AACT... Autism, Asperger's Climbing as Therapy  

Brain Stuff

Every movement is a sensory – motor event.

The corpus callosum the thick bridge of neural tissue in the middle of the brain connects the two hemispheres, conveying information from one side to the other. The right brain is the more creative or emotional hemisphere and the left brain is the analytical and judgmental hemisphere.

It has been known for years that children who miss the vitally important crawling stage may exhibit learning difficulties later on. Crawling, a cross – lateral movement, activates development of the corpus callosum. Research shows that muscular activities, particularly coordinated, balanced movement, appears to stimulate the production of neurotrophins, such as dopamine, natural substances that stimulate the growth of existing nerve cells and increase the number of new nerve cells, and neural connections in the brain. We have discovered that boys need more movement time than girls for brain growth and development.

The tactile system plays a major part in determining physical mental and emotional human behaviour. Every one of us, needs steady tactile stimulation to keep us organised, functioning and healthy. We get tactile information through sensory receiving cells, called receptors, in our skin from head to toe. We are always actively touching or passively being touched by something – other people, furniture, clothes, the ground under our feet, and the air on our skin. The ability to process tactile sensations effectively is very important, not only for visual discrimination, motor planning and body awareness, but also for academic learning, emotional security and social skills.

Balance and Movement, The vestibular Sense. The vestibular system is the unifying system, giving us a sense of where we stand in the world. Movement and gravity stimulate special receptors in the little “Vestibule” of the inner ear. The vestibular system takes in messages about balance and movement from the neck, eyes, and body; sends the message to the central nervous system for processing; and then helps generate muscle tone that allows us to move smoothly and efficiently. The vestibular system tells us where are heads and bodies are in relation to the surface of the earth. It tells us whether we are upright, upside-down, or at a tilt; whether we are moving or standing still; and whether objects are moving or motionless in relation to our bodies. It also informs where we are going and how fast, and if we are in danger or in a relaxing place.

Proprioception refers to sensory messages about the position, force, direction, and movement of our bodies. It helps integrate tactile and vestibular sensations. Receptors for this sense are in the muscles and joints. Proprioception the “position sense” sends messages about whether the muscles stretch or contract, and how the joints bend and straighten. Even when we are motionless, gravity stimulates the receptors to create Proprioceptive messages without our conscious awareness. The functions of proprioception are to increase body awareness and to contribute to motor control and motor planning. Proprioception helps us with body expression, the ability to move our body parts efficiently. It lets us walk smoothly, run quickly, climb, carry, sit, stand, stretch and lie down. It gives us emotional security, for when we can trust our bodies we feel safe and secure.

Climbing helps to develop and enhance all of the above sensory and motor movement themes.