Tuesday, 23 May 2017

4th Assessment for a Little Girl with Cerebral Palsy through Bilateral Haemorrage.

Today we welcomed back a 4 year old little girl and her family today for her 4th assessment. She had suffered a bilateral haemorrhage, leading to cerebral palsy.  She had suffered the bleeds shortly after birth and the doctors had told mum and dad that 'if she survived' and they did not expect her to, she did not have a bright future and would most likely have severe disabilities.  However, she is doing very well indeed. 

At four years of age she is now top of the developmental ladder in visual development being able to read via both sight recognition and through phonological building of a word from it's constituent graphemes / phonemes.  Auditory development which was plagued by sensitivity around 2.6 Khz is now also at the top of the developmental profile.  The sensitivity issue is important because although human hearing goes right up to 20,000 Hz, the 43 speech sounds of the English sound system are compressed within a frequency range of 450Hz - 4,500Hz.  A sensitivity at 2, 500HZ, which is right in the middle of speech sound frequencies is likely to cause problems in processing speech sounds and therefore in producing those speech sounds in the form of language.  The sensitivity has been dealt with by the activities of the Snowdrop programme and she now understands language in advance of her age and produces perfect, grammatically correct language.

Yes she has some problems with visual acuity but when there is also a retinal bleed that is almost inevitable. Gross motor development has progressed from 18 months to the 36 month level, which considering she has been on programme for 16 months, is phenomenal progress, although we have to work on quality of movement. A very intelligent little girl here, who will go a long way!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Today's Assessment, 22nd May 17. West Syndrome and CVI

Today we welcomed back a 3 year old little boy and his family for his 4th assessment. He has West Syndrome and CVI and has been on the Snowdrop programme for 15 months.

 West Syndrome consists of group of symptoms characterized by epileptic/infantile spasms, abnormal brain wave patterns called hypsarrhythmia and intellectual disability. The spasms that occur may range from violent jackknife or "salaam" movements where the whole body bends in half, or they may be no more than a mild twitching of the shoulder or eye changes. These spasms usually begin in the early months after birth and can be difficult to control, requiring steriod treatment.

Cortical visual impairment, (CVI) is a form of visual impairment caused by the brain not being able to process information from the eyes passing along the visual pathways in the brain.  In my observation there are varying forms of CVI, caused for instance by the thalamus not exciting the cortex sufficiently to process visual stimuli, to actual injury to the occipital cortices.  Another possibility is that vision becomes 'de-automated!'  Vision is something which just happens to us, we cannot help but see, - it is an automated programme, however I see children who have to be reminded to 'use their eyes!' - It comes in many forms.

With today's little boy we saw clear improvements in the use of vision, which is now 'switched on' for much of the time. He is also understanding more language, responding to simple instructions and his former auditory sensitivity is now gone. His tactile processing problems are resolved and he is now 'high kneeling' and his upper body control is good enough for us to begin working towards developing a standing balance. He also demonstrated that he now has 2 words of speech. He is though, very busy and we have to work further on slowing him down a little. His biggest change in my eyes is in sociability, he now really tries hard to interact. Well done to his parents who work so hard with him. It was great to see you again.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Autism Symptoms Improved by Vitamin D Supplementation.

This is encouraging and could feed directly into the treatment of children with autism who are part of the Snowdrop programme

"This study is the first double-blinded RCT proving the efficacy of vitamin D3 in ASD patients. Depending on the parameters measured in the study, oral vitamin D supplementation may safely improve signs and symptoms of ASD and could be recommended for children with ASD. At this stage, this study is a single RCT with a small number of patients, and a great deal of additional wide-scale studies are needed to critically validate the efficacy of vitamin D in ASD."

With thanks to Wiley online library and the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Hypoglycemic brain Injury

Yesterday we welcomed back a family with a 5 month old little boy for their first Snowdrop reassessment. We first saw this little one when he was just 5 weeks old and he had suffered hypoglycemic brain injuries. I was so pleased today to see that he was doing so well. In 5 areas out of 7 he was age appropriate, (better than his age level in 2 areas). Such a vibrant, vigorous little man who has come a long way in a few months.  His progress shows just what can be achieved through stimulating the plasticity of the brain and leading that plasticity down the developmental pathway.

Today, Wednesday the 5th of April, we met a lovely family with a great little boy of 18 months who has acute brain injuries. He is a terrific character and a playful little chap who feel has a great deal inside of him waiting to come out. Such a friendly playful little guy. Can't wait to get him started.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Treating Global Developmental Delay.

Today we welcomed back a 2.5 year old little boy for his fourth assessment. He had developmental delay in many areas prior to starting the Snowdrop programme, but now he is age appropriate in visual development in that he is able to recognise familiar people in photographs and recognise himself in a mirror.  He is also age appropriate in social development where he is understanding the emotions of those around him, throwing age appropriate tantrums and beginning to cross over from 'parallel play' into joined play with other children.  He is not far behind in auditory development, following instructions and clearly understanding more complex sentences and more and more vocabulary. He is also on the verge of walking, it is just a matter of confidence and time. Hand function has also improved dramatically. - His left hand was only half as able developmentally as the right, but now it is difficult to separate the two hands. A very different little boy to the one I met a year and a half ago.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Autism and ADHD in the same child.

Today we welcomed a new family to the programme with a 5 year old little boy with a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD. The poor little one literally could not keep still and was in a world of his own, but occasionally he would rise to the surface and there would be moments of lucidity where you could see his intelligence. Currently he is lost in a sea of hyper-activity and consequent lack of attentional control.

His world must be turmoil and I watched as he would try to do three different things at once.  Visually he liked to watch moving objects, particularly objects which can be indicative of the under-activity of the visual magnocellular pathway, which enables us to detect movement.  This is why many children with autism are fascinated with looking at their fingers in front of their eyes or with flapping their hands, or with opening and closing doors, - it is to create movement, - a desperate attempt to feed a pathway which is under-active.  Fortunately, we know how to activate this pathway, - it is with exposure to yellow filtered light! (Ray, N. J. et al, (2005). Yellow Filters Can Improve Magnocellular Function, Motion Sensitivity, Convergence, Accommodation and Reading. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1039, 283 – 293.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Infantile Spasms

Today we welcomed a 20 month old little boy who has suffered with infantile spasms back for his first reassessment.  He has now been on the Snowdrop programme for 6 months.  During that time he has made some nice progress in some areas, most notably in gross motor development where he has developed a sitting balance and has sufficient 'cephalo-caudal development' to warrant us beginning to work on a standing balance.  Visually his eyes are straighter and he is making more sustained eye contact and auditorially he is now more in tune with the human voice and is paying attention to the conversations going on around him.  In terms of fine motor development he has gone from not using his hands at all, to the 4 month level of trying to reach and bringing his hands into the midline and intertwining his fingers.  So there is some nice progress to be seen, well done to a hardworking mum and dad.

Problems do remain however in that visually a great deal of his time is taken up in self stimulation of either the magnocellular pathway, (which enables us to detect movement), by waving his fingers in front of his eyes, or of the visuo - vestibular pathway, where he is constantly swinging his head from side to side.  He is also very fidgety, always on the go, which is detracting from his ability to use his attention consistently to engage with his environment and the people in it.  Instead, he is largely living in a world of self - stimulation and internal 'activity and agitation' and this is our next challenge with this little one, to normalise the sensory systems which are keeping him in a world of his own and to take his level of internal arousal down a peg or two.  Only then will we see him beginning to engage with and to make sense of his world.

Onwards and upwards.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Fighting Cerebral Palsy on the Snowdrop Programme.

Today we welcomed back a 4 year old little girl who has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  This was her third Snowdrop programme assessment and although she still has problems in the way she uses her vision, visually she is age approriate in terms of cognition and auditorially there has been a huge leap to the top of the developmental profile. She is also now walking and there are clear improvements in her movement and gait from last time. Her functional language, to match her auditory development is functionally complex and at the top of the profile and there is a huge improvement in clarity too. We still have a few issues in hand function but in social development again she is at the top of the profile. A little girl with a bright future!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Snowdrop. - Who are we and what do we do?

Our story begins 29 years ago with the birth of our own son, Daniel.  My wife's pregnancy had been described as being a "textbook pregnancy," but unfortunately it was not a textbook birth and Daniel had been delivered dead by emergency caesarean section having suffered severe oxygen starvation during labour.  It took the medical staff 20 minutes to resuscitate him and by the time they did, the brain injuries which he had sustained during a mismanaged labour had been compounded.  As they rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit he was already suffering multiple seizures and we were later informed that his injuries were so severe that he was not expected to survive 24 hours.  An EEG then confirmed his brain activity as being a 'pre-terminal event.'  I remember every minute of those 48 hours as though they happened yesterday.  I remember a little baby boy who fought dearly to live.  As he did throughout his life, he fought everything, sometimes even beneficial things and so it was that every time they put a line into him, he ripped it out.  It was sheer determination that he survived those bleak hours and a neonatal medical and nursing team to whom I owe a great deal.

The next few days were very traumatic but Daniel did survive and eventually we were allowed to take him home.  We were told that he would be very unlikely to have escaped his ordeal without significant disability.  In fact he turned out to be blind, deaf and quadriplegic.  We were told that this was a situation which would never change, - a statement we refused to accept and we set out on a journey to find answers to his problems, - a journey which would take us all over the world.

Daniel hardly slept and this was gradually wearing Janet, my wife down to the ground.  We decided that she needed help and that if we were really going to solve Daniel's problems, that I should give up my career, so that I was available at home to take some of the strain. We also decided that I should enroll at university to study psychology and child development so that I was learning more and more about Daniel's problems.  The degree I enrolled on was full time, so at least we would be in receipt of a student grant, but it had the advantage that my lectures were so spaced out, that I could be at home much more than previously.

Somehow over the next 3 years, despite a profound lack of sleep, I managed to get a degree based in psychology and child development and this combined with other things we were doing meant that we had been able to bring back Daniel's sight and hearing, much to the initial shock of the medical profession, however this shock soon changed to the position, agreed amongst themselves that "it would have happened anyway."  Yes of course if we had done nothing, it would have happened anyway.

So, over the years we managed to give Daniel a good quality of life, using help from various therapies and our own increasing knowledge.  However, at age 13, Daniel suddenly developed an unsafe swallow.  This was a setback because his weight was always judged to be on the 'light side' and so the decision was made to insert a naso-gastric tube.  This did have the desired effect of him putting on weight, however another more sinister complication arose, - he started to display signs that he was entering puberty.  This obviously had the effect of releasing various hormones into his system and the poor little mite just could not cope.  He began to experience brainstem seizures which despite all their efforts his doctors were unable to control.  Then when he was 15 he suffered a brainstem stroke.  Over the next weeks he began to decline and a couple more of these episodes ensured that there would be no recovery.  On the morning of the 21st of December 2003, I saw his eyes close for the final time and at 4-40am we lost him.

As you may imagine, over the next few months, we were devastated, (in fact we still are, losing a child is something you never get over). We wanted nothing to do with the 'special needs world' we totally rejected it.  However, eventually I decided to finish my studies and returned to that world to supplement my degree with post graduate qualifications in 'language and communications impairments in children' and ultimately a degree based in neuroscience and child development.  In August 2008 Snowdrop was born.  We called it Snowdrop because on the morning of Daniel's passing, Janet went into the garden and saw the new life of the snowdrop bulbs just beginning to break through the soil.  We later discovered that the Snowdrop is an international symbol of hope through adversity, - a fitting metaphor.  Initially we had one child on our programme, but today we are bursting at the seams with hundreds of families using our programme from all over the world. We have children on our programme with a wide variety of developmental problems, ranging from 'specific language impairment, through to sever cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder and much more.  We also treat a wide variety of sometimes rare genetic disorders.

Our success has outstripped my wildest dreams.  We have children seeing, hearing, feeling, walking, speaking and much more, who previously were unable to.  This is not just empty talk of success which cannot be substantiated, I can actually introduce you to the families whose children have been helped.   When I was an 18 year young laboratory technician starting out in the world, I never thought my life would take this turn.   If you want to learn more about us, simply visit our website at http://www.snowdrop.cc or you could visit our Facebook page or simply email us at info@snowdrop.cc