Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Brain Balance’

Seen and Unseen Progress, Dash, Part 2

I discussed Bastiat in my last post, and went into his ideas about seen and unseen effects of the choices we make, as economists in our own lives. I described some of the positive effects that I have seen at home and in swimming lessons. Today I want to talk about positive growth in Dash that was unseen by me, but seen by the BB professionals which work with him three times a week. This last week I had been discouraged about our levels of compliance with BB exercise sessions, so I decided to wait on posting here until after receiving the second progress reports. I’m glad now that I waited, because I was quite surprised at how much growth the program coaches had seen, but which I had not.

In every developmental category, Dash has either advanced forward, or met his developmental goals in the second month of the BB program. In auditory functioning, Dash has reached his goals for filtering out auditory noises while focusing on tasks. This is really helpful in an academic setting, because kids with ADHD have a hard time hearing the teacher and focusing on classroom tasks when there are too many noises in the environment to filter out. That problem for Dash is essentially solved in both auditory and visual stimuli, and it’s huge.  In auditory processing, he has advanced from an age 10 level to that of an 11-year-old. So just two more age levels to go, and he is golden.

In Visual tasks he’s met his goals in two out of three categories. In optokinetics, more specifically his ability to track smoothly with his eyes from left to right across a page, he has advanced 3 levels, or from a 6 to an 8 out of 15, since August 1st. His vestibulo-ocular reflex is working at full capacity now. Before we started BB, this reflex in his eyes wasn’t fully functioning, which made it difficult for him to physically focus, and negatively affected his peripheral vision, if I understand correctly. From Wikipedia:

The vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a reflex eye movement that stabilizes images on the retina during head movement by producing an eye movement in the direction opposite to head movement, thus preserving the image on the center of the visual field. For example, when the head moves to the right, the eyes move to the left, and vice versa. Since slight head movement is present all the time, the VOR is very important for stabilizing vision: patients whose VOR is impaired find it difficult to read using print, because they cannot stabilize the eyes during small head tremors. The VOR does not depend on visual input and works even in total darkness or when the eyes are closed. However, in the presence of light, the fixation reflex is also added to the movement.[1]

And finally his ability to filter out visual stimulation to focus on physical tasks being asked of him has reached the highest level that they test for in the Brain Balance program. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the exact model of glasses they use at Brain Balance, but this picture gives you and idea of the kind of tools they use to test the kids with auditory and visual stimulation filtering. I watched Dash go through a balance beam exercise that looked super tricky to me, where he had headphones on his ears and these glasses on his eyes, delivering both auditory and visual stimulation to him, while at the same time he was asked to go up and down a balance beam, while also tossing a ball up and down. If I were tested, I’m positive I wouldn’t be able to do it. But Dash carried it off superbly.

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(Not my Photo)

In synchronization, Dash has almost reached his goals on the balance beam. He went from an 8-year-old balancing level in August, now to that of a 12-year-old. In gait and aerobics, he’s gone from age 5 to age 10. With the interactive metronome tasks, he has gone from aged 5 now to age 10.

In core strength areas, he is tested in four different muscle groups: the supine/back core, prone/stomach core, lateral/side core and brachiation/upper-body grip. He has made improvement in all four areas. In the first, he moved from a 6-year-old level to that of a 9-year-old. In stomach he went from age 7 to 8. In side, 8 to 9. In upper body grip, 5 to 6. Admittedly, for our family, core muscle strength is perhaps the area with greatest room for improvement. That said, Freckles is doing exceptionally well in this area. He isn’t enrolled at BB, but he works hard in each exercise session, and he can outperform Dash in sit-ups and push-ups any day. And it is visible in his changed physique. Where he used to wield a generous tummy girth, it has been replaced with a fit and healthy torso.

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Returning to Dash now, In touch categories he has also reached his goals for filtering out tactile stimulation. This means he can now focus on tasks he is given, while constantly wearing a vibrating cuff on his left arm and leg. He started in August at a level 1, and has reached the highest level, a 7. In fine motor skills, he has progressed from being at the equivalent of age 7 (in performing fine motor tasks) to a 10-year-old level. In spinning, the goal is to achieve the appropriate amount of dizziness. He has gone from a level 3 out of 8, now up to a level 6.

And finally in proprioception, or the awareness of one’s own place in space, Dash has gone from the level of a 6-year-old in August, to that of an 11-year-old. This is a big deal. Because it is related to how well we can tune in to the needs of other people around us. With poor proprioception, a person can’t focus outward, because physically they have to be looking at their own self to know where they are in space. They can’t sense it very well otherwise. But once this sense is developed, they are freed from that need of being physically and otherwise self-focused. They can then look up and notice where other people are in space, too. By growing out of the need to constantly self-monitor, they naturally tune in better to those outside of themselves. From Wikipedia:

Proprioception is what allows someone to learn to walk in complete darkness without losing balance. During the learning of any new skill, sport, or art, it is usually necessary to become familiar with some proprioceptive tasks specific to that activity. Without the appropriate integration of proprioceptive input, an artist would not be able to brush paint onto a canvas without looking at the hand as it moved the brush over the canvas; it would be impossible to drive an automobile because a motorist would not be able to steer or use the pedals while looking at the road ahead; a person could not touch type or perform ballet; and people would not even be able to walk without watching where they put their feet.

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 Proprioception can be improved by practicing yoga

(Not my Photo)

This is among the most exciting developments for Dash, in my mind. One of the big reasons we wanted to enroll him in the Brain Balance program was to help him with his sensory issues, but especially we hoped they could help him aquire a capacity for greater empathy. His recent experiences of suddenly feeling overwhelming emotions, and later reaching out to help me when I was melting down, both seem an indication to me that he is tuning in better not only to his emotions, but to those of the people around him. We feel so blessed to have access to these resources and the Brain Balance program. It has been life-changing in so many ways.

To close this one out, I wanted to share my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe  which I altered to fit in the Brain Balance diet. It is so yummy, but definitely not something to indulge in on a regular basis. But seriously good, and a lifesaver when you need a sweet treat. Here are the pictures I took of them, of course with Baby Blues looking cute :). These did not last long.

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So here is my version:

Pumpkin Muffins

  • 2 cups King Arthur’s gluten-free baking flour
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup organic, unrefined pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 2 large cage-free eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans
    Preparation:
In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to blend In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, melted coconut oil, coconut milk, the beaten eggs, maple syrup, honey and vanilla; mix until blended. Stir pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients until moistened. Fold in pecans or sprinkle on top of muffins just before baking. Do not overmix. Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or grease well with organic palm shortening. Fill the about 3/4-full with the pumpkin muffins batter, and bake at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 to 16 pumpkin muffins. For an extra rich treat, serve warm with a small pat of vegan butter melted in the middle. Heavenly.
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Compulsion versus Coaching, Weeks 5-6

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Baby Blues, First Day of Preschool, Fall 2013

“The miracle of children is that we just don’t know how they will change or who they will become.”
“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.”
As a 12-year-old girl in provincial Utah Valley many years ago, I had my first experience with “coaching” from an older girl in our LDS youth program. She was assigned to lead our young women’s volleyball team. I was brand new to the program, and without team sport experience . We got started into the first volleyball practice, and I had no idea how to play. I just came because someone invited me, and it sounded fun. You can imagine my horror, when the ball was served and came straight at me for the first time. I think I just watched it drop in front of me, no attempt to bump or set it to a teammate at all. Well naturally this didn’t please my young coach, and she immediately shouted something at me, like “YOU NEED TO HIT.THE.BALL!!!”. I mumbled something like, “Sorry!” and braced myself for the next time the ball came at me. Well, as volleyballs inevitably do, this one came back to me numerous times during the practice, and each weak attempt of mine was derided with a shout that increasingly diminished my confidence. In fact I was ready to sit down and cry right there, but my pride would not allow it. Thankfully, there were two or three girls on my team who saw me ranging close to tears, and rallied around me after each verbal onslaught. They helped me to shake it off, and carried me through the rest of the practice. To this day, wholly thanks to those kind girls, I LOVE volleyball. I surprised myself and returned to practice the next week, and then the next. At some point during that season I stopped apologizing, and decided to channel my anger over this girl’s abuse into learning the game, the end goal being to shut her up. And I succeeded. I don’t think I’ve ever written a thank you note to these girls. Good thing I can find them on Facebook!
Have you ever noticed that God doesn’t compel us to do things the way He wants us to? No matter what, regardless of how stupid we are in our choices, as a perfect parent, he never compels us to do what He wants. I have been extraordinarily blessed to be raised by parents who followed this principle, of respecting agency, above all else. As far as I can tell, compulsion was never a tool in their child-rearing tool box. I’ve spent most of my parenting years trying to follow their example, and allow my kids to made as many of their own (age appropriate) choices as possible. So when I step out of my head long enough to observe how I have sometimes interacted with my kids lately, I shudder. I hear myself talking to the kids during Brain Balance exercises, and I really want to put myself in time out! Compulsion is SO much easier than Coaching!! I never played team sports growing up, so my experience with coaches was limited. But I have often observed with AWE the positive energy that I see in men, women, youth, and youth leaders, who spend their lives and energy being a cheerleader to others.
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My Sweet Parents
Kennedy-Moore expresses an idea that resonates with me. It touches on the inevitable and universal unknowns of parenting. Our entire experience here on earth is defined by unknowns. We humans love the illusion of control over our lives, and we cling tightly to it. I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in feeling that the unfolding 21st Century, with all of its unprecedented disasters, whether natural or man-made, could easily intensify our determination to control everything. In truth, we aren’t in control. We’ve not yet learned to dictate to the elements. Our life’s path and in this case, that of our children, is unknown. It doesn’t mean that we can’t prepare ourselves and our kids effectively for the future, or that we can’t consciously determine to plot our course in a given specific direction. But unless we have the foresight of a prophet, the exact nature and form of the scenery along our respective pathways remains hidden, sometimes until we are already traversing that thorny and stony personal ground.
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Big B, traversing stony ground. 😦
Henry B. Eyring wisely observed once that the only thing many of us have in common is that life will surprise us.:”Years ago I served as the bishop of a ward (congregation) composed of young people. Time has wiped away much of what I learned then of their sorrows and mistakes, but I can still see in my mind most of their faces. I meet some of them as I travel about the world. Their faces and their physiques have been changed enough by time that I sometimes stumble trying to remember names. Others I have followed more closely, with a chance to know what life has offered them. When I learn of their lives, I am amazed at the variety of their experiences. Each life seems to be unique. About all they have in common, as nearly as I can tell, is that they have been surprised by the pattern of the tests of their faith. The surprise has come because they could not know when the tests would come, what they would be, nor how long they would last.”
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Unexpected Trials, Fellowship of the Ring
(Not my photo)
I’ve learned to function, albeit imperfectly, within the realm of the unknown. God will illuminate the path immediately in front of me, and I step into that lighted portion. After making that step, I’m in a position to see the next portion lighted for me. From the moments Dash and Big B were born, Michael and I found ourselves on a course that was relatively lonely during the early years. Some of this loneliness was admittedly self-inflicted. I always felt like I should have control over my kids, but didn’t, and sensed judgment on numerous occasions from others. Rather than risk more judgment of my parenting by closer association, I often chose to avoid situations where I might encounter it. Thankfully, God placed various angel-women in my life. As fellow sojourners, they reached out to me despite potentially awkward differences they might have anticipated. They were sometimes my age, but more often than not, they were my elders, by at least a decade. I managed to gather a collection of friends along the way, whom I could also be helpful to, having learned never to judge another’s parenting harshly. “The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect.” Thank you, Eileen Kennedy-Moore.
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(Not my Photo)
“The valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
The last while for our family in the Brain Balance program is distinguished by numerous peaks and valleys. We have wanted to improve on getting all three sets of exercise in each day at home, and it has been tough. Finally going into week 7, it has become easier. We are getting them done now, without WWIII descending! But in weeks 5 and 6, it was a lot of hit and miss. We’d get 3, even 4 sets of exercises done one day, and then for two days straight, none whatsoever. There was one stretch of days, at least five in a row, that we saw huge, repeated meltdowns from Big B. I seriously wondered if he would ever manage a normal three-set day. Ever. Again. Just one measly set would take us an hour and a half!
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Perhaps the important lessons of life don’t occur in a linear fashion at all, even though we may have been trained to expect that in our results-centered society. I have a journal that I have kept over the years. It mainly consists of the thoughts that have come to me from month to month, as I’ve prayed over different issues, and gotten insight when studying the scriptures. Sometimes when things are tough, I pray again, over parenting problems that seem always to reappear, familiar iterations defined by the same emotions and recurring communication patterns between me and my kids, me and my husband, me and God. Does that make sense? Virtually every time I read back over these particular journal records, it seems that the current answer is right there. Even though it was written in the past, the solution is in renewing my commitment to honoring those insights. I’m all over the board here, I know! I guess I’m saying: keep a journal, people! And pay attention to the solutions you find as you make your way through new challenges. Though conceived in former times, they may become the solutions for your next iteration (of trials).
And let your child fail. It’s really OK. Wouldn’t you rather see him learn how to pick himself up NOW? With enough practice, our kids will become pros at failing gracefully, and then move forward to what works. When they are done pouting on the ground, we are there to pick our kids up and point them in the right direction.
success and failure
“Whether your child succeeds or fails is up to your child, not you, and the measure of success or failure must be your child’s, not yours.”
–Peter Gray, Free to Learn
Moving on to some of the peaks, shall we? Great news on the Dash front, in weeks 5 and 6. While Big B spent much time pouting on the ground, Dash was on an upswing, and did something unprecedented. He has been in the Brain Balance program for a month. Since he was a very small boy, has always been hyper-focused on military ships, aircraft and weapons systems. Poring over encyclopedias of military stuff, etc. His room is full of these books. My homeschool bookcases upstairs, on the other hand, are full of classical literature for all different ages. We’ve encouraged our kids to pick books from this genre as reading material, with varying levels of success over the years. Dash has usually looked at them and said “BORING, Mommy, can we just go to the library?”
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Our Homeschool Library
So I was really surprised when early this week, Dash went up to the homeschool bookcase and took a second look. In weeks 5 and 6, he has read in their entirety: The Red Pyramid, The Jungle Book, Heroes from Roman and Greek Mythology, the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and parts of Moby Dick and The Mysterious Island. Then to change it up even more, on that same night, he cleaned up his entire room, hung up all of his favorite posters that had been sitting in storage for a year, organized his closet, then came upstairs and gathered his (very-full basket) of clean laundry, took it to his room, folded and put everything away, and THEN went across the hall and scrubbed out his entire bathroom like a pro. These are all things that I have asked him to do as part of his weekly chores, never having secured his compliance without great contention. He also threw me a curve, when we started making dinner a bit late one night, and Dash decided that he wanted to help me set the table. Apparently when he says: “I’ll set the table, Mom, ” this is what he means:
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I was duly impressed.
In other good news: Even though our peach supply has finally dwindled away, in weeks 5 and 6, our pear tree began to drop some beautiful fruit, which we are still enjoying immensely. We have a golden delicious apple tree that we are watching anxiously for evidence of readiness. AND, this is actually the big news here. Sparkle, my 9-year-old picky I’m-living-on-popcorn-right-now-because-there’s-NOTHING-to-eat daughter, made a discovery. She LOVES pears!! Yahoo! I’m jumping for joy, because it has been a very long time since I have seen her try ANYTHING new to eat, most especially food from the fruit family!
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Home Grown Pears and Sparkle
I also learned something for myself, which opened my eyes about the relationship between what I eat and how I feel. Near the end of Week 5, I helped to host my sister’s baby shower. She is having her first girl after three boys, so it was time to party it up with the pink! So I made a yummy pan of brownies with some left over butter from the freezer and some refined white sugar I still had in a storage bucket. I used to make and eat these all the time, before Brain Balance. I took Sparkle with me to the event, and in an effort to help her consume more needed calories, I decided to ease up on the diet just for that morning (except we didn’t eat the cupcakes, because they were on the high-end, sugar-wise, but oh how yummy they would have been!). So I ate a lovely croissant with a delicious chicken salad filling, a bunch of veggies with Ranch dressing, two excellent salads that were mostly in compliance with our diet, and then allowed us to eat one brownie and one cream puff. We enjoyed it all immensely.
But then Sunday came the next day, and in the middle of the morning service, I found myself getting really emotional. And it just kept getting worse as the day progressed, until by that night NO ONE wanted to be around me. And even Monday it seems like I was just a mess, for unfathomable reasons! That night it dawned on me: MAYBE the food I ate on Saturday was contributing to my mental state. There is no scientific test to certify this was the case, but I believe it to be so. It was the first time in over a month on the new diet, that I had had this type of palpable depressed mood. And I couldn’t blame it on PMS, which usually is pretty bad for me, because that all occurred the week previously —- and it was a historically mild case. As if by magic, I woke up Tuesday morning without a shade of moodiness, feeling like my newer, healthier self again. If any of my readers have had a similar experience with moods being affected by diet change, I’d love to hear about it!
Well this post has already meandered down a long-winded path. Let me see if I am missing anything else that may be relevent here. Oh, here are a couple more food pictures. After whipping up several different versions of a gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free chocolate chip cookie, I found one that I will keep as our favorite. And it doesn’t even use eggs. It’s from a whole foods recipe website that I love, which provides fresh inspiration every time I peruse it. These cookies were gone in almost 2 minutes flat. They were that good. Here is the recipe, it is a keeper!
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Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Stalkerville,
a Paleo-inspired real foods recipe clearinghouse.
We also started all the kids into swimming lessons again. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can work lessons in at any time of day, and just rearrange the homeschool schedule when needed. We decided that our homeschool schedule for this Fall would be heavy on Health and Physical Education, in order for us to give due attention to the Brain Balance diet/programming, and helping our kids strengthen their mental and physical health. We still keep the other basics (Reading, Writing, Math, Field Trips) in the schedule, but we spend a bit less time on them now than we do normally. After we have completed the BB program, they will be more confident in academics and learning skills all around. Two lessons in, the kids are divided in their responses to the swim classes. While the oldest three: Dash, Freckles, and Sparkle started in a lower level class, we discovered that they are actually advanced beyond that level. Baby Blues on the other hand, HATES swim lessons. He refuses to stay in the water with his classmates, which include Big B. Today’s lesson saw me picking him up when it was his turn to practice the skills with the instructor, and handing him into the water. At which point he squirmed and screamed earnestly, and then carried out the exercises with stoic resignation.:(
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On Day 1 of swimming lessons
Other stuff we have been eating recently:
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Left: Carrot Ginger Bisque, garden fresh tomatoes, Egg Salad on City Creek Bakery’s amazing bread,
fresh peaches, pears and apples with coconut milk drizzled on top; Right: Deviled Eggs
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Another A-MAZING recipe. I may never go back to our old brownies again!
Photo Courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess

Sunshine and Nutrients, Days 12-17

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(Not my photo)

The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together. ~Kurdish Saying

Well, we’ve passed through two intense weeks. Emotional intensity has always been a quality of our family’s life together. I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t know how to be anything else, and hope that others will just accept this fact and embrace it, as our friends. It should not be surprising to anyone who knows us that this program would crank up the pressure for us, and boy, has it! I was not certain at the outset that this would be a bad thing for us, and hoped sincerely that it would mean the opposite. And boy, has it! This post is dedicated to the enumeration of the positives that have come into our life since we commenced. Unfortunately my written descriptions and past images will have to suffice, as we have misplaced our camera once again.

August 1st was a great time to start this program for us. We have no birthdays in our immediate family (no need to make a birthday cake anytime soon) and school has been out of session, giving us the maximum latitude and flexibility to change up our routine. Our garden and fruit trees are producing well, providing an abundance of fresh produce which is directly incorporated into daily healthy meals. We have a farmer’s market every Saturday across the street from the Brain Balance center, both of which are situated less than two miles from our home. This helps me a ton. I received a note from one woman who moved out to Utah from Wisconsin this summer, so that her kids could participate in the Brain Balance program here in South Jordan. Her husband had to stay behind to work, leaving her to navigate the demands of this program as a single parent. I’m so lucky that it is all so convenient and close by, and that this house we bought last year was already stocked with the raw tools to assist us in our effort. Here are some pics of our garden and trees.

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Pears Galore

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Zucchini to Spare

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A bough from one of our mature peach trees, broken under the weight of beautiful peaches.

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Two garden boxes full of veggies.

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Golden Delicious Apple Tree

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Peas, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins

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Dash holds the BIG zuc, with Sparkle and Freckles. We just made Paleo Zucchini Brownies with that baby.

Physical provisions notwithstanding, the spiritual and  mental blessings that we’ve received since beginning the Brain Balance program outshine them. Right around day 6 or 7, my friend TS from church called me out of the blue. She thought she should call, but didn’t know why. Unbeknownst to her, we were in the thick of the overwhelming diet changes, and she had just recently gone through her own journey. They’d learned that her husband has Celiac Disease, and subsequently took the whole family off of gluten. In that process she had gained insight and resources that she could now pass on to me. Beyond the resources, she comforted me by just listening to my complaints, and giving me encouragement.

Last week, around Days 12 and 13, I needed more insight into how I could try my hand at improvising with food, and experimenting with the new ingredients. I also needed more recipes that were yummy and would fit the regime. The BB diet is not quite as restrictive as Paleo or GAPS, but more restrictive than most. By this time we were eating in compliance, but still not thriving. Great recipes have to be pretty narrowly defined. Thanks be to God, a couple of people came to my rescue at this juncture, with excellent resources, both with years of experience.

DB is a family friend who remarried last year, and at the same time undertook the huge task of thriving on a Paleo diet. He and his kids have lived with some of the same sensory issues that we have seen in our children, and have found a variety of tools, a Paleo diet included, that have helped them conquer their symptoms. Lucky for him, he married an adventurous woman, who not only took on the Paleo challenge, but turned their kitchen into a veritable Paleo Laboratory. She employs her daughters as taste testers, and regularly turns out what appear to be gourmet masterpieces! Her blog, if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks Miss Julie, and your Superman!

ND is a perfectly beautiful woman, who also happens to be the former owner of our happy home. She and her family filled this home with happy and healthy traditions, and she inspires me to do likewise. She read my last blog entry, and was moved to have compassion on me :). After midnight on Day 13, she was going to bed, but decided to write me an email before retiring. In true stream of consciousness form, she wrote down some of the ways she has modified her family’s meals to include a healthier array of options. With each meal idea, she included how she had improvised to make it better. Thanks to her writing form, common ingredients and recipes became useful to me. I began to see a bridge being built in my mind, between our former eating lifestyle, and our new paradigm. I begin to see how we can move forward, even after program interventions are complete, and settle on a healthier norm for our family. She also sent follow-up emails, along with more recipes and ideas in each one. THANK YOU, ND!!

Just to give my BB friends a couple more ideas, and to highlight how helpful her email was, here is an excerpt:

“Hamburger curry over rice: I love this because I can make it in the crockpot and it is ready when we are.  Cut up 2 cups of cabbage, 1-2 c celery, add cooked hamburger and onions, 1 to 2 t curry pwd and some ckn broth or water. It will need 1 t or so salt and serve over rice.  The recipe calls for a bit of catsup, but it should be good without it.  You could even grate some zuc or slice it. I like it if the veggies don’t get too done..nice and crispy.

Our family really liked a casserole I made with rice and hamburger and zuc.  I cooked the rice, added a package of cooked frozen hamburger (or what you have, I cook mine ahead and freeze it since it is such a mess to cook up), and some zuc sliced–I used to add some cream of something soup, but I think it would be yummy with a little coconut milk. Salt and onions would be yummy in it too.

You could make a zuc casserole with taco seasoning–the Schilling at Costco I think is clean for you, or you could make your own–, hamburger, sliced zuc and onions.  The recipe calls for Doritos on top (which are so not good for you) but maybe you could sub some rice chips–Dave’s has some yummy ones seaweed and something–also can get them at Smiths market place.  Maybe chips are totally out now, you could use the Costco plain corn chips to add some crunch–or it would probably be good without oh..it needs some tomato sauce, maybe two cans–boy, these are really rough recipes, but I hope they will give you some ideas to experiment with.

The apples from your tree make wonderful apple crisp–they won’t need much sweetening and I bet you could figure out a great topping with a bit of sucanut, oats?/gluten-free flour or pancake mix and a little oil. The apples are sweetest when they are yellow, can freeze and stay best and crisp right on the tree. I am so glad we planted all those trees for you!”

Oh, and here is another healthy food blog she linked from another neighbor. Thanks again, ND!

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Love this meme. It’s true.

Beyond the heaven-sent help, I have also seen mental and physical health improvements in myself, Big B and others. Dash seems to be cruising through the exercises, and has accepted the diet, not without some grumbling :). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Big B’s balance is improving, and he is losing some of his tummy. Eye exercises have been hard for him to do each day, but he is trying. He can do sit-ups better than before (still working on the push-up formations, but that’s OK). His ability to do all the exercises and complete them continues to improve, albeit not without meltdowns. He needs lots of breaks, and still does the whole routing much better for Daddy than he does for me. I could be imagining it, but Big B’s eyes seem to be better aligned than they were previously. We go to the park a lot, and his coordination/ability to run around without falling down seems to be improving as well. Oh yay, Baby Blues just found my camera! Here are some park shots.

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We try to have the whole family do the exercises each day. With the exception of our 4-year-old, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. (Baby Blues just watches the rest of us laughingly.) My own lower back, which seems always to have been quite weak and prone to back pain, especially when I was pregnant or nursing a child, is much stronger now. The morning back aches, a fixture in my life previously, are gone. Earlier this year and last, I saw my hair thinning at what seemed to be an unnatural pace. I’d read enough to gather that it could be an indicator of a hormone imbalance, which of course can be greatly exacerbated by diet. Since we changed our eating habits, I have noticed that my hair seems to have stopped shedding. This has been a relief to me, if not an unexpected stroke to my vanity. I’ve lost five pounds. My husband isn’t keeping track, but he’s lost weight too. (I can tell because there is less of him to wrap my arms around.) This makes both of us happier with ourselves, as we have carried unnecessary girth around for some time now.

heart in sky

(Not my photo)

Perhaps this biggest benefit to the diet changes for me, is the way I have seen my moodiness and stamina stabilize in a big way. With a predisposition for depression in my family of origin, and having lived it firsthand for many years, I’m indescribably thankful to God for helping us put our aspirations into action through the Brain Balance program. To be sure, there is more than one way to achieve balance in one’s life. If I had hired a personal trainer for myself, I’m certain that I might see similar results, though perhaps not as dramatic, because a personal trainer’s diet would not have eliminated all of the inflammatory foods that BB has. As a mom, I have never been able to make that kind of investment in myself, worthwhile as it may be. What got us on board here, is that the well-being of our kids would be directly improved thereby. We had no idea how transformative it would actually be. For Michael and I, Brain Balance is a means of accelerating our physical and mental development beyond what it was. For Dash and Big B, and to a lesser extent, all five of our kids, BB is a way for us to help them over developmental hurdles that have heretofore been insurmountable. It may as well have been Mt. Everest to us.

climbing everest

(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

Brain Balance Assessment Epiphanies

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(Not my photo)

Definition of epiphany (n)

e·piph·a·ny

 [ i píffənee ]
1. sudden realization: a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence
2. appearance of god: the supposed manifestation of a divine being
When a parent first sits down to discuss the results of assessments on her child’s development, emotions are mixed. Regardless of what the conclusions my be, some apprehension is present. In our case, not too much, but a little bit. The person interpreting the results for you has the power to either confirm or deny your long-held suspicions about your child. You ask yourself, am I just imagining it? Are these problems really just a product of my not having parented well? All of the critical voices come to the fore at a time like this, and inform the level of a mom’s anxiety. I am a lucky woman, in the sense that my husband always respects my opinions about how we want to parent, and encourages me to follow my intuition as mom. By the time we brought Dash and Big B to the Brain Balance center, we knew that they were neurologically atypical, in varying degrees. Knowing this, I still found myself quite surprised at what we learned. It didn’t completely floor me, because I knew that God was guiding us along. But still at this juncture, the confirmation of my gut feelings was emotional. Scarcely a week has passed since this meeting, and having begun this intensive program, we feel as if swept up in a powerful whirlwind, which is all-consuming.
ImageDash on his 1st Birthday

ImageBig B, on his 1st Birthday

We learned that Dash has, over the years, developed some pretty good coping mechanisms to compensate for primitive reflexes that he still exhibits. These reflexes normally go away during infancy and toddlerhood, but apparently they can stick around for years on end. I was completely unaware that he has some eye muscle immaturity, which has likely interfered with his schoolwork. I won’t detail the full report here, but just highlight some things. With Dash being a great reader, I never suspected that his eyes were anything but normal. In reality, out of four areas of visual testing (ability to do slow and fast eye movements, light sensitivity, eye stability during head movement, etc.) he consistently had delays of at least two years (the eye development of a 6-10 yr.old). One test showed us exactly where he placed his eyes while reading a designated passage. Those with great reflexes and muscle development track smoothly through written passages. But Dash’s eyes moved not so smoothly, tracking back at points, and his effienciency diminished near the end, as his eyes began to tire.

He and Big B both hear perfectly well, but their processing of sound is delayed. While Dash’s balance and equillibrium were normal, his spatial awareness was that of a 6-yr.old. His core muscle strength was that of a 4-8 yr. old. All this and more helped me to understand my 13-year-old much better. Big B’s assessment was even more enlightening, if that is possible. He still retains all of the primitive reflexes. One of them is less pronounced than the others, but all are contributing to frustration in his current executive functioning. His core strength is that of a 3-year-old. While his auditory perception is that of a teenager, his auditory processing is also that of a 3-year-old. In terms of fine and gross motor development, spatial awareness, balance, rhythm, coordination and equillibrium, he is developmentally 2-years-old.

Big B’s eye muscle and vision tests were possibly the most surprising to me. They revealed that his eye reflexes are non-existent, meaning he can’t look to a point in what should be his peripheral vision without also turning his head in the same direction. The effect of this disability is that he’s suffered with a type of tunnel vision. Not that his eye muscles are defective, only they are poorly developed, as if he were still an infant. This discovery made me instantly both sad and hopeful. Sad, because he has labored with it now for six years, and I had not perceived it. Certainly I have added to his distress by my heretofor unrealistic expectations of him, in more ways than one. Especially regarding academic tasks, I have been humbled. I understand now that to press him to “catch up” academically with his 6-and 7-year-old peers is to ask the impossible of him. He is stuck in the sensory-motor stages of development.

I am also hopeful, because I understand that my 6-year-old’s neuroplasticity at this stage in the game is exceptional. I have seen into the wisdom of homeschooling. I felt that God had guided us formerly, and again recently, to pursue this course for our children. Right now Big B is the most needy, but all of our children are benefitting from the home programming exercises, and I expect to see an acceleration of developmental and academic progress as we move forward. Only in homeschooling circles have I found social and philosophical support for the idea that it is best to allow a child to progress academically at his own pace, even if it stretches into the teens. Without an intervention program like Brain Balance, many children are weighed down by these developmental delays, and they have to labor on the conveyor belt public model, despite their disabilities. The solution to these delays, without such helpful supports, does not happen without the passage of time. With the freedom to pursue improvement at individualized paces, what emotional and mental harm could we prevent! Brain Balance is a remedy to the scenario in which a child takes many years to achieve vital developmental milestones. In the homeschool community have we seen the evidence that children do catch up, even if it takes a long time, when they are allowed the freedom to pursue their course accordingly. But how merciful that programs like Brain Balance and groups like the NACD offer valuable intervention services that accelerate developmental processes for kids and families who struggle to efficiently navigate the journey.

After this lengthy post detailing vital ways the assessments have helped us, I hardly need to say that this service makes my short list of “the best money I’ve ever spent” items. Even if a parent chose only to embrace the assessment, nutrition and home programming element of this program, without the in-person sessions at BB, it would help immensely. This objective insight into a child’s reality can only be helpful in fostering a higher quality of family life. We may yet bring our other three children for assessement, as our circumstances permit. I hope in the mean time to take full advantage of what we have learned, and propel all of us wholeheartedly into the intensity of the program. This blog is sure to be one of the best pressure moderation valves I have available to me, moving forward.

Please share, if you think our journey could be helpful to others.

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