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A communication environment that enriches a child’s communication skills is one that supports the “whole child’s” ability to thrive and develop. Targeting communication goals and developmental milestones may include different techniques or approaches. One of which is building a strong highway of support between the child’s immune system and the impact this has on their brain.
In this blog, let’s assess the 7 determinants of health to decrease stressors to support a healthy communication environment. Written by Speech and Language Pathologist, Fatima Hassan.
“What is health?” “How can we optimize health for a child to support their communication environment?” We must ask ourselves: “What is this particular child’s Total Load of life and environmental stressors (multi-generational) and how resilient is this child (what kind of supports does this child have)?
A thriving communication environment begins with a strong foundation rooted in health. Every human body has an individual load limit. The Total Load Theory explains that one can handle only a certain number of stressors before the body begins to show symptoms of breakdown. Your body has a certain capacity for tolerating toxins and stressors in the environment. Our children can reach their threshold at a very early age depending on the stressors they were exposed to peri, pre, and post-natal.
Childhood epidemics are partly due to the “total load” of too many stressors on a child’s body and not enough healthy promoting daily life supports such as sleep, nutrition, and movement. Supporting a child’s overall communication environment and deciding what the best communicative plan of action may require a paradigm shift to first focus on balancing the internal nervous system while supporting speech and/or language skills.
Each person has a total load that is specific to them based on their exposures in utero and lifestyle factors. Many of the factors that contribute to the physiological imbalances are modifiable. It’s important to find ways to reduce this load because an overburdened body creates dysfunction and/or illness in the body. Adding any therapy prior to reducing a child’s total load can be considered a stressor on an already overwhelmed and stressed load. Significant progress with speech and/or language therapy, supporting behaviors, and meeting a child’s needs based on their sensory profile has been documented both scientifically and with families’ lived experience when a child’s total load is supported. It is so powerful to see progress when the body and brain are supported, and nourished and energy is therefore spent on healing and developing instead of protecting the body from further health deficits.
I believe in preventative measures and maintaining a child’s health to keep their body, mind, and soul in homeostasis. This means that in supporting brain development and health, how best can we support the “whole-child” across all areas of their daily function to maximize their communication environment.
There are seven determinants of health that I use as a framework for any child I work with prior to or in conjunction with speech and/or language therapy:
Parent-led early intervention is key. An integrated approach to reduce total load that looks at the whole child including but not limited to:
All the conscious, mindful, positive, gentle, and respectful therapies and parenting approaches in the world won’t help your child and your family ecosystem if you are not ALSO working on nutritional and lifestyle foundations. We have seen a powerful shift in the research and the correlation between supporting a child’s immune system and the impact on communication.
Parents/primary caregivers are central in the process of nurturing and forming a communication environment that is successful (this model cannot be “outsourced”).
The body knows how to self-organize and heal once you get out of its way. It can be very overwhelming for parents or caregivers if they are told that they immediately need to begin a long list of therapies to support their child. Please note, more therapy does not equal progress if the stressors have pushed the child to the maximum threshold.
Lastly, this is fundamental to keep in mind: No system in the body ever works alone, gets injured alone, or heals alone. There is no such thing as an isolated injury, there is no such thing as isolated healing. Every system is connected so in order to create a successful communication environment, the core determinants of health must be supported. Our first aid to the body is to relieve it from the burden of toxic substances so that its regulatory self-healing mechanisms can function again.
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Outsmarting Autism: Build Healthy Foundations for Communication, Socialization, and Behavior at All Ages by Patricia Lemer
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Epigenetics between the generations: We inherit more than just genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July2017.
Jafari, M.H., et al. The Relationship Between the Level of Copper, Lead, Mercury and Autism Disorders: A Meta-Analysis. Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics. 21 Sep 2020(11):369—378.
Thompson, L., et al. What have birth cohort studies asked about genetic, pre- and perinatal exposures and child and adolescent onset mental health outcomes? A systematic review. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010;19(1):1-15.
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