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Lets get physical with neuro therapy & fix trauma & developmental delays. Why sitting & karate help!


As a parent or carer of a child formed by permanent care, kinship care or adoption, there is often an element of a child's unknown history and underlying trauma. This can impact on relationships and development. Often carers/parents are doing all they can but nothing works because the children's brains haven't yet been primed for development. This may be because the brain is stuck in fight flight freeze or because milestones have been missed. Yvette Knights offers neuro development therapy, a physical therapy, that helps with rewiring the brain and meeting missed milestones. The science behind it is based on polyvagal theory. This therapy can help with emotional regulation (manage and understand them), speech and language, motor development, organisational skills and problem solving skills, learning and balance. So for those with ADHD, Autism and similar this therapy helps too. Yvette discusses many specific examples of where she has made a difference in a child's life including food intolerances, anger and tantrums, coordination and bike riding, reading speech and language, self harm and more. She also highlights the importance of understanding the neurological age of the child and reminding others of that too (eg school, extended families). Yvette advises carers and parents to also be aware of their own fight, flight and freeze response triggers that can get activated when a child, who you are doing everything for, is simply not responding and moving forward as you might expect. It's very likely their brain needs rewiring! Yvette has lived-experience of this with her eldest child who has food intolerances and autism. Finally Yvette recognises that other therapies like massage, sensory activities, karate and EMDR can also be of value.

00:00 - Start 00:46 - Meet Yvette 05:13 - Brain development is like dominoes, one thing comes after another 10:20 - Skipped milestones like rolling, crawling or sitting cause delays: emotions, speech, language, motor development, organisational, problem solving, learning and balance. Everything from dyslexia to ADHD and food intolerances. 12:39 - Prime times for early development and the importance of responding to babies cries and allowing them to move from rolling to rocking to crawling to sitting at their pace 16:10 - Impact of trauma 17:58 - The added value of karate 19:10 - Meet stressors: look at history 21:40 - Parents and carers have their own triggers to manage too 23:36 - Neurological age and developmental age differ 25:05 - Initial consultations outlined 28:15 - Examples: anger when turning off the TV, getting dressed two shoes on, riding a bike 31:56 - Value of gym-baroo for babies brains 33:14 - Gagging and fussy eaters 36:03 - Self Harming can be improved 39:18 - ADHD and Autism and Trauma 42:35 - Food and emotions 43:35 - Brains don't heal and you cant move forward if trauma still exists 43:40 - EMDR is another therapeutic option 45:34 - Other resources and websites


This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings designed to capture lived experience and best practice evidence based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. We are a child safe organisation. We pay respects to elders past and present and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. We express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Being able to learn from peers and connect with those who may help us is particularly important. Today we are discussing how to help the brain recover from trauma with neuro developmental therapist Yvette Knights. Understanding the brain and how we can help correct early trauma and stress is fundamental to attachment and foundational skill development.

00:46 Today we have the joy of learning from Yvette Knights. Welcome Yvette.  Yvette is a Neuro developmental therapist who has Early Childhood and Neuro Development Therapy qualifications. She has worked with families with a range of delays in their foundational learning due to trauma or other neurological conditions such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Those delays may impact neurological readiness for learning, or reflect in behaviour and attention, motor skills, balance and core strength.  Yvette's work nurtures the brain and targets the nervous system. Welcome Yvette. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you came to be a neuro-development therapist!

01:22 Hello Thank you for inviting me to speak about my work and to share some of my knowledge. it’s a pleasure to talk with you and share my knowledge.  I am a mum with two boys 12 and 9 and I work while they are at school, apart from when my parents get to have them after school which is very awesome! I work in my business Move Learn Connect which I created 14 years ago and which has just kept rolling.

I became interested in this work and inspired to do something a little bit different with my life when a family member who I love very dearly was really struggling with learning.  We were children together, I am much older by 6 years and got to see first hand these struggles, the impact they had on the individual and the family as a whole. They were very intelligent and could have great conversations but learning wasn’t connecting The distress and desperate state the parents fell into looking for help but not really knowing what to do.  When help was found I went to the appointments and I got to see the changes for this person over a year in their ability to read and write and be organised, it was remarkable. I was 19 at that time. I knew this is what I needed to do in my life. Help families who have children with challenges and to improve the brain development so the child can thrive.

Getting the passion for this work was the easy part, I then went onto get an early childhood degree then my husband and I moved to the UK so I could do further studies in neurodevelopmental therapy.  For two years where I worked and studied to be a neuro developmental therapist.  I’ve since completed other training including brain hemisphere work, and the impacts of trauma and how to assist and make changes for those individuals.

I now have the privilege of working with families who have children with a range of delays in their foundational learning. These delays impact their neurological readiness for learning, their behaviour and attention, motor skills, balance and core strength.   Then the overlay and impact of trauma.

A trailblazer in this area by spending time in the UK. I just knew I had to do this. It just started something. I’m really lucky in that way as some people are still searching for that. I get to do something I love every day.

05:13 Neuro therapy is obviously designed to match brain development. Brain development is essentially a sequential bottom up process, similar to how a wall would be built, starting with the foundation and attaining more complex higher order skills as you build on the foundation.  Can you fill us in so we understand a little more about the brain and the prime times for development?

I had a long think about this. I want to talk about this specifically from my area only. The brain has a sensitive timing mechanism during development, sort of like dominoes, when one goes the next goes. The brain is primed for development when it doesn’t need much interaction from parents, which is kind of surprising. We need love, a safe environment, clean space but we don’t need endless toys or baby contraptions to help us develop. We need engagement, we need known caregivers that we feel safe with to help us develop strong attachments with. Once established our brain develops further skills and can then grow.  If those things are missing the brain will try and keep us safe. 

We are trying to create a foundation like the foundations of the house. The stumps are all foundations. There is one stump that is balance, one for writing and coordination and so on. The brain picks up stimulation from the senses and this leads to development of specific parts of the brain in a methodical manner creating a foundation for our future skills. These skills are our childhood milestones, every one of these is important and should develop in a specific order. If they are missed, we don’t really notice any problems at first, that comes later when we see things like dyslexia, ADHD and other neurological disorders

If a child misses a stage like crawling or they didn’t crawl for long enough, it’s not a sign of a skilled or talented baby, it’s a cause for concern as the brain is not developing in an orderly fashion. One of my sons only commando crawled with one arm and the opposite leg and the opposite ones didn’t move. I realised that wasn’t good. So he ended up with some challenges with his writing which I’ve helped him with.

Tummy time strengthens the neck muscles, once strong enough, it leads to the baby rolling. There are four directions for rolling: left and right on tummy and on the back.  Sometimes babies get stuck with rolling because they haven’t learnt to roll in the other direction, so they get into commando crawling. Like my son, he hadn’t rolled well enough.

That then leads us to getting onto hands and knees and rocking, which leads to crawling and then we sit. Often we are all about getting the baby sitting we can prevent other things from developing. So despite what others might tell you, it matters that these milestones are met.

10:20 Skipped or delayed milestones impact us later on

If we skip or are delayed in our milestones, when we are older we can see the impacts in many areas. The more we miss the bigger the challenges we can experience. If we promote sitting too early, we are preventing other things from developing.  So we need to let them make mistakes and learn. For my son he had food intolerance, so one of the stages were missed impacted the foundations. If we miss one of these stages it impacts one of the foundational building blocks in the brain, which then impacts everything we build on top. If we miss rolling it impacts commando crawling. These two stages of rolling and sitting, when we are older, can impact hand writing, coordination and swimming. We also see things like ADHD or concentration challenges and reading challenges.  

You know I can ask people without knowing anything about them and go oh writing difficulties, so how’s freestyle swimming and they will identify that’s pretty tricky because these things often go together.  The brain acts in an orderly manner.  The more we miss the bigger the challenges we experience.

For children with trauma they are probably missing more area because their brain is trying to keep them safe, not focussed on crawling or rolling.

Those areas include emotional regulation (emotions and feelings, manage and understand them), speech and language, motor development, organisational skills and problem solving skills, learning and balance.

12:39 The prime times for assisting development of the brain that are important:

Emerging emotional development: When baby cries it is designed to be responded to quickly and given comfort. This is the early stage of the emotional system developing, our ability to learn that we matter and that we are safe. Some people don’t agree with this. From what I’ve seen, if a babies needs aren’t matched when they are crying as an infant, they don’t learn emotional regulation skills as they get older.  Their brain is in fight flight because they don’t know what’s happening.  They think their special person has disappeared. If we don’t feel safe our brain will make that its primary job, it will heighten our senses, we will see or feel or hear more to ensure we are safe, or we will become very quiet and learn that to be safe we need to be very small and quiet. That’s when you’ve got freeze. So that's the polyvagal theory. There's a lot of information on that and the dorsal vagal function (see link below).  So in responding to our babies when they're crying and not letting them cry it out absolutely.  A toilet break is ok!

Sitting: We don’t want them sitting before they can sit themselves. When we sit our babies before they can sit themselves we can inadvertently cause them to bum shuffle, be late to crawl and impact muscle tone.  This can lead to ADHD later on, concentration challenges, poor posture, w-leg sitting, messy eater and children who have frequent angry outbursts.

We want them going from their hands and knees position then they roll their bottom to the side and then sit up. That is around nine ten months of age so you know that's going to vary for babies but that's sort of the age we're looking at. We could inadvertently cause them to bum shuffle or be late to crawl and impact muscle tone if we sit them early. We get this little spurt of energy when we start crawling. Have you tried crawling around it's actually a lot of effort! It's using all your limbs right, especially if you've just been lying on your back for you know the first nine months then you go to crawl. It's a little more effort than you've been putting in.  It impacts the brain and concentration. I see a lot of kids with poor concentrations which you know is obviously ADHD and some children won't be so severe. So we're talking in terms of like you know some concentration issues to severe. So yes it's on a spectrum but it isn’t like everyone's going to get ADHD. Could also be poor posture like W leg sitting with legs sitting at the side or inability to use those knives and fork, with the elbows so of pointing upwards.  As well as children who have frequent angry outbursts. So just don't sit them before they can sit themselves.  Let them go through their milestones. I know that that's easier said than done I really do but there's a lot of research that can be looked up. 

Allowing children to be confident in the knowledge of their own abilities. What I mean by that is at the playground it can be so nerve wracking when your toddler wants to go down the big slide or climb up the big steps, its so easy to say oh no you are too small for that and whisk them away. 

What can happen is our child can lose the confidence in their own voice and abilities. Let them go down the slide, take that little tumble and learn from their mistakes. Im not talking about big risks here where they can become very injured, I am also not talking about older children who were not given the opportunity to develop that solid reliance on themselves when they were younger. Those children cannot adequately assess risks at this stage and need support to learn.

16:10 Obviously for a lot of the families that we speak to they've gone through some element of trauma in the child's early life. That’s when they've got their prime development and if they miss some of those milestones that can cause situations where they need to catch up.  It can have lifelong outcomes as well. So in terms of the work that you do, how does that then respond to some of those unique things that our families might present with because of that trauma?

We have to deal with the things in the order of which they occur. I’m quite experienced in in some of the things that may have happened to the families who have welcomed their children from permanent or kinship care or adoption. You are not going to necessarily know if they crawled or if they rolled or any of those things and it doesn't matter if you don't know. I can always tell as the brain kind of remembers this. So you can get the older child or even an adult to crawl and unless they've done crawling work with other therapists you can see the pattern. With commando crawling often they'll just pull their body like this instead of crawling. The brain's so predictable - you just start at the very beginning. Often with trauma it takes longer so the brain takes longer to trust, because it's like hang on, I don't know if this is going to stay present or if it is trustworthy, so it takes longer to make change.

17:58 I guess you've got me thinking does that mean a lot of what you do is physical

Yes.  Always physical exercises because the brain's first language is movement. 

I'm sitting here reflecting on my own life. I did a lot of karate and I'm thinking that's probably made up for maybe not crawling for long?

It would have absolutely.  But some people do karate and they can't do the movements, so you need to go back and do some work. You've got the brain stem and then you've got the mid brain, so your brain stem is probably doing pretty well if you can do karate. Some of the families or children they can't coordinate their body or do dance moves and things like that. They say I can't do that I get lost. So if that happens you can work from the bottom up to the point where, because crawling is sort of you know three quarters of the way through everything, so there are just a few coordination things that you need to sort of deal.

19:10 So if the foundation of the brain is a little bit messed up, for want of a better word. It's obviously much more challenging to develop those sort of higher order skills like coping mechanisms. My understanding of what you do is that you look inside the person to meet some of those stresses and then look for what's working, like you're just talking about, and then it's sort of trial and error to work out what lights up the brain or allows it to move forward. Is that a fair summary of what you do or do i need to change my thinking?

That's right.

I always meet with families for an initial consult first and there's no charge for that it's a free consult If families live a long way from me they can do that on a zoom call like this and I explain the work that I do.

When parents talk about the behaviour struggles, they are concerned that after being gently redirected or faced with a small challenge the child reacts with anger, tantrums or retreats. If it is a younger child, they might talk about missed milestones, such as rolling, crawling or speech delays.  If the child is old enough for school, we often discuss learning struggles. These include; reading, writing and concentration issues. Frequently listed are playground issues.

We look at history and just have a real chance to kind of understand what's happening for the child.  Sometimes families come to me and they've got a lot of knowledge about what's happened and then sometimes they don't really understand the impact of the trauma. So I really go into you know the impact of the trauma and what that has caused for their child and why it's hard for them to attach.  Explaining why it’s hard for the child to attach when I'm loving them and doing all these wonderful things for them. We really go through that. Some families are coming in with understanding, but you know it's a lot to take in. You might have had that said to you but there's so much to sort of take in and there's the euphoria of this child and all these things and sometimes it gets lost. And rejection's hard on any level.

When I meet the child for the first time I always start with asking, what has Mum or Dad told you about coming here today and I build from there. I have a dog and cat that often get introduced to the child. I start casually and build the relationship.

21:40 And then we can be triggered and our brain ends up in fight flight freeze too.

It's like what have we done wrong and what could we do?  So we talk about that a fair bit. We talk about what happens with the brain and the earliest areas of the brain and why that’s impacted. We talk about the challenging times that that are coming and why. In the early part of life where the actions of our adults and carers don't allow us to feel safe our brain protects us, so the child has learned to protect itself. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much the environment is loving, we need to do some more work. We need to give some physical exercises to help the brain to feel safe. At the beginning that starts with polyvagal theory, so we work with the vagus nerve and the vagal functions. That's a bit wordy and I’m not going to go too technical on people but there's a lot of things to look at. There is a podcast by Deb Dana (Deb Dana Podcast Polyvagal and Trauma) and it's really fabulous if you're wanting to learn more about neuroscience.

So befriending your nervous system involves polyvagal theory. It sort of helps to understand the fight flight freeze functions in the brain and why that's impacted. So in everyday language, these children haven’t yet been made to feel safe. When the brain is protecting us that can't develop well in other areas so we see a range of delays like coordination, learning behaviour, sensory challenges and those kind of things. The list is so long

23:36 Neurological Age and Developmental Age

So then with trauma you've got so many different diagnoses as well.

When we experience trauma the early part of the brain becomes underdeveloped so as we're growing and our brain isn't growing with us so our neurological age is different from our developmental age.  In the higher parts of the brain where we think and problem solve with critical thinking, all of those things may not be developed, so we can't be reasoned with, which I'm sure people will really relate to. We can't make good decisions. We might make friendships with people that are being mean to us and things like that.

The golden part of the discussion is next. With the free initial consultation where we're going through all these different things and what can be done, we talk about the brain and how it’s not set in stone – it can change. It can learn to trust and can learn to not be in a state of alert all the time. I ss this a lot and it’s exciting. The fight flight mechanisms can be matured so that we can have social engagement, we can learn to co-regulate with our carers and it gives the brain a second chance at learning to make these connections and develop skills that have always been challenging. It takes the child out of needing to be on alert all the time and helps their social relationships and learning.

25:05 The initial consultation – what happens.

At the initial consult people aren't required to make a decision if they want to work with me or not. They go home have a bit of a think about it and then decide if they want to do an assessment with me. The assessment takes about an hour and a half and carers/parents stay with their child. Both parents are welcome or one parent at least. We go through the vestibular system. We look at the balance mechanism and each part of the brain as it relates to writing coordination, reading and core strength.  I won't go through all of those in detail but we go through all of those parts of the brain. We look at the eye muscles and how they work because they're the very last thing to develop in the brain with the bottom-up approach. So if we are expected to read and track along the line and do that very easily, if there's other things going on, it helps to make sense of why these challenges are there. 

I had a teenager in the other day and I got to explain why that was challenging because he thought that it was him and everyone else can read but not him.  Being able to explain that to him: taking a video to show him how his eyes were moving and why that might be difficult when reading.

At the end of the assessment I give a home movement program for a maximum of 10 minutes a day or less for some people. The family makes sure the environment is calm, consistent rules, calm down ideas or areas established.

It's less depending on how the child is able to interact with the activities - some children have a shorter ability to do exercises initially. The program is tailored so there's no protocol. Everyone gets their own specific set of exercise because you know there's different needs. Some people's balance might be fine and then some not, so you really have to tailor it.

So you have your home exercises and you do them at home. A week later you do a video call or send me a video or come in person to check those exercises and just to make sure you feel confident. If you haven't got any questions then you do those exercises for seven weeks. Seven weeks later you come back for a shorter appointment so 45 minutes to an hour and we recheck some of the exercises given to you.  It goes along like that for a long time.

For children who don’t have complex trauma that can take about a year and with complex trauma it takes up to two years sometimes.  But you do see changes within that time - you don’t have to wait two years to see some changes.  Mainly changes in emotional regulation and people are pretty happy about that

You can see strongly when a child becomes more relaxed, you can see they are more comfortable in their environment. If the child would usually become upset about something you start to see a small pause before they have an emotional outburst, where they actually have some thinking time before their brain goes offline. Its pretty magical.

You can see the changes in the children who are pleasers, they want to do the right thing all the time. They start to actually speak up about what they want and need and may push some boundaries which is appropriate.

They start to be able to make mistakes in class, not having to be perfect all the time and know that its ok. 

They become adaptable to change, so they don’t need to know what is going to happen.

They become more social, and socially tolerant, they can let their peers make choices around play rather than being so controlling. Or they can speak up about their desires around play rather than doing what everyone else wants.

It’s so interesting that the physical is connected to that emotional regulation because it wouldn't be a natural thing for people to assume is connected. And in this work the parent fundamentally needs to do the activities with the child.  

28:15 Could you talk through some examples of some specific things that you've done with some children because sometimes i think when we can hear the specific examples, without identifying anyone of course, we can relate to what we could tap into as parents or carers?


Exercises are always physical and there's always an element of massage to the activities as well because we want the parasympathetic system, which is the part of the brain that is rested, calming, we want that to switch on.  We always have an element of massage as kids usually like that. There are some children that don't and we come around that in different ways.

Turning off the TV or getting shoes on and heading off to school (emotional regulation)

For example, a child that would present with emotional regulation challenges, such as when it’s time to turn off the TV so we can head off to school, and we see a meltdown. So the parents are questioning what happened? We always do this, we turn the tv off. The child just needed to communicate that they wanted to watch for two more minutes for the show to finish, but they can’t communicate it. At that point their unable to communicate even small things like a shoe is missing when asked to put their shoes on. So they end up in tears or end up in a tantrum because it's just too much of a challenge. It's a very small thing and their reaction doesn't meet what's happening in the situation but it does meet their inner state. It’s genuine for them and very real and we have to remember that. That’s so hard to remember that in the moment. This might look like its bigger than it is, but it's very real for their brain, so they're not overreacting. It might be an overreaction to the situation and a sign that they need to be taught to calm their brain, but it's real in terms of where their brain is at. So they are showing a sign that they need to be taught how to calm.

Can’t ride a bike

Say we have a seven year old child that can't ride a bike – it’s really difficult for them and they don't want to get on the bike again as they feel like they're going to wobble and fall over. That's a vestibular challenge in dynamic balance or moving balance. So you would always start with doing something to address the emotional regulation and the balance because the emotional regulation that's related to the limbic system and the amygdala.  You must deal with both of them together to address the emotions, so that's why the assessment's so essential.  So we would do very specific exercises for the vagal nerves, such as lying on the ground with some leg moving exercises in a sequences of movements while lying on their back.  The parent or carer can do it for the child or the child could do it for themselves. I know it sounds really odd that this changes the brain, but I know it does because I’ve been doing all of this for a long time. 

31:56 Well gymbaroo exists for a reason right and we should be applying that approach to older children too or adults right?

Yes its not just for babies. It's the brains early language and how we talk to it and how we change it and we can go back.  There would be some spinning or some rolling exercises. Children come with motion sickness so you're going to go really slow on that to begin with as you don't want to cause more harm.   So we want to be careful of that. I had a child who would vomit, poor little thing. It's just awful and not uncommon and by the end of four months they could go in the car and around town and they weren't vomiting anymore, they didn't even feel sick.  It’s made a big difference. You just have to target that area of the brain and it improves it, using that movement.

33:14 Gagging and Fussy Eaters

The very first child that I worked with who'd been welcomed to their family through permanent care taught me that I needed to go more slowly and do things for longer.  There was some pretty severe trauma and there was gagging because the vagal function wasn't working well. So he couldn't eat any sort of liquid sort of soups or any kind of wet kind of food which is pretty common for the children that I work with. Families will probably be able to identify with that. Through doing these movements slowly but surely that started easing off and he could eat a broader range of food. You see a lot of children that are really narrow with what they eat which is worrying to parents because of the nutrition element.

I can relate to that because we had a young man who only ate mangoes and wheat-bix.  So now I'm looking back and wishing I had done more for him.

But what would you do and where do you go? Role modelling and positive reinforcement weren’t working.  It's not from a lack of wanting that to change it's from a lack of knowing what to do.  Same with my child. We tried to reinforce positively and role model but it didn’t work. It’s the brain that has the challenge, not necessarily the child’s choosing. It's not that they're choosing not to eat this. They physically cannot eat this as it’s a neurological response. I think that sometimes when we get a bit mixed up it can be easy to think oh maybe it's just that we need to find the thing that he likes.

I thought it was a sensitivity thing as it appeared to be holding things as well. So I could kind of realize and assess and look at some of those things but finding a solution it's just beyond you. I think often parents and carers in these situations are time poor too.

That’s the advantage of me – you don't see me very often unless you need my help!

36:03 Self Harm Behaviours

A lot of children are exhibiting self-harming behaviours and one child I worked with was plucking eyebrows or pulling hair out to provide sensory stimulation and to self-soothe when anxious.  I have permission to share her story. She was really unsettled in school and she wasn't able to express her needs or her feelings or why she was upset. She would you know throw chairs around the classroom. If she ended up in a tantrum it was a really big rage. She was a broad eater and would eat lots of different things and there wasn't any sort of obvious sensory thing in that regard. But she had like a  huge plethora of things with diagnoses: ADHD, Fetal alcohol, Opposition Defiance Disorder and more. She would flinch and jump with loud noise or fast movements and had a real startleresponse where she'd be very jumpy and her arms would come out in the air and she had a real startled response which was very evident multiple times a day. She wasn't progressing with any of her therapies and so many things. So we have been working together a year now with NDIS funding, who I report.  She is no longer plucking her eyebrows or hair. She doesn’t flinch anymore, and doesn’t have tantrums at school anymore, she can still refuse to do things but its without emotions.  

There was a wonderful moment where her classroom teacher changed for a short period of time. Often the fill-in teacher doesn't know the history of each child so they can easily step on things without realizing it. So this teacher was there for a longer period of time and the child became distressed and there was a regression. She was exhibiting signs of stress and all these different things that had improved had regressed. When she was asked directly why, she was able to say this teacher gets cross with me when I can't do the work and it really upsets me. When she was able to explain what happened, the teacher was infnormed and the child was able to become calm again. The teacher was able to change the situation and the child became calm again. Her brain was a like we can always go into fight flight. I can go into flight because my brain can always go back into that yeah. And now her brain has gone back up to the more stable level.

39:18 Do you need to be able to distinguish things like ADHD and Autism from trauma? Does the diagnosis change the treatment? Does one affect the other?

You don’t need to have complex trauma to have ADHD. However a lot of children aren’t meeting those milestones for whatever reason. I’ll talk about my son now if that is helpful.  My eldest son is 12 now and he is actually diagnosed with autism.  He didn't meet some of his milestones when he was younger and I didn't know why because I was doing all the things that I knew to do. At two years old he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.  So that is traumatic to the brain because it's a toxin. So when we removed the gluten he was able to progress along but the first two years of his life were impacted.  You can always trace it back to something. We don't have a terribly great birth culture in our country - we don't always treat mothers who are birthing well if the birth process isn’t going to plan. That can impact on the brain as well. I don’t want people to think yes if only I could have changed this, because you can't change that, but you can always trace it back to something.

The children that come to see me with the with the trauma history, obviously you're tracing it back to that trauma history, because it meant that the brain wasn't able to develop well. There is a stall in the development of the brain and this is the particular reason. Now of course sometimes there's damage to the brain and when there's damage to the brain then you can improve things, but they'll only improve a certain amount. I don't ever want it to seem like this is a quick fix miracle cure.  You will definitely be left with things at the end. It's not like oh look this is going to fix all the problems. We're talking about the brain so it takes time and you can definitely improve functioning. I've not seen anyone where we haven’t improved something. But it doesn’t improve everything.

42:35 I can relate to taking gluten out of the diet too for this boy, which improved his health outcomes, with asthma pumps and medications removed, but not his attempts at eating.

My son wanted to try gluten again. He just really wanted to have it so we let him and he had it and he felt so emotional he said I don't want to have this because it makes me feel bad.  He didn’t get a stomach ache but he felt very emotional. So sometimes it's good to bring in that choice, not for a younger child of course. If it’s a food intolerance, the brain will not change, so remember that.

43:35 The brain in pain can’t learn

If children are in their family of origin and there is still trauma happening, and if I was to come in and do work, the brain will not change because the trauma is still there.  You need to trace back and figure out why there are stalls in the brain and make sure that they're not still coexisting in the current situation. That can be challenging if you've got a kinship relationship and you've got other families still part of their life.  I guess the way we set up care is to involve everybody in the child's life so it's a matter of talking and looking at that.

43:40 Other Therapies

EMDR can be really helpful for that.   It's really fascinating and that can be a great way of helping. I had a little three-year-old I was working with and her mum took her to ballet and the child really reacted emotionally. She was distressed and very upset. Later on the parent realised that she had been taken there previously and trauma had occurred in that space. So I have to be really careful about those things and make sure we don't go back to that space that re-ignites that pathway in the brain that says I need to stay safe.  Sometimes that’s obvious and sometimes it's not obvious. It took her a long time to discover this. Sometimes you don't have a choice

45:34 I guess my question to you is are there other resources or websites or other things that we should be talking about today that we haven't?

I think that that podcast on polyvagal theory is really interesting and worthwhile to look at.

Making sure that the environment is helpful for the child. Things like since a sensory swing is really helpful in their bedroom where they can be alone for some deep thinking by themselves.  Also audio books are a really nice thing to do in that space as well for children struggling with their learning so that they can still access the things that their peers are loving.

We have a sensory play podcast as well so there's some ideas there.  Making those kind of things available is really important because it does calm the brain.

My website has a questionnaire on it so it can be a resource for people to look at. If you have just given yes answers then it's you know recommended that what I do can help. (link below)

Gymbaroo is a really great thing to take children under school age to because it's working on their brain development. It's a really great place and you'll be able to ask questions and ask what could we do here?  The teachers are extremely knowledgeable about neuro development.

There is baby massage classes and you know things like that.  Sometimes babies don't love massage so if they've got sensory sort of things, persist with it and try small. Be careful of over stimulating them as there are some classes that can put the brain into flight. It's about balance.

If people have any questions for me though they can email like if they've got specific questions or anything. I'm more than happy to do that.  You can find my website email in the link below.

Thankyou so much. You offer a wealth of information, and I’m realising now what I didn’t know that I wished I did.  Your work is just so very important and can have a huge impact on someone’s life by making those small steps.

Thankyou it was really enjoyable. I was a little nervous and it's was actually so nice.

For anyone else who's making the time to listen to this podcast thank you for giving up your valuable time too if you're a permanent care adoptive or kinship family needing support please contact permanent care and adoptive families on 9020-1833 until next time have an amazing week



Move Learn Connect – Yvette Knights

Questionnaire – Move Learn Connect

Polyagal Theory – Stephen Porges (Short Version)

Polyvagal Theory – Stephen Porges (Long Version)

  • See 1:07:40-1:13:45

Polyvagal Diagram The Movement Paradigm