#142 - Interview with Sonia Story: Why Movement is Essential for Development

by Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L March 03, 2021

#142 - Interview with Sonia Story: Why Movement is Essential for Development

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Interview with Sonia Story: Why Movement is Essential for Development

In our early stages of development, we all have a template in our brains that guides how we move. And the movements we make based on that guide are called innate rhythmic movements. This set of movements helps us go from being defenseless babies to developing skills like walking, speaking, and even coping with stress. 

Today’s guest is Sonia Story, an expert in innate rhythmic movements and the creator of the Brain and Sensory Foundations course, and she joins us to help us learn more about these fundamental movements and the role they play in proper development. 

We kick things off by hearing about how Sonia started learning about innate rhythmic movements in the first place, realized how important they are, and decided to start teaching others about them. 

She talks about how, due mostly to parents lacking knowledge (through no fault of their own!), many children are not allowed the proper space to move in these ways and, therefore, suffer developmentally. 

We get into the different areas of development that depend on innate rhythmic movements such as language, relaxation, and memory. Sonia also shares how she integrates different pieces of her training in the philosophy of play, psychology, and movement into her coaching methods. 

For an important exchange about the value of movement for development and how not just kids but adults can benefit too, be sure to tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Five secret questions with Sonia; how she relaxes, her sensory quirk, and more.
  • How Sonia learned about the power of movement and began to teach it too.
  • What innate rhythmic movements are and why they are important.
  • The role of innate rhythmic movements in the development of reflexes.
  • The need to allow babies to move according to this system.
  • Case studies about the benefits of innate rhythmic movements.
  • Sonia’s process of implementing these exercises in her family.
  • Why the vast majority of children would benefit from doing innate rhythmic movements.
  • The different techniques Sonia has integrated to build her rhythmic movement training.
  • Details about Sonia’s course and where to find it online as well as a special discount!
  • Advice for parents who want to start implementing these exercises with their kids.


“All the skills that you need, like being able to move and think and socially interact and engage with your environment, they all depend on this initial set of movements.” — Sonia Story[0:14:29]

“For so many children, their development is being interfered with in the womb, and sometimes at birth, and sometimes at early infancy.” — Sonia Story[0:19:28]

“What I learned from the therapists coming to the course is they came back and said, ‘You know, these rhythmic movements combined with the reflexes, they're really the best tools I've ever found for sensory processing issues, and for emotional regulation issues.’” — Sonia Story[0:39:46]

“Get on the floor and play with your kids and give them lots of time in prone, doing games in prone.” — Sonia Story[0:44:56]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Full Show Transcript

[00:00:58] RH:Hi, Sonia. How are you today?


[00:01:01] SS:Hey, greetings. I'm really well, thanks.


[00:01:04] JH:We're really excited to talk with you on the podcast. And before we get started on all the really good questions, we actually have five secret questions that we're going to ask you to just dive in so people know everything about you.


[00:01:20] SS:Five secret questions. That sounds great.


[00:01:24] JH:All right. So, the first question is, what is your go to relaxation activity?


[00:01:31] SS:Wow. Okay. Well, I would say walking in the woods.


[00:01:38] RH:That sounds nice. I love it. You live over in Washington, right?


[00:01:43] SS:Yeah. So, I'm very, very blessed because I can walk out my door and eat in the woods.


[00:01:51] RH:I love it.


[00:01:52] SS:Yeah, it's lovely. And I also do some silent work. So, that's really helpful for relaxation, and then also all these movements that we're going to talk about.


[00:02:05] RH:Yes. Okay. Next question. Would you rather eat jalapeno chips or Sour Patch Kids for every meal every day?


[00:02:18] SS:This is like torture. Sorry, I can't stand either one.


[00:02:25] RH:Oh, no.


[00:02:27] SS:I have to like run away screaming. Actually, I like jalapenos if I can just have a tiny bit, then I'm okay with that. So, yeah, I would do the jalapenos.


[00:02:40] RH:Okay. That was a good question.


[00:02:44] SS:Yeah, I'm not a candy person.


[00:02:47] RH:I wish I wasn't.


[00:02:48] JH:I know, cookies. I can eat a cookie every day, multiple times a day. Not that I do that, but I could.


[00:02:57] RH:We wouldn't judge you if you did.


[00:03:00] SS:I would judge myself.


[00:03:01] JH:Oh, no. Okay, this next question is a little bit more chill. What does your morning routine look like?


[00:03:12] SS:All right, so I wake up, I brush my teeth, I take a shower. I douse myself with cold water after the shower.


[00:03:19] JH:Oh, you do? Like the cold-water immersion type thing?


[00:03:25] SS:Yeah. And then I put oil on my face. And then I sit down and I do my quiet work. I just kind of –


[00:03:34] RH:You're going to share a little bit about that, right? Dring our interview?


[00:03:38] SS:About my quiet work?


[00:03:38] RH:Yeah, I want to know a little bit more about it.


[00:03:42] SS:Sure, yeah. I can share more about it. It's basically connecting with our Creator and divine and what is alive in us. It's tuning into unity consciousness, and really working to give out love to the whole, and compassion to the whole, and I find it to be really helpful and relaxing. It's like a deep way of clearing the subconscious so that you're actually functioning more as a living human being as opposed to what your personality or your ego is saying you have to do.


[00:04:28] JH:Would you say that it's like meditation?


[00:04:30] SS:Yeah, most people would think of it as meditation. Although, the way that I do it is specifically with the eyes open and being very active and paying attention. Probably the closest thing people would also think of, they would say, they might be calling it mindfulness, but I don't use that word.


[00:04:49] JH:Well, and you know, I think there's so many different forms of meditation. I mean, going for a run could be considered your form of meditation. I think it's just a word that we throw out there.


[00:05:00] RH:Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. I feel like so many people can benefit from learning about other people's techniques and mindfulness and meditation and strategies like that.


[00:05:10] SS:Yeah, I do too. And you know, for a very long time, I tried to do different meditation techniques and it was actually really challenging, until I found somebody who really was able to kind of teach me how to do it. So, it's nice to have somebody who knows how to do it, to be able to really help you focus because my mind was just going everywhere. And a mile a minute, or even more, mile a second, sometimes, there’s always a, “Well, I got to do this, I got to do that. What about this?”


I mean, you know how your mind can go crazy. It can run amok. And so, the reason it's important today, especially, is because there is so much of a history, human history of trauma, and challenges that are really extensive. And so, to be able to have the mind be quiet is a much deeper relaxation, and it actually puts you in touch with who you really are not just the master who you think you might be, but it puts you in touch with who you really are and your connection to all of humanity and to all that's living, and it's quite special and it's very relaxing. 


[00:06:38] RH:Okay.


[00:06:39] JH:I love it.


[00:06:40] RH:Well, we have two more questions. What are you currently listening to or reading?


[00:06:48] SS:Okay, so I have to turn the news off.


[00:06:52] JH:Oh, same. 


[00:06:53] SS:So, I'm not listening to the news. I am actually reading a spiritual book right now calledThe Gospel of Thomas.


[00:07:04] RH:Awesome. Okay. All right, we have one last question, it’s our most favorite question of all.


[00:07:14] SS:And the answer is jalapenos.


[00:07:16] JH:It might be. It might be related to that, actually. I have a feeling. Okay. So, it is, what is your sensory quirk?


[00:07:24] SS:My sensory quirk.


[00:07:28] RH:This is a sensory podcast.


[00:07:29] SS:Oh, gosh. Do I have to pick just one?


[00:07:34] JH:Yup.


[00:07:36] RH:Choose the one that impacts you the most.


[00:07:39] SS:What’s that?


[00:07:41] RH:Choose the one that impacts you most.


[00:07:44] SS:I would have to say things like cigarette smoke and perfume, really are hard for me. I actually used to get an instant headache and instantly irritable, like, instantly angry, which of course I later learned was my fight or flight response kicking in. So, I've been able to work on that a lot and it's much better. Now, I just give out love and compassion when – oh, gosh, and the worst one is fabric softener.


[00:08:16] JH:Oh, interesting.


[00:08:18] SS:Yeah, that one's tough for me. So, I'd say it's olfactory for me.


[00:08:23] RH:Got you.


[00:08:24] JH:That’s a good one.


[00:08:26] RH:Well, now that everyone knows your deepest, darkest secrets, tell us who you are, what you do, why you do it, how you do it, and all those good things.


[00:08:36] SS:Okay, well, I started this journey out, because I really wanted to be a better mom and I have been reading a book calledSmart Moves:Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head. And I was fascinated with that book, because I started implementing some of the strategies in there and they were working so quickly. It was the quickest thing I'd ever done to create transformation. And I was a young mother of two young children and our oldest had sensory issues. She was very sensitive, hypersensitive. Our youngest was hyperactive. And so, the two of them together were just triggering each other all day long, very different temperaments.


I was in the middle of trying to go, “Wait, this isn't the perfect family that I thought it was going to end up.” I wanted to be the perfect mom and my kids would be perfect too. And oh my gosh, I have such – it was a long fall from all that, but it was very painful to try and mother my children because I have my own sensory issues. I have my own challenges with my own nervous system.


So, when I started using the techniques and that book, we were able to, like get out of arguments so quickly because we would start doing different movements or positions and I was utterly astounded and fascinating. So then, when they got a little older, I was able to take quite a lot of training. I took years of training courses in innate rhythmic and reflex movements and integrative movements. I have a background in biology and psychology. So, I was already interested in how people function and what makes functioning easier, just because it's fascinating to me, but also on a very personal level, it was hugely meaningful for me to learn all these tools, and I just kept seeing them work, and it was just such a magical time to be able to do what I did.


I was so fortunate because my husband and I had just moved, we were living in Hawaii, when I started reading that book. We moved to the mainland, and at that time, he was transitioning his career. So, he was home with our children, and I got to go and travel and take all these courses. So, I ended up taking over [inaudible 00:11:26] to teach a couple different movement programs. About halfway through it, I realized, “Well, I'm learning from the best mentors in the world.” And then I also realized, “Oh, my gosh, so many people need this. Why isn't it more well-known? If this helps so much, like why isn't it on every headline on every news story?” Somebody needs to get this out there. And then I realized, like, “Oh, maybe that's me.” And then, I had to go through a lot.


Maybe I need to get this to parents, because most of the classes that I was taking, they were for professionals who were already in the field. So, I met lots of occupational therapists and physical therapists when I was doing the training, and also educators, and mental health therapists, and special educators, and sometimes vision therapists, speech and language pathologists. So, it was a hugely fun time for me and I've been having fun doing this ever since. So, I feel very blessed.


[00:12:39] RH:Can you tell us the name of that book again?


[00:12:42] SS:Yeah, the book is calledSmart Moves:Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head.


[00:12:49] JH:I love that.


[00:12:50] SS:And it's by Carla Hannaford.


[00:12:52] RH:We're going to link that in our show notes so that people can check that book out too.


[00:12:57] JH:And I think I want to buy it.


[00:13:03] RH:All right, well, let's spend some time talking about those innate rhythmic movements. Can you share like what they are and why they're important?


[00:13:10] SS:Yes, absolutely. So, they are part of the human template. And what I mean by human template is that all humans when they are in the womb, and developing in the womb, and through birth, and through early infancy, we have a template in our brain. It's a movement template, and it's innate and it helps us produce automatic movements. So, any child in the entire world, no matter what culture, as long as that child is healthy, has room to move, and is not stressed. And as long as they're placed on their belly enough, and not in containers, they will be doing all these movements. 


And that miraculous set of movements is what gets us not only from being a helpless baby, to up and walking and running around and speaking, but it sets up all of our future skills, at least, that I can think of. I can't really think of any skill that this system doesn't affect. The only one I could kind of come up with was well, maybe intuition or insight, but all the other skills that you need, like being able to move and think and socially interact and engage with your environment, they all depend this initial set of movements and the rhythmic movements are part of that initial set of movements. And their innate, and babies will do them.


There's even a research of how they are connected with a baby's development of speech and language. So, that's fascinating research. And what we see is like if a child is delayed in their speech and language, we can give them these movements. I've heard so many OTs and speech language therapists say that these children are making huge leaps in their ability to communicate and speak after they receive these movements. So, that's just one instance. I mean, they have many of their effects, probably the most common and deepest effect is that they're very calming, and nurturing and they help the nervous system settle down, and they help us to sleep. But they also help to integrate reflexes, which another.


[00:15:41] JH:Yeah, that’s what I was just going to ask, is that the same thing? Are those innate rhythmic movements the same as primitive reflexes, or what's the difference?


[00:15:49] SS: They are not the same. They are more of a general global full body movement, the rhythmic movements are, and one of the very first rhythmic movements, everybody knows is sucking. So, babies will do that in the womb. And then there are many other ones that we see and a baby is doing these all throughout their development, and then the end goal would be walking and running, and those are also rhythmic movements. They're meant to keep us tuned and our brain active and our brain harmonized. That's why we come with innate rhythmic movements. They're actually hugely important for our functioning beyond just the infant years. 


So, then with reflexes, the rhythmic movements are a foundation for helping these reflexes to integrate, not only because they're calming and soothing, but because they contain within them parts of the reflex patterns. So, reflexes are different and that they're very specific, targeted movements. What I mean by that, is they're stimulated by a very specific stimulus, and then their movement pattern is also specific. So, one that just about everybody knows is that if you place your finger into the palm of an infant, they'll grasp, and that's one reflex of many. It's such a beautiful system and if we only had in our culture, the awareness of how precious it is, and how we need to honor it, and how we need to protect it, we would see a lot more children developing well and able to function with much less stress and much more strength and success in reaching their goals.


[00:17:53] RH:So, I guess my question is, if the child is on the floor, they're going through these innate rhythmic movements as an infant, is that going to help progress them towards that natural reflex integration?


[00:18:05] SS:Oh, absolutely. Yes, yes, yes. it is. If every parent knew how to help that along, it would be so great. So, yeah, the baby needs to move – sorry, my mind went off into a tangent, but it actually is relevant, like where my mind went was babies need to move. And so, we don't want to like swaddle our children past a certain age, and most professionals and therapists I talk to say, “Don't swaddle beyond two months. They need to be on their bellies. They need to go through as many children as possible as need to go through a natural birthing process.” Because the way that the reflexes actually integrate, is through use, and there's a lot of them that get stimulated and activated at birth. And ideally, it would be a non-medicated birth, you know, all these things that support development, and then the baby would be placed belly to belly on the mom, and get that opportunity to do the first crawl onto the breast.


But for so many children, that's not happening. So many are, their development is being interfered with in the womb, and sometimes at birth, and sometimes at early infancy. And so, that's why, this system, like I said, it really needs to be more honored and protected. But if something happened and there was a trauma or there was, something the parent didn't know, like, “I didn't know it was not good to put them in the car seat.” How would you know that? Because that should be more well known, ideally, but parents can only – that’s the thing, is we need to really support young parents. But that's another thing.


[00:20:15] JH:Whole another tangent.


[00:20:17] SS:Sorry, what?


[00:20:18] JH:I just said it's a whole another tangent.


[00:20:20] SS:It’s another tangent, yeah. But if the baby gets these things, these movements, then they have their core strength, and their ability to be aligned and upright, and they have the ability to interact with their environment in a way where they feel comfortable and safe. And they want to go out there and explore as opposed to be left in a state of immature vestibular system or immature nervous system. And then they can be more in a place of withdrawing and protecting themselves. That's really sad, because we want our children from a very early age to feel safe and comfortable, so that they want to explore, and their body and their nervous system is set up for exploration as opposed to withdraw or overwhelmed or fight or flight.


[00:21:19] JH:Yeah.


[00:21:20] RH:We see that so often in our kids that we work with is, they’re so often in that fight or flight mode from the start, and we have to write that pattern and work on integrating those reflexes, and incorporating those rhythmic movements is a big part of it. So, I guess my next thought is, what's the evidence of the innate rhythmic movements or is there any?


[00:21:43] SS:Yeah, well, there is a lot. We have over a hundred, I think we're up to like 108, or 110 case studies, and almost every one of them, the therapists are using the innate rhythmic movements, especially at the beginning, because they're calming, and children really love them, and when we get such good feedback from parents saying, “This is easy for me to implement, we can do it.” And a little bit goes a long way, helping children calm down, sleep, and start to relax, because some children really have never been relaxed from the beginning. And so, there are a lot of anecdotal evidence and case studies. 


There are a lot of research studies, like the one I mentioned, where they're talking about innate rhythmic movements, helping with speech and language. There's that. There are ones about crawling, which is also a rhythmic movement, and how that helps with memory retrieval for young children. And then there are a lot of research studies that talk about rhythmic stimulation in general, and they are showing that there is a lot of evidence that it's very regulating, which is not surprising, and that it is very helpful for, for example, children with autism, people with stroke to help get their gait back, people with Parkinson's disease. And so, there's going to be more and more research, I'm sure about rhythm because everything that's come out so far has been really positive.


[00:23:29] JH:Okay, so you said you got started on this journey, because you wanted to help your kiddos and you guys were struggling. So, as a parent, you went through these movements and this primitive reflex integration with your kiddos, and how did that look? How did you work that into your routine?


[00:23:47] SS:First of all, I use everything that I was learning myself. And because I was taking so many courses, I kind of tricked my kids a little bit. I said, “Oh, I really need to learn this. Will you help me?” And my husband also went to one course that was like a whole week-long course and then he came back and he was doing it also. So, I had some good support. It became like a real joyful family thing. I wove in a lot of play, because I took some play shots too. That was another fun thing that I got to do is learn original play from Fred Donaldson. He wrote the bookPlaying by Heart: The Vision and Practice of Belonging.


Anyway, it was a really great time, but when I started learning all this, actually, because I ended up being fascinated by that book and things were working well for our family, I could see that I had issues. So, I was really using it on myself and I think that was a helpful model for my children. And then we started doing it together as a family, which I really recommend that because then you're not singling out one child to kind of do therapy or fix a problem, instead of just like, “Hey, this is good for us, let's all do it together.”


[00:25:15] RH:Yes.


[00:25:18] SS:And so, it's kind of like getting it in your routine, like brushing your teeth. Our oldest child was into it. She could really feel a big difference. Her anxiety levels were so much better and her sensory issues were so much better, her coordination was better, her posture was better strength and stamina was better. Our youngest daughter was also doing them with us. But then when she got to be around, I'd say around 11, she was like, “I don't want to do that anymore.”


So, I was really bummed about that, but I didn't push it too much because we had already seen really good results with her and I didn't want to push it. So, I didn't. But then when she became 16, and she wanted to drive, I was like, “If you want to drive, you're going to need to integrate these reflexes, because I know that you are not going to be as safe until you do it.” So, we made that agreement. She kind of grumbled through that, but she did it. It's hard watching your kids go out and drive these cars.


[00:26:29] JH:Oh, my gosh, I cannot even imagine. My kid is seven, and I'm dreading the day that he's turned to try anything.


[00:26:37] SS:I know. Well, it'll all be okay. Just integrate those reflexes.


[00:26:41] JH:Right. So then, actually, can we expand on that a little bit? And like, what primitive reflex did she need to integrate to be safe to drive?


[00:26:51] SS:Well, so we had done quite a bit of foundational work already and the main one that was problematic for her at that time was the ATNR or asymmetrical tonic neck reflex. That's the one. So many of these reflexes have to do with how our head is moving. And obviously, if you are scanning the roads and driving, you have to turn your head, and if the rest of your body is moving, where it should just be your head or your eyes moving, then it can be not very safe. So, that was the main one that we worked on. And then I also worked with her doing the rhythmic movements.


[00:27:34] JH:Okay. That's such a great, like real life example.


[00:27:38] SS:I use that one all the time.


[00:27:39] JH:I love it.


[00:27:39] RH:I think that all of kids should have to be required to take a primitive reflex test, like in driving school, like, “Hey, we're going through Driver's Ed. We're going to test your primitive reflexes, because if you're holding on to these, it's going to make you unsafe when you drive.” And so, I feel like that should be built into the Driver's Ed programs in a perfect world. But we don't live that.


[00:28:02] SS:Yeah, I love that idea. And really, all kids going into school should be screened and should get these moments, automatically. I mean, actually, they should be screened much earlier, because there's so much research showing that if you know what to look for, you can really find the red flags happening in infancy and toddlerhood. And if we can help children even at that age, it would be even better.


[00:28:33] JH:Man, I was even thinking like preschool, kindergarten, if you just integrate or incorporate these activities for integration into the classroom with the entire class, five days a week, like all of the children are going to be so much more successful. Can you imagine?


[00:28:50] RH:I would love that. 


[00:28:53] SS:Yeah, that's really what needs to happen because even the children – okay, let me say it this way, so that is really what needs to happen because there are some children who are “neurotypical”, but they're really stressed also. It's just that they're functioning at great level, they're not causing problems, and they seem to be doing just fine. But they have underlying things that are very stressful in their neurosensory motor foundation. They're not complete. So, even though they're not as obviously troubled, or they're not as obviously having challenges, they still need these movements. And actually, both of our girls were an example of that because they were doing fine academically, like it didn't show up in academics for either of them. They were fine. But if I didn't know what to look for, I wouldn't have been able to get them any kind of help and it was really by the time I found these movements and really knew what to look for and what to do, our oldest child was 12. and our youngest was 5, because they're seven years apart. So, yeah, they would have never gotten any help if I didn't know.


[00:30:17] JH:Man, I feel that same way. My kid would be considered neurotypical, but I mean, he's got little things here and there, little quirks, that we know.


[00:30:28] RH:That we notice, but someone else looking at them wouldn’t notice.


[00:30:32] SS:Right. And I found this out. I did a volunteer program in my community. We met at the library a couple years ago, and I did a program for parents and children. And these were people just coming from the community. These weren't kids who were special needs at all. They didn't have diagnoses. They came in, and it was shocking to me how many children I saw with unintegrated reflexes. And I remember driving home one day after one of these Saturdays, and just going, “Wow, it's really like what Dr. Blomberg said.” He's one of my mentors, and he even said to us in a class, he said, “None of the kids are really integrating these reflexes, because they're all being interfered with.” And at the time he said that, I was so shocked. And I'm like, “That just can't be true.” But I found it to be true. And then I even told my students, and I said, “This is really the reality out there, that the vast majority of children could really use these movements.”


One OT, roll me back a couple months later, said, “Sonia, I can't believe it.” She said, “I tested this young boy in fifth grade, we wanted to know what the reflexes look like, in “normal child”. And she said, “I couldn't believe it, because he had really strong on integrated reflexes.” And I said, “Yes, I know, I told you that, remember? I told you that in the class, that you're going to find it if you check. You're going to find the reflexes that are not integrated.” So, then she really got it.


But when you first hear it, it's almost like you don't want to even hear that. You just don't want to hear, because what it ends up being is that these kids are really in a lot of stress, and life could be so much easier for them, if they only have this foundation. And the other thing that it's really good to be aware of is that even if you have perfect [inaudible 00:32:42] life, a perfect birth, and a perfect infancy, later on, if you get really sick, or you have an injury, or some kind of trauma, then this system that is supposed to be dormant at the end of the toddler stage, it can come back or some part of it can come back and reactivate. And that means your brainstem is active and on hyper alert when it should be calm. So, hopefully that makes sense to everyone.


[00:33:15] JH:Yeah.


[00:33:15] RH:I was thinking when you were talking about integration of these reflexes and when we should be testing them when they go to preschool or kindergarten. Jessica and I are trained in primitive reflex integration, but the exercises and activities that we do with our kids, they wouldn't be fitting for an infant or a toddler. It'd be really hard for those younger kiddos to be able to participate in those activities. Even if we know that those young kiddos have retained reflexes, how can we work on that with those young kiddos who can't hold certain positions and follow these directions?


[00:33:55] JH:Or like if you think about the starfish exercise, and you are having to coordinate that specific movement pattern for the Moro reflex.


[00:34:03] SS:Right. So, first of all, there's a lot that you can do with the rhythmic movements.


[00:34:08] RH:Okay. That’s what I thought.


[00:34:10] SS:From the very beginning, I mean, these movements can be for zero to elder and everything in between. And then for the actual reflexes, that's something that I teach in my course, where if you know the stimulus and the movement pattern, there's so much you can do. And so, we go through different patterns and different modifications for individuals who aren't able to follow directions because it's not just little ones, it's ones who are nonverbal or not able to function in a way that they can actively follow directions.


So, in those cases, we really learn about hands on techniques, and how to give me the stimulus for each reflex. And one of the things that is a question that comes up a lot from students, particularly students who have had other reflex integration courses, is there's a mindset that was taught, I think years ago, and maybe still is taught about reflexes where, if there's a certain pattern of a reflex, you're trying to teach the body to go on the opposite direction of that pattern. And so, in that way, you would so called extinguish the reflex or inhibit it. But what I have learned and found out and have tested over and over again, and it really works is that our brain and our body respond to the actual reflex pattern. You don't have to train in the opposite pattern, you can use that opposite pattern, especially if something's really stubborn, but for the most part, and especially for the most part, with children, and even with adults, because I've been testing this with all ages, is that when you give the reflex pattern, it is super supportive and helpful, because the brain recognizes it and goes, “Okay, I know what I'm supposed to deal with that.” Because it's already in the brain to know what to do with it. And if that reflex is not integrated, it's like the brain and the body are craving it to be integrated, and they need more of it so that it can gradually, on its own, start to become dormant. And then we're not so ruled by the reflex pattern.


[00:36:36] JH:It's also interesting, I was going to ask you about your course, because you mentioned that you teach a course. So, can you tell us a little bit about that?


[00:36:46] SS:Yeah, well, so when I was taking course after course of these neurodevelopmental movement trainings, I kept saying, “I got to get this out to parents.” And so, I thought, “Okay, what is going to be the most important thing for them to learn, where the most useful and the things that are going to get the results, the most deep results and the longest lasting and the quickest results?” I kept asking myself that question. And then I ended up synthesizing like the best of the best tools from the courses that I was taking, but also synthesizing tools that I was learning from the children themselves. Because I would go and do these sessions and these kids were not acting like what I saw on the manual.


It was like, “Oh, what do we do now?” Because, you know, this child can't even hold this position. He's like, lugging over, or there's no way is this going to work. So, I had to really go, “Okay, well, what will work? And what do I know about this reflex? And how can I use it in the position he's in because he's not going to get in this other position? He can't do it.” Then I just started synthesizing all those tools. Plus, my initial dive into movement as a way of transformation was through brain gym, which is what the tools and thatSmart Moves book, that's what they're describing.


So, I knew that there were processes in those courses, because I took all the courses to be an instructor, and I knew that there were processes in there that would enhance the reflex integration if we combine the two. And so that's what I did, I put those in. And then I also was taking play shops. So, I knew, of course, with kids, you got to make it playful, you got to put fun stuff in there, and then I also added heart connection. So, it's like a synthesis of what I feel really works and it's been tested over and over and it does really work.


To my surprise and amazement, it started to be mostly therapists that were coming to the course. I was so happy and also quite intimidated by that because I know these movements, forward, backward, sideways in my dreams. I know these movements so well, but I don't have therapist background. Thankfully, I do have a biology background. So, I do understand the terminology and things like that. But what I learned from the therapist coming to the course is they came back and said, “You know, these rhythmic movements combined with the reflexes, they're really the best tools I've ever found for sensory processing issues, and for emotional regulation issues.” I've been working with this child and the speech language that therapists can't believe what's happening, and things like that, and parents were saying the same things like, “Oh my gosh, this child is so much easier to handle, and he sleeps better, and he's not so emotionally reactive and those kinds of things.”


So, I have been really happy with it, it's a really good course. Plus, the other thing about it is that there's a lot of courses where they teach maybe four reflexes or five, or sometimes nine. And in this curriculum, there are 22, plus the rhythmic movements, and plus the other tools that enhance the reflex integration. And those same tools from Brain Gym also take the stress out of goals, which is something else that's really important because especially the school age kids, they've really learned anxious patterns when it comes to their goals. They want to read, they want to be successful in reading, but because of the experiences they've had, every time they open a book, they're already in fight or flight.


[00:41:13] RH:Yeah.


[00:41:15] SS:It's part of the pattern. You open a book, you're in fight or flight. And so, we have to have a way to train the nervous system out of that pattern and put a new, more supportive pattern in its place. And then there's another piece in there about heart connection, so that we're really present and loving, when we are giving these movements as a facilitator, because that makes a big difference too, for children to feel safe.


I guess the last thing I would say about it, that's really important, I feel, is that it's very honoring to the children, and very honoring in the sense of like really watching to go at their own pace. It's harder to do that. It would be much easier if I just gave a recipe and said, “Here's what you do. You do 10 of these, and 4 of these, and 8 of these, and then you do this for a minute and that for a minute.” It's not like that, because kids aren't like that. Some kids need 30 seconds, some kids need 3 minutes, some kids need 30 minutes. And so, build them up slowly, if they're sensitive, makes a huge difference. I think it's really important to individualize it, especially with these movements, because they are very powerful, and while some children love them, and they'll just melt and ask for them, other children need some time to get used to them. They actually need more movement because their nervous system is less developed, but you have to give it to them at the beginning in smaller pieces. So, that's important.


[00:43:02] JH:Yeah, it really is. Because, I mean, just reiterating what you said all children are so different and we need to tailor our approach to meet their needs versus a one size fits all system. What is your course called and where can people find it?


[00:43:19] SS:So, the course is called Brain and Sensory Foundations. I would love for your listeners to go on to the website, moveplaythrive.com. And then you can check out the case studies, there are over a hundred of them, and they're all written by students of the course. You can check out all the details about the course there.


[00:43:46] JH:Perfect.


[00:43:49] RH:Okay. All right. Well, we are hopeful that our listeners will take advantage of the tools and the resources that you have dedicated so much time to creating and putting into one easy to understand bundle. I'm going through the course right now and I have my little blue book here. And it's so nice to have the visuals and the tools and the handouts that not only I can use with, you know, my child and my husband, we’ve been working through those, to be honest.


[00:44:17] JH:As a family. As a family.


[00:44:20] RH:But clinicians as well, there's a lot of tools for clinicians to incorporate with their practice.


[00:44:27] SS:Yes, yeah, it's a treasure trove of tools.


[00:44:29] RH:Yes, it is.


[00:44:31] JH:Super excited. So, before we wrap this up, what is like your number one piece of advice that you give to parents, to therapists, to anybody who is working with children?


[00:44:31] SS:My number one piece of advice. Well, my number one piece of advice would be to take the course, but if we wanted to do something quick and simple, it would be, get on the floor and play with your kids and give them lots of time in prone, doing games in prone.


[00:45:03] JH:And for those don't know what prone is, that means on your tummy or on your elbow, on your belly. So, lots of that for play. I love it. I couldn't agree more.


[00:45:13] SS:Yeah


[00:45:14] JH:Even older kids, right? Like that's not specific to just like infants doing tummy time. But I mean, older kids to do activities laying on your stomach.


[00:45:23] SS:Yeah, it's fun. You can even just get together on your bellies and roll balls back and forth to each other, and spin around in circles on your belly, then go on the other direction. You can learn your spelling words on your tummy. You can learn anything with a rhythm and that's helpful, too.


[00:45:44] RH:Awesome. Well, Sonia, we are so grateful that you spent this precious time of your weekend with us and we cannot wait for our listeners to check everything out on your website, and hopefully, take your course. And if you guys do take her course, then tag us on your Instagram stories. We'd love to see that. Love to see those movements that you guys are incorporating. And check out the show notes because we'll put everything there for you guys. 


[00:46:10] JH:Yeah, definitely.


[00:46:11] SS:Great. Well, thank you so much for having me. I really, really enjoy getting to hang out with you guys for a little while. It's been really lovely.


[00:46:20] RH:All right, Sonia. Thank you, and we'll talk to you later, okay?


[00:46:25] SS:Okay. Bye.


[00:46:26] RH:Bye.




[00:46:28] JH:All right, everyone. Hopefully, this conversation was insightful, inspirational, motivating, educational, all the things that we want all of our conversations to be.


[00:46:41] RH:Yeah, I love talking to Sonia. She just has a very, like Zen to her. And just hearing not only her story about her morning routines and everything that she does to get where she is is just very, like you said, inspirational.


[00:46:56] JH:Yeah, this was a good one. So, you can find everything that we talked about linked in the show notes of this episode. So, make sure you go there and find all the things that she is sharing with the world.


[00:47:09] RH:Yes. And on that note, make sure that you are subscribed on whatever platform you listen to, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, all the different places, and leave us a review.


[00:47:20] JH:Please, pretty please.


[00:47:22] RH:Yes. Those help us reach more families, more therapists, more educators, in need of this information.


[00:47:28] JH:All right, you all, we will talk to you next week.

[00:47:32] RH:Bye.


While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L
Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L

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