Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Proprioception’

Seen and Unseen Progress, Big B

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Big B and Sparkle Swimming

Big B has been making good strides in his development, and this makes his mama very happy. I was beginning to wonder if the meltdowns would ever cease. Finally in week 8, I saw a significant decrease in the drama, which I’m sure was a relief to all of us, especially Big B. Among other things, I have seen him playing more nicely with his younger brother. Where B is normally inclined toward very rough play, I have noticed that he has started to be more gentle. It doesn’t always last very long, but one day I saw him playing imaginatively with Baby Blues for an hour at least, perhaps more. They were pretending to be animals, dogs and big cats, I believe. Rather than pushing his brother around and provoking him to fight, Big B played gently, which is rare for him.

Another random thing he did was to take a big pad of paper and a pen. He sat quiet and still on his bed (another unprecedented behavior for B!) and wrote down all of the letters he knew in the alphabet. Usually writing practice with him is like pulling teeth. But not only did he start writing random letters. At one point he brought me a white folded card he’d retrieved from our stationary box, and written his name on it with a picture of a person on the front. He told me it was a letter for Grandma, and wanted me to put a stamp on it. He did all of this after watching his older sister write a letter then address and stamp it.

In swimming, he also has made a lot of progress. He and Baby Blues were in the same beginner’s swim class. While the latter was obviously uncomfortable in the water, B just took to it like a fish, and fearlessly tried anything the teacher asked of him. One day he was barely learning to dunk his head under, and in a short time he’d learned how to float. Not long after he started swimming around with a pretty decent free stroke that helped him navigate in the 3-foot section of the pool.

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Baby Blues sitting on the stairs, sometimes until someone compels (or bribes) him to take his turn practicing the swim skills.

Moving on to Big B’s Progress Report, I was happy to discover that like Dash, he too had made improvements in all of the developmental tasks he has been working on. It is exciting to see the home improvements! Even more exciting is the discovery of his new skill levels, of which I’ve hitherto been unaware. His coaches have said: “B has improved so much in the Sensory Motor Room! He comes right in and gets right to work! We are very excited about the improvement in his VOR reflexes! He has been working hard in the Cognitive Room! His listening comprehension is great! We are proud of him!”

Among his greatest needs when he started the Brain Balance program in August were Big B’s eyes and eye reflexes. He was still an infant in his vestibulo-ocular reflex, which naturally went to the top of our list of things to work hard on. In the first month, no matter how much we worked on it, we could not get him to execute the eye exercises with great efficacy. He tried his best, and submitted to the process, but no improvement was visible. So when we learned that his VOR had jumped from level 0 out of 15 all the way up to level 5, we were shouting for joy! He’s definitely benefitting from the exercises, and we need to help him to keep working hard. In Optokinetics, he went from a 5 out of 15 to a 6 out of 15. At first he could barely tolerate wearing the visual stimulation glasses. But he’s gotten to where he now can tune out the flashing light, and complete his tasks. His skill level there increased from a 1 out of 7 in August, now up to a level 6! Great progress.

In auditory stimulation (wearing headphones, filtering out only what he is hearing in his left ear) he jumped from  level 1 out of 3 up to a 3! In his auditory processing, he actually exceeded his goal, which was to reach his age level. He went from a 3-year-old level in August now up to the level of an 8-year-old! More great news, and encouragement for his mama.

In touch, he has also improved in all categories. In tactile stimulation (wearing vibrating cuffs around his left arm and left leg, which he has to ignore while doing other tasks), he went from a level 1 out of 8 in August all the way up to a level 7! In fine motor development, he went from a 2-year-old level to that of a 3-year-old. In spinning, he went from a level 3 out of 8 in August, now up to a 6. In proprioception, he went from the level of a 3-year-old to that of a 4-year-old. So still plenty of room for improvement, but he is getting there! Happy Dance!

In synchronization, he has also improved in all three categories. In balance beam work, he progressed from a 3-year-old level to that of a 4-year-old. In gait and aerobics, he has gone from age 2 to age 5 since he started! Working with the interactive metronome, he progressed from age 4 to age 5. In core strength, Big B has improved. In two categories he is up to his age level. In supine/back: he’s gone from age 3 to age 6, so goal accomplished. In prone/stomach he has gone from age 3 to age 4. In lateral/side he has gone from age 3 to age 6, so up to his goal now. In  brachiation/upper-body grip, he has gone from age 3 to age 4.

One of the fun and happy side benefits from enrolling us in Brain Balance is how the nutrition program continues to help us feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually. It feels so good to be healthier, and just brings great peace of mind. My husband has had perpetual acid reflux problems, complicated by an esophageal hernia in the last few years. Ever since we started with the diet change, he’s not had one symptom of either condition, at all! He has lost at least twenty pounds, probably more. I have lost 12 pounds so far, and each of our kids have lost weight as well. In Baby Blues’ and Dash’s cases, that’s not a good thing, so we are trying to pack as many oils into their food, especially Baby’s right now. But for the rest of us, getting trimmer has felt really good. Living the benefits from eating clean is enough to convince us that the lifestyle changes are worth it. Soon we will take a new family picture, and I will put it side-by-side with the last one we took, to see how we have changed. Here are two pictures we took on Memorial Day this year.

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Left to Right: Big B, Daddy Michael, Freckles, Sparkle, Mama Rebecca, Baby Blues, Dash

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I love my Sweetie

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

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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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