ABR is an Applied Biotensegrity Therapeutic Intervention

ABR is an  Applied Biotensegrity Therapeutic Intervention

As I wrote this week in my last post: There Is So Much to Tell About! The Autumn and pre-Winter seasons have been amazingly full for our Denmark Team. We have been working, learning and finding new persons to be inspired by! Then again – the children and families themselves are a source of constant inspiration to whom we are most grateful for their devotion and diligence with the ABR work. Without ABR parents who do ABR at home most every day, there would be no ABR and no ABR development at all! It is your “home work” that shows us how to go further, how to change how to improve.

But now to the titled post theme: “Biotensegrity”. What is Biotensegrity and how does it relate to you as a parent of a child with developmental difficulties or to any person with a handicap himself?

Biotensegrity is a word first coined by Dr. Steve Levin. Steve Levin was an orthopaedic surgeon, who became inspired by Buckminster Fullers ideas of tensegrity and who then realized that one could apply the concepts and thoughts developed by Fuller to living organisms. Thus the term: Bio-tensegrity.

Those who have been following my blog will have read the chapter written for Dr. rer. nat., Dipl. phys. Danièle-Claude Martin’s book called “Living Bio-tensegrity”. (https://abr-denmark.blog/2017/01/03/bio-tensegrity/) This book illustrates the many concepts inherent to Biotensegrity. Daniele could see that these concepts and ides that she strives to describe in her book were being applied in practice in the ABR work. When writing her book she asked for a chapter about ABR so that the readers could see how Biotensegrity can look in practical application.

Dr. Steve Levin and Dr. Danièle Martin initiated a Biotensegrity Interest Group already nine years ago. This group met again for the IX BIG meeting in October and the members shared and discussed concepts related to Biotensegrity and how they relate to the new and emerging science about fascia and connective tissues. This is a very exciting meeting to take part in and this year again Leonid Blyum made a presentation about larger questions having to do with the Biotensegrity model. I took the opportunity to present our practical work in the field with ABR.

A day before the actual conference started however I could meet with Steve Levin and Graham Scarr. Graham is also extremely active in the field and has a book out about Biotensegrity as well. They were looking at a Tensegrity Mast that Steve had with him and as soon as I saw it I became very excited because I could see that the model would illustrate exactly to the point what we see in children and adults with cerebral palsy and related handicaps!

I did my best to hold a short interview with Steve Levin about how he sees ABR and how he could see the Biotensegrity Mast showing us something about our children. Here is a short clip from the interview:

The lecture I held at the BIG IX conference about ABR is called:

ABR Efforts – Addressing Buckling, Folding, Bulging, Sinking Volumes And Slabs

An Applied Biotensegrity Model For Children With Special Needs

In this sense the presentation fit perfectly with the illustration that one could get from Steve’s new Mast Model. If one loosens one strut, the entire model is weakened. If one tightens up one strut, the entire model re-gains its tensional uniformity.

It is this uniformity and tensional integrity that children with special needs are lacking. Their bodies react with sinking, bulging, folding and buckling under. These severely effected individuals perfectly illustrate the biotensegrity concepts in their structure, their attempts to move and even in their “behavior”! When the structure is architecturally unsound and reacts with buckling, sinking and folding – then no amount of brain or of muscle training can rectify this. The muscles and the brain are rather forced to try to find ways of working within the constraints of a seriously weakened structure.

The video clip below gives a description of an extremely creative child with microcephaly.  His “small head” has been given the cause of his difficulties in walking.  But one can see how creative he is.  He manages to walk in spite of:

  • knees that buckle under and give way
  • A stiff spine
  • A weak trunk

His interesting usage of his hands for stability to be able to manage the weaknesses is very inventive and creative indeed.

ABR Techniques are all about restoring structural soundess and uniform reactions for individuals who have lost this or who have never had it. The Biotensegrity models are firing and inspiring our technique development and have been doing so for years.

ABR Biotensegrity Wrap Demonstration below:

Below are some slides from the presentation of our children and their progress.  First some younger children.

Now an older guy – a GMFCS Level V young man (although he is moving up in his GMFM scores)  – who is now 20.  He is much older and far beyond  an age or GMFCS Level where any improvement would be expected at all – only further deterioration.  It is great to see how this young man is improving day by day!

The Last ABR Assessment in 2017 – So much to tell!

 

The last months have been extremely full for our team, and there is so much to write about, but before I start to add all the half written posts that are waiting to be published, our last story of the season must be told.

This evening when we were ready to hold the last ABR Assessment for 2017 the Team was very tired after many weeks of holding courses back to back – and in no case were we ready for such an amazing surprise. A 25 year old young man from Austria named Christian  and who started with ABR in March 2017 drove his wheel chair through the door to our seminar room in Reichenau a. d. Rax.

We knew Christian as a generally very fused and stiff young man with only minimal independent movements and bodily mobility. He can drive his own wheel chair by employing a joystick and can talk, but it was very difficult to understand him. He is however a very engaged young person and works in an organisation that promotes the interests of handicapped people in Austria.

When he entered the room, it was clear that an enormous development had occurred. One could see that his face was much more relaxed and his eyes sparkled with excitement.

Before we could even sit down together, he and his parents began to tell about all the changes he had made in the last few months since we last met in June 2017. The list was long – we took an hour to gather all of it and they were not finished telling the story. But a good portion of it is below:

– Hand usage – he now stretches ou this arm and grasps the hand when he “shakes” hands – not only offering a stiff unmoveable hand at a close range to his body.
– He now easily drinks out of a big glass and does not spill anything
– He opens bottles alone and can drink from a bottle.
– Independent eating.
– There is a very difficult clasp that he has learnt how to open.
– At work, he sets the table.
– At his workplace, they often give him more complex tasks to do on his own.
– They now send him shopping at work, and he goes alone and seeks independence
– He can use the ATM machine for getting cash on his own.
– He is extremely motivated and now wants to do everything himself. Refuses help even when it takes much longer to do things his way!
– Takes off his jacket and can put it on.  More independence when dressing.
– Has learned to open and close zippers.
– Shaves, washes and brushes his teeth alone.
– He figured out himself how to propel his wheel chair alone manually – not using the joystick. Then he figured out how to use his upper body and not only the arms alone so that each push propels him much further along.
– He can now walk with his walker without assistance – slowly albeit but never the less!
– It is much easier for him to read.
– His speech is not only much clearer and easy to understand, but he uses more words and composes more complex sentences.
– His facial mimics expression has expanded and blossomed.
– He can now lie relaxed on his front – it was not possible for him to be on his front before due to stiffness.
– Put all fingers together in front of his body.
– Fold the hands together easily.
– He can sit on his own without support.
– He can play with a ball and do other activities when sitting freely.

And a big hug with Johannes was also possible!

At the Assessment we could also observe that his body was beginning to become much softer and less stiff. In addition one could see:

– Waist divisions appearing allowing for waist mobility
– Hip releases allowing for leg movement in the pelvis
– Divisions within his thorax allowing for a huge improvement in the respiration.
– General relaxation
– Improved shoulder and finger mobility
– Improved toe, feet and leg relaxation
– Neck relaxation allowing for improved head mobility

The parents commented that he has not improved in any function in years and that it is also the expectation for severe young people with cerebral palsy like himself, that he would simply get worse with age and time. They are also very surprised how much he has changed.

This does not mean that there is not a great deal that can still be achieved or needs to be worked on with ABR Applications, but it is wonderful to see that a 25 year old young man with a level IV Cerebral Palsy can make such fantastic improvements in the ABR program in such a short time span.

Thank you Christian for letting us share your story!

“As Good As Being Yours”

As Good as Being Yours

 Those of you Dear Readers who have been applying ABR Techniques with your children or your own selves for many months or years, may from time to time have to explain the variety of ABR Techniques to other family members, friends or visitors. Not everyone can immediately find the words to be able to introduce others to the meaningfulness of the unique ABR work.

The newest Power Wraps, which we at ABR Denmark have been eagerly experimenting with for the last few years for example, could pose a certain difficulty in explanation. Although this need not be the case, when today the Internet is full of the most amazing images of women who wrap themselves from head to toe as if they were preparing for a Living Egyptian Ceremonial Mummification!

 

No one seems to find anything strange about these rather odd looking techniques because one silently accepts that a woman would do anything when chasing youthfulness or beauty – and the “Before and After” photos of results achieved are surely very convincing! These type of beauty and wellness wraps are gaining in high acclaim and women and men alike are prepared to spend anywhere from 200 to 400 Euro and upwards to have their body remodelled through these weight-loss, cellulite diminishing, wrinkle erasing wrapping techniques. One hour of sweating with a wrap and clay, coconut oil or other substances and your body could be reborn! – Yes, only one hour of sweating with wraps.

Should it be surprising? Body wrapping in various forms is a civilisation old technique. One of the most well known and – equally well-forgotten being the “baby swaddling”.

Baby swaddling was done through out the world by rich and poor in the so called “primitive” and civilised peoples alike – until that moment when the microscope-based medicine took over in the Western World. Any reason for swaddling a baby could not be found under a microscope or in any of the other more sophisticated diagnostic tools being used today such as MRI’s, CAT Scanning, blood tests, tissue biopsy’s, gene analysis, etc. All of these modern forms of diagnosis can show nothing about the importance of baby swaddling!

The same will of course be true for an ABR based Power Wrap.

We will talk about baby swaddling in a future post, but what is important about our present ABR wraps?

The ABR Team – who even takes the time to thoroughly observe and characterize the bodies of the weakened individuals in the ABR program, have been continuously been struck by several observations. Instead of having a body that gives a uniform response to the loads coming to it through the interactions with the environment – the body of a CP individual elicits a variety of responses – none of which are characteristic of the healthy individual. One can typically observe the following:

Sinking

Bulging

Folding

Buckling under

Twisting and

Sliding

None of these responses are however representative of the healthy individual. The healthy individual has a uniform response to loads coming from without – a response that could be called an internal “Bio-Tensegral” response to external motion or loading.

 
CP Child: Non-Uniform Response – buckling, sinking, chest and abdominal fold – all as a response to the loads of the child’s own body.  

Healthy Child: Uniform Response – Even extra loads from the top do not cause any sinking, twisting or buckling under.

 

The CP child however exhibits all of these:  sinking, folding, buckling under and twisting. This is a part and parcel of the life of a CP child in respect to his own body and own body experience and reactions.

The “own body experience” is more popularly termed our “proprioception”. This is the word used for ones internal body perception with respect to movement and spatial arrangement. What do we have as organs of our movement perception? We have “receptors” – and these receptors are anchored within our tendon/muscle system.

These are all the so-called “stretch-receptors” meaning that they are dependent upon tissues in our body coming into tension or being stretched. The tissue that is lengthened and brought into tension is normally a tendon. When the tendons are stretched through movement, then the neurons fire and send information back to our central nervous system. But on the other hand, if there is no tension – if the body reacts through bulging, sinking and buckling under –then this means that there is a severe loss of information returning from the body to the central nervous system.

Non-uniformity of response means that the area of the body is excluded from the body map and cannot perform any proprioceptive feedback.

What does an ABR Power Wrap do? It seriously reduces all of the above-described non-uniform reactions to loads coming to the body or to the body area. One does not re-position the foot when wrapping, but a well-performed wrap of the foot provides uniformity of response to the area being wrapped. A well-performed wrap of the hand provides tensional uniformity to an excluded hand with the typical horizontal fold or derailed wrist.

This tensional uniformity then ensures that the area begins to return the bodies proprioceptive system.

In addition the wrap serves to “re-connect” the “dis-connected” areas to more stable body areas.

Tensional uniformity and uniformity of response means that the excluded area can be re- integrated into the proprioceptive organisation of the body.

A return to the body map of an excluded body area has enormous consequences, which we are now seeing as:

  • Reduction of spasticity
  • Improved automatic responses of the feet and legs to loading
  • Improved weight bearing responses
  • Improved trunk stability
  • Reduction of scoliosis
  • Spine development
  • Spine stability
  • Reduction of hip pains

The list of improvements being seen with the Power Wrap usage is long! Above is only a partial list. The biggest impediment is of course the time needed to put a wrap on.

We show photos below of the foot to leg development of a child who used the wraps for a few months. During the time period, we were employing a much simpler and less effective wrap in compared to our new wraps set-ups – and still one could see the fantastic effects!

November 2014 – The girl’s feet do not take any weight. There is no load transfer through the feet. June 2016 – By this time the girl eagerly takes the weight on her feet.

Of course the improvements in trunk stability and head control were not coming from any of the simple foot wraps that we were using at that time – this came through other ABR Techniques – but the fact that she eagerly takes the weight on the feet – that the feet react spontaneously to the body loads – this was wrap work.

In spite of the time needed to put on the newest version of the wraps, the benefits now being seen are so obvious, that we can only encourage our parents to use the Power Wraps as much as possible.

Wear them during the day, at school, when sleeping – whenever it will work.

Yes, I know: if one puts them on for the school day, then one may need to answer questions from the teachers! Or see the raised eyebrows when one brings the child.

Why is it that teachers take the items below for granted? One would get no strange looks if one brings the child to school with any of the following:

 

It is only a matter of time until the newest ABR based “CP Fashion” hits the world. Be brave and add these wraps to your child’s wardrobe and selected outfits.

The benefits clearly outweigh the funny looks one might get.

And remember: When the area of the body being wrapped achieves a higher level of tensional uniformity, it returns to the body map. In addition the tensional uniformity of the area is the signal needed for those famous myo-fibroblasts to come out of the hibernation they go into when the tension is not present. They then begin to wake up and work hard on the tissue remodelling work! It is only a matter of time until the remodelling takes place allowing for improved structural integration.

The elements of the wrap provide the stability and tensional uniformity needed for a new internal mapping and tissue remodelling of the area. The achieved tensional uniformity is so well integrated  into the child’s body that it is:

“As Good As Being Yours”!

Water and Hydration

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It is Summer time now and we enjoy basking in the warmth!  As lovely as it is for the brain injured child to experience the warmth of the Sun on his or her skin and to be outside without extra clothing – this time of year can present even extra challenges if the parents are not attentive!

The post below is not only important in the Summer but it may be one of the most important piece of information that you need for the optimal care of your CP child.  It can be immediately implemented as well.

The parents of thousands of children with brain damage have told us:  The child does not like to drink – and especially not water.

For the ABR Accessors who do the children’s evaluations – this is not a surprise.  Moreover the “song and dance” routines that some mothers and fathers have thought out in order to try to get their children to drink anything at all can be very amusing to hear – but it is not the main proportion of the parents who have developed these hydration routines with success. Unfortunately most parents will tend settle at the thirst level of the child.

The main thing that parents of a brain injured child need to keep in mind, is that once the child’s body is dehydrated, he or she does not feel thirst. So it is incredibly important that in respect to water intake and hydration, the parents do not feel inclined to “follow the child”!  Most parents will simply do this – and this is of course natural.  These children have so many problems and the refusal to drink seems to be rather small one in respect to the other difficulties on hand.  But especially in the case of hydration, the parent has to know that he or she knows best – and much better than the child!  Only the parent can regulate the intake of water for a child and especially for one who is certainly already dehydrated.

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Water is the foundation for all life and it possesses dynamic qualities!

The parent needs to know and remember that water and liquid flow is the basis for all of the life processes taking part in the child.  At the same time, even a slight dehydration has an enormous cascade effect upon the entire bodily system!

  • When dehydration occurs and the overall water volume in the body is reduced: this then results in a reduction in the central blood volume and, therefore also in skin blood flow!
  • The decrease in the blood volume then causes a compensatory increase in the heart rate, which is then again followed by a decrease in stroke volume. This is due to the increased heart rate and decreased filling time for the heart!
  • Remember that the heart beat rate increases! Many children with CP have tachycardia. Before giving the child pharmaceutical drugs for this condition – try to bring up the hydration level!

Water is essential for all of the life processes.  It is important to realize that the flow of the fluids within the tissues together with the capillary flow is the essential tissue stimulation required for all tissue regeneration and tissue renewal.  This fluid exchange movement known as “liquid shear” has a positive remodelling effect upon the tissues.  When the tissues dry out and the pathways for the more capillary located blood flow decrease, then the tissues will of necessity be locked into a process of slow and steady degeneration.  For a children with movement disorders the systemic reduction of tissue fluids is one of the leading factors which reduces the child’s general performance.  It is also responsible for an increase in joint stiffness and spasticity!

Enough written about the importance of water intake!   We could continue with many more aspects but the parents and caretakers should be able to see the connections between sufficient water intake and their own child’s health and development.

Some of the signs of dehydration that are easy to recognize are as follows:

  • The colour of the urine is the most significant sign. Instead of being a light greenish yellow, it becomes bright orange yellow or worse yet dark yellowish amber brown.  When the colour of the urine is in this range it is a sign that the child has much too little to drink.  If the child is using disposable nappies, it may be difficult to discern the colour.  Here also the parent needs to be creative and perhaps use a cloth nappy in order to see the colour.
  • Odour of the urine – if it smells this is a sign of dehydration
  • If the child smells badly (and many children with CP have a bad smell) – this is also not a good sign! Healthy hydrated children do not smell.
  • Dizziness and headaches. Most children will not be able to express anything about this, but they may certainly being having these symptoms.
  • Confusion
  • Dry skin, brittle skin or paper thin skin where one can easily see the bluish colour of veins

On the other hand, if one can achieve some diligence in getting the child to drink, the success of what may seem like a bagatelle can be shown in an interesting example of a child from Hungary.  The parents came with the child to a long pre-assessment where we found out that the child drank almost nothing at all.  In addition the girl had problems with:

  • sleeplessness
  • chewing and swallowing – it took half the day to give the child her meals
  • drinking
  • seizures
  • mood swings
  • restlessness
  • attentiveness problems

Six weeks later we met for a further assessment before the family started with the ABR training.  At this meeting we found out that the mother had taken the recommendations we had given her to take the drinking seriously and had tried to increase the water intake up to at least one liter per day for a child of her small size.  The mother was fortunately able to get the girl to drink consistently.  Most amazing however was the long list of improvements that the parents told us about that had came about spontaneously during these short weeks simply through increasing the water intake!

  • The child started sleeping through the nights.
  • Constipation was relieved.
  • She was much less restless during the day as well.
  • The child began to be able to swallow and to chew almost normally!. The time taken for the meals was down to a normal time for a meal so that the child is now finished eating together with the parents.
  • The seizure level decreased significantly and seizures almost disappeared.
  • Motor function improvements
  • Sound production
  • Communication efforts

This story illustrates the extreme importance of good hydration for children with cerebral palsy.

The parents need to be encouraged to pay attention to hydration at all times!  Not one day should go by when the child has too little to drink.

If the child has been dehydrated for a long time – and this is the case of most children with brain injury – then it cannot be expected that thirst will simply be present.  The cells within the body have been used to a minimal liquid exchange.  It will take time for the introduced water to begin to move consistently through the system – but do not give up!

You need to be consistent and will also need to develop a strategy.

Some of the methods that work are:

  1. Offer the liquids at least once each half an hour.  In this way the child will become used to having liquids in his body.
  2. If there are issues with getting the fluids into the child’s mouth, try using a variety of cups, bottles, syringes or even spray bottles at first.
  3. If the child refuses to drink, try using a syringe and find out where to bring the water into the mouth so that the child does not choke but can swallow it. Or use even a spray bottle and simply spray the water into the child’s mouth.
  4. Make a realistic goal for increasing the liquid intake on a week-to-week basis. Increase by ca. 100 ml each week until one achieves the wished for daily water intake.
  5. Taste can be important. If the water has some taste then the stomach will automatically react in such a way as to facilitate swallowing.  If the child simply refuses the water, then add a bit of non-sweetened juice or some soup broth.  Taste can be important assistant in swallowing and it may be necessary in the beginning to add something that has some taste.
  6. There are several healthy foods that can be used as thickeners if all else fails to work. This helps the child who has much difficulty with the swallowing of water to be able to manage the liquids when they enter the mouth.  Agar, psyllium fiber or chia seeds can all be used as a thickener agent for water. Arrowroot can also be tried.  Xanthan gum is not to be recommended, as it is a more or less engineered food additive. ( read here:  https://draxe.com/what-is-xanthan-gum/)

 

Diane Vincentz
Director
ABR Denmark Aps

The Hands and Feet

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Specialized ABR Ankle Wraps

Every parent of a special needs child lends a particular notice and emphasis upon what is happening with the hands and the feet of their child.

On the one hand this is due to the fact that these are the most obvious areas of the body – they stick out! If the feet roll inwards, if the hand is shriveled and not useful for grasping objects, eating and playing – well then the parents and the therapists as well gather around this hand or foot. They try to stimulate the child to use it better, try to stretch it, try to massage it – anything to try to bring it to usage.

The ABR Method takes an entirely different avenue. First of all one works on understanding and recognition! One tries to go a few levels deeper into the evaluation of the difficulty of the “hand” or the “foot” itself – in following the present example.

What does a shriveled hand show us? The hand always leads back to the shoulder girdle and the neck. When one sees a shriveled or a hand with contracture there is no doubt that limitations can be found higher up in the vertical connections of the neck and spine. When the cervical spine is weak, then it needs to start to use and mobilize the arms and hands for stability. The arms then take over as stabilizers because the most important thing that needs to be done is to protect the neck and keep the head stable.

Movement teachers who have worked with children can surely remember having seen the following: A young girl or boy who runs with at least one arm bent and held close to the body. One may have asked oneself “What is this child doing? Why does he run like that?”

As soon as one recognizes that even an otherwise healthy child who runs with one or both arms bent and held close to the chest is doing this to protect the less obvious weaknesses in his neck – then the strange positions of the arms and hands of children with cerebral palsy and related conditions can be recognized for what they truly are at a deeper structural base: They are all the natural attempts to protect and to stabilize the weak connections between the head and the neck.

Or: If my head wobbles, because my neck is weak, I can then create stability for the neck by blocking the long horizontal connections of the arms that would otherwise create even more chaos for my wobbly head. Instead of allowing the horizontal connections of the arms to simply ruin any stability I can find in my neck, I will recruit them by blocking them to add some stability to my weak vertical neck connections.

This is the basic understanding of the shriveled hands, the folded hands, and the turned in feet. The special needs child has with an internal act of genius searched for ways to stabilize the head – or the pelvis/spine connections in the case of the feet – even if the attempt has not been effective and even if there are much more suitable ways of attaining head stability.

For the ABR inspired – and what could be called Bio-tensegral Informed Understanding – it is clear that it will be necessary to assist the child with folded hands and/or contractures of the feet at higher levels of the body starting with the vertical connections – specifically at the spine – before one can expect to achieve a meaningful change in the positioning or usage of either the hands or the feet. Any stretching, injecting with nerve poisons, orthopaedic interventions or surgeries will only have a limited and short term effect if one cannot manage to address the problem at the root.

On the other hand once the hands or feet have stiffened into a permanently poor position, they unfortunately become an additional liability for the child or affected adult. They have been trying to do the work of the weak neck or the weak pelvic connections for years and this has brought them into a state of permanent stiffening more commonly called spasticity. These spastic hands and feet however – do not allow the child to release any tensions generated through his daily life through the arms and legs. Normally a person can release an immense amount of tension through simply walking, doing something with the hands, or gesticulating when talking. The hands and feet of the special needs child – instead of being able to move, dance in daily movement and release tensions – end up being tension collectors and return built up tensions to the overly tense body.

Parents of special needs children know how the child is always getting tension – when she is happy and excited, when he is nervous, unhappy or in pain – tensions are exhibited in the legs, in the hands, in the jaw, in the neck –

A vicious cycle is implemented – and the child cannot exit on his own. It is here that the child need assistance from another side and he or she cannot bring this himself.

ABR strategy – in this case – is not only to strengthen the vertical connections at the level of the spine, but to reduce the negative effect of the feet and hand tensions. Tensions that build up and cannot be released have a long term negative effect upon the individual – leading to further stiffening, further fibrosis of the tissues, further discomfort – and so it goes around and around.

Newer ABR applications developed – like the power socks, the wraps, the Osteo-tapping, the “Reverse Squeeze” at the hands and feet – all these are designed to bring a release of tensions to the peripheral joints.

The ABR children have now been rewarding the efforts of their parents with faster attainment and new levels of grasping objects, eating on ones own, using the arms for weight bearing, standing independently.

We watch these improvements with joy and congratulate ABR families for their immense efforts!

Beach Walking – Backwards

Now that it is Summer, we wish to remi3599139c8f4d9ba5c86ec8cef754f758nd all parents of children with some kind of walking function of the great value of the backwards walking in the sand for children with gait difficulties. Whether they are walking with support or walking free, the backwards walking is the perfect active exercise for them!

When walking forwards a child or an adult  with gait problems tends to use the “falling tree” method for his  momentum. Because the person cannot control the weight transfer through the foot, ankle and knee, he or she simply lets the upper body fall forwards and then catches up with the feet. This is not the correct sequence of activation for the walking.

When walking backwards, this is not possible. The child needs to lift the foot first, transfer the weight onto the leg. When walking backwards one needs to activate the step from the trunk, and the foot clearance is necessary. The trunk limb coordination goes in the correct sequence!

Therefore – whether the child can walk backwards alone, or needs some support of one or two hands, walking backwards barefoot on the sand or in the grass if there is no beach, is the absolute best Summer exercise for your child. For those who need support – try to vary the support – sometimes give two hands, sometimes one hand – from the right or the left.

We wish you a great Summer with the backwards walking style.

ABR is: Parent Driven Development

 

Today’s world is a world of “specialists”. But there is at least one jewel of knowledge that even the poorest and the richest parents of special needs children share!  The richest parents know it because they have traveled the globe searching for the best doctors that modern medicine can supply –  and they have found out what the poorest parents know by default:  That in the end, the parent is responsible for a handicapped child.  The destiny of this child lies exhaustively in the hands of the parent in a more intense manner than that of any healthy child ever does.

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What is it that definitely does not help a handicapped child to improve:

  •  parent uncertainty
  • parent exhaustion
  • parent remorse
  • parent pressure (on the child)

 

What ABR can do for all parents of children with cerebral palsy, brain injury, genetic illness and other disorders is to give a deep sense of reassurance that lies in the knowledge of the developmental potential of each person no matter how severe the illness.

Every child can improve.

When you the parent become the driver of your child’s rehabilitation, your focus changes from “cure” to “development”.   Improvements matter, each increment of change matters.  You realize all this because it is happening under your own hands.  You observe how small increments of change accumulate and one day begin to bring huge transformations!  A “cure” does not happen from one day to another, but is a process that can occur over time.  You start to see that the unique thing about human beings is that they develop – they can transform and that development is the most essential aspect of childhood – and even of adult life.

It is a great tool – ABR Method – for child developmental promotion.  Having this tool in your own hands as a parent,  brings an immense satisfaction that ABR parents learn to cherish.

Diane Vincentz

Baby Time, Down Time, Internalizing Time

baby-toes-940x198One 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.

Diane Vincentz

Toe Curling Crutches – Insight Gleaned From Clients

We were exceedingly pleased when earlier this month (March 2017)  several new ABR enthusiasts joined our group in Austria.  Special to this group is however that they are all talkative young men – both walking and in a wheel chair.

From these adult individuals we could glean directly from the affected individuals themselves confirmations about many aspects of our basic ABR understanding and principles.

Those of you who have been following my blog for some months will have read the post called Hands and Feet:

https://abrdenmark.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/the-hands-and-feet/

This post is an illustration of the internal necessity for stiff arms/hands and legs/feet in children with cerebral palsy.  Stiffness of the arms and legs, hands and feet – or even of the stiffened open mouth – these are all natural reactions!

In that post, we expounded upon the idea that if any individual has a weak spine, the person will then search for the next best solution available in order to add more stability to the spine.  If the neck is weak, then one can stabilize the neck by stiffening the arms.  The arms are of course not meant to be used as spine stabilizers.  When they are stiffened continuously in order to add stability to the spine, then they will of course soon “remodel” in a stiffer fashion.  This “stiffening” of the arms is then popularly termed “spasticity”.  One does not need to apply the typical neurological reasoning in order to find the direct cause of spasticity.

This month in Austria when holding the first assessment for a young man who is studying to be a teacher with cerebral palsy I asked him:

“Can you try to stand on one foot?”  His answer was nothing less that a direct confirmation of what is written above:

“Yes I can, but I need to curl my toes.”

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Toe curling is a creative way to clench and to stiffen the body in order to add stability!  If I clench my toes, I feel it all the way up to my buttocks and the pelvis –  but also the lumbar area gets tense!  What geniuses these individuals are!
Their body tells them automatically and intrinsically that they do not have the spine stability needed to be able to stand on one foot, but that, if they clench or curl the toes, then they will be able to mobilize more stability to make the standing on one foot possible.  They can compensate for the lack of the central stability that the vertebral column should be providing for by stiffening other areas.

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So, Dear Parents:  The ABR message to you is to please stop worrying about the spastic legs and feet and the spastic arms and hands!  Stop fighting with them by stretching them, cutting the tendons and lengthening the muscles, and by injecting them with toxins!  You need to understand that your child needs these spastic feet, legs, arms and hands.  Your child is an amazing genius who has been able to sense and to navigate within his own weaknesses and has been able to find an alternative for what he does not have intrinsically.

That which he or she is missing intrinsically is sufficient stability of the Connective Tissue Based Architecture!  This is the internal support system that we use all the time at a very low cost.  The healthy persons are so used to this internal architecture that we take it 100% for granted, day in and day out.

It is only when we do not have it that we notice:  “I need to curl my toes in order to be able to stand on one foot.”

And now Dear Parents:  You can all re-assess your child’s movements and manners.  You can begin to see, to feel yourselves within, and to understand what is going on.

When your child opens his or her mouth wide each time he/she wants to lift or to move his head or raise an arm:  Now you understand why!  The wide-open mouth brings tension into the neck and the base of the skull and makes it easier for your child to control the head movement.

This is of course not the best way to do things, but this is what your child has figured out how to use.  Your child is not “brain deficient” but exceedingly smart.  If he or she has figured this out, then it is only a matter of diligence of application of ABR Techniques designed to strengthen the central core of the body, of the spine and of the internal connective tissue base that will in turn allow for him to find new strategies for lifting the head.  As soon as the central structures are strengthened internally, your child will not need to use his wide open mouth, or his arm stiffening to support the neck.

Before this internal strengthening is achieved, then any attempts to “loosen up” the arms or legs are not going to lead to longterm positive results.  It is comparable to taking away someone’s crutches when he needs crutches for walking.  No one would do this!  But yet we as parents of Special Needs Children are lead to believe that we need to cut, to inject, to stretch the very structures that our children need as crutches for their own central and internal weaknesses.

As all families, parents and clients soon find out, at ABR we take time to listen.  We listen to your stories, your struggles, your successes, your difficult and intense problems, and your journeys.

Not only do we use the information you give us to shape your ABR Program, to guide you on a day to day basis with respect to general health based insights and suggestions, but we can then let the information flow from parent to parent.  What works for one family, will often work for another family, so there is no reason to keep anything to ourselves?  Each small bit of information can be given further.

This kind of information coming from young adults with cerebral palsy is precious.  It confirms our understanding that we are on the correct path in the promotion of the ABR Techniques and Methods which are all designed to provide for internal intrinsic architectural connective tissue based strength and stability.

Diane Vincentz

ABR Denmark

This entry was posted on 12 April, 2017

U-Turn Approach to Independent Sitting

A mother has asked us to elaborate on what ABR calls the “U-Turn Approach to Independent Sitting”.

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ABR is a technique that addresses weaknesses within the connective tissue skeleton and brings architectural and structural  improvements to children with muscular skeletal and movement disorders. The following explanation is given in order to create a basis for understanding how these structural improvements translate to improved function.
The child cannot sit independently. What stages does she have to go through to attain independent sitting? How will we be able to mark and to notice the improvements when they start to appear?

The speed of transitions from one step to another will depend upon the severity of the child. A mildly affected child will progress through these stages in such a way that the parent may not even notice it. The parents will notice the appearance of more dynamic functions like rolling and crawling and creeping, as well as the emergence of transitions from one position to another. In the case of a more severe child, these stages will show up more gradually.

In the description given below, sitting is used as an example, but this example could equally be applied to most other movements and functional complexes as well.

What ABR demonstrates repeatedly is that, when the direct road to the achievement of independent sitting is closed for the child, one can take the U-Turn approach and still come to independent sitting.

On the other hand, if the child does not show any spine movement, if the thorax is excessively weak, and the entire body responds as one block in respect to changes in positioning – the child will not learn to sit independently, regardless of how much external training and brain stimulation the child receives.

The U-turn approach describes the functional steps that will show up along the way that lead the child to the attainment of the function of independent sitting.

Normally the problem is analyzed as follows:
If we were to put the child into a sitting position on a stool and go away the child would fall. One could say: “Well her brain is damaged and the brain is sending poor signals to the body. Therefore she cannot sit.”  One then goes on to try to train her to sit anyways –  and this is the basis of most training programs.

But this will not help the child to come further. We need to look deeper to find the elements of independent sitting that the child is missing, and then make a strategy as to how to attain them. We can see that she seems to initiate the fall  often through some kind of full body stiffening or protective reactions.  Many children appear to “throw themselves backwards”. But, if she initiates a fall she is not able to stop or to brake the fall. Movement in the healthy person is not only constituted of the ability to initiate a movement, but a controlled movement is also made up of the ability to stop or brake the movements in any and every position and at any and (almost) every acceleration.

Initially, if the child starts to fall, she will do this with the accelerated fall. She does not have a simple fall that follows the gravitational pull, but will fall with an increasing velocity. This is due to the fact that when we put her into a sitting position we do this against inherent bodily resistance. This resistance is a result of a combination of factors such as backline spasticity and fascial shortening  – which are brought into an elongated tension when she is put in sitting position. As soon as the external support is taken away, the tightness along her back re-contracts and returns to the neutral position, making the velocity of her fall accelerate. We can observe the “snap back” reactions.

At the same time the child has not been able to “index” the variety of positions which a healthy person has in respect to the sitting position.  This huge variety is an  “unknown unknown” for the child.  The bottom of the child cannot grip the surface she is sitting upon and then the entire body goes into a protective reaction.  When the full body stiffening occurs, the child shoots.

When she does this, she is simply unable to brake the fall.

  1. If we want her to improve we need help her to go through several phases.
    The first thing that needs to happen is that she can begin to fall with a simple, floppy and loose fall. This will appear when spasticity and fascial tightness in the trunk begins to release and is – never the less – a result of connective tissue strengthening and remodeling. This is a deep and important improvement, but not necessarily yet a functional improvement.  The parent may not even notice when the child goes through this stage.
  2. The next step is that she will be able to begin to slow down the fall. She may not yet have achieved the strength needed to brake the fall entirely, but if we – for example – initiate a change of position, the child will begin to show us that she is trying to slow down the fall.
  3. Thereafter the child will move on to having control of the fall in some positions, but not yet in all of them. The child still cannot really sit alone, but if we change the sitting position, the child will not helplessly go into the falling mode, but will be able to stop the fall at some of the positions between being upright and being completely horizontal.
  4. After arriving at this stage, the next really big step is when the child begins to perform the counter balancing movements. A counter balancing movement is a movement that balances out another bodily movement in order to avoid distortion of the body or the loss of balance. We make the stages of counter balancing development visible by initiating a movement through the utilization of one segment – for example the head or the upper trunk or pelvis for this. If the child can start to return part of the body towards the initial position whilst another bodily segment stays or still moves in the counter direction, then the counter balancing movements are starting to appear. In effect all of our changes of positioning and especially walking involve a highly developed complex of counter balancing movements. With respect to a child who has not yet attained free and independent sitting, the achievement of some counter balancing movements show us that the child is getting close to being able to sit without support.  Often at this stage the child can begin to sit alone or with support on his or her arms when placed in the sitting position.

On the way to achieving the counter balancing movements, the child will of course have improved significantly in respect to trunk strength and stability, pelvis positioning, the strength and mobility of the vertebral column as well as to increasing bodily segmentation. The child will begin to show mobility in the upper body that is independent of the movements of the extremities, i.e. arms and legs. The head will have to become independently mobile with respect to the trunk, and the thorax needs to be independently mobile in respect to the abdomen, etc.

In this way one can understand how the ability to perform segmented movements of bodily parts in respect to each other is essential for the attainment of independent sitting.  As long as the different segments – be it head, neck, chest, abdomen, arms or legs – are all fused together as one movement unit, then the possibility for both “braking” a movement and also for the counter balancing movements are not available to the child.

In order to summarize one can say that the child will go through the stages of:

1. A simple and loose fall
2. Slowing down of the initiated fall
3. Stopping an initiated fall
4. Counter balancing movements
5. Maintaining the sitting position for shorter or more extended periods –  on the way to the attainment of a free and independent sitting.

This describes the “U-Turn” approach that is possible to achieve through ABR work in conditions where the progress has otherwise shown to be impossible.

 

Diane Vincentz
Director
ABR Denmark Aps