Even though our small practice in Birmingham, AL is comprised of a mostly athletic patient base, every once in a while a patient comes along that we don’t think of as our typical ‘athlete’. In this case the patient that presented to me was a six-year-old boy that we will call ‘Bobby’ for the purposes of this article.
When Bobby walked into the clinic I saw a frail boy that looked to be about four years old and quite frankly had a head that appeared too large for his body. Bobby’s mother informed me that Bobby could not touch his toes and when he tried it caused him pain. In addition to this chief complaint she said that he was not able to keep up with the other children in his P.E. class in terms of movement competency, speed and agility. Maybe even more shocking than learning the discrepancy between Bobby's body size and his age, was his meandering developmental history.
Bobby NEVER crawled; instead he log rolled and scooted for means of ambulation until he was almost two years old. Bobby’s parents eventually recruited the help of a physical therapist to help Bobby walk. Bobby began to walk by approximately the age of two.
For my colleagues out there, Bobby presented with common findings in a low spectrum Central Coordination Disorder (CCD); loss of deep neck flexion on a traction test, posterior chain facilitation, primary pattern engagement and the list goes on. Now I did use the word 'spectrum', what Bobby and many other children are experiencing is not a disease, instead it is a broad array of symptoms due to a number of factors. The good news is that after only three treatments using mainly Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, he could easily touch his toes, was starting to develop midline stability and now the fun begins as he gets to explore movements at home and at play that he has not had the chance to do for so many years.
Through the study of developmental kinesiology we now know how important it is for babies to transition through developmental milestones for many reasons including subcortical process implementation, joint centration, osseous maturation, etc... Cognitive processing and competency is also closely linked to movement development. Without Bobby’s teacher’s knowing that he was under my care, they began to report to his mother that his hand writing, fine motor skills and other classroom skills were starting to improve as well, pretty cool stuff right there. One side note, this is not an advertisement for DNS, I think DNS is an invaluable tool, but the take away here is not the method used instead that there are many children out there like Bobby that need just a small amount of care to get them back on the right track. I try not to let this stuff go to my head, but this is life-changing stuff for these kids.
Those of you that are familiar with the Prague School of Rehabilitation and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, along with a variety of other Eastern block schools and teaching are familiar with the developmental model. The importance of understanding the developmental model is not only crucial for our young ones, but we are also starting to realize how important revisiting these prerequisite movements are for our movement deprived adults.
So let’s take a look at some of the normal developmental milestones through the first year of life. Most infants are exploring rolling patterns by 4-5 months, crawling by 6-7 months and then walking anywhere from 11-13 months. Of course every child varies depending on genetic, cultural and familial scenarios. Most pediatricians are checking for these developmental markers through the first year of life, but a lot of children fall through the cracks in Western medicine when comes to early childhood movement tracking and development. Why is that?
In Prague, the government subsidizes movement analysis and a certain amount of preventative/corrective care for children up to the age of three! Now wouldn’t it be amazing to see that same level of movement analysis and development in the U.S.? Lord knows if anyone needs it, it is our overly gamed, glued to the couch, obese and down right movement illiterate children…to put it lightly. Instead, we get children that are pushed through a broken medical model, a model in which the doctors are only partly to blame. From personal experience I can tell you that it is hard to perform a service that you probably/or most assuredly will not get paid for, so what are we to do? Well, that’s the purpose of this article.
First of all, hopefully this spurs some moms and dads out there to expect more of their children’s medical providers or seek out different care altogether. I am including some websites and references pertaining to movement development and ways to test your own children to see if they are hitting these milestones appropriately.
A word of advice to those expecting or new parents…dads in particular listen up. Being able to brag to your buddies that your son or daughter is walking at 6 months-old is not necessarily a good thing! These development periods of early childhood are all necessary and when stages are prolonged or skipped altogether this can equal trouble down the road. Now there's nothing wrong with encouraging our little ones to enjoy the now popular ‘tummy-time’, reach for toys or the occasional game of fetch. The best way to ensure that your child develops properly is to make sure they have a full belly, get plenty of sleep and lots of love. When all of these basic needs are fulfilled babies will innately explore authentic movement, barring any neurologic or physical disorders.
Would I like to say that the next Michael Jordan is going to come out of my office, absolutely. The truth is that I would be just as happy to help every child or adult for that matter, that comes through our doors, to move better, move more and ultimately live a better life.
Until next time…Move Well to Live Better.
"Focus on quality and ease of movement, not on the age a milestone is accomplished"
- Magda Gerber
Here is a link to the Prague School Rehabilitation, this resource will probably appeal more to the practitioner.
Here is a link to the CDC's developmental milestones page, pretty general but a good start.