Attention please! New documentary by St Albans filmmaker sheds light on childhood developmental difficulties
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An award-winning St Albans film maker is launching her acclaimed documentary to an international audience in a bid to raise awareness of a little-known neurological condition.
This condition, referred to as neuro-developmental delay, is believed to underlie many of the many of the behavioural, emotional and learning difficulties which today's children and teenagers are experiencing.
Andrea Thornton's documentary ATTENTION PLEASE takes a look at children with behavioural and emotional issues and suggests an alternative which doesn't involve years of medication.
Focusing on the stories of a handful of families, she explores how an alternative drug-free therapy became a turning point in their children's lives, and led to an understanding of the underlying causes of their learning, behavioural and emotional issues.
Andrea looks into how primitive reflexes - automatic, instinctive reactions which help a baby survive but which should only be active for its first year of life - can act as a barrier to normal development of the central nervous system if they are retained.
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This means that the central nervous system continues to function at an immature level, and this can result not only in learning difficulties but also in behavioural and emotional issues. Children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, anxiety and those on the autistic spectrum are often found to be developmentally delayed.
Andrea meets with neuro-developmental therapist Bob Allen, who has been instrumental in developing a non-invasive, drug-free neural stimulation programme aimed at eliminating the underlying causes of neuro-developmental delay, rather than treating its symptoms.
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She explained how she first became interested in finding out more about retained primitive reflexes: "My son was diagnosed with ADHD aged five, and the only option given to me was medication. I felt deep down this wasn't right, but I didn't have an alternative to be able to challenge it... until I met Bob, who showed me what might be going on with my son.
"It was so simple, so logical and a game changer. Having witnessed first-hand what this drug free therapy does, I vowed I would some day document this incredible story. I believe there could be millions of incorrectly 'labelled' children around the world; I hope this documentary goes some way in changing that."
Lucy Simmonds, a Harpenden mum whose daughter's story also features in the documentary, says Bob Allen's treatment programme played a major role in her daughter's recovery from anorexia and she strongly believes this condition could have been prevented if she had been treated for neuro-developmental delay when younger.
Clearly intelligent, academic learning had nevertheless proved difficult for her daughter. Over the years, numerous assessments had identified a host of seemingly unrelated issues that affected her learning including vision issues, slow processing speed, poor working memory, language delay and communication issues. She also had sensory issues and suffered with anxiety. Lucy said: "Yet it had always felt like there was something we were all missing."
Unable to access or express her intelligence, her daughter's issues had affected her confidence and led to low self-esteem. Coupled with extreme anxiety, this had made her vulnerable and at secondary school she suffered bullying. This eventually led to self-harm and a serious eating disorder requiring hospitalisation.
Lucy explained: "When I first took her to see Bob Allen, it was a 'eureka moment'. It was the first time anyone had identified the underlying cause of her difficulties and suddenly everything began to make sense - her issues were all connected and the result of neuro-developmental delay. The treatment programme saw her issues slowly resolve and disappear but perhaps most importantly, her confidence and self-esteem started to improve.
"She made a full recovery from anorexia and started to believe in herself for the first time in her life. This had a positive impact on her friendships and social life and over the coming months and years we saw her slowly but surely become the happy and outgoing young woman she is today."
In a very personal account, St Albans mum Sandy Denyer revealed her own experiences with the treatment, which culminated in her changing careers and training under Bob Allen.
"I've spent the last 20 years working as a physical therapist and time and again I'd noticed patterns of postural imbalance that seemed to go hand in hand with certain personality traits. I always felt there had to be a link but despite spending most of my working life in healthcare in various guises, I couldn't find an explanation that made any sense.
"A few years ago I was recommended to Bob for help with some behavioural issues one of my children was having and that's when the penny dropped. It was retained primitive reflexes I'd been witnessing all these years.
"As my son went through Bob's programme it became apparent my whole family had retained primitive reflexes manifesting in different ways - Bob refers to this as "The Family Tsunami", which is a great term as you can see it rippling through families and presenting in many different ways.
"You can have one family member a bit of a 'bull in a china shop` whilst another very shy and fearful. Yet it's the same reflex presenting in different ways.
"Consequently we all went through the programme, which I can honestly say has been a hugely liberating experience.
"The underlying anxiety that had accompanied me most of my life had disappeared and I was left with a feeling of finally being comfortable in my own skin.
"You don't fully appreciate you're not comfortable until you are!
"I think the biggest gift it has given my children apart from helping them with their ability to learn is an inner confidence, not only with their peer group but in any situation they find themselves in.
"Obviously once I'd found the missing link I persuaded Bob to train me and now it's really fantastic to be able to help people of all ages overcome many diverse issues and become truly comfortable in their own skin."
ATTENTION PLEASE has already screened at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and won the 'Best Short Documentary - Mental Health' at Atlantic City's Cinefest later that year.
Now Andrea is hoping to bring it to a wider audience through the subscription service Amazon Prime.