Back-to-Front Exercises for Poor Comprehension and Communication


As a mom you are always getting advice on how to speak to your children – but what if your child is having trouble communicating or listening to you despite all of your coaching?

Your child might not be trying to drive you crazy – they might have weak back-to-front processing which can means what they want to say or what they are thinking can be hard to ‘get out’. In other words, they have poor expressive or receptive language skills.

This may be a factor if your child has difficulty:

  • Finding their words when speaking or writing
  • Recounting what they read
  • Becomes frustrated because he or she can’t seem to say what they want to say
  • Uses a lot of filler words like ‘stuff’ and ‘things’
  • Hates to write and struggles to get his or her thoughts on paper
  • The teacher has stated your child is reserved and rarely raises their hand in class
  • Studies for a test but has a hard time retrieving the information when writing the test.
  • Has a diagnosis of expressive language disorder

Left and Right Brain Hemisphere Exercises Only Goes So Far!

You might have already tried some of the suggested cognitive therapies I’ve mentioned in previous videos and blog posts to improve left to right brain communication.  Perhaps your child has had some success but there’s still room for improvement.

That’s because cognitive or movement therapy doesn’t end with improving right and left-brain communication. I’m noticing there is a trend among educational therapy, brain balance and all sorts of movement therapy that there is tunnel vision with left and right brain integration.

Don’t get me wrong – this is important!

But if you think your work is done with improving communication between the left and right sides of the brain or you’ve done that already and your child still has struggles with communicating his or her ideas or with focus, comprehension or attention – then you need to do go further.

Certain movements target specific areas of the brain and when there are learning and behaviour difficulties these movements can strengthen weak connections.

Ensuring your child gets plenty of varied movement is a great place to start if your child has issues with focus, learning or behaviour. However, these natural childhood movements that kids do when they are doing free-play outside won’t necessarily be enough to target areas of the brain where connections are weak.

These connections can become weak if a child moved too quickly through certain milestone or skipped it altogether or if they were expected to do too many academic tasks too early when they weren’t developmentally ready.

… After all what can we expect when we ask a child to sit and learn letter and numerical concepts before their lower brain levels are even developed. We do this all the time when we try to teach four and five-year-old to read.

It’s a little like asking someone who has never worked out to start lifting 25lbs weights and to do pull-ups. Even if they can do it for a short while – there can be serious detriments to those expectations.

Exercises that cross the midline like cross crawls are excellent ways to start to improve your child’s ability to remember directions in order to actually follow through on them. We often refer to this as weak auditory processing which is one of the identified factors in ADHD.

BUTif you want your child to listen and focus better then they need to be able to coordinate the back and front areas of their brain.

The brain doesn’t just work left to right and right to left, but also back-to-front. In more technical terms this is where information crosses the midline which connects the back occipital and frontal lobes of the brain.

The back area of the brain is the receptive part and the front area is the expressive part. The inability to remember instructions or explanations is just one aspect of poor learning and attention.

When children have weak back-to-front processing, they may have struggles with attention, focus and comprehension as well as receptive language skills which basically means they have poor ability to process auditory information and understand what is spoken.

This may look like they are not choosing not to listen or they may be the kids who says, “what?” more often than other children. They likely heard you speak but they need you to repeat it again to better process.

A diagnosis of weak expressive language skills are fairly common on psycho-educational evaluations when ADHD or learning differences are present. You may have seen this on your child’s IEP and what this means is that your child has difficulty with word retrieval and verbal expression. They might be a child of few words, or they are often searching for their words and sometimes get frustrated because they can’t express themselves, or they might be a mumbler.

This was the case with a 13-year-old client who had difficulty with reading. When we started working on his back-to-front communication to improve his reading comprehension, his parents were shocked that a pleasant side effect was he was suddenly participating in family conversations. The teacher even called to say her once reserved student was now raising his hand in class discussions and was actually contributing to group work. These parents thought their son was a boy of few words. It turns out he had a lot he wanted to say but always felt getting it out was so much work that he just didn’t bother.

Poor expressive language does not mean these kids are not smart!

They are smart – they are taking in information but because the back and front are not well connected they have a hard time comprehending what is said or read as well as difficulty responding.

Think of your child’s brain as a house with two rooms, one room in the front of the house and one in the back. There is a back door to enter the house (the receptive part of the brain), but they can’t access the front part of the house because there is a wall with no doorway between the two rooms.

We need to knock that middle wall down or at least make a doorway so that your child’s ‘information’ can easily move from the back room to the front room.

When the communication between the back and front areas of the brain are strengthened a child is now able to retrieve information whether that is from a test they studied or a text they read and they are able to express what they retrieved or learned by responding verbally, or writing their answer down.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will outline my four favourite exercises to improve back-to-front brain communication.

Want to learn more about how you can address the root cause of your child’s struggles so your child can move beyond their limitations and soar to their full potential? Contact me for a free twenty-minute Better Brain Breakthrough Session.

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