What is neuroplasticity and how it gives us hope
February 13, 2020
Join me as I discuss neuroplasticity, and how it gives us hope!
- An introduction to neuroplasticity (02:00)
- What is neuroplasticity and how it can help your child (03:10)
- What neurons are and their function (05:08)
- Why neuroplasticity is a two-way street (07:34)
- Moving past setbacks and leveraging neuroplasticity to move forward (08:35)
- Resources you can use (11:45)
Resources and Links
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More about Tara Hunkin
I’m Tara Hunkin, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPS Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, mother, and founder of My Child Will Thrive. I am passionate about helping parents like you because I have been in your shoes. My Child Will Thrive is the resource I wish I had found years ago.
After 13 years — and counting — researching, applying therapies and techniques, succeeding and learning from mistakes, the journey to recover my daughter from multiple neurodevelopmental disorders (dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder, general learning disability, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder…) has been an eye-opening, soul-searching, sometimes lonely trip.
My learning never ends. Whether formally, through courses and conferences, or informally, by reading, listening and research, I am on a mission to transform what I’ve learned into useful, practical solutions for parents who are where I was at the beginning of my journey — confused, determined, scared and hopeful.
Knowing more about your child’s health and the possible underlying causes is the key to finding the path to recovery. Envisioning your child’s total recovery (whatever that means to you) is, dare I say, a reasonable and necessary part of the process. Knowledge is power, hope is fuel.
Tara Hunkin (00:03):
This is the My Child Will Thrive Podcast and I'm your host, Tara Hunkin, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Gaps Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner and Mother. I'm thrilled to share with you the latest information, tips, resources, and tools to help you on the path to recovery for your child with ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, or learning disabilities. My own experiences with my daughter combined with as much training as I can get my hands on, research I can dig into and conferences I can attend have helped me to develop systems and tools for parents like you who feel overwhelmed trying to help their children. So sit back as I share another great topic to help you on your journey.
Tara Hunkin (00:46):
A quick disclaimer before we get started, My Child Will Thrive, is not a substitute for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. The information provided on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat your child. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before implementing any information or treatments that you have learned about on this podcast. There are many gifted, passionate, and knowledgeable practitioners with hundreds, if not thousands of hours of study and clinical experience available to help guide you. Part of our goal is to give you the knowledge and tools you need to effectively advocate for your child so that you don't blindly implement each new treatment that comes along. No one knows your child better than you. No one knows your child's history like you do or can better judge what is normal or abnormal for your child. The greatest success in recovery comes from the parent being informed and asking the right questions and making the best decisions for their child in coordination with a team of qualified practitioners in different areas of specialty. Now on with the show,
Tara Hunkin (01:55):
Hi and welcome back to the podcast. Today I want to talk about what is neuroplasticity. We've all experienced setbacks. While trying to recover our children, and one of the things that can give us hope, even when we do experience these setbacks is neuroplasticity. We often implement a new diet or a supplement protocol or therapy and it goes well for a while, then something triggers a complete turnaround and chaos ensues. It's a part of an unfortunate cycle that sometimes we find ourselves in. It's easy at these times to question the interventions that we're using and I have questioned my own decisions on many days. It's an unnerving yet natural reaction. We parents spend every spare moment in our time reading, researching, and working with our children. When things appear to be moving backwards or stalled out, we need the confidence to know that our efforts aren't wasted.
Tara Hunkin (03:01):
Fortunately, the so-called recently established concept of neuroplasticity provides hope that there are always improvements we can make with our children. So what is neuroplasticity and how can it help your child? On the path to recovery, gut health, immune function, nutrition and mitochondrial function and other related physical systems often take the main focus. Addressing these underlying conditions is vitally important in part because they affect the neurological systems symptoms downstream, but that pathway moves in both directions and supporting brain health directly also helps the other, the body's other systems to function optimally. Our children use their brains to navigate the world, interpret information, socialize with others and learn. We are ultimately trying to optimize their brain function and the good news is the brain is retrainable. Up until relatively recently, about 10 to 15 years ago, the medical community believed that the brain was hard wired - that brain function was established and couldn't be improved.
Tara Hunkin (04:15):
In particular, scientists thought that if there was a loss of brain function from injury, illness or over time degeneration, that this function could not be recovered under this framework. When neurons died or though the connections between the neurons were lost, the body did not have the ability to regenerate them or or recover them. This was the prevailing belief because the technology at the time to examine the brain at the microscopic level was not available. Then along came the concept of neuroplasticity. This opened up a whole new way of understanding neurological function. Simply put, neuroplasticity means malleable or plastic neurons or neurons that can change. So neurons are the main. Let's just talk about what neurons are and other parts of the brain, cell and function. So, neurons are the main cells in the brain and they're made up of axons, cell bodies and dendrites.
Tara Hunkin (05:23):
The dendrites receive the input from the other neurons through their tree like branches. These dendrites then lead to the cell body which lead to the axons. The axons are like wires of varying lengths. They can be anything from microscopic in length to three feet in length, and they carry the electrical signals. Neurons can receive either an excitatory or an inhibitory signal. An excitatory signal will result in the neuron firing off its own signal, and an inhibitory one means that the neuron is less likely to fire off a signal. The axons which carry these signals are separated from the dendrites of the neighboring neuron by a space called, which is microscopic, called the synapse. Once the electrical signal reaches the end of an axon, it then triggers a chemical messenger, which we often talk about with respect to our children, neurotransmitters that floats over to the dendrite of its neighbor and either excites or inhibits it.
Tara Hunkin (06:35):
And that chain reaction continues. Neuroplasticity itself involves a physiological change in the brain or continuous rewiring of the brain that results from our ongoing interactions in our environment from the day we're born, to the time of her death. Our brain adapts to our changing needs. Fortunately, scientists have found that connections between the cells are infinitely receptive to change and growth. One of my favorite books, the brain's healing way by Dr. Norman Doidge, says in his book, one of the core laws and neuroplasticity is that neurons that fire together wire together. And in other words, repetitive mental stimulation, will change the structure, the brain's neurons, better processing the stimulation, our experience, which make the synaptic connection stronger.
Tara Hunkin (07:34):
Now we need to remember that neuroplasticity is a two way street. Even when the brain is not functioning optimally or the neurons become wired together improperly, it has the potential to change. So in the right environment and that would be considered what we call negative neuroplasticity. Positive neuroplasticity is when in the right environment the brain can be rehabilitated and lost or that undeveloped like we're seeing in our children function is recovered. The simple yet profound fact, it gives me hope in the face of the most challenging setbacks with the right combination of biomedical nutritional therapy and other therapeutic interventions such as functional neurology to retrain the brain. Anything really is possible. So let's talk about a few things about how to move past setbacks you may encounter and leverage the power of neuroplasticity to move forward. So the first thing we want to do is when we have a setback of some kind, is that we first of all don't want to necessarily give up on the treatments and therapies you're currently using. You want to continue your biomedical, nutritional, and other therapies unless you have dire concerns about a particular treatment. Making sudden large changes makes it difficult to assess what is working and what actually does need to be changed.
Tara Hunkin (09:11):
The step number two is be ready to document everything. This is probably everybody's least favorite task, but it gives us the best information and can, will ultimately give you the best and fastest results. When you aren't in the midst of a setback, you will be able to think logically instead of emotionally about this information that you've gathered and circle back to know what has changed and when. In particular I always advise people to review your, your food, mood, sleep and poop journal for your child and your biomedical and nutritional therapy tracking tool to see if there's any, trends associated with a setback. If you don't have these tools, you can find them at the link below this episode or by going to www.mychildtoolkit.com where you'll find these tools and others I've developed to help you on your journey with your child. You also want to notice if there's been any changes in the environment of your home such as did you paint your house recently or change a mattress or a pillow, introducing a new toxins that might be associated with these new materials, for example, or has something changed in the environment at school or a place your child spends a lot of time.
Tara Hunkin (10:33):
You also want to consider whether your child has had endured a recent trauma, be it emotional or medical in nature such as a concussion or a surgery or something else.
Tara Hunkin (10:48):
These can all be documented and be part of your analysis. Step three is contacting the practitioners and therapists that you are currently working with. You want to take all these notes that you've now gathered and review them and that current setbacks and symptoms that your your child's experiencing with your practitioner or therapist to get their clinical expertise on how to move forward after the setback. And then number four is add therapy to your child's treatment plan that leverages the healing power of neuroplasticity. If you aren't already. This is something that I advise everybody to do because we, as we discussed earlier in this episode, we need to just not only support the metabolic and biological aspects, but we also need to support the brain in terms of leveraging that neuroplasticity to retrain, and improve function. Many options exist, but I personally recommend seeking out a qualified neurologist in your area or another practitioner trained in brain rehabilitation.
Tara Hunkin (11:59):
Who will best understand how to implement the therapy for your particular child. There are also many tools and programs based in the concept of neuroplasticity including, but not limited to things like brain balance. Interactive metronome is a tool that's often used, vision therapy and things like the listening program and more. I will provide links to all of these things underneath this episode on the My Child Will Thrive Website. I hope this episode has given you some hope that sometimes even though we've experienced a setback that we can always continue to make progress, and also rooted in the concept of neuroplasticity I hope you've also learned that it is never too late, even though the brain is most malleable at the younger years, we still, even as adults, have the ability to change and rewire our brains. Thanks for joining me again today.
Tara Hunkin (13:01):
That's a wrap. Thanks for joining me this week on the My Child Will Thrive Podcast. Today's episode is sponsored by the My Child Essentials Membership Box, a quarterly subscription box curated by me, to give you the tools you need to help your child thrive too. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and if you can spare a moment to give us a review, we'd love the feedback. Thanks for joining me today. This is Tara Hunkin and I'll catch you on the next podcast or over at mychildwillthrive.com
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