Article reprinted from Momaha magazine
If it’s not your own children, you probably know someone whose kids deal with major attention and focus issues, bullying, learning blocks, autism, or anxiety. Some can’t seem to become aware of themselves and their surroundings enough to get organized; others have issues with bonding or maturing into adulthood.
It turns out that being antsy most often isn’t a case of “just Ethan being Ethan.” Maybe being anxious isn’t who Ava really is. Emma may not have the initiative to be fully aware of her surroundings, do her homework, or even fully develop social skills, but perhaps that’s because her nervous system that didn’t fully develop.
Fifteen years ago, three of our sons were facing similar struggles. After eons of searching, I found an explanation of what was going on with their nervous system made sense to the mind-set I’d learned in nursing school. The corresponding treatment completely changed their lives.
At first, help came from wonderful physical and occupational therapists, with programs like Neuronal Developmental Therapy and the then-groundbreaking Sensory Integration. When I found programs that I could do too, my life got more productive and less stressful along with the kids. Today, therapists are finding even greater results using programs that specifically target development of reflexes from pre-birth and infancy.
Exercises are targeted at helping build the connection between the body and brain. I’ve had students enthuse about them because not only do they feel good to do, but they study more effectively, can pay attention more easily, and it helps them to feel happy more often. One occupational therapist said she likes the Brain Gym® program because, “students who get “Fs” and turn into ones who get “Bs.”
Who uses them? Teachers use some as brain breaks. Occupational and physical therapists, chiropractors, developmental optometrists, mental health therapists and parents who want a non-drug approach are also beginning to use these to help anyone from infants through senior citizens.
Why aren’t they better known? Classes are relatively inexpensive, so there is little incentive to do studies. Exercises don’t always have the medication’s instant results. Some programs are new: Rhythmic Movement Training is particularly popular and was just introduced in the United States 9 years ago.
The joys of uncovering who your child (or spouse, or yourself) was meant to be without the learning disability, anxiety, or whatever’s holding you back is a wonderful thing. You don’t have to do the exercises forever, just until your nervous system catches up to the demands put upon it. Then you’re like everyone else: functioning without medication, or IEPs, or coping mechanisms.
Prevention is fun! For babies and older children, get outside for a walk; expose your baby to lots of different textures, preferably in nature, rather than manufactured. Swing on a swing, log-roll down hills with your kids. If they don’t like to lie in grass, roll down a hill on a sheet or old blanket, or just log roll across a room.
When I see babies crawling and exploring freely I know that’s like money in the bank for future life success. Lots of both tummy time and crawling helps nervous system development, and the more the better. Play crawling games, pushing balls around with your heads, or crawl in tunnels made of cardboard boxes and blankets. You can play doggy and kitty cat, hunting for fun toys or There’s always hide and seek, chase, and made-up obstacle courses.