Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘What is Seen and What is Not Seen’

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

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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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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.

Seen and Unseen Progress: Dash, Weeks 7-8

I just watched a great news clip on Fox Channel 13 news. It aired just a day ago. Our fabulous Brain Balance Center director, Tammy Bingham, shares more about the Brain Balance Centers in Utah, and what the program entails. Take a look, here. And if you are interested in more about Tammy’s journey with her kids, see her blog, Our Brain Balance Journey. It’s a great read!

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All that goes on in our brains is unseen to us, but it affects us profoundly. We daily make decisions in our individual lives that affect us for better or for worse. We invest ourselves in those endeavors which we believe will improve our lives either in the short-term or in the long one. The French economist Bastiat understood this well. He published a brilliant essay in 1848, titled: “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” One need not be an economist to benefit from his insight. He says among other things:

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There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

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Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

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The same thing, of course, is true of health and morals. Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits: for example, debauchery, sloth, prodigality. When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately.

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This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution. Ignorance surrounds him at his cradle; therefore, he regulates his acts according to their first consequences, the only ones that, in his infancy, he can see. It is only after a long time that he learns to take account of the others. Two very different masters teach him this lesson: experience and foresight. Experience teaches efficaciously but brutally. It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned ourselves, that fire burns. I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight. For that reason I shall investigate the consequences of several economic phenomena, contrasting those that are seen with those that are not seen.

Now many a reader may peruse this quote, and say, “What in the world does this have to do with anything?” After all, I’m not a philosopher, and Brain Balance is certainly not about economics. But in a way, we are all economists, in the sense that we have to make those daily decisions which we believe will bless our lives and those around us the most. All of us base our choices on the real and personal consequences that follow. As fallible human beings, we may get caught up in capturing what we perceive as real, immediate benefits to a course of action, the end of which is seemingly right in front of our eyes. In this position we often act without considering the unseen, but equally real consequences, good or bad, of that course.

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Brain Balance always produces good fruit.
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In the case of the BB program, we are discussing an investment that always yields good fruit, both in the short-term and  the long-. As mothers of special needs kids, we learn how harsh a teacher experience can be. We try to foresee all obstacles that lay in our child’s path, and seek to remove them. Then we discover that we can’t remove all obstacles for our child, even if they were foreseen well in advance. Eventually they will have to tackle their own obstacles head-on, and we have to allow them the freedom to do that, even if they fall down along the way. In Weeks 7-8, we saw a lot of falling down at home. We struggled to fit in all of the exercise sessions, and our kids watched more Netflix than they should have. But we also saw some amazing progress in between all the meltdowns (some of which were my own tantrums, witnessed by five little people). Here is a little principle that I learned from Carol Tuttle, author of Remembering Wholeness.: As human beings, we tend to discover the secrets of a good and happy life by living out the reality of what we DON’T want. We make endless mistakes, but if we are wise, we choose to stop making the same mistakes, rather allowing them to inform our vision for the future. Then we exert ourselves to take those steps which will move toward that place we envision. When we have determined finally not to return to what we know, and which we don’t want, then we are making real progress.

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Being Realistic Is The Most Common Traveled Road To Mediocrity -Will Smith

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This is what we have desperately hoped to do, as we navigate through the Brain Balance program, on many fronts. We have taken a route which, in the short-term has been difficult for the family, in terms of family routine and nutritional changes. Brain Balance demands that we change many things about our lifestyle and schedule all at once, from Day 1. Naturally we are sometimes overwhelmed. But just as a smoker whose lungs immediately clear and gradually heal upon quitting, so have we been rewarded in our physical bodies. Only we didn’t know the extent to which our bodies had suffered under our habitually SAD diet. Only when we actually removed damaging substances did we personally feel the healing effects and recognize how badly it was needed.

free from food addiction

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DASH’s HOME PROGRESS:WHAT IS SEEN AND NOT SEEN

He is getting taller! On Sunday of Week 7, we went to visit Grandma’s house, where we got to visit for awhile, and ran into some of my siblings, whom we don’t see that much. One of his uncles who had been away for a number of  months with his work, immediately mentioned that Dash was getting taller. Within a few minutes of Dash entering the room where we grown-ups were chatting, three different people remarked the same. And Freckles too! I’m not sure if they are really growing taller, or if they just look taller because they have been losing the girth around their middles. But we were told by the Brain Balance people to expect that our children could see a period of physical growth, due to the dietary and exercise changes, which I believe we are seeing.

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Baby Blues, Dash, and Freckles: Swimming Lessons

We had all of the kids in swimming lessons this month, three days a week. Dash, Freckles and Sparkle are all making huge strides in their swimming technique, each new session bringing the chance for them to show me some new skill they have acquired in the aquatic realm. I remembered recently that in July when Dash had gone to Scout Camp, and also in months past, his leaders encouraged him to try to do the initial requirements for the swimming merit badge, and each time he tried, he failed. Well after just a week or two of swimming lessons, he went on a scout overnighter, and easily passed off not only the initial requirements, but virtually all of them. This was huge for him, and for us. I am so proud of him! I am also very proud of his sister and brothers, who are not a whit behind him in making great strides with their swimming.

Dash had a singular episode in Week 7 that was alarming at the time. I have since decided it is a sign that he is acquiring greater emotional awareness than he’s ever had before, and one of his BB trainers agrees. It was the night for both Dash and Freckles to go to their respective scout troop meetings. Freckles got out the door OK, but Dash was actually on his bed, and pulled the covers over his head when the appointed hour arrived. With some pushing and impatient words from me, he did get out of bed and come upstairs. But instead of getting ready to go, he laid down on the couch, and buried his head with a pillow. I continued to urge him in strong tones to go get his scout shirt on, and get in the car. I had seen it all before. Usually he relents, and complies with my request for action, albeit grumpily. Today however, no dice. He wasn’t. going. anywhere. I left him there, when it became clear that his mind was absolutely made up.

A few minutes later, I was startled to observe that Dash really did look very distraught about something. Upon further questioning, he mentioned that he was feeling really bad. He didn’t know why, at all. He said, “Mom, I don’t know why, but there are tears filling up in my eyes.” (Said with an inflection of unfamiliarity and surprise.) “I feel really bad, like something big is about to happen, something bad. I don’t understand it.” I asked him what he thought might happen, and he said he didn’t know. Was it something big, or something bad? I asked him. His answer: “Both.” I said, “Have you ever felt like this before?” His answer: “No.” Then he said, “Maybe it’s just puberty starting, Mom, I don’t really know.” In any case, it was an unprecedented display of emotion for Dash, a child who has always had a hard time clueing in to the emotions and inner-worlds of people around him.

emotions flash card

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A few days later in Week 8, I made another startling observation about Dash, but this time in a good way. Monday I had a huge Mommy meltdown moment. We came home from swimming lessons and everyone was very hungry, and in the kitchen all at once, looking for lunch supplies. Fighting ensued, because as we all know, too many cooks spoil the broth, am I right? It got pretty intense, and everyone started pushing everyone else, until finally I blew my top.

too many cooks spoil the broth

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I was yelling at the kids to leave the kitchen and go to their rooms, because I needed a break! Well it all escalated until everyone was almost in a full-on tantrum. But then the coolest thing happened, which almost makes me happy I melted down. Dash, seeing my obvious state of insanity, started picking up the house and encouraged the kids in a positive tone, to leave me alone and come out of the kitchen. He said something like “Mommy is tired, and we need to listen to her, because she has spent her whole life being our mom.” He alone got the kids to cooperate in exiting the premises. Then when the kids were under control again, he went out and brought all three of our trash cans back to the garage. Another situation which is unprecedented, and which gives me great hope. Either Dash is connecting better with his emotions and those of other people, or my meltdown was so acute and alarming, that it compelled Dash, as the next-oldest person in the vicinity, to re-establish homeostasis!

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Dash in an apron he made in Home Economics unit, Spring 2013

I will end this post with one more observation on Dash, which makes me happy. We decided to take a break in Week 8 from all technology/screens in our house during waking hours for the kids. After a day or two, they stopped asking for screen time, and that is when the real fun began. The kids searched out and found our box of dominoes, and decided to play. Some of the dominoes were missing though, so they couldn’t play a normal game with them. Well Dash, not losing a second, came up with a new game using dominoes that consisted of each person building a tower, and then knocking down each others’ creations in a mock battle. They all played this game for at least a couple or three hours that afternoon. I actually had to take the dominoes away from the big boys, still playing the game, so that they would go to bed.

domino tower

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Domino Tower: Not Dash’s but certainly not far off from what he sees in his mind when he builds one. The ability to see what cannot be seen.

I will write another post soon to talk about Big B’s progress, and do a more technical rundown of exercises and improvements, as per the report I received on both boys today.  They have made great improvements in all areas, and in some, it has been exceptional progress. Yay!!! Also, this week we are starting the food challenges. First challenge: Take out all potatoes from our diet for one week, and then add it back in over a four day period, to see if we have any reactions to them. By the middle of November we will have taken out and reintroduced into our diet three more foods too: corn, eggs, and rice. We will know by the end if we have any reactions among our family members to these items. It will be an exciting month!

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