Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Total Load

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In Western Medicine, we tend to look for a singular cause for a condition. It may be a kind of research-driven mindset - in the lab, it is not impossible to control the environment such that only one element of an experiment is changed. Where health is concerned, there can be a tendency to look for the silver bullet that will kill the bad guys and put the good guys back in control.

But we do not live in labs, and our conditions are formed by an incalculably complex combination of factors - environmental, genetic, movement, social, spiritual, et al. Do we know that the intervention which “worked” would have “worked” without the events that led up to it? And, when a system collapses, was the thing that toppled it just the last straw?

Can a build-up of stress can cause children to slide onto the autism spectrum? The term "Total Load" was coined by Patricia Lemer, co-founder Developmental Delay Resources and whose new book, Outsmarting Autism, will be out this summer. Neurologist Martha Herbert uses the concept in her recent book, The Autism Revolution.  "Genes and environment lead to autism by an accumulation of “Total Load” – a pile-up of risk factors to the point of overflow.” For an illuminating one-page description of this process, read Lemer's Total Load: How the Cumulative Effect of Many Factors Leads To Developmental Delays.

Everyone seems to agree that the best way to deal with “total load” is to keep an eye out for early warning signals, and start making the necessary adjustments in diet, environment, medical practices, and lifestyle. If a child has any significant and longstanding symptoms of stress, we need to realize that these stressors are taking a toll on his or her developmental processes. Viewed through the opposite end of the telescope, making these adjustments can be seen as enhancement – making life more healthy and fun and fulfilling for everyone in the family.

What to Look For. Here’s a good checklist of developmental signposts, written by Patricia Lemer. If a child is not making these milestones, it’s time to start lightening the load. And if a child just seems a little "off" - don't wait for proof. The child is struggling to some degree; taking some of the load off might just be the thing for allowing this child's system to recover way before that "last straw."

Diet. When I talk to mothers about eliminating gluten and/or dairy and sugar, common responses are, “I can only do so much,” or “It is too hard,” or “We have a better diet than most of our friends!”

What is hard for these moms to understand is that eliminating gluten, sometimes dairy, and always sugar and artificial ingredients, reduces the behaviors that are stressing them out in the first place! When your kids are acting up and you just can’t fight with them about food any more, it seems easier to give them the mac and cheese or the oreos. But, for these children (and for most of us, actually) these are the addictive substances that keep them revved up! The transition period can be difficult, but it is worth it. There is a lot of information out there now on diet. A good one-pager to begin with is Patricia Lemer’s article, The Diet. 

Less is More, Where Total Load is concerned! It used to be, if a child was sick, the GP would tell the parents to hold off on preventive measures for illnesses the child did not yet have. Rather than adding stress to an already compromised system, the wisdom was to let the child’s immune system do its job to deal with the present condition.

This would be a good attitude to take toward any child who is having developmental issues. And reacting to behavioral problems with medications just adds to the load – creating worse problems further down the road. Patricia Lemer’s post called The Medicated Child details some of these.

Adult Stress. When parents and teachers and practitioners are in stress, the children learn to model that stress. They don’t feel safe enough to make real changes. Challenged children can be a kind of gift to us, requiring us to clean up our own acts. Look at Movement Matters, From Fight, Flight, Freeze! to Breathe, Smile, Move!  for a list of super-fast ways to get yourself into a peaceful zone. Once you’re feeling calm and clear, you’ll be able to make the best decisions for both your child and yourself.

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