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Three Reasons Why Your Child Is Not “Regressing”

Dec 02, 2020

So many times, families will make statements during the course of intervention alluding to their child appearing to be going “backward” instead of forward. We do believe this to be quite disconcerting and would like to reiterate that such comments are not taken lightly. When families invest heart, soul, mind, time and finances in intervention, they want to see the results they are hoping for and they are completely within their rights to expect a positive outcome. Families come to us because they want their child to improve on overall function, from development to academics to social-emotional behavior. It is a big ask, and we can make quite a difference with the newer brain-based technologies we have available to us today. Due to neuroplasticity research, we believe in high intensity, high frequency intervention interspersed with weekly services particular to the child’s profile. And for the past 19 years, we have stood the test of time and created change in many clients over a range of diagnostic categories across the age spectrum. This does not mean that we have perfect answers to every situation, but we have learnt, studied and experienced multiple different scenarios that we had to find answers for. And yes, we do experience the question of “regression” multiple times in families. Let me explain:

The first reason why what looks like regression is not truly a regression, is because of neurophysiology. It is simply not possible for the brain pathways to go “back” except if the child experienced blunt force brain injury, has a medical diagnosis that includes degeneration of nervous system pathways or aging. Once the brain processes at a certain speed, this speed is available to the child. The good days you are observing the child you wish to have, is the “real” child waiting to happen on a consistent basis. If parents shift their focus from the exact place they want to see, they will usually find that there are other changes taking place at the same time as they are seeing the “regression” in specific skills. This is a temporary situation that subsides as soon as the nervous system has run its course in the shifts that need to take place.

A second reason lies in the nature of typical development. Children who develop neurotypically naturally go through growth spurts during which our little “angel” turns into not being an “angel” for a period of time. During growth spurts specific pathways are being pruned for integration, causing a momentary “re-shuffling” of the “known” to meet the unknown. This is disconcerting to the developing child, who is also struggling for autonomy and independence. It makes them feel unsettled for a while until both the “old” and “new” merges into new found strength and ability. When children go through a brain-based program, these “re-shuffling” stages occur at older ages where no one thinks the “growth spurt” is cute any longer and due to now having gained more intelligence more is expected of their behavior. But the child essentially has to go through these growth spurts in order to gain ground, so yes, it may temporarily look like the child’s behavior is getting worse, though in effect, due to the child’s age and intelligence, it feels worse than for the neurotypical child going through change at younger ages. Children do not understand why they are feeling out of control. To please others expectations is just as elusive to them as it is feels baffling to the parents. Due to the increased complexity of age and stage, these disruptions can take longer than if it happened at the neurotypical ages, though not in all situations.

Sometimes families note that their child has “lost” skill, instead of gaining skill. The third reason can also be traced back to neurotypical development. Remember when your neurotypically developing child was saying some words and when  they started to walk the first time, they stopped talking for a while? Then after they mastered the act of walking, the talking came back? This happens because the brain is pruning in separate directions, a necessary step before integration when we can multi-task and do separate tasks simultaneously. 

High frequency, high intensity intervention may have a temporary cost and we clearly explain this to families from the outset and invite them to share this journey of discovery with us. We frequently consult, send videos home and ensure that families understand their child’s process every step of the way. It is a time and financial commitment, but the time it saves the child in the longer run to feel in control, feel capable and less anxious, makes it all worthwhile. It can be rough, but living every day with average to high intelligence and not being able to perform commensurate to expectations for multiple years is even more rough. We thank each and every family for helping us learn what we needed to know in order to stand strong today. Their belief in us have been instrumental in creating change where change was necessary.
If you think we can help your situation, please contact [email protected] to do an initial phone call at no charge to you.

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