IMBALANCE OF ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY BETWEEN DIFF AREAS OF THE BRAIN
There is imbalance of electrical activity between diff areas of brain, especially the left and right hemisphere. So the functions that depend on the higher functioning areas are found to be good or even unusually better. However the skills that depend on the under active area or that depend on diff areas of brain to function as one are bad. The problem seems to come because one side of brain is maturing at a faster rate than other. As the child develops, this imbalance becomes more significant and the two hemispheres can never fully function as one. We need to do activities that will get the immature side of the brain to catch up to the other side, and then the symptoms go away. So does the disorder.
Children with these problems are diff from other children, because they feel differently than other kids. They are disconnected from their bodies. Most of children with special needs, do not feel their own bodies very well. They have no sense of themselves in space. Or a sense of feeling grounded. They appear clumsy and uncoordinated and have poor timing and rhythm. They have poor or abnormal muscle tone, and hence poor posture or awkward gate. Their eye movement is not like other children. Basically they are disconnected from their 5 senses. And these senses teach normal children how to relate to and interact with the world. When they are forced to use all senses together, they become overwhelmed and also become easily distracted as they can’t focus.
Children who can’t feel their own body movements cannot intuit the connection between movement and feelings. They can’t interpret facial expressions or the tones in a voice that tell them what another person is thinking. Where others express emotions, they may remain stone faced. This leads to social and emotional disconnection from others, making it very hard or even impossible to develop friendship or relationships with others.
Their immune system not working normally and they get sick a lot. Since their digestive system is not functioning properly, they are picky eaters. They don’t like to be touched or may be sensitive to certain smells or sounds. Based on the individual state of imbalance in the brain, their symptoms and learning problems differ.
Brain is the only organ that is not fully formed at birth. Only brain’s basic structure is intact. After birth , brain grows in sequential form from the bottom up, from the brain stem, the least complex area , to the cerebral cortex, the most complex area. Synopses now develop at an astounding rate. At birth, few synaptic connections exist – just enough to regulate breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, metabolism and other vital functions. By age 6, the brain is almost 90% of its adult size and possessed over 1000 trillion synapses, more than even the smartest person in the world could possibly ever use. Synaptic connections are the key that makes learning – brain development. Every biologically important event, from recognition of mother’s smile or a father’s voice to sitting, crawling, creeping, walking, and talking are the results of new connections, producing electrical excitement between neurons within the synaptic loop. Synapses are dependent on two things: – fuel in the form of oxygen and glucose, and stimulation. Fuel alone cannot make brain cells grow; only stimulation does.
In order for human brain to function as a whole, the left and right hemispheres must be in constant communication. In order to communicate effectively, the two sides must keep up with each other. They must stay synchronized. They must be in perfect rhythm, perfect harmony and perfect timing, just like a couple on dancing with the stars. In addition to being in sync, the brain’s timing mechanism must also be fast enough to keep up with the flow of information. The more brain develops, the faster the speed gets. The brain must be fast enough to make split second decisions, like jumping out of the way of a speeding car or ducking to avoid a fly ball. The brain can’t perform at such speed, if it is not synchronized. The brain can change and now there is a full science under the name neuroplasticity.
STIMULATING THE AUTISTIC BRAIN WITH MOTOR PATTERNING & CHILDHOOD REFLEXES
Autism is estimated to affect one in every 150 births in America according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Autism Association of America reports that autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US. In Minnesota, there is an even higher rate, anywhere from one in 81 to one in 56 – three times the national average. In the local Somali community, the rates go up even higher to 1 in 28 – more than five times the national average. These figures are shocking and are attracting media attention as well as attempts to correlate them to vaccinations, geographical toxicity and other indices. Meanwhile, families of children with autism have to figure out how best to help their child.
“AUTISM IS ESTIMATED TO AFFECT ONE IN EVERY 150 BIRTHS IN AMERICA ACCORDING TO THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION”
While every child with autism is a unique individual with his or her own particular personality, set of behaviors and degree of severity of delay, there is a fundamental pattern that is part of the autism spectrum. Challenges include difficulties with making friends and being accepted in peer groups, awkwardness and lack of ease in communication, avoidance of eye contact, over attachment to routines, and over or under sensitivities to touch, pain, movement and sounds. Motor problems are common in autism, including toe-walking, asymmetrical gaits, midline crossing difficulties, hunched shoulders, and low muscle tone. An increasing number of occupational and physical therapists are looking for answers beyond what their training has given them and are seeking to gain a deeper understanding of how best to help these children. Many of them are turning to the field of childhood reflexes and to current researchers in that area.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MOVEMENT AND THINKING
Cognitive function, or what we call thinking, involves the coordination of multiple sensory channels in the brain with complex perceptual processes. Traditionally, we have thought of the parts of the brain controlling thought and emotion to be distinct from the parts of the brain controlling movement. However, over the last few years, as modern brain research has incorporated neuroimaging techniques, we have exponentially expanded our knowledge of how the brain functions.
Experts in the field of chiropractic neurology and rehabilitative neuropsychology say that “what we call thinking is [actually] the internalization of movement. Cognition and movement are really the same.” This is a revolutionary premise within the field of neuroscience.
There is now a growing consensus that, in order to understand how children with autism think, behave and function, we must understand how they develop movement, posture and muscle control. Symmetry of early developmental movements is an important key in the early diagnosis of autism, according to movement disorder experts. Therapies that incorporate whole body movements are becoming more and more popular.
PRIMITIVE REFLEXES AND MOTOR PATTERNS
Primitive reflexes are developed during pregnancy and follow a universal pattern that is encoded in the brainstem. They are present at birth and follow a typical progress of emergence and disappearance along developmental timelines. Their role is to ensure the survival of the baby. So, for example, when there is a loud sound, the baby reflexively throws out arms and legs which elicits a visceral response from the mother to protect her child. Reflexes relating to upright posture develop after birth, as the baby learns to move its head and limbs, to coordinate what it sees, hears, touches, moves and to crawl. The role of these postural reflexes is to support standing and sitting in the upright position and to develop conscious or voluntary movement.
CEREBELLUM AND BASAL GANGLIA
The cerebellum is the large protuberance at the brain stem that looks like a little cauliflower. It has been suggested that the cerebellum is the key to learning anything. It may well be the key to normal cognitive and emotional development. There is a feedback loop in the brain from the cerebellum up to the frontal cortex which helps integrate sensory perception and movement. When the senses and movements are functioning well, they in turn help to integrate our emotional responses, our language abilities, our impulse control and our executive functions of reasoning, planning, organizing and problem solving.
The basal ganglia’s main function is to enable us to sit still. It is situated at the top of the brainstem and has nerve nets that connect with the thalamus, the cerebellum and the frontal lobes. Many parents and teachers do not realize that “sitting still” is actually a complex brain mechanism requiring certain developmental processes to be in place. If these are not, then to sit still is to lull the brain to sleep and the child must move in order to focus and concentrate on what’s being said. So the “sit still and listen” choir is becoming outdated because it sets the child up for failure and produces the opposite effect which is to zone out the verbal directives as the brain pulls all its resources into the momentous task of sitting still. Some school districts, under the guidance of their occupational and physical therapy teams, are beginning to understand this and are supplying large therapy balls for students to sit on while at their desks.
So the basal ganglia functions as a “brake”. To sit still, the brake is applied to all movements except the reflexes involved in remaining upright. To move, the brake is released on these and applied to some other of the reflexes. In children with challenges, they may not have their involuntary reflexes under the full control of the basal ganglia and therefore we may be asking them to do what is developmentally impossible. In this case, we have to take them back to the primitive reflexes and help them to integrate these before expecting postural control and interface with the visual and auditory functions.