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Posts tagged Autism
Broken Brain

Mark Hyman MD is the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author. At the peak of his career, he suffered a broken brain, causing him to turn into someone he no longer recognized. He felt like he suffered from depression, ADD, and dementia all at once. 

The epidemic of the broken brain is something you feel, hide, and fear. It is the leading cause of disability and effects 1.1 billion people around the world. 1 in 6 children, 1 in 2 elderly, and 1 in 4 people during their lifetime are effected by this epidemic. Mark Hyman MD created a docuseries, Broken Brain, to help transform your understanding of brain health. It is a series describing everything he learned on his journey to curing his broken brain, as well as diving in to the top brain disorders and learning why they happen and how to address their main root causes. This docuseries reveals what conditions like Alzheimer's, Dementia, ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, and Brain Fog have in common. Many root causes of brain disorders are outside of the brain. The rest of the body can play a huge part on mood, memory, attention, and behavior problems. 

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Of all the highlights and benefits learned from this eight episode series, here are the top 5 take aways Mark Hyman MD and his team learned from the Broken Brain docuseries. 

1. The Gut-Brain Connection
According to Dr. Raphael Kellman, gut and brain expert, "Embryologically, the gut and the brain start out at the same point, and then one goes up and one goes down. When two cells start from the same place, they always retain a memory for each other. They’re constantly speaking to each other in so many different ways. They’re communicating messages to each other. These messages are part of a communication system that really outshines any type of communication system that we know of today with our modern technology." The gut is considered your second brain. Therefore, a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. By keeping our intestines and microbiome healthy and clean, our brain will remain healthy. 

2. Brain Health is Connected to Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is related to a healthy brain, especially memory loss. Experts are calling Alzheimer's type 3 diabetes. Dr. Ann Hathaway states, "When your blood sugar is high, it pumps your insulin high, and insulin is inflammatory. Inflammation is a major factor in cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Also, high blood sugar causes something called glycation, where the proteins throughout your body, including in your brain, get a sugar molecule added to them. That addition of a sugar molecule to a protein is damaging—that’s actual damage to that particular molecule in your brain." It is important to keep your blood sugar low so that no additional sugar molecules damage your brain. 

3. The Thyroid and Your Brain
An unhealthy thyroid can cause anxiety, depression, brain fog, and many other mental health disorders. Dr. Izabella Wentz suggests, "For people with Hashimoto’s and for thyroid disease, focus on eating a whole-food-based diet that’s minimally processed. I’ve seen the most benefit from patients going on a Paleo diet, as well as the Autoimmune Paleo Diet. We see symptoms like headaches, panic attacks, palpitations, weight gain, fatigue, all these symptoms begin to melt away when we get rid of the reactive foods and focus on eating organic, wild-caught, and real foods." 

4. The Role of Fats in Brain Health
A low-fat diet is not always the answer. By avoiding all fats, we avoid the good fats. Dr. John Ratey states "omega-3 fatty acids are perhaps as good a treatment for things like bipolar illness as are some of our bipolar drugs. With that came a whole lot of research looking at omega-3s as a way to treat mood, anxiety, ADD, and autism. It has a positive effect on all of those pervasive problems. Plus, it’s great for the heart, skin, bones, the connections in our body, and also treats arthritis and the like.” Don't cheat yourself of the fats your body and brain need to stay healthy.

5. The Role of Community in Brain Health
One of the biggest take aways these experts had from this docuseries is the importance of community. According to John Ratey, "real connection is vital, and I call this vitamin O—vitamin oxytocin. Oxytocin is the thing that mammals get when they’re in a community, touching one another, hugging, and they’re sitting down eating together. That sharing, that social bonding that happens, that glue that cements us together is really important." As we grow older, it is important to remember to take our prescribed medicine, get exercise, but most importantly stay social and connected to your community. 

Watch the entire 8 episode docuseries for free to learn more about your brain health. Watch episode 4 to learn more about ADHD and autism. Watch episode 5 to learn more about anxiety and depression.

If you have questions about these services and how they can affect you or your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Hyman, Mark. “5 Things We Learned from the Broken Brain Docuseries.” Dr. Mark Hyman, Hyman Digital, 5 Jan. 2018, drhyman.com/blog/2017/10/27/5-things-learned-broken-brain-docuseries/.

Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emotions of children on the autism spectrum are often hard to comprehend. It is important to help children not only identify an emotion, but also connect that emotion to a specific event. According to Alice Kassotaki, speech language pathologist MSc, BSc, there are four steps to identifying emotions.

  • -Step 1: Definition of the child’s emotion: “Nick, you look scared”.
  • -Step 2: Connection of the emotion while it is being expressed: “Maybe you are scared because this is a new game”.  
  • -Step 3: Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion: “It makes sense to be scared when you try something new for the first time”.
  • -Step 4: Reassurance: “Let me help you. It will be easier and less scary if we do it together”.  

There are many simple games that can be played to help children identify emotions. Mirroring emotions and having children guess how you are feeling is a great way to have them practice recognizing emotions. One a child has accomplished this step, they will later learn how other people think, and then eventually be able to connect how their feeling in regard to what they are doing.

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Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties displaying empathy. However, during the transition period from early childhood to preschool age, children are able to gain some skills. For example:

  • verbal and nom-verbal characterization of the emotional expressions
  • use of emotional language to describe personal emotional experiences and to clarify others’ emotional experiences
  • development of knowledge about the rules of emotional expression and how various emotions can occur at the same time
  • gradual understanding of social emotions such as guilt

It is an important first step to understand one’s own emotions. Once this is achieved, identifying, understanding, and reacting to others’ emotions is crucial to building strong social skills. Misunderstanding social ques, such as non-verbal signs, can lead to miscommunication. A child may unknowingly misbehave because of the lack of understanding. This can often be avoided by teaching children specific emotions and reactions in the clearest way possible.

At a young age, 4 to 6, most children are able to understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear (think of the Disney movie, Inside Out). More complex emotions, such as pride, guilt, and shame, must be learned through the main emotions. Here are 7 ways to help children understand the complex emotions:

1.     Attention approach: some children must be taught to pay attention to social information. When you notice a child feeling a certain emotion, such as anger, state their emotion and why they are feeling that way while continuing to show nonverbal signals, such as crossed arms and stern voice.

2.     Naming the emotions: As a child begins to pay attention to social information, teach them the names of the emotions, starting with the main emotions. Using pictures of familiar faces with obvious emotions can help the child relate the name to the understanding of the emotion.

3.     Designation emotions: Once a child is able to look at a frown and identify that that person is sad, teach them how to designate each emotion. Ask questions such as “How does he feel?” to be able to designate different emotions

4.     Actions based on emotions: Now that the child is able to understand and designate each emotion, help them react based on emotions. Rather than looking at pictures, show them real life examples of emotion.

5.     Role-playing: Give the child different scenarios of receiving ice cream and feeling happy or losing a toy and feeling sad, allowing them to role-play and further identification and expression of emotions.

6.     Modeling (filming): When watching a movie or television show, point out characters’ emotions that the child will be able to relate to.

7.     Games and books: Playing board games and reading books are also great ways to help the child learn about others’ emotions in different situations. This is a way to turn learning into an interactive activity.

While this information is geared towards individuals on the autism spectrum, this same information about identifying and understanding emotions can be used to all children. 

 Contact us for more information on children on the autism spectrum, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kassotaki, Alice. (2017). “Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Upbility.