Monday, March 29, 2010

Balance Important For Your Child's Mental Health

balancing skill important for your child's mental health
Yes it's true.... sillyDaddy fractured his toe recently while running from the children on top of the couches in the family room....

While my balance may be in question, eM and I have encouraged the kids' balancing skills to build their coordination, strength and esteem - and all our friends just thought we were careless parents.

We've let them climb and move through their home, let them problem solve about how to get around or over obstacles and even allowed them to stumble occasionally in our safe, child proofed environment.

So far they've come through in much better shape than I have.

I reached back into my sillyDaddy archive to find this article that made an impression on me from early last year.  Published in Research and Developmental Disabilities journal, the study found that "all [children] with balance problems do exhibit symptoms of anxiety, pointing to a link between the two conditions."

According to the research, children in the study, five to seven year olds with an anxiety diagnosis, went through a 12-week sensory-motor intervention in which, "the children use equipment to experience their environment and move in space."  Their balance improved, anxiety was reduced to normal levels and their self-esteem increased.
Improve Balance, Relieve Childhood Anxiety

By Rick Nauert, Ph.D., Senior News Editor
Saturday, Jan 24 (Psych Central) -- Many of the 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety disorders also have problems with balance.

As increasing numbers of children are diagnosed with anxiety, researchers have discovered that the link between balance and anxiety can be assessed at an early age and that something can be done about it before it becomes a problem.

Dr. Orit Bart at Tel Aviv University’s School of Health Professions, and her colleagues, have found that a simple course of physical treatment for balance problems can also resolve anxiety issues in children. Her work offers new hope for normal social and emotional development for children with both disorders.

Anxiety has a significant impact on children’s personal and academic well-being. While not all kids with anxiety have balance problems, all those with balance problems do exhibit symptoms of anxiety, pointing to a link between the two conditions.

“This is a breakthrough in the field of occupational therapy,” says Dr. Bart.

Her study — done in collaboration with TAU researchers Yair Bar-Haim, Einat Weizman, Moran Levin, Avi Sadeh, and Matti Mintz, and to be published in Research in Developmental Disabilities — investigated the anxiety-balance connection in young children for the first time.

Dr. Bart tracked children between the ages of five and seven who had been diagnosed with both problems to see how treatment would affect each disorder.

After a 12-week intervention of sensory-motor intervention, the children in Dr. Bart’s study improved their balance skills.

The therapy also reduced the children’s anxiety to normal levels, she reports. As their balance and anxiety issues improved, the children’s self-esteem also increased.

Treating the Mind Through the Body

“You can’t treat children with anxiety in a cognitive way because of their immaturity and lack of operational thinking. Working with the body may be the answer,” Dr. Bart explains.

The treatment therefore focused on letting the children use equipment to experience their environment and move in space.

Dr. Bart found that by working with their bodies, children could work through their emotional problems, including anxiety.

Dr. Bart is now working on expanding the initial results through a larger study with more control groups. The goal is to explore the exact nature of the relationship between balance and anxiety in children, and to focus the results on more specific treatment types.

“Young children who have anxiety should first be assessed for balance issues to see if that is the source of the problem,” says Dr. Bart.

“We can now treat these children because we have a better understanding of the relation between these disorders.”


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