Vagus Nerve: De-Stressing Children and Adults Alike

As a practitioner and as a parent of an additional needs child, my personal life experiences affect my professional and vice versa. One most enlightening effect of having my son, who was quite sensitive to certain noises or fearful of certain states was that I had to look for a solution to ease his system so that he could self-regulate. I learned intuitively and through practicing that I could balance my son using biofeedback to activate and balance his vagus nerve. What transpired was amazing. He was able not to just tolerate but still soothe and transition his focus back to what he was doing instead of focusing on barking dogs, for instance.

Balancing Fear and Over-sensitivities through Vagus Nerve

Using this information I quickly started applying my knowledge on my clients. They calmed quicker. Anxiety reduced, digestion improved. Why, you ask? Because the vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and it is our longest winding nerve affecting heart rate, breathing and because it wraps around most of the organs it therefore affects our digestion.

When we have a stress response, like my son to the sound of a dog barking, we choose to go into fight or flight or stress and digest depending on how “balanced” we feel. When we are more balanced and less stressed, it is easier to respond. However, when life circumstances that are out of our control happen, like #covid-19, loss of a loved one, etcetera stress ensues. This puts us back into fight and flight, making us more reactive. Even as adults, things that we could handle before re-trigger us along with new triggers and we become overly sensitive. This oversensitivity expresses itself either as anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, allergic reactions, and or digestive issues.

Adults and children alike respond to having their vagus nerve stimulated and balanced. Working on the vagus nerve through biofeedback returns their bodies back into the rest and digest state. Adult clients and parents of children I have worked on have commented that they or their children have noticeably become less reactive, that they pause and respond instead. Mood even elevates, becoming calmer, even happier.

There are ways of easing yourself from stress. Biofeedback has helped our family and my clients do that.

https://www.facebook.com/CynChronisity/photos/a.1603463143292726/2319045361734497/?type=3

https://www.facebook.com/CynChronisity/photos/a.1603463143292726/2319756184996748/?type=3

https://www.facebook.com/CynChronisity/photos/a.1603463143292726/2318312805141086/?type=3

Building a Stronger Immune System

People with Down syndrome have compromised immune systems as a result of having the chromosomal structure that they do.(1) After Jack had open heart surgery at 5 months old, our pediatrician at the time recommended that we put Jack on a multivitamin with iron. After having experienced all that we had been through, having Jack survive and recover from open heart left us blinded and accepting all recommendations from physicians.

Being on the multivitamin with iron actually effected Jack and made him constipated. The addition of iron to his daily intake made it difficult for Jack to have easy bowel movements. Not only that, we noticed that he wasn’t any healthier to fight off viruses. We tried different multivitamin formulas with minerals, even though I was of the philosophy that, we should get our vitamins from our diet. Because of his immunodeficiency, I wanted to make sure that Jack was getting the best vitamin absorption. Traditionally, our bodies do not absorb vitamins that are in pill form as we would in powder or liquid form. (2) We absorb 90-98% of vitamins in liquid or powder form, compared to the 3-25% from pill form.

Not only did constipation result from vitamin supplementation, we soon noticed that Jack’s skin on his elbows and knees demonstrated eczema type symptoms and once we discontinued any vitamin supplementation, these symptoms dissipated.

Our insurance for Jack changed and therefore caused us to have to seek out a new pediatrician. In doing so, what we had taken for granted as being prudent recommendations, our new physician made us more aware, enlightened. For example, it had been recommended to us that we put Jack on Miralax, also known as polyethylene glycol, for his constipation at a year old. When we asked what the side effects were, we were told simply, “none.”

Our new pediatrician, although she also wrote us a prescription for the Miralax, soon said to us, “You need to get him off of that.” It wasn’t that she said it, but how she said it that made me wonder why she would have a different recommendation. So of course, I did a web search. What I found astounded me:

“In 2008, the FDA tested eight batches of Miralax because ‘many of the reported adverse events were classic symptoms of ethylene glycol ingestion.’ Ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) are ingredients in antifreeze so, in other words, the government tested the laxative after receiving reports of children exhibiting symptoms of antifreeze poisoning following their use.” (3)

Appalled and wanting a more homeopathic solution, I again visited our chiropractor who happened to have a blend of Chinese herbs mixed in easy to take gel capsule form from Dr. Chi called OxiPower. It actually took a couple days, but it helped Jack go to the bathroom much easier.

Our solution became a mixture of essential oils, Chinese herbs, and energy work.

Quite simply, the mixture of these has kept us from visiting the doctor’s office frequently. In fact, Jack’s constipation issues resolved. His times of being sick, not only shortened in duration, but also got less exacerbated. He now recovers from being sick quite quickly.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074212/

2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/353383-are-liquid-vitamins-absorbed-any-better-than-pill-vitamins/

3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/21/miralax-laxatives.aspx

4. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene_glycol

 

To Stand or to Sit, That is the Question: Potty Training My Toddler Son

At thirty three months old, Jack began potty training. I remember this because he was young according to Down syndrome standards and because it was around Valentine’s Day. I was so excited…because Jack wasn’t verbally communicating his need using the words, potty, pee pee or poo poo, rather he’d pat his pull up and that was his way of telling me.

When he started school three months later at three years of age, there were some setbacks as he wasn’t communicating his need to go potty to the teacher or assistant. Or maybe, they weren’t as in tune with his methods of communication as I was. It wasn’t until he returned to school after summer break that I had to do something to change this. He was almost three and a half and was refusing to potty train at school. It then occurred to me to incentivize him. So I said to him one day, “You start potty training at school and I will take you to Chick-fil-A.” Within a week’s time he started potty training.

But wanting to potty train wasn’t our only issue, Jack couldn’t get on the adult toilet safely by himself either and didn’t want to use a child’s potty seat. I looked at various local retailers and couldn’t find a single solution and then I went online. There was a solution to allow Jack the capability of being tall enough to stand and reach the potty and if need be, hold onto the rails so he could turn himself around and sit, hence we got the Potty Stool. When I read about potty training children with Down syndrome, I read that they need additional support due to their low tone. So the step actually allowed his legs and abdomen the support he needed for proper bowel movements. Best of all, the stool gave him the space for balance to get on an adult toilet safely, which at the time he lacked.

With boys, comes the additional training to stand to potty. Sometimes Jack enjoyed sitting versus standing. In order to make standing to potty fun, we threw in a simple cereal cheerio into the toilet for him to aim and watch float at the bottom. When the fun of that was dimished, we used food coloring in the toilet. He got to choose which color we would put in and watched as it changed color upon urination.

Then we came to the milestone of needing Jack to verbally communicate his need to potty. We developed a very simple motivational chart. We divided a small poster board in half and labeled one half pee pee and the other poo poo. We gave Jack stickers for each time he went, one sticker for pee pee and two for poo poo. In order to encourage communication, we gave him a star when he actually said what he needed to do. And so began him saying pah-poo, his way of covering all bases.

After covering the entire poster-board in stickers, we took him to his favorite place, Chick -fil-A where he loves playing on the playground. He quickly began communicating pee-pee and poo-poo effectively and could differentiate between the two each time he went, as we pointed and read the words on the chart that denoted where he would be placing his stickers.

Soon after starting in the Head Start program at school last year, Jack began going potty by himself. But once he switched schools in January, that subsided. We have been trying to encourage independence at home and have found it difficult.

Just a couple weeks ago I asked school to help us with this and after a four day weekend Jack seemingly didn’t want to try. Then Friday came along and we said to him, “you have a great day at school and we will do pizza and a movie.” Not only did he have a fantastic day at school but he actually got up and went potty by himself! Now we are having the pleasure of him going to the bathroom all by himself both at school and home.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Potty-Stool-Toddler-Training/dp/B000MZKTU4

Brain Plasticity: How I Changed My Son’s Brain to be More Environmentally Aware in a Summer

I read a book a couple of years ago that was recommended to me by a friend, “The Brain That Changes Itself”, by Norman Droidge. When I read it I couldn’t help but wonder how it would impact me and the raising of our son. Essentially the book presents the idea that the brain is far more malleable and trainable than we truly know; the term he used is “plasticity.”

Having a child with additional needs brings on its additional responsibilities and concerns. I don’t call them “special” needs because I don’t perceive Jack’s needs to be any more special than any other child. There are just additional concerns.

For instance, my lovely son had this instinctive habit of not being aware of his surroundings. He would literally be running on the playground or just around and inevitably he’d hit a wall or trip on an uneven surface. As a parent, I felt that I took the term “helicopter mom” to a new level. I was not only watching out for obstacles my son would possibly fall from or run into, but I also literally began hovering.

As a stay-at-home mom, I had the summer to dedicate myself and him to build up his environmental awareness. I chose two methodologies that summer. Initially, I chose to take Jack to multiple playgrounds, and integrated one more often than others due to its monotone coloring and the fact that it also had multiple levels of steps that, even for typical children, if they were unaware, would cause them to fall. Secondly, I took him to a gymnastics gym that was open once a week for free to those with additional needs. It meant that Jack would be playing with other children who also may not be the most environmentally aware children, and would have to watch for others in this confined space. My goal was accomplished over this one summer, as this basically retrained his brain to become environmentally aware and have an ability to decipher depth perception. The timing of this achievement was perfect as he was going to be immersed into a typical classroom with a minimum of 16 children, which was double the class size from the previous year.

I recently had the need to re-address the issue of Jack’s challenge of depth perception in a different environment: the pool.  It became clear to me one day as we were swimming under water that Jack couldn’t tell where the bottom of the pool was as he accidentally hit his head. My new approach was to get dive toys. So I bought some, but they didn’t do the trick as they didn’t provide depth; instead they laid flat on the bottom surface. Then, during a play date with a friend, I found the perfect solution. They brought dive rings that stood up at the bottom of the pool. My hypothesis worked! After sampling different dive toys, those that actually stood up at the bottom of the pool allowed Jack not only the safety of not hitting bottom, but the knowledge of depth!

1. http://www.brainfacts.org/about-neuroscience/ask-an-expert/articles/2012/what-is-brain-plasticity

2.http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-plasticity/what-is-brain-plasticity

3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity