Richness in the experience....

Somehow in the juggle of Archer’s developmental milestones, the richness of experiencing life on his belly was cashed in for the support of big, bulky, stationary containment devices, with focus on getting him upright, either seated or standing. I must say, the engineering of “baby activity” items is stripping children of experiencing natural movement. These are especially ineffective for children facing other challenges. I constantly was constructing additional supports with pool noodles, towel rolls, neck pillows, doing anything to make it appear like he was advancing in development. We justified our efforts by believing it was his visual impairment restricting his desire to be positioned on his belly. Now, the only beneficial, natural thing we are continuing to do with straps, wraps, buckles, and snaps is wear him! Being overwhelmed with which needs take prominence is a daily endeavor. After receiving his CVI diagnosis in July 2014, we choose to devote our extra time educating ourselves about CVI. Hoping, by bringing function to his visual behaviors, it would increase his desire to move. 

 It is when I started digging into the concept of brain plasticity that movement became the forefront of our efforts. Archer had some movements of his own, he was rolling, but doing it in a mechanical way, plowing right over anything in his path, no spatial awareness at all. He was not able to perceive the difference between tangible objects and the space he was moving in as being two separate forms. His body was one block, and the rest of the world one block. Upon finding Anat Baniel Method we began witnessing exponential gains with Archer. He now enjoys looking at himself in the mirror, and giggles at himself when he sees his Mohawk all spiked up! He has found confidence on his belly. Lifting and holding balance, rotating thru his neck and shoulders to change his visual array, even reaching out to play with toys. Vocally, he is taking after his mom, enjoying the sound of his own voice, mimicking and taking turns! His noddle body parts, and jerky movements are a thing of the past. As he learns to slow down and move with attention, we are noticing his tone defining, as he finds purpose with his movements. He is beginning to understand differences of objects, of environments, of actions, and notice small details. For instance, I was holding him on my hip and he found the tiniest button on my cardigan and was exploring the difference in texture from the actual sweater. This is big stuff for Archer, his cognition is igniting!
Earlier in February 2016, we were able to return to the ABM center for Archer’s 2nd week long intensive of neuro-movement lessons. This time however was different, we were blessed to make the journey as, ABC Sparks’ learning and supporting the growth as a whole family unit. Brandon was grateful to be directly a part of the richness in the experience. With Archer feeling fully supported by both of us, he excelled in his lessons, his learning curve continues to heighten each time we go to ABM. 

On this trip Archer met a new practitioner, Neil, with whom he had 4 lessons with. Their first interactions beginning with the afternoon lesson of our first day. Each practitioner holds their own unique qualities, knowledge and expertise, and it is important that we give the pair space to work and connect together. I prepared Brandon for this experience by explaining the importance of us to be silent observers, not cheerleaders, so that Archer had the best opportunity to connect with his learning experience and optimize his learning outcomes. Once back at the center, Archer showed us through the expression of his emotions, he understood where he was and what was going on, and was communicating to us that he really likes coming to play and learn at the center. Archer was anticipating this second lesson of the day and was participating with pure joy. So of course, he was going to turn it up for Neil, as he was new and Archer wanted to give his best energy into the learning lesson. And that he did, Neil followed Archer’s lead, being flexible in the outcomes that would arise, and then it happened!! Archer was up in a frog position, the movement a first, and we were speechless, our eye’s wide and gleaming with praise. This is the moment I knew Brandon was glad he sacrificed his own teaching and classroom to be with his son learning! 

On our second day both of Archer’s lessons were in the afternoon, so we took advantage of the blue skies and went to the beach. Not a typical beach you drive right up to, but one with compelling adventure to get too! It was about a 2 mile walk through a nature preserve with a vast trail system. We came to a fork, and chose the higher road, but could see a different trail leading out to the beach. Did we make the right decision? Sure enough, we peaked up over a small incline and stood rewarded by the backdrop of the ocean. Challenging the body with movement comes with the compliment of a calm mind! Or in our case a curious little boy, who loved the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, the comforts of both his mom and dad, but the abundance of the ocean kept him from napping and we had a worn out little boy for his afternoon lessons...opps! Although he was tired, the afternoon with Chris was beneficial, growth comes even in moments of being fatigued. Chris was positioned behind Archer working with him on his belly. Archer is beginning to create the neuronal pathways for this movement both to get in and out, AND to stay on his belly, in addition beginning to use functional vision when lifting his head up. Knowing this is a difficult task for him, we remained attentive to his gains,observing his attention to the moment. I noticed him slowly start to want to give into gravity and let his head drop back to the table, BUT he was thinking about it with great attention, and instead gracefully lifted his head back up, not wrenching it back to fully expose his neck, but holding steady at a neutral position! This is fine example of the richness of the learning experience, compliments of ABM techniques and care at the center!
By Wednesday, Archer had already learned a lot. While feeding him breakfast that morning I noticed him perceiving the differences of his breakfast choices, not just tactility, but from verbal cues and visual information. His systems working together feeling and bringing attention with all three avenues of movement: physical, emotional, and movements of thoughts. With his brain absorbing and organizing the new information, we found Archer was needing supplemental food (mostly protein) round the clock, but of course this happened to be the day we were running late, and left his drink and snack on the table in our hotel room. For his morning lesson with Chris the focus turned to emphasizing the Essential of “Slow.” Archer put out the little bit of energy he had remaining and was able to visually find a toy, capture the sound it was making and audibly assess the distance from his body, acknowledge his need to roll onto his belly and reach for the toy. The process seems so easy, but we must learn to slow OUR processing down and give Archer the space to explore at his pace. Giving him time to process all the pieces, and then link the movements together by thinking about it, decided if he is interested in the toy, and whether it will bring him joy, then at that point he can chose to physically move towards the object.
Between the January trip and this visit, Brandon and Archer had been playing with the movements of whistling, as Archer loves birds! We often attempt to sing song different bird calls. During the week, both Neil and Chris had been working with Archer’s mouth, tongue, and jaw. Brandon thought this was very strange until he started hearing Archer’s communication efforts. The sounds generating greater flexion, more direct focus, varied enunciation, and we have been exchanging long conversations about important things! 

During Archer’s lessons with Michelle, she had been integrating the use of questions to give more choice, and for him to learn to answer yes or no, be that verbally or via body language.While in the waiting room, I was actually holding Archer (his dad had been taking advantage of having the time to provide most of the care-giving roles) and we started playing a game. I have been getting brave enough to wear earrings again, thinking it was time for Archer to learn not to pull, to look, and touch softly. My earrings were big copper loops with vibrant green and blue feathers, an easy target! As he took interest, he first felt them, and then he began blowing the feathers, and they moved slowly.
He was controlling the movement, and I would blow back gently on his face, then he would puff at the feathers and watch them dazzle!
Later that night Archer was sitting on my lap and a moment presented itself that required a deep mindful breath. As I directed my attention into this action, I noticed Archer following suit, slowly taking a deep breath thru his nose and in sync with me releasing the exhale slowly. Then I continued this slow, controlled breathing for a few more cycles, embracing the connection we made. Our son learned the power of mindful breathing!


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