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Kindergarten Challenges, Food Sensitivities & Psychologists


Hi! This is my first visit to this section of the spiritedkids online.  I have been going through what I consider a difficult time since my 5 1/2 yr. old daughter started kindergarten.  I have no one to talk to about this so forgive me if I give you the whole story, but maybe you can connect me with someone to talk to.

My daughter has many food sensitivities and is a high need child.  Her more difficult to manage traits have come out 10x greater since she started school.  In the beginning when she first started school, my daughter was crying and demanding and would not listen to the teacher.  She was having major anxiety at school.  She wanted to leave, talked out of turn, etc.  Gradually she got better but then she started obsessing over things (it got scary for awhile).

I contacted her physician and she referred me to a Psychologist.  My husband and I have met with him twice so far and have not been able to get any feed back yet because he just wanted to video tape us first interacting with our daughter and I had to wait a month and a half before we could even start.  Next week we will finally get to talk to him.

My daughter is now harder to discipline than ever before and she demands quite a bit of my time.  The poor thing is very tired after school hrs: (8:15 - 3) if she takes the bus home which makes her even more irritable.  I seriously considered at one point homeschooling, but I knew that she would have to adjust sooner or later.  I also want to have my time free to work or go to school.

I felt so guilty in the first two months she started school because I couldn't help her.  Eventually people would ignore her crying in school because they felt (including teacher) that she was smart enough to stop it.  She did, but I wish I could have been there.  Well, I have finally been "allowed" to come in to school during lunch and this week will be my first time to volunteer in class.

I'm just wondering, does it get easier as they mature because they can understand their emotions better?  I am physically tired and emotionally depressed.  My husband isn't a big help because he is suffering from severe depression and can only help a little bit.

If you can give some feedback, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.

p.s. My daughter has many wonderful traits, I seem to be focusing on the negative lately because of the last few months.


Your daughter's adjustment to kindergarten is not unusual for some children; especially spirited kids!  It sounds as though she's hitting overload and has begun to shut down in response to the stress of the situation.  I'm so glad you're advocating for her and searching for answers that work with her and your family!

Often times families find they have to make regular adjustments to their child's school situation.  Many spirited children truly follow their own drum (my own son included) and have no qualms about telling the adults in their lives when they're wrong, unfair, etc....  Wallflowers they're not ! ;o).  Finding themselves matched w/ a teacher who's determined to "be in control" rather than one who's looking to create an environment where children are allowed to learn in the style that works best for them can be a recipe for disaster.  I'm so glad you're getting into the classroom.  Every school should have as open a policy as possible when it comes to parental involvement.  If you're not satisfied w/ this one, seriously consider switching classrooms, schools, even school districts if possible.

First, there are a couple of suggestions I'd like to make...

1) Books to Read:

"Is This Your Child?" by Doris Rapp ~ You mentioned that your daughter has alot of food sensitivities and I suspect Doris' book will ring lots of bells for you.  Don't feel you need to read the entire book straight through...just the beginning and any sections that relate to those foods that you know your daughter is sensitive to.  I've heard so many stories over the years of a family removing one or more foods and seeing major behavioral changes.  Note: please make sure her school is *very* aware of her sensitivities and not pushing her to eat any of those foods.

"Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach" by Howard Glasser.  Howard's designed a wonderful program called The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA).  Through his practice (he's a therapist), he came to truly understand that it's the person's intensity that is fueling so much of their reaction to situations (including their emotions).  Our intense children crave more energy from us.  If they aren't receiving it in positive ways, they'll start pushing the buttons/limits to get it in negative ways.  To them energy is energy....they don't discriminate because they don't realize that the negative responses they're getting also have a negative impact on their self-esteem, etc...

The NHA is gentle, loving, very easy to implement and your daughter's at the perfect age to start.  You can read excerpts and find other information at his website  His book (you can order it from his site or or through your local bookstore) includes very clear specifics as well as creative ideas for bringing it into your child's classroom.

Please don't be alarmed at his site's ADHD wording focus.  Most of the kids he's worked with have arrived w/ that diagnosis from someone else.  After the families have implemented the NHA for sometimes as little as 4 weeks, only 3-5% of the kids who came in w/ a diagnosis of ADHD actually still deserved to retain it...the remaining 95-97% are just spirited!  So, try as I have...he's not yet ready to broaden his website's focus to include the term spirited...he continues to use Dr. Turecki's term "difficult" (same thing ;o).

We started using the NHA with our son last January and I saw an immediate change ~ w/in the first 3 days.  Given his age we only used the first 2 pieces, but are now bringing in the 3rd and it's been wonderful.

2) An Approach to Try

Have you heard of Brain Gym (  In it's simplest form, it's a series of 26 kid friendly, easy to learn exercises that have been developed to assist children and adults in making sure both sides of their brains are working together.  For every person, either the left or right side of their brain is's the side that always stays 'in gear'.  However, when we're under stress, our non-dominant side starts to 'shut down' and not function in partnership w/ the dominant side of our brain.  Behaviors are affected (even severely), children find learning certain subjects almost impossible, athletics are affected, etc..., etc...

The Brain Gym exercises are a gentle way to bring both sides of your brain back to a working together integrated state.  Optimal learning, living and behaving occurs in this state.  When I first saw the list of how people can behave when their left and right sides aren't working in an integrated state, it was a major lightbulb going off.  So many of the behaviors listed are those we see in our spirited kids!  I've begun doing introducing the exercises to my own spirited 5yo and have confirmed that he spends most of his time in a non-integrated state.  Nothing like a little proof for me!

I'm so impressed with this approach that I just completed the first course (Brain Gym 101) and will be using it regularly w/ my entire family.  Taking the course is one option.  The other is work privately with a Brain Gym instructor/consultant.  They all have hourly rates, etc... and are happy to talk with you over the phone before you make a final decision.

You can check the above website for the listing of consultants by clicking on the Instructor List button at the top of the main page.  If there is more than one consultant in your area, I would definitely recommend contacting each of them to see which person feels like the best match for you and your daughter and then going for an appointment.  Brain Gym is also wonderful in the classroom.

p.s. - it's also been observed that depression occurs when someone is under severe stress.....ask the consultant about Brain Gym's use with depression in adults.

3) School Options

Many spirited kids do just fine in traditional public school classrooms.  Just as many others, including those who are sensitive to noise volume, smells, lights, struggle and are utterly exhausted when they come home each day.

Creating a 'profile' of your daughter will be very helpful for you.  Take Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's temperament profile for her (found in her book Raising Your Spirited Child).  Determine her learning styles (is she left (convergent thinking) or right brain (divergent thinking) dominant?, primarily a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? etc...).  Putting those kinds of pieces together into a clear picture will make your job as her advocate significantly easier.  For example, if she's a divergent thinker who's primary mode of learning is kinesthetic (touch/feeling) ....she'll always find a traditional educational approach challenging since it's designed for visual & auditory convergent thinkers only.  Asking her to function as if she's a visual convergent thinker would be like asking you to change your eye color and height.

There are wonderful alternative education options.  Ask around in your area, check out programs, etc...

As for homeschooling I think it's a wonderful option as well.  Many families have made this decision w/ their spirited kids.  There's alot of online support for which ever style you migrate toward.  Keep it in your back pocket as an option.  It doesn't mean you won't have time to yourself as she gets older - some parents homeschool and work.  You might find that it's a great option even just for the remainder of this year, giving you unencumbered time to put approaches in place without having her under the additional stress of behaving in two very different environments.  {A note...most kids who've been in a school setting for a few (or more) years, require a definite transition period as they move to homeschooling; often referred to as "decompression" time.  Finding online or real life support for yourself during this time can make an enormously positive difference.}

She also might not be ready for an all-day program.  I've seen children really struggle in an all-day 3 or 4x/week program and then thrive when switched to a half-day/every day program.  Only you know what will work for her, so don't hesitate to try options.

Some Final Words...(really!)

Knowing nothing about the psychologist you're working with, I share the next bit from a general perspective.  There are some absolutely wonderful child psychologists out there.  And, like any profession, there are some you wouldn't recommend to anyone.  Please make sure this person is truly...

1) focused on & knowledgable about working w/ children (i.e. a child psychologist or a therapist who regularly works with young children).

2) familiar and versed in temperament and it's impact on behavior (too many are quick to say "ADHD - Here's a prescription for such-and-such a drug" - run don't hide!). is a great resource for psychologists.

3) someone comfortable working with you and your family.  You should feel and be empowered by this person's involvement in YOUR family, not set up to be dependent on his/her involvement to work through every step of the process.  Ask tons of questions including a list of what you can read to become more informed.  If the person is defensive, unresponsive, unwilling to share, appears to be doing things for their own research or agenda, and/or is belittling of your knowledge or process of learning....seriously consider finding a new person to work with.  You want someone who wants your family to be functioning optimally...not someone looking to further their research project or personal agenda.

As I write this, I'm reminded of the pediatrician we first worked with when our son was born.  Everytime something happened, I would call/arrive with a list of precise symptoms, time frames, etc... (medical professions run in our families so we were both raised from childhood to be medically precise).  He always treated me a like a 'nervous new mother' since his personal agenda was to be the "keeper of all knowledge" that he doled out to us parents.  We switched to a different doc w/in his practice and she's amazing.  I call w/ the same kind of list and she often handles it over the phone encouraging me to trust my instincts.  Once she even ran a full blood work panel just because I had a strong feeling my son might have something seriously wrong. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing more severe lethargy brough on by an inability to handle the extreme dry heat where we live.  The prescription?  Drink lots more water and stay out of the sun! :o)

The reason I share this with you is that our country is experiencing an epidemic of diagnosing children with ADHD.  In all but 3-5% of these children, it's an inaccurate diagnosis.  But...the pharmaceutical companies (who have publicly stated that their ad campaigns are geared toward increasing the number of people dependent on their products) are pushing the drugs on the docs who in turn are seeing them as a good alternative.  However, with some creative determination, you and your daughter will be spared the pain so many others have gone through. summarize.  Start with the things you know (allergies)....add the Nurtured Heart Approach to help her bring her intensity to a place where it's being used to fuel the positives in her life, not the negatives.  That step alone will allow you to have a much clearer, and more accurate, picture of what other challenges she may be facing.  By implementing it, you'll be confirming for her that you *do* see the world through her eyes, that she's totally normal and that she can channel her intensity beautifully into the positive aspects of her life.  Partner that with Brain Gym to support her brain in remaining in an integrated state and you'll have a winning combination that's dynamic, powerful and sure to nurture all of those wonderful traits you know she has.

You've taken some wonderful steps on this journey of yours :o)  Stay strong...stay clear in your focus....and continue listening to your inner voice.  Your instincts are great...let's just add a few more skills to your 'bag of tricks' !

Please let me know how things go, ok?

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