Time is an obscure concept, isn’t it? We expect kids to understand the passage of time and when they don’t, it’s hard for us to understand. Well, at least I found it hard to understand.
For the longest time, my son had trouble understanding time, and the passage of it. He didn’t understand how long it would take him to do things. He didn’t understand how time was measurable and that you could use it to help guide you through a task or through your day. He knew how to tell time, well mostly anyway- but he didn’t have a sense of time.
That sense of time is what was the hardest part because he wasn’t able to gauge how long it would take to put on his shoes, or how long he needed to get ready for bed on time. He also struggled with waiting. Waiting was really hard and I think that it had a lot to do with the fact that he didn’t understand the passage of time. It’s like asking someone to wait forever- when really it’s a short period of time. But- to someone that doesn’t understand the passage of time it might feel like forever. Waiting for a few minutes doesn’t feel like just a few minutes- and so it’s SO hard to do!
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with Brain Fit Academy. Well-what is interesting is that many kids who come to us also have trouble with time- with understanding the passage of time. I know it has a lot to do with the lack of Executive Functioning skills that these kids have.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, Executive Functions are the skills of planning, monitoring behavior, attention to detail, organizing, etc. and the part of the brain responsible for those Executive Functions is called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is what we think of as the “highest level” of the brain. The last part of the “thinking brain” to develop. And since it is way up there in the “thinking brain”, we have to build the neuropathways from the “baby brain” (brain stem) (where the primitive reflexes are housed) up to the thinking brain, and then eventually to the prefrontal cortex. It’s entirely possible that building those pathways and “reorganizing” the brain might take awhile. And so- we often teach kids compensations (such as marking out time on a clock) to help them learn while we work to integrate the reflexes. Watch this video that Pam created about this if you’re interested in learning about that strategy.
Just recently however, in the last primitive reflex class I was teaching, we got into an interesting discussion related to time and how it relates to the reflexes. One of the participants is a preschool teacher, and I was teaching everyone about the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR). A few of the potential effects of an unintegrated (not finished) TLR are poor sense of time and poor sequencing skills.
Poor sense of time- see? There it is. This teacher was asking me if that could be why some of her preschool students take so long to eat. They just don’t know how long it takes to eat and take way longer than other’s the same age. While it’s entirely possible there are other reasons, if that symptom was coupled with others from the TLR list, then it definitely could have something to do with it! So not only could that difficulty with understanding the passage of time be related directly with an underdevelopment in the frontal lobe- but it could also be directly related to an unintegrated reflex- the TLR. It makes perfect sense-poor sense of time and also poor sequencing skills. When you stop to think about it, what is time really? It’s a sequence of course! A sequence of minutes and hours and days and years. No wonder kids with an unintegrated TLR also can have trouble with that sense of time!
Like I said, time is such an obscure concept. But, like so many other things we think about at Brain Fit- when we look at it from a different lens- as an immaturity in the brain, we find the root cause and then we can work to change it.
One thing I know for sure is that as we do this work, kids find it easier to understand the passage of time. It worked for my son, and it works for others too. Time becomes less obscure and more understood, and it’s pretty cool to see it happen!