My Experiences with Brain Gym ®
In the start of 2012, I had the good fortune of attending a Brain Gym ® 101 class in Toronto, Canada under Sher Smith (www.realizingyourpotential.ca) She is a Brain Gym® faculty for Canada. Brain Gym® 101 is the core introductory course from Breakthroughs International. This program and its unique movements and processes were developed by Dr. Dennison over more than three decades, through extensive research in areas that include education, psychology, neural and muscular functions.
I was very fascinated by the program and went on to make it a point to complete the core curriculum as well as all the requirements to become a Brain Gym ® instructor and consultant. It took four years to complete all the courses I required and I took a couple of them every time I went to Toronto to visit my parents.
Since 2012 I have been actively involved in my community through my learning centre, Leap Ahead Assessment and Learning Centre in Mumbai, India, and have encouraged students, teachers, parents as well as senior citizens to learn about Brain Gym ®. I am delighted to say that I have witnessed amazing results. These are a few of my experiences which I’m sharing with you today.
I still remember the day a couple of months ago when I got a call from a parent. She said, “My son’s teacher called and said that your Ajay is now giving eye contact, his eyes are tracking me all around the classroom, whatever you are doing, please continue doing it, its helping him. He is also more attentive in class for a longer period of time now. And I have only been doing PACE with him three times a day since the last 15 days”
PACE ® is a sequence of 4 Brain Gym ® activities- sipping water, Brain Buttons, the Cross Crawl and Hook-ups.
This parent whose son was on the Autism Spectrum had previously attended a Brain Gym ® 101 workshop I conducted. Her feedback was very gratifying.
Autism or Autism Spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non verbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
Dr. Paul Dennison, the co-creator of Brain Gym ® has said, “Movement is the door to Learning.” He also said, “I didn’t learn on the schedule of my peers. I failed 4th grade because I wasn’t reading . I was made to feel “less than” and “broken”. I have dedicated my career to help students like myself to never have to endure the “shame” of not learning at the same pace as other students.”
Moving to Learn is a natural way to help children including those with special needs to reach their potential.
I have come across quite a few parents of children with special needs in Mumbai who have kept their children indoors, not even letting them interact with neighbours, let alone sending them to school. This is because they fear the stigma attached to special needs . These parents have totally given up on their children and feel that nothing can be done, so they often think why waste time and resources on them?
I have spoken to some of these parents as part of community service and informed them about the concept of Neuroplasticity and also teach them simple movements from Brain Gym ®.
Brains can change. Like a city can build new roads, the brains of adults and children have the ability to create new neuronal pathways; a process called Neuroplasticity. On October 18, 2012, the Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation introduced one of the nation’s foremost investigators in Neurobiology, Dr Dennis Charney. While Dr. Charney’s work focuses mainly on depression, anxiety and human resilience to stress, his pioneering research has a major impact on children with learning disabilities, dyslexia , attention deficit disorder and autism.
In a video posted by Big Think on October 17, 2012, Dr Dennis Charney described his research on Neuroplasticity:
“One of the things that we have found in our research is that in general we don’t make full use of the capacity of the human brain. So, our research groups, subsequent to hearing about this, and other groups around the country, have now taken the task that through specific exercises we might be able to enhance brain plasticity or using more of the capacity of the human brain. (Taken from article published on October 23, 2012: Neuroplasticity: Begin to Change A life with Dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Autism Today: http://www.specialneedsdigest.com)
Brain Gym® is a system that uses simple movements to enhance neural and sensory functioning. That is, it uses quick, easy to do developmental movements to “wake up” or “relax” the brain without stress or injury. The movements are those that a child naturally explores as he grows and matures. As the brain and the rest of the body become more integrated through such movements, the child becomes successful with need based movement at first like reaching, grasping and lifting .
As Cecilia Koester (author of I am the child, Brain Gym for the special needs) says, ‘for the child with special needs, this making and re-arranging of neural networks may require care givers to repeatedly move the child’s limbs through a specific movement pattern when the child is unable to create that pattern independently. Regardless of the cause for the limitation, we can create or recreate the movement experience for the child.’
An Occupational Therapist, my student and friend, shared with me how by simply making a child with Cerebral Palsy (a term used to describe a set of neurological conditions that affect movement) do assisted cross-crawl, a cross lateral activity which activates both hemispheres of the brain – helped the child , within a couple of months, to raise his hand fully independently and with ease.
I have done a group Dennison Laterality Re-patterning (DLR) balance with senior citizens and they were astonished with their walking gaits and their improved balance. After the balance process, one senior who had difficulty walking fast remarked, “Now it feels like I’m sprinting”.
I did a Reading balance on a 14 year boy who had severe reading difficulty, and read haltingly without any comprehension, he was amazed that he could now read fast and also comprehend. The next day, he came for a remediation session at my centre , and said , “Miss, please do the balance we did last time .“ He continued to improve his reading and comprehension skills.
After this experience whenever he came for class, he would stand in front of the Brain Gym poster and do the various movements before starting his remedial session.
In May of 2017, while on a flight going to Bangalore, there was this baby which cried incessantly. It was disturbing every passenger on the flight. Fortunately, the mom passed by my seat to go to the washroom and I told her that its probably due to the high altitude and air pressure which is causing distress to the baby. I asked her to put her one hand behind the baby’s ear and another on the baby’s navel (an adapted version of the Brain Gym® movement called the Balance button). She said Ok, looking at me sceptically. She went back to her seat after using the washroom, I could hear the baby cry for a few seconds and than she was absolutely quiet till the flight landed.
When I passed by the mother to get off the aircraft, I asked, “Did you try what I showed you?” She said “YES and it worked like magic”. She thanked me profusely with a smile of gratitude.
Brain Gym® movements are amazingly simple and work every time.
It is rewarding to know that children as well as adults from all walks of life are benefiting from Brain Gym® exercises.
I’m constantly astonished by the power and possibilities of Brain Gym ® which has helped me to make a difference in the lives of many adults, seniors and children with special needs. I look forward to continue learning.
Minaz Ajani —M.Ed (Sp.Ed), Certified licensed Brain Gym ® Instructor and Consultant . http://www.leapahead13.com