HOW WE HELP
The children who come to us.
Many children come to us with problems related to
learning, attention, or hyperactivity. These children usually have several
of the following symptoms: Short attention span, difficulty following
directions, visual or auditory distractibility, hyperactivity or hypoactivity.
When they attempt to learn to read they may struggle with phonics, forget
sight words easily, reverse letters, or have difficulty moving from word
to word without losing their place. If they can read they may have difficulty
understanding what they have read. Spelling is often challenging. In math
they may easily forget the “facts”, forget how to do computation,
and struggle with word problems, math logic and concepts. Their speech
may be difficult to understand. They may have sloppy handwriting or difficulty
learning to print or to write, possibly forgetting how to make their letters.
In addition they may appear to be uncoordinated.
Some children come to us with additional struggles. Many are pre schoolers
or children in special classes or therapy programs. They have tactile
or sensory dysfunction which may appear as bedwetting, inability to feel
pressure or pain appropriately, extreme ticklishness, irritation from
clothing, inability to distinguish temperatures, inability to tolerate
hats, hair combing or hair washing. They may be extremely picky eaters,
eating only a narrow variety of foods. They may have flat tonality in
the voice, hypersensitivity to sound, undeveloped depth perception, difficulty
making or maintaining eye contact. Their eyes may not track well and their
eyes may turn in or wander. Behaviorally they may have good and bad days,
cyclic behavior, extreme hyperactivity, rigid attitudes, and aggressive
or destructive behavior. For some speech and language may be absent, limited,
or very difficult. Some of these children find holding a pencil to be
very unpleasant and difficult to manage, pencils may break from too much
pressure, in other cases writing may be too light. Some of the children
have difficulty moving their bodies, learning to crawl, creep, walk, run,
jump, hop, or skip.
Depending on their symptoms, these children may have a professional diagnosis
such as learning disabled, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexic, attention
deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
or simply slow learner. Some are said to have an auditory or visual processing
disorder or a problem with short or long term memory. Children with more
severe difficulties may be diagnosed as brain injured, PDD, ASD, autistic,
developmentally delayed, MMR, CAPD. Some are “labeled” with
a language disorder or sensory dysfunction. Some are diagnosed with Down
Syndrome, or other chromosome disorders.
Neurodevelopmentalists often call these diagnoses
“labels” because they “label” the child with limited
expectations as to what a person with that particular diagnosis can accomplish.
These expectations may be based on old information or on worst-case situations.
Professionals often make predictions based on outcomes that typically
occur when effective therapy has not been applied. Sadly, these symptomatic
“labels” can mislead parents and educators into limited expectations
for their child or student.
It is important to remember that most diagnoses are symptomatic, based
on the symptoms the professional person observes in the child. Symptoms
are not static. With proper neurodevelopmental treatment even stubborn
seemingly impossible symptoms can improve or be eliminated.
Organizing the Brain
Neurodevelopmentalists look at the symptoms an individual is exhibiting
and relate them to how the brain and the rest of the nervous system are
organized. If a child is having a problem with walking, talking, attention,
or learning there is a reason for that problem. Neurodevelopmentalists
believe the underlying problem is a disorganized nervous system.
Neurodevelopmentalists believe that the brain and nervous system can become
more organized, eliminating the original symptoms and helping the individual
move on to a greater possibilities. This belief is based on the built
in redundancy and plasticity of the brain. The brain is able to use several
areas for each function, redundancy. When an area of the brain has been
injured it is possible that other areas of the brain can take over the
function of the injured area, plasticity.
Neurodevelopmentalists believe that function determines structure. For
example, as stimulation is applied with optimum intensity, frequency,
and duration, changes occur in the brain of the child receiving that stimulation.
Physical connections and pathways for information processing actually
develop which enable the brain to be better organized. As the brain becomes
more organized due to plasticity, structure and chemistry also change.
Children who have had symptoms such as hyperactivity, due to dysfunctional
brain chemistry, may experience a reduction of those symptoms as brain
The Neurodevelopmental Approach
Since the 1930s, neurodevelopmentalists have studied the brain and nervous
system along with correlations between areas of development and the levels
of the brain. This work has been summarized on a visual tool called the
neurodevelopmental profile. Using this profile, plan the necessary progression
of developmental steps an individual needs to move to higher levels of
development, and to greater brain organization.
To make organizational changes in the brain direct intervention is needed.
This is accomplished by a neurodevelopmental plan that recommends a specific
program of activities to be implemented at home by the child’s family.
The neurodevelopmental approach gathers information from the parents and
the child’s evaluation to determine specific areas of inefficiency,
the underlying causes of the symptoms the child exhibits. These observations
are recorded on the profile, and a complete neurodevelopmental plan is
determined for the child. The plan consists of recommended activities
designed to address the inefficiencies specifically.
Neurodevelopmentalists have gathered activities eclectically from many
other disciplines including, but not limited to, speech therapy, occupational
therapy, vision therapy, physical therapy, biochemistry, sound therapy,
psychology and education. Through many years of observation, research
and refinement of the activities, optimally effective neurodevelopmental
activities have been developed.
Neurodevelopmental practice has established the optimum frequency, intensity
and duration for these activities. These refined activities are able to
give the brain the effective stimulation it needs to make the changes
that are necessary to move the child to the next higher level of the neurodevelopmental
When a home program of neurodevelopmental activities
is carried out with sufficient consistency, intensity, frequency and duration
much progress can be made. In fact, many of the symptoms the child originally
displayed may be totally eliminated.
Some of the results we see include, but are not limited to: Non readers
learning to read, distractibility changing to focus, sensory dysfunction
becoming more typical, social behavior improving, painfully hypersensitive
hearing changing to normal hearing, formerly picky eaters eating a variety
of foods, phobias being overcome, emotionally and over sensitivity becoming
typical, bedwetting eliminated, children able to retain math facts and
do computation, improved reading comprehension, improved coordination,
non writers learning to write, letter and number recognition becoming
possible, children learning to walk and run, and those without language
learning to speak.
Copyright © 2001 by Marilee Nicoll Coots.
All rights reserved.