Can Exercise Help Children with ADHD?

Ryan and MBC Running

Ryan and I running in a Mother’s Day race a couple of years ago.

It’s 6 am. It’s so dark outside that one would think it’s the middle of the night. But Ryan and I are getting up to make our daily trek to the gym. I often think, why? Ryan and I both go to the gym after work and the two mornings he doesn’t work he goes to the gym. Do we really need all this physical activity?

Yes! “Exercise helps children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) according to a study,” in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. This recent study found that children with symptoms of ADHD became more attentive and less moody when they participated in regular half hour sessions of aerobic activity before school.  Physical activity can improve academic achievement including grades and standardized test scores. Unfortunately, physical education classes in many schools have been replaced by sedentary classroom based activities. This needs to change.

Ryan running in last week's Beast on the Bay Adaptive Course.

Ryan running in last week’s Beast on the Bay Adaptive Course.

We are initiating three new fitness programs in our school this year. Our adaptive bicycling program is now the responsibility of our PT/ OT department. Therapists are assuring that each student has an outcome based program tailored to the students’ strengths and needs. They are monitoring and tracking the students’ progress using the “Day to Data” app on the iPad.

Our fitness program has been modified to focus on fitness as a life skill. We will be addressing three primary areas of wellness: cardiovascular exercise, strengthen and balance. The students engagement in their fitness program will be measured by charting participation and using a modified Perceived Exertion Scale to rate how hard they work.

Ryan kayaking over the summer months in Erie.

Ryan kayaking over the summer months in Erie.

We are also introducing Achilles International Run to Learn program, a series of educational and physical activities which will encourage and motivate students to participate in regular physical activities. Based on a 26.2 mile marathon, students will complete weekly laps that are counted and converted into miles and charted as a 26.2 mile route on a map of Erie, PA. Achilles Kids: Run to Learn is currently in 150 schools in the United States with approximately 3,500 students participating.

On a personal note, I, too, have seen many positive behavioral changes when Ryan engages in intense physical activities. He is very focused, stays on target during conversations, and engages in significantly less repetitive behaviors. So, you can be sure that Ryan and I will continue our six am treks to the gym in good weather and bad!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remembering 9/11

In recognition of today being Patriot Day we remember the hundreds and hundreds of lives lost on this saddest day in my life. As we observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. today I am reminded of the 911Memorial video narrated by Robert De Niro.  May we never forget.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beast on the Bay – Inclusion, Fun and Triumph

Ryan at 2014 Beast on the Bay Adaptive Course

Ryan running the 2014 Beast on the Bay Adaptive Course

Do you remember Rocky Balboa climbing the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the sound of Rocky’s Theme? That is how I felt on Saturday as I observed the 100 men and women participating in the Beast on the Bay Adapted Course. There were people in wheelchairs, some assisted by their seeing-eye dogs, and others who were walking at slow, medium and fast paces. There was no right or wrong way to “Beat the Beast” – each of the participants was winning in their own, very special way. Cheered on by the many observers, there were smiles on their faces as they came to the finish line. Every contestant (whether you were on the full or adapted course) then received a “Beast” medallion as their award for “Beating the Beast.”


Finishers of the 2014 Beast on the Bay Adaptive Course

You may ask, why have an adapted course?

Barber National Institute celebrates the talents of all people in an inclusive community. Too often persons with disabilities are unable to participate in athletic challenges due to their limitations. So, as we developed the concept of the Beast on the Bay, first and foremost in our minds was the need for an adapted course. If you are involved with an athletic contest, we would be happy to share with you some of our experiences should you wish to offer an adapted course as well.

In conclusion, I send many thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and the over one thousand participants who made the “Beast” a success. Mark your calendars now for third annual Beast on the Bay September 5th. Ryan “beat the beast.” Next year, you, too can “Beat the Beast“!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Caregivers Need Their ‘Me’ Time Too

iStock_000010562074XSmallSummer vacation.  No homework, less demanding schedules, time for vacations and outdoor activities.  Yes, as the children go back to school all of this is coming to an end.   I remember how I was always sad to see summer vacation end because it meant a return to homework, busy days and early mornings rushing to get ready for school.  This continues for another nine months until we can again take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the summer vacation again.

Most parents work full time or part time outside of the home, have a household to run and are full time caregivers, as well.  At best, it is a juggling act that we all face and handle successfully at most times.  I think parents of children with special needs experience stressors that can have an emotional and physical cost if allowed to continue unchecked.   The essential question is “how do you reduce the effects of this stress?”

I recently came across a caregiver’s workbook for groups of caregivers of Massage39adolescents and young adults with ASD.  In fact, the recommendations they share would be helpful to any caregiver.  Some of the recommendations include:

  • Time for yourself
  • Support networks
  • Time management
  • Relaxation techniques

I’d encourage you to review the material, take the time to complete a few exercises and put the recommendations into practice.  If you are saying to yourself “I know I’m stressed but I’m not nearing ‘burnout’,” then you might also want to take a caregiver stress test. Recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout out early will help you avoid far more serious problems down the road.  It is okay to admit that you are stressed.  Everyone is, but the key is to recognize the signs and ask for help.Each of us will identify our own personal way of dealing with stress.

body-weight-exercises-for-menRyan and I exercise before work and I exercise by myself after.  I began my afternoon routine around Christmas time and found that even though I might be exhausted from a day of work, I felt much better after I exercised.  What do you do to relieve your stress?  I’d encourage you to share your tips and experiences so that I might share with others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Days Until Beast on the Bay – Are You Ready To Beat the Beast?

Barber-Beast-on-the-Bay-Trial-Run_127-smallThere’s still time to register for both the Beast on the Bay and Adaptive Beast on the Bay!

Why is this obstacle course different from other obstacle courses? Anyone can have an obstacle course, but what is important is that we have a course specially designed for people with disabilities. Plus, the Barber Beast on the Bay is a fundraisingBOTB-Adapted-Course_small-1jpg event to help support the Barber National Institute and its work with children and adults with disabilities.

Why have an adaptive course? We believe that all Adaptive Course Map 2014persons should be included, and therefore designed a specialized adapted course for persons with limited mobility, agility and athletic ability. At the Barber National Institute, we strive to “make dreams come true” at all of our events as we welcome children and adults with disabilities, as well as their typical peers.

New this year is that a portion of the adaptive course will run alongside the Beast on the Bay so athletes from both courses can cheer each other on. Over 1,040 athletes have registered for the Beast a9069_403546973091173_419905081_nnd 80 have registered for the Maureen Riazzi adaptive course.

The Beast on the Bay is 10 miles of trails, mud, water and hard-pack surfaces featuring 26 “meaner, badder” obstacles integrated into the course.

The Maureen Riazzi adaptive course is a 1.2 mile loop that begins and 0025_BOTB-Regular-Course-Meghan_smallends in the area of Beach 1 at Presque Isle State Park. This course will accommodate ambulatory participants as well as those in a wheelchair or power chair. Six obstacles will be spaced throughout the course and incorporate a variety of challenges that were developed by a team of physical therapists and educators from the Barber National Institute, fitness trainers and representatives from the disabilities community.

Not only does the Barber Beast on the Bay event raise awareness for a great cause, but it also brings the community together for a fun experience that showcases Erie’s finest assets. I encourage you to register for the event or join the spectators cheering the athletes along the courses, and to join in the post-event party at Waldameer Picnic Groves. So, if you aren’t doing anything this Saturday morning, come out to Presque Isle to watch the race and join us in the festivities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Could the Debate Over a Link Between Autism and Vaccines be Resurfacing?

hepatitis-c-vaccineiReport, CNN’s user-generated news community, published a study this month that concluded African American boys are more at risk for autism if they are given the MMR vaccine before the age of two. The author stated that researchers at the CDC knew about the link in 2004 and covered it up. I was shocked to see that this controversy was again on the table. We know that many, many more children are experiencing serious childhood diseases because parents declined vaccinations due to the possible autism link. Rather than simply report this finding I decided to investigate the validity of this claim.

What did I find?

  • The new study was funded by the Focus Autism Foundation, which is dedicated to exposing the causes of autism specifically on the role of vaccinations.
  • The study originally published in the scientific journal Translational Neurodegeneration was removed from public domain pending further investigation “because of serious concerns on the validity of its conclusions”
  • I learned from that the CNN iReport is a platform on which anyone can submit content. The story did not clearly designate the report’s crowd source nature and many readers, including myself, incorrectly believed CNN was doing the reporting as a news network.

My conclusions:

  • Never take a report at face value. Verify the source and do your own research into the validity of the story.
  • Review well respected, scientifically based organizations to see their position on the issue.
  • Determined who funded the research and if they have an agenda or if it is an independent study.

I continue to support the findings of the CDC 2004 study and will strongly encourage parents to have their child vaccinated for protection from serious diseases.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Would You Consider Participating in a Research Study?

research_puzzleI frequently see requests from graduate students, hospitals and universities asking family members, children and adults with autism to consider participating in a research study. Too often the studies are being conducted in settings a distance from Erie in large cities and university centers. For that reason, our participation has typically been online questionnaires about the treatment that we use and find effective for children with autism. So whether you live in a big city or a small town, there are always opportunities to become engaged in research.

Here are two recent reports that reflect the importance of involvement.

  • study on brain synapses on autism led by Drs. Tang and Sulzer is helping us to understand the differences of brain clinical-neuropsychologystructure that are found in autism. For typical children, the number of synapses decreases as they grow older.   In persons with autism, the number of synapses fails to decrease in the same way as a typical child. This is leading scientists to seek new drugs that will treat autism by restoring normal pruning of brain cell connections.
  • Amy Weitlauf and her team from the Vanderbilt Evidence Based Practice Center reported to the U.S. Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality that there has been a dramatic increase in the scientific evidence backing the vb1effectiveness of intensive behavioral therapy for children with autism. There is a clear consensus that early intensive intervention can significantly improve the lives of children with autism thereby saving money by promoting greater independence later in life.

So often I have read that we cannot find the cure for autism until we identify the causes. However, by participating in research, we can help the investigators come closer to the causes and the most effective treatments. If you are willing to consider some opportunities, I’ve included a few links to pursue.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments