Neuroplasticity and How it Relates to Brecksville Early Intervention Services
If your child has been recommended for Brecksville early intervention services, either due to developmental delays or a diagnosis of a condition like autism, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy, odds are you’ve heard the term “neuroplasticity.”
That’s a somewhat intimidating word, but the concept is fairly straightforward – and important to understand if you’re considering the value of early intervention services, which are initiated before a child’s 5th birthday, or sooner if possible.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change – to relearn, rewire, establish and strengthen important connections. If the brain is injured or developing atypically, neurons can be damaged, altered, or lost. The good news is that the brain can establish new pathways. There is a brief window of time with young children where the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections – especially in response to learning or experience – is especially effective. This is called neuroplasticity.
Children’s minds are like little sponges, absorbing everything around them. It’s what gives them the “superpower” of learning the fundamentals of movement, language and basic independence (walking, talking, feeding, etc.) in just a few short years. If a child has a developmental delay or a condition that has made reaching typical developmental milestones challenging, intervening early with services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and physical therapy allows us to leverage a child’s natural neuroplasticity to help their brains create and reinforce new neural pathways that allow them to glean new skills, habits, and ways of thinking.
The science of neuroplasticity provides invaluable insight, and has driven practitioners to stress the importance of early intervention therapies – which prioritize repetitive practice and positive reinforcement – for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. For these kids, their brain neurons are wired in ways that are often “unhelpful,” leading them to struggle in areas like communication, social skills, movement, and other areas. Our Brecksville early intervention services help little minds to “rewire,” developing new neuropathways and circuits that are helpful and functional.
The brain’s capacity for change and adaptation is truly remarkable, but the timing of these actions is essential. Research has shown time and again that the earlier we correct the connections and neuropathways in a child’s brain, the stronger those behaviors and skillsets are established. Children don’t “unlearn” things they already know or ways they’ve always done things. But when we intervene with scientifically-proven processes of early intervention therapies, we help them re-establish brand new pathways.
The brain of a young child has 50 percent more connections between neurons than in the adult brain, meaning they have a significant amount of plasticity, or flexibility. When a child is properly diagnosed early on, we have a strong understanding of their skill deficits and can use that to design an early intervention program that’s going to effectively stimulate the neurons in the targeted weaker areas of the brain. We work to help them establish, practice, and strengthen those areas of the brain critical for developing certain skills sets. Repetition and practice are essential, which is why parent commitment to the process (keeping regular appointments, at-home carryover, etc.) is critical as well. Using every opportunity you have to reinforce the lessons and skills we’re teaching in therapy is a chance to help shape their brain – and change their future for the better.
This does not mean that these therapies are ineffective after early childhood. It’s just that working within that window – before age 5 – can yield the most significant and lasting results.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Serve & Return Concept of Parent Engagement, Harvard University Child Development Center
More Blog Entries:
When Should Our Child Start ABA Therapy? Dec. 15, 2021, Brecksville Early Intervention Services Blog