Move Play Thrive helps babies overcome learning challenges

Sonia Story operates a Move Play Thrive, which works with children. She is a neurodevelopmental specialist.  - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Sonia Story operates a Move Play Thrive, which works with children. She is a neurodevelopmental specialist.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

KINGSTON — Babies. It’s one word that either incites a phobic “eek” or a paternal “awe.”

Whether scared of the little things or completely love-struck, every one started out as a diaper-clad baby.

At infancy, babies learn how to use their body, building on instinctual reflexes, which are programmed in everyone like a template, said Kingston resident Sonia Story.

For instance, upon placing a finger in the chubby hands of a 2-month old, expect an automatic, wrap-around clench hold. And, many people know why babies spark a sudden smile.

However, as development progresses some children aren’t able to cement basic movements and reflexes, making each stage of learning more difficult. Even when it comes to elementary education and beyond.

“So many things can disrupt the growing process,” Story said. “It all comes back to how the brain is wired. If children don’t integrate their own reflexes, it creates glitches in their nervous system.”

Story, who specializes in neurodevelopmental movement and reflex integration, works out of offices in Kingston and on Bainbridge Island. Her practice — a mouthful to be sure — comes after years of education. She double-majored in psychology and sociology from Occidental College in Los Angeles, took a break to homeschool her two daughters on the island of Maui and sold papaya seeds with her husband. Then, she went back to school to study her current passion: helping children overcome learning challenges with brain-based movement.

Brain-based movement brings people back to basics. Story said she works with people of all ages, from 18-month-olds to 70-year-olds, to overcome challenges created by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), anxiety, sleep challenges or even phobias, she said.

“Children who are having difficulty learning nearly always have un-integrated reflex patterns,” she said.

Reflexes, like blinking or jerking a hand away from a hot stove ,are active throughout life. Other reflexes, developed in the womb, run their course through toddler years until they merge or integrate into more sophisticated movements.

“The reflexes of early childhood are critically important because they train the brain and the entire Neuro-Sensory-Motor (NSM) system,” Story said. “The NSM system is the foundation for nearly all human skills and is especially significant for learning.”

There are multiple reasons reflexes can remain un-integrated, she said. Story often attributes learning challenges to a lack of early childhood movement such as spending too much time in restrictive car seats, carriers, walkers, swings and jumpers.

“When childhood reflexes remain active (un-integrated), many difficulties emerge,” she said.

Some challenges Story and her clients tackled include test anxiety, handwriting challenges, bed wetting, fidgeting, fatigue and social interaction difficulties.

Story’s offices are spaciously set up for playing with her clients — toss games, belly crawl races and stretching movements are all part of Story’s assessment strategies.

“Kids love it and don’t even realize I’m assessing them,” she said.

Her business, titled Move Play Thrive, highlights the essentials to healthy learning, she said. Through movement and play, the brain and body movements link up to create a supportive framework for learning.

Looking back on the top honors Story graduated with from college, she said it’s hard to believe but school was always difficult for her. She was first introduced to the idea that she, too, could have a learning difficulty while reading about ADHD in text books.

She reflected many of the symptoms. Watching her daughters grow, she became acutely aware of childhood learning challenges.

“As a parent and neurodevelomental movement specialist I’ve watched many children, including my own, overcome huge challenges and make deep beneficial progress as a result of doing simple, brain-enhancing movements on a regular basis,” she said. “Many children have trouble learning despite being highly intelligent, creative and sensitive.”

For more information on Story’s work visit her Web site

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