Holistic Help for the Quirky Brain

Holistic Help for the Quirky Brain from Brandie Hadfield on Vimeo.

Quirky can be defined as eccentric, unconventional, off-centre, alternative, bohemian or zany.  I love how world famous pediatrician and mentor Dr. Sears calls his brain a “quirky” brain, just like many of the patients he sees in his office who have ASD, ADHD, ODD, SPD, or one of the many diagnoses used to help children with learning or behavioural challenges.

I have always found myself attracted to those who could be described as having a “quirky” brain — they always seem to be the ones who challenge the status quo, the intuitives, the artists, the creatives, the brilliant thinkers.  That is not to say the beautiful characteristics do not have their opposing challenges. 

I have always thought of it as “The Fairy Tale Theory”.  Much like a fantasy land in a fairy tale has it’s breath-taking castles and woodland nymphs and waterfalls, there are always dark forces that loom as well, threatening to overtake the land.  The more beautiful, the more darkness.  And conversely, those who are more conventional and easy-spirited, usually don’t ebb and flow much in either direction.  Fantasia (Neverending Story) versus Little House on the Prairie.  Is my analogy making sense?  🙂 

What encourages the “dark forces” to overtake the beauty in these individuals, has to do with an imbalance in gut bacteria (dysbiosis), bogged down detoxification pathways which cause the nervous systems to be agitated, and major inflammation.  Over the years I have successfully implemented a series of strategies to mitigate the dark and illuminate the beauty, and I would love to share them with you.

So now that you are hopefully picking up what I am throwing down, I would love to get into my Top 5 Tips to holistically support our quirky brains.

Movement and Exercise

It is no coincidence that my super-smart, intensely creative husband paces around the room as he explains an idea, while my nearly 8 year old jumps on the couch while he solves math equations.  We all need to move our bodies, but what is necessary for the average person is CRITICAL for our eccentrics!  The top two exercises that Dr. Sears recommends for kids especially, is swimming and trampolining.  Would you know that top brain experts even assert that exercise is even a bit more essential than diet?  It is THAT important to move.

Nutrition

We cannot deny the role nutrition plays, as what we eat can certainly encourage bad gut health, inflammation and discourage detoxifying.  There are three ways I use food as medicine:

1) breastfeeding into toddlerhood.  Did you know that breastmilk is a powerful anti-inflammatory, promotes excellent gut health and is the only food source containing STEM CELLS.  And it is free. 

When I have little ones who are overwhelmed with the world, there is no easier and more effective way to calm us both than by snuggling in for a nurse.

2) Supplement with antioxidants. The brand I promote is the most thoroughly researched and backed by the best research in the world (even more than any pharmaceutical known to man).  These soft chewables for kids are proven to reduce inflammation and detoxify, in addition to protecting DNA (something a multivitamin cannot do) and supporting immune function (less colds and flus and allergy issues!)

3) We also avoid foods that promote inflammation, like processed sugar, dairy and gluten.  If you can’t imagine life without the sugary yogurt drinks and goldfish crackers, I can support you in making these changes in a caring, non-traumatic way, please get in touch.

Get outside and into Nature

This can be very hard.  Living in a metropolitan area near an airport mean that my child with SPD refused to leave the apartment without violent meltdowns.  Desperate for balance and pregnant with our second, I begged/pressured my husband in getting us a place in the country for sensory breaks.  An unusual, unconventional choice, but that is what we did.  I took time out of the city so my kids could be barefoot in the earth (“grounding” as it is called, also reduces inflammation) and get a break from the onslaught of input.  Seeing the stars in the sky and hearing nothing but birds for the first time, my son said made him feel “fresh and free”.

Occupational Therapy and Play Therapy

Talk therapy with a psychotherapist is a great option for adults, where a child’s work is done through play.  Occupational Therapists and Play Therapists have many tools to help encourage lagging skills to be challenged and developed in a safe and fun way.  For us, we wanted to live our lives in the city despite the difficulties for our child.  So we would go back and forth with him with the support of therapy when in the city.  We were not rich, we actually applied for assistance and received it through the Child Development Institute, and a therapist came to our apartment due to our child’s intense sensory needs at the time.  The goal was to accommodate but also acclimatize him.  

Parenting Strategies

Conscious parenting, intuitive parenting, gentle parenting… attachment parenting goes by many names, but the common theme is that we are parenting from our hearts, with empathy.  As Dr. Sears says, “If you look at the situation from the eyes of your child, you’ll always get it right”.  Remember the key difference between sympathy and empathy.  We are not pitying our loved ones, or letting them get away with bad behaviour.  We are understanding what is behind certain behaviours and resolving the heart of the matter. 

Being an attachment parent often gets confused with being permissive, but being permissive lacks true empathy as well, as it ignores rather than addresses.I am a far from perfect parent, and do not claim any dogmatic approach, but I will share what has worked for you in case it resonates, empowers or brings you peace.  As president of Attachment Parenting Canada Association, it would be my pleasure to connect you with support, education and like-minded community so that you can parent from a place of personal authenticity.

Time

My final tip is to simply remember that this too shall pass.  Life won’t always be as hard as it might be today.  All the above strategies take time to work their magic, but I promise they do help.  While all my “quirky” friends and family are not without their ongoing struggles, the sunny days far outweigh the cloudy days.  I will never forget the day that I realized our efforts had paid off.  It brings tears to my eyes and fills me with gratitude.  Don’t be ashamed if the status quo does not fit your life or your child’s needs.  If you lean in to your truth, a world of possibility opens right up!
Remember, I am human too. 

I may not have all the answers and I certainly mess up now and then, and pretty much daily!  I have learned that all the helpers and healers have something in common, they have HURT.  The difference is the decision to focus on the lesson within each hardship, and the decision to grow from there. 

What is one small step you can take today to live the joyful life that you all deserve?

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