A Message from the Regenerative Healthcare Summit About Neurodiversity
A Message from the Regenerative Healthcare Summit About Neurodiversity
Stephanie Mines, PhD
Summit Convener and Founder
The TARA Approach for the Resolution of Shock and Trauma
Climate Change & Consciousness
The American Waiting Room Says It All
This poem, written as I sat in a medical office, says it all about the broken Western healthcare system.
The American Waiting Room
The round-faced woman turns to me and says:
“My baby sister is dying. I’m saving up for a hot air balloon ride.”
“It’s on her bucket list. There’s nothing they can do about it.”
My hand goes to my heart.
“You are a wonderful sister,” I say.
The woman pulls out her phone and shows me a photo of her sister, Pouring a vodka martini into her feeding tube.
“I’m retired now,” she continues.
Then she points to her red swollen ankle and says,
“I had surgery there, but since then, I can hardly walk.”
On the other side of the room a mom shushes.
Her agitated son who keeps hitting his head with his clenched fist.
Mom adjusts her body to hide him.
The receptionist glances furtively towards the people in the room,
Then returns her eyes to the computer screen.
Her long fingernails, painted green with shamrocks click rhythmically.
It is St. Patrick’s Day.
The scent of a micro-waved meal wafts through the cold air.
Scenes of a bombed-out Ukrainian city
Flash on the silenced television screen above us.
This then transitions to an immaculately dressed newscaster,
Seated behind an s-shaped acrylic desk in a room that rotates
As if on a turntable of tragedies.
I find my neutrality.
I identify my midline.
Awash with grief and rage, grief and rage,
I unite with everyone:
The round-faced woman, her sister, the mom, the receptionist, and
The newscaster, but most of all with the boy
Obscured by his mother’s body,
Whose muffled sounds renew my commitment to my destiny.
Neurodiversity and Climate Crisis
I was guided to do clinical research with neurodiverse youngsters ages 5-11 as a result of what I discovered writing They Were Families: How War Comes Home, which is primarily about secondary traumatization. In that research, I found out that the children of veterans are 80% (yes, 80%) more likely to struggle with sensory issues and neurodiversity than the general population. After completing this book, I dove right into this research and out of it came my subsequent book, New Frontiers in Sensory Integration. I was hot on the trail of how epigenetics and secondary traumatization are transferred to children invisibly, just like breathing the small particulate matter in polluted air or inhaling the undetected lead in paint.
It became clear to me in my services to families marinating in the invisible wounds of combat shock that whatever remained unprocessed and undigested in the brains of veterans, their children tried to process for them. The partners and families of veterans tried to buffer the contamination, but rarely could succeed. The adults, though, have the option of consciousness and evolutionary thinking, while the children were physiologically obligated by the exposure itself to sort the sensory experiences that infused them. Their brains, depending of course on their age, often did not have the capacity to differentiate the past from the present, or even, oftentimes, to separate their sensations from what was coming towards them.
I posit that we can safely say that the same thing is happening now in our world, which is unquestionably reeling every day from catastrophe, climate crisis, shock upon shock, even for those privileged and protected in their ivory towers of wealth. The children are still breathing in the contamination of all that is suppressed.
Our brains and our nervous systems anchor our children. Throughout my years of serving families living with a broad spectrum of neurodiversity, it never failed that when parents organized themselves, the children became more internally organized.
The same thing applies right now. When we as parents sort ourselves out, our children will reap the benefits. Then, they will not have to do our sorting for us, which is a recipe for failure.
None of this is said to impose guilt. It is intended to open a liberating gateway. I suggest that we have the response-ability to see our neurodiverse children as whole; undamaged. And to see ourselves as their stewards and advocates, with the task of sorting the overwhelm of the accelerating climate crisis within ourselves so that we can anchor our children and youth.
The mother in my poem who was ashamed of her child was forcing her child to sort through her shame in his body. That was more overwhelming, I can safely say, than his own sensory struggles as he tried to deal with the scenes on the overhead silent television, the horrid smell of the microwaved meal, the cold air, and the clicking of the receptionist’s fingernails. Everyone in the room was disturbed by the entire de-humanized, compensating, unreal environment in a medical setting, where we came for healing. What a jarring shock that we have all become accustomed to and accept as standard. The boy’s sobbing guttural bursts, which made everyone turn away or feel sorry for the mother, were our sounds–if only we allowed ourselves to make them. We should make them, and take the actions of protest they suggest. In my silence from across the room, I partnered with the boy and let him know that I understood his sounds.
Using applied touch and attunement, in small pilot studies with neurodiverse children between the ages of 5 and 11, diagnosed as autistic, the statistical analysis was conclusive. The control group that did not receive these specific interventions, remained static, or in some cases, regressed, while those receiving them made real progress in lifestyle skills and learning. The nervous system settles when that feeling of being seen as whole is integrated, supported by appropriate touch, and the adult in that child’s presence is attentive and focused.
Our children are in despair; they see no future; they are weighed down by the chaos and confusion around them. If we see this as an aspect of their wholeness and address our own anxiety about the reality of our predicament, I believe that a new intelligence, an evolved consciousness, will emerge.
I invite the adults in the room to breathe into our neuroplasticity, to realize that our brains are not mechanical, rigid devices but living, changing and resilient organisms. If we simply inquire with genuine curiosity rather than seeing symptoms or labeling behaviors, we immediately generate a resonant, vibrant relational field that grounds those around us in potential. Let us add to that potent limbic stewarding advocacy. In this way we partner with our children, feel their rhythms, and join with them as we witness their potential.
The origins of sensory development are in utero. Reflecting with equanimity on the historical events of a child’s primary developmental experiences and seeing that from their perspective, supports the consolidation of sensory filtering and moves forward evolution that may have been restricted from the absence of earlier connection.
Greta Thunberg is a shining example of a neurodiverse young person who healed herself of overwhelming alienation and despair by following her own rhythms, with the support of her parents. She has daringly and unflinchingly revealed her process so that we can all see how she has brightened in the light of her own truth. I have seen this same thing happen with the neurodiverse children I know. I do believe that many of them are our leaders and that their unique intelligences are perfectly suited for the mysterious conundrums we created for them. This was true for Nikola Tesla and Temple Grandin. Both benefited from niche construction, or experiencing resources cultivated to maximize their gifts, early in development.
Let’s keep building communities of empowerment for the families of neurodiverse children. Let us encourage niche construction, and learn how to attune to our children. And, most importantly, let’s get ourselves in order and our children will soak that up and feel safe in their own original brilliance.
Stephanie Mines, PhD, is the author of New Frontiers in Sensory Integration (New Forums)