Saturday, May 20, 2017

Movement and Self-Regulation 

I have spent 20+ years working in the child care field, both studying child development and working hands on with children in all stages of development. Self-regulation has become a big topic when it comes to children and youth these days. It encompasses not only regulating ones emotions, but also regulating ones ability to focus and adjust ones behaviour dependant on the environment and social expectations.

Given the amount of information, noise, electronics and increasing amounts of stimuli children and youth have to deal with these days it's no wonder that they have difficulty processing all of this input.

One of the most difficult groups I had was a group of 7 or 8, 4 year-old boys. I believe there was one or two girls in the mix, but the majority was boys. They needed to be outside for at least an hour in the morning and afternoon and have indoor activities which alternated quiet down time with activities which required physical action. The same is true for toddler groups, which I also worked with for years. It's not surprising that having so much gross motor and active activity helped them to focus and learn, nor is it surprising that studies show that physical activity helps with focus and grades.

Throughout my recent years of study I have run across the work of Dr. Shanker, who has worked with children who suffer from Austim, ADHD, FASD and many other disorders which affect the child's ability to handle stress and learn. In a an article from 2014 he speaks about calming the central nervous system through exercise and movement. The local Child Development Centre often uses the idea of sensory diets, a term coined by Particia Wilbarger, are in effect are movement breaks to help build attention span. This is because movement can centre the nervous system and calm emotions down. I have been told movements such as jumping or movements which provide heavy work within the large muscle groups can bring ones energy and mood up if it's down and down if it's elevated. Other movements such as the chair rocking, which many of us did in Elementary and Highschool (much to the Instructor disgust) actually works to get the spinal fluid moving and help with attention and focus.

So, imagine my elation and then thoughtfulness when on a recent episode of Grey's Anatomy, when Grey makes her sister's "Dance it Out" as they are all stressed and upset with each other. As I recall Grey doing this with Yang in earlier episodes, I wonder, did they know about movement and the central nervous system when they put that in the show or where they just thinking of a fun way to lighten it up? I know I never considered movements effects when years ago I would dance to music as a way to relax and calm, although balancing an occasional glass of wine at the same time can get tricky.

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