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Oct. 31, 2022

Episode 71: Training Brains!! with Dr. Amy Moore

In this episode DJ and her guest, cognitive psychologist and brain training researcher Dr. Amy Moore, discuss things parents and teachers can do to help a child with ADHD and OCD. Listen in as they talk about differences in the brains of neurodiverse kids, the signs to look for and the variety of approaches from medication, nutrition and the importance of sleep to cognitive physical activity or brain training to help prevent inappropriate attention skills, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation. 

Dr. Amy Moore is a cognitive psychologist and director of research at LearningRx in Colorado Springs, CO at the headquarters of the largest network of cognitive training centers in the world. She specializes in cognitive rehabilitation training and cognition assessment for ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, brain injury, learning disabilities, and age-related cognitive decline.

• [5:06] Dr. Moore shares the impact cognitive training can have in the classroom?
• [7:34] “The sense of feeling defeated, impacts their motivation, impacts their desire to even try. Right. I mean, it can be devastating.”  
• [11:42] Amy shares things parents and teachers can do to help their child with ADHD.
• [39:23]Dr. Moore discusses the commonalities between ADHD and OCD. 

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DJ Stutz  0:13  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes Podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA. 

You're listening to Episode 71 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Dr. Amy Moore is a cognitive psychologist. And she's also the director of research at, it's called learning our x in Colorado Springs. And she specializes in helping people with cognitive rehabilitation training. That's a mouthful. But these are people who have had a brain injury, or maybe some learning disabilities, or other neurodevelopmental disorders. And she has a PhD in psychology. And I love this part, a master's degree in early childhood education, which makes her absolutely perfect for us. She's been working with struggling learners for over 25 years. And she's also a board certified Christian counselor, a licensed pastor, and she is the editor in chief of modern brain journal. She has a TED talk that's available. And she's also the host of the podcast called brainy moms. Don't you love that. She's also an author, and she co authored a book called concussion discussions. So there's so there's so much to learn. So let's get started.

Wow, after tons of research, we now know that gratitude is a key to psychological well being. Gratitude can make you happier, it can improve your relationships, and potentially even counteract depression and suicidal thoughts. But might the benefits of gratitude go beyond that? Could gratitude be good for your physical health as well? Well, coming up on November 7 through 11th, I am hosting a five day gratitude challenge. Would you like the benefits of gratitude not to just be part of your life, but part of the lives of your children as well? Well come and be a part of us. And you can register at the website, Or you can just click on the link that's down in the show notes. 

I know how hard it is to have a child that just never shuts down, gets angry so fast. It's like lightning, sometimes violent. And I know how hard it is on you as a mom or a dad. And you feel like I'm failing. What am I doing wrong? Why is my kid like this? Does he have ADHD? Is there a neurological thing? There's so many other things that it could be? Is there something wrong with my child? And then you start wondering, is it my fault that I give this to them? Am I the reason maybe it's nutrition? Maybe I haven't done this or that right? Stop, stop it. Your kid is your kid. They are who they are. And some kids are just very busy. Specially boys, but also girls, and you can sit and worry about it. Or you can listen in and get some ideas on some of the things that you can do. Or if you're really concerned, let's get them tested. Let's get them assess. Let's figure out what's going on. Well, Dr. Amy, she's so sweet. And I just love her. But she can help us out with a lot of this. And so let's listen in. 

Welcome, everyone, and I'm so glad you chosen to spend the next few minutes with us here at Imperfect Heroes. And today I have such an interesting guest with information that's really going to help you as you're moving your kids along and training them and teaching them such good information. Her name is Dr. Amy Moore. And she has all the insight and the info the download on how to train our brains. Dr. Moore, thank you so much for being a part of us today.

Dr. Amy Moore  5:06  
Thanks for inviting me, DJ, it's exciting to be with you.

DJ Stutz  5:09  
It is. I'm excited to have you here. So why don't you talk to our listeners a little bit about what you do, and any other information you think is pertinent right now.

Dr. Amy Moore  5:21  
Okay, so I'm a cognitive psychologist, and a brain training researcher. And so I spend my days looking at the impact of cognitive training or brain training for both children and adults, but mostly children who have learning struggles neurodevelopmental disorders, like ADHD dyslexia, on the autism spectrum, and even traumatic brain injury. And I was a teacher before I was a psychologist. So I have this unique perspective on the intervention process, because I worked with children for 21 years before I switched over to being right. And so I saw the struggle. I saw how that impacted not only the child, but the parents and the whole family. And I thought we're missing something. We're missing something. And I got to figure out what that is. And so that's how I came to enter the brain training field.

DJ Stutz  6:26  
That's amazing. And also, as a teacher, you'll know, it also impacts the classroom. Yes, when we're looking at that whole full, big picture. And when it impacts the classroom, or even within the family. You see kids who kind of self define as they know they're different. And so sometimes they'll say, I'm stupid, I can't do this. You'll see other kids may be treating them differently. And then parents who get frustrated because they can't accomplish this simple task. Right? Right. And so all of this gets laid on the kid, and then they quit believing in themselves.

Dr. Amy Moore  7:12  
Absolutely. In fact, I'm also a parent of children who struggled. And so I know that ache and that pain of trying to get through the homework hour or hours, and seeing the frustration in your child and seeing how that sense of defeat meant. Yeah, word, the sense of feeling defeated, impacts, their motivation, impacts their desire to even try. Right. I mean, it can be devastating. And you're absolutely right. Not only does it impact the classroom, it impacts the teachers too. I should have said it's a systems issue.

DJ Stutz  7:53  
Absolutely, it is. Several years ago, and my kindergarten class, I have this great kid, I just loved him. And he could go violent in a heartbeat, tearing everything off the walls, clearing the bookshelves, whatever. And I remember talking to him, so I had someone come in and sit with a class though I could be the one to talk to him. We went out in the hallway, and I said, Hey, buddy, I know you're a good kid. And he's like, No, I'm not. He got very angry with me. I'm a bad kid. Nobody wants to be around me, because I'm so mean. And I realized I had to change. I was challenging him because he had this definition of himself. And for me to try to change that overtly. With him, was threatening to him, he had this identity. And so we kind of had to go a different route. He was my honest kid, because I'll tell you, he would pull stuff. And you would say, Hey, did this, like how did this happen? What? I did this, and he'd be super honest about it. And so that's kind of how we lead in was that you're the honest kid.

Dr. Amy Moore  9:17  
Yeah, and so when you have a child who has adopted an identity like that, of being the bad child that has been told you're a bad child, and they adopt that identity, well then to have someone come in and say, No, you're not. Then they're suffering this cognitive dissonance right? Because you must be lying, because everyone else in my life in my world is telling you the opposite. Right? And so that's a tough wall to break down for sure. But good Anya for recognizing that you needed to be the one to make that connection, right? Because so many times when We see that we call for help for that child, right? You manage the classroom, so I'm going to call for help. So the counselor or the vice, you know, assistant principal, or the principal needs to come down and take care of the child that's being disruptive, as opposed to flipping that. You're the primary educator for this child, right? So as a kindergarten teacher, so you get to be the one to make that connection, you get to be the one to try and problem solve. You get to be the one to build this child up, right, while your help comes to manage the masses while you take care of connecting with this child that really, really needed you.

DJ Stutz  10:42  
And I was lucky enough to have administration that supported me in that. Yeah. Because you don't always get that as a teacher. Right. So I was very fortunate. And I was very fortunate to have this little guy in my life. And in fact, at the end of the year, through a weird set of circumstances on the last day of school, he was the last kid there. And we were walking down the hall and someone said, do you still have kids? Yep, yep. And of all the kids, he's standing right next to me. And I said, I know aren't I've lucky? I love him so much. And I said, Hey, what does Mrs. studs like the best about you? And he said, I'm honest. So that made me feel good. It took a full year of a lot of hard work. But he did by the end of the year, at least have that definition that I may not always be the best kid. But I'm the honest kid. Yeah. So not bad. Yeah. Anyway, so talk to us a little bit on, you know, I have a son that severely ADHD. And so I understand that from both the teacher and parent perspective, man, that was hard sometimes. So talk to us a little bit, maybe about some things the parents can do. And then maybe some things that the parents and the teacher can work together on, I think that's where we get the most success is when we have all the members of the team.

Dr. Amy Moore  12:12  
Sure. So I actually love to teach teachers and parents about the differences between the ADHD brain and the neurotypical brain. Because what I find is, if I can show you in pictures, right, using pictures of MRIs, pictures of brain scans, that there are differences in the brain, between the ADHD brain and the neurotypical brain, then I can build empathy, right, you can begin to look at the ADHD child through a different lens. Okay, there are differences here that we can see. And so what do I need to do differently with this child that I might not need to do with my neurotypical child, whether that's as a parent or as a teacher? And I think that when we can come at it through this empathetic lens, it kind of lowers the temperature on our frustration, doesn't it? Right, when we're saying this child isn't acting out? To do this, to me, this child has a need that's not being fulfilled because his brain works differently than the average brain. What do I need to do? Right? So first, we need to know that children and adults with ADHD have a really difficult time managing their emotions, they suffer from emotional dysregulation. And so we have to make sure that the way that we communicate with that child keeps them in a positive mindset, right keeps them from becoming upset, angry, sad, frustrated, because what happens when they begin experiencing a negative emotion, it's magnified. Right? So it's 10 times bigger, 10 times worse. And I'm just throwing the 10 times out there, right? Then how a neurotypical brain experiences a negative emotion? Well, we know that when you have heightened emotions, your amygdala, the emotion center of your brain will hijack your prefrontal cortex, the CEO of your brain that is responsible for rational thinking. So if you think about that process magnified that amygdala hijack process magnified in the ADHD brain, once that child's upset, you've tipped over the edge, there is nothing you're going to be able to do. Right and so number one is communicating through that lens of empathy and with that knowledge that I need to make sure that I'm encouraging positive emotions in this child and that starts by regulating my own emotions, right? So we call that CO regulation, right so we We keep ourselves calm, we lower our own stress levels, we separate our emotions from the behavior, right? This child is not doing this to me. So I just need to look at this as a challenge that I need to help solve. Right? So if we can, if we can stay calm, then we help keep the child with ADHD calm, and then we can problem solve. Right, right, because that child is as smart as every other child in your class, or every other child in your family. Unless they have a comorbid disability that lowers their IQ, the average child with ADHD can problem solve, when they're calm.

DJ Stutz  15:40  
And I found my experience is they can problem solve in such amazing, unique ways. So they'll find a workaround to manage their problem that the typical brain might not pick up on. And so because they process information differently, they're solute. And that's why it's so important, at least for me, with my son, and with students. It's important for me that they come to the conclusion of what I can do instead.

Dr. Amy Moore  16:16  
Sure, yeah, absolutely. And then, you know, we did this really interesting study, where we looked at the cognitive test results, which is standard IQ test, right? How do you test the results of more than 4000 children and adults with ADHD? And we created cognitive profiles. So what are the strengths and weaknesses, you know, in, in our thinking skills among this group of more than 4000 people from age five through 40. And what we saw across the lifespan, from children to adults, was that attention was not the most efficient skill in these children and adults with ADHD. And I'll come back to that in a minute. But working memory, long term memory and processing speed, were the most efficient, or the lowest functioning skills across the lifespan and ADHD. And so interventions that just target attention are missing the boat, right? Because these kids and adults are struggling with memory, and speed of processing information. And so if we don't recognize that, then how can we effectively help? And so it comes back when we did this study, and we've created these profiles. When we saw this on our chart, we said, Why is this called attention deficit disorder? Right? It's memory and processing speed Deficit Disorder. And, you know, from my clinical perspective, ADHD is not a deficit of attention, right, we have too much attention. We pay attention to everything. The ADHD brain cannot decipher. They can't rack and stack importance. So everything is important. And so that's why the squirrel in the window is just as important as the teacher talking in front of me or my parent telling me, I need to go fold my laundry. And so one of the things we can do is help people with ADHD children with ADHD, identify priorities, we can't expect them to automatically know that. And that can be so frustrating as a parent, right? You tell them to go clean their room, and you come up and they're playing Legos instead. We're in the floor already. So what's important, right, so we have to help rack and stack those priorities for them.

DJ Stutz  18:42  
I love the way that you are explaining all of these outside things, because I think you're right. We think attention, they can't pay attention. They won't pay attention. They don't pay attention. But I do really relate to that short term memory issues, even long term memory issues. And and so even to ask my son, why were you in your room? Why did you go in your room in the first place? So now done, no, no, I'm here. There were toys.

Dr. Amy Moore  19:22  
Or something else?

DJ Stutz  19:23  
Right? Right, right. Yes. And so our patient's level really needs to be there. So we know that even neurotypical kids, especially when they're younger, it can take some kids might take five to 10 reminders when they're learning a new task. Other kids can take up to 100 reminders and they're still within the normal realms. Let's add ADHD into that. And I don't know if there's a limit.

Dr. Amy Moore  19:53  
Well, right, especially if you're, if you consider that they have a long term memory deficit. They You're not going to remember how many times you've already said it.

DJ Stutz  20:04  
Yeah. How many times do a parent say how many times do I have to tell you?

Dr. Amy Moore  20:10  
Right? And then response from the ADHD brain is, I don't know, as many as it takes.

DJ Stutz  20:17  
And that should be the response for the ADHD parent. And teacher.

Dr. Amy Moore  20:22  
Absolutely. Yeah. Right,

DJ Stutz  20:25  
we lose the patience. Right? And

Dr. Amy Moore  20:27  
I mean, to what effect? Right? So does losing patience solve anything? No, no. Right? Because I assure you, that child is just as frustrated as you are. Right? So when you lose patience, how does that help solve a problem? Right? Again, we have to lower our temperature, on our frustration and our emotions, so that we can help problem solve. And let me tell you, I'm an ADHD warrior myself. So I get it, I understand as well as

DJ Stutz  21:04  
relate to these symptoms all too easily. Right. And I think too, though, when we when we're saying things like, I already explained this, too, I already told you this, and we get on them, they start making those self definitions that are negative. Yes. And it's sometimes hard to pull them out of that once it gets started.

Dr. Amy Moore  21:27  
Yes, that message that we send to them when we do that is that you're frustrated with me? I'm not worthy of your love. You don't care about me, I'm just causing you problems. Where do I fit in this world?

DJ Stutz  21:45  
Yeah, then we've got issues of depression, anxiety increases, all of those things increase, then we get into some really dangerous areas.

Dr. Amy Moore  21:58  
And we know that motivation is a key piece in learning. And so that absolutely decreases motivation to try. Right? Because you're just gonna disappoint your teacher or your or your parent, so why bother? So where

DJ Stutz  22:11  
do you stand on medication, I just did a episode with a doctor walk karnofsky Who? It's an ADHD physician. And he's all about the effectiveness of medications and stuff. And I know there are a lot of opinions out there about that. So where do you stand? What are your thoughts?

Dr. Amy Moore  22:34  
So we know that the primary neurotransmitters that aren't functioning properly in the ADHD brain are dopamine and norepinephrine. And so if we can increase either the production or the function of dopamine or norepinephrine, then we should, if we can. And so there are a couple of medications that act directly on dopamine and norepinephrine. And we know that lifestyle can help as well. And so I mean, we know that 80% of neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, not in the brain. And so, diet impacts neurotransmitter function. And so if we can change our diets to improve how our neurotransmitters work, not just in ADHD, but in all kids are all adults, then why would we not try? Right? And so like anything that makes the neural pathways in our brain function better, the myelin sheath, you know, stronger? You know, there is research that shows that taking omega three fatty acids help with that, you know, why would we not try everything we can try to help our children perform better and feel better about themselves? Does every child need medication to make that happen? I don't think so. But do some absolutely. And so, you know, obviously, as a brain training researcher, I'm going to advocate for Brain Training. Do we see children come off of medication after brain training? Sure. Do we see children who stay on it after brain training? Sure. Right, because every child is different. And we know that the causes of ADHD are different as well, there is not one cause. And so when you think about all of the different ways that one can develop ADHD, it makes sense then that how we approach improving functioning and ADHD is going to be dependent upon that child as well.

DJ Stutz  24:38  
I totally agree. And I guess my school of thought is, if it works, do it. You know, and so for some kids, maybe just the nutritional piece will be what they need for other kids that might be a combination of what's going on. I think no matter where you are in the spectrum of normality, because none of us are truly normal. But that wherever you are on that spectrum, I think nutrition plays a big part as well, for everybody. Yes. But I think finding those balances and asking a lot of questions, it's okay to ask a ton of questions. And if people get tired of you asking questions, go bother someone else. But keep asking that, and then keeping data. So I think that's the teacher in me, that really wants to say, okay, my kid usually has 10 meltdowns in a day. And we've been working on this. And some of the parents I've worked with, there's like, it doesn't work. He's still throwing temper tantrums. And so I'll say, Well, remember when we started, we had, I don't know, nine. Usually in a day, it's time for us to retake some data and see where we are. And usually they'll find they've gone from nine to four, five around there. So it is working, we're on the right path. But it just can be so exhausting. Sometimes when it's that really hard time. And so as parents as teachers, we tend to get on ourselves, and not really see without the data. what's truly going on. And so I'm all about parents keeping, like, when is it happening? Who is it happening with? What time of day? Where is this happening? What are the circumstances and so we can better get a real picture. And I think parents often are like, Oh, I'm too busy.

Dr. Amy Moore  26:47  
Do you want to continue struggling? Yes, right. Yeah. Well, I,

DJ Stutz  26:52  
I'll give him a like I have just this little stupid form. It's so simple. But you can just do some checks. You know, instead of having to write a whole thing, it may not be the whole picture, but it's given you something that you can work on that maybe isn't taking up quite as much time as writing a whole narrative.

Dr. Amy Moore  27:10  
Yeah, I agree. Yeah, and a lot of it's trial and error, too. And I like to say this analogy that you can kill a fly on a wall with a flyswatter, or a wrecking ball. But one does a little bit less damage. And so while I don't. While damage is a word that is too strong in this analogy. We don't always have to hit them with everything that we possibly can, right. Like, we don't always have to do medication and diet and sleep and right, like, start low, go slow, and see how each thing works. Right? Because I know that you know, parents want a magic bullet, and there isn't one. Right, but we can try this. And if it doesn't work, then let's add this. Let's take this out. Let's do a little more of this. Until we find what helps.

DJ Stutz  28:10  
So what would you suggest is a couple of tools maybe where parents can start with adding something, you know, into their bouquet of

Dr. Amy Moore  28:22  
options? Yeah, so sleep is super important. And I think that as Americans, we don't, we don't put enough emphasis on the importance of sleep, because we have this gogogo lifestyle. And so sleep actually cleanses the brains of neurotoxins that are produced during the day. And so it's absolutely essential for neurotransmitter function for brain function. And so that needs to be a priority for our kids. You can look at the American Association of Pediatrics recommendations on the number of hours, you know, that kids needed each Ah, just to get an idea of how many. So I think that that's a place where we absolutely can start as parents is to help optimize sleep. And then optimizing diet is next. If we can reduce sugar and grains, and increase natural whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, then we ought to do that for our kids. When we're talking about why does ADHD develop, you know, exposure to toxins is one of those ways that we hypothesize, ADHD has developed. And so let's reduce some of the toxins that our kids are exposed to. So artificial flavors and colors. Pesticides, right I'm a big advocate of organic and non GMO diet. Sugar is inflammatory like so when we eat sugar, it causes inflammation in the body, while the brain is attached to the body. Yeah, so if the body's inflamed, the brain is inflamed. So let's reduce the amount of sugar. And I am not sitting here saying, Don't ever give your kid sugar. That is not what I'm saying. I like to recommend that parents follow the 90% 10% the 9010 rule 90% of the time, serve healthy foods to your kids, low sugar, low grains 10% of the time, let them have a treat. Yeah, right. So it's not an all or nothing. It's a lifestyle. Right?

DJ Stutz  30:36  
Well, so I think a lot of parents don't realize, and I didn't realize actually until I have a brother in law that was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 28. Oops, unusual. But so in learning with him and my sister in the family, that a lot of things turn into sugar in the body that you don't realize. So like breads, the grains, they actually morph into sugar, once you've consumed them, potatoes changes into sugar. And so sometimes just getting some of that basic information that you really didn't even think about, because it wasn't anything you needed to worry about. So finding out some of that information as you're looking at diet meals, and all of that kind of stuff can really help.

Dr. Amy Moore  31:26  
Absolutely, you know, David Perlmutter has written several books on the impact of grains on the body. And so like, I think its first one was called Grain Brain. But he's actually written a couple of follow up books. And so he really goes into how grains influence brain function. Super interesting research on gluten binding to neurons in the brain, and so making it more difficult to function. So it's research that's worth looking at. And considering, right, I mean, nobody wants to give up bread. Nobody wants to give up pasta. I mean, I'm celiac, so I can't have gluten, and soy, and two of my children are too. And so we've learned, oh, well, they're yummy foods that don't have grains in them either. So. And when you're thinking about that, in terms of food as medicine, it kind of gives you a different perspective. Food is medicine. So let's do what we can to make our life make our child's life easier, right? Like I always say to parents, who are like, Well, should I put my kid on medication? Should I not? And I'm like, Well, if your child was diabetic, would you give them insulin? Exactly. I've had a broken leg, would you put a cast on it? Right? So if we think about interventions for ADHD in the same way, right, let's reduce the struggle. Let's reduce the struggle. And then something else. Again, I'll go back to saying I'm a I'm a Brain Training researcher. So we need to do things that stimulate our cognitive functioning. And so an easy way to start doing that at home is with board games.

DJ Stutz  33:10  
And it's fun. Yeah, and it's a bonding

Dr. Amy Moore  33:13  
experience, right. So you get that time with your family time with your kids, it's fun, there's laughter, and you are stimulating your child's brain at the exact same time. And games that really improve memory and processing speed are the ones that you want to drill down on. And so, you know, Bob it and Simon and you know, some of those fast moving, even Dance Revolution type games, you know, really help engage those weak cognitive skills. Is that enough? For some kids? Absolutely. Like when you combine lifestyle changes, and you know, cognitive stimulation at home, that absolutely could be enough. Some kids have a more severe presentation of their ADHD and will need a formal intervention. And so fortunately, that's available to right. And so I mean, you can get cognitive training. I mean, you know, I work for learning RX. And so we offer that worldwide. So it's, I mean, it's out there, those interventions for those kids who need more.

DJ Stutz  34:19  
And so parents can go and do a little bit of research at we have so much at our fingertips. Right now that we have access to that you can go and find something that's in your area that can help you but pretty much you'd have to be pretty isolated to not have anything within a reasonable distance to help you with some of these resources. Absolutely. Yeah. And so one of the things that I talked about with Dr. carnate karnofsky I'll get that out, was how young do we know we start putting labels on On a two year old, because they're acting like a two year old. And I always have to laugh that people say act your age, and I want to say they are. They're acting exactly their age. And so we sometimes have unrealistic expectations with wanting our kids to behave a certain way that isn't age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for what they're doing. So how early what are some of the signs maybe that a parent might want to really look at as their kids are young?

Dr. Amy Moore  35:36  
Yeah, I think we have a tendency to turn behaviors that frustrate us into pathology. Yeah, right. We look at this exuberance that our child is exhibiting, right? This is hyperactive exuberance at age three, or four. And we automatically think my child won't calm down, and I need my child to calm down because I'm trying to work over here, or I'm on the phone and my kid is running laps around me because they want my attention. That's normal behavior for a three or four year old. Right, exactly. And we have this tendency to make it about pathology, right, there has to be something wrong with him, because he's not calm enough, or he's not listening enough. And so you're absolutely right, we need to know developmentally what to expect from our children. So the ages and stages, books are phenomenal for that. And so I always recommend those for parents. And again, the American Academy of Pediatrics puts out books on developmental stages as well. So either one of those resources will be able to tell you what can I expect in terms of behavior for my two year old, my three year old, my four year old. So once your child is in kindergarten, if you are beginning to see a collection of behaviors that appear concerning, like, inappropriate attention skills, inappropriate impulsivity, and then I say this because it really ought to be a diagnostic criteria, emotion dysregulation. And we're seeing that in more than one area of their life, then it might be time to go for an assessment. Okay. And as a former teacher, I'm not afraid to say that just because a teacher suggests that your child has ADHD does not mean that your child has ADHD, right? There are many teachers who get frustrated with those behaviors, they don't have enough training or experience yet to manage those behaviors that are on the extreme end of normal age. And so they panic, right? It's this child has ADHD and needs medication to make my life easier, so I can manage my classroom more easily. And so again, let me say it, teachers, I'm not dissing on teachers, I was one. But when you've got 26 kids, and one of them is hanging from the chandelier, right, it's easy to attach pathology to that. So if you're in early primary grades, you know, first, second third, and you see that struggle. In the classroom, you're hearing it from the teacher, you're seeing it during homework time yourself, and you're seeing it during social settings. Yeah, it's time for an evaluation. And you can start with your pediatrician. But my recommendation is to see a developmental or behavioral pediatrician who specializes in neurodevelopmental disorders, or a clinical child or neuro psychologist who specializes in assessment of child because as much as I love the family, doctor, family, doctors have a tendency to want to support mom, who's saying, the teacher say my kid has ADHD, this is the hyperactivity I'm seeing at home, please put them on Ritalin. Right. And so I've seen it again and again, where the family doctor says, Okay, that seems consistent with ADHD. Let's try him on medication. See a specialist.

DJ Stutz  39:23  
Yeah. And I know that when our school approached us about Christian, I took him to a pediatric neurologist. And he was really good. And he got Christian on medication. We had to adjust it a few times. Yeah. And I think that's something to think about with medication is that you know, as your child grows, and then eventually puberty is going to set in, all of those things are going to adjust how the body reacts to that medication. And so once you have it and it's working In well, and then a year later, it's like, that's not working so much anymore. That's just because your child's body is changing and growing. And so now they have more weight, you know, because a lot of times they'll gauge it, by the way to the child and those kinds of things. And so it's okay to ask questions, but I so agree with you, and I'm so glad you brought it up, but taking them to a specialist, and really getting that knowledge of someone who has dealt with autism, or ADHD, or reactive attachment disorder, and all of those things that we are seeing more and more of, in society and in our kids.

Dr. Amy Moore  40:46  
Definitely, yeah, we drove six hours to see a developmental pediatrician for my oldest, because I was an early childhood curriculum specialist at the time, I worked with children all day, every day, and recognize the signs of ADHD in my child, but did not want my expertise to influence our family doctor when I said, do you think, right and so I wanted to go to a specialist who didn't care about my opinion, just wanted to see what I was objectively noting, you know, on the parents and heirs. And I shouldn't say didn't care but Right, like wasn't going to be influenced by my knowledge of child development. Right? There's there's was greater, and my child ended up also having Tourette syndrome and OCD, in addition to ADHD, bless his heart. And I wouldn't have known that, like I wouldn't have recognized or I didn't recognize the the other two diagnoses. So I was so thankful that it was so much bigger than just ADHD, and then was able to get the services and interventions that he needed. You bring up

DJ Stutz  42:01  
such a good point, too, that I think is very often missed in educators and parents and other family members is that it may not be just one thing, that it can be a combination to three or even more different things that are going on and playing a game in their brain. So it's fun to have a brother with Tourette's. And so I really latch on to that. And that's one of the things I think I can see easily, or at least clue in on because of my experience with my brother just younger than I am and seeing what he went through. But it's so important to be open to multiple diagnoses.

Dr. Amy Moore  42:52  
I mean, and comorbidity that's what that's called, is very common. Very common. Yeah. Well, it's interesting. So Mark Hyman, he's the director of the Cleveland Clinic, functional medicine department. And he says, a broken brain is a broken brain. Right, like misfiring and dysfunctional neurotransmitters are creating this cascade of symptoms, this cascade of diagnoses. And our brain is broken because of it, right. And so the interventions then are all very similar. Right, it goes back to what I was saying. So sleep diet, managing stress, stimulating cognitive function, right, and medication if needed. And so it like, it's super interesting. When you think about all of those different diagnoses. Are there other nuanced behavioral interventions that are specific to different diagnoses? Absolutely. But it just is interesting that we see all of this overlap and, and comorbidity but that responds to those basic lifestyle changes and cognitive stimulation as well.

DJ Stutz  44:09  
And, you know, we talk about all the things that we would do for our kids, and when we're driving them to multiple states for their baseball team, or their football team, or their hockey team, or gymnastics, competitions, tennis, whatever it is, we don't think really twice about doing that. And yet, going a bit of a distance to for their health, for their mental health for helping them, you know, be able to work and manage life that will sometimes say, Oh, that's too far to go. And so I'm really glad that you brought up that you went six hours to get to the specialists that was appropriate for your child. Yeah, that's so key. So parents want to know more about how to get in touch with you what you do and resources. So where would they go?

Dr. Amy Moore  45:01  
Yeah, so a couple of websites, my personal website is Amy more And then my professional website is learning And so that's where I work. I'm the director of research there. And so they can find out anything that they could possibly want to know about brain training are published research, and how to find a location. You know, we have, we have centers across the country, and actually in 45, other countries as well. But we also do it remotely via zoom for people who don't live near a center. And so that option is viable and available for for really, any child struggling with with learning was thinking and learning.

DJ Stutz  45:46  
And that we're grateful for, you know, I guess one of the silver linings of COVID, is we've learned how easy it is for us to connect virtually, and to have those resources even closer to us than we ever imagined they were.

Dr. Amy Moore  46:02  
Yeah, absolutely. I know that. You know, so many people complained about school having to be virtual. And I think a lot of what happened there is that it happened overnight. And so school districts that didn't have the infrastructure already in place to deliver remote education. They really struggled. But schools who specialize in remote and virtual learning thrived. Yeah. And we had already been perfecting that model for two years prior to COVID. Hitting of working one on one, you know, with a cognitive trainer over zoom, because you can't have a clinic in every town. Well, I guess you could, but we don't. And so we actually published a study comparing the efficacy of in person and via zoom, and we didn't find significant differences in the outcome. So that was exciting.

DJ Stutz  46:58  
Yeah, that really is that really. So before we go, I would love to ask you my question. I asked all my guests. How would you define a successful parent?

Dr. Amy Moore  47:10  
I love that question. So I don't think that there's a particular parenting style that has cornered the market on perfect parenting. But I think a successful parent is a connected parent, I firmly believe in parenting through the lens of connection. So everything that we say to our child is either going to strengthen the connection with our child or weaken the connection with our child. And so if we can take a second or two to say, before we open our mouths, as a child, will what I say next, strengthen the connection with my child or weaken it, then I think we're successful as a parent, when connection is our number one priority, everything else, it'll fall into place, if we use that lens.

DJ Stutz  48:03  
I agree. And I think it's that connection, if we have that strong connection, that when things do go awry, and that's part of the human experience is making mistakes, some bigger than others, but part of that human experience when we make mistakes, but we still feel like our parent will still honor that connection. They may not say what we want to hear, but they love us, and they're going to help us through whatever it is that we've got to get through. So yeah, I truly appreciate that. So Dr. Amy Moore, thank you so much for spending this time with us.

Dr. Amy Moore  48:46  
It was my pleasure, DJ, thank you for having me today.

DJ Stutz  48:49  
You bet. Isn't she adorable? I just loved her. So let's recap. Number one, when a child has self determined their own labels that they put on themselves, based on what and how others look at them, you may need to work through the side door instead of attacking that identity directly. Number two, there are physical differences in the brains of neurodiverse kids, it's actually different inside. And so it's the kind of like if they had a physical disability, wouldn't you get them that out and try to do everything you could to help your child? Well, the brain can also be put together in a different way. And so we're going to look at trying to help our kids the best way that we can. And number three, the best way to help a child stay calm is for you to stay calm yourself. And then number four, you know, attention isn't the biggest problem for kids with ADHD. It's actually memory processing and identifying priorities. Doesn't that open up a wide world of understanding Number five, the answer to improvement will most likely include a variety of approaches rather than just one single answer. So maybe it is medication and nutrition, or maybe it's nutrition and some cognitive physical activity or brain training that's going on, I have found that it's rarely just one thing that's going to fix things or improve things. All right, number six, try introducing just one thing at a time, and experiment with combinations of approaches, until you actually find what works for you and your child. So it's okay if the first second or third or fourth thing isn't working. And maybe you just need to change the combinations around. And so that can take some time. But it's definitely worth it and be open to it's going to take some time. And you'll figure it out. Number seven, sleep is so important for both your child and for you. So let's think of what we can do. I did a thing on sleep about four episodes ago. Excellent. She's amazing. Number eight, who really consider nutrition and what is going into your child. Number nine, some of the signs to look for, to see if this might be a real problem are inappropriate attention skills, inappropriate impulsivity, and then emotional dysregulation. And so seeing these in more than one area of their life, so if they're only dysregulated, at home, but they're okay, at school, it's probably something else. Or maybe it's the opposite that's going on. Maybe they're dysregulated when they're out playing sports, but they're okay in other areas. So it's probably something else, then, if you're looking for these signs, the three things so that was inappropriate attention skills, inappropriate impulsivity, and emotional deregulation. in multiple areas of their life, you might want to get them assessed and see if there's anything else going on. And then number 10, if you want your child to be assessed, go ahead and find a specialist beyond the pediatrician. There are government agencies that can help you with this at no cost. You're gonna have to wait for a little bit to get into those because they tend to be overworked, overburdened, and they're just trying to keep up. But there are other places that you can go as well. And your insurance can help you with that. And so check into your insurance and see what they cover. So if you're interested in finding more about Dr. Amy Moore, all that contact information is in the show notes. And while you're looking at the show notes, please give us that five star rating and review. It helps so much you have no idea. 

All right, we're coming close to the end of the parent teacher conference season. And many districts are already done and others may be doing these as late as the end of November. Well, I'm here to help. Have you ever left a parent teacher conference thinking that was always to time? Is this your very first conference with your child, there are things that you can do to prepare so that you are using your time wisely. And I have a workshop for you that I have cut down to $10 from my usual $20. And when you're done, you're going to be able to walk into the conference with confidence. And you're going to know exactly what to ask him what to share. And then you'll walk out of your conference thinking. I'm so glad I went. And so that link is in the show notes as well. So next week, I am talking with author and counselor, Wanda Luqman about living in gratitude as we gear up for our five day challenge linked to the challenges in the show notes. And as we start preparing for Thanksgiving, and the holiday season, it's great timing. So until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Dr. Amy MooreProfile Photo

Dr. Amy Moore

Cognitive Psychologist

Dr. Amy Moore is a cognitive psychologist and director of research at LearningRx in Colorado Springs, CO at the headquarters of the largest network of cognitive training centers in the world. She specializes in cognitive rehabilitation training and cognition assessment for ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, brain injury, learning disabilities, and age-related cognitive decline.

She also serves as VP of Research at Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research. Her ground-breaking brain training and assessment research has been published in peer reviewed medical and psychology journals and presented at conferences around the country.

Dr. Amy has a PhD in psychology and a master’s degree in early childhood education. Her background includes work as a child development specialist, education administrator, and teacher of teachers. She’s been working with struggling learners for 25+ years. She’s also a board-certified Christian counselor, a licensed pastor, the Editor-in-Chief of Modern Brain Journal, a TEDx speaker, co-author of the award-winning book Concussion Discussions, and host of the podcast Brainy Moms.