Neuroplasticity takes extra effort. Let that sink in. Neuroplasticity takes extra effort. As a special needs parent everything you do takes extra effort. We as special needs parents know this all to well. Well kids can just fly through the brain development stages. They start talking, making friends, and seeking their parents for praise and advice. The parent’s role for the most part is effortless in comparison to the special needs parent’s role.
One of the hardest facts to accept are there are no shortcuts on this journey. The only comfort or guarantee is that extra effort brings extra blessings. Let that sink in. Extra effort brings extra blessings. It’s my mantra when things seem bleak. Extra effort brings extra blessings. Extra efforts brings extra blessings…
Sounds simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy and easy doesn’t mean simple. It’s very important to not confuse the two, especially with brain development/neuroplasticity. There is never a guaranteed timeline with your extra efforts. Let that sink in. I’m going to do a tremendous amount of work and not know when I will see results? That if I do this work, I might not see the results months or years from now? Now, that uncertainty is the very thing that makes parents dig their heels in and disregard their intuition and instincts.
This journey of neuroplasticity requires the parents and (hopefully) your child/teens’s school to be involved. It is the parent, teacher, aide, therapist that is ideal to guide the child or adult through the stages and years of brain development/neuroplasticity. Once again, neuroplasticity takes times, can take years. But we are brain washed to believe that neuroplasticity is often instantaneous or miraculous or can only occur for the very young. Parents are rarely encouraged to lead or to think that neuroplasticity can occur in teens or adults. We as parents often reserve that right to determine our kids fate from the doctors or we have been conditioned to think neuroplasticity only occurs in an expensive, state of the art medical campus that costs an obscene amount of money, but as I’m writing this post, on this gray ordinary Saturday morning, Ben has gotten out of bed, headed straight for the shower. He showers, he dries off, he puts on his deoderant, gets dressed, and is making his breakfast without lists, prompts, or tokens. I’m still in my bedroom typing this post listening to him prepare his breakfast, and thinking 5 years ago, Ben couldn’t follow a one step request. Let that sink in.
5 years ago my kid at age 11 couldn’t follow a one step request. That means, if I asked Ben to pick up his backpack. He wouldn’t know what to do. His brain couldn’t process what I said or how to respond. Ben would just respond by stimming by jumping up and down, wiggling his fingers in front of his face, or self-biting. He couldn’t say, “I don’t understand. Can you help me?” There were no words. There was just distorted behaviors. Now at age 16 he has words and can completely independently get ready for the day!
That is neuroplasticity being achieved in a rural 2500 square foot home that desperately needs new carpet and a new roof. There is nothing dazzling or state of the art in this home. It’s a home that has stacks of laundry, cobwebs in the corners, and unfinished projects throughout the house, but your special needs child, teen, or adult doesn’t need state of the art. He/she needs you. He/she needs you to implement a comprehensive neurological program.
First thing to do is teach him/her to breathe. What?! Teach my kid to breathe? Obviously he/she is breathing, because she is living and growing! This is 2019 and you are telling me I need to teach my kid to breathe?
Yep! I can not emphasize the importance of breathing! Most brain injured kids/adults aren’t getting the amount oxygen necessary to develop. His/her brain is hurt and getting your child/adult’s respiration compatible with his/her structure is vital!!!!
Such a simple concept, but when the brain is hurt its oxygen supply isn’t at the level it needs to be to repair and restore the brain cells. Brain injured kids/adult’s can’t keep up. They need more intensity, frequency, and duration to keep up.
They need the blood vessels to the brain to dilate, to bathe the brain with oxygenated blood in order to increase neurotransmitter production and function.
To do this we use the all MIGHTY reflex bags. It looks pretty simple and it is very simple, but when the brain is hurt NOTHING is simple. Breathing is very challenging to a hurt brain. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes faith.
When we first started, Ben could barely tolerate 25 secs. He hated the bags. Here is a link to Ben doing a successful reflex bag after 4+ years. https://youtu.be/HXw2zulRJVc.
After 5 years, we have worked up to 1:25 and have achieved a good response where he is getting more oxygen to the brain, but there were many, many failed attempts where Ben has ripped the bag off his face, avoided the bag, or refused the bag. It took us 4.5 years to get to a place where Ben cooperated. Getting an injured brain to respond to breathing is very challenging. At first, Ben’s brain was so hurt we needed to do 40 bags a day in attempt to getting the frequency, intensity, and duration the brain needed to improve. The goal is to get oxygen to the brain and with everything in life, the more we practice the more the brain develops and achieves. Neuroplasticity requires times and consistency which can be achieved best at home and at school.
At first, I had no idea how vital reflex bags would be. They have made a world of difference in my son’s life and mine. I often do reflex bags too, because it is calming and rejuvenating.
The goal of this blog is to make parents and professionals aware of a neurological approach and the steps involved in implementing it at home and a school setting.
First step is getting a respiratory program set up and implementing reflex bags throughout the day. As we saw and understood the importance of oxygen we invested in a mild hyberbaric chamber (HBOT) and a carbogen tank to increase more oxygen to the brain. We didn’t invest in the carbogen tank until after one year of doing the programs and we waited 2 years of doing the programs until we invested in a chamber. The point is you don’t need to invest a lot of money at once. You can move in stages as your family adjusts and learns. Neuroplasticity takes time. All three approaches to getting more oxygen to the brain have helped and continue to help tremendously in getting the brain to improve its neurotransmitter production and function.
The chamber and tank are not covered by insurance, which is a sad reality. Insurance companies need to understand what gets the brain to grow and support the therapies that achieve that goal.
The next blog post will be about nutrition.