Let’s welcome our latest guest blogger, Leanna Rae, as she begins a series of articles on early signs of sensory and motor immaturity and early intervention!

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Learning is much more than classrooms and tests.  Children start at a young age exploring their environment through their senses (sensory learning) and working to understand how to move through and interact with it (motor interaction).  The sensory motor interaction is interdependent and essential to all learning.

How a child behaves and physically moves gives us insight into how they process information from the world around them.

Does your child display any of the following?

Sensory motor movement (sensory perception and motor skills) is the primary vehicle through which we learn and express what we have learned.  These “behaviors” mentioned above are signs of an immature neurological (sensory motor) system and indicates that the brain and body are not getting the proper stimulation or connection needed to support learning.  

Physiological Foundation

There are foundational physiological skills the body needs to master for the brain to meet the task of higher level thinking. Our ability to move through space (coordination) and organize information and relationships in the world around us (emotional and social intelligence) forms the foundation for successful academic learning.  Simply put, without a fully functioning sensory motor system, the brain cannot operate at its best. Your child expends an enormous amount of energy in constructing and filtering a world of objects, sights, sounds, textures, colors, shapes, dimension and directions. When the physiological skills are not in place, daily school activities like siting in a chair, tracking words across the page to read fluently, being able to copy from the whiteboard to paper without losing their thought or information, etc.  becomes a conscious effort and learning is compromised. 

In life, it is easier to start off on the right path as a young child versus having to make corrections latter in adolescence and adulthood where the cost of energy and time is much greater. Early intervention supports your child’s developing mind and body, creating fluid and harmonious learning. In this series of articles, we will address what interventions and approaches lead to academic achievement, social growth, and emotional maturity.

Resources

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/how-sensory-processing-issues-can-affect-motor-skills

https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/schooled_in_sports/2016/06/researchers_draw_link_between_physical_activity_academic_success.html

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Leanna Rae, MSSW, RMTi, CPLC

Ms. Rae has over 16 years of experience in the field of social work providing neurodevelopmental tools for children and adults to help with social, emotional and cognitive growth and learning. She is the co-founder and Executive Director at Kid’s Brain Tree Fort Worth,  www.kidsbraintree.com.

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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