Recap for Blog 43 – Move, mommy, move!: Zani and Jake are getting to know the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex, which straightens out the baby’s posture, nudging it to shifting its focus to include interaction with the environment and with others.
Dr Melodie de Jager, the developmental specialist continues:
It is now time to start waking up and wiring the thinking brain. Remember, we also said that movement is of the utmost importance to spark development. The part of the brain that controls movement is also the part of the brain that is stimulated by movement. That's a bit confusing, I know, but the following example may clarify the matter. Think for a moment about a GPS – the purpose of a GPS is to determine where you are, to find out where you want to be, and then to calculate how to get you there. Every time you set the GPS, you become more skilled at setting the GPS, and the more skilled you become at setting the GPS, the quicker the GPS calculates where you want to be and get you there. What does a GPS have to do with your baby? Every baby has a built-in GPS that helps to determine where he is, to find out where he wants to be and then to calculate how to get him there. The GPS is the control centre of movement – also called the vestibular system – and can be found in the inner ear. The more a baby moves, the more the part of the brain that controls movement is stimulated, and the more stimulated that part of the brain becomes the more it stimulates movement, neatly wiring the brain for success. Later, in school, it is this vestibular system that enables a child to sit still, pay attention, to know which way a b/d or an f/t should face, to add numbers in a column or kick a goal into the right net.
“Huh?” Jake interrupts. “You mean to tell me a kid can be so confused or disoriented that he may kick a ball into his own goal?”
“Seems like it …” I answer before I put my finger to my lips. “Shhh … or we’ll miss something,” I hiss.
Unfortunately, many children with learning problems also have problems with their vestibular systems and those problems are often the result of recurring ear infections. Recurring ear infections not only affect the balance system, but also a child’s ability to hear, speak and think. In a baby, things are simpler. Baby doesn’t need to read, or do sums yet; Baby just needs to be able to know his front from his back, his top from his bottom, and his left from his right. I do not mean that a baby must know the names (even though it is not a bad idea to teach a baby 'this is the left hand, this is the right hand'); I mean a baby must know he has sides and that when all the sides work together, he or she can stand up straight. It is only when a baby can stand up straight that the arms, eyes, ears and the thinking brain can work well together to listen and later to write, or look and calculate, watch and do or walk and talk – all skills needed for academic success in school many years later. So, how do we trigger the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex for baby to raise its head, straighten the spine and, in so doing, wake up the vestibular system and the thinking brain? It is simple – while pregnant, move forwards and backwards, move up and down, turn left and right. In a nutshell, keep on moving. The more the mother moves the less the chance that the baby, and later the child, will have low muscle tone, poor posture, be hyperactive or battle to concentrate. Once a baby is born, do not let the baby grow up in a car seat or any other contraption. Allow Baby to spend time unsupported and flat on its back or on its tummy on the floor. Only in doing that will he discover his sides, his body and what he can do with that amazing body. During this time he will learn to control the head, straighten the spine and, in so doing, connect the emotional brain with his thinking brain - ready to learn more.
A few days later we decide it is time to start looking at Baby’s room. We open the door to the spare room – and then promptly close the door to the spare room. How is it possible to collect so many things in such a short time? It is quite clear that before we can even think about a nursery, we needed to set aside an official uncluttering day, just so that we can create a matchbox-sized space for Baby in this typhoon-ravaged room!
I can see Jake is a little anxious about the prospect of wading through unopened boxes, sifting through documents and discarding mementos from long-forgotten holidays – Where did we get that plastic dog with the bobbing head? – but, to be honest, I am more than happy to do it on my own. Not only would it be done properly – ahem! – but I feel it would be a bit of a catharsis really. And I am getting rather good at sifting the emotional junk from treasured memories. Jake will be off cycling long and hard next weekend and this, I decide, would be the perfect time to dig in.