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Review: MeMoves Print
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Like many of the items reviewed here, I first learned of MeMoves through a forum that focuses on parenting children who experienced early stress prior to adoption. Many of these children show signs of anxiety or hypervigilence and have difficulty with self-regulation. Since MeMoves is said to be a "fast and effective way to calm the nervous system and increase focus and attention" (from manufacturer), it sounded like a match for children wired for stress.

With MeMoves, participants watch a DVD and imitate a person on screen as they move their bodies in various patterns. The patterns, with rhythm and background music, are first shown in an on-screen drawing, and then replicated by a person doing the same movements. (Sample portions of the video are available to watch on the MeMoves website.) Persons of many different ages and races are shown. The literature included in the package notes that "Research presented in May 2010 at the International Meeting for Autism Research demonstrated that doing MeMoves for only a few minutes a day altered brain waves and activated 'mirror neurons,' resulting in positive behavioral changes."

Since it's late November and holidays tend to "prime the anxiety pump" I thought it would be a good time to put this program to the test. To make the challenge more difficult, I picked an "Eeyore" day. Ever have those at your house? At my house, an Eeyore day begins with a child who wakes up grumpy, complains about breakfast, picks on a sibling through playtime, struggles with homework, and "accidentally" forgets to do what she was told. (I'm sure that never happens to any of you!)

I called the child (who shall remain nameless in case she ever wishes to run for major office) and another child over to the computer. On the DVD, participants can choose from three categories: joy, focus, and calm. Hard to guess what I chose, isn't it? :) In the first couple minutes, I was doubtful that even "Joy" could pull the child out of her funk. But all three of us continued, imitating the movements, one child and I smiling back at the smiling people on screen while the first child continued to frown. (I had to work to see her reflection in my computer screen!)

After a few minutes she complained that this sequence of moves wasn't hard enough. (She'd briefly used the program alone a couple other times and knew that there were more complex moves yet to be had.) So I let her pick the pattern. She started smiling, and busted out laughing when in one pattern a child moves his hands and seems to fly off the screen; she hit the repeat button so she could laugh some more.

Both children (ages 6 and 10) could do all the moves and proclaimed that the program was fun. Best of all? Several hours later, the child's joy-filled mood continues. As I write, she is whistling, playing a game with the rest of the family.

So far, we have only used the DVD portion of the program. MeMoves also comes with "Puzzle Cards" showing drawings that depict each movement. The cards can be used with an accompanying CD or music of the participant's choice. I'll slip this in the car the next time we plan a road trip. From what I've seen so far, the program is definitely something worth considering for children that struggle with stress and issues of self-regulation.

Disclaimer: I received MeMoves for review purposes without any other compensation. I did not promise a positive review. This review is my opinion.
Review: emWave Desktop...Stress Into Resilience Print
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
I need an emWave moment. I just wrote a long review and lost the entire thing. I think you'll understand my need for an emWave moment after reading this review...

A friend and fellow adoptive parent introduced me to emWave Desktop Stress Relief System. After she brought it over for a trial run, I contacted the folks at emWave and asked for a review/loaner copy to use with my kids. Here's a bit of information from the packaging:
emWave Desktop is a scientifically validated hardware/software system that teaches techniques to help you create an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are operating in-sync and balanced. This is achieved through a patented process which displays heart rhythm patterns in real time showing you when you are in this aligned state.

We call this coherence.

emWave Desktop helps you achieve coherence and resilience through simple-to-learn exercises and feedback. Using a pulse sensor plugged into your USB port, emWave Desktop collects pulse data and translates coherence information into user-friendly graphics displayed on your computer screen. Through coherence techniques, interactive exercises and game play, emWave Desktop helps you bring your heart and mind into a coherent state, building resilience, increasing energy, and promoting focus, mental clarity and emotional balance.
I tried the program with my 9 and 5-year-old children. It proved to be a success with my 9-year-old. He quickly understood the concept and could work at relaxation and deep breathing as he watched the various programs. He understood how to move the rainbow toward a pot of gold, fly a hot air balloon higher and faster, and create colorful gardens...all things achieved by working at relaxation. Sometimes he'd select the "Coherence Coach" mode and breathe as a ball moved up and down on the screen. In moments of anxiety, the program has proved especially helpful to him. Recently, he's experienced stress about upcoming basketball practices. When we see the stress coming, he spends 5-15 minutes on emWave and returns noticeably calmer.

While I could teach him deep breathing techniques (we've used a wide variety of relaxation techniques and tools over the years), it's been helpful to have him sit in a quiet room, focusing on nothing but the emWave program. No distractions. At this point in his life and development, that's quite helpful.

His little brother is a different story. At 5, he doesn't get the program. "Why isn't the rainbow coming down, Mom?" I contacted the emWave representative to ask questions about age appropriateness. The response? It's best used with ages 7 and up. Makes total sense. A young child doesn't have the focus, nor does he understand what he needs to do to relax, based on the feedback on screen.

The program has been so successful with my 9-year-old, however, that I asked to purchase my review copy. After trying out our program, my mom, intrigued, bought her own. It really is a dandy little tool.

This program isn't the cure-all for a child with stress and anxiety. But it is a worthwhile tool; one that I'm happy to have in our toolbox. Off to have an emWave moment...

Disclaimer: I borrowed an emWave for review purposes. I did not promise a positive review. After a month I asked to purchase the review copy. This review is my opinion. If you purchase from Amazon, all commissions are given to Grace and Hope for foster care in China at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
Time for Tummies Print
Thursday, 13 January 2011
By Jane Samuel

Summary: In our journey to heal our youngest daughter from her developmental delays we returned to the true basics – crawling, creeping, rocking, and touch. In the world of therapy it is called neuro-reorganization, but in our house it is just called tummies and knees.

Our youngest spent her first year in an orphanage in Hunan China, in a colorless, frigid in winter, broiling in summer, toyless 8’ X 8’ room, along with four other infants and her ayi (or nanny). Twenty-four seven. Her routine (as we later learned) most likely went something like this: baby wakes and is fed rice porridge (from bottle with large hole cut in nipple, propped up against side of cradle); ayi removes soiled clothing and holds baby under cold water spigot to wash away waste then dresses baby, sans diaper in “clothes” (4 layers if winter, hospital style Johnny if summer); ayi props baby in potty chair (think of a 1’ X 1’ wooden playpen, with a seat in the middle with a hole for waste material to drop though into a pot) and waits for bowel movement; ayi props up baby in walker and puts her in hall with twenty other infants in same state of affairs; aye takes baby from walker and feeds then diapers baby with small rag tied with string; ayi puts baby down for nap in cradle 1’ X 2’; baby wakes, ayi repeats morning cycle; ayi repeats noon cycle then wraps again in clean rag, and swaddles (tightly) in cotton quilt for the night; ayi repeats each and every day, day in and day out.

Our older two daughters spent their early days at home with me, or their sitter. Their routine went something like this: baby wakes and calls out to Mommy; Mommy appears with smile on her face calling “good morning baby-girl” in a sing-song voice; Mommy changes baby, taking care to keep baby warm and pick out soft clothing; Mommy nurses baby while rocking and singing songs and looking longingly into baby’s eyes; Mommy carries baby into her room, puts baby in bouncy seat and talks with baby while showering and dressing; mommy carries baby to kitchen, puts baby in swing and swings baby while mommy eats; mommy puts baby in sling and walks out in the sunshine; mommy points out the birds and the trees to baby; mommy stops to talk with a friend and friend admires baby; baby begins to fuss so mommy heads home to change, feed, and nurse baby, mommy reads baby a book and puts baby down in her crib for a nap; baby wakes and mommy puts baby on floor on soft cloth, baby pushes self up, then creeps forward on her tummy, trying to lift her body, baby works hard, mommy cheers her on; baby fusses, mommy soothes baby; mommy repeats cycle again and again, loving baby.

It was two years into her life with us (age 3) when we realized the profound effect such a difference in nurturing plays in emotional and physical development, and sadly, what E had truly missed. Faced with trying to understand her developmental delays and increasing emotional outbursts, I began to read about brain development and neuroscience in infants, especially those faced with neglect and trauma. What I learned was fascinating and significant food for thought for any parent, biological or adoptive.

According to the newer research, when life begins the brain is only a blueprint of what could be. The pathways are “penciled in” so to speak, but are by no means set in stone. That comes later as the infant begins to take in their surroundings (sensory input) and begins moving (output). Even movements that seem trivial to the watching eye, such as kicking against the crib mattress, wiggling around on the floor or visually following mom as she walks about the kitchen cooking dinner, are developing neural pathways. In the womb and in the early months the pons, or lowest level, of the brain is being mapped. In the later months and into toddlerhood, it is the midbrain. It is this neurological integration that is so necessary for basic cognitive and physical skills such as filtering, focusing, accurate sensory perception, visual motor skills, midline awareness, visual tracking and alignment, upper/lower body integration, coordination, as well as appropriate emotional development.

When I sat and thought of all the stuff I had done with my older two children in the course of a single day, and compared that with the stark days that E had spent in a Chinese orphanage it suddenly made sense that her brain had not been given the chance it needed to build in a healthy manner, bottom to top. No wonder she had good executive functioning (higher brain) but was a mess when it came to pons level stuff (emotional regulation, feelings of safety and trust, etc) and midbrain (motor planning, sequencing, sensory management, etc)

Couple that research with perhaps one of the most positive scientific pronouncements of the decade - that the brain is actually more plastic than originally imagined - and you have the recipe for potential healing. If a child did not get the proper nurturing to build neural pathways and hook up synapses the first time around there is still hope. Much like a stroke victim who has suffered damage to the brain and can, through the proper movement therapy, create new brain pathways to take over for the old damaged ones, an infant or child who has suffered neglect and/or trauma can have a second chance in life; a “do over” so to speak.

So it is E’s “do over” that we have been working on for the past four plus years. First through weekly sensory based occupational therapy (remember her sensory experience was nominal at best so it needs lots of work) and finally graduating to what I fondly call “OT on steroids”, daily neuro-developmental movement (or in our therapist’s lingo – “neuro-reorganization”).

We (well really E with me trailing at a snail’s pace, my forty-seven year old body questioning loudly why I am down on all fours) creep around the house, looking for treats strategically placed under boxes, or play-acting a scene from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Then she crawls along on her tummy (think combat crawl) back and forth through the kitchen and family room (I knew those hardwood floors would pay off) as I scoot in front of her on a scooter board, alternately cheering her on and feeding her the snack de jour. She rolls in a barrel, jumps on a supersize ball, spins on an office chair, or cartwheels across the kitchen in little fifteen second bursts of what her therapist likes to call “vestibular input”. (Did you know that the brain fires for fifteen seconds, working to create a neural pathway?) We do bear hugs (oh to be able to hug her finally and not have her squirm to get away!), massage and soft touch, “sensory input” in therapy jargon.

E has been a trooper through this all, though her cooperation level has definitely increased as she has become aware that this is building her brain (oh, and bribes help too). And we have been even more driven to complete our daily work as we have witnessed her emotional regulation improve, her stamina increase and her love of us expand exponentially. I can truly say that I now see the child that was always in there, but was too covered up with what we in the child trauma world like to call “the layers of the onion”. What we have now, instead of an onion is a loving, patient, cooperative, empathetic, motor-planning and almost reading (Yeah!) flower.

This is one of my passions (though I would have laughed if you told me 10 years ago I would give up practicing law to crawl around on my hands and knees pretending to be Rudolf). Giving E her “do over,” the time she missed, the time she needs, to be the best she can be is what I must do. So if you will pardon me, it is time for tummies!

To read more go to:

Developmental Movement

Active Healing

Neurodevelopmental Healing

Neurological Reorganization

Also, you can join the conversation at NEUROnetwork

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New (free) Video & Study Guide Print
Saturday, 24 April 2010
Karyn Purvis, author of the wonderful book, The Connected Child has a new video series, on-line and free. On May 3rd, a study guide for The Connected Child will be released, again free of charge. From the new announcement:
As more and more people answer the call to adopt, it is important that we understand that the children that God will bring into our lives through adoption and foster care will likely have deep hurts and needs. Therefore, an important part of our call is to be prepared to be used by God to help these children heal and become whole. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest joys and privileges of adoption – but we know it will not be easy.

The resources and tools offered by Empowered To Connect are designed to help those whom God is calling and has called to answer that call well – to know what to expect, to be ready and prepared and, ultimately, to help bring long-term healing to their child. It is precisely this kind of 'love in action' that we believe reflects what it means to be called by God to adopt.

With this in mind, Empowered To Connect is excited to announce the Insights & Gifts Video Series. This new 16 video series (developed in partnership with the TCU Institute of Child Development ) offers seven insights and seven gifts that are highly relevant for those who are parenting or considering adopting or fostering children from hard places. Empowered To Connect is also developing a discussion guide for this video series, which will be available in May 2010.

We hope that you will watch this new series and be blessed by the insights and gifts Dr. Purvis offers.

Update on the Study Guide for The Connected Child

As you know we have been working for some time to complete the study guide for The Connected Child. We are excited to announce that this project is being finalized at this very moment. The study guide will be available for download free of charge on the Empowered To Connect website beginning Monday, May 3, 2010. This guide will help illuminate the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and the interventions detailed in The Connected Child.

Our prayer is that this resource will be another important tool for parents and others who are committed to helping children from hard places heal and fully experience the love of God.
Additionally, Dr. Karyn Purvis can be heard (again, free) on Adoption Learning Partners' webinar, "Parenting Children from Haiti and Other "Hard Places."
Book Review: Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? Print
Friday, 16 April 2010
When a child psychologist, one whom you highly respect, recommends a book, you take note. When she specializes in adoption and attachment and the book is for adopted teens, you pay even closer attention.

Upon this professional recommendation, I asked for a review copy of Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be?, a new book from adoption publisher EMK Press, edited by Robert L. Ballard. I haven’t been disappointed.

The book contains articles, poems and artwork, primarily by adopted teens, along with a few pieces by older adoptees and adoptive parents. The wide variety of perspectives ensures that teen readers will find stories from others with whom they personally identify. The contents are heartfelt, and contributors share the sorrows and joys inherit with being adopted. Several worthwhile assignments encourage readers to consider their feelings through writing and artwork.

The book contains mature content and parents of young teens may wish to preview and then discuss some of the more adult topics with their children. As a parent, I look forward to sharing the book with my kids. I only wish that the book contained more articles written by boys as most are penned by girls; perhaps that can be considered in a follow-up.

Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? fills a unique gap in the book industry…a book by and for adopted teens. I’m glad to have this resource available for my children.

Book Giveaway! (Now closed to new entries...thanks for participating!)
EMK Press has generously offered to provide one copy of this book for a giveaway.

Ways to Enter:
1. Comment on why you would like to own the book.
2. Link this giveaway on Twitter, Facebook or a forum and leave a comment here about what you did. You may do this as many times as you like!
3. Visit the EMK Press site and leave a comment here about which other book you'd most like to own.
4. Leave a comment about what you would most like to see added to the A4everFamily site.
5. Blog about this giveaway and link back to this page. Post a link to your blog entry.

On your comment, leave an email contact such as JaneDoe at gmail dot com so we can reach the winner. Entries will be chosen at random and announced on May 3rd. (Note: when you comment, you are required to enter the numbers in the code box. This will hopefully save us from spammers.)

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