Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex’

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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