Baby movements – building the brain

 

As young parents, we are all too aware of the movements our babies make.  They are such wriggly,  animated little beings from birth on – seeming to be seldom still unless they are asleep.  Talk to them and arms and legs wave in response; hold them upright and they seem determined to try and walk; before long, true mobility begins with their learning how to roll over, then sit, crawl and finally walk.

 

These movements are what we call neurodevelopmental movements and are far more significant than we might think.  They are the genetically determined, automatic movements that all healthy babies do while still in the womb and during the first year of life.  We call them primary reflexes and they are precisely the mechanism that enables the staggering rate of brain growth during the early months of life. 

 

At birth, our human babies’ brains are only about 21% developed.  This is why they are so helpless and dependent on us.  But the stimulation of brain neurons from the movements we feel and then see results in the gazillions of connections between brain cells that cause the baby to show such amazingly rapid development in the first year and beyond.  In short, baby movements are going to be responsible for the child’s future learning and ultimately, her performance and happiness in school.

 

These days, our society and lifestyles can have a negative impact on these neurodevelopmental movements.  For example, too much reliance on baby seats and limited tummy time can impede natural movements. When this happens, children can be left with underdeveloped brain areas that are needed to serve as a foundation for school learning.  In other words, they may lack the maturity and connectivity that is needed for ease of learning, even though they show high intelligence.

 

The result is unexpected difficulties when they enter school or progress beyond the early grades.  The good news is that the brain can be given a second chance to catch up – at virtually any age.  Thanks to the plasticity of the brain, we can help individuals across the lifespan. 

 

By replicating the early, brain-building movements we can help the brain mature and connect to sensory systems. This leads to less stressful learning as well as better social-emotional development.

 

Most parents (and teachers) believe that if a child is struggling with a learning area, they need remedial teaching, usually involving more engagement with the particular academic skill.  For some children, extra work isn’t successful and can lead to even more stress because the reason for their difficulty isn’t their lack of ability – it’s due to lack of maturity of certain brain areas.

 

Once the foundations for learning are in place, the brain is able to function as nature and genetics intended.

 

If you feel your child needs this kind of help, visit our Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) website at www.ilt.co.za to read about our approach. You will also be able to find a practitioner near you to help and see that we offer training courses for parents and teachers to help gain more understanding of how the brain develops and functions and the many reasons that can underlie a child’s learning challenges.

 

You can also write to us at info@ilt.co.za

 

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