Hi, Learn 2 Focus ohana! I am so excited to share with you my detailed Q&A with Sonia Story, a neurodevelopment movement expert who is located in Washington State. I've taken her course on brain and sensory movement, and asked her if she’d be willing to do an interview today with me. She was kind enough to talk for over an hour – we covered everything from the basics of neurodevelopmental movement to what parents can do to help their babies integrate primitive reflexes. There is so much to share, so I’ve split the interview into Part 1 and Part 2 – expect Part 2 in my next blog post.
You can learn more about Sonia Story on her website, www.moveplaythrive.com.
1. Hi Sonia! Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today. Here’s my first question…What are some things parents can do from the get-go to help babies properly integrate reflexes?
There are so many answers to this question, but the simplest thing to do is move with your child right from the beginning. Ideally babies should spend a lot of time on their bellies doing floor play. Although it may be very different from what a doctor would say, other doctors and experts in development are saying it is important to give your baby plenty of time on the belly and to even have your child sleep on his belly. There is a lot of research coming out that shows that the best thing for children’s development is to be on the belly from the minute they are born. Being on the belly develops core strength, digestion, and has a huge amount to do with whether the reflexes are integrated or not.
2. Besides not being on the belly enough, are there other things that hinder proper reflex integration?
There are so many things that may be causing children to have challenges. From the womb on, they are exposed in their environment to a lot of things that could really hamper their development: toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, along with vaccinations and even ultrasounds and exposure to electromagnetic frequencies from cordless phones, cell phones and WiFi. These things can hamper movement patterns right from the beginning, which then may cause sensory processing challenges, coordination and learning challenges, and symptoms of AHDH and autism.
3. Are there any things that pregnant women and mothers should be aware of?
The birth itself is important. Ideally a birth is as natural and un-medicated as possible, and right after birth, it is best if the baby and mother get to bond. Nursing is really important to integrate reflexes, like sucking and rooting. All these reflexes are important for the next ones down the line and are important for our development – they work synergistically together.
Eliminate stressors as much as possible. Anything a pregnant woman or mother can do to relieve her own stress and take care of herself and nurture herself is going to benefit the baby. It would be nice if we lived in a time or place where women got more support than they do! It’s hard to be a mom when we are isolated from support. Human beings were never meant to be isolated from one another. We were meant to live in groups. Building supportive relationships helps – caring for infants shouldn’t be as hard as it is.
4. What is neurodevelopmental movement? How is it unique?
When we are first developing, we have an innate set of involuntary movements that propel the growth of the brain, body and sensory systems. These innate neurodevelopmental movements set the foundation for our future physical, emotional, social, speech and learning skills.
What is unique about these innate, involuntary movements of infancy is that the brain recognizes these movements and uses them for calming, maturing, and organizing the brain and body.
The fascinating thing is that these movements work during our entire lifespan to help us integrate the brain and the sensory system, to develop connections and mature the brain. This enables us to calm ourselves and release stress and trauma. They are amazing movements in that way. They are gifts from God! Not only are they perfect for our development, but they can really support us throughout our entire life. They are very special.
5. When you say involuntary movements, are you talking about primitive reflexes?
There are basically three categories of movement, based on what babies do in the womb and during early infancy. The first category is the one most people recognize as milestone movements: belly crawling, hands-and-knees crawling, rolling over and walking. These are what you would consider as milestones, but what most people don’t know is that they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other movements that are foundational for those milestones. The second category are rhythmic movements, which are the innate movements that babies do, as long as they are healthy, not stressed and have room to grow. The third category of neurodevelopmental movement is primitive reflexes.
All three categories are neurodevelopmental movement. They are movements that develop our brain, body and senses.
6. Do you have any success stories that you can share?
I once worked with a five-year-old boy whose mother told me that he’s always falling down and hurting himself, and was talking nonstop. I asked him to lie down so I could check his feet reflexes. His eyes went wide, and I asked him how he felt. He said, “I feel like I’m going to explode.” It was extremely uncomfortable for him to sit still, because his brain was not developed enough. These children cannot sit still comfortably because their movements were not integrated -- these children are not willfully misbehaving, they are not being lazy, bad kids. Each reflex has so much to do with our ability to function.
This boy, he walked over to the toy on the table, reached out and hit the underside of the table. He didn’t have the awareness of where his body was in space, which was why he was falling down so much. He had many reflexes that were unintegrated. I sent his mother home with rhythmic movements and reflex work.
One month later, I heard from his mom again. He never hurts himself anymore, she said. His drawings are more detailed, and better yet, he is eating better, sleeping better and is so much happier. When I say him a month later, he told me that he went skiing all by himself with his dad. He wasn’t talking nonstop anymore and he was way more present, embodied and happy. It was life changing for him. I have so many stories like this, where integration of reflexes helped a child overcome developmental challenges.