Archive for the ‘Dr. Jane Stewart’ Category

Digital Devices Can Affect Our Ability to Focus

October 23, 2014

While about 4.5 percent of American adults are estimated to have ADHD, many more of us say we constantly feel scatterbrained, unfocused and unable to remember things.

The ability to focus is a secret element to success that often gets ignored. And yet, there’s probably never been a time in our history when we’ve had as many distractions threatening our ability to pay attention to things.

digitaloverloadWhile today’s computers, tablets and smartphones offer many opportunities to increase learning, they can also be distracting to students. Research shows that if students don’t learn how to concentrate and shut out distractions that come with the use of digital devices, they’ll have a much harder time succeeding in almost every area.

The brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature; it continues to grow until the mid-twenties. Young students need to build up the neural circuitry that focused attention requires. Psychologist Daniel Goleman believes that they need to be able to both use digital devices smartly and have the capacity to concentrate when they need and want to. “The more you can concentrate the better you’ll do on anything,” he says, “because whatever talent you have, you can’t apply it if you are distracted,”

According to Goleman, “The circuitry for paying attention is identical for the circuits for managing distressing emotion. The attentional circuitry needs to have the experience of sustained episodes of concentration — reading the text, understanding and listening to what the teacher is saying — in order to build the mental models that create someone who is well educated.”

He advocates for a daily “digital sabbath”—a period of time when kids are not distracted by devices at all. He’d also like to see schools building exercises that strengthen attention, like mindfulness practices, into the curriculum.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Physical Activity Improves Children’s Thinking Skills

October 16, 2014

kidsexerciseThere is increasing evidence that being active helps not just children’s waistlines but also their brains.

A recent study published in Pediatrics shows that 7- to 9-year-old children who run around and play for at least 70 minutes a day demonstrate improved thinking skills, particularly in multitasking, compared to children who aren’t as active.

For the study, researchers looked at a nine-month after-school program during which students spent 70 minutes running around and playing tag, soccer, jump rope and other games. In one multitasking test, children were shown a character on the screen and indicated with a thumb press whether the character was a certain color and a certain shape. Children who participated in the program were significantly faster and more accurate at identifying the color and shape than children who weren’t exercising.

Scans of the children’s brains showed increased brain activity during the task, in a network known to correspond to paying attention. Interestingly, the changes in brain activity correlated to the amount of time kids spent in in the program. The more times they attended, the greater the change.

Exercise encourages the brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Animal tests have also illustrated that during exercise their nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and has a direct benefit on brain functions, including learning.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Back-to-School Study Tips

September 23, 2014

Whether you’re headed back to college, high school, middle school, or elementary school, the back-to-school season is in full-swing! Start the new school year by adopting some sound habits for studying:

  • Avoid distractions in your study space. Choose a space that doesn’t have a lot of tempting distractions, such as TV, radio, cell phone, etc.
  • Keep all of your books, notebooks, binders, and folders for each class together on a shelf or in the same space. Labels things to make it that much easier to find the right materials.
  • Keep track of your assignments, deadlines, and appointments in one place. Prioritize tasks and set a study schedule.
  • Schedule time to complete your assignments based on anticipated time on task and urgency.
  • Divide your study time into blocks separated by quick breaks. It is most effective to study in 30-45 minute blocks of time, allowing yourself quick 3-5 minute breaks in between study blocks.
  • Create and save study guides and aids for each quiz and test you have, rather than waiting until the night before big tests to start creating study aids. You will already have your study aids created, which saves you valuable time that you can dedicate to studying.
  • Learn how to effectively communicate with your teachers. They want to see that you are interested in the class material and that you are driven to succeed. There’s a good chance that a portion of your grades will be based on your class participation. By effectively communicating with your teachers, you can help maintain and increase your class grades.
  • Reward yourself! When you have completed tasks, reward yourself in small ways, such as taking a 10-minute break or treating yourself to TV or a movie.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

About Parent Coaching

September 9, 2014

parentcoach2Optiminds founder Dr. Jane Stewart realizes that often parents need help too. Optiminds offers parent coaching and parenting programs designed to instruct parents on how to handle their child’s behavioral or educational issues.

Parent coaching gives parents the tools they need to cultivate a better relationship with their children and steer them in positive directions. A parent coach addresses issues such as problems with routines and transitions (morning and night, for example), power struggles, parental anger, discipline, homework challenges, chores, and “disrespectful” behavior.

Coaching starts with creating a parenting plan followed by supporting parents as they implement the plan.
Because children and families can be complex, the parent coach helps the parents solve problems as challenges arise. Parent coaching looks forward, deals in the present, seeks to educate, and does not diagnose. Parent coaching uses tools and the most current research to help you gain the skills you need to parent your child.

You may benefit from parenting coaching if you experience any of the following:

  • You have had the same fight with your child over and over, and you are physically and mentally exhausted.
  • You know that what you are doing isn’t working, but you don’t know what else to do.
  • You have had the same conversation over and over with your partner or yourself.
  • You are beginning to feel hopeless about your parenting life.
  • You have read stacks of parenting books without any long-term success.
  • You want to get on the same parenting page with your partner.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Help Your Child Concentrate Better

August 23, 2014

At a time when multitasking (texting, listening to music, surfing the Internet)— is becoming the new normal, you may find that your child is having trouble focusing on the task at hand.

If you can establish effective focus strategies and concentration skills at an early age, you will have provided a foundation for long-term success in high school, college and the professional working world.

Here are some practical and manageable tips parents can use to help their children focus:

Set expectations early—Explain to your children that just as you have many important responsibilities (at home, at work, in your community, etc.), learning is their most important “job” right now. Establish a routine for homework and studying by including younger children in homework by having them color or look at books while older children are doing homework.

Divide big projects into small tasks—Big projects can overwhelm. Splitting the task up will give your child the feeling of progress as the pieces are completed.

Manage distractions—Set up rules such as: no television, phone or computer until homework is done. Research has found that certain types of music such as classical and instrumental help people concentrate better, so consider playing Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.

Use time to increase focus— Sometimes setting a short period of time will help a child focus longer. Set a timer for a particular task that your child can work to “beat.” One rule of thumb is that a child can focus on a single activity for about one minute per year of age.

Establish rules for doing homework—Make a rule that your children’s homework and studying be completed (neatly and correctly) before going out to play. As seasons and activities change throughout the year, be flexible and adapt to changing schedules.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Some Facts About Home Schooling

August 16, 2014

homeschool1The U.S. Department of Education defines homeschooled students as: school-age children (ages 5–17) in a grade equivalent to at least kindergarten and not higher than 12th grade who receive instruction at home instead of at a public or private school either all or most of the time.

According to the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 4 percent of the school-age population in the U.S. was homeschooled in the 2011–12 school year. That amounted to more than 2 million U.S. students in grades K-12.

The rates of homeschooling were highest in rural areas where 4.5% of students were homeschooled. The homeschooling rate was 3.2% in the city, 3.1% in the suburbs and 2.7% in towns.

Parents choose to home school their children for a variety of reasons, including:

  • a concern about the environment (safety, drugs, negative peer pressure, etc.) of other schools
  • a desire to provide moral instruction
  • dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools
    a desire to provide religious instruction
  • a desire to provide a nontraditional approach to child’s education

Other reasons include: family time, finances, travel and distance, having a special needs child or a child with physical or mental health issues.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Breakfasts with Brain Power

July 23, 2014

yogurt1You hear it all the time—“Eat your breakfast!”

Eating a good breakfast can not only help you maintain a healthy weight and give you energy to face the day, but it also can increase your ability to concentrate.

The trick is to incorporate into your breakfast foods known to keep brain cells healthy and maintain cognitive ability. Here are some suggestions for breakfasts built with powerful nutrients for your brain:

Yogurt with walnuts and berries—The yogurt provides a foundation of protein. The walnuts add brain-saving omega-3s and the berries serve up one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants. You can even add a little high-fiber cereal (shredded wheat for example) to ensure everything gets digested slowly for steady energy (and better concentration) all morning long.

Fried eggs “plus”—Fried eggs become healthier when you cook them with a brain food like olive oil; tomatoes, spinach, and an apple on the side round out the meal with important antioxidants.

Dressed-up cereal—When you shake up a basic bowl of cereal with pumpkin seeds and sliced peaches, you are adding brain-friendly vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.

Salmon on toast—Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and experts think it is responsible for helping brain cells communicate with each other better. Spread a slice of whole grain toast with lox (smoked salmon spread), and add a dollop of cottage cheese for a breakfast that’s filling and fiber- and protein-rich.

Waffles with yogurt—Replace the syrup with yogurt on your favorite waffles. Top with berries and a little flaxseed and you’ve got a tasty breakfast everyone will love.

Want to power up your ability to concentrate? Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Summer Ideas for Teens

July 16, 2014

It’s summertime and the living is supposed to be easy. But if you’re a teenager, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate some activities into the summer mix that will challenge you to stretch yourself a little and stave off boredom as well.

Here are just a few ideas for teenagers to occupy their summer time with:

Set some goals—Large or small, setting a few realistic goals is a good way to stay proactive and motivated about what you want to accomplish. Finish reading a book series by your favorite author, learn a new craft, help a family member realize a project by assisting them with it.

teenvolunteer1Volunteer—Look around your community for volunteer opportunities. Many organizations welcome a motivated teen’s energy and time. It will not only make you feel good, but the experience will also impress college admission counselors and potential employers.

Learn something new—Pushing yourself to learn something new will provide a sense of challenge and accomplishment. This can be especially beneficial as an outlet for stress if it involves something you are passionate about, like playing the guitar.

Try an internship—This is a great way to try on a potential career and get a foot in the door as far as employment goes. Much like volunteering, internship schedules are usually more flexible, so you should still have time to enjoy your summer.

Find time for fun—Do something that makes you happy and feel good. Find activities that delight you, allow you to relax and that keep your spirits high and hopeful.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Signs of Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease

July 9, 2014

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. While it has been known to develop between ages 30 and 40, it is more common to see someone in his or her 50s who has the disease. Of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, about 5 percent, or approximately 200,000 people, are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s have no known cause, but most cases are inherited, a type known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD).

Getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary.

Sometimes symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. It could start to show up as problems at work or home, or as lost relationships or jobs.

For most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the early symptoms will closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information or important dates
  • Asking for the same information again and again
  • Difficulty solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
  • Losing track of the date or time of year
  • Losing track of where you are and how you got there
  • Difficulty with depth perception or other vision problems
  • Difficulty joining conversations or finding the right word for something
  • Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social situations
  • Changes in mood and personality

Because there is no one test that confirms Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis is only made after a comprehensive medical evaluation.

To keep your brain in tip top shape, our Optiminds fitness programs can help you take your brain’s performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Link Between ADHD and Dyslexia

June 9, 2014

learningdisability3As many as one in four children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have dyslexia. And
between 15 and 40 percent of children with dyslexia have ADHD. With this in mind, it is important for parents to look at the whole picture when assessing your child’s performance.

Experts have found that similar areas of the brain are involved in both disorders—areas that lead to problems with executive function, memory, and processing symbols quickly. What’s different is how these disorders play out—dyslexic children have difficulty with reading and writing, while ADHD involves issues with behavior.

identify a learner’s strengths and developing strategies that compensate for weaknesses, we can design a learning program that focuses on:

Children with ADHD and dyslexia usually have normal to high intelligence and high creativity, but are frustrated academically. They tend to process information differently—relying more on auditory and tactile approaches—than other children.

If your child has either or both of these disorders, they may benefit from after-school tutoring. Optiminds can help you determine if your child has ADHD or dyslexia and design a customized program based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.


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