And SEEKING THE SUPPORT OF EXPERTs
This is a condensed version of a post I wrote all about my son Poppit (who's real name is Charlie but that's another topic for another post...the aforementioned one). In the lead up to a talk I'm doing on the Retained ATNR with Occupational Therapist I wanted to provide a little background as to why I feel this topic is important to talk aloud about.
Poppit has been flexi-school since starting at Burntisland Primary School for P1, then Covid struck and he returned for part of his P2 then I removed him altogether because I knew something wasn't right. It was too much, with over 700 pupils on the role it wasn't working. I had no idea how I was going to navigate what was ahead of me AND I knew there needed to be a radical change. If I'm honest, there was next to no signs of him thriving in the schooling environment. So many adjustments needed to be made for his time in school to feel remotely ok, and even then that was just masking a bigger problem (in my opinion anyway).
I found a tutor to work with him 1-2-1 for 1 hour per week (I could write a library of books about the impact this SuperSoul has had on our lives but I'll stick to the plan at hand....the Retained ATNR!).
At the same time of taking Poppit out of school I was doing my Transformational Coaching Training course and I came across Hanna Munroe, Occupational Therapist with a specialty in Sensitive Children. I knew we had to explore working with her. In advance of meeting I shared loads of information with Hanna about Poppit, then we met online and had an initial consultation where Hanna asked loads more questions and observed Poppit in the background. It felt important to get Poppits dad involved too, humans being humans we think and feel differently, and when there is a child involved, differences in ways of raising a child really comes into play. My intention was for him to be involved from the outset so that I wasn't relaying something with 'my lens' and for Hanna to hold a 'balanced' space for us to both share and listen, with the focus on what might be impacting on Poppits ability to thrive. There were no guarantees how much dad would invest, but the information was there for him to build a more complete picture of what was happening for Poppit outside of their time together. That session turned out to be really positive, and a week so so later I took Poppit to meet Hanna in person for a 90minute assessment.
its difficult for Poppit to just be in his body, everything else will likely feel too much for him
The assessment involved over 100 tests from memory...balance, co-ordination, bi-lateral stimulation, grip, gross & minor movements, concentration, bi-lateral stimulation, focus, strength etc. There was A LOT! Poppit handled it brilliantly (and fully understood why it was important to have these sessions), he was SUPER EXHAUSTED by the end. Before leaving Hanna identified and shared that Poppit had a delayed integration of the ATNR reflex, (more on this below). This impacted on Poppits ability to feel 'good and happy in his body, that it was difficult just for him to wake up and mentalize getting up in the morning, being in his body was HARD WORK. And anything else could easily tip over into too much. Here's what Google has to say about the Retained ATNR:
In some babies, the asymmetric tonic neck reflex doesn't integrate correctly. This means that they still show signs of the reflex past the usual timeline. Experts associate this with delays in development. The ATNR emerges 18 weeks in utero and diminishes completely 3–9 months after birth. The effect of the retained ATNR can be poor eye tracking and difficulty crossing the visual midline. The occurrence of the reflex can cause difficulties in learning to read, telling the time and left-right confusion as well.
We didn't get a formal diagnosis because that would have cost more and I wasn't certain of the benefit. However, the information was a GAME CHANGER!!! Oh my lord. It started a whole new conversation with Poppit and those around us. I felt so flipping validated in everything that had been challenging. My compassion, empathy and patience for Poppit increased by about 109%. He wasn't just being a whining, annoying, difficult and fussy kid because he wanted to make life difficult for anyone we came into contact with (especially the two of us). He was genuinely having a difficult time in his body and he needed help to function in it AND learn ways to balance this in a world where there is a lot happening, arguably too much stimulus, things to do and a mum who has a lot going on.
We were given a load of exercises, activities and resources to swallow and do to help with the integration. Me being me and having my own challenges with focus meant it wasn't always easy to be consistent with doing those, so we'd find creative ways to build them in whilst out in the world. We did our absolute best AND it made all the difference with explaining to those around us a little more about what Poppit would need in order to feel ok.
INTUITIVE PHYSICAL BODYWORK
Following on from the sessions with Hanna, I've taken Poppit for the past couple of years to meet with Intuitive Bodyworker Azra Gilna Duffy who runs an Integrative Holistic Practice in Kinghorn and near to where we live. The work Azra did was incredibly complimentary in the process of integrating Poppits reflexes on a physical level. The effects of this type of work are not always obvious at the time but the reassurance of progress being made both from Azras feedback of Poppits physical body and how it was responding to the therapy along with the actual changes in Poppit were reassurance enough for me that positive shifts were indeed happening.
bACK TO SCHOOL WITH A BETTER FIT
Poppit started his P4 school year at Auchtertool Primary School, where the role is only 36, made of up 2 classes (P1-4 & P5-7). ITS BEEN AN ABSOLUTE GOD SEND. He's the only flexi schooled student and for 1 yr went in wearing his hood everyday. Despite the suggestions of him going more days and getting him to do this or that (which wouldn't work) the school have been BRILLIANT at supporting us to make it work. Stoked at myself for dancing the fine line between lovingly nudging him forward and hearing him when somethings not working. Its been a bit of a slow dance for years, a daily battle with getting out of the house, right from nursery days having him glued to me not wanting to leave, tears, intense emotions and days where he would stay home in a pool of deep emotions which would overflow into mine...yes, picture that if you dare!.
Poppit is now P5 (and in the big class....which is apparently way less boring than the middle class ;), he's the first one out the door in the morning and has on occasion been the first one through the school gates. He loves it. He's more than happy to go. He loves the routine. HE....WANTS.....TO....FLIPPING.....BE.....THERE. And not only is he happy to be there, he's attending 4 out of the 5 days AND I REPEAT, IS HAPPY WITH IT!
YAY FOR US! And if in doubt check it out
i STRONGLY INVITE YOU TO TUNE IN
I'm excited to be doing a talk live with Hanna on her Facebook page on Wed 11th Oct at 11am where Hanna will share a little background surrounding the Retained ATNR. We'll share a little about how it presented for Poppit, and finally I look forward to sharing how some big things have changed for Poppit in those 20 months since meeting together.
Thank you for your time today and if this is the last we share on this topic I wish to leave you with this, 'if in doubt, check it out'.