“The Well-Balanced Child”–Chapter Two: Balance

 

 

I am determined to make a great deal of headway in this book for you all during the next several weeks.  You can find the back posts regarding the foreword, introduction and Chapter One here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/08/14/the-well-balanced-childintroduction-and-chapter-one/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/07/28/the-foreword-of-the-well-balanced-child-movement-and-early-learning/

 

This chapter starts with two  case report of a little twelve year old girl who did everything “late” in life and a woman in her mid-forties who suffered from agoraphobia.  The common connection between the two cases was one of balance. 

 

From page 11:  “It was the late Paul Schilder’s belief, that many of the symptoms of neurosis and psychosis could be traced back to a fault in the functioning of the balance mechanism.  Why is balance so important that dysfunction can result in such a wide variety of symptoms, many of them masquerading as cognitive or emotional disorders?”

 

I have done some extra work in the area of vestibular rehabilitation, and I have seen the above quote to be true, particularly in my work with children.  Children who do not move well, who are unsure of their own bodies, are understandably more unsure of themselves in social situations, and often seem to hold more anxiety than children who are not suffering from movement issues.  Just an observation, no blind study research here.  Smile  Children with vestibular disorders are not nearly as clearly recognized as adults.  Some pediatric specialists believe the vestibular system being “off” has much to do with ADHD, and I remember in one pediatric vestibular course I took the presenter stated she felt children with symptoms of developmental delay, low vision, hearing loss, motor developmental delay, tinnitus, motion sickness or sensitivity, abnormal movements, clumsiness, decreased hand/foot/eye coordination, ataxia or falls, nystagmus of the eye,  problems planning or executing movement, loss of consciousness, seizures or vertigo/dizziness should all be evaluated for vestibular system function.  Children who seek movement or fear movement should also be evaluated.  Those children who have had chronic ear infections or a history of infant torticollis should also be seen.  

 

At any rate, this chapter goes on to discuss balance as the system to “facilitate orientation and postural behavior – the ability of the body to function within the force of gravity, or “to know your place in space.”  The knowledge of place in space provides the primary reference point from which  all other spatial judgments and adaptations  become possible.”  The vestibular system is different than other systems in the body though, because we often are aware of balance only through the other systems.  This chapter gives several examples of that:  rides at the fair that leave butterflies in the stomach, sea-sickness, vertigo when standing on the edge of a high cliff.

 

The next part of the chapter traces the origins of the balance system – the plaques that eventually become the inner ear start developing at 21 days gestation.   From my notes, at eight weeks the embryonic inner ear resembles the adult inner ear.  I don’t know as this chapter was really clear for layman in terms of the parts of the ear, so I wanted to add a few things here.  There is an outer ear, the part you see, a middle ear that is air-filled that a physician can look at with an otoscope in the doctor’s office, and there is an inner ear that is fluid-filled located in the temporal bone, which is part of your skull.    There are two vestibular organs called the saccule and the utricule, you can see a picture here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utricle_(ear) , which are covered with hair cells and contain otoliths, which are calcium carbonate coverings that detect linear acceleration and respond to gravity.  There are also three semicircular canals, just as the chapter here describes, which detect angular motion.  You can see a further description of this on page 14.

 

This chapter points out that balance is not something we “have”, it is something we do!   Balance and vision work together, balance requires muscle tone development and the development of postural control; hearing and touch also work with balance.  This is a lovely quote:  “The vestibular system may be the expert in movement, but it receives its training through movement.”

 

On page 17, the author notes, “Secure balance is inseparable from the development of postural control, which in turn is supported by information from the visual, proprioceptive, and motor systems.  Training of these systems is a gradual process during which maturation of the vestibular pathways involved will take until at least 7 years of age, and continue through puberty and beyond.  Immature vestibular functioning is frequently found amongst children who have specific learning difficulties such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, problems of attention, language impairment, emotional problems, and adults who suffer from anxiety, Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder.”  And, on page 18, “Children who continue to reverse letters, numbers, and words after the age of 8 years are also found to have immature balance.” 

 

The last few pages of the book are devoted to a list of how to train balance: up and down movements like jumping and jumping on a trampoline or going down a slide; to and fro – running, stopping, starting, swinging; centrifrugal force such as carousels; turning movements of the body such as spinning, dancing, rolling, somersaults and depth such as riding on a scooter board. 

 

The chapter ends with a list of signs and symptoms that may indicate problems with the vestibular system and mentions developmental delay, poor muscle tone, frequent falls, fear of movement, clumsiness, no fear of heights or excessive hear of heights, excessive spinning or rocking, poor sense of body in space in relations to others, cannot figure out how to push or pull or imitate movement, motion sickness over eight years of age, difficulty learning to ride a bike, etc.

 

A chapter with a lot of food for thought.  Look for Chapter Three in the next post!

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12 thoughts on ““The Well-Balanced Child”–Chapter Two: Balance

  1. Thank you for this Carrie. My child is one of those children who ‘seeks movement’. He has been assessed by an Occupational Therapist for sensory processing issues and she agrees that his vestibular system is out of kilt. We let him bounce on his bed (no room in the garden for a trampoline unfortunately), he spins on a computer chair, he swings on a door etc. The OT said we were doing all the right things. He also needs lots of heavy work – pushing wheelbarrows, digging etc – which he does loads of. He is now 6 and in the last year of a Waldorf KG. I am concerned how he is going to manage Class 1. I haven’t been able to find out whether his need to jump, swing and spin will lessen as he grows older or many other ways that I can help him. I am just writing this so that others in the same situation may not feel so isolated and also to throw the question out there – what are other parents doing to help their ‘sensory seekers’?

    • As the parent of a sensory seeker, we wound up homeschooling when the Waldorf classroom asked for more seat time than my child could manage. The Pine Hill School in Wilton NH is trying out the Moveable classroom in classes two and three. Class three teacher David Scott and his wife are the initiators of this in the USA. I believe its origins are in Germany. I suspect more classrooms will find ways to meet the needs for movement of the children who are coming over time. Our local public school allows for a great deal of free movement within the classroom although it does not offer any of the rich experiences of rhythm and movement or social movement found in Waldorf education. This book is an excellent resource for why movement is so necessary for healthy development and learning. Some schools will work with an OT who understands Waldorf education to find ways to support the child’s ability to regulate their needs within the classroom. (for example, beginning the day with movement on the playground, swinging, sliding, jumping, chewing gum or having a fidget toy or being sent down the hall to help out)

    • Thank you for weighing in, rhythm of the year~ looking forward to hearing what other families say as well.
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  2. Thank you rhythmoftheyear. So nice to hear from someone in the same situation. I can feel very isolated sometimes. I will look up the school you recommend and the moveable classroom idea. I too feel we may end up homeschooling although I have to admit my nerves are rather frayed as it is! Thank you again Carrie for bringing this up.

  3. Hi Carrie, reading this post made me cry. It described my nine year old son’s brain/development/sensory/movement issues so well. I wish I knew this information when he was a baby, but I have to trust there was a reason it didn’t become known to me then. He is almost ten and I have much work to do. I would like to get this book and study along with you. :) We just started with an occupational therapist but she is not familiar with Waldorf and I would like to bring in more movement for him with that foundation.

    • Sarah! Love, love, love to you!
      I have a post coming up based on a course I just took for my physical therapist license renewal that will also help I think, along with many books and links to be named in that post. Your OT should be well- familiar with sensory challenges and how movement, especially heavy work helps all types of sensory challenges, whether that child over reacts or under reacts to sensory stimulation.
      You are doing great, and you did great back then with the information you had. Now you will keep going forward! However, it is interesting to me that the more I delve into the physical challenges children are experiencing, the more it validates what we do in Waldorf Education and the more sad I feel that the schools are taking away recess, play in the Kindergarten in favor of academics, taking away art and music. Ugh!
      Anyway, look for those posts, hugs, hugs, hugs.
      Many blessings and much joy,
      Carrie

  4. Thank you Carrie. :) Hugs and love to you too! You are such a special woman. I’m glad to know you, even if it is just through the medium of the internet.

    Sarah xoxo

  5. Well, this is my son to a “T”. He began OT at the age of 4 for sensory integration issues, and his therapist is an amazing woman to whom we owe so much! He is definitely a sensory-seeker as well. He moves, moves, moves! The best thing for him is spinning and jumping. We have a mini trampoline in the backyard and when he gets too revved up, I send him outside to jump and spin. He also has a trapeze that my husband built out of a large piece of bamboo and a rope. It hangs from a tree and he spins! I cannot believe how quickly he spins, and for as long. I would be sick but he loves it!

    We attempted preschool, which didn’t work out after only 3 weeks. He attended the public K, and with many struggles and after getting him a new teacher, he made it through the year. But when 1st grade rolled around, they were just asking too much of him, and we had to bring him home. We’ve been homeschooling for a year now and it has been hard, but we are finally settling into it and I feel good about it. We still work very hard on his writing, but his fine motor skills are still lacking. He struggles greatly with his writing, still shows reversals, and spacing is a huge problem. But we persist! From what I have read, lots and lots of patient practice is the only way to get through it. He is 7 and we are just on the verge of beginning lower case letters because it has taken him this long just to master the capitals!

    Sadly, we cannot afford to keep sending him to OT at $125 an hour, but we are pretty well set-up here at home with his “sensory diet.” A really helpful book is “The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun.” Lots of good sensory games in there and they are fun for all kids, not just sensory kids!

    Carrie, thanks so much for this. It is good for me to have constant reminders that my son does have special needs, and that I shouldn’t get so frustrated with him at times. Thank you!!

    • Rose,
      Wait till you read the posts I am going to write about the sensory modulation course I went to recently..stay tuned, I hope to get them written this week!
      Also, just think, in Waldorf education, your first grader would be learning only capital letters most likely, although some do do lower case the second half of first grade or in second grade.

      These children are wonderful, they remind us all of our humanity, of our needs to be in our bodies, of our needs as parents to give children space and time to develop. I am not happy your family or your little guy has had to go through all of this, but I am happy for letting parents know about sensory modulation challenges.
      Much love to you and your family,
      Carrie

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