it would explode.

My son’s teachers began complaining about his inability to focus, about his difficulty completing tasks.  He was zoning out on the carpet every day as they presented their lessons.  He was getting into trouble.  A lot.

The trouble got worse.  At home, he was overly emotional, didn’t want to do homework, couldn’t sit still. We chalked it up to his being so smart that he was bored.  Then we blamed the teachers.  Then we figured he was a 7-year-old boy, and boys will be boys. Right?

Wrong.

I watched a TED talk recently about ADHD and the children of this generation.  It was enlightening.  The most telling part of the talk, was when Sir Ken Robinson, an author, educator and creativity expert, explained that our children are constantly barraged with fast-paced television, video games, etc.  And then we expect them to sit on a carpet and watch a teacher. BORING! And slow. Quiet. Zero stimuli.  How can we expect that of our children? The schools haven’t changed.  But media has.  And our exposure to it has all but exploded. 

When we were children, we watched Mr. Rogers, Little House on the Prairie and other slow paced, seriously respectful shows.  What are our children watching now? Shows with kids that have no apparent adult supervision.  Plot lines where children are disrespectful to adults, do whatever they want and face almost no consequences for their actions.  This is what television teaches our children.  And we allow it, and then wonder why these kids are so entitled and difficult.

It took waking up on a Sunday morning and trying to get both kids off their respective computers, and their addiction to Netflix to make me realize the truth.  The begging “please turn it off” was getting to me.  It was taking too long for the computer to get shut down.  They were ignoring me.  When they finally did shut their computers off, they were total…not so sure I can write the word here…but it’s a bad anatomical word used to describe someone who is making you mad.

Don’t judge me.  I like to swear.  And since I can’t do that in front of my kids, and freaking out over their behavior denotes bad parenting, I had to come up with a solution.  At that very moment, the solution was: NO MORE TV. None. NADA. Nothing. It’s shut down baby.  It was the scariest decision I had made since their birth.  I was literally getting rid of the one thing that kept them immobile for extended periods of time so I could do my chores or work without worry or interruption. But we did it.

I look back at that smug pre-mother I was, and I wish I would have listened to her.  She was right.

That Sunday morning changed our lives.  I had spent the better part of the months prior crying myself to sleep at night.  Tired of the disrespect and the fighting, the teacher’s phone calls and the constant whining (the kids, not the teachers).  Unable to fall asleep, night after night, with thoughts ravaging my mind, that we had done something wrong, that we had failed as parents. 

Don’t get me wrong.  My children are amazing.  They are generally respectful kids, smart and fun.  People compliment us all the time on how well behaved our children are.  Inquisitive and artistic, they keep us laughing and bring us so much joy.  But the television time and its ramifications were ruining the good times.

The moment the television turned off, like magic, they turned a huge corner.  The respectful children we loved came back.  Within hours, they were playing games, learning, reading, exploring the garden.  They were doing all the things that we did as children.  They were “normal”.  My son’s teacher called four days later asking what we had done.  I am sure she was under the impression that we had turned to medication.  He hasn’t even been diagnosed with anything.  When I explained that we had just shut off the television, the phone fell silent.

They went to sleep that Sunday night with no arguments.  They just went to sleep.

The truth is, many of us are having kids later in life.  We don’t have the patience that our parents did. We are running around from activities to tutors to classes, trying to have perfect children. Competing with our friends, families we meet at school, relatives.  We want our children to learn it all. We want them to be successful and just like, if not better, than all the other kids.  We helicopter parent, we don’t let our kids fall down, lose or cry.  We use the television as a teacher, babysitter, lesson giver and friend. It’s creating a generation of kids with a lack of focus, lack of energy, obesity, entitled, bad attitudes.  It’s our fault.  And no amount of medication in the world can cure that.

It has been several months since we shut the television off.  We now allow one hour of TV time on weekends and watch movies of our choosing with the kids once a week as well.  It’s a compromise.  We give a little, but we took a lot.  The key is, by taking, we also gifted.  We gifted our children with childhood.  And we gifted ourselves with children that sleep, respect us, don’t argue as often and have become smarter and more creative.  Children that can focus. That’s huge.

We aren’t perfect.  We don’t want to be. We are happy. Happier than we have been in years.  I thank my lucky stars that on one Sunday morning, I got angry enough to fire the television babysitter.

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Revi Mula 

Revi Mula is an award-winning designer and director of Monaco Interiors, a full-service Residential and Commercial Interior Design Company in the GTA. 

 

Brain Training for Kids with ADHD – It Works But Does it Last?

Hi, I’m Arnie – the Maxi Mind Learning guy.

One of the most common questions I get is what happens when a Maxi Mind Brain Training Course is over? Do we need booster courses? Do we need to come back every year?

The short answer is, No. The improvements you get are generally maintained and typically continue to grow long after the course is over.

How is that? You may ask: If I stop exercising my body, I’ll get weak and flabby again. Why doesn’t that happen when I exercise my brain?

The short answer is Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself. When specific activities are done with the right frequency and intensity, the brain will actually grow, and connectivity will improve. The result is better mental performance.

The American Automobile Association covers brain training for its customers because of studies that have shown that the risk of an active senior crashing a car is slashed by 50% in the 10 years following a brain training course.

The Journal Pediatrics has published research showing that ADHD kids who did brain training with neurofeedback do better at home and at school and with lower doses of medication, even six months post-intervention.

And what neurofeedback protocols were done in that study? Exactly the same ones used in every Maxi Mind Brain Training course!

When Maxi Mind Learning launched its brain training service in 2010, we gave it away in schools. At one school we had pre and post measures of focus, learning and behaviour. 19 of 20 kids substantially improved and those improvements are still retained over 5 years later.

But if good is good, better is better. Some clients do return to us after a year or so to get another brain training course to take them to an even higher level.

At Maxi Mind Learning we are never satisfied with how well we’ve done, so why not join us on the road to continual improvement. Down the road, you will thank us even more.

Get a free consultation today.

How Does Joy Train the Brain

Hi, I’m Dr. Arnie Gotfryd and today I want to talk about joy. You know, that happy feeling that everybody chases but nobody seems to catch.

Well, most kids DO know how to have fun and in fact they’ll do almost anything for a good time. That’s great for brain trainers like us, because we use the chemistry of joy to help both stimulate and reinforce brain development in focus-challenged children.

Maxi Mind leverages joy in three important ways:

First, our brain-stimulating activities themselves are fun to do, so kids are motivated to do them well. That joy accelerates their brain development.

Second, the coaches provide a lot of encouragement and recognition for achievement. That joy reinforces their brain development.

Third, once the child’s behaviour starts improving ever so slightly, Maxi Mind parents are encouraged to react neutrally to failures and get excited about successes. That joy will enhance the new, improved networks while ‘starving’ out the old dysfunctional ones.

You don’t need to be a neuroscientist to get happy chemicals like endorphins and reward seeking chemicals like dopamine to do their magic.

You also don’t need to break the bank or break the rules on screen time to make them happy.

When you catch your child being good and tell him you are proud of him for what he did, that’s good enough. You’d be surprised what a powerful brain stimulant your smile really is.

If you know a focus-challenged child in the Toronto area who could use a little more happiness and success in his life, we offer a free consultation to see how the Maxi Mind Program can help.

The Pros and Cons of ADHD Drugs for Children

In the last 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder aka ADHD.

Over this time there have been many studies and even conflicting information to determine the positive benefits and side effects children experience while using ADHD medication.

It is important that parents try to understand the full picture of using meds to help their child with focus, attention, and behaviour issues so they are able to make an informed decision. 

The Benefits of ADHD Medication

Many studies have shown that Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term.  If a child is having trouble in school or at home, the drugs will typically have a rapid response and produce results. 

The use of medication is also very easy to administer with very little effort required by either the parent or the child.  The costs also appear to be relatively low usually at approximately $50.00 per month depending on the type and quantity of the medication, with some costing much more.

These are some of the main reasons why using ADHD medication can be beneficial. However this is not the complete picture.  There are also many potential pitfalls to using ADHD medication.

Effectiveness is Short-lived

The same studies that showed a short term benefit to using ADHD meds also showed that when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behaviour problems.  To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems

Moreover, the initial benefit decreased over time until the original prescription was no longer effective.  To try to counter this, dosages are increased, or the brand or type of medication gets changed, and supplemental medications may be added to try to retain that initial short term improvement the child experienced. 

The problem with this strategy is that it is not feasible to maintain.  Costs increase and if medication is the only solution being implemented it may eventually become completely ineffective.  

Side-effects to ADHD Medication

Even with the short-term benefit of medication one must also consider the many potential side effects of ADHD medication.  This can include low appetite, stomach pain, headaches, moodiness, sleep problems, tics, and stunting growth.

Sometimes, it can lead to even more serious conditions like strokes, convulsions, hallucinations, depression, and suicide. To learn more about some of these side-effects you can read the article from the Toronto Star – ADHD Drugs Suspected of Hurting Canadian Kids

To Medicate or Not to Medicate      

Every child will react differently to ADHD medication and its effectiveness and potential side-effects will vary as well.  Whether or not ADHD pills are right for your child is a personal decision that every parent needs to make.  If you do choose to use medication, it’s important for both parents and a local doctor to monitor the use of it and the effect that it is having. 

Even if you choose the medical route to gain the short term benefits that many children see, the best long term results have come from children that are using several methods simultaneously to deal with their ADHD.  This can include therapy, diet, and professionally designed and delivered brain training courses that improve focus and attention.

Unlock Your Child’s Inner Genius

As a doctor that works with ADHD children, I’ve spoken to thousands of parents about their children and their problems with focusing and learning.

One of the key questions I like to ask is “What is your child really good at.” That usually gets me a confused and puzzled look, but after a bit, they get right into it and I find out amazing things

For example, a lot of ADHD-type kids have incredible artistic skill, or they have an astounding memory for people and places they’ve been, or they have a great sense of humor, or they’re master story tellers, or they have boundless energy.

How is it that a kid that can build a skyscraper but can’t put 3 bricks together? They may have vision and drive, but they may not have good executive functions.

It has a lot to do with brain balance – visual/spatial skills are more in the right brain. Language and logic are more on the left.

Kids with ADHD, Autism or Learning Disabilities typically have poor connectivity between the hemispheres. Maxi Mind Learning’s Brain Training Courses boost the connectivity between the hemispheres which is one of the ways we help unlock your child’s inner genius.

There’s one more point I’d like to share – As parents we tend to be interested in solving a problem, kids are more interested in pursuing their passion.

Take Gabe for example – his parents were thrilled about his academic improvements, but Gabe was excited about being able to keep his eye on the ball at recess.

Or 16-year-old Lee: Maxi Mind not only opened him up to book learning, his artistic skill improved so much, that he has actually been paid to illustrate a book for a commercial publisher.

If you’re in the Toronto area we may be able to help your child unlock his inner genius.  Get a free consultation and you can learn how. 

Challenging the Myths of Autism

 

At Maxi Mind, we are blessed to have a friend and colleague like Jonathan Alderson. Before we even knew he existed, Jonathan started sending us clients, parents of kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Jonathan is a Harvard Educator who has worked with over 2,000 children and families touched by autism. He’s written a must-read award-winning book, called Challenging the Myths of Autism, published by Collins.

Jonathan Alderson likes Maxi Mind’s multi-modal approach and recognizes the value of our sensory integration therapy as a key element for helping kids on the spectrum improve their language and social skills.

One of the myths that Jonathan challenges is the Myth of the “Five Year Window” the belief that once they turn five, children on the spectrum lose their chance to change.

Eight-year-old Tony was referred to us by Jonathan because of his inability to socialize and communicate verbally beyond echolalia and some single words. Tony’s parents live far from Toronto so we had to work remotely. We taught Tony’s mom our methodology, loaded her up with technology and training, and assigned her a coach to provide remote support.

Between the music, the movement and the biofeedback, things started to evolve. Within two months, we achieved together what five years of therapy could not achieve. Tony started to talk! But real conversation. Neighbours, relatives, teachers, everyone noticed the change and his social and academic life started to flourish.

Maxi Mind Brain Training™ capitalizes on the new science of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change itself, in order to effectively address the root causes Autism. Not only are there no negative side effects, it’s actually fun for your child during the process.

If you have a child like Tony and live in the Greater Toronto Area, then the Maxi Mind Program is a great way to see lasting results. 

Get a free consultation today and see how the Maxi Mind Program can help your child today.