Friday, October 11, 2013

Reading and Rhythm

The two primary movement programs used in my private education practice are Rhythmic Movement Training and NeuroNet both of which stress the importance of learning to keep a rhythm.  When children are struggling with reading, language and attention, why should we to take time to teach them to keep a beat?  The following is an excerpt from a review by NeuroNet of some recent research on the brain and rhythm as reported in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The ability to tap and move consistently to a beat relates to the brain’s response to sound, a correlation that has been linked to reading ability and phonological awareness. Phonological awareness refers to the ability to detect and manipulate the components of spoken language, such as syllables, rhymes and voice onset time.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Slant Boards

This is a picture of the wonderful slant board my friend, Kristen Burdette, and her husband, Mark, designed to fill my need for a sturdy slanted reading and writing surface for students.  I have tested several versions of their boards at ILC as they have worked to develop the design.  I LOVE this slant board!   It has a removable ledge to hold books, flashcards or letter tiles as well as a clip at the top for holding paper, notes or visual aids.  The ledge is easily taken off to use the board for writing purposes.  The clip also holds a removable dry erase board which comes with the board.  The durable construction as well as the rubber feet keep the board stable even for my most wiggly students (unlike my first slant board which I purchased from a company on-line).  I use 2 of these slant boards regularly when teaching, one for my student and one for me (my neck always thanks me). 

Benefits of using a Slant Board
  • Vision – The use of a slant board when reading may reduce eye strain.  Because the text is at a consistent angle, the child does not need to continually refocus.
  • Increased Oxygen to the Brain – A slouched body position leads to decreased circulation and inefficient breathing.

  • Decreased Neck Strain, Decreased Vertebral Compression – Writing or reading on a flat surface promotes an unbalanced posture (see picture 1) this can cause increased torque, force and compression of the intervertebral disks of the spine.
  • Writing – The angle of the slant board promotes better shoulder, arm and hand position for writing and drawing.  The paper is closer, making it easier to see and reach, the wrist is in flexion using the right amount of muscle force to hold a pencil.
  • Improved attention -  The board defines a work space for the student bringing the work which needs attention closer and helping the student distinguish it from distraction which might be around it.


As a result of the interest these boards have generated, the Burdettes are offering them to the public for $60.  Each board includes the removable ledge, clip & dry erase board.  This is a REALLY good price for a sturdy board like this.  And as a bonus you get to support a new small local business venture which is part of the Integrated Learning Connections small business network (not an "official" organization, just term for my personal network of friends providing services to children through home-based businesses).

For more information or to place an order contact 
Burdette Learning Resources
kristenhjln AT yahoo DOT com

“Posture relates not only to spatial judgments, but also to performing visual tasks” Dr. Darrell Boyd Harmon, creator of the Harmon Distance.

“We perpetuate a culture of discomfort and bad ergonomics for our young students, even though it has been proven that the right chair, the right posture, and the right fit can greatly improve performance across the board.” Eric Steinman, author of Pain in the Class:  The Ergonomics of the Classroom Desk.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Effects of Retained Primitive Reflexes

Reflexes are involuntary responses to specific stimuli.  Some reflexes, such as blinking, should be active for a lifetime.  Other reflexes are designed to be present for a period of time in order to assist in development and then to become dormant once they have completed their jobs.  Primitive reflexes are this type of reflex.  They are preprogramed into a baby's brainstem and serve as the drive behind a baby's rapidly developing neuro-motor system. 

Primitive reflexes cause a baby to repeat certain motor patterns each time the stimulus for the reflex is encountered.  For example, placing your finger in a baby's hand will activate the "grasp reflex" causing the baby to curl his fingers around yours. Repeating the reflexive pattern develops pathways in the brain until eventually the reflex completes its developmental job and the stimulus no longer triggers the response.

Primitive reflexes are expected to become dormant or "integrated" within the first couple of years of life.  When a reflex becomes locked in the system and does not fully integrate then the brainstem is constantly being triggered by the stimulus for the reflex and higher level development is hindered.  Think back to the example of the grasp reflex.  If the grasp reflex is still partially present in a child who is learning to write, then the writing utensil is a stimulus for the reflex causing a constant triggering of the brain stem.  The brainstem is the most primal area or "survival" area of the brain.  This is the area responsible for the "fight or flight" response to danger.  Constant triggering of the brainstem causes stress.  In addition, the presence of the reflex prevents a child from developing volunary muscle control and natural muscle strength.  A child with active hand reflexes will have difficulty writing fluently and comfortably.

The following is a list of physical, cognitive, emotional and social issues that may result from primitive reflexes being active in children and adults.  (This list comes from Sonia Story, instructor of the Brain and Sensory Foundations on-line training in which I am currently enrolled):
  • muscle aches and tension
  • body parts don't move independently or there is "neuro-motor static"
  • fatigue due to too much effort needed to move and do specific tasks
  • lack of a solid neuro-sensory-motor and vestibular foundation which prevents the brain from maturing properly
  • continual activation of the "survival brain" (brainstem) causing irritation and increasing the likelihood of impulse control and emotional issues
  • chronic stress and health challenges
Primitive reflexes that are not integrated on-time can be assisted in doing so through the use of the same types of movement that babies naturally perform for this purpose.  In addition, there are ways to give additional feedback to the brain to help speed this process.  Integrating the primitive reflexes calms the nervous system and helps neuro-motor development to proceed which can improve both learning and behavior.  For more information regarding specific primitive reflexes see this article.

If you would like to learn a more about primitive reflexes, ways to check for them and how to integrate them, I highly recommend Sonia Story's on-line training course, Brain and Sensory Foundations.  Please contact me at integratedlearnermail AT gmail DOT com  for a discount code which can be used if you register by June 25th for the course beginning July 9th.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reducing Toxins Part 4: Household Cleaners

This is the 4th and final post in my series on reducing environmental toxins.  Today I will be sharing ways to clean with simple, inexpensive, fragrance-free, non-toxic products.  Not only can dollars be saved by not buying a lot of commercial cleaning products, you can also save yourself trips to the store and cabinet space.  Almost all of my household cleaning is accomplished with baking soda, Dr. Bronner' soap, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Cleaning sinks, bathtubs and dishes:  Remember the pumps with Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap and shakers of baking soda by each sink/tub that I mentioned in part 3 of this series?  Sprinkle baking soda on whatever needs to be scrubbed then squirt with liquid soap and scrub. (cheap, simple and effective)

Cleaning windows and mirrors:  a spray bottle of vinegar.  I also have a concentrated cleaning product made with essential oils from Young Living that is mixed in a spray bottle with water.  It smells better than vinegar, but vinegar is cheap and easy and the smell doesn't last long. 

Sanitizer:  Vinegar is an effective sanitizer against various bacteria, yeasts and molds.  Here are some ideas for using vinegar for cleaning, sanitizing and freshening.  Hydrogen peroxide is also a sanitizer as well as having many other cleaning uses.  This article gives some ideas.
Dishwashing detergent: I purchased a 50lb. box of Biokleen dishwashing powder,  a natural, non-toxic biodegradable cleaning product from Azure Standard for less than $120.  I use one Tbsp. per load.  One box will do well over 1,000 loads (probably more like 1,500).  This box will probably last me 3 years, saving numerous trips to the store because we ran out.  Unlike most commercial detergents, it does not pollute our water and does not leave toxic chemical residue on our dishes. 

Laundry detergent: I have a 32lb. bucket of all natural, scent-free, biodegradeable Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder which also only takes 1 tablespoon per load.  I have been working on this bucket so long that I don't have any idea where I purchased it.  Amazon carries it for $120 with free shipping.  It says it will do 1,000 loads, so this is probably close to a 3 year supply for our family.  (Update: I no longer purchase Charlie's Soap due to new information I have learned about the ingredients.  Read here for more information and alternatives.)

Dryer static control:  We have recycled wool dryer balls from Azure Standard. 

Air Freshener:  Tate's the Natural Miracle Odor Eliminator.  I purchased this locally at Drug Emporium.

This concludes my 4 part series on reducing environmental toxins in your home.  I set out to write a short post on the toxicity of fragrances and ended up writing 4 posts and spending much more time and many more words than I intended.  For those who know me, this will not surprise you.  I hope you have found the information useful and motivating. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reducing Toxins Part 3: Personal Care Products

This is the third post in my series on reducing exposure to toxins.  Today I will be sharing ways to reduce your exposure to toxins through personal care products.  These are products that go on your body and are absorbed into your skin including the skin in your mouth.  The skin is an effective way to transport substances (both good and bad) into the body.  Also these products often are chemically scented allowing them to enter your body and the bodies of those around you through the airways.  This means if you are wearing something with fragrance (or any other chemical that "off gases"), your children are being exposed to it by breathing near you.  Remember from part 1 of this series that children's smaller bodies build up higher toxicity levels. 

Many products are listed in the  EWG database of personal care products with toxicity rating from 0-10.  You might want to search for some of the ones that you currently use to get a better idea of what kinds of toxins are in them.  There are a variety of options for natural personal care products.  I have friends who formulate many of their own, including shampoo, soap and toothpaste.  I am not quite so industrious.  Below are the personal care products that I currently use.
Makeup:  Signature Minerals makeup (You can get very nice free samples.)

Lip moisturizer/gloss:  100% pure lanolin from sheep's wool (purchased at Whole Foods)
Shampoo & Conditioner:   Aubrey Organics.  It is carried at Whole Foods and Drug Emporium locally, but I purchase mine from Vitacost (See the right side bar for a link for $10 off your first order.)

Face and body soap:  Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap - all natural liquid soap.  I dilute with water and put this in foam pumps (purchased from eBay) beside every sink and bathtub.  (We use it for hands, faces, bodies , dishes, sinks and bathtubs.)  Dr. Bronner's can be purchase by the gallon locally at Drug Emporium or on-line at Vitacost.
Deodorant: baking soda patted under armpits while still damp after showering. I keep a       parmesan shaker filled with baking soda by each sink and bathtub (more about that in part 4 of this series).  Do not put baking soda under armpits right after shaving.  Baking soda is irritating for some people, coconut oil is another option.  Rock salt crystals can be purchased at health food stores (This is what my husband uses).  We do not use antiperspirant.  I don't want to block my body's ability to eliminate toxins.  Reducing toxic food has made a huge impact on reducing underarm odor.   

Exfoliant:  sprinkle baking soda into my hand, add a squirt of Dr. Bronner's and scrub gently. 
Moisturizer:  I rarely need any moisturizer.  I think because there is lots of good fats in my diet.  When I need something, I use coconut oil or NWC Naturals MSM lotion

Haircolor: I keep a spray bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide to spray  occasionally on my hair while it is still damp to lighten it.  This only works for people who already have a light hair color.  It will turn dark hair red.  Whole Foods carries some natural hair colors.

Mouthwash:  Diluted hydrogen peroxide
Sunscreen: Badger (zinc oxide plus natural ingredients)

Fragrance: We strictly avoid chemical fragrances in personal care products and any other products used in our home.  Be aware that "unscented" products may contain a "masking fragrance."  Check the ingredients for the word "fragrance." 

The excerpt below is from Not So Sexy" by the Environmental Working Group

The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label. Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products. 

 Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans (Silva 2004) and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies (Swan 2008), and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk (Hutter 2009; Reiner 2007)

....When sprayed or applied on the skin, many chemicals from perfumes, cosmetics and personal care products are inhaled. Others are absorbed through the skin. Either way, many of these chemicals can accumulate in the body. As a result, the bodies of most Americans are polluted with multiple cosmetics ingredients. This pollution begins in the womb and continues through life. 

A recent EWG study found Galaxolide and Tonalide, two synthetic musks, in the cord blood of newborn babies (EWG 2009). Both musks contaminate people and the environment worldwide, have been associated with toxicity to the endocrine system (van der Burg 2008) and were identified in the majority of products tested for this study. Similarly, a pregnant woman’s use of some fragrances and other cosmetics frequently may expose her growing fetus to diethyl phthalate (DEP), a common perfume solvent linked to abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys and sperm damage in adult men (Washington Toxics Coalition 2009). New research also links prenatal exposure of DEP to clinically diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder in children (Engel 2010). This analysis found DEP in 12 of 17 products tested, at levels ranging from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 32,000 ppm in Eternity for Women.

Reducing the use of unnecessary personal care items can save a lot of money.  I believe beautiful skin comes from the inside out.  Our skin is a huge detoxifing organ,  so a good way to develop a nice complexion is to eat healthy and reduce the chemicals that go INTO and ONTO ourselves.  That being the case,  if you decide to start eliminating chemically laden skin care products as well as chemicals in your food, it may be necessary to be patient and give your skin some time to "detox."   In addition,  partially hydrogenated oils (found in almost all processed foods) are damaging to skin, while the omega-3s in fish oil are helpful.   Here's a really good article on how to nourish your skin.   

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reducing Toxins Part 2: Eating "Clean"

This is the second post in my series on reducing exposure to toxins.  The first post covered some reasons why reducing toxins is important for healthy child development and how toxins are linked to problems in learning.  Today's post is a list of ideas for reducing toxins from food.  Remember, try not to be overwhelmed.  See if there is at least one area in which you could make improvements to get started.

1) Buy organic produce to avoid herbicides and pesticides. If you can only buy some organic food then use the EWG's list of the "Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15" .
2) Save money on chemical-free produce and support local agriculture by purchasing a "farmshare." This is a good option for people who can pay a lump sum at one time to purchase a "share" and are flexible enough to eat whatever is in season. Our family receives a weekly produce basket from Kellogg Valley Farm. We get a good amount of food for the money, we are encouraged to regularly eat vegetables (otherwise they will go to waste), and our produce is nutrient-dense because it is picked fresh the day we get it, rather then shipped for days across country. I have the added benefit of saving gas, because the basket pickup is at my house. If you are interested check out AR Farmshare

3) Buy meat, eggs and dairy from animals raised on pasture without hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. AR Farmsharealso offers meat and egg shares. There is a "food resources" page on the blog "Real Food in Little Rock." Ask produce farmers about chemicals used and animal farmers about what their animals eat and how they are cared for.
Arkansas just passed a law legalizing the sale of fresh milk from the farm. Talk to me if you want to know more about this.

Quality food is expensive because it is a lot of work to raise it. Money can be saved by purchasing locally in bulk. I used to think quality food was too expensive. I was one of those "coupon queens" - seriously. But when I saw the health problems my husband, my children and myself were facing; I decided to change my priorities. In my case, I found that I had money for good food, I was just spending it on other things - many of which were not that important. Here's a really good article, "Healthy Eating Shouldn't Cost an Arm and a Leg."
Azure Standard is a resource for saving money on health food items. They deliver to customers in Little Rock each month.

4) Avoid processed foods with unrecognizable additives. Two which are especially harmful to the brain are MSG and partially hydrogenated oils. If you want to reduce chemicals from food sources, the most helpful thing you can do is read lists of ingredients. If you don't know what something is, Google it. (Or just assume that if you don't know what it is, then it isn't "real food.")
5) Drink and eat from glass. Plastic containers and water bottles contain estrogenic chemical hormone disrupters (BPAs). This is also found in canned food in the lining inside of the cans. Avoid processed drinks. Look into getting a quality water filter.

Our society has strayed so far from healthy eating, that there is a rather big learning curve for most people. My focus in this post has been on avoiding toxins. Nourishing Our Children, a chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation is a great place to start if you would like to learn about the type of diet which promotes healthy child development. They have a very user-friendly easy to follow website.