Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TOS Review: Understanding Child Brain Development

I am not a medical professional. Nor do I play one on TV. What I am is a mother of a child who struggles cognitively. He is extremely intelligent, articulate, and just plain delightful. He has also struggles with basic skills like reading and math. 

I recently had the opportunity to review a DVD titled, Understanding Child Brain Development, from The Family Hope Center. The Family Hope Center is a center dedicated to the restoration of brain function in children (and adults). 

I admit that during my one little lonely Anatomy and Physiology (affectionately known as A&P 1) class in college I spent most of the time trying not to get lost in all of the mitochondria and other things I can’t remember. My medical expertize comes from experience with my own medical maladies and playing Operation with Josiah.  

That being said I found this DVD to be fascinating. I actually watched it in one sitting when I was sick in bed. I sat up (Kleenex bunched up around me) with my little note pad scribbling furiously. I thought for a minute I was going to have A&P flashbacks (not a pleasant experience), but Matthew Newell was such an engaging teacher. I didn’t feel the need to doodle or write out my grocery list even once. I have since watched it again with a clearer head. Yup. My first reaction was correct. It was fascinating. 

So what was it all about? What kept my poor snot infused brain engaged? 

Husband and wife team, Matthew and Carol Newel are the directors of The Family Hope Center located in Pennsylvania. They both have been certified at the Developmentalist and Teaching levels in Child Brain Development, and are certified BodyTalk Practitioners. They are also certified in Craniosacral and Myofascial Release therapy. The Family Hope Center specializes in the development of children with special needs or developmental delays. They have made it their mission to equip parents with the tools to help each child reach his or her full potential. Instead of labels (ADHD, Autistic, Dyslexic) they focus on the whole child and their abilities (not disabilities). They have a team of Brain Development Specialists, physicians and more to do just that. 

Understanding Child Brain Development is a 2 hour (and 10 minutes!) DVD recording of a live presentation given by Matthew and Carol Newell and hosted by Andrew Pudewa (of Institute of Excellence in Writing). 

After a short introduction about The Family Hope Center and its mission, Dr. Newell begins to talk about his passion. The Brain. Did you know that it is made up of 57,000 miles of wiring? One thing that stuck out with me almost immediately was his assertion that all of us are brain injured to a certain degree. If you are reading this review you yourself lie somewhere between “less than a Perfect Brain and more than dead” (which explains a whole lot!) He also is adamant to let parents know that our parenting skills aren’t the problem. “The Problem is the Problem.” The fact is that we (as parents) are the solution. The objective is to restore the brain. 

One of the biggest affirmations I got through watching the video was when Mr. Newell gave this bit of advice. Focus on what your child Can Do and not what he can’t. I realize that in this blog I have made many references to Josiah being dyslexic. Mostly in terms of the challenges we might face when reviewing a product, etc. However, I have always felt like Josiah needs to know that he is not defined by what he can’t do. I can’t run across the road because I have a multitude of pins and screws in my hips and legs. Does this mean I am to be forever called “Woman Who Can’t Run Worth Diddly?” I think we need to think about these kinds of things before we start defining our kids with labels. We have a sweet friend who is Autistic. However, he is so much more than an autistic child. He has a delicious sense of humor and has the capacity to embrace life with all the gusto he can muster. His mother has been his greatest champion. He has defied his diagnosis in many respects.

Dr. Newell gives a very detailed presentation concerning brain development. What part of the brain develops first? What kinds of skill does a child develop when this part of the brain is stimulated? It was all very intriguing. 

His talk is divided into the following subjects.
    D Child Brain Development: Who’s Really Driving?
    DWhy do Brain Dysfunctions Still Exist?
    DThe Family Hope Center
   d The Magnificent Brain
    dThe Sense of Smell
    dThe Sense of Smells in Newborns
    dThe Pons
    dThe Mid-Brain: Creeping
    dThe Cortex
    dDiagnosis/Treatment at The Family Hope Center
   dPhysiology vs. Pathology
    dIntegrated Therapy
    dWater and Its Effect on the Human Body

Here are a few tidbits that caught my attention.

About 85% of kids who come to center have traces of heavy metals in their system.
The brain is 80% water. If we are giving our children other beverages (such as juice and pop) how do we expect their sweet little brains to function at full steam? This has been a BIG issue in our house. Josiah balks at drinking water. I tried everything. Such as buying him his own special cup or the small water bottles for his very own. We currently do not buy any beverages for the house but milk. Water is free and always available. We have seen some improvement and hoping for more. 

Josiah is such a picky eater. He is very sensitive to smells as well. Dr. Newell specifically talks about this issue. He connects it to improper “organization” in the limbic area of the brain. What? Does this mean my picky eater could possibly learn to love to eat something that isn’t yellow or beige? 

Another big item of interest to me was the assertion that reading is a neurological process. The brain has to be organized correctly for it to that skill to blossom.
This team believes that the body can heal itself with the correct therapies.

The therapies recommended (with the exception of 1 or 2) are free! They involve making changes in your lifestyle. A few I am practicing to put in to place right now.
Proper nutrition is so important for all of us. And fitness. Josiah gets quite a bit of activity, but this talk inspired me to be more intentional about it. 

The Schedule. Yikes! This has been my biggest struggle. Both Josiah and I function better with a schedule. Mr. Newell stressed the benefits of a consistent schedule.
Another therapy involves “creeping” and “crawling.” Because many of our kids didn’t have proper tummy time or spent quite a bit of time in the “saucer” or “swing” there are certain motor skills that have been undeveloped. By practicing the “creeping” and “crawling” motions those areas of the brain (that were under stimulated) are now engaged. The Newells can speak to the success of this therapy personally. 2 of their children had difficulties that were corrected because of this therapy. Fascinating! I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have seen an improvement with Josiah since he has joined the swim team. I think there is something about the constant repetition of the strokes that are providing some sort of therapy for him. It makes sense now. 

We adopted Josiah when he was an infant. I can think of several things that perhaps I could have done better as a parent. Because of my own physical limitations (which were much more “limiting” 11 years ago) I kept him mostly where I could easily get to him. I’m not sure he had adequate tummy time. However, one the points emphasized in this video is that parents are not to feel guilty. I, personally, think there is a little more to Josiah’s difficulties than just the lack of tummy time, but I certainly can see some benefits in the therapies recommended. I do appreciate the sentiment that I am my child’s best advocate. I really look forward to implanting some of these recommendations into Josiah’s day. 

The DVD isn’t the best quality. Thankfully, speaker was engaging and so informative. I had to focus a little more, but that is probably a good thing. The DVD does come with a link to 52 pages of presentation slides. They make a nice resource to reference later. 

If you are not a fan of holistic or natural healing this DVD will make you nervous. Not because I believe that he Newells are off the wall, but because there aren’t pills or conventional treatments involved. I know firsthand what it is like to be treated as a symptom not a whole person. Many of the health issues I have had throughout the years have been interconnected. Unfortunately, they were always treated as separate problems. Just one more pill. One more specialist. It was refreshing to hear someone speak about such things. 

Please keep in mind that this is only an introduction to brain development. The Family Hope Center provides extensive therapy and there is a 3-day seminar video presentation available for purchase as well. I think this DVD does a good job with introducing the topic, but please don’t expect it to provide all of the answers for your specific need. I personally wish I could take advantage of The Family Hope Center’s full range of services. 

I do think that Understanding Child Brain Development is worth the $19.00 (plus shipping). You can order the DVD by calling 610-387-1737 or purchase it online from IEW.
You can read additional reviews from my TOS Crew peeps here. 


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