Parents want the best for their child. In order to do it they read the appropriate books, invest in the best equipment, best food and other appropriate accessories, finding the best activities, and still I encounter so many times lack of knowledge among parents of some of the developmental needs of their baby. These basic needs are required for the proper development of the baby and his/hers ability to develop the Motoric (movement), Cognitive, emotional, and social skills he/she will need for the rest of their lives.
To fully understand the source and meaning of those needs what needs to be understood is the baby's situation from the moment of birth. A baby is born with functional systems so he/she can survive: a beating heart, lungs that can intake oxygen and release carbon dioxide, and some of the other systems like the urinary system are already functioning. But unlike other mammals who can function autonomously very close to their birth, a human baby is born with a very small capacity to move. Apart from a few motor instincts the baby cannot move by itself. In fact the baby's brain needs many and diverse stimuli until it is ready and functional for what we call normal function.
The main reason for that is that the baby's brain does not finish its development in the womb. If a baby's head would be larger it would not go through the birth canal which would endanger the mother and infant alike. The newly born baby is not "Tabula Rasa" a flat and empty board. And he/she is not born with all the "programs" that he/she would need for the rest of their life. These programs are developed because of the various kinds of stimulation happening in the different sensory systems in the body. The more stimulation the more synapses (connection between brain cells) develop in the brain cells. Giving stimulation at an early age influences the development of the brain and generally speaking means smarter and more capable children.
Some of the stimulation is given when a parent is expressing his/her love to the baby. When we look at it from the NDFA (Neuro Developmental Functional Approach) point of view we see several things occurring. For instance when we hold the baby on the hands or with a carrier the parent is giving several types of stimuli. The child is pressed towards the parent's body which gives a proprioception (self being sensation of muscles ligaments and joint that is essential for easy and fluent movement) stimuli. This is an important part in the development of the baby's movement. To illustrate the difference it makes we can look at the Ethiopians who immigrated to Israel. One of my students was a social worker. She worked with Ethiopians where she lived. She had seen that the parents who carried their children in the traditional way (on their back) had children who were more developed than the average population. The Ethiopian parents who used strollers had children who were developed on the average. Changing from the traditional to the modern way of carrying children has made a visible difference in their development.
Other intuitive stimulation most parents do is rocking and cradling. These movements are important to the development of the vestibular system. The vestibular system is made of three arches inside the inner ear. It is responsible for telling us if our body (head) is in motion and in which direction. It also tells us where is down and where is up (gravity). This system is part of the balance function. (The function called balance is actually using three sense systems; vestibular, proprioception and vision). Since the vestibular system shares the nerve of the ear these two systems influence one another and we can see that listening while rocking the torso will help some people to be more attentive. These functions are essential to the child's ability to learn to walk and to be stable, for the ability to listen, and regulate auditory attentiveness. We see it often with children in a class room. Part of what might be bothering one child in the classroom will not bother most of the class. If a child is restless (a symptom), one of the possibilities might be that he is not balanced in his/her vestibular system. A parent who is rocking and cradling his/her child is giving the stimulation that can balance the vestibular system and prevent an issue on that background.
Another system is the skin. The skin is the largest organ in the body. The brain and the skin are made from the same kind of cells and are interlinked strongly. There are many researches made in animals (mammals) and humans showing, without a doubt, how a balanced stimulation of the skin has a positive effect on the body physically and mentally. Parents usually caress and touch their baby automatically (unfortunately not everybody) and in doing so help the tactile sense (and other functions as well) develop as they should.
An example for multi system stimuli is breast feeding. Apart from the benefits of mother milk during breast feeding there is tactile (touch), proprioception (muscular), smell (of the milk, of the mother), taste, visual (eye contact with the mother) stimuli. All this is also important for the bonding and attachment of child with his mother as part of his/her development (which is important for the creation of relationships later on in life). It is important to remember that even if there is no ability to breast feed there is still the possibility to give all these kinds of stimulation by being aware and creating them deliberately, by learning infant massage, rocking and cradling intentionally, by exposure to sounds, sight, smells, after a few month to new tastes.
By giving all these stimuli we are enriching the baby's experience and helping him/her develop their brain.
Giving stimulation on a regular basis, doing it consistently can in many cases resolve issues we might not even know that are there and can save a lot of agony, time and money to the child, his parents, the teacher and the education system.
The Neuro Developmental Functional Approach deals with observing and treating the functions and systems of the body and the way by which they influence the ability to function in the world. By balancing the child with the specific program that he/she need we bring them to a balanced state. The NDFA was created by two developmental psychologists, Judith Rabinovitch and Rami Kats over 30 years ago. It is implemented in hundreds of kindergartens and schools across Israel. The approach brings the learning experience to a new level of sensing and enriching the student's senses and systems and brings a better and more efficient learning that is also fun.
This approach combines examination of the senses and systems and how they function by themselves and in conjunction with each other. The result is a body that lets the brain learn better, easier, quicker and with much more enjoyment.
There are trainings and workshops for parents, practitioners, teachers to learn how they can integrate the approach in what they are doing and in every day activities.
Private Sessions are available for evaluation and therapy.

Frequently asked Questions:
* It is best to consult with a professional before trying any of the recommended advice written here. If you try anything you are doing it at your own risk. The information is aimed for educational purposes and not as a rule of thumb.

• Can I sit my child before the sit by themselves?
It is not recommended to sit children before the sit by them selves. Putting the baby to sit prevents him from building the strength he needs to develop by making the effort. It starts by raising the head, doing "pushups" standing on the hands and knees, preparation to crawl, crawling, and once they have the ability they will sit. If the parent wants to hold the baby in a sitting position, I recommend doing that by supporting the back of the baby.

• My child does not roll, what should I do?
It is possible to help the rolling develop by holding the thighs and twisting the lower part of the baby from one side to the other. It is important to make the movement symmetrical so we don't create a preference to one side more then the other. Repeat 10 to 20 times a few times a day.

• My child does not stop for a minute, what's wrong with him?
In some children some times it shows us that there in not enough deep (muscular) sensation. Deep massage would usually help to calm down. By giving the necessary sensation we calm the body. If you do not know how to massage advise a professional to guide you at least at the beginning.

• My hand is "falling" a sleep when I hold my baby, what can I do to stop it?
In most cases it is pressure on the brachial nerve from holding the baby. You can try self help, roll a tennis ball near the shoulder on the chest muscle. If it does not help I recommend seeing a massage therapist.

• My baby startles when I do a sudden movement with him, why is that?
Usually babies who are sensitive in the vestibular system might startle when they are moved when they are not ready or if it is not slow enough for them. What the need is gentle rocking on a regular basis. That can desensitize (decrease sensitivity) the sensitivity. It is important to make any change gradual.

• My baby does not like getting in or out of the bathtub, it is a constant fight, what should I do?
Babies who are sensitive in the tactile (touch) system might not like getting into the bathtub but after staying in the water they don't want to get out. That is because staying in the water makes the skin less sensitive for some time and they don't want to go out to the rough towel (well if it is rough). It is important to give a lot of touch and by giving the right touch we can help reduce the sensitivity.

• What ages does the NDFA work with?
With the knowledge and understanding of the NDFA we can work with infants to the elderly. We change the intensity, the difficulty, the amount of what we give as a program. The focus with babies is their development. With children, teen agers and adults on balance and function of the systems of the body and with elders we work on slowing and even reversing the effects of not using the body and its ramifications. There is much to do at any age.

• What does it mean that the NDFA is working in kindergarten and schools?
The knowledge of the NDFA has been integrated in kindergartens and many schools. The NDFA was acknowledged by the Van-Leer Foundation which has founded the activity of the NDFA for the past couple of years in many kindergartens and schools. The difference it makes was evaluated and found to be of great value and transforming for the kids. Implementing the approach lets the different children progress and function better in the classroom, treats the children evenly and according to their personal needs challenges them at the level that they are. The result is a happier environment for the children and the teachers.

• What does the NDFA Mean?
The approach looks at man, the senses, how they function and how they make learning possible. If we come from a notion that learning is a basic ability in man we do not see that in order to learn we need to have many thing working correctly. If the senses and systems do not function well they disturb the learning process and make it harder and more stressful. Neuro means the nervous system which is the network where all the information in the body is gathered, processed and an output is created like thoughts, sound and action (motion). We look at the Development as the stage in life that lets the brain develop correctly and what we need to have in order for the brain to develop well. We take care of the different functions, how they work and interact with each other. The knowledge of the body is ever growing and changing and we will learn more as we go on, understanding how the body works and how to balance it.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Gilad Schafman Msc.D. is an Evaluator, practitioner and teacher of the NDFA. Practicing since 1993 and teaching since 1998, Gilad brings much experience. He has a doctoral in metaphysics, practice massage therapy, Rolfing, pregnant and postpartum massage, teaches yoga and movement awareness, infant massage, Non Violent communication and more.