Today on The Blissful Parent Podcast our topic is battling the back to school brain and other major transitions in life. Joining us is Dr Nareeta Stephenson of Strawberries and Sunshine. Dr Nareeta is considered one of the top prenatal pediatric chiropractors in the province. She has been supporting families through chiropractic medicine for over 15 years now.
Dr Nareeta and her clinic are devoted to healing kids with neuro-developmental disorders such as ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities and sensory processing disorders through treating the entire body as a whole.
Join us today as we learn about what to look for in our children and best support them in their transitions.
Michelle: Hello and welcome to the The Blissful Parenting Podcast. I’m your host, Michelle Abraham and today I am here with a very special guest. Her name is Dr Nareeta Stephenson and she’s been supporting families through chiropractic medicine for over 13 years. Dr Nareeta has armed with a masters of Chiropractic from Macquire University and a postgraduate certification with International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. She’s now considered one of the top prenatal pediatric chiropractors in the province. Dr Nareeta is devoted to helping kids with neuro -developmental disorder including ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, and sensory processing disorders. Unnoticed or undiagnosed. Dr Nareeta is currently studying neuro -developmental disorder and this specialization puts her at the forefront of innovative biomedical techniques and groundbreaking neurology to better support these children. And I have been having personal experience with Dr Nareeta for the last five years with my kids. Both of them saw Dr Nareeta within the first couple of days that they were born and have been seeing her ongoing for five years and the care.
This is phenomenal. So welcome Dr Nareeta. Thanks for being here with us today. It’s been a pleasure and I’m excited to get you on the call because you’re a very busy person. So I love that we’re having this time together today. And really what we want to do is really talk to our parents and let them know about what you do, how you can support families, and what is, why it’s important to look at the whole picture. And our topic today is really about battling the back to school brain and other major transitions in life. So Dr Nareeta let’s get started. Now let’s get started with what are transitions and why are they important for kids?
Dr Nareeta: Some kids really struggle with moving from one activity to the next or even different changes that are happening in their life. So as we head back to school, my son would, it was pretty much around the August long weekend, we would see a drastic change in his behavior. He would stop sleeping, he would start coming back into our bed again and his anxiety would really ramp up and basically his behavior would just turn 180 degrees and he’d become this different kid. And, he’s one of the reasons why I got into doing the work that I do with the kids. And so a lot of kids really struggle with how to change and the different stages that are coming in their life and they can feel it coming and it shows up as anxiety or it affects their behavior in negative ways.
Michelle: That’s interesting. It’s not something that you hear talked about a lot with transitions. So what made you go down this road with your career and start focusing on kids with sensory issues?
Dr Nareeta: So I had my twins not long after I got into practice and my son just had a whole different vibration than his sister. He needed to constantly be moving as baby. He didn’t sleep very well. He developed food allergies and sensitivities right away. And when he cuddles, it feels like he wants to crawl into your skin. He has to get so close. And so we sort of discovered that he was on a bit of a different journey that wasn’t going to be your typical child development. And we got to grade one and he started biting kids at school and he’d come home and he’d have these wicked meltdowns and he’d run into his cupboard and he closed himself in the dark every day after school. And he would have to cry for half an hour before he could come and tell us what was going on and tell us about his day.
And so I found some things that really helped Jared along the way. Chiropractic made a big difference for him. Creating a stakehold therapy and other manual hands on type techniques really helped settle in and help him feel more comfortable in his body. But I always felt like I was missing something. And it wasn’t until he was in grade one and he was really struggling that I started doing some more pediatric training. And one of the classes I had to take was called neuro-sensory integration. And I really had no idea what that meant. But when I sat in the class, she, the teacher basically described my kid. Often they have some sort of birth trauma. Often there’s a gap in their development or they develop a synchronistically. And they just process the environment different than typical kids. And so we see lots of meltdowns, we see lots of behavioral issues.
Sometimes they have challenges with school, sometimes they’re really smart, but it just shows up in their behavior differently. And anyway, so I just started doing some different types of work with Jared and the neuro-sensory work and it made such a difference for him. He was like a different kid in six months after we started doing this work with him. And it was like finally he was okay to be comfortable in his body and his nervous system started to adapt more appropriately.
Michelle: Wow. That’s fascinating. And so now in your practice now, when you have a family come to you and you are treating them for Chiropractic, is there something that you start seeing signs of things that you can help them and then you started doing other, like you, then your practice opens up. So then you’re looking at the more of the bigger picture of the puzzle. Is that how it works?
Dr Nareeta: Yeah, it really goes back to the birth process actually. We have these things called primitive reflexes and they help us get born and they help us survive that first year of life. And then by the time we’re one years old, those reflexes are supposed to be integrated into the rest of the nervous system. But what we find with these kids, and it, it, to me, the label doesn’t necessarily matter. It doesn’t matter if they can be labeled as ADHD or perhaps on the spectrum, or even giftedness comes with some sensory overlays. What they do have in common is these primitive reflexes. And so even with babies, I will start to work with them right from the get go to make sure that they’re hitting their milestones and their movement patterns are happening in sequence so that their nervous system engine developed at it’s best. And the older kids that I work with, I’ll usually see them because they, somebody been to a pediatrician or they’ve got a letter back from school saying that so and so’s having some challenges with sitting still or all kinds of different behaviors showing up. And then we start to explore, okay, what is the underlying cause because no child ever means to behave badly, there’s always something going on underneath. And so it’s our job to figure out what that is and the best way to support them.
Michelle: Wow. That’s like a major puzzle that you have to solve.
Dr Nareeta: Definitely. Each kid is different and it does, it is a big puzzle piece.
Michelle: And how great is that going to one place that you can kind of really take a look at the whole picture? Cause what I found, with experience in going to different places for different things, but there wasn’t really one umbrella of what someone that could take a look at the whole kid as a picture until I came to your to Strawberries and Sunshine. This is the practice that Dr Nareeta has. And it’s amazing because you have so many different practitioners that can really help with all areas of a whole, whole approach. Right.
Dr Nareeta: Well, that’s the thing I found in my own experience as a parent. And, Jared didn’t just need one thing. You know, he needed to work with a counselor that really supported him. We needed to address his nutrition and his gut and his digestion. And then, and then chiropractic and the exercise portion was, it was important for him, but because each child is different, it’s hard as a mom, you know, to run around to 8,000 different places to get your child all the services and therapies that they need. So I really wanted to make it easy for the moms. So that, you know, mom could go get a massage while Johnny’s doing his exercises or, you know, uh, Jared has a sister and he’s been really intense and hard on her. So every once in a while she needs to come in and talk to somebody to get taken care of. And so let’s take care of the whole family. But these kids, because they are so intense, it’s important that they get their needs met and we figure out the puzzle for them.
Michelle: Hmm. So there may be some parents listening to this and there may have been a few things that you’ve said that’s maybe put some light bulbs on in their heads. What maybe can you tell us, what are maybe some signs of kids who maybe need to come in and see you know, some sort of treatment, based on what’s happening in their life. What are some signs of kids not transitioning well?
Dr Nareeta: Well, it can affect all different types of behavior. Anxiety is a big one that we’re seeing more and more of. Often kids will have meltdowns a lot and it’s more than your typical kind of kid tantrum. I’m not getting what I want kind of behavior. Sometimes kids are really sensitive to loud sounds. They don’t do well when they go to the mall or the movies or fireworks. We have a lot of kids that have tactile or touch sensitivities. So somebody gets up in their space. You know, they’ll turn around and punch them because it’s, they’re extra sensitive to that kind of input. And then, we have a whole group of kids that just, have a hard time telling where their body is in space. So often they get labeled as clumsy or aggressive, and they’re the ones that seem to struggle the most with transitions. So moving from one activity to the next, and even if you give them sort of five, 10 minute warning, “okay, we’re going to go to the car now”, it’s still a big deal for them to move from what they’re doing into the new, the new activity.
Michelle: So are there some things that we can help parents with? As far as you mentioned, you know, giving them a more, a warning, a 10 minute warning, five minute warning that you’re going to transition to another activity. Are there some other things that we can be doing that could help support them.
Dr Nareeta: Lists are actually really beneficial for kids often, especially in the morning when we’re getting ready for school. So some of the kids tend to go into molasses mode. I call it where it’s like moving through molasses and you’re trying to get them to, you know, get dressed and get their teeth brushed and get ready for school. And it’s like they’re moving so slow through running molasses. So sometimes we will have a list. So I want you to get dressed, make your bed and brush your teeth and then they get to tick off on the list when they’ve done something and then go back to the list when they start getting distracted by other activities. Definitely warnings are very important. So, if you can preplan and prep what they’re doing for the day, then they can be more prepared. But just the best thing is just to have understanding, you know, so when that child is moving really slow, they’re not actually doing it on purpose and they’re not doing it to irritate us, they’re actually in some avoidance mechanism where there might be some stress and anxiety going on to because of what they’re moving into,
Michelle: Even though it may seem like they’re trying to annoy us.
Dr Nareeta: It’s very frustrating as a parent, believe me.
Michelle: Yes, I can see that. So what are some things that parents can look out for and be aware of and then what are some solutions to things that we might be seeing in our kids?
Dr Nareeta: Any time there’s unexplained behavior or I think the biggest thing is the kids that aren’t coping with the day some of them can’t sit in a desk all day, so they need more movement. Or if they’re doing sort of things that aren’t typical of what their peers are doing. Maybe it’s time to look at the underlying patterns and what’s going on underneath for them. Chiropractic is definitely really important. Balancing the nervous system helps them interpret the information coming in differently. And we do have studies and see changes in their behavior after they get regularly adjusted. And then exercise and movement is usually important too. We make our kids sit still for way too long these days. Or they’re on their screens and they’re not getting the three-dimensional movement through space that our bodies actually require.
Michelle: Right. And do you think that’s part of the reason that we’re seeing more kids that are on the spectrum or have sensory where issues, like, it seems to be maybe was not so prevalent back in like the eighties and nineties, but now it seems to be more at the, you know, the forefront of even media or is that just because now we’re more aware of it?
Dr Nareeta: I think it’s a bit of both. There is definitely more awareness and our education system has changed a lot in the last 20 years. And it’s more than that. There’s our kids are coming in with their cups full already. You know, our environment is really toxic and our grandparents made environmental decisions that we, that have affected our genetics. So there’s the genetic component to it as well. And then if kids are as babies moving from plastic buckets to plastic swings to Jolly Jumpers to their kids don’t crawl around on the floor like they used to.
They don’t play in the dirt like they used to. So it’s kind of a combination of all of those things that affect, that has affected how our nervous system is developed. And then if they’re on a screen too soon, it also affects their brain development as well.
Michelle: Wow. That’s interesting. And do you think that you know, the limiting the amount of screen is a good thing or is there a certain age that kids should be, no, I know this is a very hot topic. What are your suggestions around screen time with kids?
Dr Nareeta: Well, yes, that’s a tough one. I do agree with the American pediatrics associations guidelines. They actually recommend that kids before two, don’t have access to a screen. And it’s really tough to enforce, you know, I have two, my kids are 14 now and trying to enforce them off their screens is a battle. So you really have to pick your battles.
Michelle: I would imagine that that would be a little bit of a tricky thing. I mean, my daughter’s not even two yet and I, she knows how to find an app on an iPad and it’s just very hard to keep that away from her because the siblings and also just environment too. So yeah, I can see, I can see that. And we just recently moved off the grid in, into an environment where we’re outside most of the day and we don’t have TV, we don’t have internet, we have Internet, but not, you know, the kids aren’t on the Internet and they’re outside playing in the dirt more. And I’ve noticed a difference in their behavior and just them physically as well.
Dr Nareeta: Yeah. All of those things make such a huge difference.
Michelle: So, yeah. And I would imagine that you know, parents that are living in the city and you know, kids are going to be inside a little bit more sitting in school. What are some suggestions that you can give to parents to really help us, you know embrace as some of the, some of the activities that we, the kid should be doing on a regular basis that would really be supporting their nervous system?
Dr Nareeta: Definitely the playground is the best place for preschoolers in particular. There’s all kinds of different levels and heights of equipment. Walking along a balance beam, bouncing, spinning, touching grass, touching wood, getting all kinds of different tactile, sensory input is really important. If kids avoid certain types of textures, it is good to encourage them to, and they sometimes they might have to be desensitized so when you put a baby’s feet in the grass the first time, it’s really, it’s a funny sensation for them, but the more textures they can get exposed to as their nervous system is developing, the more they can process information later on. I’m a big fan of martial arts and gymnastics and anything that involves cross body movements, opposite hands and foot type activities. And then for babies crawling actually is really important to nervous system development. If a child doesn’t crawl properly the connections in the brain aren’t established as well as what they could be.
Michelle: That’s really interesting and it’s not something that I ever would have thought of before you are mentioning it is just, you know, the different, you know, when you’re describing it, it’s funny going through my head, it was like, you know, touching the grass, touching the wood, that kind of thing. I’m like, that’s what all kids should be doing. But the more you think about it, a lot of kids aren’t doing that right now. And it’s interesting that you know that that is something that’s so important. And I don’t think we just thought that that’s part of childhood, but it’s really so important like you mentioned. I think that’s really interesting. So our parents who are listening today, they have kids going back to school in a couple of weeks. What is something that, what are some things that they can do to help with this transition? And help prepare their kids for a big transition coming up.
Dr Nareeta: I think the sooner you can start a routine, the easier it helps them transition. So make sure bedtime starts getting earlier, make sure they’re eating well and getting good protein in their days. And then when if they do have behavioral challenges showing up or they start getting anxious, it’s really important to acknowledge that. They might not necessarily know what’s driving the anxiety or the feelings that they’re having. But if you can provide them with a space to talk about that. And that’s the, so for Jared, what we used to do is just make sure that we would start you know, bedtime would get a little bit earlier, we’d make sure he had a good dinner and then give him some space to talk about what he was feeling and talk about what’s coming up for school. The biggest thing is cause they don’t know what’s gonna happen. So maybe they’re going into a new classroom, maybe they don’t remember who their teachers going to be and who their friends are going to be. And all that stuff affects the kids and how they think about things.
Michelle: And so now back to school is one of the big transitions throughout the year. There are other transitions throughout the year that are just as important and the same sort of, we should be doing the same sort of things before those transitions as well.
Dr Nareeta: I noticed headed into Christmas, a lot of kids tend to have more struggles too. It’s a very busy time of year. There’s usually lots of late nights and there’s lots of changes in their routines. So often kids have concerts at school and so they’re not in regular class like they usually are. And so again, it is, it’s really just about awareness. So every time a child’s behavior shows up, what is it that’s driving that need? And the question is, you know, are they hungry? Are they tired, are they getting sick? And then, what can we do as parents to support them with that?
Michelle: So Dr Nareeta, throughout our conversation today, we’ve mentioned some signs of, you know, kids struggling with transitions and maybe this is sparked some questions for parents or what are some resources or what are some things that parents can do to make sure that our kids are following along the proper sensory development paths and what’s your recommendations?
Dr Nareeta: That’s a great question. I think the biggest thing is awareness. That there is something going on. Especially as moms, we have this mama intuition that especially with our kids are concerned that something’s not quite right or something that we need to step in because something’s off for our child. And so if you’re not getting answers from your pediatrician or your GP or the traditional modes of support, what other alternatives are out there? And, and so my full personal philosophy is that health is a little bit like a five pillar approach. We have our nutrition. We have our exercise and movement. We have our sleep patterns. But then we also have our thinking and our my philosophy with my kids is that our thoughts are things and so our thinking process can actually influence our health very much as well.
And then the foundation of it all is a properly functioning nervous system. If your nervous system is not functioning right and as a chiropractor, that’s my gig. Then it’s harder for us to be healthy if there’s interference in that nervous system. And the biggest thing that causes interference in the nervous system is stress. So whether it’s chemical stress or physical stress or emotional stress, it all adds up. It shows up in our body and it interferes with how our nerves work. And as a chiropractor we access the nervous system through the spine and help remove that interference by helping the spine physically move better. So definitely explore things like massage therapy and perhaps talk to a naturopath and a nutritionist. And definitely see a chiropractor. Those are sort of all foundational things that parents can do to support their child’s health journey.
Michelle: That’s amazing. And you know, I have always felt by going to see you, because you’re so knowledgeable on the whole picture of everything has been great because we’d go see for Chiropractic, but I feel like, you know, I can ask you questions about, you know, you know, my son’s speech is a little bit slow what should we do? His behaviors a little bit crazy right now. What should we do? And it’s great because, you know, you’ve really embraced the whole, whole picture and the whole puzzle. And I appreciate that from a, as a practitioner because, you know, you kind of need someone to talk to about the whole picture where, you know, he can’t just be focused on one thing and it’s the whole, you know, the whole process. So we’ve gone through the food allergy testing and, you know, some of the behavior things and speech therapy and that kind of thing as a result from coming to see you, which has been really great.
And you know, we’ve really been able to work on my son at an early age and I think that’s been really helpful. So as he’s going into kindergarten this year I know there’s a big transition coming up and I feel like I’m a little bit more prepared because of knowing you and because of seeing you, because I don’t think I ever would have been aware of these kinds of things. Had it not been for coming to see you on a regular basis. So there’s something huge to be said as the taking care of the chiropractic side of things, with someone who’s so knowledgeable. So I appreciate that and I just wanted to thank you for that.
Dr Nareeta: Thank you.
Michelle: You’re welcome. So, as we’re, as you’re moving forward with your clinic, what do you see for Strawberries and Sunshine as being in the forefront of this whole, you merging sensory development, new neuro, sensory issues,
Dr Nareeta: Developmental disorders?
Michelle: Developmental issues. Can you tell us what you see for Strawberries and Sunshine and where you guys are at within the industry?
Dr Nareeta: Well, one in six of our children are being diagnosed or labeled with some kind of neuro-developmental condition. And as a parent, I understand how intense, expensive and draining these kids are. So my whole clinic is built around the philosophy of supporting them and supporting their families.And to me it’s really important that moms like me with kids like Jared can find hope and healing. And so even if we don’t have the answers here, we do everything we can to help parents and families find the answers to help their children. And it is unacceptable to me that one in six children are diagnosed. So as a society, we need to make some changes and we need to start supporting our kids before they’re even born. Moms, teenagers, and families in their parent planning years. There are things that we can do to support our child’s neuro-development in the future. And so as a clinic and a business owner, that’s the direction that we’re headed in is what kind of prevention things can we put in place because that statistic is unacceptable on my watch.
Michelle: Agreed and wow, I didn’t realize that. Such as like, that’s huge. And do you think that is it a combination of a lot of different things or is it mainly contributed to a couple of things?
Dr Nareeta: It’s a multi-factorial result. It, we have way more chemicals in our environment than we used to. Our genetics have changed in the last couple of years and we’re way more aware of how our genes get turned on and off. And then how our bodies are just interacting with the environment is different too. And we have to take all those things into account. So it’s not about laying blame, it’s about really looking at where things are at and what we can do differently.
Michelle: Yeah. And that’s a scary reality of wow. Yeah. Not only do they need more play time and eat or more healthy foods and chemicals and environment, it’s just like looking at everything in your life, your between your cleaning supplies and your shampoos and your toothpastes and everything. It’s just amazing. And you know how you cut your grass and you know what plants you have in your house. It’s, it can be overwhelming.
Dr Nareeta: It’s very overwhelming. And I remember when the twins were first born, I was just, I couldn’t listen to or read to all that stuff because I just would want to crawl into a hole and never come out. And what I’ve discovered in, you know, over the years is you have to take the steps that you’re comfortable with and you have to take it and break it down and do it at a speed that works for you and your family and what you believe about health and what your values are. So anytime we’re making decisions in our house about things like that, we come back to, okay, what do I believe about health and what are my values as a family? And then we make decisions from there.
Michelle: That’s so important. And thank you for reminding us that it’s all about your values too. And you know, I appreciate the work you guys are doing Strawberries and Sunshine and I wish there was more clinics out there that will take, you know, follow your lead in what’s in the whole, the whole body approach and you know, treating a person as an individual,rather than what they have as a label.
So, thanks Dr Nareeta for your time today and for parents out there that are wanting to get in touch with Dr Nareeta feel free to find her on Strawberriesandsunshine.ca. Its in Port Coquitlam, in BC. And if you are not in that area, please do get in touch with her by email or phone and she’ll be able to support you as well. And even if you’re not in our area, here in Vancouver. So thank you Dr Nareeta for your time today, and I know you’re busy, you have patients to see and lives, to change, so we won’t keep you any longer, but thanks so much for your time today.
Dr Nareeta: Thanks so much, Michelle. It was great to be here.
Michelle: Take care.
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