Training for infants (English)
The integration of sensory information (signals into the brain from the surroundings) and motor training (signals leaving the brain speaking to muscles) is important in activating both hemispheres of the brain. Sensory-motor integration bilaterally equal, is important for smooth integrated movements. This is required for balance and coordination. In situations where the infant has some kind of asymmetry or nerve injury (like a brachial plexus nerve injury), the neglected side is not turned on in the same way as the active side.
There are strategies to signal and train the neglected side. It is important to activate both sides so they have optimal function before sitting up.
Vibration is a tool that stimulates a specific pathway in the brain to alert the body that the part of the body stimulated belongs to them. This is an important tool to use when the infant is not using both sides of the body equally. A simple massage instrument with vibration (or at the very least an electric tooth brush) can be used to stimulate the sole of the hand and foot, the joints on the non-dominant side (ankle, knee (NOT HIP), wrist, shoulder, and elbow). Other sensory information can be used like a soft brush, cold, warm, and tapping. They travel in other pathways but vibration is the most important.
Another aspect of training has to do with synchronizing an inborn reflex which is inactivated in conditions like torticollis and plagiocephaly. The eyes, the balance system and neck movements are coupled. When the infant is old enough to get eye contact, you engage their vision and have them turn their head to the right and to the left. Depending on the age it may be your face or a toy that makes noise and is colorful. They should follow and turn equally as far to right and left. Help them to bring both the right and the left hands to the mouth. They now stimulate themselves and get information from both sides. This should be done on the stomach and the back.
You should roll the baby from the back to the right and to the left sides. The will have difficulty to the non-dominant side, they usually throw out the arms like they are falling. This inhibits them from turning to that side, it affects balance and motor strength to the one side. Start early with this. Get their eyes to look to the side you want them to turn and roll them to that side. Do that on both sides.
It is important through the day to have the baby lie: on both sides, the stomach and back. Lying on the stomach and back they should be able to follow a face or a toy so the head turns fully to the right and the left. While lying on the side, have the baby look at toys to help activate the side that is up. At 3 months the baby should be reaching and holding things, here it is important to make sure the baby reaches with both hands. At three months get them to reach for a toy to the side you want them to turn. At this point, you can train with them on a Pilate’s boll. While on stomach, roll them gently side to side, forward and backward, and even have them on their side so they work with the non-dominant side. Head tilt is most difficult to resolve, so work with the ball and vision to get them to look up to the opposite side.
When lying on the stomach the baby should not tip over. When they have a dominant side it is common that they develop more strength to one side and do not have stability on the opposite side. The shoulder collapses and they fall over, this is not controlled. If you hold the pelvis stabile or at the knees, they train their core. You can give the weaker shoulder support by pushing from the elbow to the shoulder so they feel the correct position.
Throughout development it is important that the child does everything from the left and the right. By working to ensure this, you help to activate the core muscles so you inhibit the effects of an early asymmetry.