These simple activities, when done regularly, can create huge change in maturing the nervous system of the child — essentially helping her grow up, internally — and, most importantly, help her feel better about herself.
I’m departing from my usual blog “story” format here. This article is simply to explain a bit about what the Developmental Building Block Activities are, what their purpose is, and what what the potential is for using them.
They’re so deceptively simple: Repeatedly do lengthening activities on the foot, and language starts emerging. Repeatedly trace a specific pattern on the child’s body, and he becomes more aware of just where his arms and legs are, and how they relate to his middle; soon he’s moving his body more skillfully, walking around the things in the room, rather than bumping into them. And more.
I offer a one-day workshop in these BBAs, so that parents, OTs, PTs, and others, can learn to facilitate these activities with the children (actually, people of all ages) in their care. More on that, at the end of the article.
Now, on to the information:
What are the Developmental Building Block Activities?
The BBAs are eight specific interventions that are part of a course developed by Cecilia Koester, M.Ed., whose specialty is working with children who have special needs. The course is titled Brain Gym® for Special Needs Providers, and it teaches a modification of the Brain Gym system that is particularly suited for working with children (or adults) in this population.
The BBAs are a wonderful support for those diagnosed with developmental delay, sensory integration issues, ADD/ADHD, stroke, traumatic brain injury, autism, Down syndrome – or for anyone who may be overwhelmed by the sensory load from over-stimulating environments.
What is developmental delay?
This is a term for everything from mild sensory-sensitivity issues to profound delay, where the child is years behind his chronological age, both developmentally and behaviorally. But it's more than just being "temporarily behind" in a few developmental markers that resolve themselves over time.
I often describe developmental delay with this image: Think of a skyscraper that someone built, but they never put in quite enough uprights and crossbeams for the structure to be solid. It looks big from the outside, but the interior is barely finished — there’s no place to anchor the floors, the walls, the pipes, the wiring — and bringing in furniture is out of the question.
Similarly, a child with developmental delay may be 8 years old (for example), but her nervous system may not have the solid interior structure required to function easily. Important connections within her nervous system were never completed, so she now has less ability to take in and organize what she sees, hears, and experiences (called “sensory information”) in the world around her; she’s less coordinated, and less able to focus and learn. People expect her to behave and learn like a typical 8-year-old; yet, functionally, she’s much, much younger.
What does developmental delay "look like"?
A child with profound developmental delay will have obvious behaviors that would be appropriate only for a much younger child, and which may include inability to speak, issues with muscle tone, coordination, and focus, etc.
A fairly common manifestation on the more “mild” end of of developmental delay is that the child may resist doing certain activities, including Brain Gym activities. This is often perceived as defiance. For such individuals, however, the activities may be “too much information” for their nervous system to organize and store; they cannot identify or express their own overwhelm, so they simply refuse to participate, or fall into emotional over-reaction out of sheer frustration. After some time of experiencing the BBAs, such children are often able to enjoy all kinds of things that were previously intolerable for them.
Why are the “BBA” activities so helpful?
Our nervous system matures and integrates as it experiences sensory patterns. The BBAs are designed to provide sensory patterning to the nervous system, in a way that it can recognize it, take it in, and benefit from it, developing a more mature, integrated mind-body system.
These new sensory patterns become the “uprights and crossbeams” of a more solid structure, so the child now has a way to bring in, store, organize, and make use of what he sees, hears, and learns about in the world around him. This increasing inner maturity supports his nervous system (potentially) in more closely approximating his chronological age. Every child is on his own developmental trajectory, so some children may achieve greater change than others, but I believe that every child will benefit.
Are the BBAs just for developmental delay?
No. Anyone who has had a shock or disruption to their nervous system will likely experience benefit from the BBAs. This may be a physical shock (car accident, stroke, heart attack), or emotional shock (death in the family, divorce, etc.). And there are the smaller, daily upsets to the nervous system (horrifying news events, work and relationship stressors) that we all carry.
In addition, some people simply have a more sensitive, reactive nervous system; the stimulation of sights, sounds, tastes, fragrances, movements, and tactile experiences of a single day at the shopping mall can be “too much to handle.”
When I teach this course to adults, everyone in the class reports positive changes from experiencing the BBAs, as they trade with partners for practice. Think of the BBAs as a way to do a gentle reset for your nervous system.
My child has seizures; are these activities safe to do?
Cecilia Koester says that these activities have been found to be safe for people who experience seizures. She says that with regular use of these BBAs, “seizure activity has been shown to become reduced in frequency, intensity, and duration.”
How can I learn these activities?
As mentioned above, they are part of Cecilia Koester’s four-day BG170 course, “Brain Gym® for Special Needs Providers.”
However, Cecilia also developed a one-day workshop where just the Developmental Building Block Activities are taught, and she has trained and authorized select Brain Gym instructors around the world to offer this workshop to others.
I frequently have this “Developmental Building Block Activities Workshop” on my calendar. At this writing, I have a workshop coming up on September 21, 2019, and there’s still room for more students. I’d love to have you join us.
If these dates don't work for you, I'll be happy to schedule a workshop for your group, school, or agency.
With warm regards,
Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain
©Copyright 2019 Kathy Brown.All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation • www.braingym.org
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