A Natural Path to Remission?

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By: Hudi Schweky

Strategies to Help Parents and Teachers
with Out-of-Seat Behaviors

“Suzie please sit up straight when you eat, and lean in a bit.
This way your food will stay on your plate,” says Suzie’s mother. “I am,” says Suzie, not realizing that she is half off her chair and spilling much of her food on the table and her lap.

“David, please sit straight in your chair,” says David’s teacher.
David straightens up a bit and thena minute later is moving around and disrupting the class.

Suzie and David are not trying to make a mess or disrupt the class. Suzie and David are both struggling with decreased body awareness and weakness in their core muscles. The good news is that thereare things you can do to help children like Suzie and David.

What is Body Awareness?

Body awareness is the body’s understanding of its internal relationship with itself on a physical as well as an emotional level. Body awareness is feeling centered in one’s body and understanding that your body is three-dimensional. Proprioception is a sensory system in the body, which provides sensors throughout the body to help each body part know where it is in relationship to the rest of the body. For example, if you close your eyes, you can still identify where your hand is in relationship to your body. That information is available to you through the proprioceptive system.

Midline crossing is related to body awareness. There are three midlines, one down the center of the body (right and left), one across the top and bottom part of the body (at the waist), and one down the side of the body, separating the front and back of the body. Midline crossing is the ability to cross over those imaginary lines to reach over to the opposite side. Children with poor body awareness may have a hard time crossing over the midlines.

Why is CoreMuscle Strength Important?

Core muscle weakness can arise from a variety of factors. A large factor that contributes to core strength is body awareness. When there is poor body awareness, the body has fewer opportunities to activate muscles (in the body). Core muscles are the abdominal and extensor muscles in the stomach and back (the torso). That is the center of the body. If a child has a hard time crossing any of the midlines, they are missing opportunities to activate the core muscles, which rely very much on three-dimensional movement for activation.

Working on all these things together, body awareness, midline crossing, and core strengthening is a great way to help children improve attention and posture. Suzie may be half off herchair because she has challenges with midline crossing (of the right and left plane). She may also not realize that she is spilling her food due to decreased body awareness.

David may have a hard time sitting straight in his chair without fidgeting because of poor body awareness. He may not understand where his center is in order to be able to sit straight for an extended period of time. He also may have weakness in his core muscles, making it hard for him to maintain an upright posture.

Helpful Strategies

Teach your child about the front, back and sides
of his body, through some of the following fun body awareness games/activities:

Pass the Beanbag: Instruct your child to pass the beanbag over his head, in between his feet, from one hand to the other hand, behind his back, etc. You can also have your child do this activity while jumping on a trampoline.

Upside Down Bowling:Stand with your back facing the bowling pins, then bend down so you can look in between your feet and throw bowling ball (between your feet), to knock down the bowling pins.

Cushion Crash: Jumping into a pile of couch cushions (adult supervision required).

Log Rolling: Log rolling with hands over your head.

Strengthen that Core!

Posing: Pilates or yoga are great for core strengthening.Some great poses are airplane and snowball.
Airplane: while your child is on his stomach, instruct him to lift his arms and legs off the ground like an airplane. Snowball:Instruct your child to curl up with his knees bent and his head flexed to form a “snowball.”

Deep Breathing:Blowing bubbles, or blowing out for eight seconds.

Activities: Have your child do a puzzle (or his favorite activity) while lying on his stomach and propped on
his elbows.

Hudi Schweky, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with extensive training in Sensory and Reflex Integration. She utilizes a child-centered, movement and play based approach to assist children with autism, learning challenges, developmental delays, and attention issues. She is also the founder of the Theraflex, LLC in Lakewood, NJ.