Unmasking Social Engagement in Children – ChiroSecure with Dr. Monika Buerger

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Now here’s today’s host, Dr. Monika Buerger.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to ChiroSecure’s Look to the Children Show. I am your host for today, Dr. Monika Buerger. And once again I want to thank ChiroSecure for giving the chiropractic profession this amazing platform to help educate and inform all of you amazing chiropractors. So today, I want to touch on a very concerning topic that I’m getting a lot of text messages, emails, pings on Facebook, what do we need to think of in regards to our little fiddle farts returning back to school in the Fall? So I want to broach a couple of key topics here and concerns that we have over the COVID classroom. So I put together a few slides. We’re going to kind of go over those and let’s dig in and talk about some of those concerns that we are well aware of but maybe our patients, our parents, and our principals and powers to be aren’t so knowledgeable about.

So here we go. Concerns over the COVID classroom. Let’s think about this. First of all, I really want you to understand the neurological basis that we are finding ourselves in and our children in. Where is that coming from? What does that manifest? What does it look like? The world, for a large part, is in what I call a frontal lobe flip. Frontal lobe is our executive functioning part of our brain. It’s our reasoning part of our brain. It’s our rational part of our brain. It allows us to have impulse control. It is what makes us human. It is going to have regulation over our emotions. So hold onto that as we go through these slides. And it’s going to be our source of consciousness. So when we don’t have control over our executive functioning part of our brain, we can’t be reasonable, rational, impulse control, our memory, our social engagement system, our ability to initiate tasks and sustain tasks, stay on task in classroom. And how do we get there? How do we get plugged in or stuck in that fearmonger, that amygdala? It’s in situations that we know are unpredictable.

Most of us have lived the last three months plus or so in unpredictable circumstances, and that just doesn’t mean us adults, that means our little fiddle farts as well. Their schooling in the Spring was abruptly halted. They couldn’t predict that. They were transitioned to a homeschool format. Things that they were not used to. They weren’t able to see their friends or family members, and life became a very big upheaval. The next factor, there’s three factors that kind of drive us into this amygdala, is uncontrollable situations. Again, especially for the little fiddle farts, their life has been one uncontrollable ball of mass. They were pulled from school. They can’t see their friends, their family members, do the activities they were used to doing, from baseball to dance to whatever. And they had no control over it.

And the third thing is when something becomes sustainable. So we’ve pretty much been living there in that three complex dynamic, and this drives us into that fearmonger, into living into our emotional center, their limbic system, the amygdala, and it flips off our frontal lobe. So, thus, we’re all walking around in a very temperamental, a low threshold, flip mode. And you’ll notice that with your patients that come in, you just look at them wrong or say the wrong word, or maybe not your patients but their family members and society as a whole. So this leads us into anxiety, stress, worry, fear. We cannot be in a rest and digest growth and development learning phase if we’re stuck in our fearmonger. So this is going to be very applicable to our kiddos when they return to school in the Fall.

All right. Now, one thing I’d like to get you all thinking about is this is a very temperamental issue right now. I’m working with a lot of teachers and school districts in my particular area and doing some education on this. And I am first handedly seeing the two sides of the coin, because one side is going to be in frontal lobe flip, they have been driven into a very fear based mode in regards to, “Oh my gosh. If we get this virus, we’re all going to die.” So they are stuck in that fear based mode. And then you have the other side that may be very passionate and emotional about not wearing masks, being okay with allowing their body to be healthy. So you’re getting these two opposing sides of the coin. So my message to you is, what I have found is when you walk into a room or a conversation in regards to masks or no mask, in particular, today, I’m going to really just go over to the proposals that have been set forth by the CDC for starting school in the Fall.

And that is wearing masks and inhibiting things like recess, like lunch. They’re proposing eat lunch in the classroom. So that’s going to be lack of movement. So those are the only two things I’m going to have time to cover today. But, again, you’re going to see these opposing sides to the coin, and you might have an emotional stance towards one side or the other, which is fine, but understand, when you go into a conversation, the other person may be on the other end of you. So if you’re going in there to fight fire with fire, if you’re going to run into, if your office building is burning down, it’s on fire, are you going to go in there carrying a torch to try to put that fire out? It’s not going to put that fire out. So be mindful of that emotional tie to this very sensitive topic.

And I want to give you some strategies of conversation to build, and it just may be dropping some pearls of information to temper that fire down in the opposing person, the opposing party, and just get them thinking about some things. And for yourself, before you go into a conversation of this, it would very behoove you to get your vagal tone in balance, do some deep breathing, calm down, get out of your amygdala, get your prefrontal cortex online, get adjusted, because we know that, that helps to regulate somatic sensory information to the prefrontal cortex, bringing your prefrontal cortex online, getting you out of your amygdala. And go in there with a strategy of serving and giving information rather than trying to get them, sway them, your way. It’s like going into a relationship where you think you can get that person you’re going into a relationship to change. Don’t go in with that mindset. That’s what I found is not helpful. So let’s think about this. Let’s regard form of masks.

We have the issue of hypoxia. One of the things you may be confronted with is that studies supposedly show that they’re safe hypoxia isn’t necessarily an issue unless the levels of CO2 get too high, and that is very hard to happen. That’s one view you may get to see. Now, we’ve got to take this into context of the little fiddle farts’ body weight. When we are stuck in that amygdala drive, which we’re going to talk about the social ramifications of wearing a mask, the social engagement and the emotional ramifications, we’re going to be stuck in that limbic lock and load mode so we may get some more excessive breathing, more excessive CO2, so forth. So you can simply ask these individuals that you may be conversing with, have you gone a whole day about your normal workload doing your normal workload wearing a mask and how did you feel?

Did you have less energy? Did you maybe get a headache? Were you grouchier? And get them to understand how they felt and take that to a higher degree with the little fiddle farts. And there are some, not a lot, but there are a few good studies out there looking at healthcare workers and the events of hypoxia and that the majority do report shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, inability to concentrate. I am working on a document right now for my Intersect For Life tribe and I’m going to try to make that available once it’s done and available to everybody to use that to maybe present to schools and principals and so forth. So what I would recommend is you follow our Intersect For Life Educational Seminars, Intersect For Life Educational Seminars Facebook page, because that will most likely be where you’ll be able to download this document. And I’m using backup research for all these specific areas.

So that’s the one about hypoxia. So we need to understand that when we look at the basic four rooms of health, digestion is one, blood sugar balance and adrenal regulation is another, sleep is another, and good oxygen. So just in a given standpoint, we are always looking for good oxygen and airway. When we have children that are hypertonic, that maybe there is poor posture and slouch, just by that they can’t get good oxygen because their thoracis can’t expand enough to get good oxygen. So add the mask on top of that, that’s just another double whammy. Now, let’s look at the situation of increased infection, and I don’t want you just to think about increased COVID infection, infection in general. First of all, we have to be very practical. If a family has two, three, four, five little fiddle farts in school, they really should be wearing a new mask every day, unless they are taking those masks every day and washing them and sanitizing them.

So the amount of bacteria and germs and so forth that is going to accumulate on these masks, that family is going to have to have the funds to either buy disposable masks for every one of the family members, one for every day, and get rid of them. Are school’s going to take measures to get UV light devices to help sanitize the masks? They don’t have the funds for that. So we need to educate our academic arena and our parents that they really need to be wearing a clean mask every day. Now, when Fall comes around, we tend to see a spike in various flu bugs and so forth, including strep. One thing I want you to take into consideration is that strep in particularly has been known to come through the nasal passage and land itself in the CNS, and particularly, it can hit the amygdala and the basal ganglia. And this is one of the reasons we see post strep infectious episodes in the forms that we’ll call PANDAS, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep.

Note, the neuropsychiatric disorders associated with strep. These infectious loads can come through the nasal passage and land themselves in the CNS. Do we know that specifically of COVID yet? We can’t say that for sure about COVID. But it stands to reason, if we have other pathogens that can do that, this pathogen can as well and we do know there is a big association with neurological disorders and COVID. So when we talk about the increased risk of infection, don’t just land it on COVID but look at other past loads that we know and we have the evidence of. It’s very common that kiddos that have a PANDAS situation, their behavior changes on the dime and we start to see things like OCD, like ticks, like sensory processing dysregulation because of the amygdala and the basal ganglia. So, again, in the Fall when these pathogens are out and about, it’s not just COVID we’re worried about with wearing the mask, we’re worried about these other infectious loads as well.

Social cues and emotional regulation. This is huge. This is so big, this is really, really once you dive in. So we know that facial expression is how we’re able to perceive if a situation is threatening or not threatening and that goes back to our primate days, to the mammalian days, where they were able, if animals and reptiles in particular looked at eyes, they could discern fear. So breaking it down to easy, simple terms, the eyes and the mouth are big facial structures in where humans will gather information about that person in their environment. There is a mapping that goes on. Our brain fills in blanks. So if we can’t see all of a facial structure, our brain will fill in blanks to make a big picture. Is it a happy, good, safe environment or is it not?

But it’s based on the background situation that’s laid down at the time. So if it’s a happy situation, for example, the veil over a woman when she’s getting married, that’s a happy situation. So the background setting in that environment is happy, peaceful, good, safe. The background environment that kiddos are going to go into in the Fall is what? Fear, unknown, uncertainty, a bad situation. That’s why we’re all being social distancing and these masks are going on. So their brain has already set the stage for this is a threatening situation. Now, the eyes reveal fear, anger, sadness. The mouth reveals in what they see in the neuroscience mostly happiness or discussed. Before the age of 14, little fiddle farts fill in maps on their brain about a certain situation via eyes, via face by parts.

After the age of 14, these structures kind of connect together so I can look at a person and I can quickly, in 13 seconds, makes the connection between the eyes and mouth and make a full picture of what that person’s facial expression is telling me. Before that, it’s in parts. So if we’re covering a big part with a mask, these little fiddle farts are only getting information from the eyes. The information we get from the eyes really is processed with the amygdala. Now we’re back to that fearmonger. So amygdala is constantly discerning and it can’t create a full picture. It’s constantly discerning, is this a safe place for me or not? And usually, the medulla is run by fear. When they’re in fear, the way the brain works is it will only concentrate and lend its attention to the fear based mode and we can’t be in a learning growth environment. So this is really critical.

The mouth is going to lead us more into disgust with my internal self, more interoception, and it could throw my whole interoception, my internal sensation, and how hits the brain and processes information. So, long story short, these kiddos are going to be in a constant sensory dysregulation state. They’re going to be driven into limbic load, frontal lobe flips off, and everything we’ve already talked about goes out the window. This is what we’re concerned about leading to an emotional pandemic. So now COVID has taken us from a physical immune system pandemic to an emotional pandemic. These children are not going to be able to sustain a good academic curriculum when they’re living in this state, and that’s important for teachers to understand because the academic curriculum that they were used to having is going to have to really be backed down if these children are going to be in these kind of classroom environments.

And of course, information processing. We have our five far senses that come from the outside, sight, smell, sound, touch, taste that have to come and hook up with our internal senses, vestibular proprioception, the microbiome. If I’m living in this fear and I have anxiety, sensations from a microbiome are coming in dysregulated. Our immune system and our visceral system, those 10 sensory systems all have to engage together for us to get a good picture and a good feel of our environment to emotionally, academically, socially respond motor skill wise, respond appropriately to our environment. And this is going to be dysregulated in the healthy child, but let’s take this into the context that one in six children already have sensory processing disorder, this is further going to dysregulate their ability to process information.

If we look at the masks and the auditory dysregulation, not being that those kids with auditory compromise are going to be further compromised with auditory information coming in, it’s further going to dysregulate their ability to process auditory information. Now, you might get that pushback that says, “Well, we’re going to wear masks that are clear,” so they can see the person’s mouth, but we still have all these other cues and this sensory dysregulation that we have to consider with wearing the masks, along with the hypoxia. So, hopefully, this gives you some things to think about. It’s not just the hypoxia. There’s a whole lot that goes in with this social engagement system, which is going to primarily be your ventral vagus, your higher level vagus, your social engagement vagus that takes so many of its cues to come online, from eye to eye contact and social engagement.

Now, if we take that and move that into movement, we also look at the lack of movement. If they’re not getting out for recess, not getting out for lunch, they’re not getting oxygen by going out playing, so now you’re further depleting oxygen, they’re not getting vitamin D, vitamin D is good for immune regulation, Vitamin D is necessary for a healthy microbiome, vitamin D is necessary for good brain function. Movement, oxygen gives us increased serotonin and dopamine, which increases regulation of our emotional paradigm, of our sensory process paradigm, it gives us information of where our body is in space, we get feedback from movement where our body is, and what we feel like in space, that will increase our ability to self calm and self regulate, and that will be out the window as well.

So I wanted to just kind of brush over masks and movement for this little episode that we have together. Hopefully, this gives you some things to think about to go in with your frontal lobe on board, give some rational and reasonable tips to the other side to get them thinking about it’s much more than meets the eye in regards to learning, attention behavior, emotional regulation, and the way they respond to their environment. So again, thank you ChiroSecure for giving me this platform. Thank you for all of you out there in the trenches, making our profession a better profession, making our world a better world, and now more than ever families and children across the globe are going to need us. So together we rise. Pivot don’t panic. And let’s go out and continue to do our good work. I’ll see you next month with more pearls.

Today’s Pediatrics Show, Look To the Children, was brought to you by ChiroSecure.

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