This blog is recorded.  Just click on the following link.Dino Di Donato

Dino Di Donato, MFT, a specialist in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was a speaker at Parents Education Network in mid-May.  His topic:  Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Executive Functioning Challenges.  

Mindfulness is a skill that allows one to be less reactionary. Its primary force is teaching self regulation. Its derivation is Buddhist psychology and comes from Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha, who founded Buddhism almost 2,500 years ago. In current day, mindfulness is often taught independent of any religious or cultural connotation. Mindfulness (meditation) is a way of paying attention, “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999, p. 68). This skill gives the person with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) tools for moment to moment self regulation of emotional, cognitive and behavior responses, essential for effective Executive Functioning.

When I think of Executive Functions my thoughts run to the responsibilities of the top echelon of a corporation. I have discovered that’s too limiting a perspective.  According to Wikipedia the term is employed by psychologists and neuroscientists to describe a loosely defined collection of brain processes that are responsible for planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, rule acquisition, initiating appropriate actions and inhibiting inappropriate actions, along with selecting relevant sensory information.

Mr. Di Donato further defines it as a neuropsychological term to describe higher level cognitive abilities enabling an individual to successfully engage in independent goal-directed behavior. Mr. Di Donato says there are longitudinal studies of those who meditate which support the theory that the function of neurological structures of the brain can change over time with cognitive practices relating to meditation.

A child or adult with ADHD and other diagnoses often reacts with inappropriate actions.  There are many reasons for this behavior.  Any person with or without ADHD can be impaired when he or she picks up the language of what they hear around them. The reason:  language serves to shape the development of an individual’s perception of their personal reality. If a parent uses the language of depression the child picks it up constructing their view of the world based on their parent’s reality. The problem is the child is not able to separate the message and the content. When this happens the limbic system, associated with the fight or flight response in the brain, releases adrenalin into the body which cannot then reasonably respond to the moment/event at hand. The child or adult with ADHA can go off on an emotional tangent without the benefit of the cognitive process supported by yet another part of the brain, the cortex.  

One developmental aspect of executive functioning Mr. Di Donato discussed was the need for verbal problem solving and learning for most individuals with ADHD.  The internal monologue that beings to develop in early childhood and grows into adulthood through executive functioning is generally delayed or limited for people with challenges to executive functions.  

Kids and adults with ADHD will see the broad pictures, and even see the relationships between things that other cannot see, but can’t find a way to describe it.  If they are male, their excitement may come across as arrogant. If they are female they might seems overly emotional. This difficulty in communication due to emotional overload can cause problems in school, the workplace as well as at home with the family. This is where mindfulness comes in. 

Mr. Di Donato had many suggestions for application of mindfulness theory for parents in the audience. One focused on how to help a kid with ADHD who constantly needs explanations to statement. e.g. A parent may say:  we have to leave.  The answer is: why? This kid wants to know how you came to this conclusion.  Even though you may not think you have the time to give the answer, if you break down the sequences and then synthesize the information, putting it back together again for the ADHD child chances are you will get cooperation. And, if you offer your child the opportunity to learn the skills of mindfulness this practice can shift what is going on in the brain and how the brain functions.

 Some scientific studies proving the value of mindfulness can be found at the following institutions:

Centers in the San Francisco Bay Area who teach Mindfulness for adults include:

Osher Center for Integrative Medicine:


California Pacific Medical Center’s Health and Wellness Center:


Spirit Rock:  www.spiritrock.org

First Universalist Church in San Francisco: Vipassana meditation group


And, for students in the San Francisco Bay Area check out:

Day Park School in Oakland and/or 

http://www.mindfulschools.org      Contact Laurie Grossman: 510 535 6746 Laurie@mindfulschools.org.

Dino Di Donato can be reached at dinomft@pacbell.net or 415 431 3466. 


Dino Di Donato’s discussion on mindfulness was the last PEN lecture for the 2010/2011 season. I find it encouraging that the PEN Lecture programmers pick up on concepts that are shared by speakers throughout the school year.  It is not uncommon that a new concept introduced by a speaker becomes a topic for another lecture.  Such was the case with this final lecture.  The concept was introduced by Todd Rose during his PEN lecture to school teachers. Soon after Dino Di Donato was invited to share mindfulness details with the PEN audience. These PEN programmers keep current!

Useful exercises to ensure grounding

You have come upon a blog discussing tools to help dyslexics and hyperlexics.  The topic continues to focus on exercise.

Yes, I know, we are forever hearing how important exercise is: for our physical health, a good disposition, longevity of life and on and on.  And,, those are true, but I have found that daily exercise is also good for dyslexia and hyperlexia.  Why?  Because:

  • Exercise is a grounding agent.  After exercising, my left and right brain are ready to work in a more connected way. I don’t space out as much.
  • Exercise keeps my eyes healthy and ready for the process of reading
  • Exercise gives me the energy and willingness to sit down and read.

Exercises that work for me.

  1. Three days a week at the health club: on the bicycle or elliptical for a half hour and then core exercises: crunches, along with exercises that address the muscles in the middle of my torso, then on to arm and leg stretches as well as working with weights.  It sounds arduous. You know, it just isn’t.  I love going and I love the result -– being grounded.
  2. And, one day a week I work out with a trainer. He helps me advance my exercise program as my body is ready for more.  One day he gave me an exercise which has another value. It switches on my eyes.  I see things much clearer.  It just happens. Here’s the exercise, you might like to try it.  Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart, knees softly bent. Image the center and bottom of your pelvis as lifting up to the center of your body. Then visualize the upper sides of my pelvis pushing down into the ground. I shift my whole body on to one foot and I bring one knee up, straighten the leg forward, rotate the leg outward from the hip so that my foot moves outward and then bring it down. After 10 rotations of each leg my eyes are really functioning clearly. Now, that was a surprise.
  3. Eye exercises. Over the years I have worked with two eye specialists.  Dr. Roberto Kaplan, Doctor of Optometry, www.beyond2020vision.com and Dr. Larry Jebrock, behavioral optometrist, www.eyeexercises.com. Both have provided me with an eye exercise program that keeps my eyes at 20/20 vision. Strong eyes seem to mean that my eyes are willing to be grounded, ready to assist me in the process of reading and comprehension.
  4. Walking and hiking are also a passion. I feel so much better always after being outdoors.  Walking on the ground, keeps me grounded, a very important ingredient for comprehending what I read.
  5. Yoga as exercise.  I have also taken years of yoga.  These exercises assist my body in being grounded.
  6. Gabriel Roth’s five rhythms. Movement to music reflecting five different feelings: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness.  In the San Francisco Bay area you can learn more on http://www.movingcenterschool.com.  I find this class quietly restorative.

Now, I would love to hear what exercise works for you or what your questions are!

Finally, I will continue to evolve this site, including incorporating dyslexic and/or hyperlexic information that others have to share.  Yes, I am looking for your ideas.  Send them via the Comments below.


Information on this blog is intended to complement, not replace, the advice of your own physician or health care professional?

Exercise and the brain

Can exercise help the brain?  This was the topic of a recent lecture by John G. Ratey, MD sponsored by PEN.

If you wish to comment on this blog, simply scroll down to the bottom of this blog and hit comment.

First of all let me tell you a little bit about PEN. The acronym stands for Parents Education Network, a coalition of parents collaborating with educators, students and the community to empower and bring academic success to students with learning and attention difficulties.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and have children with these challenges, this is a lively group, well worth your time and energy. Last spring, on the suggestion of one of their students, an all-day event for dyslexics was put together at the Giant’s Ball Park and 1,100 parents, students and others showed up. It was an amazing experience and much was accomplished. Yes, it will happen again, spring, 2010. Find out more at http://www.parentseducationnetwork.org/

Now to John Ratey. Well, all I can say is that I wanted to jump up and cheer, “Yes! yes! yes!”  because what he is promoting (real exercise that’s fun to do) is exactly what helped me.   My mother enrolled me in an exercise program when I was eleven.  I loved it.  My brain cleared and exercise made it easier for me to study.  This is a fun discipline I have continued since that time.

Well, Dr. Ratey and many others are working with school systems in the US to get this concept across. And it’s working.  No, the exercise is not football, nor tennis, etc, its 40 minutes a day doing one or more of aerobics/boot camp/ hip hop/games etc, etc.  They have discovered that play is an important component to academic learning.

Here’s what happening in schools that incorporate fitness-based programs.

  1. Disciplinary issues decrease in some situations up to 30%
  2. Kids are keen to come to school
  3. Test scores go up, especially in math and language arts.

If you want to learn more go to www.JohnRatey.com. He has many books, but it seems that SPARK, “the new revolutionary science of exercise and the brain,” is the book that has the most details on this approach.

If I were a teacher or a parent, I would hasten to the bookstore to learn more. I know that his approach works. I am both dyslexic and hyperlexic and his approach has worked for me.

By the way, Dr. Ratey is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Finally, I will continue to evolve this site, including incorporating dyslexic and/or hyperlexic  information that others have to share.  Yes, I am looking for your ideas.  Send them via the Comments. below.