“Of Many Minds”–Brain Development and Education

Tonight, we are back with Chapter 7 of “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning”, entitled “Of Many Minds”.  This is a fairly lengthy chapter and I want to focus on the parts of it related to education for you all to ponder.

This chapter makes the point that one of the most important things that happen in childhood is that connections are made within the brain, between higher and lower regions and also between the two hemispheres of the brain.  Piaget called this period the “sensory motor period” and I think with good reason! There is discussion about the important role about the cerebellum, which you can find on pages 93-94.

This is a great quote from page 94:  “Although learning can take place at any stage in development, it is more efficient if it coincides with the time of neurological ‘readiness.’”  This statement appears to be in stark contrast to the American school system today, where facts are stuffed into the child with little regard for what is happening physiologically, never mind holistically, with the child.

The right hemisphere develops slightly ahead of the left hemisphere up until about age 7.  The right hemisphere is associated with whole word recognition, maths, rhythm, spatial orientation, language (emotional), visual, intuitive, holistic kinds of things.  “The years of optimum right-hemisphere dominant development are years when learning is still strongly linked to sensory-motor activity.” Continue reading

“Music And The Brain”–Chapter 6 of “The Well Balanced Child”

Music is processed at ALL levels of the brain – from heart rate, breathing and arousal to feelings and emotions to visual images and associations- it is all there.

Infants respond to music and imitate rhythm before they even develop speech.  “Nursery rhymes, songs and movement to music can all be used in the first five years to develop other skills in preparation for literacy.  Musical training also helps to develop left-hemispheric abilities such as sound discrimination, timing, numeric skills, and expressive language.  These abilities are essential for the understanding of phonics, and for developing short-term memory in the absence of visual cues.”  Music involves sequencing, and successful tonal memory actually bears a close relationship to reading age.

This could be promising for children with dyslexia.  Several interesting studies were mentioned on pages 79 to 80 of this chapter, including one Danish study that involved 1000 children who used a specific series of frequency-specific music tapes to improve the hearing discrimination and speed of processing.  At the end of one year, there was a 70 percent reduction in the signs of dyslexia in the group.  Continue reading

“The Music Of Language”–Chapter Five of “The Well-Balanced Child”

This chapter was so interesting; it started with a story of the author’s second son who was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and despite how his hearing continued to hover at 60 decibels and  he would not speak outside of the home and nor could he read, he became a chorister.  The Master of Choristers mentioned that in his choir all the choristers’ reading ability improved dramatically, whether they were poor readers to begin with or not.  The author’s son eventually went to university on a choral scholarship, and she noted that the years her son made the greatest progress was when he started to sing.

Music becomes the second language for a child after movement.  An infant in utero can hear  from external sources only low to medium frequencies that correspond to the range of most vocal melodies and the range of notes on a piano.  The rhythm, cadence, and timbre of the mother’s voice, a intra-uterine source of sound, provides the first link for the development of language and speech.

An infant’s ears are partially filled with fluid for a few days after birth.  In this way, “the baby inhabits an auditory hinterland between the uterine and extra-uterine world.”  Once the fluid clears up,the infant narrows down hearing to the frequency range used in his or her own language.  (What was not mentioned here, which I wonder about, are infants whose parents speak to them in two or three separate languages from birth.  It would seem the range of frequencies would be ever expanded).  The author does remark,  “In the first three years of life, a child has a potential to learn any language on earth if it is exposed to the sounds of that language regularly over a long enough period of time.  After three years of age, the window of opportunity starts to close, and by six years of age the capacity to learn language as an innate skill starts to diminish.”

Hearing starts to develop also with auditory orientation, the way we can locate where a sound is coming from even without seeing the source.  The author remarks on page 73: “Vision tells us what is happening in front and to the sides; hearing and balance help us to know what is happening behind.” This ability to match sounds and sights become the basis for reading and writing.

Using voice in play, through chanting,  through speech and through song are vitally important for hearing and speech development.  Our next chapter is about music and the brain and will explore this further…

Many blessings,
Carrie

“Reflexes and The Developing Mind”–Part Two

This is Part Two of the post covering Chapter 4 in “The Well-Balanced Child” by Sally Goddard Blythe.  You can find the first part of this post here: http://www.chattnaturecenter.org/hours-admission-attire-directions.html

We are going to take a quick peek at the last four reflexes in this chapter. Continue reading

“The Well Balanced Child”–Chapter Four: Reflexes and the Developing Mind

“From Cradle to Coordination:  Reflexes and the Developing Mind” is the full title of this chapter, and it is an interesting look at how reflexes help the body do things and therefore free up other areas of the brain for thought and action on a more complex level.

This chapter goes through eight different reflexes, what they are, and perhaps more importantly to those whose children have challenges, what these reflexes look like when they are retained and not integrated well:  how this affects motor and emotional development. This post will cover the first part of this chapter, and tomorrow’s post will cover the second part.

This is a brief listing of some things I thought were really pertinent or thought-provoking about this chapter; for more you will really need to get the book and read it as this chapter was fairly lengthy!

The first four reflexes: Continue reading

“The Well Balanced Child” – Chapter Three: “Brain and Body–Developing The Mind”

Yay, we are up to Chapter Three!  I hope you all are enjoying this book as much as I am.

This chapter points out that the brain of a new-born baby incredibly contains nearly all the brain cells it will need throughout the rest of life even though the newborn baby’s brain is only about a third of the size of the adult brain.  The main period of brain growth occurs in the first year of life, although between age 15 months and age 6 the cerebral cortex appears to double in size.  (The cerebral cortex play a role in memory, attention, language and other areas; you can see more about it here on Wiki:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_cortex).   Continue reading

“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!

“The Well-Balanced Child”–Introduction and Chapter One

 

We are up to the Introduction and Chapter One of our new book study. Is everyone reading along?  This is interesting stuff!

 

The author writes that when her children were growing up, she was searching for information on not just child development and the practical advice for parenting that stemmed from child development, but HOW nature and nurture work together to produce skills that are unique to each human being. Continue reading

Three Books of Import–Christian Book Reviews

 

I am back doing less work and projects right now, and more reading.  I recently finished “Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home” by Fr. Anthony Coniaris, which was lent to me by a dear local friend.    Thank you, dear friend.

 

There is something so peaceful and soothing about this book.  When I get bogged down in “what is this all about – parenting, homeschooling, juggling all these balls in the air” – this book reminds me:  “the primary lesson for children is to know the eternal God, the One Who gives everlasting life” (St. Clement).  A balm for the mothering soul, and such a great simplifying thought. Continue reading

The Foreword of “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning”

Our new book study is here!  We will be going through Sally Goddard Blythe’s “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning”

The foreword to the book begins by stating this book is written by a therapist (Goddard Blythe is a physiological psychologist), and is an exploration of the “age-old truth “Sound body, sound mind”, and explains why early movement is vital for developing sound balance as well as the interrelated and dependent foundations for normal or sound language, learning, cognition, and affect.”

Harold Levinson, the MD who wrote this foreword, states that his research in 1973 was the first to understand “that the many and diverse symptoms characterizing dyslexia and related learning, sensory-motor, attention deficit, and anxiety or phobic disorders were caused by medically diagnosable and treatable  signal –scrambling dysfunction within the inner ear and its “super-computer”, the cerebellum…” and states that this book will be helpful to parents and professionals interested in children.

The guest introduction by Ewout Van-Manen talks about how difficult parenting is these days due to a lack of community, the lack of practical task for children to participate in, and how mothers today are divided between working and motherhood..and not to mention those conflicting books, articles and media reports of “how-to” parent.

How do we sort through, and make sense of, this information in order to be in a position to make informed decisions as to what is best for our children?  Clearly, the best way to begin is to look at these issues is by looking at general child development.  It is only by understanding child development and by observing the children in our care that we can begin to be in a position to make appropriate, informed judgements and decisions”  .

 

On page xv:  “A society that does not promote the sensory development of its younger generation is at the same time diminishing its overall intellectual capacity.”

On to the author’s introduction to the book and Chapter One in our next book post!  Is everyone excited?

Many blessings,
Carrie