Is your brain issue kid one of the ones that also have body issues? I’m not talking about poor hygiene, although I know that can be a problem with some kids. I’m talking about lack of coordination, poor fine motor skills, lack of awareness of one’s body in space and relative to other people. Not all kids with brain issues have this particular problem, but lots do. And it’s the kind of problem that when it comes up its always dealt with as a side issue, if at all. It’s recognized but nothing is done about it. And I’m beginning to think this is a big mistake.
My daughter might be a great artist because she’s very visual and sees things h0listically but a little diagonally if you know what I mean. But her lack of fine motor skills will limit her success and her feeling of success in that area. She would love to be a performer, but struggles in a dance class to understand group instructions and be able to translate what she sees into her body. When we go shopping, she is constantly running into people because she seems unaware of her body in space. She has bull in a china shop syndrome.
Watching her made me remember myself when I began acting school. See, this is where I’m sure I was directed into this particular acting course for a reason. My training was very physically based, meaning that by and large we created characters by creating physical bodies and ways of moving for them. Most acting programmes focus on developing a character through the mind and letting that translate into the body. In short, my training moved from the outside in rather than inside out. It’s a really interesting approach and one that leads to characters that are very far outside yourself, which in acting is a very good thing.
Now, when I first started acting school, the idea of a movement class terrified me. I wasn’t particularly athletic or dancy. I defined myself by my brain and my voice and thought that maybe if I could get by on those two things no one would require me to move at all. Oh, naive one was I! Movement class forced me wrestle my demons of “don’t look at me while I’m dancing.” But I got over it, and in the end, it opened up a whole new world to me. We were introduced to Laban, Contact Improvisation, Feldenkrais, Alexander, modern dance, Pilates, and yoga just to name a few.
After observing my daughter struggle with these body issues, I kept bringing it with the various professionals that we’ve encountered but no one seemed to know what to do about it. So, first of all, I’m putting it out there. Someone who is highly specialized in these movement forms (particularly, Laban, Feldenkrais, and Alexander) needs to design some classes for these brain issue kids. Because, just like an actor can build a character for the stage from the outside in, I bet that sorting out the body issues may also lead to improved brain function. What if improving body awareness, could help a kid learn to read? Or have better social skills? The most prevalent philosophy of treatment for brain issues kind of treats our brains like a brain sitting in the jar of our body. You can treat the brain, but why would you treat the jar? But our body and brains aren’t walled off entities, but intrinsically, and dare I use that overused corporate word, synergistically connected. Our brain is an organic thing too. Brain=body.
Secondly, in truth, the universe has already partially answered my question. Michael Merzenich, one of the developers of Fast ForWord recently blogged about Anat Baniel and her new book Move Into Life. Anat was trained by Moshe Feldenkrais (see above) and used his methods to further develop her own philosophy/practice of movement. I’m halfway through the book and so far it’s terrific–simple and yet insightful. Although be warned she does have an offhand way of saying “After 10 minutes of working with me, his life was changed forever.” that I find a little off-putting. I think her method may be very powerful and have wide applications, but it can’t be the answer to life, the universe and everything. Still, I’ve delved a little further into her website and found a practitioner in my area, so perhaps the answer is close at hand.
I will keep you posted.
Does your child struggle with these types of body issues? Have you discovered anything that works (or doesn’t)? Talk to me.
First of all, I fully agree with your statements about influencing the mind through the body connection and since my background is in physical therapy and Feldenkrais I feel that the Feldenkrais Method is probably the most elite system for a child to learn and develop a more complete kinesthetic agency.
Dr. Feldenkrais developed his method based on the idea that we act in accordance to our self image. To develop a more full self image we draw on movement which is fundamental to our existence. Where the Feldenkrais Method parts ways from other philoshies is that it is non-correctional and uses one’s own internal reference to create an environment for learning.
Please refer to Sheryl Field’s work: “In the Feldenkrais Method, directed somatosensory information is provided to the child’s nervous system in a methodical way that allows the nervous system to synthesize and organize the information to produce coordinated movements.” I would contact her directly to address your questions, she has had a great deal of experience with what you are looking for.
Hope this helps. FeldyPT
I have a child (4 months old) who was born with brain injury, and I had found Anat Baniel’s work a couple of months ago. Although my son’s only received 2 segments of lessons so far (9 days – 16 lessons the first time, 3 days – 6 lessons the second), we have seen improvements in my son that I am convinced is the result of the work the practitioners did.
I think (and I think this is Anat’s thinking) that you are absolutely right in that working with the body to get to the brain really works — in ways that you wouldn’t normally think is possible. For example, though they worked through my son’s body (obviously you cannot instruct a 3 month old to think a certain thought so as to impact him cognitively), we have seen a very big improvement in his alertness and interest in his surroundings. I have also heard from many other parents in her practice that have seen cognitive/emotional/social improvements (older kids), even though those things aren’t directly addressed through the sessions, per se.
I’m new to your blog, so I’m not sure if you have a special needs child, but I would absolutely try seeing a practitioner. What have we got to lose anyway, right? As mentioned above, the work is very non-invasive (in fact, my son would often smile, coo, or feed through the sessions). I am so convinced that this is the method that will take my child to his fullest potential, that I am in the training program to become a practitioner myself, so that I can help him. We’re also aggressively scheduling sessions to maximize the potential of his very plastic brain.
Let me know if you’ve got any questions. I may sound like a salesperson of the method, but if you talk to any of the parents whose kids are seeing practitioners, you will find the same enthusiasm, which I think speaks volumes about the work.
I’m so glad to hear from someone who’s experiencing the ADM firsthand. I think what’s interesting is that it can “turn on the lights” in the brain. This reminds me that I never did hear back from the practitioner I contacted so I’m going to get on that.
Good for you. Stop by again and let us know how it’s going. It’s exciting to hear about therapies that really work.
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