IS THE BODY READY FOR LEARNING ?    Parents and teachers are familiar with labels that some children and adolescents acquire in school. Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Learning Disabled, ADD, ADHD and Anxiety Disorder are labels that may provide individualized learning plans such as IEP’s, but underneath these diagnoses may lie a more fundamental problem. The root causes of many behavioral and academic challenges have a connection with the first seven years of life. In addition, trauma may affect a child’s ability to learn in school; under stress, the lower brainstem and limbic brain take precedence over higher cortical function.

IMG_2577_2In the critical neurodevelopmental phases from birth to seven, foundations are laid for healthy movement skills: balance, coordination and spatial orientation. The first phase involves early reflexes which all newborns possess and which help a baby survive and develop in the first months of life. If these early movement patterns remain beyond infancy, they inhibit higher functioning postural reflexes from gaining control. A resulting weak sense of balance may prevent a child from sitting properly in a chair longer than a few minutes, or his ability to write is hindered by a reflex that causes his arms to stretch away from the center of the desk. Learning in school is compromised because the central nervous system (CNS) has not reached full maturation. There are many reasons why the early patterns do not relinquish control over the CNS. Birth stressors such as caesarian birth, fast birth, or the umbilical cord around the neck are possible factors, as are environmental neurotoxins and excessive antibiotics. Also, if crawling is not executed on all fours, if the crawling stage is shorter than three months or skipped entirely, this may have a significant impact on bilateral coordination, seated posture, pencil grip, and eye tracking as some outcomes.

These are some reasons why reading, writing, and math may be difficult if the physical body has not achieved the appropriate maturation needed for formal learning. The frustration is compounded when testing reveals average or high intelligence, yet the mere act of writing is a laborious task. By addressing the underlying issues that form the basis for healthy development of the central nervous system, the physical body is given a chance to re-navigate the sequential stages and work through hindrances. Learning, comprehension and written output become significantly easier, and self-esteem rises.

Trauma from childhood is another major factor in delaying the development of academic skills. An undercurrent of low grade anxiety is evident in some children and teens. The trauma may be the result of early difficulties in the biography of the child, family stresses, bullying, or unexpected events; regardless, they can cause a child to experience delays in academic and social learning. Following a program of holistic activities that provide centering, balance and integration, confidence about one’s skills increases exponentially and anxiety is lessened; the work is similar to sensory integration yet with added components of form drawing and painting exercises . Children, teens and adults on medication for anxiety still benefit from this program. The office is located near Burlington, Vermont.

Watch this video clip from Australia. The Extra Lesson has been a worldwide program since the 1970’s: