back to school bus

Dr. Lisa, my son gets excited for back to school. He can’t wait to see his friends and meet his new teacher. He also thrives on having a daily schedule. However, this time of year creates so much anxiety for him. As the first day of school approaches, he starts to get very nervous, asking me so many questions and having feelings of not wanting to go. How can I help reduce this back to school anxiety and help him work through this struggle? I know he really wants to go. Thank you.”  ~ Amanda

Back to School. A bitter sweet time of the year.

Kids are excited to go back, meet their teacher and kick back with their friends.  Most kids find this time of year exciting and a total social delight.

Some kids don’t. This time of year can be very overwhelming for them. The idea of not knowing who this new teacher is or who their new friends will be can be gut wrenching.

If a child is at the middle or high school level, having five or more new teachers and classrooms, a new map to find them and making new friends can be enough to just make the skin crawl off their backs.

In our home this time of year makes me want to scream. The anxiety that creates for my son can be too much and makes me want to just bag the whole school thing all together. As many parents are loving their new freedom, I am dreading my kids going back to school and sadly waving summer good-bye.

I get thoughts like: Run. Run the other way. This is way too much for us to handle. 

I know my job as mom is to teach my son the skills on how to overcome his anxieties and challenges related to ASD, so running the other way or bagging school all together are probably not the best solutions.

I have discovered over the years and implemented some lifesaving back-to-school strategies that have made this supposedly wonderful time of year more enjoyable  for all.  Honest. These are golden little nuggets to implement.

These adaptive strategies focus on answering your child’s number one fear: What will happen next?

 1. REQUEST A WALK THROUGH

A few weeks before school starts, call your child’s guidance counselor and/or Child Study Team and request a one-on-one walk through before school starts. Put time aside for you to take your child into the school and have someone walk you both around.  Start with going to his new classroom and allowing him to walk around and get a feel for it. Sometimes, if you schedule the walk through at the right time, your child’s teacher may be there setting up the classroom. This is a great way for them to meet.  You can reach out to his new teacher ahead of time and see if this is possible.

For the middle and high school child, schedule a one-on-one walk through also.  Get a copy of your child’s schedule and a map of the school first. Follow his/her schedule from homeroom to his last period.  Make sure you jot his path on the map also, so when you get home you can keep reviewing his path. This transition can be so overwhelming that I also recommend to have your child meet both his Child Study Team go- to person and guidance counselor.  Make sure your child knows how to get to their office in case any problems arise. This gives your child a go-to place with his worries and concerns.

2. PLAN A MEET AND GREET

As mentioned above, it’s a super idea to meet as many people as possible before the first day of school. This will reduce your child’s anxiety over not knowing who these new people are and what they are like.  Social anxiety is a huge problem, so nipping the questions and fears of meeting new adults is a great tool. Call your school before school starts and ask who your child’s new teacher is so you can contact his teacher through email and plan a meet and greet. When you call the school, also schedule a meet and greet for the guidance counselor and Child Study Team go-to person. It is a wonderful bonus when all of them are in the school at the same time prepping their rooms, but this may not always be possible.

For the middle and high school child, it is very difficult to meet and greet all his new teachers. However, it is really helpful when you reach out to each one through email before school starts and explain to them your child’s social and back-to-school anxieties.  Most teachers are very supportive and will gladly meet your child and/or reach out to them with your consent. I highly recommend your child having a meet and greet with his guidance counselor and Child Study Team go-to person so he knows he has a person to turn to with any worries or concerns.

3. CREATE A MAP AND SCHEDULE

Every child has a teacher and schedule assigned before school starts. A great idea that helped our son, Luke, was to know who this teacher is and what his daily schedule will be before the first day of school. This way you can do a walk through as mentioned above and also review the schedule and map at home to reduce his anxiety. You can create a schedule together that starts with what time to get up, what time to be ready by, what time the bus or drop off is, what time and where his class is, etc. Your child can also have his daily schedule at his desk each day, so he knows what is expected of him, what will happen next and where he should be.  Simply contact his teacher and request for this to be done. This has been a huge life saver for Luke, his teacher and me!

Maps and schedules works very well for middle and high school children as almost all students depend on their maps of the school and schedules to get from homeroom to last period.  Call the school before the first day and get a hold of that schedule so you can do a walk through and also go over it at home.

Remember, you are removing fears of not knowing what will happen next by simply creating a schedule that tells your child exactly what is going to happen and where he should be.

4. OVERCOME LOCKER FEARS

Lockers in middle and high school can create a huge amount of anxiety for kids with sensory problems and/or kids on the Spectrum. The crowded hallways alone can overwhelm the nervous system (we call this an overtilted nervous system). This can result in poor behavior, social skills, academic performance, melt downs and anxiety problems. When a child navigates through a crowded noisy hallway and gets to his locker, the slamming of other lockers and trying to get the combination correct to open the locker can be downright temper tantrum causing.  Perhaps the child will hold it emotionally together, but if his nervous system is overtilted and he cannot self-regulate it back to balance, problems in areas of social, behavior, emotion and academics can result.

Call the school ahead and discuss your concerns regarding his locker. Make sure his locker is placed on the end and above (not below) other lockers. This avoids the slamming of the locker above his head and ears. If possible, try to find a locker that he can get to throughout the day.  A huge problem both my sons have come across is they do not have enough time to get through crowded hallways to their lockers and on to their next class. Having a locker in a central location is key, but not always possible.

If your child is having trouble with the combination locks, you can get one that hangs and practice it at home.  You can actually have this lock used on the locker and have the old one that is there taken off. Just make sure you call and arrange this so you purchase the right kind of lock. My son refuses to use the combination locks, so we had the school take off the old lock. We use a word lock instead of a number combination lock.  He uses another word lock for his gym locker too.

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST USE OF A LOCKER

An important skill to teach your child regarding his locker, is how to use it most effectively. Lockers can easily become black holes that seem to suck up their books, homework assignments, hall passes and school IDs. You name it; it’s probably in that locker. Here are two ways to make the best use of a locker:

THE TOP SHELF:  Make the top shelf in the locker the place where ONLY BOOKS AND FOLDERS TO GO HOME are placed.  As your child goes about his day and goes to his locker, he is to place only the homework books and folders on the top shelf.  All other books not going home can be tossed on the bottom. This way, when last period or next to last rolls around, he simply has to go to his locker and grab the homework-ready books and folders.

THE BOOK BAG HOOK: Most locker have hooks where you can hang a jacket. Use this hook to hang your child’s book bag if he does not carry it around all day. The book bag stays on this hook and it is the place where ONLY THE BOOKS AND FOLDERS TO GO HOME are placed.  All other books not going home can be tossed on the top or bottom shelf. This is great because as your child goes about his day, he can place his homework books and folders into his book bag. When it is time to go home all he has to do is open his locker, grab his book bag and go.

5. BUILD READY-TO-GO CENTERS IN YOUR HOME

This is actually a huge topic within itself, so I am devoting other blog posts and fun challenges related to it. I found that being prepared is just as important as knowing what will happen next. Now, we can’t always be perfectly ready, but creating simple affordable g0-to centers in your home really helps reduce anxiety for you and your child.

Create a homework center that has paper, pencils, crayons, markers and pencil sharpeners ready for homework time.  Have this center located right next to your designated homework spot. Try creating a place in your home where you child is to place his book bag, sport equipment and jacket the night before. This prevents trying to find homework papers and all things holy and needed the very next morning as you are running out the door. An art center is a great thing to have ready too. This is not always needed and can be located in a random closet or laundry room. Load it with things your child may need for last minute projects such as construction paper, glue, yarn, glitter, stickers etc.

Be ready, as much as possible, because let’s be real here, it is us parents who have to worry about all the above insanity.  Creating a ready-to-go center is a great way to not lose it (as in your mind).

Remember, you must teach the skill of going back to school, not expect it. Your child needs to know what is going to happen next, and anytime you can answer this question for him ahead of time, you will reduce anxiety within.

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sports drink 4

Sports drinks are one of those beverages I just cringe when I see kids drinking them. Now,I get the love behind a parent giving them to a child. I understand that you are focused on the importance of hydrating and providing electrolytes to the body during your child’s athletic game or time of play. Good heart. Understandable purpose. Not a healthy choice to do. Let me explain. Conventional sports drinks are laden with harmful chemicals and additives that act as toxins in the body. In fact, many are linked to severe health problems such as allergic and intolerant reactions, memory loss, ADD/ADHD, skin lesions and other neurological issues. Truly, no child or adult should be ingesting or supporting these conventional sports drinks and their companies, but most definitely not an overtilted child who already has a nervous system that struggles to regulate itself accordingly. Ok, let’s take a closer look at WHY we need to make this HUGE dietary change.

WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE UNHEALTHY IN CONVENTIONAL SPORTS DRINKS?

ARTIFICIAL DYES AND COLORING 

Citrus Red 2, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3 are derived from coal tar  and petroleum, and according to the Center of Science in Public Interest (CSPI) have or have been contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.  The British Food Standards Agency in 2001 concluded after a study that 6 dyes/colorants and sodium benzoate were linked to increasing hyperactivity and ADD in children. As a result, the European Union Law required all beverages with these 6 dyes to have warning labels that consumption can lead to hyperactivity.

A study reported by The Lancet  in 2007  by Southampton University and funded by the UK Food Standards Industry linked artificial dyes to increasing hyperactivity rates in all children, not just children with ADD/ADHD. This study supported the claims that food additives can exacerbate hyperactivity (inattention, impulstivity, and overactivity) in children from pre-school to middle school ages. . In 2008 the CSPI decided to phase out 8 dyes which stated some have potential cancer causing chemicals. Many of these dyes/colorants are used in common foods such as cheese, ketchup, hot dogs as well as soft drinks, candies and sports drinks. The dye orange B is reported to be used in hot dogs and sausage casings and banned in Canada as toxic. Blue 1, Red40, and Yellows 5 & 6 have been linked with allergic reactions. In fact, Yellow 5 (which is a bright yellow coal tar dye and is also called Tartrazine) is prohibited in Norway and Finland.

If this is not crazy enough to know our children are drinking such toxic soft drinks (and eating toxic foods), US companies such as Kraft, Cocoa Cola, and Walmart have removed many of these toxic dyes/colorants in Europe immediately upon the release of the Southampton study. Unfortunately, the USA has allowed such companies to laden our foods and drinks with such dangerous additives. Madness, I know!

“This study (Southhampton) provides evidence of deleterious effects of artificial food colors and additives on children’s behavior with data from a whole population sample,” the authors wrote, “using a combination of robust objective measures with strong ecological validity, based partly on observations in the classroom and ratings of behavior made independently by teachers and by parents in the different context of the home and applying double-blinded challenges with quantities of additives equal to typical dietary intakes.” (http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/ADHD-ADD/6610)

Perhaps if we, the consumers, learn and speak up, we can make huge changes in the drinks and foods offered today in the USA. For now, we must be vigilant in removing these dyes from our drinks and food choices. Sports drinks are a culprit. Let’s lean in and tackle this one!

NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORING:

Wikipedia defines artificial flavoring as “substances not identified in a natural product intended for human consumption, whether or not the product is processed. These are typically produced by fractional distillation and additional chemical manipulation of naturally sourced chemicals, crude oil or coal tar.” I find it easy to understand that artificial flavoring means the flavoring of foods with artificial ingredients which are synthetic and toxic to the body. Avoid these at all costs!

However, I find the meaning of “natural flavoring”  to be ambiguous and misleading. Wikipedia defines natural flavoring as  “substances obtained from plant or animal raw materials, by physical, microbiological or enzymatic processes. They can be either used in their natural state or processed for human consumption, but cannot contain any nature-identical or artificial flavoring substances.” Natural flavoring leads us to believe the food is flavored with natural healthy ingredients and is safe. Unfortunately, this is not true.

There are many food items on the shelves that read “all natural” or “natural flavoring”, but are actually loaded with harmful toxic chemicals, many of which cause diseases.  In fact, “natural flavoring” can mean gultamate ,MSG, autolyzed  yeast, hydrolyzed soy protein, artificial sweeteners, L- Cysteine (usually from duck feathers and human hair), GMOs, anal secretions, and other unhealthy ingredients.  Yikes!

“The FDA definition of “natural flavors” and “natural flavoring” allows for the substance to be extracted from plant or animal “matter.” So when you buy something and it has “natural flavoring,” you could be eating a pig, cow, turkey, chicken, or lamb which was shot up with growth hormones, fed GMO pesticide-laden corn and grain – probably mixed with other animals of it’s same breed, then shot up with antibiotics due to infections and diseases from living in confined quarters on slats covered in feces.” (http://www.naturalnews.com/036308_natural_flavors_MSG_aspartame.html)

Unfortunately, our FDA allows this trickery of allowing harmful and gross ingredients to be termed as “natural flavoring”. You read the above paragraph correctly.  Anal secretions from a beaver’s butt is also considered “natural flavoring.” This item is called castoreum which is natural in nature, but questionable on so many levels. Why would putting beaver anal secretions to flavor our food be acceptable? This is not my idea of natural. Are you grossed out yet?

Blue Sports DrinkHIGH SUGAR CONTENT

Sports drinks are loaded with sugar. The content is quite high and truly unnecessary. We also must look at the type of sugar and where this source is purchased from. For example, sources such as glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, highly processed high fructose corn syrup, corn starches and other sugar variants can be derived from corn which may be derived from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) which  have been linked to serious health problems such as tumors in rats. Conventional sports drinks are not on the NON GMO PROJECT list which is a great tool to know which products are safe to purchase as GMO free. Also, check out the  Invisible GM Ingredient list which may contain GMOs  depending on where the source/ingredient comes from. Sugar content and source is very important for a healthy body and nervous system and in the prevention of diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The body reacts differently to chemically processed sugars than wholesome organic sugars.

A hyperactive and overtilted  nervous system needs to avoid drinks and foods with high processed sugar contents.

HIGH SALT CONTENT

Salt is used in sports drinks as an electrolyte, but the type and amount of salt is unhealthy. In fact, many salts today on the market  (in our drinks and foods) are highly processed and lack the ability to provide essential minerals and trace minerals needed by the body. Instead, conventional sports drinks load the body with high salt, sugar and harmful dyes to create a toxic playground for havoc and disease to run wild within  the body.

PLASTIC BOTTLES

As if a drink loaded with toxic dyes and high salt and sugar content is not bad enough, companies love to put their blue colored demon drinks in plastic bottles which are laden with harmful chemicals also. Plastic bottles are derived from petroleum and leach harmful chemicals into the very liquid they hold. Such chemicals are linked to creating hormonal havoc such as estrogen displacement within the body and thus, creating cancer. And, as if enough harm is not being done, these nasty bottles create havoc on Mother Earth. Yuck.

Most of the on- the- go water bottles are #1 and are reported to leach harmful chemicals into the water. These are considered to be  PET plastics which leach things like petroleum and hormone disrupting chemicals BPA s. BPAs have been linked to breast and uterine cancer, a decrease in testosterone in men  and type 2 diabetes. BPA is high in the #7 type plastic bottles. The numbers claimed to be safe are #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene) or #5 PP (polypropylene), but most water bottles are usually a #1. Water coolers are usually a #7 which are found to also leach harmful chemicals. I personally don’t drink from any water bottles unless there is not a choice. A bottle of nasty for sure.

Now, I am sure this in not what a mother or father intends to give their child as they go off to play. It truly is not hugs and giggles for the overtilted child either. Re-hydrating does not have to be harmful. In fact, I will share with you a very simple, healthy and sustainable way to provide hydration, electrolytes and balance to your child’s body and our Mother Earth. Your child’s body, mind, spirit  and nervous system will thank you!

WHAT YOU CAN DO AND HOW TO MAKE A HOMEMADE SPORTS DRINK

As many of you may know, I LOVE to teach how to make simple healthy changes in food choices and lifestyle. On Dr. Lisa TV  you will find informative videos full of tremendous support and solutions on how to overcome the difficult Autism Spectrum challenges at home, life and in school. And, I try to make it all  rocket launching fun. Here are some of my healthy lifestyle tips:

1. Drink Filtered Water

This simple choice is way better than sports drinks or soft drinks. Make sure the water is not from bottled water due to the chemicals that leach into the water from the plastic. To learn more about plastic water bottles, you can visit my article here.

2. Use Organic and NON GMO Pink Himalayan Sea Salt for Electrolytes

 If you put 1/3 tsp of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to 3 cups of filtered water, you will be adding up to 84 trace minerals and minerals to the water. In doing so, you have created an easy, healthy sports drinks with electrolytes.

3. Use a Healthy Sport Bottle

 Ditch the harmful plastic bottles and refer to my article above as to what plastics are safe to use as sport bottles. Try to use a plastic and eco- friendly bottle. I personally love the Lifefactory bottles which are glass with a silicone cover for protection.

4. Add Natural 100% Fruit to Filtered Water

 You can add real fruits to the water to add vitamins, flavor and sweetness. Try adding slices of strawberries, raspberries, lemons, limes or cucumbers. Make sure the fruits are organic if you are putting the skins of the fruits in the water. You also can add 100% certified organic juice to the water to taste instead of actual fruits.

5. Add a Natural Sweeter

You can add a natural sweeter if your sports drink is not sweet enough. Make sure this sweetener is truly wholesome and organic. Try raw honey (do not give honey to a child under the age of 12 months old), certified organic honey or Stevia.

COCONUT WATER IS ALSO A GREAT SPORTS DRINK

A recent study compared filtered water with sea salt, conventional sports drinks and coconut water usage in athletes. All produced the same results in performance and hydration. Although the safety of the ingredients of products used was not taken into account, this study showed that filtered water with sea salt and coconut water is just as effective in hydration and performance as a conventional sports drinks. Simply make sure the coconut water is certified organic and Non-GMO. Dig in and shine beautifully!

 Dr. Lisa’s Homemade Orangeade Sports Drink Recipe go here and for her Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Sports Drink Recipe go here!

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_coloring http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=soda-chemical-cloudy-health-history http://www.naturalnews.com/038869_Gatorade_BVO_flame_retardants.html http://www.naturalnews.com/032512_artificial_colors_food.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3742423.stm http://www.allergykids.com/blog/serving-up-food-dyes-uk-style/ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lucozade-and-irnbru-to-carry-hyperactivity-warnings-2034324.html; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/ban-urged-on-food-dyes-linked-to-behavioural-problems/article1056047/ http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2007/sep/07_99.shtml http://www.ijbs.com/v05p0706.htm http://www.naturalnews.com/042950_beaver_butt_natural_flavoring_castoreum.html http://nakedmoxie.com/2011/10/10/the-water-bottle-dilema/

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