What a difference a few months make with the right help! I’ve blogged before about J’s anxiety, mostly when he was required to be alone. He couldn’t (not wouldn’t, but truly couldn’t) sleep alone; even going to the bathroom alone caused him anxiety. This anxiety led us to two different attachment therapists. The first one we really didn’t like; the second one we liked but he felt that the problem was not attachment and that J would grow out of the stage. That was comforting, but several months later the situation was no better and at times it was worse.
It was May when a friend invited me to attend a seminar on neuro-reorganization. The seminar was free and I was willing to hear about anything that might help. As I listened to the practitioner describe kids with underdeveloped lower centers of the brain, it was like she knew J. She was describing his anxiety, his lack of focus, his inability to be still, his confusion at times over true pain and normal bodily functions. I was amazed at what I was hearing.
Basically it is believed that the movements that babies do with their arms, legs, and head serve to hard-wire the brain for later. These movements culminate in creeping (army crawl) and crawling (hands ans knees). Some of the movements allow the eyes to track correctly across a page making reading easier. If done correctly and enough, babies brains are wired and the primitive reflexes that infants have are suppressed.
For example, with highways in place, our fight or flight mechanism only triggers when there is really danger (like encountering a bear while hiking). But without highways in place, this part of the brain could perceive things like homework or picking up toys as a threat.
The day after the seminar I came home and began doing more research on neuro-reorganization and what was available. There are a couple of different ways to go when it comes to these programs–traveling practitioners who visit/evaluate about every three months, hands-on regular help if you’re lucky enough to live near a practitioner, and online programs. The costs and the amount of time needed to complete the program vary.
Most of the programs are similar in nature: the child does movements that they did as babies. After so many hours of doing these movements as well as creeping and crawling, the highways are in place allowing the child to lead a life without the things that have hindered them thus far.
As I was looking around at options, I found Brain Highways. This is a center the holds classes–two eight-week classes–that teach the parent how to facilitate the brain reorganization. They have an online program, but we live within driving distance of one of their centers. The evaluation was free so we decided to see what it was about.
In June, J had his evaluation. Sure enough, they found him to have deficits in both lower levels of the brain. We signed up for classes that started in August. The first class focuses on the pons level of the brain–where the fight-or-flight response resides. This was way we signed up and we were eager to see J’s anxiety easing and we weren’t disappointed.
By the end of that eight-week class, J started to put himself to bed. Instead of one of us having to lay down with him for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, we now read him a book, tuck him, say goodnight, and leave the room. We went back and checked on him once or twice, but often he was asleep before we even made the first trip back. At end of this class, J was still sleeping in our bed but we felt like we’d gained our evening back since we didn’t have to stay. He was also going to the bathroom and his bedroom without someone having to go with him.
In early October we started the second course with Brain Highways, the mid-brain course. This area of the brain controls filtering noise, sensory areas like touch, and vision. When we started we thought of these things–lack of focus, touching everytyhing, struggling to read–as J’s personality or just being a boy. But what we learned was that these can be symptoms of an underdeveloped mid-brain. By the end of November, we were finished with classes and were just continuing our patterns, creeping, and crawling at home.
Early December brought a minor surgery for me, and the perfect opportunity to move J to a bed of his own. The mattress is still in our room (mainly because of my husband’s work schedule) but the move was no problem for J. He’s sleeping alone through the night. And we know this wasn’t possible before Brain Highways because we tried it. Earlier this year, we put a twin bed at the end of our bed and J couldn’t sleep through the night alone.
All of which brings us to last night. Last night I was working from home and it was after 10 p.m. Usually I’m in bed by this time but last night I was trying to get a project finished and was burning the 10 p.m. oil. About 10:10, I heard J say “Mom.” I couldn’t respond immediately, which I figured would lead to crying and panicked calling on J’s part. That’s what had always happened before. Instead, he came out of the bedroom and called “Mom” calmly. I answered, and he asked where I was. I said still working in the living room. He asked, “Am I still supposed to be sleeping?” I said, “Yes, you are, and I’ll be in soon.” He answered “OK,” and quietly walked back to the room, climbed into bed, and five minutes later when I went to check on him, he was sound asleep.
I was–still am, in fact–totally amazed! Likely only my husband, me, and our exchange student from last year, realize what a truly big deal this was. Bedtime has become a joy! Each day is not filled with anxiety and fear, and we are much more able to enjoy J.
We’re still working on the mid-brain issues, but were warned that this level of the brain doesn’t change as quickly as the pons. But thanks to the excellent results we’ve seen already, we’re confident that in time we’ll see progress and change in the mid-brain issues as well.
While many things can lead to lower brain underdevelopment, trauma is one of them. That means that many (most?) adopted kids are prone to underdevelopment. That is why I’m encourage every adoptive family I can to check out http://www.brainhighways.com. There are free evaluation videos so you can see how lower brain underdevelopment manifests in kids. It costs nothing to check it out. We’re so glad we did!