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Physical health is tied to academic health (school success) AND our belief systems can keep our children stuck

When a child is flagged as having a learning issue in school, the typical response is to start learning interventions for them- focusing strictly on the academic portion of the problem. Academic support interventions are great! The missing piece is when the interventions stay confined to the four walls of the school.

It is widely accepted now that, for adults, physical health IS mental health. We are forgetting this in children.

When talking with a parent of a child needing academic support, most times there are very glaring physical health issues that are root cause. Sleep quality is a great example.

Do they struggle to get to sleep? Do they wake up tired? Do they have bags under their eyes? Do they snore do they mouth breathe? Do they grind their teeth?

Usually, parents answer yes to at least one of those. And with those symptoms you can expect a sleep study to reveal numerous respiratory distress events and apnea episodes.

Apnea is a big deal- not much else matters if the sleep and oxygenation is dysfunctional. It will lead to difficulty at school, but it might look like ADHD, learning disability, or “sensory” issues. There are a lot of other examples of how physical health overlaps and is directly related to mental and academic health in children. Sleep is just one!

What about belief systems?

A great illustration that Tony Robbins uses is he says, I want you to stop and look around at the room and find all of the things that are red. Go ahead.  Find as many red things as you can.

Now, tell me the things that are brown. You can’t right? AND, I bet in an effort to be successful to find the red things, you saw some maroon stuff and called it red. We find what we look for. And we find evidence to support our belief systems.

It's a very powerful, forgotten aspect of helping our children succeed.  Our thought patterns dictate our behaviors and habits. We are the most important people in our kids lives, so our beliefs shape them, not necessarily the other way around.

If we believe that their struggles in school are because they have a specific learning disability, then we are going to find all of the reasons to support that theory, and we will throw all of our attention and resources at confirming that.

Most importantly, we will ignore and miss the very impactful ways in which physical health is an issue. Remember, you don’t find brown when looking for red, and you lumped maroon in with red.

In the past, I saw issues that are actually linked to physical health limitations, but because I was under this academic paradigm that I’m hearing from teachers, friends and other professionals, I was looking through the narrow academic paradigm keyhole.

I thought my child just needed MORE academic support, more tutoring, more time in school. In major ways, he did worse, not better as a result. His physical health crumbled while his academic abilities stagnated at best.

Fast forward to a year later, with focus on the physical health metrics that he needed, and less than a third of time inside a traditional classroom than before and he’s absolutely thriving.  His reading, writing and math all improved dramatically- which is to say even the less important areas improve when you focus on the essentials.

It’s so important to zoom out and pay attention to the other pieces of the puzzle; the ones that are foundational, root cause, cannot miss pieces.

This is an often-missed first step in healing.  Once you have the necessary paradigm or perspective shift, you can begin to pinpoint which interventions are needed in your specific case:

-reflex integration which supports immune function and sleep,


-circadian regulation, sunlight leading to:

-mitochondrial function (since the brain is such a demanding organ!)

-sleep, sleep hygiene, sleep integrity

-airway dysfunction

-emf over-exposure


First, we have to understand the profound impact of basic physical health factors. Then we can see if the academic, behavioral, environment supports are still needed.

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