Welcome Back! Last week, we visited with Dr. Charles Ross and explored the food they are feeding our children in school…if you happened to miss that blog, click HERE to review and catch up! You shared this blog over 140 times, and we thank you for that!
This week, we visit with Michelle Jenck, M.Ed, as we journey down the path of Neurodevelopmental Physical Activity. Whew! That’s a mouthful! What does it mean, exactly? I have no idea, but it sounds like it’s VERY important to the development of children. If you have a child, foster child, grandchild, or work with children, this blog is for you! Let’s grab A Cup of Coffee and learn together!
Neurodevelopmental Physical Activity is designed to address the root causes of sensory and motor delays and dysfunctions. It sounds complex but it all boils down to using movement to re-wire the brain.
By ensuring that the foundations which influence body awareness, sensory processing, and motor planning are in place at a young age, children are more likely to successfully participate in more advanced physical skills later.
These fundamental skills significantly impact the child’s ability to process sensory information, organize thinking and movement patterns and feel more control over their body and their environment. When this happens, children are better equipped to pay attention, take in information through the ears and eyes, process that information in a more organized manner, and produce more controlled, more accurate responses to that information.
Ultimately, this improves learning and behavior. Critically, this increased sense of control influences the child’s perception of what they are capable of doing and ultimately influences their sense of self-esteem.
The Vestibular System is the first system of the body to develop, beginning in utero. This involves the fluid in the three canals of the inner ear. Movement in three planes, side-to-side, front-to-back, and rotational movement send sensory information to the brain about where the body is in space, in relationship to other things and people around them, as well as how fast or slow they are moving – which is an important part of developing self-regulation.
Children who are challenged by any of these things should be exposed to slow, repetitive movements involving those three planes to strengthen their vestibular system. This movement can take the form of simple activities. An infant can lie on her belly and lift her head to look up (front-to-back), roll over (rotational) or look at a mobile or other moving object while lying on her back (side-to-side). Hence the importance of babies having “floor” time or “tummy” time.
An older child might roll down a grass hill (rotation), mimic an airplane, banking from side-to-side, or bend over to touch their toes and then reach up and look at the sky (front-to-back). Parents and educators can build activities into a child’s day to help ensure that they are benefitting from these foundational movement patterns.
It is important for the vestibular system development to occur early on because the development of the auditory (hearing) and visual (seeing) motor systems are dependent on the vestibular system. If you aren’t getting accurate information about movement, space, and position, the brain cannot accurately process what is seen and heard.
Additionally, when information comes into the brain in a disorganized manner, it makes it difficult for the child to respond appropriately, often resulting in behavior issues. By laying a strong vestibular foundation, work can begin on strengthening the nerve pathways that influence how information is processed by the Central Nervous System.
Activities that help the brain distinguish left from right, the ability to isolate movement of body parts, and so on, help create the needed organization in the brain for later academic learning and physical coordination. Finally, crosspatterned movements (like patty cake) will help improve the ability of the two sides of the brain to “talk to each other.” This improves higher order thinking skills, physical coordination, and especially helps with reading and writing ability.
Michelle Jenck, M.Ed., Health & Kinesiology firstname.lastname@example.org 503.812.8354
If you want to watch a great video on this topic, specifically if you have a child on the spectrum, this one is a must watch! Dr. Kurt Woeller is a DO and considered an expert in this field.