Thursday, December 8, 2011


Warning: This blogpost is about poop. (If you are a Cub Scout-aged boy, that means it's really awesome!)  But the simple truth is we should all poop.  Pooping is good for us---in fact, it is essential to our health.  Unfortunately, pooping is not effortless for some people---and that's called constipation.  You should have a bowel movement one to three times each day.  That bowel movement should not be over-poweringly smelly.  It should be well-formed and resemble a long sausage.  Little stones or grape-like shape is still constipation.  Watery or loose stools are diarrhea, and that's not healthy poop either.

Bowel movements are a very important way for your body to discard wastes and toxins---and it needs to do its job in order for the rest of our system to function efficiently.  I read once that if you were standing behind a car that was shooting smoke out of the exhaust pipe---and that smoke smells putrid and is a horrid dark color, you pretty well know that SOMETHING is wrong with the internal workings of that vehicle.   You may not know WHAT is wrong, or HOW to fix it, but you KNOW that car needs help.

Same is true for children.  If what is coming out the back end isn't healthy, then something is going WRONG in the internal workings of your child.  Something else I thought worthy of mention is that when you're in traffic, you want to get AWAY from the car that smells bad and is belching noxious exhause---and the same is often true of kids with constipation issues.  Why?  Because of the smell?  Well, sometimes that is certainly an issue.  But there is more.

Now we get to the heart of what I felt so strongly about writing this morning.  Digestive issues, including constipation, are directly related to behavior issues! This can't be emphasized enough.  Whenever a child has disruptive behavior, poor social connections, wide mood swings, depression, etc. there is a VERY high chance that digestion is the culprit.  If not the sole culprit, then at the very least a partner in crime.  Please do not under-estimate this important factor of health---including MENTAL health.  There are endless studies pointing to nutrition combined with exercise as the most reliable CURE for depression.  The side effects are all positive.  Anti-depressants are proven to be riddled with terrible side effects, short-term effectivness and expensive! 

There are many, many facets of good digestion and making sure you/your child is completely emptying their bowels EVERY DAY.    The types of food eaten, the amount of water, the types of food to AVOID, supplements, exercise, etc.  The answers are not the same for every child, but it is VERY important for you to find the answers for your child.

Recently, I had an infected tooth and was on anti-biotics for 20 days.  Although I had seriously NEVER been constipated before in my entire life, the anti-biotics resulted in some real struggles in the bathroom department for me.  And my attitude was in the tank!  Everything and everyone annoyed me.  I was impatient and frustrated easily.  All of a sudden, I was much more understanding of what people with chronic digestive disorders deal with.  Poop moved WAY up my priority list when I realized the stress it placed on my entire system---with the symptoms being my behavior.

Here are some good things to consider when dealing with constipation:
1.  Nutrition---get ALL junk and sugar out of the diet.  They are AWFUL for your system.  Yes, a healthy system can detox a certain amount of poor eating.  However, if there are issues, stay away from these toxic loads.
2. Water---Drink 1/2 ounce of water for every pound your/your child's weight EVERY DAY.  Example: A person weighing 100 pounds should drink no less than 50 ounces of water each day.
3. Probiotics---The friendly bacteria that help with digestion.  They also keep yeast at bay.  I like Primal Defense by Garden of Life.  There are many good ones.  Do your research and take a GOOD probiotic.
4. Oxypowder---This is a natural cleanser without negative side effects frequently associated with laxatives.  You will likely have to purchase this on the Internet.  We've used this in our home and found it to be really effective.  You can use a maintenance dose of this also.

There is a lot more information available that is important for understand and resolving constipation issues.  But what I learned from my own experience is that this is an ESSENTIAL.  We cannot expect our children to function happily or sometimes even function at all when there are toxins backing up in their system.  If your child is struggling in any area, please monitor their bowel movements and take hasty action if you see any issues with constipation or diarrhea.

I can report a relief in my mood and attitude once I resolved this issue for myself.  Consider this high on the list whenever you see any unwanted behaviors in your child.

;^) Donna

Some good reading material:  Healing & Preventing Autism by Jenny McCarthy & Dr. Jerry Kartzinel.  This has an excellent chapter entitled "Poop: The Whole Story on Constipation, Diarrhea and Your Kid's Behavior".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

I recently came upon a blogpost written by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The New York Times Best Seller, The Happiness Project.  Gretchen spent a year testing out every theory of what makes you happy.  I am just beginning to read this book and will be reviewing it on the blog, probably in Spring 2012.  Until then, I just wanted to point out something she wrote about in her blog (

It seems that science and experience both agree that happiness is found in what you do EVERY DAY, and not in what you do occasionally.  The vacation getaway to the beach doesn't have near the impact on you that your daily routine does.  She specifically mentions a friend who thinks she is a routine exerciser because she works out for 2 hours approx every two weeks.  NOT!  The person who is likely to find happiness from exercise is the one who runs every day, even if for short period of time/distances.

This is also true when it comes to neurological programs for your child/family.  You won't get the satisfaction from occasional programs that you get from daily programs (5 days per week).  The routine, consistent performances are the ones that bring personal happiness and a sense or accomplishment---plus success as your child grows and improves!

I really appreciated this blogpost---I am going to more carefully examine my daily routine and see what is actually eating my time.  And does it bring my happiness?  I may enjoy something (a television show, Facebook, email, reading blogs, etc), but does it contribute to my happiness.  If not, does it belong in my every day routine? 

I know doing programs from Parents With Purpose on a daily and consistent basis brings results for your child---which brings changes to the whole family.  Every mom I've interviewed who actually DOES the program CONSISTENTLY, says it was hard, but it made them happy.  Even before their child was ready to graduate from the program, they felt happy.

I challenge each of us to really look at our day, fill it with what really brings happiness.  Realize the difference between temporary pleasure and happiness.  While temporary pleasure is fine for an occasional treat, we should be CONSISTENT with what brings real happiness.  For me, knowing my child is growing and thriving is one of the things that should be on my "happiness" list every day!

To listen to some interviews from mothers who have done the program, visit

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dear Diary

I recently read an article published by The Deseret News about a woman named Cleia Schow Barrett, who is now 86 years old, who has kept a daily journal EVERY DAY SINCE JANUARY 1, 1939!  For almost 73 years, she has faithfully written in her journal about her life EVERY DAY.   There is a lovely picture of her together with ALL the journals she's kept over the years---it is remarkable.

Writing a short bit about your day isn't that remarkable.  It doesn't take much time or make much of a difference at all.  If she'd only written on one day, she probably wouldn't even still have the entry.   If she'd only written for a year or two, the book would probably be tucked away in an attic somewhere, but not the  subject of a newspaper article.

What IS remarkable is her daily diligence.  She wrote EVERY DAY for almost 73 years---and counting.  I am so impressed with her consistent performance.  So here is an AMAZING lesson I have learned from Cleia Barrett---I can do something very simple every day and it will become something spectacular and valuable over time.  Can you imagine if Cleia had started out her journal writing thinking about how much she would have to do over the next 73 years?  How intimidating and overwhelming would that be?  It might have scared her out of even beginning. 

I am guilty of trying to eat the whole elephant at one time.  My day is usually composed of simple things.  I need to do the simple things and LET THEM BE SIMPLE.  They're not hard and I don't need to intimidate myself by worrying about how many times I'm going to have to do them for the rest of my life---just today. 

And so are your programs.  Parents With Purpose programs are not NASA Laboratory experiences.  There is nothing remarkable about doing one day's worth of program.  However, over time, it becomes very powerful.  The remarkable things become the results you from doing small things EVERY DAY (5 days a week).  Just do what you need to do today, and keep going.

Like Mrs. Barrett, when we get further into the journey, we will look back and see we've learned and grown so much.  She said, "I think that I cared enough about my own life that I was in charge of my own life."  WOW!  She cared enough about her own life to decide what she wanted and how she was going to attain it.  Interesting perspective---caring about your own life.

Mrs. Barrett's daughter, Collette Judd, has also learned from her mother's journal-keeping habit. 
"Time passes and there are good things to remember about it."  Yes, time passes, programs can be hard, but there are GOOD THINGS to remember about it---a good thing to remember.
"There are times when you have to work really hard to hold on."  Yes there are.  But you DO have to hold on in order to achieve your goal.
"It doesn't seem like you are progressing day to day, but when you look back you really have."  I see this in almost every re-evaluation.  It is so easy to remain focused on how much work we have left to do, that we fail to see how much we have already accomplished.  I frequently remind parents where their child was when they began the program and their response is, "Oh my gosh.  I'd forgotten just how bad it was."  Laying out the exact progress is one of my favorite things about re-evaluations for that very reason---we often fail to see the progress.

Thank you, Mrs. Barrett, for your excellent example.  I'm uplifted and reminded that I CAN and NEED to do things consistently.  It is NOT impossible.  But it IS powerful!

If you would like to read the original article about Mrs. Barrett, you can do so here:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Best Thing Fathers Can Do for Their Children

The #1 best thing fathers can do for their children is to love their mother.  This indicates a solid family structure and both traditional values and statistics tell us it is the best indicator of successful children.  That's a great things for fathers to know and work toward. 

But what does "love their mother" entail?  It involves a LOT of things, such as:
1.     A kiss in the morning and a kiss goodnight
2.     Opening her door
3.     Thanking her for all her hard work
4.     NEVER allowing the children to speak disrespectfully TO her or ABOUT her
5.     Remembering special occasions---birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day (big one!), etc.
6.     Continuing to date her
7.     Offering unsolicited help with the dishes or the laundry or other household chores
8.     Noticing if she changes her makeup or hairdo or gets a new outfit
9.     Giving her some time to herself
10.   Telling her you love her

Oh, I could go on and on with ideas.  They are numerous.  I'm sure you have your own suggestions also.  But I would like to talk about one particular idea that is extremely important----respecting her understanding of the children.

I have, unfortunately, witnessed many fathers discount the mother's opinion when she says she knows something is not quite right for their child.  Mothers have pleaded for someone to listen to their concerns and help them find ways to help their child---and the dad says, "I disagree and I veto any further action on this subject."  Well, this is where steam starts coming out of my ears.  Because while that father was putting his foot down, I see the look on the face of the mother.  She is almost broken in half now.  She knows, and she knows deep in her gut with that sense that was given to mothers by God.  There is no argument in her mind---only wanting to know what to do next.  And now there is a roadblock.  And it's the very person who should be her partner.

So "what to do next" means her focus is shifted away from helping her child and back to dealing with someone who won't believe and trust her.  The very person who should be supporting her and praising her dedication won't trust her about her very own child.  He trusted her to be the one to nourish the baby in utero, to give birth, to get up in the night to feed, to change the diapers, etc.----but doesn't believe her when she says, "I know something needs extra attention here.  I know something should be going differently than it is." 

So here is my advice on the best thing fathers can do for their children----trust their mother to nurture and care for them, even if you don't see it the same way.  (Of course, there are some basic ideas to agree upon---hopefully you cleared those up BEFORE a child came along.)  But if your wife has concerns, then support her and help her.  99% of the children who are struggling are FIRST diagnosed by their mother.  She knew long before other family members and certainly before the professionals.  She is not lying or imagining things---quite the opposite.  She knows what "well" looks and feels like, and  she knows that something is awry.  She is not borrowing trouble just for fun---those struggles do not increase her "fun" quotient.

My own husband wasn't really quite sure what to think when I told him I knew something was wrong with our youngest child.  But he believed me.  When that something meant we needed to take action, I wanted to fly to Philadelphia and start working with our son myself.  In his words, he was on "quackwatch", but he never said a negative syllable to me.  He already knew I was our child's best advocate.  Six months into it, he saw the progress and knew we were on the right track.  He understood and believed what I had known earlier---but in that time when he was "quack-watching", he let me do what I instinctively knew was right for our son. 

My husband understood the special gift given to mothers---sometimes called "mothers' intuition" and how powerful it could be.  He knew this gift began with Mother Eve and has continued through the annals of time.  He knew that when I became a mother for the first time at 5 am on a June morning in 1984, that gift was bestowed upon me.  He also knew this gift was never used for my benefit, but always for the betterment of our children.  He knew that God trusted me with this gift, and he did, too.

And that level of respect and trust is #1 on the list of "loving their mother".  Thank you, Bart, for loving me so well for almost three decades.  I am a better person because of you!  Young fathers---love your child's mother, it's the best thing you can do for your children.  Ever.

Never Give Up

David O. McKay wisely stated, "No success can compensate for failure in the home."  I love how eloquently he teaches us that family is more important than the rest of the world.  That our efforts with our children and spouse are long-term investments.  That all the glory and money the world could heap upon me would pale in comparison to having a righteous, happy family. 

However, I recently heard a story about a reporter further questioning the author by asking for his definition of "failure."  His answer was that failure is giving up.  This is really food for thought. 

How many parents do I know whose children are struggling, and they have given up?  They are just going to love their child and send them to whatever program the public school offers and be satisfied with whatever comes.  How many parents are just praying their child will "outgrow" their struggles and somehow magically be able to pay attention and sit still after puberty hits?  How many parents think it's okay if reading is hard for their child because it must be genetic---the parents and grandparents struggled, too.  How many parents just turn their head when their child attempts to participate in sports or playground activities because their child "runs funny"?  To my way of thinking, these strategies are all "giving up".

The reason I say these strategies are "giving up" is because  a) they seldom bring success and  b) there is no action being taken by the parents.  It's not enough to hunker down and survive---we, as parents, need to be learning and taking action for our children EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, even if those steps are unpleasant, tiring, demanding and take every ounce of our strength.  We cannot let others be in charge of our child's progress.  We can certainly get help, but we are ultimately responsible and should keep ourselves in the drivers' seat.

I, sadly, watched the Detroit Lions play the Dallas Cowboys today.  Detroit was losing 20-0 in the third quarter.  But they still never gave up.  They fought and fought and came back to win 34-30.  They didn't give up.  They looked completely defeated, but they never quit.  They played football for the entire 60 minutes and because they took every possible chance they were given, they WON. 

And, as parents, we should, too.  Don't give in to a negative prognosis from a professional.  Don't let anyone tell you that parents aren't qualified to make decisions about your child.  Don't give up because it seems progress is coming too slowly or not at all.

Learn, learn, learn, learn.  Inform yourself.  Get a VARIETY of opinions and don't discount your instinct regarding your own child.  If you have professionals working with your child, know every detail and be in the ring on your child's side.  Make your time at home with your child productive.  Stay focused and dream at night about your child's success.  Work like it all depends on you and pray like it all depends on God.  And never never never give up!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alarm Clocks and Independence

Since the departure of five of our children---off to college---the logistics in our home have changed dramatically.  Most recently, we are re-decorating the three upstairs bedrooms for the three remaining occupants of the land of Bateman.  This means my house is messy and dusty, I have paint of various shades in places paint was NEVER meant to be, and I'm EXHAUSTED!  It is in this condition that my story for the day begins.

It was 4 am---yes, I said FOUR A.M.  I'd been up until a little after midnight the night before because I was helping paint in my daughter's room.  I should have had my eyes tightly closed and been sitting on a relaxing beach in dreamland.  But I wasn't in dreamland because my daughter's cell phone alarm was going off in the room adjacent to my bedroom.  Did I mention it was FOUR A.M.?  I finally awakened enough to realize I had to find the darned thing and turn it off myself because no one else was even stirring.  They were obviously able to sleep right through that annoying sound, but I was not.  I finally located the sound in the bottom of a school bag under a table (those of you on the program would be proud:).  I was completely annoyed by this time and really considered finding the closest hammer to permanently end the interruption of my much-needed sleep.  I mean I REALLY wanted to destroy that phone---and then wake up my daughter (the operator of the offending phone) with LOTS of really annoying sounds.  I restrained myself and went back to bed.

When I awoke at 5:45 (my usually time), I was calmer.  However, I was determined to take her cell phone away from her for a week and tell her I would be determining what time alarms would go off---not her.  Then I had a shower, some breakfast, some scripture time and decided I was wrong.  It is VERY tempting to slam shut the door when things are not going well.  However, do I want my daughter to someday be able to set an alarm, go to sleep and awaken on time without my help?  Why, yes, I do!  Does my daughter need less practice with alarms or more practice with alarms? She obviously needs more, and maybe a lot more.  Does this mean I may have future interaction with other cell phone alarms at ridiculous times of the morning? Yes! Is it worth it if I can send my daughter off to college independently in three years? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!

When our children struggle with particular tasks and skills, it is very tempting to say that they can't do it, and remove the task.  Perhaps we even do the task for them. (I type with chagrin since I've done that thousands of times over the course of my 27 years as a mom.)  I already obviously know how to set an alarm and turn it off, but do I know how to teach it? Obviously I need some practice. :/

This isn't limited to alarm clocks and cell phones.  We really need to look at where our children are and what the next steps to their independence should be.  Perhaps they need to practice putting away laundry, or maybe they are ready to learn how to do their own laundry.  Maybe they can help learn to set the table or maybe they are ready to prepare a meal.  What is the next step for them? 

Once we have determined their next step, we need to give opportunities for intentional practice.  I am having my daughter set alarms many times throughout the day/evening.  She is conditioning her brain to hear and respond to the alarm.  She is setting the alarm for all kinds of things---her favorite tv show, dinner time, how long to brush her teeth, how long to work on a project, etc.  She is completely annoyed by the whole thing and has done her fair share of eye rolling and sighing.  That's okay because she is learning and that is the point.  We will keep "practicing" with the alarm until she is completely successful. 

And then we'll choose something else.  Because she is only 15 and she still has a lot to learn.  And I still have a lot to teach her before I feel confident in her independence.  It won't happen by accident.  And no one else but her mother cares enough to give her this information and develop her skills.  Gotta go---the alarm just went off and it's time for our favorite show. ;^)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mission Accomplished

I was in Provo, Utah this past week leaving five of my eight children to attend Brigham Young University.  My childdren ages 27, 25, 22, 20, and 18 will all be taking classes there this fall.  We had lots of fun spending time with our five oldest children.  I must admit when the time came to drive away, there were a few tears.  Saying goodbye was hard, really hard.

Other friends dropping off their children at various colleges around the country reported the same feelings.  We have been comforting each other as some of our children have left the nest.  As we have been talking, we've relived moments of triumph from the past few years---touchdown passes, interceptions returned for touchdowns, dance trophies, half-time shows, pep rallies, toilet papering houses, homecoming and prom dates, band performances, choir awards, fund raisers, service at the nursing home, game-day lunches, bus rides, etc.

So now this group of good kids is in college, and while we are ALWAYS mothers, we can say, "Mission Accomplished!"  Each of these new freshman is A) academically successful (They are attending Princeton, University of Texas, Oklahoma State, Brigham Young, Southern Virginia, Texas Christian, Baylor and others), B) physically coordinated (They are football players, baseball players, drill team dancers, cheerleaders, track runners, etc), and C) socially gracious (They are well-liked by many friends, but also their teachers and their friends' parents).  They still have a LOT of growing up to do, but they are ready to do this outside the protective and watchful eye of their parents---and this is the goal of successful parents, to raise capable independent young men and women.  My "well done" goes out to each of these fine parents.

But not every mother of an 18-year-old with tears in her eyes is crying because her child is successfully leaving home.  Some of them have tears because their child is NOT succeeding---and those are the bitter tears every parent would do anything to avoid.  If only they could have known two things A) what to do and B) when to do it.  I do not propose to have every answer to both of those questions.  I do, however, have some suggestions to answer at least part of the questions.

What to do--There are a LOT of things to do to help ensure the success of your growing child and, again, I don't propose to have every answer.  I do, however, think it would be wise for your first step to be making the decision to be pro-active.  I have know many parents who have lamented taking the "wait and see" approach. 

Once you've decided to be pro-active, then educating yourself would seem to be the next likely step.  Find out how children develop and what milestones to look for along the way.  Do not simply take someone's word for it---learn from a variety of good sources for yourself.  You can begin by taking the Brain Development class---either online or in person.  Check out this seminar information.

Make your home a brain-stimulating environmentNutrition, activity levels, intellectually-challenging opportunities, and others are areas where parents can make some choices that are intentionally set up for growing the brains of children.  Be willing to act contrary to popular culture in your child's best long-term interest.

Stay the course--Raising children to be successful young adults is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  It is something that requires dedication and staying focused on the goal.  Don't give up.  Having a good support system is helpful is very helpful!  The Parents With Purpose Forum may be able to help.

Enjoy the journey with your children.  If your children are succeeding, nothing should be more enjoyable.  Participating in and/or watching my children's activities are my FAVORITE things to do.  Of course, there are tough times that go along with the good ones, but if your children are learning and growing the right direction, even the tough times are helping achieve your goal.

If you look at how your child is progressing along his pathway, and you are not comfortable with their progress, consider another approach to help them.  If YOU are not happy, then don't let other people tell you to stop being pro-active on behalf of your child.  And that brings me to my next point---when to do it. This is a simple answer---NOW.  Don't wait.  Start on the "What to Do" list right away.  Your time with your child will fly by.  Make the best use of these fleeting years while you still can.

My goal for parents participating in the Parents With Purpose program is for them to have the same tears I had last week.  I want you all to experience the successful moment when you confidently send your young adult on their way.  It is a hard moment, but it is what we should be working toward.  Congratulations to all my friends who have shed those tears recently.  Mission Accomplished!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I saw a car accident today!

While waiting to pull out of a parking lot this morning, I witnessed the car just in front of me cause an accident. That sound was AWFUL! Smoke coming out of the hood of the car was AWFUL! Noticing one car was full of children was AWFUL! Seeing the face of the man who caused the accident was AWFUL---he seemed like a nice man who just didn't see the other car coming. It appeared to be an AWFUL mistake. I stayed on the scene to give my account to the police. And that was AWFUL, too. I didn't like placing blame on an apparently concerned man. The whole thing was AWFUL. I was even a little shaken by the ordeal and was grateful I lived nearby. I didn't have that far to get home.

It's been years since I've witnessed an accident happen---and I can count on one hand the numbers of times I have in my entire life. But does that mean there aren't many car accidents? I see thousands of cars safely driving all the time. Shouldn't that mean I can rest assured that accidents aren't a real danger? Every adult I know drives and they're just fine---mostly. So out of curiosity I did a little Google search and found the following statistics about 2009 traffic accidents in the United States:
*More than 5.5 million car accidents
*Nearly 31,000 accidents were fatal
*More than 2 million people were injured
*61% of accidents involved only one vehicle
*An average of four children (age 14 & under) were killed in car accidents EVERY DAY
*Nearly 500 children (age 14 & under) were injured in car accidents EVERY DAY
This information did NOT help calm my shaken nerves at all. I don't know about you, but I think 5.5 million is a LOT! But I had many errands to run today, and I had to drive to get those done. But you can sure bet the accident made some changes to my behavior. I looked twice and sometimes three times before I pulled out or changed langes. I was more careful about the speed limit. I was more observant about the drivers around me. I walked to some of the places that were just up the street.

I have had the comparison to vaccinations in my head all afternoon. Vaccinations produce negative reactions every day. Children sometimes die from vaccinations and many children are injured. I wish I could give you statistics, but honestly there are no reliable sources of those numbers. I won't quote people who have a vested interest in swaying the numbers one way or the other----and those are the only people really publishing numbers. But I can reliably report this: I have witnessed negative vaccination reactions. The mother driving a carload of children today had the exact same look on her face that other mothers have had when they report the injury to their child.

Just because we don't personally witness car accidents, doesn't mean they aren't happening---they ARE. Just because we don't personally witness vaccine injuries doesn't mean they aren't happening---they ARE. Even vaccine manufacturers admit this and the U.S. Federal Government has set up a fund for vaccine injuries---they happen. I know car accidents happen because of the report of people who witness them and report them. I know vaccine injuries happen from the same source. I will never forget a mother from Texas who contacted me and told me about her perfectly well, normal-developing, happy baby boy who began screaming nonstop and lost all of his mobility and language skills before the sun set on the day of his vaccinations. She literally watched her son unravel before her eyes. And she is not alone. I personally know mothers from all across the U.S. who have very similar reports. And I refuse to call them liars, uninformed, or hyper-emotional. They saw what they saw. I saw a car crash and the policeman had no reason to doubt my report. I have no reason to doubt the report of mothers who just want their child to be well again.

Parents are not necessarily looking for someone to blame for their child's injury. They want to warn other parents of a potential hazard. Today I saw people rush out of nearby shops to help the accident victims and to direct traffic away from the wreckage. While people were still at risk, helping them get to safety was the ONLY concern. No one was condemning the driver who caused the collision, that will be sorted out later by the proper parties. So will the vaccine scenario. But in the meantime, you can merge into safer lanes and slow down in order to avoid becoming part of that misfortune.

I am not completely anti-vaccine, just like I am not completely anti-driving. But just as I took some extra precautions when driving, I think there are common sense extra precautions for vaccines. I do NOT recommend vaccinating children and I do NOT recommend abstaining from vaccinating your children. I can point out information, and parents make decisions. I am not trying to sway that decision one way or the other. But please, before you vaccinate your child, inform yourself with some variety in your sources. In other words, please look twice and perhaps three times before you think about pulling into traffic. It is my opinion that you need to form your own opinion---your pediatrician's opinion is only one opinion. You wouldn't let someone in the back seat tell you it is safe to pull out, you would check yourself. You may decide after checking traffic conditions, that it is safest to take another route---and this can apply to vaccinations also. Another route may be your best bet.

If you are reading this blog, then you have the Internet and you can do your own research. You spent a considerable amount of time and effort learning to drive a car---spend a few hours reading and researching vaccinations. There are some children who should not be vaccinated. There are some children whose vaccinations should be limited and should be spaced out. Just like pulling your car into traffic, there is NO RUSH. Please do not be pressured into vaccinating.

I am not trying to villify your pediatrician or nurse or healthcare practitioner for vaccinating your child. Just like today's accident happened at the hands of a well-meaning person who just honestly didn't see the oncoming car because his view was partially obstructed----well-meaning medical professionals may not have the entire perspective in their sight. They may be doing their best to safely navigate the situation, but may nonetheless cause an accident.

I know children who are living with the results of a vaccine injury and seeing this is AWFUL. Just like my experience this morning, I will stay on the scene. I will do my best to help those involved in an AWFUL situation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain-Injured Often Denied Therapies

I read an article published in The Dallas Morning News, Friday, August 12, 2011 with the title listed in the subject line of the blog. (Thanks to my hubby who always brings these articles to me!) This article points out a few facts that are exactly what is WRONG with our current system.

Problem #1--Gabriella Giffords--the AZ Congresswoman who was attacked/shot and received a terrible brain injury as a result--has received a lot of wonderful therapy that was developed for veterans who often come home with TBI (traumatic brain injury). Here is the problem---many vets don't get this therapy! Congress gives itself soooooo many privileges and this is really beyond outrageous. Why are veterans denied treatment when they put their lives on the line for us every day? Their families makes so much sacrifice and the least we can do is do our best to return their loved ones in the best possible condition. Congressional privilege---Problem #1!

Problem #2--Tricare (Insurance company that administers veteran benefits) denies treatment to veterans because they don't deem it medically necessary. The Department of Veterans Affairs has embraced rehabilitation for TBI, yet Tricare denies benefits. I have personally witnessed this. Problem #2---"Insurance companies don't want to pay for quality-of-life improvements". I don't think the ability to sleep through the night, have a normal relationship with your wife and children and be able to hold down a job are too much to ask!

Problem #3--The typical cost is $27,000 for one hour a day of treatment over six months! YIKES! You could hire a live-in aide for that amount of money! While I understand that some families need help because of the physical challenge of the situation, many of them can be trained to make a big difference themselves and then supplemented with a part-time aide. I am shocked that the VA doesn't have a system that is more cost-effective---except I'm not that surprised because government agencies don't have the best track record. Poor cost management---Problem #3!

Problem #4--The average veteran receives only three weeks of therapy. This is ridiculous! Three weeks is not long enough to make substantial changes. I am delighted for clients who make big changes in six months and they are usually children, who generally progress faster. Three weeks = weak sauce = Problem #4!

So here is my take:

#1--I think Congress shouldn't have special privileges, but the military should. Period.

#2--Quality of life is absolutely a medically-necessary situation. We have to return library books in good condition, the military shouldn't be any less.

#3--$27,000 could get hyperbaric, a home program and a part-time aide for six months. We should be careful with the money that is dedicated to our veterans. It would not be hard to make this happen---I personally know people lobbying Congress through the Department of Defense to make this happen. It's been over 10 years and the battle continues. The people soaking money out of the system are VEHEMENTLY opposing these common-sense measures. It should stop and stop NOW!

#4--It sometimes takes several years for children to completely make the way to wellness. We don't put a time limit on them. Their worth is never limited by time. If we are using the available resources WISELY, then we could make sure vets can progress at a good rate without placing time limits on them.

I hope we'll also consider some of these lessons for our children who are struggling---let's dedicate our resources to efforts that get good results and make the best results of our family resources. Let's be devoted to their wellness and stay the course for them.

If you want more information about veterans and the crisis of traumatic brain injuries for them, please visit and read the NBIRR study information on the page. Then contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators.
Schedule Change!!

Dallas Seminar now scheduled for September 10, 2011---same location.
The tuition is only $25, which is $100 below the regular price.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calendar Time!

Parents With Purpose has three Brain Development 101 seminars scheduled in the coming months:

July 30, Plano, TX area 8 am - 5 pm
Days Inn 19373 Preston Road, Dallas TX 75252
For information or registration, please contact Donna Bateman at 214-502-2827 or

August 6, San Jose, CA 9 am - 5 pm
For information or registration, please contact Patty Ezell at 408 362-9780

September 24, Portland, OR area 8 am - 5 pm
For information or registration, please contact Erika Glancy at 503-620-2082 or

For more information regarding the seminar content: and find "Seminar" under the "Services" tab

Monday, June 27, 2011

Running Speed

UCLA recently released the results of a study which surprised some very accomplished researchers---but not me. I don't claim to have a fraction of the intelligence and certainly cannot compare with the education levels of these researchers, but I already knew what they are so excited to discover. However, I am VERY excited about new research to support the connection between mobility and brain function---especially with how it connects to learning.

Professor Mayank Mehta led the UCLA research team in analyzing the gamma rhythm---typically originating in the hippocampus---in mice. According UCLA Newsroom, "The researchers found that the strength of the gamma rhythm grew substantially as running speed increased." This may not be thrilling enough to keep many people up at night---but let's look a little deeper at the inferences and implications of this one finding.

First--the hippocampus. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system--which is largely responsible for processing emotion, smell and sound. The hippocampus is horseshoe shaped, with one side of the horseshoe in the left brain and the other side of the horseshoe in the right brain. This structure serves by indexing our memories and sending them to the proper cerebral areas for storage, and also by retrieving these memories when called upon. The hippocampus is critical for learning processes and is the focus for research into Alzheimer's Disease, dementia and other memory-related diseases.

Understanding the role of the hippocampus in the retrieval of information makes it easy to see its vital role in learning. The gamma rhythm in the hippocampus is critical during periods of concentration and learning. This rhythm is known to be controlled by attention and focus. The study from the UCLA team was shocked to find that running speed also controlled the gamma rhythm. So this gives us an extra factor to control the gamma rhythm and thereby improve learning. If you struggle with attention and focus, you can turn to running as another source to improve your gamma rhythm and make learning easier. This should give all PE teachers and track coaches more ammunition to combat funding cuts for their programs in schools. It should give parents motivation to get their children running. Children have every reason to DEMAND their parents run---no one wants to suffer watching their parents slowly fade away as the memory increasingly fails. (I'm getting on the treadmill right after I finish this article. I promise!)

But what if you can't run well? What if you are uncoordinated and thus run slowly? (The study specifically pointed to gamma rhythm improving as the running speed increased.) If lack of stamina prevents you from running fast, then more running and aerobic exercise will increase your stamina. But if coordination is the obstacle, then more uncoordinated running will not lead to coordinated running. This is where an understanding of ontogenetic function becomes very important. Ontogenetic functions are those where one neurological function done in sufficient quantity and quality lead ONTO the next higher level of function. In mobility, this pattern goes like this:

1. Ability to freely move all joints and limbs

2. Crawl on the belly in a coordinated fashion (aka army crawl or commando crawl)

3. Creep on hands/knees in cross pattern (commonly called "crawling" in the U.S.)

4. Walk using the arms for balance

5. Walk independently in a cross pattern

6. Run in a coordinated cross pattern

So, if one ability in the ontogenetic pattern is not appropriate, we look at the previous skill and stimulate it. So if creeping is awkward, look to crawling. If walking or running is uncoordinated, creeping organizes the ability to walk/run.

Why? Because the brain functions from the BOTTOM UP. Impulses are received and sent to our spinal cord, which then sends the signals upward to the base of the brain---the medulla spinalis. The medulla processes signals and then sends them to the pons. They are then routed through the various parts of the midbrain, where they are processed and sorted out to the various areas of the cortex. If at any point in this process there is some disorganization or improper processing, the area of the brain which is next to receive the signals is operating on faulty information---so of course, we can't expect perfect function from faulty input. And where did the faulty input come from? The "lower" level of the brain. This is very simplified but adequately explains why we focus on lower levels of function to help higher levels of function--because the brain functions from the bottom up.

So now, back to our UCLA study---running improves the gamma rhythm. This is solid evidence which is now atop the mountain of previous studies of various areas of the brain that point to one particular fact---movement is the organizer of the brain. Dr. Svetlana Masgutova said it most succinctly when she said, "You cannot change a brain without moving." Research is pointing to running to help with depression, anxiety, preventing Alzheimer's, dementia, and now learning.

This is NOT just exercise in general, as is touted by many. This is coordinated, cross patterned movement. Aerobic dancing, swimming, yoga, pilates, etc all have MANY wonderful health benefits, but they are not cross-patterned (the opposing arm/leg move in synchrony) and thus not beneficial to these particular neurological patterns. They are not effective at targeting the specific areas of the brain we want to----basically the overall organization and efficiency.

Crawling, creeping, walking, and running are neurological organizers. They have many other great side effects like increased respiration and disease prevention, and that makes them very desirable for anyone who is struggling or whose child is struggling. Mobility in all its glory is beautiful to see---the whole country stops to watch the Olympics, the Super Bowl, etc. We just need to remember this isn't something reserved for professional athletes and it is quite possibly the answer to learning problems and other neurological challenges. Simple and effective---sounds good to me! Now I really should keep my promise and get on that treadmill. :)

The study can be read at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review and Give-Away! Think Smart by Richard Restak, MD

Richard Restak is the author of 19 books about the brain. I am reviewing, today one of his most recent publications, Think Smart.

I liked this book and found it an exciting read. I even made a list of "things to do for my brain" from his suggested activities. However, I found the book to be a bit ironic. From page 69, "Mental exercise differes from physical exercise in that it provides specific limited benefits while physical exercise bestows generalized benefits."
Really? Because Dr. Restak goes on to talk almost exclusively about mental exercises for over 200 pages. He provides almost COUNTLESS mental activities to help increase brain function and gives physical exercise only a casual mention. I know there are so many books about exercise on the market already, but there really are NOT many books about exercise and the brain. Since you can't change a brain without moving, I am disappointed that Dr. Restak didn't at least lay the foundation of physical exercise.

Now for some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Restak in Think Smart
Page 8, "We create new patterns of neuronal organization according to what we see, what we do, what we imagine and most of all what we learn."
All these "what we . . ." are sensory input. Yes, sensory input is how our brain gets information and OF COURSE that will change the patterns of activity. However, few of us pay attention to how important the see, do, imagine and learn are---hopefully understanding that we are changing our brains will help us understand a little better.

Page 25-26, "Sixty-five years of animal research confirms that in every animal in which it has been tried so far, caloric restriction slows the onset of degenerative diseases such as dementia, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses associated with loss of brain function. As a rough rule of thumb, a 35% decrease in calories equals a 35% longer life"
This is so clear and sounds pretty simple. The hard part, however, is putting it into practice. I suppose on my deathbed I won't be wishing for another bowl of ice cream, but another day to spend with loved ones. Definitely something to consider.

Page 44 ,"Anyone who walks three times a week for 45 minutes will reap the following benefits; sustained levels of cerebral blood flow; an improvement in focused attention; increases in gray matter volume in regions of the front & temporal lobes; restoration of some of the losses in brain volume associated with normal aging. In anyone over 60, the benefits are even great. A daily one-mile walk will reduce the likelihood of dementia by 50%."
Coupled with the previous paragraph, I think Dr. Restak is telling us to push ourselves away from the table and get off the couch. Solid advice for any setting I can think of. However, most of us think this advice is just about looking better. This couldn't be further from the truth---the brain controls everything and it desperately wants us to get in good shape---exercise and diet. Nothing new, but vital nonetheless.

Page 54 "For reasons that are not entirely clear, sleep serves to improve one's overal performance by selectively enhancing those areas that are most in need of improvement."
Sleep is listed in importance ONLY behind nutrition and exercise. Eat well, exercise and now get good sleep. Dr. Restak is beginning to sound like my grandmother. Who knew how right Grandma was??

Page 66 "Stamina and concentration are two sides of the same coin."
Ahhhh, there he goes with that exercise bit again! Have you measured your stamina and then compared it to your ability to optimally concentrate?

Page 67 "People with good memories don't necessarily store more information in their long-term memories---they're just better at accessing it."
Page 68 "Some psychologists argue that general intelligence consists of sharply-honed working memory skills."
The two previous quotes again lead back to exercise. Have you ever felt overwhelmed or foggy or like you just need "to get your head straight"? Then you take a walk---a good, long, vigorous walk. As you are walking, you begin to see your situation more clearly and perhaps even arrive at conclusions or solutions. This ability to organize and easily access information is greatly improved with exercise---specifically cross-pattern forms of exercise. For most adults, this is most easily achieved by walking or running. This organization begins as infants with creeping and crawling.

Page 137 "For the superior performance in any field, the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again, but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance. That's why they don't find practice boring. Each practice session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time."
Excellence---this the the level of practice that comes before excellence. We should be striving to get better than we are, no matter what we are attempting or how good we are at doing it. This is what I see in athletes and scholars at the top of their field.

Page 146 "Research confirms that exceptional performers aren't endowed with superior brains. Rather the brain, thanks to its plasticity can be modified by deliberate practices and the use of innovative strategies. That combination will enable you to achieve high levels of performance in the area of YOUR CHOICE----IF you are willing to put in the effort required to achieve mastery."
The best football player, the best violin player, the most-respected researcher, the captivating orator----they were NOT born that way. The plasticity of the brain allowed them to become what they wanted. That is truly the most freedom a human can have---the freedom to become. What a tremendous gift---that gift removes the excuses and reveals them for what they truly mean, "I don't want to try that hard."

Page 207 "At the moment, scientists lack an objective measure of wisdom."
Okay, I guess that is over-stating the obvious, but it does lead you to think about the limits of science.

Page 220 "Brains of deceased elderly patients were examined. Many were found to have Alzheimer's disease. 1) 25% of cortical neurons reduced---they appeared like rusted cables in a sunken ship, 2) degenerating nerve endings enclosing homogenous central core. An UNEXPECTED find was that some brains showed Alzheimer's disease in patients who functioned perfectly normally even in the last years of their lives. Investigation of these exceptions to the plaque-tangle-dementia association turned up a common trait: increased levels of education. The subject matter of their studies did not appear to matter."
Education at increased levels---an excellent idea if you are considering your brain. Notice it did not say "formal" education. You can be self-educated at an increased level.

Page 224 "Social isolation and the loneliness that usually accompanies it are now recognized as significant hazards to healthy brain function."
Social interaction takes a great degree of brain power---continuing to practice those skills of listening, conversing, making eye contact, physical gestures in conversation, etc. are very important for our brains.

Page 227 "The brain is a social organ that operates by concerted activity of millions of neurons linked together by means of circuits---there is no such thing as a solitary neuron. Similarly, none of us exists in isolation nor are we capable of optimal functioning unless---like a neuron within the brain's circuits---we become part of a wider social network."
Intentionally find friends, build those friendships and maintain them carefully. Of course, positive relationships are assumed---but remember that your friends are worth the effort in many, many ways.

Page 243 "A 2006 study published in the journal Neurology compared 5,000 people over age 55. Increased television watching was associated with a 20% increase in cognitive impairment."
YIKES! We all know tv isn't good for our brains, but did you know how much it is truly hurting your neurological capability? Of course, if we are carefully watching our nutrition, exercising, getting increased levels of education and spending time with good friends, then perhaps the tv will not be necessary.

Page 246 "Have a hobby and develop expertise outside your vocation---this stimulates and develops brain networks outside the norms."
So now we've added hobbies to the list of nutrition, exercise, education, and friendships. Sincerely, this sounds like a person I'd like to know---and one I'd like to be.

So the contest is now open and will conclude October 20,2011. All those leaving appropriate comments will be entered into a random drawing for a free copy of Richard Restak, MD's Think Smart. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I read an article today about a new device that has been designed to detect concussions. The device is similar to the radar gun used by police to catch speeding motorists. This "radar gun" detects minute changes in gait and thereby diagnoses a concussion. Hmmmmmmm.

I have raised eyebrows about this device and its use in athletics, particularly Texas high school football. From the article, "A high school football coach, for example, may want to err on the side of caution, even if it means more athletes will be sidelined to reduce the possibility of a second concussion." I don't know what high school football coaches they are talking to, but it's not any of the coaches I know or that our team plays against. The last thing in the world any coach (or athlete or the athlete's parents) want is for MORE kids to be sidelined---especially when the device admits to having a percentage (it didn't enumerate the percentage) of false positives. Taking the best athletes off the field reduces victories---possibly costing a coach his job and possibly costing the athlete scholarship opportunities. At least in Texas, this is NOT going to be popular amongst anyone connected with high school football.

I don't believe the NFL is going to be any more enthusiastic about sidelining multi-million dollar athletes---or any of the professional sports. The device is also supposedly for use by the military on the battlefield----REALLY??? Your enemy is trying to kill you with all the high-tech weapons of the 21st century and you're going to be worried about whether or not you have a concussion?

Here is the bottom line problem: NO ONE WANTS TO STOP PLAYING! That's it! We don't want a device to tell us we're hurt--believe me, the player knows if he can't remember his middle name or his zip code. We want something to help us be well, play more and not suffer lingering effects of injury decades past the occurrence. THAT is what players, families, coaches and fans want. Could someone email these (and other) university researchers and let them in on that?

Perhaps someone could remind the medical community that sitting on the bench after a concussion DOES NOT improve or alleviate the symptoms of the injury you have ALREADY suffered? This mentality is still screaming out the old medical mantra that brains cannot be helped, healed or improved. Concussions are permanent injuries and will affect you for the rest of your life, so you better avoid them as the best measure of care, according to the marketers of these "concussion detection" devices.

Please don't get me wrong---I think we should do everything in our power to protect our brains. I like the rules prohibiting blows to the head, hitting a receiver in a defenseless position, and grabbing the face mask in the NFL. Those are good and I want to see that yellow flag fly and see flagrant offenders suspended.

But can we please start doing things to help these athletes, soldiers, and other traumatic brain injury victims recover? We have the technology and the means. We have hyperbaric oxygen chambers that go unused except for the narrow 13 FDA-approved conditions (think wound healing and burns). Hyperbaric oxygen (hbot) has become so well-known amongst professional athletes that many of them have their own chambers. The research is solid and the results are sure---but the politics of the FDA and the UHMS (Undersea Hyperbaric Medicine Society) have battled for decades to prevent the use of hbot for neurological indications. Why would the FDA and the UHMS want to prevent this? One thing---money. They should be ashamed and held accountable for the ongoing preventable suffering at their hand.

There are many excellent techniques that are helping neurological injuries heal and also improving function in the brains of octogenarians. Reflex re-patterning (, energy medicine, neurodevelopmental programs ( and, respiratory stimulation techniques, and many others. THIS is what players, coaches and fans want---the way to HEAL the brain and to strengthen neural connections (brain reserve) so there are extra pathways for neurological function.

The information I have regarding the concussion detection devices didn't mention the cost. It also didn't figure the cost of the long-term effects if they go untreated. (And by the way, what is the current treatment from your doctor? Rest---not a very aggressive treatment plan!) I would be willing to match those costs against the cost of good treatment using some of the techniques listed above. I can only imagine how much money would be saved and how much heartache would be avoided. Seems like THAT is what the researchers should be spending their time on, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Little About Me

My perspective is definitely different from that of many other folks—and it is definitely the product of my life experiences. I am really grateful for this gift of perspective, and by sharing “a little about me”, I hope you will be able to appreciate and benefit from my journey as well.

One of the first blessings bestowed upon me by my Creator was that I was born in Texas! Yes, I am one of those proud Texans that wears Texas on various items of clothing, loves George Strait and Willie Nelson, knows all the words to “The Eyes of Texas”, goes crazy over high school football, and considers the Alamo sacred ground. I depart from most of my fellow Texans because I don’t drink beer or iced tea—but still believe there is no good Tex-Mex food north of the Red River. I married a fellow Texan, not a native, but still a Bluebonnet-loving, cowboy-boot-owning Texan.

That said, hubby and I have both traveled a little and love people and places from all around the world. Our grown children are now traveling to places far beyond our comfortable borders, and we are so blessed to get to love people from more remote corners of the globe. But I guess that is also Texan—loving people—and we do.

My husband and I are the proud parents of eight children. Clark 25, Katy 23, Preston 20, Annie 18, Kent 16, Callie 13, Carson 11 and Dawson 9. They are the eight finest children I’ve ever known. I am such a better person because I have the privilege of being their mother. They are often the conduit through which God chooses to teach me. You can tell how much I had to learn by how many children were sent to help get the message across! Through this blog, I’ll share as much of what I’ve learned, and what I continue to learn, as possible. Today’s post will just set the stage.

The geography of the land of Bateman had a drastic change on February 1, 2000. Our youngest son, Dawson, was born with a severe brain injury. He tied a true hand-over-hand knot in the umbilical cord, suffering periodic prenatal anoxia. This knot had to be tied by three months gestation because after that time, babies are just too big to do that kind of swimming. I knew something wasn’t right before Dawson was born, but didn’t make any fuss about it—hoping it was just a “different” pregnancy. I knew within hours of delivery that he wasn’t nursing like the other seven babies had, he didn’t sleep the same either. Something was wrong. By six days of age, I was CERTAIN something was wrong and dashed to my beloved pediatrician for help. After examining Dawson, he was pronounced perfectly healthy, I was told to get more rest, and sent packing.

At the four-month well check, I was all of a sudden correct in my “hunches”. Something was VERY wrong. Dawson had nystagmus and alternating convergent strabismus. The combination of these two conditions usually results in cortical visual suppression or impairment—in other words, blindness. This condition (CVI) is often accompanied by mobility issues and cognitive impairment. This is often called global developmental delay or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Not only was something wrong, the news got worse—there was nothing I could do about it. Remembering what a proud and stubborn Texan I am, you can imagine I wasn’t about to take that news lying down. I left the pediatrician’s office with a tear-stained face and more determination than usually fits inside one body.

Within just a few days, God brought a wonderful woman into my life—Cindy Dees. Cindy had a daughter who’d had similar issues and she introduced me to a program where parents receive training and become therapists for their children with neurological difficulties. Her daughter was doing spectacularly well, and so I listened. She taught me why Dawson’s vision problem was NOT in his eyes, but in his brain. She taught me some basic information about how to help my son and what we could do to get started. We didn’t wait, we jumped right in and our family went to work right away.

That is the beginning of the change. The change that taught me to seek out the root cause of problems, not just chase the symptoms. The change that taught me that parents are the best teachers and therapists in the world. The change that taught me to stay the course and work hard to get the desired improvements. The change that taught me the brain is a spectacular organ and is one of the final frontiers of anatomy understanding. The change that lit an unquenchable fire that drives me to learn and then share with other parents how they can help their precious child.

Dawson is now nine years old. He is doing amazingly well. His biggest concern in life is that he isn’t finishing his schoolwork on time. He reads, he does math, he has his first crush on a little girl in his class, he plays with his friends on the playground. He’s never qualified for special education or any other “services.” His work is all at grade level. He isn’t at 100% of expected neurological function yet—about 85%. But what started as a severe injury is now mild. Thank goodness we know what to do, how to do it and to hang in there because sometimes changes take time.

Every child in my family has benefited from my knowledge about child brain development. We’ve solved many problems that we see other families “coping” with. Because of the success I’ve experienced and my Texan nature, I determined to become trained so I could help other parents in an organized way. I couldn’t bear to see one more mother suffer the heartbreak of thinking her child could never (fill in the blank). I believe in every child’s potential to be well and I see children every day who are becoming just that—-well! Even though their peers continue to struggle with the same challenges. Even though the doctors or teachers or therapists said they would never be able to go beyond certain boundaries. Even though the odds were stacked against them.

So every day, I get to do what I love. I love teaching about brain development in terms that everyone can understand. I love putting parents in the driver’s seat of their child’s development. I love empowering families to help every precious child realize their full potential. And you’ll love understanding your child and knowing how to help them progress!

The Brain That Changes Itself---Book Review

by Dr. Norman Doidge

This is the inaugural Book Review/Book Give Away for the Parents With Purpose Blog. Each quarter I will review a book that is applicable to the topic of brain development. Everyone who leaves a reasonable comment on the review (spam, porn and inappropriate responses will be deleted), will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of the book which was reviewed. Be sure to check back on the blog to see if you are the winner so I can get an address for the book to be mailed.

The first book I’ve chosen to review and give away is: The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge. This book is available in many public libraries and is on the New York Times Best Seller List.

In this book, Dr. Doidge shares the story of 11 different people who have changed their brains or changed the brains of many others through their research. Some of those included are Paul Bach-y-Rita, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, Michael Merzenich, Walter J. Freeman, Edward Taub, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, V.S. Ramachandran, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Eric Kandel, Frederick Gage, Dr. Jordan Grafman, and others.

Chapter 3, entitled “Redesigning the Brain” is devoted to the work of Michael Merzenich, one of my personal favorites. Merzenich is the founder of the company Scientific Learning. One of Scientific Learning’s products is a family of programs called Fast Forword. I have personally used these products with my own family and know them to be very effective. However, the reason Merzenich is one of my favorite neuroscientists is because of what I’ve learned from reading about him in Dr. Doidge’s book. Here are some quotes from the chapter about Merzenich that I found most enlightening:

“Merzenich claims that when learning occurs in a way consistent with the laws that govern brain plasticity, the mental “machinery” of the brain can be improved so that we learn and perceive with greater precision, speed and retention.” Wow! Isn’t precision, speed and retention what we’re ALL chasing? Isn’t that exactly what we want for our children? If we can change how we’re working with the information getting into the brain, we can improve all three. That’s exciting to me.

“There is an endless war of nerves going on inside each of our brains. If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.” Use it or lose it. We don’t really OWN anything in our brain, it is always part of the “endless war of nerves”. Very encouraging for us to keep up our edge.

Setting for the following quote: Merzenich had done brain mapping and proven that brain maps could alter their borders, location & change their functions well into adulthood. Now the quote:
“Almost everybody I knew in the mainstream of neuroscience thought this was semi-serious stuff—that the experiments were sloppy, that the effects described were uncertain. But actually the experiment had been done enough times that I realized that
the position of the majority was arrogant and indefensible. Can I get an “amen”? I have found so many people who hide inside that comfortable fort of believing the brain cannot change, or there are time limits to neuroplasticity, etc. I wonder HOW ON EARTH they can ignore the endless volume of research. I wonder EVEN MORE how they can ignore the families whose lives are changed because their children have made dramatic improvement. I have to agree with Merzenich, “arrogant and indefensible.”

“The reward is a crucial feature of the program, because each time the child is rewarded, his brain secretes such neurotransmitters as dopamine and acetylcholine, which help consolidate the map changes he has just made. (Dopamine reinforces the reward and acetylcholine helps the brain “tune in” and sharpen memories.)” When we are working with our children, we need to remain positive and REWARD their efforts. We need to be very creative in our efforts to motivate them. It is very easy to become negative and just want them to “get it done.” We have hard scientific research that teaches us to focus on appropriate rewards, such as increased affection and lots of WAHOO and other privileges. I’m not a fan of children getting “stuff” for their efforts. After all, what all children really want is the undivided attention of an adult who loves them. I cannot over-emphasize this in what I’ve experienced. Thanks to Merzenich, I can understand why.

From chapter 4, “Acquiring Tastes and Loves”:
“The plastic influence of pornography on adults can also be profound, and those who use it have no sense of the extent to which their brains are reshaped by it.”
The word reshaped is very powerful here. Those who peddle this insidious product say it is a harmless pleasure. It isn’t. It is literally changing the shape of a brain. Perhaps this fact will help others avoid it.

From chapter 7, “Pain”, conclusions from Ramachandran:
“Pain is an opinion on the organism’s state of health rather than a mere reflexive response to an injury.”
Completely changes how we see and understand the pain response!!!

“Think how remarkable this is—for a most excrutiating, chronic pain, a whole new treatment that uses imagination and illusion to restructure brain maps plastically without medication, needles, or electricity.” For those in chronic pain, this is revolutionary and life-changing.

From chapter 8, “Imagination”:
” . . . a part of the brain devoted to one sense had become devoted to another.”
The implications could be far-reaching! Could we recruit another area of the brain to restore vision if the visual cortex is physically damaged? This supports Merzenich’s work that brain plasticity is allocated on a use it or lose it basis.

“Each thought alters the physical state of your brain synapses at a microscopic level.” I guess they understood this principal at some level back in Old Testament days, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he . . . Proverbs 23. The positive mental attitude guys will attest to this also.

From Chapter 9, “Turning Our Ghosts Into Ancestors”:
“Kandel’s work shows that when we learn, our minds also affect which genes in our neurons are transcribed. Thus we can shape our genes, which in turn shape our brain’s microscopic anatomy.”
I sometimes hear people comment about particularly-accomplished students, that they are smart like their parents. In its simplest application (perhaps a bit over-simplified), if you want “smart” transcribed into your dna to be inherited by your children, LEARN. It works.”

From chapter 10, “Rejuvenation”:

“Recent research shows that exercise stimulates the production and release of the neuronal growth factor BDNF.” My 17-year-old son, a Varsity football play in Football Heaven, aka Texas, would say this fact is HUGE. Athletes have long been chasing something to help them achieve maximum growth in height and muscle strength. They have, unfortunately, gone so far as to try to chemically replicate human growth hormones. Many, many substances are banned from competitive sports. There have been hearings in Congress about the abuse of these substances in high school, college, amateur and professional sports. There is, however, GREAT news for everyone with a brain. There is a LEGAL activity which will stimulate the production and release of a BRAIN GROWTH FACTOR. That legal activity is exercise. Your brain literally grows and organizes as a result. Simple, inexpensive, and effective way to protect your brain from the ravages of disease and age. Much, much better than sudoku or crossword puzzles. Plus there are cardiovascular and other benefits as well. Nike was right when they said, “Do it”.

In conclusion, I will say once again, I looooooove this book. It should encourage every one of us to strive for a better, healthier and more productive life for our children and ourselves. For many of the years I have been trying to share the principles of brain growth through stimulation, people have said, “Show me the research and I’ll believe you. Until I see scientific research, I won’t.” Well thank you, Dr. Doidge, because I can point those folks to a book that is widely available and is easy to read. This is written for everyday folks in language we all relate to.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go re-read it!

Being Thankful

With Thanksgiving having just past and the Christmas season in full bloom, I had to post about a recent conversation I had with a dear friend whose child had been on the program for a few years. We were discussing all the things she had been through over time so that her child has now arrived at being practically well. There have been many ups and downs. There have been times of clear progress, times of “status quo”, and times of regression. But she stayed the course and continued completing the program each day with her child. (only 5-ish days per week)

What struck me about our conversation was when she said she was grateful for all the time she spent creeping & crawling with her child. Not too many parents have fond things to say about creeping & crawling so I had to hear more. She talked about time spent pretending they were in different battles of the American Revolution. She told me how they crawled and crept their way through many of the battles and fended off the Redcoats to gain their independence from Great Britain. There were hilarious stories of ways in which her child had interpreted different events. The Revolution through the perspective of a child is indeed very interesting.

She also spoke of how it had focused her time with her child. Without needing her to pay undivided attention to creeping & crawling, it would have been very easy to be distracted by phone calls, email, social events, television, etc. But because her efforts HAD to be focused, they were. She was exclusively focused on her child, his perspective in accomplishing his creeping/crawling distances, and the goal of a well-organized brain.

She also talked about what it taught her child. When her child needed her, she was there. She placed this priority above all others. She stayed with her child when it wasn’t so much fun to be creeping & crawling. She was there when it was exciting to re-enact the battle scenes, and even when it wasn’t exciting. She gave her child the confidence of knowing that his mother was on his side—always—even when it was hard. She would always hang in there–and her child had the wonderful security of knowing it.

For these and other reasons, my friend was grateful for the time she spent creeping & crawling with her child.

I have had wonderful adventures with my son during our creeping & crawling time. When he was younger, he was a Thomas the Tank Engine fan(atic), so we played endless games. I always had to be Diesel 10 with the jagged claw (at his insistence), while my son would be various other characters racing to escape my evil character. I would talk in a crazy voice and even used the BBQ tongs as my jagged claw. My son very favorably remembers the Thomas games. He also said it is how he knows that I know how to play.

As Dawson grew older, his interests evolved to animals (especially dogs). So I would walk behind him as he crept and crawled, reading novels to him. I was able to expose him to literature that was more sophisticated than he was able to read on his own. One such book was “Where the Red Fern Grows”. We loved the adventures and were able to compare earning a pair of hound dogs to working hard to organize a brain. We sat down and cried together when Old Dan and Little Ann died. We had similar experiences with “Old Yeller”, “Swiss Family Robinson”, “Lassie Come Home”, “Bridge to Terabithia”, “Tale of Despereuax” and many others.

Because my son has four older brothers that are all super athletes, he felt he couldn’t be as cool as them because he can’t run fast (yet). But now he has confidence that he CAN do hard things. He runs his own races and has equated creeping & crawling with long-distance running. He accomplishes a marathon distance each month on his hands & knees. His brothers really respect how hard he works and tell him they don’t work any harder during football workouts. The respect has gone both ways—he adores his big brothers and they honor his diligence, persistence and tremendous effort.

After talking with my friend, I realized that I, too, am grateful for the time spent creeping & crawling. I’m grateful that in my busy life I have taken (and still take) time to focus on the goal of my son being well—WITH MY SON. It has been overall a sweet experience. We have had our tough days, but we worked through them and stayed the course. We learned together that we do what is right even when it’s hard.

I have come to see the challenge of creeping & crawling as an invitation to be focused on your child, to work together to achieve a lofty goal, to manage your time better, to prioritize your commitments, and especially to maintain perspective on your desired outcome—a neurologically well-organized child.

A big “thank you” to my friend who expressed her gratitude. Her focus and persistence shows up in the neurological organization of her child. She is a terrific example for me and I hope by sharing a bit of our conversation, you will be uplifted also. We can do this. The way has been trod before us and we can get the same prize.

I’m ready!!!