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Summer courses and academic camps are worthy options; but short-term solutions if there is a functional learning disorder like SLD, ADHD or Language Disorder. Getting to the root of the problem allows the student to develop strategies for more-durable success. Ways to build deeper foundations for achievement. In addition, accommodations and supports may also be needed. They can be part of a new beginning . . .


WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL IT MAKE?   boy_reading_highlightingIndividually-tuned Learning Strategies and Teaching Strategies. Accommodations like extra time on tests and exams. Assistive tech-nologies (laptop, soft-ware and more). Post-secondary students may then qualify for federal and provincial funding for assistive tech. Grades, confide-ence and grad rates go up. Dut to completed degrees, so does the school’s bottom line!

IF GIFTEDNESS AND LEARNING DISABILITY HAD AN ARGUMENT,  NO-ONE WOULD WIN. School_Team_BKGD_for_TitleSlide  And both would wear masks, so they wouldn’t be recognized. Bringing them into harmony, so that the student’s strengths shine and he-or-she copes skillfully with the challenges, requires a personalized approach.  Teachers of Gifted classes know this. That does not help the student whose giftedness goes unnoticed. Criteria are strict and there is no back door. But students who need both enrichment AND support have a distinct profile. It justifies both.

WHY DOESN’T MY SCHOOL,COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY PROVIDE ASSESSMENT?   Limited resources. Many educators would love more exceptionalities. It’s good for the learning environment, the future work-force and the economy. Just ask successful teachers and professors with learning disabilities. Many are better professionals because they individualize teaching.

WILL THIS GO ON MY ACADEMIC RECORD? In a word, “NEVER.”  Transcripts do not show the student’s exceptionality. You apply to post-secondary, based on marks alone. If you are already accepted, your university or college must not refer to disability status. Health care records are secured separately from educational, even in postsecondary.

YOUR PRIVATE HEALTH INFORMATION in POSTSECONDARY remains filed in the Student Accessibility Centre, apart from educational  documentation, and can be removed by you, any time.



How can parents get the inside view of the case?  How can school teams refine the big picture? How can psychologists help plan for success?  At Canadian Psychological Association, last June, Ken  McCallion introduced a parent-friendly way to both gather and share observations from every interested party in the student’s case, then make sense of them as a big picture, for each of those parties, using #infographics. Besides helping sort students’ learning processes, Living, Learning Systems is intended to help school psychologists bridge the psychiatric part of their work from older ‘DSM’ categories to the multi-dimensional RDoC premise. This work builds on Ken’s 2012 presentation. The goal is predictive-preventative school programming, with parent input that makes a difference



‘Listen Moms, Dads, Grandparents: I’m going to change who your child is. There’s nothing you can do about it.’ Terrifying, for any of us, as parents. That has everything–and nothing–to do with Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum. Because that’s roughly how sounds to you:  You have strong moral foundations that you have cultivated as a member of a collectivistic society (and Oscar Rudenstam recognizes that much). Family and community decisions are the primary pivot-points in smooth social functioning. Of course it looks and sounds irresponsible for the state to make decisions about how much healthy human sexuality a child should be taught. At any grade level. No amount of consulting across a full range of parents and cultures will cover it. Let’s not even try to keep going until everyone is satisfied. (Pro-sex-ed parents, raised in individualistic cultures, know how to protest, too.) Still, it’s essential to understand what our children are required to hear and see, versus what they are not. Louise Brown of the Toronto Star (2015/10/27) reported:

“School boards have told parents they have the right to keep their children from the handful of lessons on human development if they violate their religious beliefs, but students cannot be excused from any discussion of human rights or equality for those of different gender identities.”

In other words: The threat of ‘changing who are children are’ cuts both ways. On the one hand,  it’s simply not possible to ‘promote’ homosexuality. On the other hand, what’s not merely possible, but all too common, is that a person is forced to deny who they are, from an early age.

Wholesale unhingeing of children’s gender preferences or gender identities is a truly terrifying notion. Doing so by means of information about the scope and range of typical and atypical developmental pathways is utterly impossible. Or even the prospect of derailing our kids through information about more unusual, abnormal sexual development, in serious need of early, family-centred help. If kids were that easy to influence, we could get them all to reduce their screen time down to one hour a day. (Most of us adults are already far beyond that. And we know it’s not good for us.)

Tara Hatherly (East York Mirror, 2015/10/08) quoted Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition as follows.

“Children will be taught the disputed theory of gender identity and gender fluidity, which is the notion that a little boy can become a little girl in his mind, or vice versa . . . [T]hey can switch back and forth . . . [B]eing a boy or girl is unconnected to your physical anatomy.”

Really? Whose theory is this, currently? I have studied child and adolescent psychology for 25 years and practiced school psychology with students having gender identity issues. I can tell you that two extreme theories are both discredited. One older theory asserts that certain people just decide to ‘transgress’ or ‘defy’ their gender for some reason, and that gets labelled as pathological. The other discredited theory asserts that psychological gender fluidity can happen, regardless of how your brain and body are constituted. Complete rot, both sides (see, Moliero  & Pinto, 2015). Those theories may still float around in the media. At worst, they would not get past a first-draft curriculum read by the experts the Ministry consulted.

Both theories are symptomatic of how we still too-often artificially split off psychological functioning from physical. It is comforting for parents to know that our children’s psychologies are firmly rooted in their bodies and their brains. It is also comforting to all young people with important differences from most of their peers, to know that their differences are very real and just-as-firmly rooted in their different brain physiology (e.g. Simon at al., 2015).

As parents, most of us don’t want our kids changed drastically by anyone. But that is exactly what will happen at some point, if they go forth uninformed, into multicultural peer society. So how do we find a balance point, where families maintain a comfortable level of decision-making, but students gain a safe level of awareness?

Just as important: How can healthy collectivist values and social processes like the strong extended family  be preserved, despite world-wide intrusions by McLuhan’s (electronic) global village? As one Pakistani-Canadian colleague points out to me, even in South Eastern countries, children and youth are faced with a conflict of cultural norms between web-based awareness and family cohesion. If South East Asian Canadian families were to all go down the exact same hyper-individualistic path as European Canadians have done, then their level of family cohesion would suffer the same fate. Hyper-individualism has given North America the exploding family. Hey, thanks. Especially in urban centres, for one thing, we see a lack of extended-family support for new mothers. It is too-often a factor in post-partum depression. Post-partum family dysfunction fails some new moms just when their bodies, minds and busy hands need help on every side. On another note, there’s good evidence that collectivist societies can support a precious quality-of-life factor simply called happiness.

Here’s one idea. Concerned parents could certainly request a night-class run-through of the sex-ed teaching units in question. A respectful teacher and a respectful class can be a magical meeting. Let’s not try to solve all of our issues in such a forum. But we can be certain that those issues will look different, when we have discussed them, up close and personal. I am no longer a public school parent, but I’d be more than happy to attend and listen, if any local parent group and their school should both request it.

Yours in health and development,

Ken McCallion, MA, CPsych Assoc

Moleiro, C., & Pinto, N. (2015). Sexual orientation and gender identity: review of concepts, controversies and their relation to psychopathology classification systems. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1511.

Simon, L., Kozák, L. R., Simon, V., Czobor, P., Unoka, Z., Szabó, Á., & Csukly, G. (2013). Regional Grey Matter Structure Differences between Transsexuals and Healthy Controls—A Voxel Based Morphometry Study. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e83947.



The key to best health outcomes for you as patient OR your child, is integrated care by as many different health professions and para-professions as necessary. Whether the needs of your child, adolescent, or you as adult are emotional-relational, or centred on learning and achievement, or both, you deserve effective, time-optimized care. In some cases, there may be both health professionals and educators on the team.

As a full member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO), both for Clinical and School Psychology, I am registered to practice with Child, Adolescent and Adult clients in Ontario. I uphold the standards of outcomes-directed practice which have made psychology on of the most progressive forces for wellness and healing, that our era has to offer.

Being also a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (US) and the Ontario group, OAPA, mean that your…

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Okay, what is ADHD and why has this site not addressed it before now? For one thing, this practice sees a lot of persons with ADHD, of all ages. No need to pump up that volume. Yet there are many ‘life hacks’ or tips and tricks as they used to be called, that are worth sharing, and one doesn’t necessarily need to attend coaching or therapy to catch onto them. Talking ourselves out of a job here, are we? Or just building confidence in the profession of psychology and maybe in this particular practice?  Regardless, here are a few of the life hacks that people report as being helpful. Please be advised that these are not ‘evidence-based psychology’ as such, because each one is too tiny to be evaluated on its own as a method. They are certainly shared folklore and definitely candidates for inclusion in a standardized coaching ‘program.’ Now we’re talking ‘future of ADHD intervention.’ So don’t rely on these so much as psychology, but as community support shared by persons with ADHD. Feel free to tweet using #adhdLifeHack

#adhdLifeHack 1 Forget on-task/off-task self-monitoring. If you have to ask, you’re OFF! Too late! Tune your firmness-of-grasp on the task.

#adhdLifeHack 2 Driving: Keep and oblong Zone of Risk and Responsibility driving ahead of you, 8 seconds ahead of where you are.

#adhdLifeHack 2 Adopt one of David Allen’s CEO strategies. Get EVERYTHING out of your head; into some record. THEN sort.

Please contribute if you have a life hack that seems reliable. @PsychIsGrowth

01_Touchscreen_#infographic_for_school-psych_Page_1Movie director Ron Howard, in his film Parenthood, seats Steve Martin and Mary Steenbergen in front of a dour elementary school Principal.  She lands the first blow. “We don’t think Kevin should come back here next Fall.  I’m going to recommend that he be transferred to a school that offers special education classes.”

Dad risks a guess. “Because he’s so smart?” (Don’t rule it out.) “Well, actually, I mean a class for children with emotional problems,” the Principal continues.  (Seems Kevin’s been pretty anxious.)  In breezes an unwelcome surprise guest: one “Dr. Lucas” who should NOT be introducing himself at THIS stage. But here he is. Ron Howard is crafting very bad psychologist indeed. He has “been observing Kevin for the past couple of months.” (REALLY?)

CUT!    Who hired these Un-Professionals?  Yes, Hollywood DOES have license to show them as seen through these poor parents’ glazed eyes.  But Ron!

WHERE did you get such ethically bankrupt and autocratically insensitive educators?  (Not to mention, badly dressed.)

WHY are you trading on our anxieties about special ed, just for a bit of plot-thickening?

HOW can any psychologist, anywhere, get to observe and assess child without even asking the parents AND make a placement recommendation that looks pretty final?

MOREOVER:  On its own, anxiety is the LAST reason to make the little guy change schools, Ron.  It’s a great reason to keep him right where he is.  Special educators know this. Staff who are familiar to Kevin seek School Psychology consultation. They then support his school adjustment (storeys B & C at right). This in turn supports his achievement (Storey A at right).

Tough on Parents?  Needlessly, in this case. “Mr. Buckman, this is a public school” adds the Principal.  (Really? Why is it just now feeling like a back office of the Mob?)  At its best, but admittedly not everywhere, modern special education can be so inspiring that parents fight to get their kids into it.  Evidence-based teaching practices are the mainstay.  Assistive technologies such as laptops loaded with specialized software, SmartBoards (touch-screen whiteboards) and math apps that let you lay out equations textbook-style, edit and and graph them; are examples of cutting-edge accommodations that help level the playing field for students with unusual profiles.

Flexible, Powerful Teaching and Learning Strategies.  Ontario  students are among the more fortunate, participating in this deep cultural shift.  This movement began with UNESCO’s 1990 Declaration on Education for All.  Best practices are not always expensive.  Even developing countries get more for each education dollar

Look for a school culture that is strongly inclusive.

Two basics apply here.  First, instil in students the shared goal of success for all. Second, proactively build cohesion and problem-solving BEFORE the inevitable bullying emerges.  Restorative Practices, based on Native justice circles, is perhaps the best example.

Where does that leave competition in the classroom?  Lost in the past.  Sympathies to all parents who ever dreamed that their child would be clapped and cheered by classmates for beating them all.  Success is its own reward.   Rare is the teacher who is still stuck in the competition era.  They have long ago lost touch with the system’s growth in values.  Yes, there MUST always be scholarships and medals.  Healthy schools save for those triumphs for commencement; and Most Improved Student is among them.

What does special education really look like today? The answers are as diverse as students’ needs.  From sensitive and brilliant individual programming for the child with autism; to the high-octane stimulation and support offered by a best-practices Gifted teacher.  In every profession there are inequalities in expertise.  But specialist teachers are a highly motivated crew and their upgrading is continual.

So, why do many of us, as parents, still fear even something as mild as a diagnosis of Learning Disability or Attention Deficit Disorder?

We presume that labels limit our child’s academic future and career.  This is upside down, since rights and advocacy have taken hold.  Marks are all that the School Board can transmit to post-secondary institutions. But those institutions now have their own learning support systems.  You are admitted on your merits, THEN you send your diagnosis and apply for Accessibility (Learning Strategist; Assistive Technologies; accommodations).

If stigma makes us maroon the students’ broader abilities by not meeting specific functional learning needs, then we DO limit their futures.  Even school behaviour issues, a parent’s worst nightmare, respond to sophisticated best practices.  So how do we get our heads around the key issues, ask the right questions and make the right moves on our kids’ behalf?

Ask for the big picture.  Educators and administrators are often careful to not overwhelm us with information beyond the immediate scenario.  If you give them permission to explain the broader prospects and options, often you will usually get an enthusiastic response.  “Response to Intervention” (RTI) is now the first-line approach.  In early grades, we have better and better remedial methods that serve a preventative role.  (A best-case example is the Empower Reading program developed at Hospital for Sick Children.)  RTI is special education, writ-small. If it helps, but not enough, then we look at more formal psychological assessment; toward identification as an Exceptional Learner.

Listen to your child without bias.  Their school experience will come across differently to you, as parent, versus what they say to an educator.  Don’t expect them to be necessarily consistent.  Most kids don’t know how to express inner conflict until adolescence or close-on. In time, they will to learn to say, “Part of me thinks essay conferencing is working; and part of me just thinks it’s too confusing.”  (Maybe the’re not said to the same person, either.)  Don’t confront them with their inconsistencies when they are first learning to resolve conflicting views even adults can struggle with.

Understand the Four Levels of Growth.  One way to quickly grasp a child’s needs for special education is to ask questions based on the four-level graphic alongside this article.



Clinical concerns versus emotional health; and

Development (physical, motoric, cognitive, language . . . )

form a necessary self-supporting structure, similar to the fancifully tall four-storey school building pictured above. (The image here is of very limited resolution. A fully detailed version is available from the author: .)  Practitioners of school psychology can tell you which levels are involved; and what the next steps are, at each storey.

Get involved.  Anything you can do for your child’s school tends to be received with true gratitude; and helps build collaboration.  Parent involvement is such a priority that it is one focus of recent amendments to the Education Act (Bill 177; Sept. 2010).

Support your child’s self-concept.  We may come to laugh at stigma but for adolescents it is rarely a laughing matter.  All bets are off, for how teen peer groups will respond to a student’s Identified status. Your teen’s self- advocacy may just have to wait until post-secondary years.  Privacy of his or her identification is impossible to maintain. Ironically,  attempts at privacy would just fuel stigma. Celebrate strengths and recognize needs.  Everyone else can ‘get over it.’

Know your rights.  Educators in general are highly respectful of them.  While it is possible to approve some parts of a recommended programming but not others, DO be careful that you don’t block your child’s broader options by disagreeing with one essential piece.   Be aware that special education ‘labels’ (identification categories) often sound worse than they are.  “Communication; Learning Disabled” is often a sought-after category.  In it, the child is understood to have Average potential or better; but MUST have special education to fulfill it, without undue agony.

In some boards, “Autism” is the only administrative label under which complex multiple needs get help; even if it is not the actual diagnosis.

Look farther afield.  Interventions and supports from agencies like Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario, JVS Toronto, Canadian Attention Deficit Disorder Resource Alliance and private psychological services can each make a substantial difference.  Special educators, psychologists and some psychology-savvy physicians can guide you to them.

Be aware:

Public educators can’t actually recommend private assessment–That creates an impression that the system is broken.  Of course, the system is more cash-strapped than outright ‘broken.’

Like all public resources, it has to priorities the most urgent needs.  Usually the most they can do is respond clearly, when you finally do ask about private psychology.

Include “Psychological Associates” when you search for private services.  Many PA’s have extensive school board experience.  They are fully independent practitioners and diagnosticians, with an MA rather than PhD.  The College of Psychologists certifies and regulates both at the exact same level.

Attend all the meetings.  There are three levels.  (1) A SERT conference explains learning needs and offers options. You may want other professionals there, too.  (2) IEP or Individual Education Plan.  Rubber meets road. This document specifies concrete steps.  Even your homework support can be more effective with IEP guidance. If diagnostics are recommended, results go to a Board committee called (3) IPRC. This provides legally binding  recognition of  rights to special education.

Focus on what’s possible.  Funding levels and staff training spaces are not what administrators and specialists would wish.  If you get frustrated, you can bet they are too.  A dose of reality has to be swallowed every time an IPRC committee weighs a child’s needs against available placements and resources.

Take the long view until your child can. Even our teens have mostly minimal mind share for ‘the future.”  Tossing around the possibilities for program choices briefly but often is a growth experience for them.  School Guidance is really only the second level, built on top of the thoughtfulness that parents instil about this, from day to day.

Be politically aware.  Many Canadian provinces pushe the special-education envelope, whenever they can.  American legislation may be ahead of ours on paper, but our overall resources-in-place are probably ahead of most U.S. jurisdictions.  Some urban areas such as Toronto face special challenges due to complex demands on their education systems.

Finding out more: 

The Ministry’s book-length PDF, Education for All, lays out recent best practices for core math and reading.  Though written for educators in grades K-6, contains overview segments useful to parents.  The follow-up, Learning for All addresses grades K-12.  Autism publications include Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For attentional disorders and executive function, we are just at the outset of special education rights.  CADDRA and CADDAC are twin organizations which seek to improve treatment and education for students with these highly workable conditions.  While attentional disorders are not recognized by the Ministry as a cognitive learning disorder, they are the next frontier.

© 2012 Ken McCallion, Registered, MA CPsych Assoc

Father and son - attachmentMother & Son - Pat-a-Cake

son & mother - attachment

Rather than try to re-invent the wheel here, let me simply quote (at maximum permissible length) the clear and accessible words of

Neu and Robinson (2010), and when they say ‘dyad,’ all they mean is child and parent as a pair (which is one under-used way to do therapy by the way):  

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“Co-regulation is an important quality of interaction during which the dyad functions as an integrated entity to regulate each other’s behavior (Fogel, 2000). According to this view, the dyad is a functional unit that co-creates and responds to new information that was not available to them prior to the current interaction. Early mother-infant interactive history and maternal sensitivity (mother’s recognition and response to infant contributions to the interaction) are important factors contributing to co-regulated interactions (Fogel, 2000). Interactive history supports each member of the dyad to expect certain behaviors in the other that they can apply to subsequent interactive situations. However, dyads that experience flexible co-regulation adapt to new and unexpected behaviors within the interaction (novelty) and are likely to experience encounters as mutually rewarding (Legerstee, Markova, & Fisher, 2007).”  Translation: EXPECT the Spanish Inquisition! It will resolve a lot more quickly if you accept from the start that even the helathiest child-parent bonds can only ever be SEMI-stable, though ideally, PREDOMINANTLY stable. We can go so far as to say, ‘Of course they should. And can be, and shall be, if we know how to get there.’

This next quote actually preceded the above on in the original. For clarity, I’m showing it to you afterwards: “Substantial evidence indicates that high quality maternal-infant interaction is associated with infant development of self regulation, cognitive development, social competence in early childhood, positive sense of self, and secure attachment (Crockenberg, Leerkes, & Barrig Jo, 2008; Jahromi & Stifter, 2007; McElwain & Booth-LaForce, 2006; Moore & Calkins, 2004).”

My only criticism here is made On behalf of caring dads everywhere. I know of no clear scientific evidence that Dad cannot be just as effective at this. The ‘absence of evidence’ does not constitute any ‘evidence that there’s an absence’ of an equivalent sensitive parenting effect regardless of parent gender. Socio-politically, then, ‘boy’ do we have a problem.  Safe, caring, devoted, nurturant dads are not seen as equally important in Ontario family courts, for example (according to expert interviews contained in:  CBC, on Fathering Change: So let judges hear also with their hearts. And when sound science has something to offer, whatever it may say, let them read.

Now, as we all know, there’s no upside without SOME downside. Enter co-dysregulation, But I’ll leave that to those who wish to link-out to the following. (Reed, Barnard & Butler, 2015; ). While huge and complex models of co-regulation exist, from neuro-chemical ones up to  multi-person groups, the graphic below, by yours truly, simply tracks the progress of the key child-parent process. We take over, little by little, from our parents, in a wedge-wise increase of emotional self-regulation. The line can wobble with life events. It’s okay to let a child be temporarily younger with you when under stress. The same even goes for adult partners. We all deserve to (consciously) take the child role and be protected and nurtured for a while by our partner — but we have to be prepared to reverse that, when he or she needs the same, some time. Gods willing, both of you never need TOO much of it at the same time. (Didn’t we used to have extended families for that?) -KM

Parent-Child_Co-Regulation_Across_the Growning_Years



If you missed our lawn table event, but you are enrolled with an Ontario physician, contact Beaches Family Practice to request a 5 minute baseline test by Psychology is
Growth. Or see if your BBP_Ken+TestAdministratorsown medical clinic

has begun to baseline



(The link above provides confidential messaging.  The contact form below does NOT.)

Yours in health and development,

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc

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The cases below are entirely fictional and based on many years of clinical experience.

[ Toronto ] How do they come up with this stuff? Whether that’s truth or more likely, fantasy, it hurts, badly.  In Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber & Elain Mazlish,  nicely reined-in Alfred Adler’s  idea that the ‘will to power’ among sibs was always the big deal. — It depends.  Then Melitta Schmideberg  opened our eyes to the parentified child who gets to be boss, but suffers for it in the end.  Most recently, thoughtful minds like Kristin Caspers and her colleagues have been unfolding mysteries of sibling attachment.  One reason it’s still a bit of a schmaz is that we haven’t seriously looked at sibs through the lens of their inborn differences; that first layer of personality which we call inborn temperament.  Wouldn’t you love to know your child’s inborn layer of personality?  Try…

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son &amp; mother - attachment

(ONTARIO) From the heart, of course. But so many parent who have lots of heart still struggle with it.  Take comfort in the fact that you are in the majority.  –A large majority actually, at least in Canada and the U.S.  Blame it on technologically focused society, hyper-mobility or the six-day corporate work week, for decades now (at a minimum) most of us have been growing up with overriding, child-parent ‘issues.’  That is: Most of us as parents have our ownattachment 

These are typically the big pieces, in how each of us manages the relationship, with each child we have. For most of us, our own uncertainties about ‘how to be’ just plain get in the way.

WHAT? ARE YOU SAYING WE’VE ALL BECOME SELF-ABSORBED PARENTS? No.  It would be amazing if every one of us could always feel good about ourselves and…

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So how IS a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like mindfulness meditation?

“IT’S NOT!” (…Cue awkward silence . . . )

Okay! But we can imagine! Try this:


Peanut butter is sticky. So is attention.  Just like peanut butter sticks to bread, we can stick our attention to anything we need to deal with. If we’re fascinated by something, it’s actually hard to scrape our attention OFF that thing. Like checking someone’s online status that they keep changing all day. Or getting to the next level of a computer game. But if there’s a task we would rather avoid, then we have to dig out LOTS of attention from the jar and glob it onto that nasty task (if only that would make it TASTE better!) until we’re done.

Jelly is floppy. So is relaxation. Ever seen jelly stand straight and tall? Me neither. Sometimes when we first wake up in the morning, we feel just like jelly. All relaxed and peaceful. If we want to get up and do stuff, first we have to stretch and flex, just to un-jellify our muscles.

So let’s say we have two slices of life. (LIFE?) Okay, let’s start with  bread. And we want to fill the space between those slices with two things: peanut butter and jelly. It’s a no-brainer that we want good coverage. No big gaps. So we spread the PB evenly and flop the jelly all over.  But we try to keep it on the bread.  Not just spill globs over the edges. Same with meditation. Simple! Two slices of life, with a bit of time in between. (Time, space, whatever.) We just stick our attention onto ‘right now.’ We try to keep it from spilling over to other times. Most of us love thinking about times that are NOT right now. ‘Right Now’ is the hardest time to think about, in a weird way.

Next, we let our floppy relaxation spread itself, all over the same time-sandwich as our attention.

There’s one other way to explain all this. If you’ve read other stuff about meditation, like the book, Peaceful Piggy, you may have read about letting your breath just do what it ‘wants’ for a while. For most people, the breath is the easiest thing to pay attention to. –Without ‘doing’ anything, that is. It’s a very very old way of just recognizing that right now, you’re giving yourself permission to ditch, on all other times and just pay pure attention to ‘right now.’

So, usually, we don’t even think of full-on attention and full-on relaxation together. Or anyone spreading them all over each other.  But here’s the trick.  While we’re busy paying attention, we don’t have to actually DO ANYTHING. (WHAT?!) That’s right. Sure, it’s weird to think of paying attention but doing nothing. So it’s not quite totally nothing. Just nothing we have to THINK about doing. That’s where the breath comes in. It’s one of the things that our body CAN pretty automatically. We don’t have to work at it. (Okay, our bodies do other things almost automatically too. But we’re keeping it polite here!

Ever been so tired that you just HAD to do nothing? Maybe it was a ‘good’ kind of tired. Maybe you played a game so hard or got such a big chore done that YOU were done, but you felt oddly relaxed and you just enjoyed soaking up that relaxation. Nothing else was allowed into your mind or body. That feeling is close to what meditation feels like.

‘Noticing’ is an even better word than attention. All we have to do is keep quiet and keep ‘noticing’ what our breath feels like doing, in each moment. It changes a tiny bit, now and then. That’s got the sticky attention part going. What’s cool is that the floppy relaxation part kind of just spreads itself. We just let it.

If we notice some particular tense muscle somewhere, hey, flop some jelly on that part — okay not literally. Just let that part relax, especially. BUT: Just so we don’t fall asleep, we find the most comfortable-but-alert position we can. First time learning this, that might be sitting straight up. It might be in a chair or on a cushion, legs crossed or not. “Is there such a thing as TOO relaxed?” Well, only in meditation. If our PB & J sandwich has one whole jar of jelly in it, we won’t get to taste the normal-size layer of PB.

Same principle here: If we’re TOO relaxed, we can’t pay attention. We just fall asleep. The opposite is kind of disgusting too: A whole jar of peanut butter in your sandwich means you won’t get to taste the normal-size layer of jelly. (Same thing: If we work SO hard at paying attention, there’s NO WAY we can relax.)

‘Breath’ to the rescue. It’s totally enough, just to keep bringing our attention back to the breath. For sure, our attention will sometimes slop over a bit, to other times besides now (things that happened; things we have to do; things we worry will happen) kind of like a puppy that wants to run here and there to explore. We call our attention back gently and kindly, as we would that puppy. . . . Happy breathing!

Yours in health and development,

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc

If you have questions or would like to see about an appointment, feel free to use the contact form, below.


–a ‘Use-Me-Now’ resource for teens, babysitters,

maybe parents:

So how IS a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like mindfulness meditation? “IT’S NOT!”   (…Cue awkward silence . . . ) 

Okay,  but we can imagine. Try this:


Peanut butter is sticky. So is attention. On purpose, we stick our attention to the thing that we focus on. Just like peanut butter sticks to a slice of bread. If we’re fascinated, it’s hard to scrape our attention off that fascinating thing. –Like getting to the next level of a computer game. If it’s a job we would rather avoid, we have to dig out LOTS of attention, to glob onto it, until we’re done. 

Jelly is floppy. So is relaxation. Ever seen jelly stand straight and tall? Me neither. Sometimes when we first wake up in the morning, we feel just like jelly, all relaxed and peaceful. If we want…

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