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holistic medicine

Is Acupuncture Right for You?

By | NESCA Notes 2017

 

By:  Holly Pelletier, La.C.
Licensed Acupuncturist

One of the most common questions I receive as an acupuncturist is “Can it help with (insert any condition or ailment here)?”   And the answer is most emphatically “Yes”.  This is because the majority of us suffer from something we wish we didn’t have to. The reason is that we have been taught only to receive medicine and health care as a means of fixing something which is already broken. We do not think about creating and maintaining a healthy body before these malfunctions begin to occur. But what if we could change our way of thinking?

As a society in general, we tend to be hyper-focused on fixing problems. When we shift our focus back a bit, we can usually see that problems come from preventable causes. It is these precipitants or causes that need to be addressed. When it comes to the human body, we all ought to be able to recognize ourselves in the following scenario:

Imagine a time where you had an injury or felt pain somewhere in the body. You may have noticed that you quickly developed a very intuitive way to relieve the pain; perhaps you shifted your bodyweight to avoid an achy foot, or used your non-dominant hand to pick up something heavy, or placed a pillow below a sore hip in the car. Whatever the situation, I’m sure you instinctively and creatively found a way to lessen your pain.

At first, these adjustments may have been just what you needed to allow some part of your body to rest and heal. Sometimes, however, circumventing pain can cause prolonged unnatural use of your body in other areas; and when you strain one part of your body in order to avoid strain on another part of your body every day for a week or a month, or in many cases even years, you will without a doubt begin to feel pain somewhere else. The body has a way it is supposed to move, and when you move in a way that is contradictory to it, you incite a domino effect.

The entire body is interconnected. Every system, every organ, and every cell that is out of balance has to pull from reserves somewhere else. Simply put, the sick robs from the healthy. This is how imbalance forms in the body, and it is the reason unpleasant symptoms begin to manifest.

Symptoms of imbalance can be subtle–they may show up in the form of dry mouth, a slightly aching head, or difficulty sleeping. Every person has a different chemical makeup, and therefore these imbalances will show up differently in everyone. It takes an in-tune and aware individual to begin noticing these changes in their body, and an even more proactive and intelligent person to decide to do something about them when the first signs arise.

At last, we come to acupuncture and its role. Acupuncture is part of a holistic medicine system that originated in China and dates back thousands of years. Its entire motivation is to restore balance anywhere in the body. That means that, in a roundabout way, acupuncture can work with any ailment, although its strength is with preventative and early-onset illness.

This is why acupuncture is a phenomenal modality for children and adolescents. Their imbalances are fresh and new, still close to their root cause, and relatively easy to reverse. It becomes more difficult as we age.

When explaining this to those who are new to acupuncture, I often get follow-up questions about whether or not acupuncture can cure things such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other extreme ailments. Without a doubt, there are some very debilitating diseases that are best managed with a combination of pharmacological treatments and acupuncture.

Until you begin getting treated with acupuncture and seeing how your body responds, it is nearly impossible to determine the level of imbalance in the body. What I can say with clarity and assertion is that acupuncture will most definitely help in some areas of a person’s life. When dealing with chronic illness, there is such a deep imbalance in the body that the person’s main concern may not be transformed in the way that they hope. In these individuals, although their illness may not be cured, their quality of life will almost certainly improve and many symptoms will be managed with acupuncture included in their care.

Because acupuncture works with such a variety of individuals with drastically differently manifesting symptoms, it is challenging to specifically say what changes you will see after beginning your course of treatments. Following are a list of benefits I have found to show up in almost everyone I treat, regardless of primary concern:

  • Improved and more stable mood
  • Stress reduction and the body’s ability to handle difficult situations
  • Better and more sustainable energy throughout the day
  • Deeper and more quality sleep
  • Appetite regulation – more or less depending on what the individual needs
  • Overall increased feeling of well being
  • Decrease in pain and inflammation in the body

There are many lists out that there have been approved by the FDA detailing specific ailments that “acupuncture treats” and they can be helpful, but looking at the benefits of acupuncture in that way minimizes the vast comprehensive approach that it actually has on the body.

It is a much more holistic medicine that can positively affect many individuals.

For any questions involving acupuncture, or to set up a free consult or appointment please contact Holly at hpelletier@nesca-newton.com.

 

 

About the Author:

Holly Pelletier, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist who practices part-time at NESCA. Holly Pelletier has been working with children of varying ages, in many different capacities since 2004. Prior to treating kids with acupuncture, she worked as a teacher, coach, and mentor. She exceptionally enjoys working with children and acupuncture because of their speedy response time and genuine excitement about this form of medicine. Holly has a very gentle technique and has specific training in non-insertive acupuncture styles, which does not require needling directly into the skin. In additions to working with children, Holly is also very passionate about working with issues involving women’s health, nutrition/herbs, neurological disease, and psychological challenges such as anxiety and depression. For more information on our acupuncturist, Holly visit: http://www.hpelletieracu.com/

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Mindfulness in Schools

By | NESCA Notes 2017

 

By:  Ann-Noelle McCowan, M.S., RYT
Guidance Counselor; Yoga Specialist

Open Google and type in Mindfulness in Schools and you are presented with a buffet of resources. What was once seen as an alternative idea has become mainstream. But what is Mindfulness and why is it something that deserves a place in schools?

Mindfulness was originally developed as part of the 8 Fold Path of Buddhism. With mindfulness, your attention would be turned inward and also impact your relationship with the world through mindful actions and behaviors.  Now it is scientifically studied and found in locations like professional locker rooms, jails and hospitals to fortune 500 companies like Nike, Google and Apple. Advancements in brain imaging show that a regular mindfulness practice creates increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with working memory, executive function, emotional regulation, perspective taking and empathy, with decreases in the areas of the brain associated with depression, PTSD and stress (correlated with a decrease in amygdala size).

Mindfulness’ increased popularity may be due to the fact that it is an adaptable, take with you anywhere antidote to a society that is increasingly fast-paced and technology focused. In a global world, it helps us feel both connected to ourselves and grounded where we are. More adults and kids are feeling stressed, anxious and depressed, and mindfulness can help soothe our worries without negative side effects.

Schools are responsible for teaching children skills and information across many content areas, yet how often are children taught the best way to pay attention, or how to use attention?  Attention is the lens through which all of our experiences are filtered through, yet it is rarely directly and specifically taught! Mindfulness is at its core simply focusing on a single thing at a time, in a particular way, without evaluation. It is an invaluable life skill for helping children be successful students as well as happy well adjusted and connected children. An informal survey of my colleagues and friends found that yoga and mindfulness are being adapted to various school settings.  From class transitions that begin with listening bells, rounds of belly breathing before assessments, calming scented oils on cotton balls in the nurse’s’ office,  books clubs with teachers, introductions to mindfulness apps in health class and mindfulness or yoga activities and clubs.  mindfulness is staking its place in schools.

When introducing mindfulness in classrooms and schools the following steps help outline ways to weave mindfulness into classrooms and schools.

1. Learn More. 

Starting with this blog post the internet is full of articles and videos to explore.
How Meditation Can Reshape Our Brains: Sara Lazar at TEDxCambridge 2011
https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/mindfulness-for-children
Kids getting lessons in mindfulness in school – Today’s Parent

2. Model Mindfulness and Practice Yourself. 

You can’t teach what you don’t know. Practicing mindfulness will help you be aware of your own reactions if at first your students are squirmy or resistant. Keep in mind that students may not use the words you expect to describe their experience, listen for what is behind their words.

3. In an age-appropriate way, explain how mindfulness is beneficial for them. 

My teens love learning about how their brain works and that mindfulness is a form of training for their brain.

Some videos for younger  kids:

4. Teach about the monkey or animal mind. 

Children of all ages enjoy the practice of noticing how many places their thoughts go and how quickly thoughts connect to others. There are fantastic books for younger kids such as Moody Cow Meditates and  Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda.  Teens understand how if walk into class and see their friend laugh with a peer after a glance towards them their thoughts immediately race…. “ “what did I do” …“ they are mad”…“I’m not going to have a partner for this project”… “ there goes my secrets, begin the rumors”… “I’ll be left out of the weekend plans” … “I’ll be alone forever”.  Teach them to acknowledge the chatter but not get caught in it.

5. Start small. 

Begin with 1-3 minutes at the start of class directing kids to feel their seat in their seat, their feet on the floor, their hands on their lap and intentionally take 5-10 long inhales and exhales. Other ideas:

  • Practice silent snack one day a week, take a mindful walk as a class and have them focus on their senses and record it in their own journal ( words or visuals) when back in the classroom. Create a mindful space in a corner of your room with coloring books, pencils, cushions as a safe break place.
  • For kids it may be hard to focus on a single item at a time, so use manipulatives. A Hoberman Sphere, Pinwheels or feathers to demonstrate breath.  Build Worry Jars, adapt Chutes and Ladders or other familiar games with mindful exercises. Use one of the many Yoga Card Decks.

6. There’s an App for this!

Ironic perhaps to use technology but most kids love technology and it offers choice and control. Try  “Calm.com”, “Stop, Breathe and Think”, “Smiling Mind” or the “Insight Meditation Timer” (after medications my kids love to check out the world map and see all the locations where people are meditating!).  Try a classroom program such as http://www.innerexplorer.org/.

7. Be consistent.

Greater benefits and habits are created when mindfulness is done repeatedly. Colleagues who practice mindfulness daily, even for a few minutes notice the impact is greater than if  done sporadically.

Mindfulness is good for us and our children and has a natural place in our schools. Benefits abound like enhanced attention, self-regulation, social competence, as well as greater kindness and compassion. After I have practiced mindfulness with my students or clients they look different, calmer and relaxed and ask for it again. I too notice the rest of my day feels more manageable and my smile is broader. Enjoy adding mindfulness to your classroom or express your hope to your child’s teacher or school leaders that mindfulness be a part of your child’s school experience.

About the Author:

McCowan

Ann-Noelle provides therapeutic yoga-counseling sessions individually designed for each child. NESCA therapeutic yoga establishes a safe space for a child to face their challenges while nourishing their innate strengths using the threefold combination of yoga movement, yoga breath, and yoga thinking.

Ann-Noelle has worked with children and adolescents since 2001 and practiced yoga and meditation since 2005. Since 2003 she has been employed full time as a school counselor in a local high performing school district, and prior to that was employed in the San Francisco Public Schools. Ann-Noelle received her dual Masters Degree (MS) in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy (MFCC), and School Counseling from San Francisco State University in 2002, her BA from Union College in New York, and her 200 hour-Registered Yoga Credential (RYT) from Shri Yoga. Ann-Noelle completed additional Yoga training including the Kid Asana Program in 2014, Trauma in Children in 2016 and Adaptive yoga for Parkinson’s in 2014.

For more information on the therapeutic yoga at NESCA, please visit  https://nesca-newton.com/yoga/

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.