A weak lower brain disrupts the entire brain and the ability to learn
Children with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, sensory processing disorders, and learning disabilities often struggle to learn in school. They also have another thing in common, they experience difficulties with balance and performing motor tasks that require coordination, sequencing, and control. When you don’t feel in control of your body, you have a hard time playing sports, concentrating, feeling calm, interacting socially, and learning in school.
Balance, movement, motor abilities as well as the “automaticity of learning new things” are all functions that are processed in the lower brain (cerebellum). When the cerebellum is underdeveloped, disorganized, and can’t do its job, the upper brain (cortex) will take over as necessary.
There are two problems with this. First, the cortex doesn’t process motor functions very well. Second, the cortex can’t process both motor and cognitive functions at the same time. The cortex must choose between one activity and the other and will always step in for the weak lower brain level function. This means the cortex isn’t free to do its job to think and process information. Instead, it spends 90% of its time and energy taking over for the cerebellum, leaving only 10% for higher-level thinking functions.
A child in this situation works much harder to learn and perform simple physical tasks (such as riding a bike) and use new information in school (such as memorizing the multiplication table). full learning potential is never achieved.
Is your child’s upper brain compensating for a weak lower brain?
Here’s a quick and effective way for parents and teachers to see how well a child’s brain is functioning and if the cortex is doing the job of a weak cerebellum. Can the child balance on one leg, think, and talk at the same time? To answer this question, have the child do a simple dual-task exercise that combines a lower brain motor function with an upper brain cognitive thinking function.
- Balance on one leg: The first task is a single leg static balance test. Balance requires the sensory and motor systems to coordinate and is processed in the lower brain. Have the child stand in bare feet looking straight ahead with eyes open and arms down at the side. Lift one leg up off the floor forward, bent at the knee, in a “flamingo stand”, for up to 60 seconds.
- Answer a question: The second task is for the child to answer an open-ended question that requires thinking, processing information, and a verbal explanation. Once in the flamingo stand, ask the child to answer the question, “What did you do last weekend?” or “What did you enjoy most and least about your last vacation?” Engage in open-ended questions to keep the child thinking and talking about the experience while balancing. Record total standing seconds and when wobbling starts.
If the child can easily remain balanced for 45-60 seconds and answer the question at the same time, the sensory and motor systems and the lower brain cerebellum are likely well developed.
However, the weaker the sensory-motor systems and the lower brain are, the harder it is for a child to balance before and after being asked the question. If the child can’t stand on one foot for more than a few seconds, there is a severe balance issue. If the child starts to wobble, move the standing foot, or drops the lifted foot down when starting to answer the question, the cortex is taking over and compensating for a weak sensory-motor system and cerebellum. Observe the child and track the number of standing seconds to see if the dual-tasking issues are minimal, moderate, or severe in nature.
Four Stages of Static Balance
If a child has a hard time balancing on one foot, you can try the balance test alone at less difficult stages of balance to get an idea of current balance development. Here are four different balance positions from the easiest to the most difficult to try for up to 60 seconds each. Please note that when a child is balancing with eyes open, the visual system is engaged and helping to stabilize the body. You can also try eyes closed. This is when a child must rely more on instinctive body awareness for balance.
Balance with eyes closed
Four main sensory systems contribute to balance. The vestibular system is the main balance system, but proprioception is needed for body awareness coming from the muscles and joints. There are also the visual and auditory systems for stability from our surroundings. Try the same balance test with eyes closed to see how well the child’s body awareness is contributing to balance or if the visual system is compensating. Both tests should show the same strong abilities to balance. Balance shouldn’t require vision to take over. We should have strong body awareness. For example, we should be able to touch any part of our body, such as the tip of the nose accurately with our eyes close.
BrainyAct® contains a full brain and body assessment and brain training program.
BrainyAct® helps ages 6-adult, who struggle to balance, feel in control of their body, think, focus, and learn. They don’t need more instruction or tutoring. They need to build foundational brain and body connections from the bottom to the top of the brain.
BrainyAct® is a non-medical, drug-free program that uses interactive full-body movement gaming technology to deliver an engaging and personalized neurodevelopmental program in your home or in our Minnetonka, Minnesota center.
Contact us at (952) 444-2808 to discuss your child’s challenges and how BrainyAct® can help. Purchase BrainyAct® for home or in our center at www.kinuu/purchase. You can also purchase an assessment in our Minnetonka, Minnesota center.
Download our Mom’s Guide: Strong Brains Start Here to evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses and discover any warning signs of neurodevelopmental issues.