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Sensory Integration, Processing Speed and Neuro-development
Processing information is a complex task and usually involves several areas of the brain. Processing information and sensory integration is necessary to do well in school. It also involves many if not all of the senses. For purposes of learning, the sense of smell is usually neglected because of its seemingly limited contribution for doing well in school. However, in cognitive decline, the sense of smell is one of the earliest senses to deteriorate (e.g., the use of the peanut butter smell test for early screening of Alzheimer victims).
In behavioral terms, processing information involves being able to detect and recognize a stimulus, deciding what to do about the stimulus, and then generating an appropriate response. The brain usually does all of this seemingly automatic. Not much conscious thought appears to be used. However, when there is a deficit in processing it is not so automatic. Deficits in processing can interfere with learning, communication and social relationships.
For example, a teacher may ask a student a question. The student hears the question and sees the teacher asking it. The student may unconsciously feel the teacher walking toward her. The student has to interpret what was heard, seen and felt, then decide what to do about the question. Most likely the student will decide to answer the question and will seek to recall an answer to the question. Once a satisfactory answer has been thought up, the student will likely give the answer to the teacher. During this whole process, the student cannot lose focus or get distracted in order to be successful. There is the possibility that other things may interfere with the processing (e.g., negative self talk, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, mood). Some children have seemingly permanent problems in their brains that interfere with the ability to give a proper response. Anything that interferes with the generation and giving of an appropriate response can be labeled under the guise of a problem with sensory integration and/or processing. Theoretically it can be difficult to separate sensory integration and/or processing problems from the other sections in the Neurodevelopment part of this website. However, we will attempt to address several areas that have not been discussed thus far and may be considered uniquely to sensory integration and/or processing.
One approach to treat sensory integration problems is to do basic activities that should have been performed during infancy. Some illness or lack of development prevented these basic activities to be performed. Some people feel that sensory processing problems as well as other learning disorders occur because of faulty neurodevelopment in the womb or during the early years of life. Their remedy for such a wide variety of disorders is to go back and retrain the brain in the exercises or movements that should have been completed during the early years of life. Performng these basic exercises stimulate the brain to develop correct pathways and once the pathways are developed, the deficit is overcome. One such website is Brain Fitness Strategies. Their philosophy at Brain Fitness Strategies make much sense to us.
The mental illnesses most associated with sensory integration and processing problems include Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (including what used to be called Asperger Disorder), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders, Schizophrenia, Brain Injury, and Learning Disorders. Children can be diagnosed with Sensory Integration problems and not have any of these mental illnesses. There are several types of sensory integration and processing problems. The ones covered in this article include Auditory Processing Problems, Visual Processing Problems, Motor Problems, Balance, Speed of Functioning and Social Skills.
Auditory Processing Disorder or Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Most children will receive a hearing test at school. It is usually a screening test and those who fail will be referred to an audiologist. Auditory Processing Problems are much different than just the ability to hear sounds or not. It involves the ability to hear and distinguish the appropriate sounds in the classroom and make sense of them. Auditory Processing Disorder is a disorder in and of itself and not necessarily caused or part of another disorder. There are children with a specific mental illness as well as having an Auditory Processing Problem.
One example of an auditory processing problem is the way humans hear multiple noises. If we had a tape recorder to record what was occurring in the classroom while the teacher was speaking, the tape recorder would pick up the teacher's voice and also the other noises and sounds in the classroom (e.g., traffic outside, the air conditioner, sounds in the hall, the ticking of the clock, and a multitude of sounds generated from the students. On the tape recorder, each sound would get an equal chance to be heard. When a person goes into the classroom and the person's ability to hear is adequate, the person focuses on the teacher's voice which gets special attention while the other noises in the room are mostly ignored. For the majority of us, this is what our auditory processing does in that it filters out other noises. Some individuals with auditory processing problems hear everything as would the tape recorder. The end result is that they cannot filter out or ignore the other noises. Some children labeled as Attention Deficit Disorder may have this type of auditory processing problem instead of an Attention Deficit Disorder. They become distracted because of the variety of sounds that they hear. Some children may have both an Attention Deficit Disorder as well as an Auditory Processing Disorder.
Another related auditory processing problem is the ability to focus on one major stimuli and ignore a second major stimuli. Most of us can do this. We can focus in what the kids in the back of the class are talking about and ignore what the teacher is talking about. When we do this, we are distracted from what the teacher is talking about. This is slightly different than giving all sound the same weight as described above. It is the ability to tune out other noises and focus in on the sounds that are important to us. Again some children and adults have problems with this.
Another example of an auditory processing problem is the inability to hear and process subtle differences in sounds. Some children are unable to distinguish the sound of a b from the sound of a v. They may be able to hear both sounds well, but unable to distinguish between the two sounds or phonemes.
Sounds are emitted across a wide range of frequencies. Some children, especially some children with Autism may have sensitivity to certain frequencies. They can be irritated by these frequencies and sometimes will cover their ears or try to avoid these frequencies. Audiologists with specialized equipment can detect which frequencies are irritating and develop an intervention to help the individual overcome the sensitivity.
Other children do not hear everything that is said to them. They may only be able to decipher 20% of what is being said. Children with this problem often give inappropriate answers to questions asked of them because they are really guessing at what they missed instead of actually hearing it and processing it correctly. Yet when tested at school, they may be able to pass the hearing screen.
Assessment. The above, are just some of the many types of Auditory Processing Disorder. There are more. Some of the common symptoms that are associated with an Auditory Processing Disorder include: being easily distracted, poor listening abilities, covering of the ears, avoiding noisy places, giving inappropriate responses to direct questions, inability to hear when there is much background noise, problems sounding out words, and often saying "uh" or "what?" Assessment of an Auditory Processing Problems should be completed by an Audiologist who specializes in Auditory Processing Disorders or Central Auditory Processing Disorder like the examples mentioned above. Parts of the testing are usually conducted in a sound proof room. A good assessment by an Audiologist that specializes in Auditory Processing Disorders will provide clues of appropriate treatment. It really takes a professional to determine the strengths and weakness of a person's auditory processing skills. Many children with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are incorrectly diagnosed and would have the diagnosis of an Auditory Processing Disorder if they were properly assessed. Speech and Language professionals are usually the ones that most easily recognize Auditory Processing Problems and will often make a referral to a qualified Audiologist.
Intervention. There are two levels of intervention for an individual with an Auditory Processing Disorder: accommodation and remediation. Accommodations are made so that the child will be able to function easier at school. This may include giving instructions in written form instead of verbally, having the child sit closer to the teacher to lessen the impact of background noises, and reducing noise in the classroom environment. Compensation techniques may require the teacher to be able to teach in a way the student can learn. There are assistive listening devices (e.g., SuperEar Personal Sound Amplifier) that may be helpful for the student to have in order to function better within the classroom. The accommodations focus on things that the teacher can do to make learning possible and things that the student can do to learn easier. ASHA.org provides additional instructions for compensation of an Auditory Processing Disorder
Remediation. Remediation is an attempt to help the student overcome their Auditory Processing Disorder. It almost always involves nuero-development. The goal is to change the student's brain structure so that they no longer have the problem and can process information received through auditory channels. It is an attempt to reach normal auditory processing. This will allow them to compete more effectively with their peers.
Remediation should be individualized because each person with an Auditory Processing Disorder is different. One of the most popular types of remediation for individuals with frequency sensitivities and other auditory problems is the implementation of the Tomatis Method. Tomatis was a physician who developed a technique to help individuals suffering from attention problems, emotional problems, and auditory processing problems that were considered to be connected with the sense of hearing. Information about how to find a practitioner of the Tomatis method can be found at this link. Another similar type of intervention is called Auditory Integration Training (AIT). These techniques involve considerable expense and may not generate the results hoped for in children with many types of auditory processing disorders. Buyers beware and become informed when considering using these techniques.
A popular program to help children read better is Fast Forword. It helps remedicate children who have problems with discrimination of phonemes as well as other problems related to reading. It is usually provided in a school environment. It is certainly neurodevelopment.
Other programs to help develop reading in children include: Lexia Learning, Teach Your Monster to Read, and Gemm Learning. Teach Your Monster to read is available as an app through any app store. The information provided by a good assessment may help you decide if one of these programs may be helpful. As with any other neurodevelopmental intervention, these systems should be used often (e.g., daily) to obtain the maximum benefit.
We have included a couple of exercises that will help a few individuals with an auditory processing problem. We encourage testing by an audiologist and then supplement their exercises with some of ours if the audiologist feels it will be helpful. One of them is called Listen To The Right Speaker and another is called Sentence Repeater. Listen to the Right Speaker involves two sources of compelling dialogue and the participant has to listen while tunning out the wrong source of information and be able to answer questions about what was said by the correct speaker. Sentence repeater is very similar to our auditory memory exercise but is designed for individuals who only are able to decipher a limited amount of the words they hear.
Visual Processing is certainly part of Sensory Integration. It is very important for success in school, reading problems, attention abilities and learning disorders. The visual system is used in 85% of the learning tasks presented at school. Because effective visual processing is important for learning, we have included a whole section on the remediation of visual processing problems.
As mentioned in an earlier section, fine motor skills are necessary for good written expression. Muscle tone (too high or too poor) falls within the category of a motor processing problem. Some children tire easily after writing which interferes with their ability to do well in school. Gross motor skills can be helpful in athletics and social skills. Some people have limited awareness of their body position in space. This may be involved in people being unable to perceive themselves as too close to someone, being clumsy or bumping into inanimate objects such as posts or door jams. Probably the most common motor processing problem is right and left confusion. Right and Left confusion may be related more to personality type than to a motor processing problem. A muscle or motor or sensory problem common in children with autism is a high sensitivity to fabric texture. Some children have to have the labels on cloths removed before they are willing to wear them. Other children with this sensitivity will not wear cloths made out of certain fabrics. Younger children with this sensitivity may atempt to remove all of their clothing.
Problems with movement of muscles in the mouth may be related to drooling, gagging, picky eating, being sensitive to textures, and speech delays. Some of motor processing problems effect learning directly (e.g., fine motor movement, muscle tone) while other motor processing problems may not effect learning (e.g., fabric sensitivity, picky eating). All of these conditions and possibly some more will be lumpted together under motor processing problems.
Assessment. Occupational Therapists, Neurologists, Physical Therapists, Speech Pathologists, and Neuropsychologists are probably the best equipped to assess problems in motor processing. They all have their own methods of assessing motor processing problems. They all take measurements and compare them with individuals of the same age. Significant deviations from what is considered to be normal can be identified and a treatment plan can be developed.
Parents can observe problems such as picky eating, being clumsy, refusing to wear certain cloths, and gagging. They can compare their children with same age peers and get an idea if there exists a problem or not. If suspected, the parent should have the child examined by one or more of the above mentioned professionals.
Intervention. Again, intervention consists of two main types: accommodations and remediation. For a child that does not like to eat crunchy foods, accommodation would dictate to not feed the child any crunchy foods such as celery, potato chips, etc. Remediation is an attempt to change nerve and muscle structure and/or brain structure so that participant can overcome the deficit and move into the normal range of functioning. Instead of avoiding food that are crunchy, one way to remediate such a problem would be to stimulate the Trigeminal Nerve (as explained in the book The Fabric of Autism, Weaving The Threads Into A Cogent Theory by Judith Bluestone, ISBN: 0972023526) and slowly introduce foods that are approaching crunchy (e.g., creamy peanut butter with just a little bit of crunchy peanut butter, steamed vegetables) then over time gradually increasing the crunchiness until the participant is eating apples without any complaint. Remediation allows participants to overcome their deficits.
Occupational Therapy and Physical therapy can address many of the serious motor processing problems. These professionals will work with the participants over time and may assign exercises to be completed at home.
One of our favorite "do it yourself" intervention for gross motor problems, to improve coordination, develop a sense of rhythm and help develop increased focus and ability to pay attention is Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning by Paul E. Dennison (Author) , Gail E. Dennison (Author, Illustrator) ISBN 0942143051. The intervention can be individualized and can even be used in unison with other neuro-developmental exercises. The book offers programs for participants with a wide variety of problems related to motor movement as it effects learning. They have a set of exercises for those with poor handwriting and another for those with attention and focus problems. As with most neurodevelopmental exercises, improvements should be seen within 30 days and it may take 90 days to two years before mastery is achieved. The length of time required often depends on the severity of the problems.
Children with a pervasive developmental disorder such as autism can have numerous motor processing and tactile problems. For these children, we recommend the following two books: Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues Paperback by Lindsey Biel (Author) and Nancy Peske (Author) ISBN 0143115340, and The Fabric of Autism, Weaving The Threads Into A Cogent Theory by Judith Bluestone, ISBN: 0972023526.
Both of these books have several neurodevelopmental excises described. You can choose the ones you feel are most suited for the participant. Spend about 20 minutes a day doing a set of exercises until mastery has been reached. Then focus on another set of exercises in order to get the participant within the normal range of functioning. Again, improvement should be observed within 30 days and mastery should come within 90 days to two years depending on the severity of the deficit.
One of our favorite exercises to help individuals with right left confusion is the arrows exercise that is done on a rebounder. See our section on written expression for some examples of exercises to strengthen fine motor skills and improve handwriting.
Balance is so important for neurodevelopment because it is estimated that 85 % of neuro pathways have relays in the cerebellum. The cerebellum and the inner ear are the structures of the brain that handle balance. When children get severe inner ear infections, they will often develop problems with balance. Balance exercises have been demonstrated to improve speech fluency, reading abilities, and focus and attention skills. DORE International uses balance and vision exercises to help children with a reading disorder overcome their learning disorder within one year of intervention. By the second year, the majority of their participants are at age level in reading, even though the second year, they did not participate in balance and vision exercises. We feel that almost every neurodevelopmental treatment should include balance exercises. This should speed up the rate of mastery of whatever exercise is being worked on. When you design your interventions, include balance exercises.
Assessment. Professionals measure balance in a variety of ways. Physical therapists will use a balance machine (e.g., Neurocom Smart Equi Test Balance Master), other professionals will use a standardized observational method such as the BESS. One study found that the BESS was even more sensitive to brain damage than the expensive balance machines. Parents can easily get a rough estimate of balance by having a child stand on one foot and try to touch the toes that are on the ground. They can compare their child's balance with their peers. Younger children (ages 3-5) are not expected to have well developed balance. They are expected to have significant gains in their balance by the age of 6 and 7. One of our favorite balance procedures consists of three simple test: 1. Have the child stand on one foot and without holding on to anything, bend over and touch the toes that are touching the ground. 2. Have the participant stand on one foot for 15 seconds, then stand on the other foot for 15 seconds, and then stand on the other foot with eyes closed for 15 seconds and then stand on the other foot with eyes closed for 15 seconds. 3. Standing on one leg, hop up and down 10 times and then without stopping switch to the other leg and hop 10 times. The object of the hopping is to hop in one place. This can be measured with a spot about the size of a penny on the floor and having the child hop on that spot. The Participant should try to keep the spot covered while hopping. Children and adults who can do these three tests well, generally have good balance. Parents can compair their child's balance with same age peers that do well in school.
Remediation. There is an infinite amount of ways to work on balance. Improvements in balance are easy to observe over time. Improvement in balance is a normal part of development. For a 5 year old child, balance improves when the child no longer needs training wheels to ride a bicycle. Balance deterioration is a normal part of aging. The degenerative process of balance due to aging can be lessened and even reversed through the use of balance exercises. A good balance exercise is one that is challenging and can incorporate something that the child is already working on (e.g., visual processing, fine motor movement).
The Learning Breakthrough Program uses balance exercises similar to those utilized by physical rehabilitation therapists. The number and types of exercises Learning Breakthrough specialists will prescribe will depend on the results from their assessment from a Balance Machine. They use the Belgau Balance Board. Others will use other balance equipment (e.g., PUREFI Maze Balance Board, Whirly Board Spinning Balance Board, JFit Balance Board). Structure of Intellect (SOI) integrates balance in their remediation as well. SOI tends to use a different kind of balance board (e.g., Belgau Balance Board, Balance Board) as their main component to their balance work. There are many resources for balance exercises from everything from tai chi balance exercises tai chi balance exercises to recreational balance (e.g., skate boards, snow boards) to physical rehab balance exercises. Balance exercises in and of itself is a worthy of time spent to improve. If you watch individuals doing yoga and balance, you will realized that most of us can improve our sense of balance. In overcoming brain injury, learning disorders, and pervasive developmental problems, we want to incorporate other lacking abilities into the balance exercise. This will help speed up the development of pathways to improve specific functioning (visual functioning, reading ability, math ability, memory). For example, if the goal is to improve memory and you are working on a memory exercise, combine that exercise with balance work. Do both exercises simultaneously. First work on one exercise without the other until a certain level of proficiency has been achieved, work on the balance exercise until some proficiency has been achieved and then combine the two together. Some balance exercises are easier than others to incorporate or fold into another neuro-developmental exercise. As mentioned above, use balance exercises combined with visual processing exercises to improve reading ability.
Below are some of our favorite balance exercises:
Walk the Plank is an exercise that is suited for participants lacking in reading skills. It is a basic balance exercise and improvement can usually be observed quickly. It is important to combine the visual component into the exercise.
Balance Board and Bean Bag exercise uses a balance board. The maker of the world's best Balance Board has a number of special equipment that makes using the balance board fun and interesting. In addition to balance, these tools help develop visual skills and motor processing skills and a variety of additional skills.
Wobble Board and Bean Bag Exercise. The Wobble Board offers similar exercises as the Balance Board, but puts an additional strain on the balance system which can lead to a more rapid development of balance abilities. Some may wish to argue this point.
The Four Parts of Your Foot is an exercise that can be completed anytime and anywhere (except within a moving vehicle) and requires no equipment. It is one of our favorites because it is challenging and improvements can be observed quickly. It is a great maintenance exercise for individuals with brain damage and individuals growing older. It is a very short exercise to complete and mastery can easily be observed.
Hop on a Spot is used in assessment as well as remediation. It is a simple technique that only requires a spot or mark on the ground to use as a target. Mastery is usually quickly achieved and it can be performed in a wide variety of settings.
Stand on One Foot and Read is used in assessment as well as remediation. It is a simple technique that asks the participant to stand on one foot and read a mildly difficult reading passage. Some children can not keep their balance when they have to sound out a word. This is a common characteristic with children with a common and perhaps the most common type of dyslexia.
We encourage children and adults to take advantage of special opportunities to work on balance. They can walk on curbs, unused train tracks, ride bicycles, work on tricks on skateboards, practice yoga balance exercises, martial arts, balance exercise balls, etc. There are literally an infinite amount of methods to improve balance.
There are simple and complex balance exercises that can be observed on Youtube.com. It is best to include some simple balance exercises and work towards a more complex exercise. Remember to incorporate some visual processing, math, reading, memory or whatever the participant's weaknesses are into the balance exercise. The process of remediation can be speeded up by principles of detoxification and proper healing nutrition. The added benefit of people with good balance is that they generally feel good. There exists a sense of calm and well-being when good balance has been achieved. Some can feel their brain working more efficiently and their desire to learn is usually increased. Balance exercises are one of the most important components of a neurodevelopment program.
Processing speed is the rate of speed or quickness that the brain is able to take in information, process it and give an appropriate response. Some children are very accurate with their appropriate responses but they are so slow about producing the correct response. This is a problem of processing speed. A child may have a general processing speed (global) or a specific problem in processing speed. Global is processing problems in everything that the person does (or nearly everything). Specific problems indicate a problem with one of the senses (e.g., processing visual information but not processing auditory information). An individual may have multiple problems in sensory processing speeds (e.g., visual and auditory and kinesthetic).
Processing Speed has become an increasingly important skill in school. Unfortunately schools are requiring fast reading, math computation, typing or computer keyboard, reaction time in sports, and writing. Some children really struggle due to poor processing speeds. It seems that their ability to process information is in slow motion. These problems can be addressed and improved by consistent systematic employment of neurodevelopmental exercises designed to improve processing speed.
Processing speed can be influenced by many variables. Certain medications can decrease processing speed or increase processing speed. Some nutritional supplements can also improve mental processing speed. People who are depressed may have lower abilities in processing speeds, and individuals with bipolar disorder see times in their life where their processing is slow and other times when it is super quick. Some individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder may appear to be slow in their processing, but it is due to a lack of attention or focus and an increase in distractibility. Many times a stimulant medication will help a child with ADHD improve their processing speed yet sometimes it will not. Research suggests that children with Autism have trouble integrating information from multiple sources which slows down their processing ability.
Sometimes processing speed can be a problem in and of itself, but many times it is a symptoms of another disorder. To work on processing speed without addressing the cause may result in little improvement and can be very frustrating. For instance, if reading is slow and laborious and the cause is because of a visual problem called convergence, then to improve speed would not work on reading speed directly but first correct the convergence problem. Sometimes just correcting the problem with convergence will cause reading speeds to fall within the normal range. It is important when working with improving processing speed that one always try to tease out what else might be causing the slow speeds. Correct these causes first and then determine if additional quickness is needed.
Assessment. A neurologist, Neuropsychologist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Rehabilitation Specialist and Psychologists can usually measure processing speed. Some use measures of reaction time. The Wechsler Scales of Intelligence offers a processing speed index. The Wechsler Achievement Scales and the Woodcock Johnson Achievement Tests also offer measures of writing speed, reading speed and math speed. Parents can observe and usually notice if their children process things slowly or not when compared to other children their age.
Intervention. There are two types of intervention for individuals with processing speed problems. The first is accommodations and the second type is remediation. As explained earlier accommodations help the teacher to teach in a way that the student can learn. Accommodations also offers suggestions that the student can do in order to be able to learn. A good resource in processing speed that offers many different suggestions for accommodations is Processing Speed Classroom. This article also suggests accommodations for children who struggle to focus.
Remediation. While some neurodevelopment companies have activities that improve processing speed (e.g., Structure of Intellect (SOI), the company that excels in processing speed is Rx Learning. A key instrument in their therapy is a metronome. As the participant increases in skill, the rate of the beat of the metronome is also increased which will increase processing speed.
To increase motor processing speed and fine motor skills, almost any video game will make improvements. Children love to play video games and their reaction times and speed generally improve as they plan them. There are also specific video games that improve processing speed for gross motor skills and attention skills. Our favorite is Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. Video games can also have many negative influences. Make sure the games your children play match the values you want your children to have.
For those who are slow in just about everything they do, it would make sense to go to train the brain on very basic skills or early learned skills in an effort to develop important neurological pathways. An approach from Brain Fitness Strategies would probably be the most helpful. After improvement was observed, then the intervention would focus on specific processing speed that did not improve from the interventions from Brain Fitness Strategies.
There are also websites designed to improve mental processing. One that relates to processing speed can be found at Lumosity.
There are electronic games that can improve processing speed. Bop It is designed to improve simple auditory processing speed. It has several versions of the toy that can add complexity to the task as the participant gets faster over time.
Spot It is an educational card game to improve visual processing time. Spot it offers a variety of card decks related to skills taught at school. These toys can be used as neurodevelopmental exercises if they are played often and over an extended period of time. As in all neurodevelopmental exercises, the participant starts well within their ability and then the task gets more and more difficult over time. This is what builds the neurological pathways. These games cannot be played once in a while and expect development of processing speed. It must be done consistently and frequently over a period of time to see significant improvements in processing speed.
Most games in earlier sections that used a metronome (e.g., Syllable Reading)are exercises that also increases processing speed. When the metronome is increased to a faster beat, it is working on increasing processing speed. Number Grid is a good example of an exercise that works on multiple levels. It is mainly working on visual memory. Since it is done with a metronome it is also working on processing speed. When taken to the next level, it is working on working memory and math fact processing speed. It is a great advanced exercise because it combines several skills into one exercise. Most participants enjoy the exercise and it helps a variety of skills.
Many of the exercises that did not use a metronome can be turned into processing speed exercises by the use of a stop watch. For example, the Commands Game can be used with a stop watch. If the child is good at remembering 7 commands, it may be worthwhile to use a stop watch and everyday see if the participant can remember and perform 7 specific commands in a shorter time than they did the day before. When they get fast at remembering and performing 7 commands, the Commands Game can move up to 8 commands. The participant can remain at 8 commands until they can remember and perform the 8 commands within a targeted time limit. Thus exercises that are needed for the participant can be slightly modified to include a processing speed component.
Social Skills or Relationship Skills
Many of us can relate to lacking certain skills when it comes to relating to others. Hopefully we get better at it over time. There are many good books on how to improve relationships with others (e.g., the classic book How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, ISBN: 0671027034). Some mental illnesses are famous for their lack of social skills as part of the problem. Behavioral therapy has demonstrated its usefulness as a neurodevelopmental tool as long as it is applied consistently and repeatedly over time. Many people give up too soon and never see the life changing effects. We believe the approach explained in Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser, ISBN: 0967050707 to be a cognitive behavioral approach that changes brain pathways through relationships. Thus it can be a neurodevelopmental approach if used consistently over a period of time. It is a great way to teach social skills to children who are defiant and routinely violate social norms. It is a very positive approach and works well with children who have suffered abuse, give abuse to others and are frustrating to their school teachers.
There are some children whose social skills are so underdeveloped that a more extensive neuro-developmental program must be employed. These are individuals that fall on the Autism Spectrum Disorders. Most of these individuals if left to traditional approaches used today will never be able to hold down employment and will never be able to have a family relationship of their own when they become adults. These individuals will need years of neuro-development in order to be successful. The remainder of this section will focus on remediation for individuals who fall on the Autism Spectrum of Pervasive Developmental Delays.
Assessment. Psychologists have developed screeners that test for severe relationship problems. They are usually the ones best equipped to diagnosis anyone with a Pervasive Developmental Delay (e.g., Autism, Aspergers Disorder). Sometimes a special geneticist is needed to distinguish unique Pervasive Developmental Delays such as Retts Disorder. Some pediatricians have been trained on diagnosing individuals on the Autism Spectrum. The goal of assessment is to identify as early as possible which children will have a pervasive developmental disorder and which children will not. There are systems in place to identify children before the age of 3 and most school districts can identify pervasive developmental delays after the age of 3. A parent usually realizes that something is wrong in their child's development and then seeks out a professional to make the diagnosis.
Intervention. There are many resources in books and on the Internet to teach a normal child, social skills. This link provides an example on You Tube and is a video showing children how to take turns and listen to each other. These interventions would be for children struggling with social skills but without having a pervasive developmental disorder (e.g., Autims).
Most individuals that fall on the Autism Spectrum Disorder have the unifying characteristic of reduced social skills. For individuals with severe autism, we recommend using principles of functional medicine to improve basic functioning first. DAN doctors are a good place to start, but they might not have all the answers. Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism by Kerri Rivera and Kimberly McDaniel, ISBN: 0989289001 is a free PDF book on improving functioning (including social functioning) by healing the body.
The hormone oxytocin appears to have some effect on sociability of some autistic teenagers and young adutls. It has also been demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy can help normalize the brains of children along the autistic spectrum.
The best neurodevelopmental program that we have seen thus far for giving individuals along the autistic spectrum is Relationship Development Intervention. Dr. Steven Gutstein wrote two books that map out the developmental milestones of social relations. He developed neurodevelopmental exercises to help the child reach each and every milestone. RDI offers training for parents and therapists in their treatment methods.
The book Relationship Development intervention can still be purchased through Amazon.com. There are two books. One is for individuals with severe symptoms of autism and younger children (ages 2 to 5). The other book is for higher functioning individuals that still fall somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum (ages 4 to 65). For children in a regular classroom setting at school, we recommend the second book. We recommend not following the guidelines of having a laboratory in your home. Instead modify the activities so that they can be integrated into your daily activities. This way the participants will learn the skills faster and progress faster though the stages. The end result should be a child with no symptoms of autism. It may take a year or two or three to get there, but they will be able to hold down a job and raise a family of their own if they no longer have any symptoms of Autism. It is definitely worth the 20 minutes a day to make this dream a reality. When autistic children no longer have symptoms of a pervasive developmental delay they are able to grow up with the ability to go to college, hold down employment and maintain normal family relationships.
As our food (e.g., GMO, pesticides, herbicides), water (e.g., clorine, floride, prescription drugs), and environment (e.g., chem trails, radiation from damaged nuclear reactors) become more and more polluted, and as the number of immunizations continue to rise, the number of children with sensory processing problems will increase. We are in an epidemic of childhood illnesses, learning disorders and chronic illnesses and seemingly no one is doing anything about it. If your child or someone you know is suffering from a disorder that effect the brain, there is something that can be done. There is not quick remedy and there is no magic pill. However with effort and consistency many of these problems can be reversed. Normal functioning can be obtained and has been obtained by thousands of participants. Tools that are available include detoxing the body of toxins, giving the body the nutrition that it needs to heal and repairing the body thourhg neurodevelopment. The goal of neurodevelopment is to normalize the brain's functioning. This is done by regular and consistent stimuli to the brain through neurodevelopment. Any improvement in brain functioning will yeild a higher quality of life. Any improvement in a person's physical health will also yeild a higher quality of life. Take responsibility for your own health and the health of your family. We hope you and yourloved ones have fun in doing these exercise. The fun comes when their are increased skills and abilities.
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