Sleep, the Gut and Body Cognition

Sleep, the Gut and Body Cognition

Training the body to “know” and relate to a parasympathetic state and body cognition seems to promote deep sleep, regulation and healing.
In this interesting video, Dr. Stasha Gominakdiscusses “how vitamin D (from the sun) is needed to improve the stability of gut bacteria, which in turn help synthesize B vitamins necessary to facilitate deep sleep”.

My take outs from this are:

  1. Deep sleep allows natural regeneration of the mind and body
  2. Regenerative sleep is dependent on
    1. – Being in deep sleep
    2. – Vitamin D
    3. – Vitamin B’s
    4. – Given the right conditions the body will regulate its vitamins and even make B’s in the intestinal bacteria.
  3. We need to be mindful of the body’s innate capacity to heal.
  4. We need to be cautious with
    1. – Adding in vitamins, nutrients and natural remedies
    2. – Adding in too many variables of healing at one time (as each person in unique and we can easily upset the natural balance)
  5. Deep sleep and regulation of vitamins/mineral occurs more easily when body understands a parasympathetic (calm) state
Autism Reframe Technique (A.R.T.) in Action

Autism Reframe Technique (A.R.T.) in Action

Here is Holly at her practice doing cranial nerve massage – reflexology – with a fifteen year old client.

Holly says,

Most often kids and adults with autism don’t know what this soft state even feels like, so it is a big lesson even though it is subtle.

Outcomes based exercises make the brain focus on the exercise. Here Holly is only focusing on reducing body stress and reconnecting the mind. Most people with autism sit outside their body; their experience is of ‘not being in the body’.
The Positive Effects of Horses and Dogs on Autism

The Positive Effects of Horses and Dogs on Autism

It is becoming common knowledge that dogs and horses help to relax and soothe the autistic child and help promote pro-social behaviors. Like many therapies with autism that work, we implicitly agree that they do have a positive effect, yet we do not know why.

A few years ago, researchers demonstrated the therapeutic effect of horseback riding on social functioning in children with autism*. After twelve weeks of horseback riding intervention, 19 autistic participants exhibited ‘greater sensory seeking, sensory sensitivity, social motivation, and less inattention, distractibility, and sedentary behaviors’ than those on the wait-list (control).

Another study has shown that participants’ interacting with dogs have  ‘improved prosocial behaviors and reduced non-social behaviors such as stimming’ (Marten and Farnam 2002).

The results suggest that horseback riding and dog therapy may be viable options in treating those with autism… but why?

The Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, is the only theory so far that is capable of explaining why.

Becoming popular in psychological trauma circles The Polyvagal Theory and autism has yet to be taken up by the autism community, but it provides a comprehensive and simple explanation of autism and anxiety.

Dr Porges shows that when you are in a state of flight/fight/ or immobilization, that you physically have limited access to your ‘social engagement system’ – your eyes, ears and voice do not work so well when you are in a heightened, sympathetic state. When you are in a state of FFI your body is focused on survival and it is triggered into a shut-down mode. In order to reverse the ‘shut-down’, you need to get your body back into a parasympathetic state; you need to feel safe, to be soothed.

Dogs and horses can help to relax and soothe the autistic child and allow for the social engagement system to re-engage. Over time this can help to reinforce a new baseline for the child’s nervous system, so that the child can regularly get used to being in a calmer, more parasympathetic state.

*Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders September 2009, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1261-1267

Organicity, Non-Violence, Unity, Whole-ism & Autism

Organicity, Non-Violence, Unity, Whole-ism & Autism

I recently listened to a wonderful talk by Pat Ogden on Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and it aligns so well with my approach – which is of course so different from most.

So often, well-meaning people take an approach with autism that has a directive undertone of ‘I know best’; ‘you need to learn as I see fit’.

They know how to take an approach that says ‘you are whole’; and ‘I know you have the answers inside you’ with the general population, but when they work with those on the autism spectrum that courtesy is not afforded.

  • If we decide that this population ‘do not know’ how to deal with their issues,  the focus is on instruction and direction.
    • While this may keep people alive and safe from running out on the street, or keep their teeth clean, it does not help when we want to bring about significant change. (if indeed we believe this is possible!).
  • Even if we are working psychologically with people on the spectrum, very, very often, we dismiss this very important human proposition.

Body Sensation

What I see in my work is that people on the spectrum begin to blossom when you deal with their organic, body sensation; when you alleviate the organic , learnt sensation – just as Pat Ogden is describing in her more psychotherapeutic approach. And you cannot account for the direction of that growth. It is just that – organic. It is an offence to the inherent integrity of the person in front of you to think you know what that the type and extent of growth will be.

My work is sometimes not taken seriously by professionals in Australia, (perhaps not understood?) and this is often from people who take an approach that is, I suggest, opposite to this. They think at base that people on the spectrum need to learn, but what I see is that they learn very, very well when they feel safe, when they feel well met and when their body system is alleviated.

What is happening is that, at a grass roots level, people are starting to gravitate to what they see to be true. Therein lies the potential for real change.

Image: Pat Ogden

Autism Therapy Without Force and Control

Autism Therapy Without Force and Control

The image at the top of this post is a mini model I use to help those on the autism spectrum get a picture of what the body can access when it is in different states.

For those with anxiety (and more) I find it is very helpful for them to see that this ‘happens to them’, rather than it being a brain aberration or deficit that they are forever stuck with.

It is useful to people to discover, in a way they can easily grasp, that the body finds it difficult to process sensory information when it is in an extreme state.

  • This can inspire curiosity and openness and can provide safety, context and ownership of the sensory- attentional work.
  • People then get to see what it can do when it is not in an extreme state.


Resilience, from my perspective, is about the body learning to be in a more parasympathetic state. We are looking to access the DFM (default mode network) and to find ways to let the body find new points of rest and safety.

  • This builds strength at an interstitial level
  • It allows the body to regenerate, neural processes to have time to sort and reorganise and the body/mind to be better connected so that processes like working memory, executive functioning and interoception are more accessible.

It is not outcomes focused, it is a blend of cognition, curiosity, permission and personal authority guided by the therapist.