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. 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!