Welcome to the blog portion of my website. I hope that this will be a place where you can learn and be resourced.
I have always believed that a person’s body is creatively and intricately designed by God and the body has the ability to repair itself if given the right resources, both actively and nutritionally. But repair often goes deeper than repetitions that make the muscle stronger. In my career, I was challenged to apply my knowledge differently when the strengthening repetitions, designed to allow a person to obtain the ability to walk on their own, was not progressing to my satisfaction. In addition, during this time, I was also being asked to work with an individual whose diagnosis didn’t fit into any traditional box. These opportunities not only stretched my creativity but also forced me to dive into research finding that not only should I be training the body but I should be training the brain through movement as well: called mind/body integration.
The CDC reported in 2015 that 15% of children ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with at least one developmental disorder, 11% of children have attention disorders, which is a 42% increase over 8 years, 1 in 5 children are diagnosed with dyslexia, and autism rose 30% over a two year period. This is just to name a few on a long list of possible diagnoses. Having school aged children I have definitely seen the influx of children needing services, many of which are not diagnosed until 8 years old or older. There are several theories, including my own, as to why there seems to be a trending increase in learning delayed children, but the one common thread throughout all of the discussion is the decline in movement and nutrition.
As fitness professionals we have been taught that exercise is good for the whole body, including the brain as it increases oxygen flow, decreases anxiety, reduces stress, and improves sleep, all of which are vital for healthy brain function. While research on mind/body integration through movement, dates back to the 1950s, more current research is showing that children need to actively interact with their environment in order to develop higher learning skills, meaning academic learning is not enough. As Carla Hannaford says in her book Smart Moves, “ We can no longer limit the learning environment to sitting still, being quiet, and memorizing stuff. It is time to return to the ‘good old days’ when children played, sang, verbally interacted with other children and adults on a regular basis, and were encouraged in their curiosity, imagination, and physical prowess.” As science discovers an increased understanding of how the brain works, movement experiences have been deemed necessary in order to develop our sense of vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and proprioception and to further develop higher cognitive thinking that allows us to be able to understand our world, by filtering important information, and then appropriately making reactive decisions.
As I have worked with individuals that have varying learning delays, learning disorders, or neurological disabilities, I have come to the realization that much of the disconnect comes from underdeveloped senses. Once I incorporated movements that not only strengthened the body physically but also challenged the sensory systems, I noticed a significant improvement in learning ability and behavior. Ironically, I also noticed an improvement in physical aptitude as well. My goal with each client is to give them a variety of experiences with the environment, through specific exercises designed to challenge their mind and body connections.
Much of a session’s time is focused on gaining muscle memory in core activation/balance, body awareness/separation/control, rhythm and patterning, and sensory stimulus (vestibular, visual, and auditory). We may be having fun doing flips, climbing across monkey bars, standing on our heads, or balancing on wobble disks while reading sight words or learning math facts, but ultimately we are learning how to control ourselves so that we can have controlled responses to our environment. In reality, we do not have control of anything in our environment, but we do have control of how we respond to it. That said, if an individual feels physically out of control how can we expect that they can have an in control or logical response to any given stimulus that may cause stress? We can’t!
As time unfolds, I pray that this might be a place where you can come and find resources in education material, movement ideas, creative learning, and nutrition, all designed to give us more control of ourselves so that we have the ability to give more of ourselves to others.