PROPRIOCEPTION + VESTIBULAR
"What many people don't understand is that our brain is developed by our body through our senses and our interactions with our environment."
It is through our senses, and 2 other very important systems, the vestibular and proprioception (PRO-pre-asep-SHEN) systems, that our brain makes sense of the world around us. It is the development and integration of these systems that lets us interpret and do everything we do...things like walking, reading, and knowing where our body starts and stops. Every bit of stimuli that we encounter in the world is processed through our senses and then combined and collaboratively understood with all our other senses, then referenced against our previous experiences to understand if they are safe or favorable experiences.
The more we experience and use our sensory systems the more developed and wired our brain becomes.
One of the most promising discoveries in recent science is 'brain plasticity'. Brain plasticity refers to the brain's ability to change and improve through how we stimulate and nurture it. The old paradigm and understanding of the brain was the 'Black Box' theory. The idea that the brain was hard-wired and incapable of change, the motherboard of a computer with a specific program, and if damaged, un-repairable.
Through the recent technology of brain imaging we have discovered that this is not true. We have discovered that the brain can change through repetitive stimulation making new neural connections and pathways.
The most important part of the statement I just said is "REPETITIVE". In order to create strong neural connections and pathways, we need to do it enough times that it imprints on the brain and becomes automatic...it needs to be worn in like a well traveled path.
We are all very familiar with the five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste...with sight and sound having the biggest impact on our children's learning. But the other two, the vestibular system and the proprioceptive systems, play vital roles that are not always immediately obvious.
80% of the stimulation we take in to understand our environment is visual. We pair our visual information with the information from other senses to assess and comprehend every situation. When it comes to vision it is not just necessary to have good eye sight, but it is necessary that your eyes are able to work well together, track, and move fluidly across a page of words. If the eyes are not working well together they make it very hard to be a fluent reader, but even worse, it sends two different messages(pictures) to the brain, which it can not use. This is where we start to see Brain hemisphere dominance. The brain can not use two different visual inputs at once so it is forced to choose one message(eye) and ignore the other. If not corrected the ignored eye will eventually get so weak that it will be useless. Eye exercises are used in the Brain Hemisphere integration program because it is important to strengthen the muscles and mobility of the eyes together.
There is a tremendous amount of research documenting the incredible affects music has on the brain. Music is used in two different ways. One is to train the ear to hear specific frequencies. Some kids struggle to hear and process certain frequencies making learning phonics, or following instructions incredibly hard. The second way has to do with brainwave entrainment. This is the process of playing music that the brain can follow to learn a more optimal brainwave state. Contrary to what most people think, most kids with ADHD have extremely slow brainwaves. These kids are operating at a frequency just above sleeping and daydreaming...their constant motion is the body's effort to keep their brain awake.
I have had the privilege to be trained by, and offer to my clients, the best modified listening program available to families. The Listening Program, was developed by a US doctor that saw the power of modified classical music to train the ear and the brainwaves to perform at a more optimal state. I have seen it used for hyperactivity, anxiety, sleep struggles, better reading, and generally a better mental state. (I will write more about The Listening Program in Products and Programs)
SMELL & TASTE
Many parents complain that their children are fussy eaters. When kids are fussy eaters, especially with traditional kid favorites, it is usually a sign that they cannot smell their food. The sense of smell is one of our most basic senses and dramatically affects how we experience things. Without the sense of smell food tastes very different and kids do not experience food as 'delicious', the same as others do. Few realize the significant role the sense of smell plays in our ability to learn, memorize, and socilaize. Truthfully, we should only need to look at our most recent evolution and animal behavior to understand what a huge role the sense of smell plays in our brains and in our emotions.
Many kids have an impaired sense of smell and parents are completely unaware of it. Because smell is not something that is tested at the doctors office, and kids don't realize it is not working well, it usually goes undetected. It is often not until we attempt to do Brain Hemisphere Integration training and the 'sniff tests' that a parent becomes aware that their child is unable to smell properly. Don't worry, like most things it is usually easily overcome by training it.
Kids can either be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to touch. Kids that are over-sensitive to touch often don't like to be hugged, or site near others. They don't like tags in their clothes, or dirt on their hands. Under-sensitive kids are the opposite, they are very clingy, constantly want to lean on you, and usually have food on their face after meals because they can't feel it. They crave touch, they love to rough house, it is like they don't feel their bodies well. Almost all touch-sensitive kids, however, find deep pressure soothing. Weighted blankets and dry brushing have been used very successfully with kids with touch sensitivity issues.
To keep it incredibly simple, the vestibular system is the body's internal balance and compass system. It lets us know if we are standing still or in motion, upside down or right-side up, falling or spinning. Paired with vision and sound, we are able to determine our relation to other objects. The vestibular system is housed in the inner ear and is comprised of fluid that flows through three tubes(dependent on direction) which moves tiny hairs in the tubes, sending messages to the brain about direction of movement. Our balance is dependent on these signals. The other very important role our vestibular system plays, is with our eyes. When we walk or run the vestibular messages help our eye muscles (oculomotor) constantly micro calibrate so that our vision appears to stay stead. The vestibular system also plays a role in a child's confidence and how outgoing they are. If a child always feels slightly off balance they become more hesitant and tend to avoid activities or sports that require good balance.
"They must move to grow, it is
how the brain develops."
Proprioception is our ability to feel our own body in space without seeing it. It is our understanding of where our body starts and stops.
We have proprioceptors deep in our muscle spindles, tendons, and joints, that send messages to our body about where we are in space and the force or effort required for movement. Every time our body is required to push, pull, lift, or jump, we are developing our proprioceptive system. It assists us to develop muscle control and balance to be able to make smooth and fluid movements with our body.
Children that can not feel their bodies well, really struggle to fell grounded both physically and emotionally. These kids usually feel timid and unsure of themselves. They are often clumsy and bang into things, are constantly touching things to get a sense of where they are, and have no sense of direction. In school they struggle with math operations or letter reversals (directional), press too hard when they write, and tuck their feet up on their chair to sit on them to get that extra weight and pressure on them just so they know they are grounded in their chair.
What teachers and parents often tend to forget is that while kids are at school to learn, their evolutionary programming for survival will always trump any school lesson. This is why we must teach our kids to use their body, develop their senses, develop their balance and self awareness, and really wire their brain through movement and experiences. It is not until all this groundwork is done, that a child is truly available for academic learning.