Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flexing our Reflexes

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of doing a few one-on-one consults with Patricia Lemer, the Executive Director of Developmental Delay Resources and the editor and an author of the wonderfully comprehensive book on therapies for ASD, Envisioning A Bright Future: Interventions that Work for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. One of the things Patty suggested we look into was reflex integration to address areas about which she was concerned after reviewing Henry’s many reports and meeting with me. So I began to explore and learn. Reading Patty’s book and googling led me to information about neurodevelopmental delay (NDD). My understanding (albeit quite limited) is that NDD is the continued presence of primitive reflexes that should have integrated during the first year or so of life and/or the failure of postural reflexes to develop. You can read more about NDD here and here. Sally Goddard Blythe, of the Institute For Neuro-Physiological Psychology in the UK (the INPP), which has done some of the most groundbreaking research in this area, has written several excellent books on the subject and I have just ordered her latest, Attention, Balance and Coordination: The A.B.C. of Learning Success.

Anna Buck, who was trained by the INPP, has established a center in Colorado where she provides assessments and NDD remediation along with a listening program (Listening Fitness) and tutoring. She has also written a book called Miracle Children: Behavior and Learning Disabilities Uprooted. When I read this book, I saw so much of Henry in the children she featured in her case studies, that I knew this was something we needed to explore for Henry.

In early March, Henry began to see a new occupational therapist (in addition to the team in place) to assess his reflexes and, if needed, to work on them. Henry’s new OT, Mari, has been working over the past few months to integrate a number of reflexes and we are seeing nice progress. The two primative reflexes that are most apparent and in need of integration for Henry seem to be the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) and Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR). Among other things, both these reflexes can impact language -- as Mari explained to me, ATNR can affect information synthesis and STNR can affect the organization of speech.

Mari also uses Brain Gym techniques in working with Henry and we have learned several easy to do exercises that help calm and focus and make him more ready for attentive listening and learning. We are working to incorporate more of these into our daily routine. In addition, Brain Gym exercises are great to use in school to help kids get ready to learn during the school day.

Having begun this work with Henry and seeing nice changes, I also am interested in learning more about the integrative work done at centers such as the National Association for Child Development and the Crossroads Institute.

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