Movement is one of the most important learning aspects of a child’s young life. As parents, we tend to think that a baby’s brain is genetically pre-wired. However neuroscientists now believe that early physical movement experiences are crucial to the neural stimulation needed for baby brain development. (Carl Gabbard 1998)
Carla Hannaford, author of Smart Moves: Why learning is not all in your head, explains that beginning in infancy, physical movement plays a vital role in the creation of nerve cell networks that are at the core of learning.
An infants’ brain is full of brain cells, which are making connections especially in the first three years of life. If these connections are made repeatedly they become permanent, if not they are lost. The more children move the more information they are getting about their environment and themselves.
In early life, movement is totally reflexive. A new born baby will fling out their arms when someone makes a loud noise in what is known as the startle reflex, or automatically grasp an outstretched finger, the grasp reflex. These primitive reflexes should disappear between six and twelve months, as the brain starts to inhibit them and develop more sophisticated neural functioning. If these reflexes persist they will interfere with the mastering of intentional control of muscles and in the run-up to starting school, hinder the development of physical readiness for academic learning.
What is later seen in the classroom as bad behavior – lack of impulse control, poor social skills and difficulty in learning despite good intelligence – may be symptoms of an underdeveloped central nervous system. Simply put this means that some parts of the brain are later than normal in maturing.
Neurodevelopmental therapy may be considered with these children. It is a non-invasive programme of movements that aim to promote the development of the nervous system.
Laura Hatton is a neurodevelopmental therapist with a clinic in Bantry. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 086 8561785.
Laura is giving a talk in the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen on Tuesday, September 22 at 8 pm. All welcome, admission free.