Principles of Treatment
Stimulating and directing brain plasticity.
What is brain plasticity?
There is no more vital a concept in the treatment of developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia, than the concept of brain plasticity. Quite simply, it is the ability of the brain to change its structure and functioning in response to demand from the environment, by either pruning connections which are no longer used, or creating new connections to support new function.
Our programme is built around the latest knowledge of how brain plasticity responds to environmental stimulation and how we can combine that knowledge with what we know about how developmental processes proceed in the child, We utilise the combination of these two strands of knowledge to stimulate the child's development in all areas.
We know that it is an interplay between the genetic expression of the child and the influence of the developmental environment to which the child is exposed which drives the development of the child forward. We can do very little about genetic expression, but what we can do is to influence the developmental environment of the child.
How can we influence a child's developmental environment?
This is where the activities of the programme play their part. Once Snowdrop have evaluated the functional capability of your child in all areas of development. - In terms of sensory development that is visual, auditory and tactile development. In terms of the brain's output functions, these are the areas of gross motor and fine motor development, in addition to social development and language and communication development. You will note that we have omitted cognitive development from this list and you might wonder why? It is because we see cognitive development as being intertwined with all other areas. Consider this for a moment, - we don't just develop the ability to see, hear and feel; - we develop the ability to understand what we see, hear and feel. Similarly, cognitive ability is expressed through the brain's output functions of movement, hand function, language and social ability.
Once we have established a 'baseline' of your child's abilities in each area of development and an intimate understanding of his / her difficulties, we will develop a series of activities which are designed to stimulate your child to achieve the next higher level in each developmental area. It is the implementation of these activities and recommendations, by you his / her parents, which will create your child's new developmental environment.
The importance of repetition.
It is the repetition of these activities, which will create the increased 'environmental demand' for function which will hopefully stimulate your child's brain to make new connections; - new connections which will support the function which we are trying to achieve.
Research carried out by many eminent scientists supports Snowdrop's view that repetition of an experience tends to set neural connections, because a child's brain is 'wired' to encourage repetition of sounds, patterns or experiences. Every repetition of an experience makes the neural connections necessary to support function, stronger and more efficient. This is how brain plasticity works and this is how Snowdrop utilises such research by encouraging parents to repeat the activities within the child's programme as often as time allows!
Evidence to support Snowdrop's approach to the treatment of developmental disabilities.
When you receive your child's programme, you will also receive a comprehensive list of references from studies which have been carried out, which provide evidence to support the techniques being used within the programme.
One example of the support our approach receives can be seen from recent evidence concerning neuroplasticity. This is but one example out of many I could cite and is from the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics at Tubingen, who have succeeded in demonstrating for the first time that the activities of large parts of the brain can be altered in the long term. The scientists were able to trace how large populations of brain cells in the human forebrain are able to reorganise and change their connections to other brain cells as a consequence of environmental stimulation. (Current Biology, March 10th, 2009)
Yet more evidence to support our philosophy comes from a recent study at MIT which clearly shows that in people who are born with brain injuries, parts of the brain which aren't normally connected with a particular function can be recruited to take over the functions of brain cells which have been lost to injury. This ability of brain cells to 'switch functions' is seemingly driven by the demands of environmental stimulation which creates competition for brain cells to be allocated specific functions.
The Snowdrop programme creates such a 'competition' for allocation of function in the brain, - the repetition of the developmental activities within the programme creating the increased environmental demand necessary for creating such a beneficial situation. As a consequence we often see developmental progress in our children.
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