Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Snowdrop Success Story. - Snowdrop weekly report. 23 / 1/ 2012

This week we welcome one new family to the Snowdrop programme from the South of England. We also have two children from India who are due for reassessment.  We also celebrate the news of the fantastic progress of one of our children who has been on programme for three years and who is now doing amazing things.

When I first saw Finn Jordan, he was 8 months old and would sit in his little bouncy chair in what seemed to be an almost 'catatonic' state.  As his mum said, "it was as though someone had found his standby button and pushed it."  He showed no inclination at all to interact with his environment or the people within it.

Finn had been born with a choroid plexus papilloma, a tumour in the brain which had caused hydrocephalus.  All of this had caused massive brain damaged and he was forecast to have huge problems with vision, cognition, language, - in fact in every area of development.  When I saw him I knew we had to act immediately and I instituted a detailed programme of neurodevelopmental stimulation, which I taught to mum and dad. When I saw him four months later, it was obvious that we were beginning to make progress.

Today, Finn is described as "precociously intelligent,"  has superior language and communication skills, can see as well as you or I and is developmentally indistinguishable from his twing brother.  He is living proof that not only can we stimulate brain plasticity, but that we can direct that plasticity down a developmental route.
You can read about Finn below.


LITTLE Finn Jordan recovers from brain tumour damage by copying his twin brother, Kian

Saturday, 21 January 2012

How Music touches the Brain.

More evidence for the positive influence of music upon brain function. This is why Snowdrop now offers the 'listening programme' and why exposure to music is generally incorporated into our development programmes for children with cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD and other developmental disabilities.
With thanks from ScienceNordic.
Finnish researchers have developed a new method that makes it possible to study how the brain processes various aspects of music such as rhythm, tonality and timbre.
The study reveals how a variety of networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity, are activated when listening to music.
According to the researchers, the new method will increase our understanding of the complex dynamics of brain networks and the way music affects us.
Responding to Argentinian tango
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the research team, led by Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, recorded the brain responses of individuals who were listening to a piece of modern Argentinian tango.
"Our results show for the first time how different musical features activate emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain", says Professor Petri Toiviainen of the University of Jyväskylä, who was also involved in the study.
Using sophisticated computer algorithms developed specifically for this study, they then analysed the musical content of the tango, showing how its rhythmic, tonal and timbral components evolve over time.
According to Alluri, this is the first time such a study has been carried out using real music instead of artificially constructed music-like sound stimuli.
The whole brain reacts to music
Comparing the brain responses and the musical features led to an interesting new discovery: the researchers found that listening to music activates not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also employs large-scale neural networks.
For instance, they discovered that the processing of musical pulse activates motor areas in the brain, supporting the idea that music and movement are closely intertwined.
Limbic areas of the brain, known to be associated with emotions, were found to be involved in rhythm and tonality processing.

 And the processing of timbre was associated with activations in the so-called default mode network, which is assumed to be associated with mind-wandering and creativity.
"We believe that our method provides more reliable knowledge about music processing in the brain than the more conventional methods," says Toiviainen.
He adds that brain areas related to emotion and reward have in previous studies been found to be activated during intensely pleasurable moments of music listening. But this study, he says, is the first one to specify which particular musical features activate these areas.
The study was recently published in the journal NeuroImage.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Snowdrop weekly report. - 16/1/12 - 22/1/12

This week we welcome four new families to the Snowdrop family.  We have two new families from the UK and two from the US, so welcome to you all, you know who you are.

The interesting news this week involves the 'listening programme' which as most of you will be aware, Snowdrop began offering last month in conjunction with American neurotechnology company, 'Advanced Brain Technologies.'  As you know, I am a stickler for evidence based therapy and there are many 'listening type therapies' out there with absolutely no evidence to support their use, which is why Snowdrop has not offered one until now.  However, TLP does have evidence, from the University of Sheffield amongst others which supports its use with our children.  We currently have five families who are using TLP and even though each family is in the early stages of its use, - we are already measuring small improvements.  The improvements we are noting so far involve the following.

  • Increased eye - contact
  • Decreased frustration
  • More sensitivity to voice tone
  • Increases in affection, touching and hugging
  • Increases in talking / communication
  • Quicker responses to verbal directions
  • Increases in phonological awareness
  • Increases in vocal quality.
  • Increases in physical coordination
  • Decreases in levels of activity
  • Improved sleeping patterns
  • Decreases in sound hypersensitivity
  • Decreases in touch hypersensitivity
  • Improved visual and auditory attention
Not a bad set of initial results!

Those of you who are due for reassessments in the next few weeks should start to think about convenient dates as February is filling up fast and I am already taking new appointments for March.  At the moment we are adding new families all the time, as this weeks four families demonstrate, so if you need to book an appointment for the next few weeks, book early to avoid disappointment!

Keep working hard and remember when you are brushing or spinning, or doing whatever programme activity it is with your child, - 'The key to forging brain plasticity is repetition of stimulus.'  Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Keep well.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Social Cues Could Hone Language Development in Children.

Vygotsky was saying that a child's language development was socially driven and this was back in the late 19th Century. He said that a child develops language as a social tool and model's ad refines it within the social interactions with his family and friends. This is why Snowdrop programmes contain activities which focus on modellig speech sounds, words, etc. Now we have even more evidence to support our views.
With thanks to the Montreal Gazette.
New light has been shed on the way children learn to speak — contradicting what researchers previously believed — that could lead to advances in how speech-related disabilities are treated.
Children around the age of two may learn to speak by using social cues and having a parent or other caregiver repeat words back to them, according to a new study by University of Denmark researcher Dr. Ewan MacDonald, along with researchers at the Universities of Toronto and Queen's.
Previously, it was thought that children listened to their own voices to figure out if they were speaking correctly. MacDonald said the results were surprising, but the exact learning method hasn't yet been pinpointed for children younger than two years old.
The experiment was conducted by first getting adults to say a word — in this case "bed" — which was then simultaneously altered and played over headphones to the subject to sound like they were actually saying "bad."
Adults, when they participated, took the feedback from the headphones to adjust their speech and would try again to say bed, but pronounce it closer to "bid" to compensate for the researchers' playback.
The surprising results came when toddlers participated and didn't adjust the way they spoke the word.
MacDonald said this suggests the children aren't using the feedback from their own voice to learn how to speak.
He said the results point to one of two possible conclusions: that children only sometimes listen to their voices — listening when they are practicing their speech and looking for social cues when they are performing — or they rely on social cues from a caretaker to get feedback on how their speech is progressing.
The second option — social cues — is what excites MacDonald.
"They may be using the feedback from the person that they are talking to," MacDonald said. "They may be looking at the person and the social interaction of the person that they are talking to and using that to judge the accuracy of their productions."
MacDonald said that when talking to a parent, positive responses, such as smiling, or repeating words with corrections to pronunciation could be how two-year-old children learn to speak.
"By looking at how the person is responding, they can use that to judge whether they are producing (the word) correctly," he said.
The researcher — who recently moved to the University of Denmark from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. — said the study findings are the first step to figuring out how people learn to speak.
He said this could lead to developing strategies to assist children with abnormal or delayed speech development.
MacDonald said it is too early in the research to give specific advice to parents with young kids, but the study's results do point a general way forward.
"I think the important message is to just communicate with the child," he said. "It's not just they must correct everything, it's more just everyday communication could actually be important."
Another upside to the results is the possibility that children learn how to speak in much the same way songbirds learn to sing. Studies have shown that some birds learn through similar social cues.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Listening Programme for ADHD.

As readers of this blog will know, Snowdrop, in conjunction with American neurotechnology company, Advanced Brain Technologies,' began to offer 'The Listening Programme' to its clients.  The reason we did this is because TLP has scientific evidence to support its use.  In particular, it was evidence provided by a study carried out by the University of Sheffield, - my own university which impressed me.

We now have half a dozen families whose children are using TLP in conjunction with their Snowdrop developmental programme and the initial results look very promising, with changes being observed in all children.  The changes being observed include a reduction in activity, increased attention, reduced auditory hypersensitivity, increased eye contact, increased quantity of and clearer language production, amongst many other small changes.
I would like to share an email which I received yesterday from a Dad whose little boy has very bad ADHD.  His ongoing Snowdrop programme has reduced his level of activity dramatically, but the supplementation of  TLP has also had beneficial effects upon this and in other areas, such as auditory hypersensitivity, concentration, etc.  I quote directly.

"I just wanted to catch up with you on how ---- has been getting on with the listening program.
So far his speech has improved as has his concentration. He will sing jingle bells and can almost now bear happy birthday. He will sit and do his numbers and alphabet for 5 minutes without any problems at all and he is also now willing to actually communicate without prompting. Sleeping has been no problem with 11-12 hours a night.  ---- is more willing to follow instructions and though will have a quick moan if you tell him it is the end of computer time he will still get off the computer. All that is good news."

Anyone who would like to know more about Snowdrop and TLP should go to the Snowdrop Website.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


What a year 2011 has been for Snowdrop and how far we have come!  At the end of the year we have triple the number of children on programme than we did in January.  95% of those children are making good progress; - a few are making staggering progress.

A couple of weeks ago a mum showed me some video footage of her son, who when born four years ago, suffered massive brain injuries.  His prognosis was to be totally dependent in every way for every aspect of his care.  In the video, he was sprinting in the park, alongside his uninjured twin brother and his dad.  He was in nursery the other day and teacher was looking for her book to read to the children; - whilst she was searching, he decided he would take another book and read a story to his 4 year old peers to keep them happy.  He was the only child in nursery who could read at 4 years of age because it had been part of his programme to learn to read. - At birth his mum and dad had been told he would be blind!

Then there is the little boy, again 4 years old who suffered badly with ADHD.  Mum and Dad couldn't take him anywhere, not even out to the park because he would run off.  He had no language and every time he heard music he would cover his ears and scream, his auditory processing problems were so severe, - he was extremely hypersensitive.  Two years later and he no longer covers his ears, he no longer runs off, - it is possible to have a conversation with him and these good folks can go out together as a family.

A final example is someone on this group, - little Leonie Hall, who as everyone knows suffered catastrophic brain injuries, but through the hard work of Pierre and Liz now has a life to look forward to and has exciting possibilities for her future development.  In some areas of development her developmental ability now outstrips her chronological age.

These are just three examples of real children making incredible progress,  there are plenty more I could tell you of.  However, in summary, this year has brought many successes, - children who can now see, who could not see before; - children who can hear and understand language who prior to the programme could not; - children who can feel, move, interact, play, use their hands, laugh, cry and do a million little things who before could not!  Being a part of this and working with such dedicated, determined people as you, - their parents, makes life richer and more worthwhile and I thank you all for the opportunity from the bottom of my heart, - it is a privelige to work alongside you all.

A couple of weeks ago, Snowdrop also took its first steps to acheiving charitable status when we had a first meeting of our prospective board of trustees.  Charitable status will enable us to raise funds and to reach out to so many more children and families.

If 2012 is as successful as 2011 then it will be a great year.  Bring it on!!