May 14, 2022

Build healthy brain habits

Your child’s brain can rewire itself with meaningful input. New brain connections lead to confidence and empowerment. Poor brain health habits and unchecked stress can undermine the brain’s ability to make new connections. This article will discuss tactics for promoting brain health.

Veda Collmer
 Build healthy brain habits

The human brain is awesome, resilient, and complex.  I am so grateful that I have this wonderful and amazing organ in my head, directing my life and creating new experiences.  One of the brain’s amazing superpowers is its ability to rewire itself or make new connections with input.  This superpower is called neuroplasticity.  It is why I never give up on a client in the recovery process.  I know the brain, with time and consistent input, can rebuild itself or grow anew.  When I was a new lawyer, I clammed up in the courtroom.  My mind just locked up and I would stammer or talk like a robot.  Knowing my brain had the ability to rewire itself and form new synaptic connections, I forced myself to go through the painful courtroom process as much as possible.  In time, I overcame the challenge of speaking up in the courtroom.

The best part about neuroplasticity is that everybody’s brain has it.  Literally, everybody at any age.  It’s a superpower and your autistic child should know about it, how to use it, and how to protect it.  Brain health is especially important because healthy brains are ready to accept new input (such as new learning, practices, new experiences) if it is healthy, rested, and not subjected to unchecked stress.  Therefore, your child should know how to promote a healthy brain with these tactics.

Promote good sleep habits

Sleep is critical to brain health.  Sleep allows the brain to rest and process the day.  Autistic people experience sleep problems as a result of co-occurring medical conditions, such as hyperactivity.  Autistic children may struggle to fall asleep or may not experience rapid eye movement sleep (REM).  Poor sleep will lead to less focus, behavioral challenges, and depression. For information, read this blog from Verywell Health about autism and sleep.

Use these tactics to promote good sleep habits:

  • Review your child’s medications to determine if any of them may affect sleep.  With your pediatrician’s help, consider adjusting dosing times.  
  • Create a wind down routine to facilitate sleep.  Consider light reading before bed (no horror stories or violent fantasy stories). Encourage your child to get ready for the next day by getting things ready. Have a consistent bedtime routine.
  • If your child is developmentally ready, teach them how sleep gives the brain a rest.  Sleeping on a problem leads to an easy solution the next day.  Help them to identify ways poor sleep affects their problem solving skills.
  • Use a meditation podcast or app, such as Calm, to help with falling asleep.  Eckhart Tolle has such a pleasing, calm voice that his podcast with a sleep timer can help your child fall asleep.  
  • Avoid caffeine, violent video games

Build your child’s toolbox of stress relieving activities

Coping strategies are an important part of a healthy brain.  Your child should have a variety of coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Does your child engage in repetitive behavior (aka stimming)?  If so, find out why they stim in this way.  If stimming helps them relax, use components of the activity to identify other stress relieving activities.  For example, if they like to watch the shadows through the window blinds, can other images or colors also calm them.  Would a lava lamp create the same calming effect?  The goal of this exercise is not to replace the activity, but to expand on stress relieving options that work for your child.
  • Give meditation a try, even if you start with very short sessions.  Calm has guided meditations that are relaxing.  Try different calming breathing techniques, such as boxed breathing.  Consider music, such as Reiki Healing Music, to help quiet the mind.  
  • Introduce your child to yoga nidra. This form of yoga does not involve poses, but rather allows the brain deep rest through guided relaxation.  

Educate your child about new, healthy ideas

If your child is developmentally ready or older, educate them about manifestation, happiness, and peace.  These new ideas will help them think about their life differently.

  • Deepak Chopra has a number of children’s books on happiness, success, and meditation.  His book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, has many guiding principles for life.  It is a slim book.  Read a chapter to your older child weekly if possible.  
  • Eckhardt Tolle’s books focus on creating space in the mind to relieve stress.  His audio books, such as the Power of Now, are very relaxing and gentle.  Try playing the audio books in the car with your child instead of music or the news.  
  • If your child is ready, introduce them to Earl Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret”, located on YouTube.  He defines success as “the progressive realization of a worthy goal”.  His words can alleviate stress and anxiety caused by your child comparing their life to others.  His concepts can help your child focus on their strength and life’s possibilities.  

Spend time in nature, educate your child on healthy eating, and teach your child to focus on what is important

Your child is different from everyone else.  That is okay because everyone is different from other people.  Some people learn to conform to the environment.  Your child will learn to conform the environment to them!  This is a powerful concept that all children should hear- if the environment is not set up to make them successful, they can change it so they can be successful.  

  • Teach your child about their disability
  • Educate your child that everyone will have a disability in their lifetime (this is true)
  • Help you child identify their strengths and interests
  • Work alongside your child to identify their challenges and discover the solutions to overcome their challenges
  • Teach your child that relationships are the most important parts of life.  Help your child build strong relationships.

Tackling life in this way is very empowering and breeds confidence.  It supports a healthy brain with active synapses for making brand new connections.

Seek the help of a kind and patient expert

Occupational therapists were born for this type of work.  OTs have been trained in creating the right situations and input for brain health.  OTs are creative and can modify anything so your child can access the benefits of their chosen activity.  OTs will simultaneously focus on helping your child to independently discover techniques for brain health. If you’re stumped or fresh out of ideas, consider hiring an occupational therapist to teach your child healthy brain habits.  

Here's my legal disclaimer: This blog does not create a provider-patient relationship or give medical advice.  Use it for informational purposes only.  But consider hiring a VedaOT occupational therapist.  We would absolutely love to help your child blossom and grow.  Contact us at

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