Monday, August 26, 2013

Brain Balance Beginning Symptom List

As promised, I wanted to post a list of things my son presently does that are things that could be caused by a brain imbalance. But to explain more what that means, I first want to give a little background as I understand it from what I've read and heard. The people at Brain Balance discuss brain hemispheres and how they can be out of balance. A healthy or mature brain is one that has equally balanced left and right hemispheres and they talk to each other. There are many pathways that go from one hemisphere to the other. That is how information is brought in and laid down on the brain. Information from the right eye goes to the left brain and vice versa. An imbalance in the brain occurs when one side of the brain is over-stimulated and the other is under 'done' or hasn't matured as fast. The two sides have trouble communicating. It would be similar to a generation gap. The adult side is talking in language the baby side can't understand. This causes learning problems or problems with physical abilities of balancing and hearing/processing or speech. In a recent study I read about it actually showed how the wiring in a brain of kids with issues actually has problems. Instead of the wiring going from one hemisphere to the other like it should, it wires back on itself. I think this might be why loops occur in these kids. They get stuck in a pattern. Many autistic kids will actually walk in a circle or a figure 8 pattern. They also get in mental loops like fixation on one thing (my son likes gadgets of any kind and also loved vacuums when he was younger) One good side affect of this is genius kids where they are super good at a sport or music or math. They excel beyond most at this one thing, but they might be socially backward or unable to do other things up to par. They are stuck on that one thing. That part of their brain is wired around and around instead of crossing over. They have a list at the Brain Balance center that shows what symptoms show up if your child is brain dominant on the right or the left. My son has an under-active right brain and over-active left. When I found out what stimulates the left brain to be over-active I can see why. Electronics (TV, computer games, handheld games) inflexibility (he hates to change and freaks out sometimes when we change plans last minute)   Here's my partial list of things that I noticed about him, some of which I didn't even realize were part of his brain issues:   stuffing his mouth with too much food   speaking too loudly in most settings repeating questions over and over till he receives stimulus back 'fixating' on certain things taking extra long to learn how to ride a bike running awkwardly not looking people in the eye reading issues *the test for this was so interesting. We were able to watch where his eyes went on the page as he tried to read. They were all over the page. not understanding humor taking things literally allergies spelling problems not feeling comfortable in playing sports emotional meltdowns over seemingly small things addiction to movies, electronic games immature digestive track sensitivity to light and certain noises singing off key (can't hold a tune in a bucket as my hubby says about himself) speaking monotone rhythm problems with both dance and playing instruments also in dancing being unable to mirror what the teacher is doing having to be told something over and over to get it not being able to follow a list of instructions. Usually only does the first thing he's told but rarely the second step/instruction inability to put new information into practical use. He may memorize the 'rules' but doesn't actually understand how to use them (causes issues with math word problems) auditory processing issues-he hears fine but doesn't 'get' what was said poor handwriting and drawing ability socially immature (acts younger than his age) not being able to read social cues- can't tell if someone is uncomfortable about what he's doing/saying So, part of what they do at the center is to over-stimulate the weak side of the brain and cut back on stimulus to the overactive side. This means little to no electronics. It also means we have to change things up all the time for our son. He has a pattern of how he does things and we have to mess it up. He gets home, gets the mail, showers and then goes out for a bike ride (and has a regular route he takes) and then....... it goes on from there. If you try to interrupt his pattern, he doesn't appreciate it very much and often goes on with his pattern even if you tell him he can't. This means that we have to take him out of his routine. Today we took him to an art museum. Art is very right brain. Also, he hasn't been to this museum for years so it's bringing in new stimulus. I also shifted his schedule around and had him do something else before showering. Then as he was trying to leave to ride his bike I stopped him and told him it was time to do his exercises (They send you home with a set of exercises to do 3X a day that stimulates his right brain). At first he argued, then he went and played the piano to try and avoid what I asked him to do. For him, this is like pattern B when his pattern A is interrupted. So, I had to change that too and get him doing something else. We also had someone else get the mail today. I'd say he has gotten the mail about 95% of the time since we've lived in our present home. He fretted about it. Luckily he is old enough for me to explain to him that we have to do this to help him. We were told to expect some immature behavior to come out. It's part of the program and actually shows progress. It is caused by the part of the program that addresses Primitive Reflexes. I'll cover those in another post because they are super interesting. But basically they are the reflexes that babies are wired with to help them survive. But you are supposed to grow out of them. Kids that are stuck in them or haven't yet matured out of them have issues that are currently being labeled as ADD/ADHD or Autism spectrum. More on that later.

Brain Balance here we come!

For several years I wished I could take my son to a Brain Balance center for therapy. I had read their book called Disconnected Kids and it perfectly described my son's situation. But, since there wasn't one nearby, it wasn't a reality. I guess we could have picked up and moved for a few months but most of my family would have had a hard time with that. Plus, it would have been too expensive to do, so instead I just resigned myself to the fact that we would find answers that we could try at home. We did a few things to help over the years; Energy work, massage, chiropractic,emotional work, brain gym-type exercises, nutritional powders, etc. He has made progress in small increments. When he was younger he was probably considered Asperger's but never officially got that diagnosis. He had quite a few of the typical signs of it. He did stimming (hand flapping) and had obsessions over certain things (vacuums) as well as delayed speech, auditory processing issues, problems with lots of school subjects. Things didn't seem to stick when he was taught a new concept. He had to see/hear/do it over and over again to learn it. We ended up homeschooling him so that he could learn at his own pace. It took a lot of time, but he learned to read and write. He gets frustrated over things, but generally has a sweet disposition. A couple of months ago I was going through my emails and found one from Brain Balance. I get them several times a month and occasionally I open them but most times I don't have time. For some reason, this time, instead of just reading the email I also decided to check out their website to see if they had any centers closer to us than California. I typed in my zip code and was shocked to see that a new center had just opened up in my town. It was actually less than a mile from my house! I couldn't believe my eyes. I immediately called them and they said they had only been open a few weeks. I was so excited that I wanted to go over there that very day, but instead I found out that they were having an introduction meeting to explain their program in detail. You can bet I was at that meeting. Turned out it was standing room only. I had posted about it on all my homeschooling sites because I was overjoyed to have this option available finally and wanted everyone I knew that had kids with Autism Spectrum kids or ADD, dyslexic, etc to know about it. The meeting was awesome and it just gave me so much hope for my son. I hadn't ever given up on the idea that he could live a less frustrating life. I love him the way he is and would be fine with him staying that way, but I can tell he longs for different circumstances and he gets frustrated by things that he can't do. So for his sake I wanted to try this. He was super excited. I didn't expect him to understand what it was about, but for some reason, from the minute I mentioned it he was ready to jump in and try it. Usually new things kind of scare him, so I was very surprised that he was so eager. We signed up to have an assessment done to see if they thought they could help him. It consists of two periods of testing. One tests physical skills and one tests mental skills. Then there is the parent observation paperwork. That gives the parents a chance to give more detail on what they have observed about their child as well as their history. It was a lengthy stack of questionnaires but each one had a purpose. I've never enjoyed paperwork so I can't say I was happy to do it. But it was worth it to get so much information about my son that answered years of questions and frustration. Our followup appointment to go over the assessment was so eye opening. I had no idea how hard my son was working just to overcome the symptoms and do as well as he had. I had more compassion for his struggles after that and felt bad for getting angry when he wouldn't do something. Now I learned that it wasn't possible due to his brain. Now all we had to do was to decide yes or no. It was always a yes for me because I knew it wasn't an accident that I had discovered the center just weeks after it opened. I hadn't looked for centers for a years. Then I suddenly felt like I should look? Definitely inspiration, not accident. So I felt good about it from the get go. My son was a go too, and he was even willing to pay for part of it (most of it) because he felt like it would be good. I had explained the hard things about it that I thought might deter him. I tried to soften it because it was things that would really change his world (no screen time, a very strict diet, lots of exercises) None of that fazed him at all. He kept saying he wanted to do it. I had a couple of super busy weeks so I couldn't call the center to let them know we were going to do the program. During those weeks my son kept asking, "When am I going to start my challenge?" He didn't let up so I finally called them and set up our first appointment. The first appointment is where we went over everything we had to do with him. There was a lot to talk about. I had lots of questions and they patiently answered. This appointment was with just my husband and I. Our son didn't join us for that one. Our 2nd appointment was with a nutritionist to go over the special diet that is part of the program. I thought my son should come with us for that because it might be easier for someone else to tell him he has to give up most of his favorite foods for several months! He was actually ready to start the diet the minute we finished the appointment. Unfortunately I didn't have the food he needed yet so he had to wait a couple of days before we could officially start. I finally got to Costco and Whole Foods so we officially started the diet 2 days ago. I'll go into that more in another post. I also want to make a list of some of the things that my son does now that we found out are part of his brain imbalance. I want a record of what he has been like so that it will be easier to document the changes. I'll post that tomorrow. We have lots of hope now that we haven't had for years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parents of Rebel Kids Rejoice

I was/am and will probably always be a rebel. I actually thought that it was just a phase I went through in my teenage years, but just today I realized that I still have that same rebel spirit and it is living and growing in my life today. Are my parents still shaking in their shoes whenever I'm nearby? Hopefully not.

Am I sneaking out after curfew? No, but I'm staying up way past bedtime.
Am I showing anti-social behavior? Heck yeah! I'm kicking the politically correct stuff to the curb, making my own way instead of following the herd.
Where else is this rebel heart showing up?
Today I realized that one of my hobbies is due to my rebel tendencies. I like to figure out how to make stuff on my own so I don't have to buy it. Things that other people always buy and would never think to make on their own. This week it's pretzel bread. Last week it was something else. Next week its corn flakes. After that? I'm thinking maybe gummy bears.
It's actually addicting; finding something I like and then seeing if there is a way to make it myself.

Another area is homeschooling. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and not have someone else telling me what to do. Thus we do our own thing and love doing it. I want my kids to be able to follow an interest when they are interested, not when someone else tells them they are.
An example came up this week. My 15 year old hasn't been that interested in history. We've done some history, but nothing super intense. She suddenly is very interested in learning it and asked if we could. She felt something missing in her educational experience and now is ready to learn it. So fun to hear as a mom/teacher! Guess what I'm digging out of my library/storage this week??
Just today I got to hear my two rebel-junior daughters enjoying their day. I came in the front room filled with the sound of daughter 1 playing guitar and daughter 2 playing mandolin and singing together. It was beautiful. My friend dropped by and loved being in the moment and listening to their beautiful harmony. A regular school schedule would not have allowed such a thing to occur, especially since the girls are 7 years apart in age. They would never have been on the same school schedule. Most likely they wouldn't know how to play those instruments anyway because their free time would have been spread between church activities, friends, homework, chores etc. Instead it's part of their school day and we all get to learn together.

Being a rebel is the best! I'm never going to reform. Yes, I look different than the average Joe (or is it Jane?) but it's wonderful to be so free from restraints and expectations to look and act like everyone else.
So, if you have a child who is a rebel, there is hope. Eventually that could turn into something amazing. Just ask my mom and dad!

Sunday, February 19, 2012