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Saturday, 22 July 2017
 
 
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Review: MeMoves Print
Like many of the items reviewed here, I first learned of MeMoves through a forum that focuses on parenting children who experienced early stress prior to adoption. Many of these children show signs of anxiety or hypervigilence and have difficulty with self-regulation. Since MeMoves is said to be a "fast and effective way to calm the nervous system and increase focus and attention" (from manufacturer), it sounded like a match for children wired for stress.

With MeMoves, participants watch a DVD and imitate a person on screen as they move their bodies in various patterns. The patterns, with rhythm and background music, are first shown in an on-screen drawing, and then replicated by a person doing the same movements. (Sample portions of the video are available to watch on the MeMoves website.) Persons of many different ages and races are shown. The literature included in the package notes that "Research presented in May 2010 at the International Meeting for Autism Research demonstrated that doing MeMoves for only a few minutes a day altered brain waves and activated 'mirror neurons,' resulting in positive behavioral changes."

Since it's late November and holidays tend to "prime the anxiety pump" I thought it would be a good time to put this program to the test. To make the challenge more difficult, I picked an "Eeyore" day. Ever have those at your house? At my house, an Eeyore day begins with a child who wakes up grumpy, complains about breakfast, picks on a sibling through playtime, struggles with homework, and "accidentally" forgets to do what she was told. (I'm sure that never happens to any of you!)

I called the child (who shall remain nameless in case she ever wishes to run for major office) and another child over to the computer. On the DVD, participants can choose from three categories: joy, focus, and calm. Hard to guess what I chose, isn't it? :) In the first couple minutes, I was doubtful that even "Joy" could pull the child out of her funk. But all three of us continued, imitating the movements, one child and I smiling back at the smiling people on screen while the first child continued to frown. (I had to work to see her reflection in my computer screen!)

After a few minutes she complained that this sequence of moves wasn't hard enough. (She'd briefly used the program alone a couple other times and knew that there were more complex moves yet to be had.) So I let her pick the pattern. She started smiling, and busted out laughing when in one pattern a child moves his hands and seems to fly off the screen; she hit the repeat button so she could laugh some more.

Both children (ages 6 and 10) could do all the moves and proclaimed that the program was fun. Best of all? Several hours later, the child's joy-filled mood continues. As I write, she is whistling, playing a game with the rest of the family.

So far, we have only used the DVD portion of the program. MeMoves also comes with "Puzzle Cards" showing drawings that depict each movement. The cards can be used with an accompanying CD or music of the participant's choice. I'll slip this in the car the next time we plan a road trip. From what I've seen so far, the program is definitely something worth considering for children that struggle with stress and issues of self-regulation.

Disclaimer: I received MeMoves for review purposes without any other compensation. I did not promise a positive review. This review is my opinion.
Articles-School Print

Effective Back-to-School Strategies
This article presents five effective strategies discussed that you can use when working to help your child have the best educational experience possible. These include the following:

1. Be an advocate for you child
2. Understand the difficulty of transitions
3. Respond instead of react to the child
4. Empower your child with resources
5. Create a stress-free classroom


Letter to Educators
A "open letter to educators who work with students who have been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or have suffered early trauma."

Back to School Basics
A social worker who is a post adoption counselor and adoptive parent answers some frequently asked questions about adoption and school.

Links to Articles on School Issues
A large list of school links from a website focusing on attachment disorder.

IEP Ideas
Many specific problems and accommodations to use when writing school IEPs.

Overview of Reactive Attachment Disorder for Teachers
Nancy Thomas’s letter for teachers defines reactive attachment disorder and gives specific suggestions for the classroom.

Alfie Kohn website
Interesting articles collected by author Alfie Kohn who writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education and parenting.

KEEP THE COOL IN SCHOOL Promoting Non-Violent Behavior in Children
Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, a leading expert on brain development and children in crisis, has identified six core strengths that children need to be humane. Each of the articles that follows features one of the core strengths.

Attachment: The First Core Strength
In this article, Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., explores attachment and how it contributes to preventing aggression and anti-social behaviors in children.

Self-Regulation: The Second Core Strength
Dr. Perry explores self-regulation and how it contributes to preventing aggression and anti-social behaviors in children.

Affiliation: The Third Core Strength
Dr. Perry shares how educators can help students feel included, connected and valued.

Diversity: We're all Different (We're all the Same)
Dr. Perry shares ideas about encouraging children to respect and appreciate each other's differences and similarities.

Tolerance: The Fifth Core Strength
Dr. Perry discusses tolerance, the most complex of the six core strengths.

Respect: The Sixth Core Strength
Dr. Perry explores how educators can help students accept and enjoy the differences in others.

Dr. Bruce Perry-Scholastic
Extensive list of resources for educators and families from Dr. Bruce Perry.

Bonding & Attachment in Maltreated Children
Dr. Perry explains why experiences during infancy and early childhood are so critical to shaping our capacity to form emotionally healthy relationships, and how maltreatment can impair this important capability.

Bonding & Attachment in Maltreated Children: How You Can Help
In this article, Dr. Perry suggests ways that responsive adults, such as parents, teachers, and other caregivers, can make all the difference in the lives of maltreated children.

The Impact of Abuse and Neglect on the Developing Brain
Find out how destructive experiences can affect children in far-reaching ways — emotional, behavioral, academic, social, and physical — for life.

Principles of Working with Traumatized Children
Some special considerations for teachers and caregivers in understanding and working with children who have suffered trauma.



Review: emWave Desktop...Stress Into Resilience Print
I need an emWave moment. I just wrote a long review and lost the entire thing. I think you'll understand my need for an emWave moment after reading this review...

A friend and fellow adoptive parent introduced me to emWave Desktop Stress Relief System. After she brought it over for a trial run, I contacted the folks at emWave and asked for a review/loaner copy to use with my kids. Here's a bit of information from the packaging:
emWave Desktop is a scientifically validated hardware/software system that teaches techniques to help you create an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are operating in-sync and balanced. This is achieved through a patented process which displays heart rhythm patterns in real time showing you when you are in this aligned state.

We call this coherence.

emWave Desktop helps you achieve coherence and resilience through simple-to-learn exercises and feedback. Using a pulse sensor plugged into your USB port, emWave Desktop collects pulse data and translates coherence information into user-friendly graphics displayed on your computer screen. Through coherence techniques, interactive exercises and game play, emWave Desktop helps you bring your heart and mind into a coherent state, building resilience, increasing energy, and promoting focus, mental clarity and emotional balance.
I tried the program with my 9 and 5-year-old children. It proved to be a success with my 9-year-old. He quickly understood the concept and could work at relaxation and deep breathing as he watched the various programs. He understood how to move the rainbow toward a pot of gold, fly a hot air balloon higher and faster, and create colorful gardens...all things achieved by working at relaxation. Sometimes he'd select the "Coherence Coach" mode and breathe as a ball moved up and down on the screen. In moments of anxiety, the program has proved especially helpful to him. Recently, he's experienced stress about upcoming basketball practices. When we see the stress coming, he spends 5-15 minutes on emWave and returns noticeably calmer.

While I could teach him deep breathing techniques (we've used a wide variety of relaxation techniques and tools over the years), it's been helpful to have him sit in a quiet room, focusing on nothing but the emWave program. No distractions. At this point in his life and development, that's quite helpful.

His little brother is a different story. At 5, he doesn't get the program. "Why isn't the rainbow coming down, Mom?" I contacted the emWave representative to ask questions about age appropriateness. The response? It's best used with ages 7 and up. Makes total sense. A young child doesn't have the focus, nor does he understand what he needs to do to relax, based on the feedback on screen.

The program has been so successful with my 9-year-old, however, that I asked to purchase my review copy. After trying out our program, my mom, intrigued, bought her own. It really is a dandy little tool.

This program isn't the cure-all for a child with stress and anxiety. But it is a worthwhile tool; one that I'm happy to have in our toolbox. Off to have an emWave moment...



Disclaimer: I borrowed an emWave for review purposes. I did not promise a positive review. After a month I asked to purchase the review copy. This review is my opinion. If you purchase from Amazon, all commissions are given to Grace and Hope for foster care in China at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
Time for Tummies Print
By Jane Samuel


Summary: In our journey to heal our youngest daughter from her developmental delays we returned to the true basics – crawling, creeping, rocking, and touch. In the world of therapy it is called neuro-reorganization, but in our house it is just called tummies and knees.

Our youngest spent her first year in an orphanage in Hunan China, in a colorless, frigid in winter, broiling in summer, toyless 8’ X 8’ room, along with four other infants and her ayi (or nanny). Twenty-four seven. Her routine (as we later learned) most likely went something like this: baby wakes and is fed rice porridge (from bottle with large hole cut in nipple, propped up against side of cradle); ayi removes soiled clothing and holds baby under cold water spigot to wash away waste then dresses baby, sans diaper in “clothes” (4 layers if winter, hospital style Johnny if summer); ayi props baby in potty chair (think of a 1’ X 1’ wooden playpen, with a seat in the middle with a hole for waste material to drop though into a pot) and waits for bowel movement; ayi props up baby in walker and puts her in hall with twenty other infants in same state of affairs; aye takes baby from walker and feeds then diapers baby with small rag tied with string; ayi puts baby down for nap in cradle 1’ X 2’; baby wakes, ayi repeats morning cycle; ayi repeats noon cycle then wraps again in clean rag, and swaddles (tightly) in cotton quilt for the night; ayi repeats each and every day, day in and day out.

Our older two daughters spent their early days at home with me, or their sitter. Their routine went something like this: baby wakes and calls out to Mommy; Mommy appears with smile on her face calling “good morning baby-girl” in a sing-song voice; Mommy changes baby, taking care to keep baby warm and pick out soft clothing; Mommy nurses baby while rocking and singing songs and looking longingly into baby’s eyes; Mommy carries baby into her room, puts baby in bouncy seat and talks with baby while showering and dressing; mommy carries baby to kitchen, puts baby in swing and swings baby while mommy eats; mommy puts baby in sling and walks out in the sunshine; mommy points out the birds and the trees to baby; mommy stops to talk with a friend and friend admires baby; baby begins to fuss so mommy heads home to change, feed, and nurse baby, mommy reads baby a book and puts baby down in her crib for a nap; baby wakes and mommy puts baby on floor on soft cloth, baby pushes self up, then creeps forward on her tummy, trying to lift her body, baby works hard, mommy cheers her on; baby fusses, mommy soothes baby; mommy repeats cycle again and again, loving baby.

It was two years into her life with us (age 3) when we realized the profound effect such a difference in nurturing plays in emotional and physical development, and sadly, what E had truly missed. Faced with trying to understand her developmental delays and increasing emotional outbursts, I began to read about brain development and neuroscience in infants, especially those faced with neglect and trauma. What I learned was fascinating and significant food for thought for any parent, biological or adoptive.

According to the newer research, when life begins the brain is only a blueprint of what could be. The pathways are “penciled in” so to speak, but are by no means set in stone. That comes later as the infant begins to take in their surroundings (sensory input) and begins moving (output). Even movements that seem trivial to the watching eye, such as kicking against the crib mattress, wiggling around on the floor or visually following mom as she walks about the kitchen cooking dinner, are developing neural pathways. In the womb and in the early months the pons, or lowest level, of the brain is being mapped. In the later months and into toddlerhood, it is the midbrain. It is this neurological integration that is so necessary for basic cognitive and physical skills such as filtering, focusing, accurate sensory perception, visual motor skills, midline awareness, visual tracking and alignment, upper/lower body integration, coordination, as well as appropriate emotional development.

When I sat and thought of all the stuff I had done with my older two children in the course of a single day, and compared that with the stark days that E had spent in a Chinese orphanage it suddenly made sense that her brain had not been given the chance it needed to build in a healthy manner, bottom to top. No wonder she had good executive functioning (higher brain) but was a mess when it came to pons level stuff (emotional regulation, feelings of safety and trust, etc) and midbrain (motor planning, sequencing, sensory management, etc)

Couple that research with perhaps one of the most positive scientific pronouncements of the decade - that the brain is actually more plastic than originally imagined - and you have the recipe for potential healing. If a child did not get the proper nurturing to build neural pathways and hook up synapses the first time around there is still hope. Much like a stroke victim who has suffered damage to the brain and can, through the proper movement therapy, create new brain pathways to take over for the old damaged ones, an infant or child who has suffered neglect and/or trauma can have a second chance in life; a “do over” so to speak.

So it is E’s “do over” that we have been working on for the past four plus years. First through weekly sensory based occupational therapy (remember her sensory experience was nominal at best so it needs lots of work) and finally graduating to what I fondly call “OT on steroids”, daily neuro-developmental movement (or in our therapist’s lingo – “neuro-reorganization”).

We (well really E with me trailing at a snail’s pace, my forty-seven year old body questioning loudly why I am down on all fours) creep around the house, looking for treats strategically placed under boxes, or play-acting a scene from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Then she crawls along on her tummy (think combat crawl) back and forth through the kitchen and family room (I knew those hardwood floors would pay off) as I scoot in front of her on a scooter board, alternately cheering her on and feeding her the snack de jour. She rolls in a barrel, jumps on a supersize ball, spins on an office chair, or cartwheels across the kitchen in little fifteen second bursts of what her therapist likes to call “vestibular input”. (Did you know that the brain fires for fifteen seconds, working to create a neural pathway?) We do bear hugs (oh to be able to hug her finally and not have her squirm to get away!), massage and soft touch, “sensory input” in therapy jargon.

E has been a trooper through this all, though her cooperation level has definitely increased as she has become aware that this is building her brain (oh, and bribes help too). And we have been even more driven to complete our daily work as we have witnessed her emotional regulation improve, her stamina increase and her love of us expand exponentially. I can truly say that I now see the child that was always in there, but was too covered up with what we in the child trauma world like to call “the layers of the onion”. What we have now, instead of an onion is a loving, patient, cooperative, empathetic, motor-planning and almost reading (Yeah!) flower.

This is one of my passions (though I would have laughed if you told me 10 years ago I would give up practicing law to crawl around on my hands and knees pretending to be Rudolf). Giving E her “do over,” the time she missed, the time she needs, to be the best she can be is what I must do. So if you will pardon me, it is time for tummies!

To read more go to:

Developmental Movement

Active Healing

Neurodevelopmental Healing

Neurological Reorganization

Also, you can join the conversation at NEUROnetwork

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