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Is Your Child A Sensory Seeker or Sensory Avoider?

The difference between kids who are sensory seekers and those that are sensory avoiders is simply that kids who are the seekers have sensory systems that have a higher threshold before information can be perceived.They need more input to decipher the message they are trying to understand. On the other hand, sensory avoiders have lower sensory thresholds. A small amount of signal causes them to have a big reaction. Because of this, they avoid stimulation because it overwhelms them. Both sensory seekers and sensory avoiders may respond with hyperactive behaviors but for different reasons, one is seeking more input and running toward the stimulus while the other is seeking less input and running away from the stimulus. It is important to note that some kids are a combination of sensory seekers and sensory avoiders depending on their level of arousal and ability to self-regulate.Sensory avoiders may like firm pressure on their skin because it helps them calm down when they are over stimulated. These kids are often very ticklish, and find clothing, socks, and shoes itchy or irritating, especially when there are tags or seams that rub against them. They often cry easily, do not like being touched, prefer quieter surroundings, and are easily startled by sudden, unexpected sights or sounds.

Sensory seekers are quite the opposite.They may deliberately crash into things or throw themselves on the floor to get more physical information, often having a higher pain tolerance. Understanding “how soft is soft” or “how hard is hard” can be difficult for them to differentiate, often resulting in accidentally hurting another or breaking a toy. These children may have difficulty understanding boundaries, constantly hanging on others or touching them. They frequently have the need to chew on things, where they get a lot of input from their jaw muscles, which are extremely strong.Some activities parents can do at home for sensory seekers is to provide them with the extra input they need.Offering chewy foods, or foods that are sour or spicy can stimulate taste and proprioception (information we get from our muscles and joints). Using a weighted blanket, weighted toy, or weighted vest can help, too. Doing Embracing Squeezes, deep pressure squeezes, up the child’s arms and legs can also be calming. Having them squeeze a raquet ball or other rubbery object can help too.Wearing tight fitting, elasticized, clothing can also provide the input they desire. These children love being squished! Make a “Johnny sandwich” with Johnny between mom and dad in a strong, loving squeeze. Cover these kids with pillows and squish down on them (not too hard!). Play tug-o-war using an old towel. Take them to the park and let them climb a tree or roll down a hill.

For our sensory avoiders, introduction to a variety of sensory experiences is necessary but perhaps, try offering only one type of stimulus at a time in a calmer, quieter setting. For example, playing with dry rice or sand, allows the child to get the tactile input to their hands. Entice them to dig for buried treasure by hiding a few coins in the rice or sand. Water play can also be fun with all sorts of containers for pouring water, feeling it flow down, and hearing it splash. Playing soft, slow moving music can be soothing to these children. Try adding in some varied genres of music to see how they react. Encourage them to dance and move to the music. Play Freeze Dance to help them enjoy the experience of listening. Hold your child often, snuggle them, stroke them, try gently touching their hair, face, and ears. Stroke them with a variety of textiles such as a feather, vibrating massager, or cotton ball. Stroking can also be done with children who are asleep to help develop appropriate responses to touch.

Sensory Processing Disorder

What does it feel like to have a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Imagine that your skin feels as though it is crawling with bugs every time you put on a pair of pants or experience a clothing tag behind your neck. Imagine that your head feels like it is going to explode when you enter a noisy restaurant. Imagine that food feels and tastes like something so grotesque you can’t even imagine swallowing it. Imagine that your feet feel like they are on fire when you put on a pair of socks or shoes. Imagine that you are trying to look at something but your eyes keep drifting away from it and can’t stay focused. Imagine that you are constantly living in fear with sensory overload, insomnia, and anxiety so high that you are constantly lashing out and melting down with every new situation. This is what it is like to have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

What is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Children and adults with SPD have trouble interpreting their sensations of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, motion, balance, and/or body position in space. The brain does not know what to do with certain types of stimuli, and therefore, sensations can be perceived as too strong or too weak. There is no middle ground. It seems that the “filtering” mechanism in the brain is turned up too high or too low. For example, when auditory information does not get interpreted properly in the brain, a person with SPD can get lost in a sea of sounds. They cannot make out what they hear, even though their basic hearing test looks normal. This is called an Auditory Processing Disorder. A similar phenomenon happens with the visual system when the two eyes do not work well together, preventing the brain from really seeing what is right in front of them! Just like a computer, the sensory code must be processed by the brain in order to be interpreted and appropriately filed away. When sensory signals are over or under processed, aspects of our development will be compromised, causing learning and behavioral difficulties.

What can cause a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Each area of the brain participates in the overall processing of sensory data. It is important that the most essential parts of the brain, located in the brainstem and midbrain, have integrated pathways so that our senses work well together and with our motor system. Data cannot be properly distributed to higher areas of the brain and processed correctly when our primitive or primary reflexes do not mature the way they should in the first year of life. These are the movements we are born with. They help us connect our sensory and motor experiences together and serve for protection and survival. Unintegrated primary reflexes are like having a traffic jam at the bottom or your brain and not being to get to your destination at the top without having to take a lot of detours that may get you lost and into trouble.

Is there help for a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Parents and families, please do not despair! SPD can be helped! There are actually specialized assessment techniques to identify underdeveloped reflexes that are the culprit for many motor, learning, and behavioral disorders. Easy exercises can be performed to help improve these low brain traffic jams and make room for new and improved speed lanes to top of the brain for better processing.

The Masgutova Method (MNRI) is one very effective intervention for improving SPD. Evaluation by a certified Masgutova Core Specialist, such as Dr. Leah Light, takes only about 30 minutes. Most reflex integration programs offered at Brainchild Institute can be completed in 3-12 months, depending on the severity of the problem. Benefits of the MNRI include improved attention and focus, reduced hyperactivity and impulsivity, improved auditory and visual processing, better handwriting, and higher academic achievement. One of the most dramatic improvements parents have described repeatedly, especially with young children, is their rapid speech and language development after only a few months of doing the training. To find out more about MNRI techniques and how to help your child or loved one with Sensory Processing Disorder, please contact the Brainchild Institute at 954-987-8887.

For example, if the sensation of touch is not processed correctly by the brain, children may seem to be unaffectionate and untouchable. On the other hand, they may be too rough in their play, bumping into people and things with high impact and may want to be tickled excessively or tightly squeezed. Others might be very picky eaters with a limited diet and strongly protest against certain food textures or tastes. Some may never feel full and eat constantly. Still others may find clothing annoying and prefer to wear as little as possible or choose to wear the same garment every day. Some may be panicked by being turned upside-down or while others cannot hang upside-down enough. Others may cover their ears for loud sounds or become overwhelmed in noisy crowds. They may cry a lot over little things or never seem to feel pain or tend to be clumsy with lots of bruises on their legs and foreheads. Some individuals with SPD may be overly fearful of taking risks while others may take excessive risks because their emotional regulation and fear reactions are not working properly.

Sometimes, a child might pass a hearing test but the sound does not get interpreted properly in the brain and they get lost in the sea of sounds. This is called an Auditory Processing Disorder. Just like a computer, the code must be processed by the brain in order to be interpreted and appropriately filed away. These children often have reading problems because sounds do not “sound” right to them. A similar phenomenon happens with the visual system when the two eyes do not work well together, preventing the brain from really seeing what is right in front of them!

ADHD, ADD and The Masgutova Method – MNRI

ADD Help and ADHD Assistance via The Masgutova Method

ADD/ADHD is a common diagnosis that can be helped directly, overtime via MNRI ( The Masgutova Method ) restorative techniques which can assist in self-regulation and more organized composure.

The human body’s ability to adapt in the face of challenges is truly amazing. If neurosensorimotor pathways are blocked, the body, without outside intervention, will attempt to find alternate compensating neural paths to achieve its motor program goals. When the body is left to its own accord, however, the primary motor reflexes relating to the blocked neural pathways will remain in a role of protection, compromising the subordinate role the reflex serves in more complex patterns, schemes, learned skills and advanced motor, communication, and cognitive development. This results in symptoms that can lead to one or a combination of diagnoses.

The MNRI Method recognizes the underlying causes of ADHD, isolates the impacted primary motor reflexes, and targets the neurosensorimotor dysfunction related to the impacted reflexes with MNRI restorative techniques to reduce or eliminate the resulting automatic, learned, and advanced developmental challenges.

More specifically, the MNRI Method recognizes primary motor dysfunction regardless of the underlying causes, such as:

● Congenital issues, or disease
● Physical or emotional trauma, or prolonged chronic or intermittent stress
● General debilitation (physical, emotional, etc.) caused by any of the above

Addressing the underlying neurosensorimotor mechanisms related to the isolated primary reflexes using the MNRI Method techniques assists in:

● Integrating sensory system challenges
● Activating (existing) or creating (alternating) nervous system pathways
● Integrating primary motor and lifelong reflexes

Throughout intervention, we see improvement of function or restoration of neurosensorimotor dysfunction (or deeper pathology), relating to:

● Automatic motor scheme maturation – Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, etc.
● Learn motor skill development – Fine and gross motor skills
● Learned motor planning development – Skill coordination and execution
● Learned communication development – Speech, language, reading, writing, etc., and resulting relational skills
● Cognitive development – Advanced processing and generalization skills
● Emotional and behavioral regulation and socialization skills

By addressing the underlying dysfunction, the Masgutova Method seeks to help the ADHD child improve his planning, relational, generalization, and socialization issues by addressing the unique combination of primary motor reflexes that signal specific neurosensorimotor dysfunction.

This is why the Masgutova community is broad and diverse. As one of the truly holistic approaches to ADHD, it has a broad application that can help anyone who is faced with a challenge despite the level of function, dysfunction or pathology that exists.

If you would like to learn more about ADHD and the Masgutova Method ( MNRI ), contact Brainchild Institute at (954) 987-8887.

Think Your Child Has Learning Difficulties? Trust Your Gut!


It’s the second month of the school year.

Your child is showing signs of learning difficulties. She is having difficulty reading. He is not copying the directions off the board.

Your first impulse is to think “It’s temporary, just a passing phase.”  You find yourself making excuses, “It’s a new school,”  “He needs to get used to this teacher,” “We just had a hurricane, and she got off track.”

Trust your gut.

Instead of creatively making a mental list of plausible causes, ask yourself, “What can I do now so that my child isn’t last in the class by the end of the year?”

As a neurodevelopmental specialist with more than 25 of experience and a mom, I understand the impulse to “wait and see.” And sometimes the issue is transition related and does resolve with time.

But why take the chance? Here are three things to consider:

  • Learning problems are not created equally. There is no “one size fits all” way to address children with learning challenges.
  • Learning issues do not signify a lack of intelligence.Children with learning challenges are often some of the most gifted and creative individuals around. They just learn in an “outside-of-the-box” manner that is often not taught in school.
  • Learning difficulties are often the symptoms of weaknesses in auditory processing, language processing, or visual processing. Some have trouble in all three areas. Understanding the underlying sensory deficit and/or brain circuitry problems that are the root cause of the learning deficiency is key.

Before any interventions or behavioral programs are implemented, parents should first rule out a hearing, vision, or language processing problem, as these deficits can be misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and even Autism Spectrum Disorder.

A little boy, Max, came to me after being diagnosed with Autism.  He was three years old, having terrible tantrums, using limited speech, and having sensory integration difficulties.  His occupational therapist suggested that he get his hearing tested…just in case.  It turned out that Max had a hearing loss in a narrow region of his audiogram where there is a lot of important speech information.  He was fitted with hearing aids and has done well ever since.  The diagnosis of Autism was even renounced shortly after this!

Focus on the root of the problem rather than the symptoms.

At Brainchild Institute, our first line of defense is to make sure a child’s sensory and motor systems are fully operational in order to support the higher level learning they need in school.

Otherwise, you may be wasting precious developmental time focusing on the symptoms (e.g. child cannot read) rather than the root of the disorder (e.g. child has an underlying auditory processing disorder).

One phone call may not impact the beginning of the school year, but can result in an ending which reads “happily ever after.”

For more information about how to tell if your child has underlying neurodevelopmental issues that are keeping them from reaching their potential, contact us at 954-987-8887 or visit our website at

#LearningDisability#RetrainTheBrain #BuildingBetterBrains #BrainchildInstitute #BCI

The Healing Power of Touch: How Touch Can Teach

The healing power of touch for children with autism

He was only seven years old

Mike came kicking and clawing into my office, accompanied by his mom, two brothers and his companion, who had bloodied scratch marks on both arms.

Mikewas clearly in fight or flight mode, completely overcome by his inability to cope with any sensory information bombarding his brain.

Just outside my examining room, Mike threw himself on the floor, repeatedly banging his head and flailing his arms. His mom looked at me and said sadly, “Welcome to my every day.” She appeared exhausted and overwhelmed, but could not allow herself to be defeated for fear of failing her son.

It was pointless to examine Mike at that moment. His sensory processing issues were so severe, and he was in crisis. I immediately put him on my massage table and began using MasgutovaNeurosensorimotor Reflex IntegrationSM (MNRI®) in which I am a certified Core Specialist. Within moments of doing the Hands Supporting Technique, Mike quieted down and stopped banging his head. I then used my hands to place firm pressure (proprioception) on one arm using the Embracing Squeeze technique and demonstrated to his mom how to do the same on his other arm. She eagerly followed my lead. Next, we moved to Finger Pyramids, walking our fingers up each of Mike’s fingers from the fingertip to the knuckles and then sliding down each finger using strong traction. Mike relaxed. We worked together for an hour, with Mike laying comfortably on the table.

So why did his behavior change so dramatically?

During this time, Mike’s brain actually connected to his body, and he was more in control of his behavior.At the end, he sat up and hugged his mother, then turned and hugged me. Tears ran down his mom’s cheeks as she explained that hugging was Mike’s way of thanking me.

Children with autism are often so disconnected from their largest sensory system, their sense of touch; nevertheless, we often give little attention to this system when working with them. Touch is our most primal sense, and our ability to perceive touch begins early in utero. Our capacity to feel and discriminate touch directly relates to our ability to feel and understand our emotions.This is often lacking in children on the autism spectrum.

By using the Masgutova techniques, we help to integrate the somatosensory system, or systems of touch.It is only when we learn to feel our bodies and have a sense of self, of where we begin and where we end, can we start to relate ourselves to our environment.

Even at age seven.

Why MNRI is Our Favorite Most Successful Treatment for Autism

Autism, MNRI, Masgutova, Primary reflexes, autism spectrum disorder, primary reflexes

Movement is the key to development.

From the moment of conception, cells form, divide, and multiply. Within weeks, a tiny fetus begins to move, and life takes on a rhythm of its own. When movement is impaired or restricted for whatever reason, other social and cognitive aspects of development become delayed or weakened.

After birth, our movements become referenced to the universal force of gravity. If we do not bend and extend in an appropriate manner to support ourselves against gravity, our sensory processing becomes impaired, and higher levels of development can be negatively affected.

This is true of most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), where the beautiful scaffolding of neurological development becomes uprooted, like a tree blown over by a hurricane!

Neurological wiring becomes scrambled, and incoming sensory information doesn’t make sense.

At Brainchild Institute, we work with neurodevelopment from its most humble beginnings, the primary reflexes.

Primary reflexes are stereotypical responses that are genetically preprogrammed in all infants for the purposes of survival and protection during the early stages of infancy. As a child’s sensorimotor system develops in relation to gravity, the primary reflexes merge into more deliberate, advanced forms of movement.

We are no longer stimulus driven, but can selectively attend to some things while tuning out others by choice.

By addressing retained or unintegrated primary reflexes, our goal is to retrain the brain starting with the most basic of brain functions, since we all know a strong foundation is needed for any kind of structure to exist. Using MNRI (MasgutovaNeurosensorimotor Reflex Integration) techniques, we provide specific sensory stimulation and remind the body how to move in response to this stimulation in a repetitive manner until the reflex is re-established and then properly integrated.

Until recently, most interventions have been aimed at teaching children how to adapt and compensate around their poorly matured or unintegrated primary reflexes.

Compensatory movements take more time and are less efficient.

Our brain thrives on efficiency and speed. At Brainchild Institute, we have found that by using the simple MNRI techniques, we can actually “reprogram” primary reflexes to help them complete their course of development and “reset” the scaffolding of neurological development so that it is more effective and efficient.

Children with ASD benefit tremendously as do children with many other types of disorders including learning disabilities, social disorders, ADD/ADHD, and motor impairments, to name a few.

The net result is calmer, happier, more physically connected and emotionally grounded children who can begin to chart a more normal course of development.

And that is movement in the right direction.

Three Habits of Emotionally Healthy Families

Every wonder how families stay healthy?

With all the focus on healthy eating and preventing childhood obesity, we have the equally important task of promoting the family’s emotional health.

Here are my top three tips for keeping your family ‘emotionally healthy’:

1. Family time together means limiting screen time. How many times do you see families spending time together at the park or a restaurant where they are sitting together but lost in their own individual worlds, staring at their cell phones or other electronic devices? These days, kids can’t even go to a family birthday party without immersing themselves in technology, and though they are physically present, they are mentally in cyberspace. Making a family rule where screen time is shut down during a specific time and for a specified amount of time each week (cell phones are put into “airplane mode,” placed in a designated area away from the family to reduce the temptation to peek at a text message, or just plain turned off), allows us to stop for a moment, emotionally interact, and listen.

As a neurodevelopmental audiologist, I have noticed listening is becoming a lost art. We hear, but are we really listening? They are not one and the same. Connecting to loved ones by looking at their faces and listening to what they have to say sends a message that says “I care about you and am interested in what you think and how you feel.”

2. Emotionally healthy families reach out and touch one another. Remember the old Bell commercial in the 1970s, “Reach out and touch someone?” There is so much more to that message than most of us ever realized! How often do you give your family members a hug, a squeeze on the hand, or a pat on the back? How often do you get these gentle, tactile expressions of love, caring, and compassion? You must admit, it feels pretty good; yet it is something we often take for granted.

Our system of touch stimulates everything from our immune system, to our cardiovascular system, to our respiratory system, and even the emotional center of our brains.

What’s more, a gentle touch can help us feel more connected and bonded to others in our environment.

It can help relieve pain and stress and can help us to feel safe. It reminds you that you are not alone.

Studies by Tiffany Field, Ph.D., at the Touch Institute at University of Miami, found infants in a neonatal intensive care unit gained more weight and were discharged from the hospital earlier when they were massaged. Other studies on older adults show benefits of reduced pain and improved cognitive function for people with Alzheimer’s disease. With massage boutiques opening on practically every corner, it’s clear that touch is really not taboo. Given all the medical advances that have been made in society, isn’t it interesting that a gentle touch from a loved one or family member, something that costs so little, can offer so much? So next time you think about it, “reach out and touch someone” in your family and remind them how much they mean to you.

3. Having a routine helps the whole family. At Brainchild Institute, the focus is not just on the client, it is on the whole family. And our experience has proven the importance of establishing a consistent predictable schedule at home. Consistency promotes a feeling of safety and security. We often hear from parents how well their child is behaving at school while at home, they act like the Tasmanian devil on steroids. Think about it. The school day has a predictable structure with classes, lunch and recess generally at the same time each day. While I am not promoting rigidity, creating a consistent schedule at home with time and space for homework, family dinner and a bedtime routine can reduce stress and improve behavior.

As a parent, there is a lot of pressure on you to control the home environment. But in the end, is there anything more important than the emotional health of your family?

Kids and Their Toys

Every parents dream is to shower their children with toys and games that they will hopefully love and cherish…and not destroy. Dream…yes, but what is the reality?

Remember the first time your child repeated something you said and you were in disbelief? For instance, “what the heck?” or “would you listen to me already?” All people are born with MIRROR NEURONS. The medical definition is as follows: aneuron found in the cerebral cortex that is active when one performs an action or when one witnesses another performing the same action, and whose function is thought to be involved in acquiring language and the ability to empathize. An example is when you see someone yawn and then suddenly you do too!

What is the connection between these mirror neurons and kids and their toys?

Did you ever notice that when a child plays with a car, he/she will act like a car? When a child plays with a superhero, they suddenly begin to act like a superhero. When children play with baby dolls, they act like a mommy or a daddy. Children mimic when they play and this is a perfectly normal and appropriate part of development.

There are, however, many occasions when a child is not capable of mimicking in an appropriate manner. They may become overly excited, violent, mean, or even cry and become extremely sad. These dysregulated behaviors may, in fact, be a direct result of the particular type of toy you gave to your child.

At Brainchild Institute, we notice that many children have a tendency to be obsessed with dinosaurs, superheroes, video games that include shooting and killing, and anything else that may incite fear and anger. Playing with these types of toys can stimulate the brainstem, or “fight or flight” part of the brain, and bring out aggressive responses in kids or overstimulate a child who already has a “hot brainstem.” Rather than a desire to “play”,there is a need to transform and morph into an uncontrolled being that may jump off the back of the couch, hit a sibling over the head with a sword, or even crash into a friend without the forethought that one or both may end up hurt.

How does one manage this?

It is a fortunate, but unfortunate situation for a parent. First, you must become aware if your child/children are affected in this extreme way. The second step you must take is to monitor what toys your child plays appropriately and inappropriately with, even if it means you must eliminate some of their favorites. The third step is to model safe and appropriate play with him or her. Show them how to have fun, use their creativity, and direct their energy in a more positive, peaceful, and loving manner.

As we continue down the technological road in society, remember to go back to your grass roots. Build a sandcastle, and bring the prince and princess with their horse and carriage to live in it. Make a shopping mall out of some big boxes. Go outside and run around playing hide-and-go-seek dressed up in funny costumes. Kick a ball back and forth or do cartwheels in the grass until you can’t see straight!

Fix it before it’s broken or just never let it happen.

Music Together®

Have you ever witnessed the joy and utter elation on a baby’s face when the music begins to play? Their eyes twinkle, their feet start to kick, they bounce, and smile from ear-to-ear.They hear it and feel it in their bodies from the earliest of ages even from within the womb (a fetus hears by 20 week’s gestation). Have you ever attended a concert or listened to music in the car when you were expecting your first child? Even over the noisy, energetic environment,could you feel yourbaby dancing around inside you when the music started to play?Incredible, right?

It is true what they say that “babies are born musical”! There is so much they absorb and embrace in a melodic experience. It enhances their brain development in the areas of math, literacy, language, and overall sensorimotor integration.

Brainchild Institute is excited to offer Music Together® enrichment classes to enhance your child’s learning potential. This internationally renowned program has been inspiring families for decades and offers opportunities for bonding, social skills development, and emotional interaction between families and friends. If you are familiar with this program, then you know exactly how great it is for your child’s development.If you have never experienced Music Together, we invite you to be our guest for a complimentary demo class and share the magic of music with us.

Please visit our website at Music Together for more details or call 954-987-8887.

How to Manage Your Own Feelings About Having A Child with Special Needs

You have been informed that your child has a disability, developmental delay, or some other diagnosis. How does that make you feel?  Denial? Fear? Ready to do anything necessary to give your child tools? Grief?

How do you know if you are grieving?  Does it even make sense?  Can you grieve about something like this?  Absolutely, and here is why:

The world we live in paints many perfect pictures of what life should look like, but how many of us can actually say we fit that picture?  When the doctor tells us “Your baby has…a hearing loss, diabetes, autism spectrum disorder, or cerebral palsy…” it is very common to enter a state of grief. Even a child with sensory processing problems is more than a full-time job. These children won’t wear the adorable outfits we buy them because the clothing tags drive them crazy. They won’t eat the food we make.  We can’t even take them to restaurants, movies, or the shopping mall without them having a meltdown!  It’s simply not what we planned and it causes us a lot of grief.

The truth is that it is okay, and even healthy, to mourn the loss of the child you envisioned.  It is the first positive step in being able to help your child succeed to his or her fullest abilities.

These detours in our planned path of parenthood are painful to all of us, but we must help ourselves to gain acceptance so that we can be the best parents we can be for our children. Take a moment for yourself…breathe…exercise…take a parenting class…take care of you. You are the driving force for your family; the one who keeps things going. Be the best parent you can be by honoring your own feelings, allowing yourself to experience your sadness, and then healing yourself so that you can come to acceptance and do the most important job you will ever do in your life….the job of being a responsible, proactive, and supportive parent to a child who loves you and needs your support and guidance.