The last blog discussed neurodevelopment and how it affects a child’s ability to learn, the learning process and that certain movements allow for the brain to be ‘rewired’, thus restructured for optimal learning.
A child can achieve their optimal learning potential through Neurodevelopmental Therapy, once it is known what is preventing the child from learning. The brain can be ‘re-wired’ as new neural pathways can always be formed in the brain to bring about learning success. This is due to plasticity of the brain, which is recognised by neuroscientists today. Brain plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to restructure itself, repair damaged areas or to grow new neural pathways to connect essential areas of the brain.
Through Neurodevelopmental Therapy, it is possible to observe enough clues to make valid assumptions about what kinds of movement the child needs in order to reorganise the brain.
This can be achieved by carefully selecting specific movement activities to map patterns to develop new neural pathways, thus helping to restructure the neural network and to create more effective brain integration and consequently, the responses of the child become more efficient and effective.
The exercises specifically target the reflexes, vestibular system, proprioceptive system, muscle tone, kinaesthesia, as well as improve interhemispheric integration (communication between left and right sides of the brain), memory, and concentration.
Below is a description of just 3 of the many neurodevelopmental exercises that can be prescribed according to your child’s difficulties. Exercises should be done daily, slowly and under the guidance of a neurodevelopmental therapist, in order to fully benefit from these exercises.
1. Chair turn - eyes closed
Have your child sit in an office chair or one that allows you to spin your child. Your child should not have contact with the floor and their eyes should be closed. Turn the chair very slowly - 360 degrees in one minute (count silently 15 seconds for each quarter turn). Wait a few seconds, then go back the other way. Each child will have a different reaction - some may get dizzy, some may not be able to feel if they are moving, or they may feel to be continuously moving after the chair has stopped. You may talk to them during that period, ask how they feel, etc.
This recapitulates the movement stimulation the fetus had in utero and stimulates the vestibular system.
2. Chair turn - eyes open
Move onto this exercise after a week or two of doing the exercise described above. Have your child sit in the same chair, and spin the chair at a reasonable speed for 7 spins. After 7 spins, stop the chair from spinning (abruptly), and allow your child time to stop feeling dizzy. Watch their eyes and note how long it takes for their eyes to stop moving. Once their eyes have stopped moving and your child is not dizzy anymore, count to 10 before spinning the chair in the opposite direction. If your child complains about feeling nauseous, stop the exercise and continue the next day starting with less spins (start with 3 spins and increase daily or weekly according to your child’s tolerance). They may be on three spins for a few days or a week, before you can increase the spin count to 5. You would like to eventually build up the spin count to 12 spins per side, with a break in between
This connects the vestibular system and the eyes.
3. Joint compression.
Squeeze and tap each joint of the fingers, wrists, elbows and the shoulders. There are sensory receptors between each joint. The system that relays information from the joints to the brain and tells the brain where the body is in space, is called the Proprioceptive System.
If you are interested in finding our more about how neurodevelopmental therapy works or if you would like to schedule an appointment to have your child screened and receive a program tailored to suit their needs, please contact Kids First OT to schedule an appointment.