Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Letter to parents

For the past few years I've been handing out this letter to young parents-to-be that I've met in the course of my work.

Dear Parent,

Why place your baby face down?* (And other techniques for growing the brain!)

“Newborns lying on their backs facing the ceiling are upside down. They are in a position of total helplessness.
"Human beings are the only creatures who are kept upside down. Has anyone ever seen a colt, calf, puppy or kitten lying on its back with its legs up in the air?
"Do you want to see such foolishness as scratching his own eyes come to a halt? Fine, turn him right-side up instead of on his back and watch it all make sense. Now, as he lies in the prone position, with his soft underbelly protected by his bony skeleton, as nature intended. Now, face down as he was intended to be, with all his brain mechanisms right-side up, we see all the movements of arms and legs become great propulsive movements intended to move his body forward. It is as natural and sensible as what occurs if you take a turtle who is upside down, thrashing its arms and legs about, and turn it right-side up.

“Was the baby really intended to be face down instead of face up?
"Put him face down and watch all those random and useless arm and leg movements become crawling movements. We may love to watch him face up, but he wants to get moving along the ancient road to walking, and that road begins here.
"It is also precisely the fact of being face down on the floor that gives him the need for the function of holding his head up to see, and the structure required to do so.

“…parents of thousands of children all over the world have increased the brain growth of their children and, as a consequence, literally multiplied both the intelligence and the competence of their children.
            How did they do this? Quite simply.
            By putting their children on the floor with greater frequency and duration than the average child.”
(Glenn Doman, How to teach your baby to be physically superb. Pub. The Gentle Revolution Press, Maryland, USA. 1988.)

Additional note:
Devices that restrict children – playpens, infant seats, swing set, jumping devices and walkers are all prisons of one sort or another. These devices deliberately immobilise babies…They deny and limit opportunity for moving...Not only is mobility denied, but so are crawling and creeping (crawling on hands and knees), which are vital to the development of the brain. Particularly affected is the opportunity to develop convergence of vision and, in the end, reading, because convergence is not fully developed.
Dyslexia. Recent research confirms the importance of the prone position and crawling in early development in preventing dyslexia.
Placing the child face down as much as possible helps the child to develop ‘near-convergence’ – the eyes focus on objects in front of it on the floor. Placing the child on its back does not encourage this to happen and the eyes begin to focus on objects in the distance – causing ‘far-convergence’.
Without ‘near-convergence’, dyslexics find it difficult to ‘see’ the small letters that others find easy.

The book listed above is the first in a sequence which, if the advice they contain is followed, will result in supremely competent, happy, well-adjusted, secure children.
The books are all written by Glenn Doman and his associates.

“Why,” I hear you ask, “should I believe you?” To which I answer, “Don’t believe me. Instead, look at the research.”

In 1994, Dr Neil Harvey published the results of a survey of 314 children from 249 families who had been through Doman’s programme. He wanted to know the answers to these questions:
How did they get on at school? With their teachers? With their fellow students?

‘We are able to conclude…that the 314 children in our survey are kids whose eyes shine. They are children endlessly interested and interesting. They’re imaginative. They’re kids you like to talk to; they listen…but, more than that, they stick with the give and take of conversation. Their questions are fresh, although sometimes biting. They’re rapt, attentive to solid answers, tickled when they learn something new. Often, they can’t contain themselves and giggle uncontrollably. You enjoy being with them.

‘They continue to manage emotions well; they deal smoothly with all age groups and, perhaps most importantly, *they persist in being kind and caring and sensitive, far more than others the same age.

‘They’re well-rounded. They are socially popular, handle school subjects, play most any sport. They know a lot of things in many different areas; are at ease in the schoolroom, on the playground, at home, at a neighbour’s house, anywhere.

‘They’re kids for all seasons.”
(‘Kids who start ahead, stay ahead,’ Dr Neil Harvey, 1994, Avery)

*That’s the bit I particularly like – ‘they persist in being kind and caring and sensitive, far more than others the same age.’

Best wishes,


*Currently, the advice to parents is to put your child on its back when putting them to bed. But see the ‘How smart is my baby’ annex on SIDS.

Some recent research:

“The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging parents and caregivers to ensure that babies get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised, in light of a recent survey of therapists who say they've noticed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs while awake.”