The Inaugural Australasian Conference for Neuroscience, Learning and Well-being

25 & 26 March 2019 - Melbourne, Australia


Thedy Veliz 



California USA - Neuropsychotherapy - Working with Youth and Their Families 

Thedy Veliz is a Relational & Developmental Neuro-Therapeutic CoachSM, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner, and a Certified Resilience Coach (CreC) in private practice in Los Gatos, California, USA.  Veliz is founder of People Systems, a leadership & human development consulting firm through which he works with youth, adults, families, and couples who are experiencing challenges caused by behavioral, relational and emotional dynamics.


Veliz recognizes that children’s symptoms communicate the relational dynamics of the family, and uses a family systems approach to encourage parents to become curious about what aspects of the family dynamics might be showing up as challenging behaviors in their children.  Veliz uses “Relational Neuro-Narratives” as the active ingredient of his Parent Relational & Developmental Neuropsychotherapy Protocol which guides his treatment of youth by working with their parents.


Veliz combines 15 years of corporate engineering design and finance management experience with his experience in motivational speaking, leadership development, and his most recent education and training in neuropsychotherapy, counseling psychology, human development, and resilience & life coaching to provide families with a neuropsychotherapeutic path towards wellness by focusing on the power of dyadic relationships as the medium for healing.


Veliz specializes in working with fathers and sons, and the entire family by utilizing “neuro-therapeutic coaching” in order to assist individuals to achieve resilience through personal fulfillment and creativity while becoming social innovation catalysts.


Veliz has a masters in counseling psychology (MA) from Santa Clara University, a masters in business administration (MBA) from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelors in mechanical engineering (BSME) from Iowa State University.



Neurogenomics and teenage students  - A relational approach to assisting the self-regulation needs of challenging young people at school.



Most adults that interact with children have come across a type of child that I will refer to as Simon.  The Simons of the world are very sensitive - sometimes to sensory stimuli, sometimes to relational dynamics with other people, and in many cases to both.  They throw tantrums, are not able to focus in class, become quickly aggressive with other children, and at times might come across as disrespectful to the adults that are responsible for their care.  Some have learning disabilities, some get diagnosed with ADHD, others have experienced trauma.  They exhibit anxiety, depression, tics, and at times their behavior might display autistic features. 


While caregivers are aware that these children are struggling, few are able to truly put themselves in these children’s shoes and communicate to them through their interactions that “there is nothing wrong with them,” and most importantly, that they are not bad, dumb, or inadequate.


 This lack of relational connection results in these children feeling misunderstood, alone, and inadequate.  They feel labeled and judged as if their innate qualities are not appreciated by the society into which they were born.  Not only do they feel alone internally, but this feeling is usually validated by active or passive rejection from their peer group. 


If adults are not able to give words to their pain, they start to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, and video games during their early teenage years, and eventually self-destruct by dropping out of school, moving out of the home, and sometimes becoming homeless, engaging in crimes, prostitution, antisocial behavior, and at times committing suicide.


When trying to understand these children, research in the fields of medicine, psychology and education has traditionally focused on psychopathology rather than resilience.  Indeed, it is well known that children’s academic and psychosocial development is severely affected when exposed to adverse environment.  However, we also know that development is not only dependent on genetics, but also on our formative experiences. 


Over the last two decades, researchers have refined our understanding of the interplay between nature and nurture by providing findings that can be used by caregivers (parents, teachers, coaches, and psychologists) to enhance children’s resilience through enhanced self-regulation.  Thus, researchers have switched from focusing only on the conditions that negatively affect development to advancing methods of understanding the variables that result in children thriving.


It turns out that children like Simon usually carry certain gene variants that modulate critical neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine associated with self-regulation processes such as attention, cognition, motivation, memory, learning, and seeking/reward behaviors.  While initially, genetic variants that predisposed these children to being extra-sensitive were deemed to be “risky,” they are now understood as being “plastic” because they make these children differentially susceptible to early experiences.  This means that children like Simon who carry these “sensitive” gene variants are also more likely to improve their behavior, but only if they are exposed to a safe and non-threatening caring environment.  Whereas, children who don’t carry the “plastic” gene variants appear to not be influenced by their environment.


Interestingly, these “plastic” gene variants have been linked to qualities that significantly contributed to the advance of our civilization at different stages of our history due to their carriers’ tendency to being less risk averse and driven by adventure, excitement and curiosity.


In the modern world, these “plastic” gene variants are associated with difficulties in self-regulation including increased novelty seeking, aggression, oppositional defiance, externalizing and internalizing symptoms including hyperactivity and impulsivity, depressive and mood disorders, and increased levels of physical activity.


In a nutshell, children like Simon are not only sensitive and special, but also gifted.  And… just as we have benefited from their special talents in the past, our society needs their contributions today more than ever.  When we are able to see past their emotional and behavioral challenges, they have high intelligence and emotional quotients.  Some researchers refer to them as orchid children, with difficult temperament, physiologically reactive or just plain “quirky.”  Underneath their sensitivities, which in essence is an expression of their inability to self-regulate, they feel the pain of the world.  They talk about the world not being fair, and wanting to help other children.  They are easily overwhelmed because their brain is unable to process the stimuli that they are able to sense.  They form more vivid memories, feel other people’s feelings, and have much lower pain tolerances.  They love passionately and they hate intensely.  While the traditional approach has been to discipline these children through consequences and firm boundaries, these children need approaches that downregulates their highly sensitive central nervous system through empathy and understanding – approaches that can only be delivered by caregivers who are able to truly feel these children’s pain.


Veliz will deliver a keynote address to translate research findings into a Developmental Neurogenomics Model that will:

  •  introduce relational interventions in order to assist educators to enhance the self-regulatory capabilities of children like Simon by focusing on the downregulation of their stress response system to counteract the effect of their sensitivity on their developmental health

  • provide practical insight into how classroom dynamics can affect the level of scapegoating and subordination that these orchid children might be subjected to based on the inherent pecking order of social positioning that often develops in classrooms



Neurogenomics and teenage students  - A relational approach to assisting the self-regulation needs of challenging young people at school.


Veliz will assist educators to integrate the Developmental Neurogenomics Model into their daily interactions with their students in classrooms. He will provide ways  to conceptualize the developmental dynamics that might be getting in the way of challenging children experiencing an educational environment that makes them feel “viscerally” safe and ready to learn. He will share possible narratives exploring and describing how these children might be feeling by using soothing prosody and intonations, and exhibiting a non-verbal stance that communicates unconditional positive regard.

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