There are a multitude of factors that impact children’s abilities to thrive in their daily lives.
In this episode, Rachel and Jessica run through a few of the main ones; nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress, and primitive reflexes.
They share some useful advice for therapists and parents regarding how to help their children maximize benefits and minimize harm, one step at a time.
The overall theme is the importance of focusing on the body as a whole, and addressing underlying causes rather than just treating the symptoms. Remember, just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s okay!
Rachel and Jessica also discuss what the ACE score is, and why it is valuable for everyone to see a therapist.
In order for a human to develop optimally, their foundations need to be strong, and after this episode you’ll have a clearer understanding of how to nurture the building blocks of the kiddos in your life!
What The Pyramid of Potential consists of.
How human development is similar to a growing tree.
The correlation between energy and nutrition.
Food related conversations that are helpful to have with children.
Possible links between gut dysbiosis and cradle cap.
Just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s normal.
The importance of ensuring that children have enough sensory input and physical activity in their day.
Various reasons why your child may not be getting enough good sleep, and examples of how you can resolve this.
Types of stress that kids experience.
How to tell if your child is in a state of fight or flight.
An argument for keeping your children's interaction with electronics to a minimum.
What the ACE score is and the unsettling trend that research on this topic is showing.
Why it is beneficial to see a therapist even if you don’t feel like anything is wrong.
Trauma that can be connected to a child’s birth experience.
Primitive reflexes; what they are and why they are so important to take note of.
Improvement through baby steps is the way to go.
“In order for our kids to be successful at school academically, they need to have a good foundation, good mind and body health.” — Jessica Hill[02:05]
“There's so much that goes into eating and drinking and what we're putting in our body and how it affects our skin, how it affects our mood and our energy levels.” — Jessica Hill[03:53]
“Don't be afraid to ask questions and push the norm.” — Rachel Harrington[07:35]
“Sleep is the process of repair. Our brain and our body repairs itself during sleep. This can't happen without good sleep, that good deep sleep.” — Jessica Hill[10:51]
“You can really make an impact just by looking at their history, and looking at the child as a whole to figure out your game plan.” — Rachel Harrington[23:31]
[00:00:01] RH: Hey, there. I’m Rachel.
[00:00:02] JH: I’m Jessica. And this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we’re on a mission to help children, families, therapists and educators live happy, healthy lives.
[00:00:11] RH: We dive into All Things Sensory, special needs, occupational therapy, parenting, self-care and so much more. In each episode, we share raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.
[00:00:25] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:31] RH: Hey, everyone. Welcome to All Things Sensory by Harkla. This is Episode 161. We are here today, bringing you a very important topic that can be beneficial for everyone.
[00:00:45] JH: Yes. We're going to talk about looking at the whole child, the whole body. Not just looking at the child for their deficits, but looking at underlying causes, and just looking at the whole body.
[00:01:01] RH: We are tired of band aids. We are tired of “fixing the symptoms.” We want to dive deeper and understand the why behind those deficits, what's causing them, and just to be able to help parents and therapists and educators find that why, rather than always addressing the symptoms of the true underlying cause for, whether it's the behavior, the sensory issue –
[00:01:30] JH: Yeah, whatever it is.
[00:01:31] RH: Challenge. Yeah.
[00:01:32] JH: Just whatever it is, that's going on. I love Kathy Johnson. She's great. She created The Pyramid of Potential. In this Pyramid of Potential, the foundation is the mind and body health, then it's neuro development, then sensory motor development, then cognitive development, and at the top is academic success. In order to, you know, when we're talking about kids and we're talking about school, in order for our kids to be successful at school academically, they need to have a good foundation, good mind and body health. That's really what we're talking about.
[00:02:16] RH: It is. I just have the picture of the tree in my mind for this.
[00:02:21] JH: I love trees.
[00:02:22] RH: Yeah, I know. I think about your tattoo, too. It's like you have to have strong roots, you have to have powerful, just a strong foundation in order to have beautiful leaves and a tall trunk. Metaphorically speaking, you have to have these strong roots and this foundation in order to have these higher-level functioning skills.
[00:02:42] JH: I was even just thinking, you need, still talking about the tree, you need to have good soil, good water for it to be growing. That’s a really good metaphor.
[00:02:52] RH: You have to nourish the roots and nourish the soil and feed it and give it sunshine every day. Oh, my gosh.
[00:03:00] JH: Yeah. That is great.
[00:03:01] RH: Maybe we need a picture.
[00:03:01] JH: I know. That was so good. Okay, so we'll talk about mind and body health. It starts, I think, with nutrition.
[00:03:11] RH: Actually, I think before we even start there, we should disclaimer, as always, and say, if you are concerned about any of these areas, talk to your doctor, find a specialist that you trust. We are just giving you the very basics. We're just cutting off the tip of the iceberg here.
[00:03:28] JH: Yeah. Just do.
[00:03:29] RH: Do more research, more learning on your own. We're just here to start that conversation. Yeah. Continue.
[00:03:34] JH: That’s perfect. Okay, so nutrition. What food are you putting in your body? Is it mostly processed food? Do you have any fruits and veggies? Do you have any protein? I've been doing a lot of research and reading about food and nutrition just for my own sake, and for my kids’ sake, and there's so much that goes into eating and drinking and what we're putting in our body and how it affects our skin, how it affects our mood and our energy levels. I was listening to a podcast that talked about dehydration, and how when we're dehydrated, it actually can cause fatigue. If you're hitting that midday slump, you don't need more coffee, you actually probably need more water.
[00:04:16] RH: Absolutely. Even just how you're feeling. Do you get a headache every day? Are you staring at the screen? Are you moving? Fuel your body in order to find success. There's so much in the world of feeding kiddos and the mind-body connection with feeding them, that you want it to be a positive experience. You want to talk to them about how important it is to fuel your body, speaking to the child, and help them realize, well, it's hard. We work with a lot of picky eaters. If you start talking about that and you start modeling and saying, “Man, my gas tank is empty. I need a banana, because that's a great opportunity for some healthy minerals and vitamins, and it's going to fuel my gas tank, and I'm going to be able to get through my day a little bit easier with something healthy.”
[00:05:12] JH: For real. Yeah. No, totally. Just talking to our kids about food is going to be so helpful. Where does your food come from? That's a really great conversation to have with your kids, too. Did you buy your fruits and veggies at the grocery store? Okay, but that's not where the food came from. The apple at the grocery store came from an apple tree somewhere. Talk about those different pieces of it as well.
Then, we always want to talk about food sensitivities and allergies that cause inflammation because any of that inflammation in our body is going to cause behaviors, mood changes, low energy, poor sleep. I mean, inflammation is so –
[00:05:55] RH: It’s that gut brain connection.
[00:05:57] JH: Yeah, it is.
[00:05:58] RH: Two things. I want to go back to where you get your food from. I think if you have a farmers market in your neighborhood, or in your area, you should definitely go to those and have your kiddo pick out some fruits and veggies and meats and honey and jams, and have a conversation with the person that you're buying it from and learn a little bit more about that.
[00:06:20] JH: A lot of these local farms might even let you come to their farm with your kid and explore and see how that food is made.
[00:06:30] RH: So cool. The other thing that I was thinking, going along to inflammation and food sensitivities and allergies, I was doing a little bit of reading on cradle cap, and how common it is in babies to have cradle cap. A couple of sources were saying that it's connected to gut health. If there's something like gut dysbiosis, or yeast overgrowth, then it shows in the skin on the head. It's just another one of those things that so many people and companies just pass off as common, even though it's not normal, and there's an underlying cause. You know, you can get those hairbrushes, whatnot that supposedly fix it, but it's like, what's the actual cause here? Let’s look deeper.
[00:07:15] JH: For real. Okay. Going along with this, if you do have a concern, and you take it to your pediatrician, and they blow it off, feel free to find a new pediatrician.
[00:07:27] RH: Definitely.
[00:07:28] JH: Just saying.
[00:07:29] RH: Yeah. Go a different route. Go more a natural route if that's what you're feeling drawn to. Don't be afraid to ask questions and push the norm. There's a whole, it's common, but it's not normal. I think that's my new thing, because I'm like, “Yeah, it's common, but that isn't normal.”
[00:07:49] JH: Yeah, that doesn't mean that it's normal and then it should happen. It's common for car accidents to happen, but does that mean it should happen? It’s the first example I can think of. I was going to talk about guns, but I don't think we should go –
[00:08:03] RH: Oh, gosh.
[00:08:06] JH: Okay, so nutrition. That's a really good place to start. Just look at the food you're eating and decide if you're getting enough nutrients, if you're getting enough protein, if you're fueling your body.
[00:08:19] RH: We do have a couple of previous episodes that you should listen to. One with Jennifer Johnson. She is an FNDP, I believe. That was a great episode. Meal prep planning with your kiddos. That's another good episode to listen to. Yeah, check those out, too.
[00:08:37] JH: The next thing we want to look at with mind and body health is physical activity. How much movement is happening throughout the day? Are you getting outside to get fresh air? Walk on the grass, walk on the dirt? Or are you mostly sedentary, sitting most of the day, spending a lot of time on the screen? That kind of stuff.
[00:09:00] RH: Yeah. Another thing to keep in mind with physical activity, is the kiddo under-responsive to sensory input? Are they not getting enough input, but they're not a sensory craver, so they're not seeking it? That's a really important line to notice in your kiddo, if they're unresponsive, but they're not seeking the input, but they still need more of it in order for it to register. These are the ones who might be considered lazy, or lethargic. They don't know how to seek out that input that they're needing.
[00:09:34] JH: Yeah. Even just going for a walk after you eat, so we’ll connect it to our nutrition. Studies have shown that even just a 10-minute walk after you eat helps to digest your food. Maybe you just start scheduling it into your daily routine to go for a 10-minute walk after dinner every night, no matter what.
[00:09:55] RH: Yeah. It’s what we do.
[00:09:56] JH: Yeah. I started doing it. We do it after breakfast. Then after dinner, just because I found myself with just changes in what I'm doing is that I'm just sitting down so much, on the computer so much, and sitting down so much. I get a workout in, but it's just not enough. Incorporating more quick walks around the neighborhood, or a bike ride has been really helpful.
[00:10:21] RH: Love it. All right, let's talk about sleep.
[00:10:25] JH: Oh, my goodness.
[00:10:26] RH: I don't even know what sleep is these days.
[00:10:28] JH: I know. I am a terrible sleeper in general. It's like, none of us sleep. Usually, I'm a good sleeper, but these days, it's few and far between.
[00:10:40] RH: It's just a season. It’s a season.
[00:10:42] JH: It will pass.
[00:10:43] RH: Yes. Ask yourself, are you getting enough sleep? Is your child getting enough sleep each night?
[00:10:51] JH: Sleep is the process of repair. Our brain and our body repairs itself during sleep. This can't happen without good sleep, that good deep sleep.
[00:11:02] RH: Yeah, I was going to say, talk about their quality of sleep. If they have a bracelet, or a fitness tracker that maybe tracks their sleep, too, that they might be interested in seeing, “Oh, yeah. I had great sleep. Or I didn't have good sleep.” You use some monitor on your little kiddo to just open your eyes and say, “Maybe this is the problem.”
[00:11:25] JH: Yeah. If you're not getting good sleep, figure out why. Is it because the room is too bright, or too noisy, or too hot? Is it because you're on the screen right before bed, and so your brain’s all messed up? You know what I mean?
[00:11:39] RH: Some kiddos will actually have seizures in their sleep. I think that's something to rule out, especially kiddos who have autism; they can have seizures while they're sleeping and no one knows about it.
[00:11:52] JH: Yeah, for sure. If your child is getting crappy sleep, figure out why. Maybe they're having some breathing difficulty during sleep. They have sleep apnea. They need their tonsils or adenoids taken out. Go see a sleep specialist, whatever you need to do to figure out how to get better sleep.
[00:12:09] RH: Yeah. I feel like, so often, parents and therapists, we're just trying to figure out during the day, what is causing these challenges, how can we help them? What can we figure out? But we forget about sleep. Sometimes just fixing sleep makes all the difference.
[00:12:26] JH: Oh, for sure. I mean, you think about how cranky you are, if you don't get a good night's rest. Our kids are no different. It's even harder for them, because oftentimes, they can't verbalize it.
[00:12:40] RH: Yeah. They don't know what good sleep is compared to broken sleep. I think that's important to remember.
[00:12:47] JH: Okay, the next one is stress. This includes physical stress, emotional and mental stress. Physical stress is tough labor, maybe not getting enough nutrition, not enough sleep. That is all going to cause physical stress on your body. That physical stress can be really harmful.
[00:13:10] RH: Another thing to look into is fight or flight. Is your kiddo in a state of fight or flight constantly? It's hard to tell sometimes. Sometimes it's not that hard to tell.
[00:13:21] JH: Yeah. These are the kids that are anxious. They've got some unintegrated primitive reflexes.
[00:13:28] RH: They've got some sensory challenges. These are the kiddos who are in fight or flight. You can't get anything done. You can't function. You can't grow and thrive if you are in that constant state of fight, flight or freeze.
[00:13:41] JH: The big reason for that is the release of all the chemicals. You have stress chemicals that are released during that fight or flight response. It's only supposed to be for a short amount of time. But if you're in constant fight or flight and those stress hormones and stress chemicals are constantly being released through your body, you can never actually just calm down.
[00:14:04] RH: Yeah. It’s very detrimental.
[00:14:05] JH: So stressful. There's also the emotional and mental stress aspect. This can come from a sensory overload, or overstimulation, chronic anxiety, kind of what we were just talking about. Depression, loneliness, not having friends, school related stress. This is a really, really big one for our kiddos, especially our sensory kiddos. Because oftentimes, school is – I mean, almost all the time, school is harder for our sensory kids, for a variety of reasons. They're going to be more stressed out at school and maybe they don't have a good friend base. Maybe they don't have a good teacher to support them.
[00:14:46] RH: Yeah. Just going one step further is thinking about those EMFs, thinking about all of the Wi-Fi and electricity and radio frequencies that are so common to be in our environment these days. Is that impacting your child?
[00:15:04] JH: I was listening to a podcast episode. I don't even remember who it was, but they were talking about EMFs and how this gal, she actually turns their Wi-Fi off at night, and they don't have any electronics in their bedroom while they're sleeping. Just taking all of that away to help.
[00:15:22] RH: Put your phone on airplane mode if you need it in your room for your alarm or something. Put it on airplane mode. Don't sleep next to the plug-ins. There are a lot of little fixes like that.
[00:15:36] RH: We just want to take a minute and talk to you about our company, Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs live happy, healthy lives. Not only do we accomplish this through the podcast, but we also have therapy products, easy-to-follow digital courses and the Harkla Sensory Club, to try to bring holistic care to you and your family.
[00:15:53] JH: Listeners of the All Things Sensory Podcast get 10% off their first purchase at Harkla, with the discount code Sensory. We'd recommend checking out some of our bestsellers, like the compression sensory swing, weighted blankets, or our course on sensory diets.
[00:16:09] RH: Here's the best part. 1% of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington Autism Center to support autism research and fund scholarships to families in need to receive in-clinic therapy for their child.
[00:16:21] JH: Learn more about Harkla, and all we have to offer at harkla.co. That's H-A-R-K-L-A.C-O. Don't forget to use the discount code Sensory to get 10% off your first purchase. That's S-E-N-S-O-R-Y for 10% off.
[00:16:43] RH: The best part is all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping.
[00:16:49] JH: You really can't beat that.
[00:16:50] RH: No., you can’t.
[00:16:53] JH: Okay, let's get back to the show.
[00:16:56] RH: Let's talk about trauma. This is a tough one. Physical trauma, emotional trauma, abuse, neglect, verbal abuse. There's so many ways that our kiddos can have a higher ACE score.
[00:17:12] JH: Wait. Explain what the ACE score is very quick.
[00:17:14] RH: ACE is Adverse Childhood Experiences. There's a special way that you get your score. Each traumatic event that happens, it's added to your score. Research is showing that so many of our kids these days have those higher ACE scores. That's scary to me.
[00:17:36] JH: It is. I think it's important to remember that we all go through trauma. Trauma can be anything from the death of a pet, to a car accident, to watching a loved one pass away. I mean, trauma is even just these little things that we go through, that are common, or normal, but they do cause trauma, emotional trauma.
[00:18:01] RH: I like to think of it as a cup. Everyone has a trauma cup. Dana gets so mad at me, because we'll be watching a TV show and something bad will happen to this kid in the TV show and I'm like, “Oh, that's trauma in his cup. I feel so bad for him.” She’s like, “Can you just watch a show without observing all this stuff?” I’m like, “No, I can’t.” But it's so true. I mean, as adults, we have cups that are full oftentimes. That trauma can really significantly impact our overall well-being. Sometimes just seeking out therapy as an adult, seeking out therapy for your kiddos, just talking to someone about that can be really, really helpful.
[00:18:45] JH: I know that therapy has been seen as something you do when something's wrong. But there's a lot of studies out there that show that therapy is actually just helpful for anyone going through anything just going through life. Because you get to talk to someone who doesn't know you, who doesn't have – who isn't going to judge you. They can give you a very unbiased opinion, and strategies to help.
[00:19:12] RH: Yeah. They can just help you unpack everything that's going on in your life, and connect the dots and see what's really impacting you and what maybe isn't impacting you.
[00:19:22] JH: Yeah. Then, thinking about our kids, especially our kids in school, they go through trauma at school. Maybe they get bullied, or maybe they are a bully. That's trauma both ways.
[00:19:36] RH: It is. It’s so hard.
[00:19:37] JH: The last one, too, is a traumatic birth experience. That's going to cause a lot of different things to happen as the child grows up, if there was trauma during the birthing experience.
[00:19:50] RH: This one's tough, because maybe the child stops breathing, maybe their cord was wrapped around their neck and they're breathing and “everything's okay.” But down the road when things are happening and there's no rhyme or reason, I think that's when we can look back and say, “I wonder if it's connected to their birth experience?”
[00:20:15] JH: The answer is yes, for sure.
[00:20:16] RH: Nine times out of 10, it will be connected.
[00:20:19] JH: Yeah, we can't say 100% for sure, but I feel like it could be.
[00:20:22] RH: Very often, yes. Definitely something to keep in mind. Sometimes it's preventable. I can go off on a whole new podcast on birth and all of that stuff. I don't know. Sometimes it's not preventable and sometimes we just have to know that this could cause potential challenges down the road, and do our best to prevent and be proactive.
[00:20:50] JH: Yeah, for sure. Okay, the last one we're going to talk about is primitive reflex integration. You guys know, I hope that you know, if you don't know, then you're going to know how much we love primitive reflexes and how much we – Primitive reflexes are just really important, okay. That's what we need you to know. If the child was born prematurely, they're probably going to have some retained primitive reflexes, if there was a traumatic birth. From a growth motor standpoint, is the child struggling with dissociating different parts of their body? For example, if they turn their head, does one of their arms also move in an uncontrollable way, for example?
[00:21:35] RH: Yeah. Is that child maybe missing components of the sensory motor development due to skipping milestones? Maybe they skipped crawling, maybe they never really rolled proficiently in both directions. Maybe they can't hold the tall kneel position. All of these milestones that build on each other, you know, if we skip those, that can impact those reflexes going away, as they normally should.
[00:22:03] JH: That was pretty much it from a mind and body health standpoint, I think. That was the focus here is just looking at the child and saying, “Okay, let's look at their body health. Let's look at their mind health. Let's look at their trauma, primitive reflexes. Let's really get down to the foundation of what they need to be doing.”
[00:22:25] RH: Yeah. This goes for therapists. We want to address the family's concerns first but –
[00:22:32] JH: Oh, sorry. I would just interrupt and say, you know, when you have a family come into the clinic and you're doing an evaluation, and you're getting the intake and the parents say, “Look, my child is having meltdowns constantly.” You want to address those concerns, because that's what the family needs in that moment.
[00:22:50] RH: By doing so, ask those questions and figure out why. I'm sure you can get to the bottom of it just by filling out your occupational profile, and asking them in a judgment free way, if you're a therapist. Then you can discuss all of these brain, body, mind health, things that we talked about today. You can see, “Oh, my child is the kid that was five-years-old that drinks milk from a bottle every night.” Probably not the healthiest thing they can be doing. You're realizing all of these dots that need to be connected, and you can really make an impact just by looking at their history, and looking at the child as a whole to figure out your game plan.
[00:23:41] JH: I think as a parent, it's important to just be honest with yourself and say, “Yeah. No, we eat a lot of fast food. Maybe that is impacting my child's attention and focus, and ability to be successful at school.” Just be honest with yourself. It's okay. I mean, we all get fast food.
[00:24:00] RH: We all do things that we're not necessarily proud of, or that –
[00:24:04] JH: Right. Or that are not the healthiest.
[00:24:05] RH: That aren’t great, yeah.
[00:24:06] JH: We all do it. I think, just being honest with yourself and saying, “Okay. I know that I do this. What can I change? What’s one little thing I can change to take a step towards a healthier life and help my child be a little bit healthier, a little bit happier, and feel a little bit more successful?”
[00:24:28] RH: Yeah. Now, one thing that we like to recommend is using a tracking sheet, or a visual aid with your clients, with yourself, if you’re a parent. Keep track of all of these things that we mentioned. The food every day, the sleep, the water, the stress. If something traumatic happened, make a note of it, and see a therapist, or talk about it. If you don't think your child had their – if you don't think their primitive reflexes are integrated, make a note of it and just baby steps to make a plan to make a difference.
[00:25:01] JH: Yeah, I think that's huge. It's just baby steps. It's one little step at a time, address the biggest concern and ask what you can do first. Ask your family, ask your – if you're a therapist, ask the family what they can do first. If you are a parent, ask what you can do first. What's one step you can do right now to just help your child feel and be healthier?
[00:25:23] RH: I love it. All right. I feel like this was a helpful episode.
[00:25:26] JH: I hope so.
[00:25:28] RH: I hope it was. If you have any follow up questions, if you feel there's anything we missed that you'd like to add to, let us know.
[00:25:36] JH: If you have any strategies that you have found that you love, we would love to share that with everyone, because sharing is caring. That's why we're here.
[00:25:45] RH: If this episode resonated with you, we'd appreciate a review on iTunes. We'd appreciate you taking a screenshot of listening and share it on social media. You can tag us @AllThingsSensoryPodcast, or @Harkla_Family.
[00:26:04] JH: I think that's it.
[00:26:06] RH: I think so.
[00:26:06] JH: Yeah. Thanks for being here, you guys.
[00:26:08] RH: Have an awesome week and we will chat next week.
[END OF EPISODE]
[00:26:12] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harkla. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the show notes.
[00:26:24] JH: We always have the show notes and links, plus full transcripts to make following along as easy as possible for everyone.
If you have follow-up questions, the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes, or message us on our Instagram account, which is @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you'll find us.
[00:26:43] RH: Like we mentioned before, our podcast listeners get 10% off their first order at Harkla. Whether it's for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings, the discount code SENSORY, will save you 10%. That code is S-E-N-S-O-R-Y. Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now, so you don't forget.
[00:27:06] JH: We're so excited to work together to help create confident kids all over the world and work towards a happier, healthier life.
[00:27:13] RH: All right. We'll talk to you guys next week.
[00:27:17] RH: Just a friendly reminder, this is general information related to occupational therapy, pediatrics, and sensory integration. We do not know you, or your child. Therefore, we do not know any specific needs. Therefore, you should always refer back to your pediatrician and occupational therapist for more information.
BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS
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.
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