The work I do is based around Dr Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, and the concept of social engagement vs flight/fight/freeze.
My work is based on the concept of “neuroception” – the fact that some children (and adults) cannot distinguish safety from perceived threat, and so their bodies live in a stressful fight/flight state ALL the time.
Referrals to CAHMS take forever – if they happen – and intervention is patchy. Ask CAHMS about the Polyvagal Theory, and you’ll more than likely get a blank stare!
However, I strongly believe that the introduction of this work in schools would save our government SO much money in SEND terms. I’ve already seen it.
Take, for example, Sam. He is 8 years old and when I first met him, he was approximately 2.5 years behind in literacy and numeracy. He struggled to focus and had extreme difficulties relating to other children.
Through reflex integration work and the Safe and Sound Protocol, we have seen such incredible developmental growth across the board that it’s astounded parents and teachers alike. He is now approaching the expected range academically, has several friends and is able to focus much better in class.
His osteopath, with whom I work closely, reports how strong his midline is following a couple of rounds of the Safe and Sound Protocol.
I would like to emphasise that this was without an expensive private maths tutor and certainly without specialist help with specific learning difficulties.
Before using the Safe and Sound Protocol, Sam had seen a variety of people for retained reflexes over a period of approximately four years. While, initially, this had made an enormous difference, it seems that progress had plateaued and halted. His mother reports that the SSP simply seemed to get things going again.
This is probably because of the way that the SSP works:
The freeze response (known as the Fear Paralysis Reflex) is a cellular response rather than a primitive reflex. It therefore stands to reason that an intervention that helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, bringing a person out of their dorsal vagal (freeze) and sympathetic (fight/flight) nervous states and into a parasympathetic (social engagement) state makes greater shift than reflex integration work. Primitive reflexes start patterning at a much later point in development, and reflex integration replicates pre-birth movement patterns rather than re-setting the nervous system like the Safe and Sound Protocol does.
If a child feels under threat, they will not be able to learn efficiently. Think how it feels to receive really shocking news and how difficult it is to take anything else in: that’s what it’s like for children who are permanently stuck in fight/flight/freeze.
Many children (and adults) who have learnt to compensate for the fact that they are stuck in a fight/flight/freeze cycle have very little connection between body and brain, meaning that although they *think* they have no coordination issues, when I test, I find that there is no concept of where different parts of the body are. Remember: intellect and neurological maturity are two completely different things.
One of the tests I like to do is to get a person to lie on the floor and tap the limbs once by one to see if a person can reflexively raise the limb I’ve tapped. Then I will tap an opposite arm and leg, or two legs or two arms. The result is sometimes very surprising.
So I work at a very basic, fight/flight/freeze level first, and gradually work on brain connections to produce better self-regulation and control in higher levels of the brain.
This work is scientific: no energy work, no supplements, no dietary changes, no mysticism. I have seen the biggest changes in those who don’t use a scattergun approach – but that’s not to say that people can’t try all the above if they feel the need.
By moving children into their social engagement system, allowing them to feel safe in the world, we are a very big step closer to supporting their learning.
SSP is now available digitally, and I provide remotely to certain profiles of children, subject to in-depth screening first. Optimum results require a) an experienced practitioner, b) a heavily customised programme, depending on your child and c) the FULL understanding and involvement of the parent/carer.
For contact details of SSP providers near you, please refer to https://integratedlistening.com/about-ils/find-ils-locations/international-providers/. Be sure to ask in-depth questions about your provider’s experience of using the protocol, or e-mail me if you’d like to know what to ask.