Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Combos

The summer goes by so quickly as I see kids individually and in groups. The groups at our clinic are called summer combos. There is (in order) 1 part music therapy, 1 part OT and 1 part speech. My aide and I run a group of five 5-7 year olds. They are delightful, but quite a handful. One of the boys has ADHD, another has a sensory modulation disorder. When one "goes off", the other follows. (During the first session, the aide and I learned this the hard way!)

After 6 sessions, we are finally able to run a structured obstacle course in our open gym without both boys making their own agenda. But we worked hard to get them modulated in our environment. I think that our successful formula during the first 5 sessions was this: for the first 1/2 hour, we gave them free play - but with limited options. For example, 3 on a bench swing, 2 in the ball pit, then switch. This let them blow off a lot of steam, but in a semi-controlled manner as they rev-up in the ball pit and then cool-down on the swing. The next 1/2 hour was spent at a table top activity, and so was quite structured. At the end of the hour, they were able to march off to speech (and snack) and sit (relatively) quietly for another hour.

I can't say that combos are my favorite part of the day - I am completely worn out, but I am very glad for these children to have the opportunity to work through modulation issues under adverse conditions.

Monday, July 7, 2008

TED Video on Right/Left Brain

There is an amazing video by Jill Bolte Taylor, ( a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist who teaches at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington, IN. Dr. Taylor witnessed and then recorded her experience of undergoing a stroke. As a brain scientist, she has incredible insight. She discusses the differences between the left and right brains.

Dr. Taylor describes the right brain's organization as a parallel processor ... that is, it has it's pulse on all the senses, but has no structure to make sense of the input it receives. For example, she talks about hearing "wah, wah-wah, wah-wah", rather than "Hi, my name is Joe". Another example, she had difficulty distinguishing numbers on paper. She couldn't discriminate figure/ground.

She described the left brain as a serial processor (a typical computer) that is able to analyze, organize and communicate. She says that the left brain has the sense of self (ego?) whereas the right brain is cosmic / in touch with energy. This is all very interesting, quite fantastic, and depending on your religion and training, may make a lot of sense. It did for me.

I wonder if autism doesn't have some sort of right/left brain connection .... I've seen a number of children without verbal skills who struggle with reality and appear to be content in their inner world of songs, touch, lights, and spinnng (right brain with left brain missing). And then there is true Asperger's Syndrome, which seems to be all left brain.

Dr. Taylor has a book, "My Stroke of Insight", that covers this same ground in depth.