Spotlight: Sarah Rollins
by Colleen M. Quinn
If asked to think back to their school years, whether grade school or college, most people probably would describe those days as fun but difficult. You were expected to know everything while cramming for tests, writing papers, and giving presentations. But what if someone had told you school might have been easier and more effective if you could think more efficiently. Without drugs or surgery, your brain could function better. Too good to be true? Sarah Rollins says it isn’t.
Having graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with a BA and a MA in Sociology, Rollins worked in Silicon Valley as a corporate trainer and course writer of software programs. She also managed her own consulting business that worked with larger companies in employee training. Then, about ten years ago, Rollins left the workforce and became a mother.
In addition to the challenge of becoming a mother, Rollins’ oldest son, now ten years old, faced dealing with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). APD is a disorder that affects the brain’s ability to filter sounds, for example, difficulty in distinguishing between a person’s voice and background noise. Diagnosed at five, Rollins’ son is exceptionally intelligent, but struggled in school and in communicating effectively with others. As a result, Rollins began studying kinesiology in order to find an alternative way to help her son, instead of using medication.
In 2004, Rollins opened a private practice in kinesiology which the scientific study of human movement. During this time, she met Susan McCrossin, head of the Learning Enhancement Center in Boulder, Colorado. The Brain Integration Technique (BIT), developed by McCrossin herself, has proven effective in alleviating the problems that accompany many learning difficulties.
“I was intrigued by Susan because of her work with children who have ADHD,” says Rollins. “Susan was actively accessing their brains.”
In November of 2004, Rollins took her son to McCrossin, and she saw a significant change after the integration. Inspired by the success she saw in her son, Rollins began training with McCrossin in 2005 to become a certified BIT practitioner. She now co-teaches the technique at the Learning Enhancement Center with McCrossin and directs the BIT Prerequisite Program there.
The training to become a practitioner is based on McCrossin’s work in developing BIT, and the concepts of kinesiology. Certification requires a 4-day prerequisite course, where students learn about kinesiology, muscle monitoring, and acupressure in addition to other concepts. The course also requires completion of 60 hours of case studies, after which students are certified by Rollins in the prerequisite coursework. Once completed, students must be integrated themselves before they can move on BIT certification. The class lasts for 10 days, and must be taken twice.
“There is a lot of information to learn,” says Rollins. Certification also requires students to complete 10 full integrations, which is about 150 to 200 hours of work.
The science behind BIT is a bit complex, so a basic understanding of the brain is necessary to know how the technique works. The brain is divided into two different parts, or hemispheres, that each have specific tasks. One side, called the logic hemisphere, operates based on time, facts, and details and has a sense of organization and consequence to actions. The logic hemisphere is also where visual and auditory memories are constructed. The other side of the brain is called the Gestalt hemisphere, because it deals with Gestalt information, or information that is creative, abstract, and emotional. Here there is no concept of time or consequence, and the memories that are made in the logic hemisphere are recalled in the Gestalt hemisphere.
It’s important that both hemispheres are fully accessible, because if there are any blocks, or obstacles preventing access to either side, learning difficulties can occur. Depending on the accessibility of the two hemispheres, a person can also have trouble making and/or recalling memories.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the brain is the corpus callosum, which is a bridge of neural fibers that connect the two hemispheres (a structure of the mammalian brain in the longitudal fissure that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres). Rollins describes the corpus callosum as a highway, bringing information from one side of the brain to the other. Simply put, thinking happens when information moves from one hemisphere to the other by way of the corpus callosum. In general, any activity in the brain, whether it’s an emotional or a physical reaction to a stimulus, is called a circuit.
Many problems associated with learning difficulties occur before the age of 5, sometimes even in infancy. Before the age of 2, the brain usually is not fully active. Generally, only one side of the cortex, the Gestalt side, is being accessed. This happens because babies’ instincts are to interpret facial expression, tone of voice, and also non-verbal communications – all Gestalt functions. As babies mature, their logical brain becomes active. This is the time of the terrible twos, because the child’s brain begins to ask why? At this same time, the corpus callosum also becomes active, so that the brain is fully connected.
This activation, although, may be halted or disturbed by a traumatic or stressful event. Such an event can be anything from birth trauma, like induced labor or C-section, to the birth of a younger sibling. In turn, this stress block can affect the flow of information across the corpus callosum, and in the circuits throughout the brain. In the analogy of the highway, it is as if only a few lanes are open to traffic flow. What information can’t make its way across the corpus callosum is essentially lost. Once the logic side of the brain becomes active, if only a portion of the corpus callosum is working, less information is being taken in and retained. Sometimes, one or both hemispheres can develop blocks and have limited access, as well.
Another way problems can arise is through what BIT calls Deep Level Switching. This happens when the paths information takes through the brain are suddenly interrupted or switched. This means that information is now going to the wrong parts of the brain. For example, logic information might be sent to the Gestalt hemisphere instead of the logic hemisphere.
The implications for this are significant. If information is continually sent to the wrong part of the brain, a person will experience a delayed processing speed – they are thinking harder and more slowly to retrieve information. Also, if there is not full access to each hemisphere, a person will exhibit learning difficulties. It might be harder for them to make or recall memories, and they might have trouble with remembering facts and with reading comprehension.
These stress blocks often impede a child in their schoolwork, and for adults, cause them to avoid doing and experiencing things they aren’t good at or that frustrate them. Many times, the attitudes a person does or does not have towards certain activities depend on stress blocks and where they are in the brain.
With BIT, stress blocks can be reduced or eliminated, essentially making it easier to think. In turn, BIT actively accesses the brain and its stress blocks, and ultimately creates more efficient pathways for information to travel through the brain.
“BIT optimizes the brain’s ability to function,” Rollins says, adding that removing stress blocks helps the brain to work more efficiently; less energy is spent using more circuits that are made available through BIT.
The first step in BIT is an assessment session with a certified practitioner. The practitioner evaluates the activity in the brain through muscle monitoring. Through this monitoring, the practitioner can evaluate the accessibility of the corpus callosum and the two hemispheres, and whether or not there is any Deep Level Switching. The BIT practitioner looks at a person’s visual tracking, which indicates how well the brain responds to eye movement, auditory processing, and the vestibular system (a person’s sense of balance). The practitioner also evaluates digit span, or the ability to recall various number orders backwards and forwards. From this, the practitioner examines how well the brain processes visual and auditory input.
Finally, a practitioner checks to see if there is an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a naturally occurring microorganism that may reside in the intestine. If there is an excessive amount of Candida, it can create large amounts of acetaldehyde. This is a toxin that makes holes in the intestines, allowing food particles in the bloodstream and causing food allergy symptoms. The microorganism can also enter the blood stream and actually take up residence in the brain (its presence often feels like you are “thinking through wool”).
“Assessment is simply asking the brain where the blocked circuits are,” says Rollins.
Once the assessment is done, the practitioner estimates how long the actual integration will take. Depending on the experience of the BIT practitioner and the needs of the client, integrations can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. For children, the integration can be broken into half-hour or hour sessions.
The process of integration is seemingly simple. The client lies fully clothed on a massage table, and the practitioner accesses certain acupressure points with his or her fingers. By accessing these points and monitoring the body’s muscles, the practitioner determines which parts and circuits of the brain need to be addressed.
“When I access those circuits, I’m showing the brain another area it can use,” Rollins says. “We enable the brain to learn – we don’t make it.”
Once these circuits are accessed, the practitioner uses a technique called the frontal-occipital hold. The practitioner touches the front of the head and the base of the head simultaneously, which stimulates blood flow and circuits within the brain. This makes it possible for the brain to rediscover new pathways to operate with, and consequently easier for the client to think more efficiently. But don’t be fooled by how simple this procedure sounds. A BIT practitioner must access at least 80 different circuits to integrate a person’s brain!
BIT is a finite treatment for most people, but for those who have physical damage or disorders either to their brain or other parts of the body, or if severe emotional trauma has occurred, they must return occasionally for a tune-up. Not only does it enable the brain to function better, it may also enhance other forms of therapy. Rollins also stresses that BIT is a healing modality – it can make other forms of therapy more effective, but does not necessarily take the place of other therapies. For example, BIT can greatly help a child with learning difficulties and help them to perform better in school, but they might need other therapies to change habitual behavior.
Although BIT is extremely helpful for those with learning difficulties, it’s helpful for anyone. Rollins estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the population can benefit from BIT. Reflecting on her son’s experiences both in school and at home, Rollins wants to make sure more and more children can be integrated before starting school.
“Our goal is to have a practitioner in every school district in the country,” she says, “We want to get the word out so that when parents prepare their children for school, they make sure that they have an assessment scheduled, too.” From her training, working with others, and from her own experiences, Rollins deeply believes that BIT has the potential to literally change the world. “Can you imagine if teachers, leaders, everyone could think more clearly?” she says. “The next generation can benefit so much from this. We can prevent many future problems.”
The Learning Enhancement Center has certified many practitioners so far, but are always looking for people who are interested in becoming certified. Please visit http://www.sarahrollins.com/ for more information on both becoming a certified practitioner and scheduling integration sessions.
Getting the word out also means educating people on the concept of BIT. Rollins wants others to know this can help parents and children alike, and can avoid problems similar to the ones she and her son experienced.
“Mothers know when something is wrong, but can’t always articulate what it is,” Rollins says. “I had no basis to know what it was.”
As for the long-term effects of BIT, Rollins attests to them firsthand. Since her son’s integration, he has excelled in school and has recently tested higher than any other student at his school in aptitude tests. As previously mentioned, Rollins herself has been integrated since it is required of all BIT students. In high school and college, Rollins said she always did well and was the typical overachiever, but she described herself as feeling chaotic underneath. Rollins also says that she had always had problems with math in school and was not a number person, but now she has no problems with numbers. Since integration, she feels more stable than she’s ever felt.
“I’m more emotionally resilient, I feel healthier, and I definitely retain information better,” she says. “I’m a more efficient system” she reflects
About Colleen Quinn
Colleen Quinn graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication. A writer for most of her life, she has been writing for Whisperingtree.net for over two years. In that time, she’s had the opportunity to meet with many practitioners and masters of the healing arts. Using her years of customer service experience and time as an intern reporter, Colleen provides a unique means of expression for each practitioner she meets. She believes that honest interest and open ears are paramount for learning and understanding the world around us. Through her writing, Colleen offers readers a valuable insight into the work of those who are doing so much to help others.
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