It’s been one month since Brendan started the Brain Balance program! We had our official one month evaluation meeting last Friday, and I’ll tell you, I was a little nervous to hear his results so far – not because we haven’t seen improvement, because we have for sure, but it’s also been a very tough first month. We’re in a phase the program calls “The Valley.”
During our first consultation after deciding to start the program (see Part 1 of Brendan’s Brain Balance Journey) they told us about “the valley” phase that usually starts within a few weeks of starting the program.
“The Valley” is a time of regression that naturally occurs when the child starts to use the weaker side of his/her brain that hasn’t been exercised very much and now, all of a sudden, it’s being exercised every day. It wears them out mentally and emotionally!
With in the first week of exercises (twice a day, once before school and once before bed) and going to the center three times a week, I started noticing Brendan being tired and grumpy right after his sessions. He would want to go home and play with his friends, but in the first half an hour of playing, he’d be done (usually ending in some sort of emotional outburst). One day he actually said he wanted his friend to go home because he was tired.
By the end of his second week of the program, he started having trouble controlling his emotions in school, which he didn’t really have trouble with before. His teachers contacted me and asked if the program may be affecting his behavior and they were concerned about their “usually sweet Brendan” acting out in class. This was when it hit me that we had definitely entered “The Valley” stage.
I asked the program director about how long kids are normally in “The Valley” stage and she said usually between 4 to 6 weeks. So we were definitely in the middle of it!
Even though Brendan has had a regression in controlling his behavior and emotions, we have also seen glimpses of progression peeking through here and there, which has been very encouraging!
Here are a few progressive changes we’ve noticed:
- better eye contact and more often
- talking more freely to others, like when adults address him, and even went up to one of my friends the other day and said hello to her! That was HUGE!
- sleeping more soundly and mostly through the night
- wetting bed a lot less
- was able to sit through sister’s entire chorus concert and wanted to go!
- seems to be picking up conversation better, like joking and sarcasm
- is expressing his feelings with more words
- seems to understand consequences better
Again, these are just a few and we’ve had to pick them out amongst the emotional outbursts he’s been having. He definitely has more frequent angry episodes that stem from being embarrassed by something or someone being “rude” to him, then it takes a long time for him to get over it.
“The Valley” is tough. There are so many changes going on that it is completely understandable, but emotionally draining for all involved.
Not only was Brendan’s schedule changing, but I was also following the program nutrition guide of changing over his diet. The first week we changed his breakfast and AM snack. The second week I included his lunch and afternoon snack and by the end of the month, he is now gluten free, dye free and sugar free. (He is mostly dairy free, but I’m waiting until this last week of school is over so I can fully regulate it).
Brendan had a really hard time with this because he loves to buy his lunches at school and by the end of week two I was packing everything for him to take. He was also having to take vitamins every day (we’re giving him Juice Plus right now), which he doesn’t like.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way for coping with “The Valley” stage:
- BE CALM //
If I and my husband remain calm, it helps Brendan not escalate emotionally. If Brendan has an emotional outburst, he needs to be in a dimly lit room, and less talking is better (talking actually initiates the left brain, which acts as the gas pedal). Heavy hugs are good too!
- BE FLEXIBLE //
At first I was doing everything according to schedule and started to push when Brendan didn’t want to do his exercises first thing in the morning. But after an explosive morning at the beginning of week three, I told him he can have two flex times but they’d have to be done on Sunday instead.
- STILL GIVE CONSEQUENCES //
He still needs to know when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing and he needs consequences for those actions. But keep them small so you have somewhere to go. We now take away 5 minutes of electronic time for things like hitting, yelling at someone, being disrespectful, etc.
- ALLOW ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT //
We found if we took away all electronics for the day at once, there was no room for him to improve his behavior and he would throw an enormous tantrum!
We were told to use phrases like “that’s not it” or “try again” or “that’s not appropriate” instead of “no!” It allows the child a moment to regroup, get it right and learn to make better or more appropriate choices when speaking or acting. Brendan has responded really well to this.
- INCENTIVES HELP //
By the end of week two, Brendan was getting tired of the routine. I found a few small things he liked and told him if he did his exercises, took his vitamins without grumping and didn’t complain about taking his lunch to school, he could pick out a prize on Sunday. He seemed to like this and it’s gone well so far.
The exciting thing is that Brendan’s 1 month evaluation went well! He was showing improvement in several areas, especially in his auditory reception! They told us they like to see a 1 to 2 level increase in each area per month.
Brendan’s First Month Results:
VISUAL STIMULATION // (+0.9 LEVELS)
Including the ability to track objects, to adjust to light, and focus as objects move toward and away from us.
AUDITORY STIMULATION // (+4.0 LEVELS)
STIMULATION – detecting sounds
PROCESSING – interpreting Sounds
TACTILE STIMULATION // (+3.0 LEVELS)
Sensitivity to touch, temperature, etc. equally on both sizes of the body.
SENSORY MOTOR // (+2.5 LEVELS)
CORE STIMULATION – stability of the body’s movements as well as setting the baseline processing speed of the brain.
FINE MOTOR – coordinating the use of hands and fingers as well as other small muscles.
BODY AWARENESS & EQUILIBRIUM – perceiving body position & the ability to perceive movement to position of body in space.
RHYTHM & TIMING // (+1.5 LEVELS)
SYNCHRONIZATION – getting both sides of the body to work together to do complex activities like riding a bike, jumping, skipping, dancing, etc.
I was so excited to see the progress he was making in numbers and on paper in front of me. Again, I could see glimpses of things changing, but with the regression happening as well, sometimes it was hard to see.
One thing I was told is that the SENSORY MOTOR SKILLS tend to progress later on in the program and are more affected by the Primitive Reflexes, which is why those exercises are so important to do every day. Brendan was able to drop one of the reflex exercises (for Rooting Reflex, which affects articulation, face sensitivity, messy eating and dexterity)!
I am looking forward to moving into the next month and hoping to pull out of “The Valley” soon, and be able to start enjoying Brendan as he progresses even more!