On a February day in 2005, Nick was doing what many boys do after school, heading home, crossing a busy street at an accustomed intersection, hanging out with a friend, having good 12-year-old boy fun, when the mirror of a van driving through that same intersection took away everything that Nick identified as himself. In that moment of mutual inattention by both driver and child, Nick lost his athletic ability, his straight ‘A’ academic skills, his joy at singing in the NW Boys Choir, his ability to speak, see, and move purposefully or to be conscious of the world around him. At Harborview Hospital, where Nick’s life lay in the balance for days, the diagnosis was clear: severe traumatic brain injury – the ultimate insult to the wholeness of any human being.
At Developmental Movement Consultants in Seattle, we recognize that Nick is not alone. Our organization is committed to helping those with brain injuries recover at all levels of central nervous system functioning to their full potential. The story of Nick’s recovery is one of hope and it is our purpose to extend this hope to other by reintroducing concepts in the treatment of brain injury that have been understood for decades, but not often considered as an option.
Developmental Movement Consultants employs practitioners who have been treating clients in Seattle since 1988. DMC is committed to treating children and adults with non-progressive injuries to the central nervous system and to restoring lost functions by repeating processes seen in normal brain development. DMC practitioners know how resilient and durable the human brain can be and that many brain injuries can be conquered.
Our approach recognizes that the tearing apart of neurons, the shearing off of axons and dendrites that connect neurons to one another when the brain is injured is the source of functional losses. In the case of a minor brain injury, intact brain cells, which still remember how to do the job they were doing can grow new dendrites and axons and reconnect with other cells in the system. At the source of the shearing on the neuron a process called sprouting occurs, in which a brain cell that is stimulated will begin to grow new connections and rewire itself.
But what about severe injuries such as Nick’s in which whole regions of the brain are left incapacitated? The brain begins to swell, much like a bruised area on your body that has suffered a blow. If the swelling diminishes in a short period of time blood will start to flow again and functions will return to normal. However if the swelling continues the brain will not get enough oxygen and brain cell death ensues. Can such a severely damaged system be re-wired? Please recall that brain cells that are stimulated will begin a process of growing new connections.
A brain that has suffered severe injuries has the ability to reassign tasks to other areas of the brain if stimulated intensively, consistently and appropriately. Our approach to reacquiring brain function is the model of infancy. The newborn infant cannot walk, talk, control its body, or be conscious of the world around it in a way that makes sense. But that infant will acquire those skills because of specific stimuli that are written into the genetic code and experienced by any unimpeded unimpaired child. That infant will crawl, creep, roll and do specific patterns of movement, all of which are designed to stimulate the brain.
Although Nick was still in a coma in May of 2005, we put him tummy down on the floor, as one would an infant. At other times a team of volunteers moved his head and limbs through patterns typical of the early infant. A program was designed to get more oxygen to his brain, and intensive sensory stimulation was used to reeducate him about sensation and the location of his body in space. Within the month Nick was out of his coma and relating to his family. His personality and sense of humor began to return. Nick gained control over one arm, then a leg. We began to literally push him across the floor in the tummy crawl position and his brain found ways to move both legs so that he could begin to push himself.
At the one-year anniversary of Nick’s accident he had acquired speech in short sentences and even a few words in French. He returned to school where he can do simple math in his head. Nick now reads, writes his name and uses a cell phone. Nick will walk again someday, but we are rebuilding his skills stage by stage, using the brain’s resilience and amazing durability even in the face of life threatening injury.
We want to ensure that more patients are aware of this option for recovery that has been used since 1955 throughout the U.S., Japan, and Australia and is being introduced by Developmental Movement Consultants to England. Our contact information is below. We welcome the chance to educate you about recovery from T.B.I.
Bette Lamont, MA/DMT
Developmental Movement Consultants
The Brain Nanny©
Seattle, Washington, United States