Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Social Milestones ?

What are Social Milestones?

Social Development Milestones – What to Expect

                Often when we hear someone discussing social development, we assume they are referring to the development of friendships and the interactions we generally see in middle-school children and adolescents. However, social development begins at birth and the type of social experiences we have as infants and young children often dictate the way we interact and socialize as adults. In order to develop social skills and exhibit normative social development, there are particular milestones that each individual should successfully demonstrate or achieve as they progress from infancy to adolescence.

                At birth until the age of five years old, children need the stability of early social relationships and essential needs available to them. These early social relationships are generally the primary caregivers of the infant, such as a mother or father, but it can also be an alternative constant caregiver such as a grandmother or foster parent. Infants need to know they are loved and cared for in order for them to learn its significance when they later reciprocate those feelings in their future relationships. The need for food and other essentials like shelter must be available as this can also influence the form of attachment the child develops to caregivers. For instance, an infant will quickly learn whether or not they can trust a caregiver if in their care they are deprived of their needs when needed. This will influence their ability to establish secure attachments with others and trust them in future relationships.  There are several forms of attachment that are possible for children to develop as a result of their social experiences, but they are primarily categorized as secure attachment and insecure attachment. The preferred attachment is secure, where the child feels their caregiver is a secure base in their life and they feel comfortable exploring their environment or interacting with new people because their caregiver is always available if the novel stimuli or person is too overwhelming for them. An insecure attachment can be when the child depends on the parent and clings to them in novel environments or when they do not consider the caregiver as a secure base. In these circumstances, a child can have a difficult time developing trust, initiating social play or interactions with others, or distinguishing between a safe and unsafe environment. As a result of early interactions, future life strategies for developing social relationships can be modified or adapted.

 ...In the first year of life, infants also begin to respond to social stimuli by exhibiting a “social smile”, which is the ability for a child to respond to another person and illustrate to the parent that they are aware and can react to a social context, such as a parent talking to the child.  Infants also demonstrate distinct facial expressions in their first year of life, including expressions of sadness, happiness, and anger. As their attachment style develops, the reaction to strangers generally becomes more fearful as the attachment to caregivers becomes stronger. This year of life is also a critical period in the development of separation anxiety as children are able to recognize familiar and unfamiliar people.

...In early and mid-childhood, children are engaging in more social interactions with their peers and start forming friendships and various attachments to people present in their lives. Children begin to develop their adult personality based on their social experiences that will introduce and solidify their values, interests, goals, and life strategies. Since children need and depend on both parents and peers for normal social developments, the absence of peers can have a detrimental impact on their ability to become socialized. A developing child receives their personality traits and values from their parents through learning and socialization, however peers and siblings have a measureable impact on personality development. Depending on the social dynamic, peer groups can influence which values and traits introduced by parents to accept and reject. Peer socialization is most important in late childhood and adolescence, where children will adopt the group’s attitudes and norms of behaviour and in adolescence groups will be segregated based on similar abilities and interests. It is during adolescence that the skills and milestones reached in infancy and childhood will play a crucial role in selecting and rejecting elements of the adult culture in the process of developing their own culture.
written by Orla Tyrrell of BODiWORKS Institute and Facilitator of SPP  


importance of MOTOR SKILL development

Why is Motor Skills Development so important?

All children have rapid changes in development in their CNS (Central Nervous System) as they age.  In brief…the CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord.  The CNS uses sensory receptors throughout the body to assist movement.  Movement is motor function that results from a series of sensory and motor neuron events occurring in very short succession. The groundwork for the CNS begins in the womb, and is partially influenced even then, by their environment. 

Voluntary movements (initiated by self) are the first means of communication between baby and its family.  Sometimes the CNS develops “slower” as compared to their neurotypical counterparts. 

This slower development does not always result in delayed or impaired motor development.  However when it does, it can be immediately noticeable or later in life (months or years).  If the CNS is compromised at all in the birthing process or later by infection or disease the motor development of the child is affected.   

Delayed motor skills are those skills that are underdeveloped compared to other children of similar age.  These skills can be developed using clever gross motor (multiple joint/sensors) and fine motor (single joint) programming.  It is very successful when this programming is consistent, individualized and progressive.  Programming involves segmented movements that relate to the weakest points for the child.   Some examples of topics are jumping, stepping, picking up weight, cycling, climbing and catching where skills are broken down into their finest form to development movement patterns that last.   In some cases we see children with delayed skills to have less efficient metabolisms, thereby increasing body weight easily.

In the cases of children with behavioural and social challenges  the “emotional override” by the brain’s limbic system of the CNS will disrupt motor skills.  In this case its necessary to work on their preparation for movement.  There are delays in the CNS that cause balance issues in this regard.  A child at any age can improve their motor functions.  Yes, adults also can, but not as rapidly.

Neurological disorders can cause semi-permanent or permanent motor skill loss.  In these children there is a good opportunity to aid the body in recruiting new motor nerves to help improve movement.  All bodies have the ability to improve in some capacity and also compensate for inadequate abilities.

Motor skill development is very important for safety, social life and health.  Most children naturally want to interact with other children or at least have a sense of self-esteem.  Some children have motor delays and impulsivity tendencies, which is a combination for injury.  Spending time on specific motor development aids the child throughout their entire life.  Balance control and strength for safety, relationships and sport development, and brain and circulatory health.  So often the motor development aids the mental focus too!  Best practices or strategies in motor development require goals and evaluation.

In all, children need to have fun and developing these necessary skills only helps in the fun and participation.  Children like physical outlets and this ultimately helps manage emotions and behaviour.  When children do not develop their “potential” skills the challenges can be greater in other areas of their life experience.
written by Mr. Corey Evans Executive Director of BODiWORKS Institute, Founder of the Adapted Gym Program  (AGP)

Monday, 10 November 2014

Smiles & neural basis for emotion recognition

How Do We Understand Emotions? A Neural Basis for Emotion Recognition
In any social interactions, one person typically provides a behavioural response to the affective state or social cues of another person.  It is the ability to accurately recognize and process the emotions of others that provides people with the skills and ability to have positive and socially appropriate interactions and relationships.  We may sometimes not realize how important the emotional aspect of a conversation is for conveying a message to another person. Often, a smile or frown can completely change how others will evaluate our moods, attitudes, and it will influence how they choose to approach us of interact with us.

... it is believed that emotion recognition is innate and universal, it is an ability that is learned over a lifetime. The ability to recognize emotional signals is critical for social interactions and necessary for social development, so how are people able to recognize emotional stimuli in their environment and therefore learn basic and complex emotions? There are several cortical and subcortical structures in the brain that are involved in the recognition of emotional stimuli, some involved in a specifically designed neural network to recognize facial expressions. Facial expressions such as smiles provide the greatest emotional cues for emotion recognition. Emotions such as sadness, fear, and happiness are processed and interpreted within an expansive neural network including the orbitofrontal cortex and cerebral regions such as the insula, the basal ganglia, the prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala. It is the combination of these structures processing the information from the external environment (such as someone frowning) that allows us to evaluate emotional stimuli and regulate our social and emotional behaviour to know how we should respond or react.

Since emotion recognition relies on a large scale distributed network, it is not entirely clear how this interaction leads to recognition of emotion. However, studies have illustrated that lesions or damage to these cortical and subcortical structures involved in the recognition of facial expressions can lead to impairments in the recognition of basic emotions such as fear, sadness, and anger.  The next time you are interacting with someone or are involved in a conversation, take the time to observe and consider how their facial expression changing from a smile to a frown can completely change how we choose to interact with that individual.
written by Orla Tyrrell, Special Needs Supervisor / SPP facilitator BODiWORKS Institute

Smiling Faces

Some say that the eyes are "the window to the soul" then what are SMILING FACES?

Perhaps as we look around at who is smiling and who is not we can derive simply that those who are smiling are happy. I think there is a difference between contentment and happy. Feeling happy can be an immediate expression to a thought or reaction to a stimuli that gives that unexpected smile in the face.  Contentment can be expressed without a smile. Sometimes a stoic look can mean that the thoughts are pleasing, but not to pleasing that it requires the muscles of the face to erupt into a smile.

If children are happy they have a hard time not smiling unless they have barriers to a smile. Such as in Autism where the connection between what should or could be shown outwardly does not occur in context (most often).  Are they smiling inside? 

In a social context what can be taught?  Is smiling a learned activity?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

oppositional behaviour

So ...My Child is Demonstrating Oppositional Behaviour –
Is it a Reaction to Their  Environment?

Sometimes no matter how much we try and encourage positive behaviour in children and model appropriate behaviour for them, there are moments when a child expresses defiant or oppositional behaviour. The initial reaction is often to tell the child the behaviour is inappropriate and correct it, but it is more important to try to understand what triggered the oppositional behaviour and how the child processed the situation which led to that behaviour.  Although the behaviour may concern us or we may even feel embarrassed if the oppositional behaviour occurred in public, it is important to understand that often oppositional behavioural is the result of deficits in encoding cues from the environment or in misinterpreting the affective state of others or the intent of others in their environment.
How does this happen?
For every reaction or behavioural response we elicit to an event, there is a neural (central nervous system) basis that processes and interprets (in brain) the initial environment. Our brain encodes the information presented to us, interprets it, and then that interpretation will dictate how we choose to respond to the initial information. The process of encoding, interpreting, and responding to environmental information and social interactions is directed by our brain, specifically in the limbic system and the frontal cortex. These two regions of the brain are responsible for our affective states and emotional responses to information, as well as directing our decision-making processes and actions. It is the integrative functioning of the amygdala, caudate nucleus, and prefrontal cortex that consistently direct and manage our emotional responses and actions to events in the world, and any disruption or errors in exchanging information within this system often leads to disruptive behaviour (Marsh et al., 2008; Finger et al., 2000). In social interactions, we must be able to correctly infer emotions of others to respond appropriately. So when our child displays oppositional behaviour, it could be a result of them not accurately interpreting the affective states of others, whether it was from our tone in our voice when speaking to them or from correctly interpreting our nonverbal cues such as body language. Another possibility that led to the oppositional behaviour could be their expression of frustration from responding to an event believing it was appropriate, but then not receiving the positive reinforcement from the interaction they expected. This is a result of a deficit in their encoding, so the perception of the emotion or the event is distorted when interpreting it, and they act out inappropriately in that given situation (Cadesky et al., 2000). Both of these situations are frustrating for both the child exhibiting the oppositional behaviour and the parent or peer interacting with the oppositional child – both have a goal of experiencing a positive interaction, but the unique neural basis of the oppositional child is making the communication process difficult and frustrating, causing disruptive behaviours.

So if the child is exhibiting oppositional behaviour, is there any way it can change to positive behaviour?  The simple answer is yes, with consistency and patience, the oppositional behaviours can be reduced and even be replaced with appropriate behavioural responses. The way to change the behaviour is to adapt our interactions with the child to cause brain-based changes in their neurochemistry. Since disruptive behaviours are often a result of less responsiveness from the integrated system of the amygdala, caudate, and prefrontal cortex, interactions in the social world and environment must consistently stimulate the child to fulfill the need for reinforcement when positive reactions occur (Marsh et al., 2008; Finger et al., 2000). Fulfilling the positive reinforcement needed for behaviour will assist in reinforcing the interpretations that led to preferred behavioural outcomes, and thereby reduce the frequency of oppositional behaviours and unemotional traits such as reduced empathy and unemotional responses. Every child likes to know when they have done something that makes us happy, and every child likes to know they are improving their relationships with their friends and family. It’s interesting to know that every emotional response we have to a given interaction has a neural basis and that with effective intervention we can adapt our reactions to lead to more positive relationships.
written by Orla Tyrrell, Special Needs Supervisor and SPP Facilitator, BODiWORKS Institute

Thursday, 23 October 2014

the effect of emotional expression

Emotional expression is the outer window to the inner processing of the brain.

A supressed mind...
In so many cases we find a child who is given behavioural tools to supress emotion in favour of "appropriate behaviour".  This is fine in critical times however as a rule this suppresses the emotional expression which is formed in the limbic system of the brain.  The Limbic system has many aspects to it that contribute to appropriate environmental stimuli (ie. sensation/sensory).  It allows a response to elicited by the child. NOW, with a child of special need, for instance in the case of Autism, the limbic system does not receive the stimulus well or elicit the reaction well. therefore we get an unfavourable behavioural response. Any one who knows what I mean will AGrree...

How can we positively effect emotional expression?

Essentially when we work on the limbic system it will adapt to positive attention and give appropriate reactions.  When it is compromised which is the case in many special needs, then we need to tailor the sensory to accommodate.  This is why, for instance unfavourable responses occur in 'public' where recreational activities are taking place. It is overwhelming to the limbic system and because of deficits will diminish positive emotional expression.

so much to say on this topic...more to come stay tuned...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

not so obvious internal environment

I just read where a twenty something female in China was having some balance issues (mild) and went in for check up. What they ended up finding was she did NOT have a CEREBELLUM!  She had been living quite normally without it.

Now I was even astonished by the fact that her brain and CNS has compensated all that time for not having the cerebellum.  It illustrates how from the outside no one knew she did not have one and that only on 'imaging' did they find this.  Most of our kids function everyday compensating with their internal environment (that they are given) with some sort of maldevelopment.  How can we trust the outside view to know exactly what is happening inside?  I guess this is up to perception by others.  Whom do we trust with this perception?

Those of us who have worked with children to improve health, cognition and behaviour believe the educational constraints for which we were trained in to be the identifying perceptual lens through which we assess the 'internal environments of children.  The only fault in this that most often it is NOT Holistic enough.  Meaning the brain, CNS and its entire sensory system need to be considered when observing behaviour.  Developing a child through 'rote' skill only narrows the scope of this system and detrains that potential all of us desire.  Rote skills are patches for a child to fit into a model we choose. To become become socially compliant, but does not enhance the use of their full system and increase adaptability of the system.

Think of the possibilities when this lady from China had a child and functioned everyday unknowing about her brain stem situation...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

intro to Brain Based Kids

If you ever wondered why behaviour happens the way it does in children then you are definitely not alone.  Why does a child with or without a special needs diagnosis act out?

EVERY child as they develop whether their brain is disordered, malformed or chemically altered in some way has the ability to interact with their environment. This environment can be experienced through the child's interpretation.  This interpretation comes from a vast array of  'sensory matrix'  through which neurological processes and pathways enter the brain for interpretation. Once completed the interpretation elicits a response ie. Behaviour.  SIMPLE RIGHT?

Why does one child then interpret the same environment different from another?  The concept is the brain has a different experience of the environment based on the child's differences in sensory and cognitive capabilities.  These capabilities are determined by the internal environment of the child, NOT the external necessarily, because it usually is rather unpredictable.

Brain Based Kids (BBK) are those involved in changing this internal environment for progress and success.