The Mind Body Connection

Brain Body Tools are strategies for helping kids to gain confidence, relaxation and self-knowledge. In today’s complex culture of stress and challenges, self-awareness that leads to self-reliance is an undeniable skill set. We must offer more to our children, a way of gaining tools for sensing, kindness for others, and self-reflection. These tools help kids by learning from “the inside” in an experiential way. In an environment, where children and adults are risking becoming disembodied by sedentary lifestyles and screens, yoga and mindfulness is an anchor back to physical and mental health. When we explore using the breath and movement we learn about sensation and how information comes to us through both the body and mind. These tools can be used with all children and can help those with trauma, special needs, sensory and attention issues. Brain Body Tools can help children who are stressed by grounding them through the senses and somatically. As clinicians, we want to better position young people with ways to stay present in their bodies, in the moment.
Children, parents and teachers are spending more time with screens (phones, computers, iPads). A concern is the danger that kids get less conversation with adults and one another. There is less physical activity, embodied learning and sensory experiences. Children literally are replacing feeling objects in their hands, with touching them on a screen. For example a child was shaking a cup with dice for the Yahtzee game. Trying to be helpful, the principal asked the child if he would like the app for the game on his iPad. My goal was for the child to move his arm and hand as he shook the container. I wanted him to feel the smooth texture, temperature of the dice and to hear the sound the dice made as they hit the table. I was using the sensation from shaking the jar for proprioceptive input. By simply using the app, these goals would be lost in the experience; all the sensory motor experiential learning removed. For children who are educationally deprived, the many virtues of the iPad don’t need to be mentioned here. As we all know many amazing ways that the iPad is contributing to learning. What are of great concern are the somatic learning experiences that may be lost, the eye contact and personal interaction with other students and adults that the iPad is replacing within family life. Screens may be depriving children of feeling, touching, and sensory experiences. It concerns me that in some families children are no longer expected to have a dinner table conversation when eating in a restaurant. Instead, they are placated with an iPad or phone. Are we denying our children relational and conversational experiences? How does a generation of children that cannot tolerate downtime affect society? The impact of too early exposure to screens on very young children’s brains is yet to be determined.

Despite these caveats, I have observed that the smart board is a dynamic tool for therapy and can evoke engaged responses from even very autistic and handicapped kids. Smart boards are large white boards that operate as a touch screen device, they project and display websites, images and videos. They provide classrooms with opportunities for interactive learning. I have worked in classes with autistic children using the smart board to engage with a yoga DVD. My concern is that often the student may be sedentary at the smart board while using the apps and programs. As therapists, we are excited to see students respond to an app. Yet, from a movement perspective, I often wonder if we might be asking too little from them. Yoga offers us options. A weight-bearing, ambulatory student before touching the board with a wand may be able, with support, to do the triangle pose and then cross midline to touch the screen. A weight bearing, partially ambulatory adolescent may be encouraged to stand with support in mountain pose or attempt tree pose before touching the screen. Including yoga adaptations and support with the smart board may offer therapists and students, new options for body-mind exploration.