A has been seeing our local naturopath for about 4 weeks now, and I am truly amazed. As a prior biology major, physiology is something that interests me anyway, and traveling this new journey with A has been incredibly fascinating. Read my previous post regarding A’s issues for info to catch you up on the reasons behind this.
So far, we have been focused on improving A’s balance. Our weekly regimine has involved a weekly chiropractic adjustment of the 2 points where A is most affected (his left hip and his neck). At home, he runs around barefoot as much as possible to help him feel mis-directed pressure on his feet (if he leans too much). We try to do 2-3 donkey rides each week for therapy to help the signals from his spine to his brain. Finally, we have been giving him regular (supposed to be daily, but I often forget) doses of fish oil, which is supposed to help in building/re-building neurons and their connections.
While it sounds difficult, it really hasn’t been anything too difficult or that increased my workload at all. The improvements, however, have been miraculous. With the exception of one day (the day before an adjustment was due), A has not been falling, tripping, toe-walking, etc. His overall balance has noticeably improved. His swaggering walk is gradually being replaced by a more typical, normal, balanced walk as his hips find their proper alignment. He has also had no night terrors since we started the regimine…something that happened on occasion in the past. Truly astonishing to watch this all changing right before my eyes–and never a single chemical or drug involved.
We had another appointment today. It was more difficult for doc to make an adjustment to the hip (a good thing–means it’s settling into its place). He was pleased with the amount of balance doing the exercises he always has A do for him. He wants me to continue working on A’s awareness of his upright balance. Notice the photo below, when A stands with his feet together. He tends to gradually lean further forward, until he will literally have to step forward or fall over.
If he holds his arms out the side (we call it “airplane arms”) to help with balance, it tends to pull his upper body back in line, and he can stand there for longer periods of time, than when his arms are down.
We can also do arms straight up, which bring him even more upright. Arms to the side and arms straight up are regular exercises we do on the donkey, but, as you can see, even around the house, they are helpful.
After our visit finished, we began discussing some new developments with A, and the therapy was increased a notch. For some time now, I have told people that A just “doesn’t get it.” I couldn’t really pin-point the issue, but he just didn’t seem to get messages to his brain properly. It wasn’t like the other children, who obviously ignore, choose to disobey, etc. With A, it was more like talking to a brick wall. He would be looking me right in the eye, but there was no sign of my message getting into his brain. If that makes any sense. Well, in the last couple of weeks, I have noticed this problem becoming more intense (and frustrating for me!), but at the same time, more specific. For example, I might tell A to go get his shoes. He would look at me and say “what shoes?” as if he had no clue what I was talking about. Please let me emphasize here that he is being completely different than a child who is simply “playing dumb.” With A, there is an OBVIOUS disconnect that I haven’t figured out. Or I might say “Go get (whatever)” and he, knowing what I wanted, would pick up the completely unrelated item next to it. I was baffled. I did find that if I said his name firmly first, it seemed to help him focus and understand a little better, but still….
Anyway, as the doc and I sat discussing this today, A took his little magnetic drawing board, sat on the couch, and began doodling. We talked for a couple of minutes, and then the doc looked over at A and complimented his drawing. I glanced over, and noticed A was drawing with his left hand. Mind you, A is as right-handed as can be. And has been for almost 2 years! Yet, there he was drawing a very controlled picture with his left hand, holding the pencil properly and everything. Out of shock, I mentioned that I had not seen A draw with his left hand since the toddler stage. The doc was taken aback and said, “I’ll bet you anything this child is left handed. I have a theory. Watch.”
He then called A over and handed A is shoes. A just looked at them. He then asked A something else (I think about his drawing), non-chalantly instructing A to put his shoes on. A (distracted by the other thought of his drawing), took his shoes, and put them on his feet perfectly–he never thought about what he was doing. Then the doc held up his fingers and asked A to count to 10 (something A can normally do easily). A’s face went totally blank. After some effort and assistance, we got A counting, then the doc asked A what his name was. A couldn’t tell him. Again, his stare just went blank, as though he had no idea who we were or what was going on. We then distracted him again, pointed to his brother N sitting nearby, and asked what N’s name was. A thought for a moment, and told us N’s name. Then, doc again asked what A’s name was, and A quickly answered him. Then doc asked how old A was, and A went blank. Doc got him focused on numbers again, and A was able to say “I’m three!”
I sat there not knowing what to think. I had walked in with a right-handed child, and suddenly found myself with a left-hander. Here was my 3-year-old son, who knew the answers to all these questions, and yet, the doc was deliberately causing and controlling the semi-trance A was going in and out of. Finally, the doc explained. We are in the early stages, but doc explained his theory at this stage, which at least gives us something to work with.
His theory (supported by his seeming control of A’s disconnect), relates to the fact that our right and left sides of the brain work seperately and control different parts of the body and thought processes. Generally speaking, the left side of the brain is responsible for logical, verbal, mathmatical, factual, lineal, and analytical functions and thoughts. The right side is responsible for creative, visual, artistic, imagery, intuitive, and imaginative functions and thoughts. Furthermore, they control opposite sides of the body. The left brain controls your right side, while the right brain controls the left side. Early in life, you develop communication systems between the two sides of the brain that allow them to work together. Almost every one, however, has one side that is stronger than the other–an artistic person vs. a mathmatician, or a right-hander vs. a lefty. N’s cerebral palsy results in his left side being weaker, which is indicative that the brain damage is in his right brain. Try rubbing your tummy with one hand and patting your head with the other, simultaneously. That takes some serious brain work…careful, you might get a headache! Or, try this activity I found online, where you say the COLOR of the word not READ the word:
Sorry…. back to doc’s theory for A….he suspects that A developed the left side of his brain better early in life. Whether due to the drugs, who knows, but it is possible that side developed far more than the right side, which caused his apparent, but not natural, right-handedness. Furthermore, and somewhat more serious, the connections that allow the two sides of the brain to communicate failed at some point. So, whatever A learns gets tucked away into his memory on the appropriate side, but he has a great deal of trouble bouncing between sides and retrieving it (ie. changing his thought process from drawing to names to numbers, which involve opposite sides of the brain). Doc suspects that, while the problem has always been there, it is becoming more definitive and pointed because the balance work we have been doing is strengthening the weaker side (hence his sudden left-handedness), and starting to improve the connections between the two sides. We still need help there, though.
So, now is where things start to get a little more difficult. I have to work with A more. In addition to therapeutic riding for balance, we are also going to introduce cross-patterning on and off the donkey. Cross-patterning is the process of training the sides of the brain to communicate with each other by forcing both sides of the brain to work simultaneously, as opposed to homolateral, which is using only one side at the time. Use of the connecting neurons will improve the connections. It is controversial as to whether the exercises truly help, but at A’s young, still-developing age, it certainly can’t hurt! So, here is a pictorial on some things we will be working on:
Something that comes farely natural to most youngsters is crawling. It is a good cross-patterning exercise, as you have to move diagonal limbs (ie. right leg, left hand) at the same time. Here is A crawling with a cross-pattern:
Compare the above to homolateral crawling, where the hand and leg on the same side move forward at the same time (in this case, A’s left side is moving forward):
For the crawling, the homolateral exercise was actually more difficult for A, as it requires he balance on the opposing side momentarily…something he is not good at. An inability to perform cross-pattern crawling, however, has been linked with other conditions such as dyslexia, balance, and other conditions requiring simultaneous use of both sides of the brain. Likewise, I have heard of some situations over the years where conditions such as dyslexia improved once the child was taught to crawl using a cross-pattern.
Then, we have to work on homolateral exercises for balance and comprehension, such as touching his right hand to his right knee.
Then, we work on brain-connection cross-patterning exercises such as touching his left hand to his right knee:
We also have to work on his comprehension of “right” and “left”, so we will be doing instructional exercises like “Raise your left hand,” “Raise your right hand and touch your left shoulder,” or “Show me your right eye.”
Finally, we have to practice transitioning from one side of his brain to the other. So, in addition to cross-patterning, I have to practice his memory skills such as counting, telling me names, ages, and whatever other topic I can think of.
Right now, I can easily tell when A is trying to “find” the stored concept, such as a number or name, as he transitions from one side of the brain to the other. He will look up when deep in thought. Or, as in the pic above, when I transition from asking about names to asking him to count my fingers, he will often reach out and touch my finger when not totally sure. Once he is in that needed frame of mind, he will stop touching and just count freely, and more confidently. The goal here is to improve how quickly he can make those connections. Hopefully, he will eventually be able to simply and rather quickly answer whatever question I ask, giving only minimal thought when necessary. He will also hopefully becoming faster at transitioning from memory exercises to performing instructed tasks (ie. transition from counting to showing me his right/left hands or transition from playing to retrieving his shoes) without freezing up and getting stumped.
As always, we’ll see how this progresses. I am just so grateful and thank God, not only for A’s improvement already, but for allowing me to find this doc who will actually listen to my concerns and give me some answers and possible solutions to help my son!