Physical Disempowerment of Infants and Children with Kathleen Porter (LBP 042)

Kathleen Porter of Natural Posture Solutions and I had a chance to talk about the many developmental issues facing children that are new since the 1970's (with an even bigger wave of change hitting in the 90's). How have our "advances" physically disempowered infants and children and what long terms costs does that have? How might the current epidemics related to poorly functioning nervous systems be linked to or influenced by this? And, importantly, how might we be sending the message that what is "out there" is more important than what is "in here"?

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Conversation highlights

  • Kathleen talks about some background on Natural Posture Solutions, and how she became concerned about how American children were developing.
  • Why do we assume that children in developing nations who carry siblings on their backs or who do physical work like head carrying are suffering? We have an auto assumption that physical work is a strain.
  • Children in these cultures have fewer cases of developmental disabilities and neurological disorders.
  • We have lost our connection to ground reaction force and therefore we experience physical work as a strain- we are hauling ourselves around.
  • Neurobiologist Richard Sperry says that 90% of the nutrition to the brain is driven by the movement of the spine.
  • The new focus on the intrinsic or enteric nervous system- there are millions of sensory and motor neurons in our gut and it is vitally important to engage the core. Not with contrived exercises, but if you inhabit your body in a natural way the core takes care of itself and the spine is supported.
  • By the time toddlers are upright and walking they have all the core strength they will need in their lifetime.
  • The current disruptions of our nervous systems in contemporary culture.
  • Beginning in about the 1970's we started putting children in all these devices- molded plastic carriers, swings to lull them to sleep, carriers, etc.
  • In the 1990's the Back to Sleep campaign which was designed to prevent SIDS came along and created a perfect storm.
  • With this parents have become convinced that putting children on their tummies at all is a dangerous thing to do. They have then lost the belly to earth connection and there has been a 600% increase in Plagiocephaly. Also things like Torticollis and vision problems which were rare in children are now more frequent.
  • This loss of engaging with the Earth with the belly down has huge implications.
  • Kathleen gives a little home play exercise where you can see what gets worked when you try it out for yourself.
  • Instead we focus on dangling all these bright colors and shapes in front of them in the hopes of giving them a cognitive head start, are we giving infants the message that what is out there is more important than what is in here?
  • Kathleen tells a story of working with a child who "could sit up but not roll over or move". This perplexed her since rolling over comes first- it's how the infant gets into seated position. What she found is that the parents had been placing the child in a sitting position- and the child didn't know how to get into or out of it. It has become common for pediatricians to do this to encourage slow development along.
  • How we teach infants to sit on a "sad dog" pelvis.
  • Head lag as an early predictor for autism. 90% of children diagnosed with autism later on had head lag at 4 to 6 months.
  • Putting babies on their backs all the time has disrupted their development of the core. While one certainly can't say that this is the cause of autism, the lack of core tone should be looked at more globally to see what role it plays in spectrum disorders.
  • Some of the promising therapies for autism are things like Hippotherapy which reverse the collapsed spine and the posterior pelvis.
  • We don't just have bodies. We are bodies.

Home play!

Somewhere around about minute 25 or 26 (or 27? precision was never really my thing...) Kathleen gives a great home play. She suggests getting a pillow to prop under the belly and lying belly to floor like an infant. See how even the small movements create so much dynamic work in the core and the spine!

Resources

Natural Posture Solutions

Happy Dog, Sad Dog: How Poor Posture Affects Your Child's Health by Kathleen Porter

Natural Posture for Pain-Free Living by Kathleen Porter

Richard Sperry neurobiologist

Head lag in infants at risk for autism: a preliminary study, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy

The "back to sleep" campaign and deformational plagiocephaly, The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Esther Gokhale: Primal Posture 

Katy Bowman: Move Your DNA

Judith Aston: Our Relationship to Our Bodies and Their Relationship to the World

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