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How a Mom and Son Changed Their Brains, Week by Week

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Kathy is our guest blogger. Both Kathy and her son, Josh, recently completed the Brain Highways pons class. Here, Kathy writes about both of their lives before they started to organize their brains, and then what specific changes happened to each of them over the past eight weeks. 

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When the brain starts to function as it's intended, there are always a lot more smiles.

JOSH

Before starting the Brain Highways pons class:

  • Josh will not try new foods.
  • He is not very verbal, and he will only use simple sentences when asked to describe something.
  • He is fearful of new experiences and especially afraid of elevators and heights.
  • He struggles to stay focused and sit still.
  • He cannot express himself through writing.
  • He has very little self-confidence.

After the first pons class

Josh articulates his thoughts on the 40-minute drive home. He notices lights blinking off and on in a pattern on a store front and describes it in detail. He uses the word spat correctly in a sentence, which he has never done before.

After Week 2

Josh volunteers at dinner to try salad with ranch dressing. Before this, it was a fight for him to eat or try vegetables due to their taste and texture.

After Week 4

Josh is able to focus and sit still for a longer period of time. He is not restless like before.

After Week 5

Josh notices the freedom that new highways have given him. He feels calmer inside and has a better sense of where he is on the field when playing soccer. He is very motivated to continue creeping since he sees the personal gain for himself.

After Week 6

Josh articulates his needs and feelings. He never before would start a sentence with “I feel . . . ”  since he could not articulate what it was he felt.

After Week 7

Josh is taking care of business (a way of communicating his needs and acknowledging others’ needs) all the time and gaining confidence.

After Week 8

Josh conquers his fear of elevators, glass elevators and heights all in the same day! What a champion!

KATHY (MOM)

Before starting the Brain Highways pons class:

  • I have trouble concentrating and focusing or will hyper-focus and forget about everything else. I struggle to find the exact words I want to say, or a similar word comes out instead, which always leads to embarrassment or laughter!
  • I have moments of distorted fears like claustrophobia over the past few years, and I do not like the feeling of my hair lightly touching my face.
  • I struggle to stay focused and sit still. I can only focus if I sit sideways in a chair and in the front row. I always feel like there is a wheel turning inside. I feel anxious and uneasy, like having pent up energy similar to a shaken-up soda can ready to explode. My friends call me effervescent because I am like a bubbling soda can.
  • I think I am hard of hearing because I constantly ask people to repeat what they said.
  • I always have to have sound around me to feel comforted. I dislike quiet. So if I am alone, I must have the TV on or a radio playing.
  • I have picked at my fingernails and cuticles all my life. Having long nails “bothers” me.
  • I am diagnosed with adult ADD and have been medicated for the past 10 years. I wear bifocals.

After Week 1

I begin to feel and notice changes immediately. I notice my glasses are actually bothering me, and I can see better without them. I feel calmer inside. I find my ADD medications are working against me, so I begin a process to eliminate them.

After Week 2

I start to notice I don’t want the radio on if I am riding alone in the car and actually enjoy the quiet. I no longer have a need for background noise.

After Week 3

I notice I am no longer picking or biting my nails. The strange part is that I don’t feel driven to pick at them. In fact my nails begin to grow very long, and I don’t even notice. The turning wheel inside me disappeared after the first week but I only notice it at the third week when my nails are getting LONG!

After Week 4

I have been able to concentrate more, think more clearly and focus for longer periods of time. The inner peace has allowed me to be more creative and to solve problems quicker and more efficiently. I feel more articulate when writing. My thoughts are more organized.

After Week 5

I have noticed physical changes in my body and continue on a path to eliminate medications with medical help. I have an appointment with the eye doctor, as well, since I feel like my eyesight has changed for the better. I am able to memorize facts faster and with less effort.

After Week 6

I find myself taking on tasks that I had avoided for years, such as cleaning out old boxes in the garage. I am able to access situations and make a decision quickly without self-doubt. I have more confidence. My thoughts are no longer fuzzy, but clear. I notice it has been weeks since I have asked someone to repeat what they said since I didn’t hear them. I do find myself asking my son to wait to interrupt me so I can complete a task.

After Week 7

I am feeling more confident in parenting. I have had no episodes of claustrophobia in weeks. I have long nails and don’t find my thoughts wandering at seminars.

After Week 8

I notice I feel at peace in my own skin. I truly feel like a champion.

I never would have believed it, but Brain Highways has given me my life back! And my pons is not even 100% developed yet (let alone my midbrain).

I recently had some health setbacks that delayed progress with my brain organization, but I continue with each new day knowing once I have completed the work, I will be that much better off.

I am sincerely grateful that I’ve had an opportunity to organize my brain and to facilitate my son’s brain organization. I truly believe everyone can benefit from this class.

The Baskin-Robbins Approach to Diagnosing Kids and Adults

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The DSM guide lists many, many mental health conditions, yet overlooks a common thread that may tie many of those diagnoses together.

I was recently talking with one of our Brain Highways parents, and we were discussing kids who act as though they (rather than the adults) are in charge.  The parent nodded, saying, “Yes, my child definitely has Alpha Dog Syndrome.”

Now here’s the sad part. I actually paused a moment before I realized she was making a joke.

But I also cut myself some slack.  That’s because, right now, there are so many diagnoses for kids and adults that Alpha Dog Syndrome doesn’t really seem like much of a stretch.

For example, guess what’s now included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—the holy grail guide that doctors refer to in terms of what’s a “true” diagnosis or not? Irritable kids who throw frequent temper tantrums may now be diagnosed as having “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.”

And most recently, a group of Australian scientists say extreme laziness may have a medical basis, describing it as a condition called motivational deficiency disorder—MoDeD.

Seriously. I’m not making any of this up.

Apparently, the trend of creating mental diseases to “fit” a behavior is nothing new. For example, after studying runaway slaves who had been caught and returned to their owners, Louisiana physician Samuel A. Cartwright became convinced he had discovered a new mental disease. So, in 1851, the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal reported that these slaves suffered from drapetomania, a disease that caused them to flee.

Somehow, having a desire for freedom became a medical condition.

But before we shake our heads and judge how such a notion could have ever appeared in a medical journal, we might pause and ponder who (in the future) will do the very same when reviewing all the diagnoses that we now slap on both adults and kids.

Please note: I’m not saying there are no mental health conditions. But the current trend is what I’ve come to think of as the Baskin-Robbins marketing strategy.

When this famous ice cream company first presented to the world that there were now thirty-one flavors of ice cream (who knew?!), consumers readily bought the concept. So many choices!

And yet, it’s not all that different when it comes to diagnosing today’s mental health conditions. So many choices!

Also, keep this in mind: The diagnoses in the DSM guide are often made by pure subjective evaluation, based solely on observed behavior—and nothing more. In other words, these diagnoses do not come about in the same way a doctor may diagnose cancer—where cancer cells truly differ from normal cells when looking at a biopsy.

Regardless, this influential guide is what’s considered the credible source that draws the line between what is normal and what is not. That’s even more concerning when we note the following: According to Ronald Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, more than 46 percent of the U.S. population will meet the criteria for at least one DSM diagnosis during their lifetime.

That means this guide has an awful lot of power that may then greatly affect many people’s lives—from determining whether or not someone qualifies for special education services or disability benefits to whether someone may be prescribed and treated with a variety of drugs.

But what if there’s a different way of viewing those very same behaviors that are presently justifying a diagnosis?

Turns out . . . that’s not just wishful thinking. After 14+ years of working with over 6,000 families in the Brain Highways program, I have long lost count of all the different diagnoses that have come my way. But there was always this common thread: Such kids and adults had not yet completed their lower brain development.

This isn’t really surprising when we note how behaviors associated with such underdevelopment so closely parallel those that are used as the criteria for mental health conditions such as ADHD, bipolar disease, autism, OCD, and more.

Yet, here’s the big difference when we view such behaviors as symptoms of underdeveloped lower centers of the brain as compared to symptoms of a disease.  We can actually do something about the former. That’s because neuroplasticity, the brain’s proven ability to change, makes it possible to go back and finish that development—at any age.

That way of thinking, in itself, is often a great catalyst for change, since research has also documented how our beliefs are so interconnected to how we act and how we expect others to behave.

In other words, a diagnosis almost always comes with restrictions and parameters as to what we may now “expect” from that person—like forever. Yet, none of that limited thinking is even on the radar when the focus is on completing lower brain development. Neuroplasticity is all about hope and curiosity in regards to how life might improve once those highways are in place.

Now, it should be noted that Baskin-Robbins has long surpassed offering just thirty-one flavors, as they continue to add more and more selections. As far as the ice cream world goes, I don’t see that as a problem.

But as a trend that seems to be presenting the newest “flavor” (i.e. disease) of the month, I am worried. So, I am encouraging everyone to pass along what’s been excluded from the DSM guide. Namely, symptoms of incomplete lower brain development may mimic symptoms of many of today’s diagnoses.

Seems like people should (at least) know this possibility exists, especially considering how so many diagnoses come with some pretty serious ramifications.

Expect the Unexpected with Brain Organization

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Heidi Guthrie, mom of Gigi and Dominic, is our guest blogger.

Although the Guthries live in Mexico, they crossed the border (every Sunday enduring long crossing-the-border lines) and then drove yet another 40 miles to get to the San Diego Brain Highways Center—just to attend the local pons program. They did this twice a week, for two months. (Impressive!)

Here, Heidi writes about the unforeseen changes she and her kids have experienced since they began Brain Highways eight weeks ago.

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The Guthries prove that any family member can change his or her brain.

When we started Brain Highways, my husband and I really thought that our daughter was the one who needed the class. But we also enrolled our son because we thought . .  .  well, why not?

So imagine our surprise when our son started making huge changes, and many of the things we thought my daughter needed to improve truly went away just by building into the structure.

Turns out, we all really needed the class, least of all my daughter!

Here are some changes we experienced after finishing the pons course and clocking 24 hours of floor time.

For myself, the improvement in my vision was completely unexpected. After 25 years of continuously worsening vision, my vision in one eye has now improved one complete point (which is a big deal by this measuring assessment).  My left eye now actually sees like it did 10 years ago!

I also have more patience and more awareness of my reactions. This helps me choose to pause and respond from my cortex rather than react from my pons, contributing to a more peaceful home environment. (Not bad for just 24 hours of brain organization.)

My daughter, Gigi, has improved her concentration. She used to resist reading of any kind, but she’ll now read without complaint and even asks to go to the library. Also, the bickering with her brother has vastly improved, and I see her trying to take care of business (a high level cortex way of expression that we learned during the course) when they communicate.

At school, Gigi’s teachers have commented on her improved schoolwork, which is reflected in her grades.  Gigi will now also sleep with the door closed (she previously had a distorted fear that the door had to remain open all night), and she has learned to stop trying to negotiate everything—she just goes with the flow.

My son, Dominic, used to hold a book while looking toward the ceiling and “guessing” at the words. He now asks to read and does so daily without complaint. His teachers have noticed improved school work, especially commenting on how his handwriting has changed (we learned—and have now experienced—that poor handwriting can be directly related to retained primitive reflexes).

Dominic also used to avoid eye contact while talking. But now, not only has his eye contact improved, but his optometrist also says his eye tracking is spot on.

At home, Dominic doesn’t provoke and needle his sister like he used to. He is more forgiving of himself when he makes a mistake, telling himself and others that they’re just “wrapping myelin.” I actually haven’t heard negative self-talk from him in over a month.

In fact, Dominic recently applied some of what he learned about negative self-talk (in the pons course) while at school.  One of his second grade classmates was talking very negatively about himself, while also doing other behaviors that Dominic recognized as being in “his pons.”

Dominic’s teacher shared with me that she overheard him telling his classmate that negative self-talk is a “never-ever” and then showed his classmate how he could just “slip-n-slide” those thoughts away!

Dominic has also taken to heart something else he learned during the pons course. Dominic won’t allow anyone to start a positive sentence and then say “but” and then continue with that thought, without letting everyone know how doing that just erased anything positive that was said in the first part!

Lastly, did I mention . . . no more whining!!!!!

So, what’s next? Well, on to developing our midbrain!  Ironically, that’s actually the class we thought we’d see some changes in when we first began. Little did we know . . .

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