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Sunday, 24 January 2021
Neurological Development: How Gaps Can Cause Various "Symptoms" Print
During normal development, a series of steps occur that lead to optimal brain function. As the brain grows, each developmental level builds on previous levels. If growth in one level is incomplete, the brain does not stop growing. But the individual may show signs or symptoms of these “holes” in the foundation; he may also have to work extra hard to compensate.

So what impedes normal neurological development & function?

  • Lack of movement: babies must spend ample time on the floor. They need a lot of experiences both on their tummies and on hands and knees. They should NOT be placed into positions that they are unable to get into on their own…i.e. if a baby doesn’t sit alone, he shouldn’t sit. No exersaucers. No walkers. No swings. No plastic containers for anything but riding in the car. Before the advent of “back to sleep,” babies did the majority of their tummy crawling while sleeping. Now the adage is “back to sleep, prone to play.” And when on tummy, use minimal clothing (easy to move in...like onesie) and a clear surface (no thick quilts/baby blankets).
  • Prenatal stress: brain chemistry is affected by stress in-utero. A stressful pregnancy can cause cortisol build-up in the infant brain. Pre-birth stress may also affect the essential movements that are done before birth. These movements or patterns are essential building blocks for neurological function.
  • Poor prenatal care
  • Birth trauma
  • Bonding breaks: cause fight/flight response in the brain, releasing enough damaging chemicals to cause brain injury.
  • Poor infant nutrition
  • Neglect/trauma/abuse/chronic stress

Good neurological development also depends on essential input and output. To date, they have identified 32 patterns or whole body reflexes that comprise input; think of this as the software being loaded into a computer. Some of these patterns occur in-utero; others take place during the first year of life. The patterns are naturally introduced in a certain order and naturally eliminated when they are no longer needed. So, for example, there are patterns essential for the birthing process that the body should no longer exhibit within a few months of birth. If these patterns remain, they could impede neurological development.

Output is comprised of motor skills that evolve naturally from the input. The process of developing these skills are essential; things like creeping and crawling must evolve naturally in accordance with the input (whole body reflexive patterns) that are occurring in a similar time frame. Creeping, crawling, walking, running, etc… become increasingly organized as the corresponding levels of the brain develop. You cannot teach these skills from the outside and produce change in the brain. They need to evolve through the process of repetitive movement. This can be seen in any small infant. Little inchworm and wiggle movements eventually evolve to more sophisticated tummy crawling and eventually even more complex hands-and-knees creeping. When these movements combine with the corresponding patterns, the brain receives necessary input for optimal development.

Ideally, a child has good prenatal care in an unstressed prenatal environment, goes home to a familiar primary caregiver who is with him 24/7, and is given extensive amounts of floortime. When these things do not occur, the result may be brain “injury” or dysfunction.

When dysfunction occurs, it can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways…too numerous to list here. But as a small sampling, a person might exhibit any of the following:

  • visual: may affect eye contact, reading, perception of the world, attention & focus, distracted by details, can’t read facial expressions
  • auditory: fear of non-threatening noises, distracted by every sound, doesn’t understand emotion in voices, tunes out, stressed in noisy environments, hyperfocused at play
  • tactile: extremes in feeling heat, cold, hunger, pain; toileting issues after 3yo, risk taking, picking/scratching/hair pulling, poor empathy, particular about textures, resists hugs/kisses, seems clumsy, always touching, puts things in mouth, problems with understanding where he is in space in relation to others, may poke others not to be obnoxious but for the need to understand where he is in relation to others
  • mobility: “walks like a bear”, poor balance, high or low muscle tone
  • language: may be either of two extremes-loud and acting out, extremely compliant and quiet so as to not attract attention; anxious, shy, clingy, poor pronunciation, stutters, mumbles, speaks LOUD or soft, perseverates, monotone
  • manual: hands in fists, esp. when under stress, holds pencil poorly, poor fine motor skills
  • mental health: labels including RAD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic stress, eating disorders, OCD, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum, allergies/autoimmune, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, learning disabilities
  • corpus callosum: problems with short term memory (knew math facts yesterday, but not today), poor impulse control, doesn’t get cause/effect, high frustration level

When a neurodevelopmentalist does an assessment, she can detect which areas of the brain have wiring issues through a series of non-invasive tests. Even the collection of “symptoms” leads to a pretty good understanding of which areas of the brain are struggling. We looked at several case studies and could largely determine which areas of the brain were affected just by reading the combination of symptoms that the person was experiencing.

When the functional deficits are determined, the neurodevelopmentalist can then create a program of input/output exercises that the child does at home. These movements recreate the normal developmental sequence, going back to the lowest level of the brain that is showing symptoms of dysfunction. Overtime, new pathways can be made, which create new brain “foundations.” Again, individuals with these low-level function deficits usually have normal cortical (high level) brain function. The person with dysfunction could be the smartest kid in the class! But the dysfunction results in “symptoms” which limit life in other ways. When the new wiring is created, the symptoms can be greatly reduced or eliminated, leading to normal neurological function.

--submitted by adoptive parent who just took a 16-hour training, “Neurological Reorganization, Introductory Workshop” from NNTC.
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