One mother wrote to us: My girl is sleeping a lot since we started with ABR. My husband thinks that I am doing too much and making her tired. Is ABR making her tired? Should I do less?
In order for a special needs child to be able to develop further it is essential for him or her to be able to return to the baby stages. This is true on both the bodily level, as well as on a cognitive level, although the mechanisms are somewhat different.
ABR treatment is based upon restoring the baby stages to the body’s development. The tissues that are being regenerated with ABR are very primitive and basic bodily structures, but at the same time absolutely fundamental to the child’s further functional development. Without a restoration of this primary tissue system of fascia and connective tissues, the child will be caught and captured in his limited muscular skeletal development. Stages that a child missed in his or her early years, can be re-gained through the work that the parents do with ABR.
In order for the body to regenerate, sleep is essential. Requiring more sleep, is one of the signs of a child who is starting with the ABR program. During the sleep, the child rebuilds inner structures and strengthens his internal system. So, if the child sleeps more, or falls to sleep during the exercising times, then be assured that the efforts are paying off and that the child is utilizing the ABR input to the most optimal degree.
Not only is it important that the children in the ABR program get enough sleep, but also that they are allowed what we call “down time”. This is time where the parents and therapists are not running around after them, trying to get them to crawl or to creep or to perform some tasks that one thinks are important for them to learn to do; but where the child simply has time to himself to internalize his own inward bodily sensations.
For the healthy child and the special needs child alike, this type of “quiet time” is equally important. During such minutes and hours, a child explores the possibilities of his own system. He explores a great magnitude of the so-called “mini movements”. He rocks back and forth, he pushes with his feet against the crib, he grasps his own hands or feet, he tilts the pelvis slightly to the right or to the left, and so on. All of these mini-movements and explorations of the own body are absolutely essential for both integrating the movement capacity of the body, as well as for the actual mechanical strengthening of the joint connections! Moreover, these mini-movements, which parents tend to overlook, are important transition to what is called long chain movements, which involve many joint connections and are executed over long kinematic chains.
So, our fundamental advice to parents is: Allow your children lots of this down time, for internalizing and exploring the potentials and capacities that one is creating through the ABR work.
Unfortunately in today’s electronic world, one needs to add, that such internalizing cannot be done when the child is sitting in front of the computer or watching television. For this internalizing activity, the child needs to free up his sensory system for inward investigation, and not be caught up in the consuming impressions of a television screen.
Formal “training” of a special needs child usually is based upon the philosophy that the child is simply not smart enough to do the things that the parents or the therapist wish for him to do or to achieve. If he is not smart enough, then we have to show him, and train him to be able to do the things better. This philosophy can go to great lengths – even to the extent of forcing a child with a weakened muscular skeletal system to crawl long distances each day. Here again the underlying thought is: The child is not smart enough – and then, by taking the philosophy that one must teach the child everything to the extreme, justifies filling up every moment of the day for forcing the child beyond its own natural limits.
Unfortunately this philosophy overlooks some essential elements about the developmental system of both a healthy and a special needs child.
All children instinctively seek an inner equilibrium in their performance of movements! They take the path which is easiest for themselves and which comes most naturally. Why is this? – Simply because the muscular skeletal system is one of the bodies most expensive systems. It not only demands extensive involvement of the nervous system, but it “costs” the body a huge amount of expensive energy to run. Studies have shown that a child with spasticity uses four or five times as much of this expensive energy to perform even simple movements as the healthy person does.
On the other hand the structure of a special needs child is only similar to a healthy child on a superficial level. When one begins to analyze the muscular skeletal system of a special needs child one can notice that many of the movements or activities that one often tries to “train” a special needs child to do, such as to crawl, to creep, or to walk with some type of assistance, have no similarity with the crawling or creeping of a healthy child. And this “fake crawling” that a special needs child can be forced into doing excessively, is always stereotyped in nature, never varies in momentum or in speed or in distribution of weight to the joints and muscles, always uses the same muscle groups, and by over-using a small group of muscles, eventually leads to further disintegration and spasticity of these parts.
It is therefore that ABR focuses its attention on addressing the fascia as being a more primitive and basic connective tissue structure. These tissues are not “expensive” for the body. They do not require the expensive ATP supply of energy, but run on a back burner both with respect to energy and also with respect to the attention needed from the nervous system. Strengthening these tissues means that the child receives the background support from inner structures, to allow the muscles to work more efficiently and effortlessly.
At the same time the child’s cognitive system is freed up from extensive muscular effort and can be utilized for the development of cognitive activities.
If we take the healthy child as our starting point, we can see that the healthy child is always busy – from early until late. He explores in the early years the extents to which his body can move, and then goes on to use the body to explore the world around him. If left to his own devises, he develops a beautiful and organic way of using his muscular skeletal system. He explores new movements daily, integrates the newly gained elements into the already attained system, strengthening the system as he goes, in order to be able to maintain the new challenges that he is putting on the system.
The special needs child – and especially the children in the ABR program – require this quiet time, down time and baby time, not only for extensive regeneration, but for exploring, internalizing and realizing the newly born potentials of his or her motor skeletal system.