• Sara Stace

All about the brain with Allison Davies!

Updated: Jan 1

I find the concept of brains = behaviours fascinating! I would love to know a short explanation for those wanting to know what this exactly means.

I am excited to bring you an interview today from Allison Davies! I have asked her some question that I feel may shine some light on her work and who she is. I hope you check her out and work may help your children and family. I know it has helped mine and will continue to as I take her course. Thank you, Allison.

I honestly didn’t understand this for myself until I had children who required behavioural support. But the more I investigated developmental neurology the clearer it became. Treating, managing or fixing the behaviour, doesn’t fix the problem. The behaviour is never, ever the problem - it’s the by-product of the problem. A detrimental or risky behaviour is a result of a brain that isn’t coping with something, and that ‘something’ is where we should be focusing our energy.

So, my mission pivoted from working as a therapist and became about educating parents, carers and teachers about understanding their child’s brain development, shifting the expectations they place on their children to match their developmental abilities, and how to support their children’s brain to function at its best. And when we can support their brain to function at its best many of those detrimental behaviours just stop of their own accord. It’s remarkable! But the good news is that Brain Care is so much simpler than behaviour management!

Why is it important for music to be a part of our lives?

Music is one of the mother tongues in our brain, it understands music, so it’s a natural expression for us. And when we experience music - whether by hearing it, making it or even thinking about it - more parts of our brain are activated than when we do any other thing.

This makes it one of the most powerful tools available to us for helping support our brain to function at it’s best. Melody is intrinsically linked to the limbic system, so it can help up access and express emotions, as well as trigger long term memories - so it’s an excellent educational tool, or what we call a 'Musical Mnemonic', and should be used more in schools as a tool for learning.

Rhythm is ‘best friends’ with the motor cortex so it can assist our physical movements and activity levels. Fast rhythms can help us move fast and slow rhythm can help us move slowly, they can also bring a heightened or anxious state down to a relaxed one. Music activates both hemispheres and lights up the frontal lobe which oversees our ability to think clearly, make decisions, evaluate, assess, analyse and follow instructions, so this is definitely a part of the brain we want active.

And this just covers the physical impact that music has on the brain, the emotional and energetic impacts are just as significant and utterly amazing. Music plays such a big part in our mood! So not only should music be a part of our everyday lives, but by using it strategically, knowing what makes us feel good or not so good, understanding the impact of the music we choose on our physical bodies etc. really takes the potential of music for our health and well-being to the next level.

Can you tell us when you were diagnosed with Autism and what that diagnosis meant to you?

I was diagnosed in 2016 at the age of 36, after a few years of (not very successfully) managing what we had all thought was post-natal depression. At that time I was often nonverbal (except for talking about my 'special interest' which was my job), shutdown, emotionally dis-regulated and basically dysfunctional on many levels, although to the outside world I looked and seemed completely normal, and these were mostly internal experiences, so it wasn’t something that was obvious.

I couldn’t work out how to make a cup of tea or which direction to take when I was driving places, I’d been thousands of times before. I didn’t have the processing speed to join in a conversation without there being a large delay before I could speak, and I really, really struggled with the kids touching me or making noise! But these are extreme examples at my most difficult stage. For most of my life I’d felt completely normal.

I assumed that my issues with food and clothes textures were normal, and that counting in threes to help you focus on another person's conversation or make eye contact was what everyone did! Discovering my autism identity was life changing. It allowed me to recognize that all of the hundreds of things I thought were normal, but that I struggled with, were in fact difficult for me, and that there was a reason for it - not just me being dumb, or lazy or selfish which are the stories I had told myself throughout my entire life. It gave me self-acceptance, helped me make sense of my identity for the first time in my life and validated my experiences. Honestly, the relief, clarity and joy that has come from understanding myself on a deep level has been the best thing to have ever happened to me.

What led you down the path that you are on now? How did you get into this line of work?

Music is the one thing that has always come easily for me and that I love, so when I finished school it made sense to keep studying it. I spent 6 years at uni and did a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Teaching and a Master of Music Therapy and then came straight back to Tasmania and opened my private music therapy practice.

This was all going just fine until 10 years later when I realised that behavioural and social focused therapy was not what I aligned with any longer. So I studied with the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy and then switched from a therapy platform to an education platform, and here I am!

My own experience as an autistic woman, as a therapist, and as a parent have completely brought me the place, I’m at now as a Brain Care Specialist and I couldn’t be more passionate about teaching others to care for their brains so that they can function at their best. (ig) Allison Davies, Brain Care Specialist (fb)

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