Our journey through autism

Posts tagged ‘vestibular’

Sensory Learning Program

Sensory Learning Program is another part of Bilal’s intensive summer therapies. SLP is really quite complicated to explain and sometimes seems like I’m talking science fiction, and whether it works and makes a difference is difficult to tell. I’ll try my best to explain it:

To learn anything new you acquire information mainly through, sight (vision), sound (auditory) and motion (vestibular) of course there are the other senses that you gain information from, but from a sensory point of view those are the 3 systems. The 3 systems have to be in sync, working together at the same time and the same intensity to truly learn. If one of them is weaker you miss important information, and if one of them is too strong you focus more on that information instead of gaining a complete picture. SLP aims to reset the 3 systems and train them to work together at the same strength, and it does this by using lights, sounds and motion, with the use of a sensory table.

Before therapy begins, the individual is given a brain scan to draw a map of brain electrical pulses. Print outs of reds, greens and blue, showing which areas of the brain are the most active and which are the least active. Talk about alpha, beta, delta waves, etc. The technician who ran the test is what you could only call a brain geek, she was fascinated with the results and went on and on talking about all the different waves and strengths, it was way above my head. Something I picked up was the reason for Bilal’s constant movement (vestibular) he has to constantly stay in motion (fidgeting, walking around) to awaken his brain to think and learn, if he pauses his brain falls asleep. This is what happens with ADHD. From those results they were able to understand how Bilal’s brain worked and could come up with a plan for treatment. They would choose certain light and sound frequencies to expose Bilal to that would activate the weak spots on his brain. Another test they run before treatment, is a “listening profile” they have Bilal listen to certain beeps or sounds at different frequencies to again determine his weaknesses and strengths and expose him to the right sounds during treatment. In short this therapy is like resetting the brain where its all balanced and able to use information efficiently and improve learning.

Therapy is divided into 2 parts, in office and at home. The in office part lasts for 18 days. For 18 days Bilal had to go to the clinic, half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the late afternoon to lay on the sensory table, look at a light and listen to sounds through headphones. The table is like a big bed that slowly turns, up and around downwards and up again, very slowly to trigger the vestibular system. There is a light box above his head that displays different colors (ruby-red, magenta, yellow-green, green-blue, etc) each color has a different frequency that activates his visual system. Finally he listens to different sounds played at different frequencies through large over ear headphones, to strengthen his auditory system.Each person reacts differently to this therapy depending on their starting point, but in general each color or frequency triggers a certain emotion or part of the brain. Examples:

  • the color magenta which helps regulate emotional senses and relaxes the visual system
  • the red and ruby color which stimulate the cerebellum which is responsible for the integration of auditory and movement information. This color also addresses visual processing, promoting convergence and eye teaming to look at a single object
  • the color yellow-green which address motor planning and expressive verbal communication

Some of them are almost instantly, the day of the yellow-green exposure Bilal was telling stories, re-telling a cartoon episode he saw in detail. Other times emotions would show up by the end of the day. It’s really interesting to say the least.

In the middle of the 18 days, another “listening profile” is done to see improvements and to determine other frequencies to play for the second week.

The second part of the therapy like I said is an at home program. For 12 days (total of 30) twice a day, 20 minutes in the morning and 20 before bed, Bilal goes sits in a darkened room or closet and looks at a light box that emits a steady phasing in and out magenta light. This part of the therapy had less side effects or emotional outbursts.

Like I said this therapy is like a reset of the brain, some children its like a switch was turned on and improvements are instant, but for the majority improvements happen over time, small changes with behavior, attitude, learning over several months. It takes time for the brain to re-wire and organize itself to learn more efficiently with past information and with new information.

Before we did this therapy I chatted with someone on a forum and she said she didn’t see any improvements with her son, but still felt it worthwhile, this therapy was not covered by insurance, a $3000 out of pocket expense, also the time required for twice daily clinic visits and twice daily quite time at home is exhausting for both you and your child. Did we benefit? Its hard to say for sure, at the same time he was doing IM, that had a benefit, did the SLP help with it? don’t know… He has had improvements with attitude, anger or frustration is diffused faster, he’s a little calmer, bed wetting is no longer every single night, its every 4 or 5 nights now. Next month we’re due for a post-SLP brain scan, to see any differences or improvements. I would say it was worth it, we don’t regret it, and you should look into it too.

http://www.sensorylearning.com/program.php

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sensory+learning+program

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Equine Therapy

Also known as hippo-therapy which basically is horseback riding therapy, it is a well known and accepted therapy for those on the autism spectrum. Horseback riding in itself teaches discipline, strength and posture while the movement of the horse teaches the child balance. Dealing with the horse teaches the child compassion towards animals and how to treat them nicely. Used as therapy they also include brushing the horse before and after riding as a sensory stimulation, the child helps with the saddle for fine motor skills, on the horse they have the child use his words to command the horse to “go” and “stop”, they have the child hold on with 1 hand or no hands (for balance and vestibular training), they had little games of stopping the horse leaning down and picking up a toy and dropping it off at another area, the therapists would describe the toy or animal for speech therapy, they also had him throw bean bags into a bucket from atop the horse and pick rings and slide them on horizontal poles. They also let the child ride backwards for awhile also for balance and vestibular training.

Bilal has been in speech and OT for 4 months now and making a lot of progress alhamdullah mashaAllah so we decided we could move onto something else, something beneficial but also fun, so we looked into horseback riding. Last month we had gone to a county fair and they had pony rides and Bilal loved it, he sat tall and held the saddle on his own and had a lot of fun so therapy would be great. When we got to the farm and he could see all the horses in the distance he got really excited and rushed into it, no apprehension towards the new therapists and he followed all directions really well. So we’ve decided to continue with it, an hour a week every weekend weather permitting inshaAllah it will be of benefit to him.

I found the therapy location through the Autism Speaks resource guide website. It’s called Brecht Stables and Dustin’s Place, it was founded by a mother of a child (Dustin) with Down’s Syndrome to teach children with disabilities. It is in Cumming, GA. She has a website, Facebook page (lots of pictures of the farm, horses and her family), and Twitter account.

In Islam there is a Hadith (a saying for the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him) in which he said “Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding”  it means that children should grow up fit and knowledgeable of such recreational activities, which at the time were essential to survival, now it could be adapted to mean swimming and car driving but horseback riding is still important as the benefits are so many for children with disabilities and for those typically developing.

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