Last year at Thanksgiving time, Gail and I entered a new phase of our lives. We’d enjoyed thirty years of traveling and teaching in the real, sensory world of direct contact with learners, helping them let go of the stress reflex that shows up so visibly in the body and discover what it’s like to learn with more pleasure and ease, with engaged senses. Then, last November, at our family’s encouragement, we did something we never thought we’d do: we jumped into the world of social media and began exploring movement-based learning in a virtual space! And now, one year later, we’re so grateful that the social media have come into our lives.
Yes, we’re still traveling, teaching, and writing books. And we’re also giving back now in a new way—connecting with parents and educators from a new and expanded vision of movement-based learning, through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and our new website, Hearts at Play: Move, Learn, Bloom. What a joy it is to join virtually with Brain Gym® Instructors and like-minded parents and educators from around the world! We so appreciate these new means of growing, staying in touch, offering videos and skills updates, summarizing related research, and providing new thinking about how to cultivate innate intelligence and the pleasure of learning through the Edu-K, Brain Gym®, and Vision Gym® work.
In reflecting on my life during this time of giving thanks, I’m aware of so many people who have, through the years, reached out to me with generosity and support. I’m thinking back to the early 1970s, my USC studies, and the tribute I received for my dissertation on the relationship between thinking skills and beginning reading achievement; to the five developmental optometrists who mentored me, and with whom I shared office space at my nine Valley Remedial Group Learning Centers; and to the optometric in-service training I received that sparked my interest in learning through movement.
In 1979 I was blessed to study Touch for Health with Dr. John Thie and Gordon Stokes. Shortly after, I discovered Dennison Laterality Repatterning, the unique process that has benefitted so many people worldwide by drawing out innate intelligence through movement. As I envisioned a new way of teaching, my ideas on moving to learn continued constellating. During this time I offered my first Edu-K workshop for beginning reading to 15 private school teachers. Then, enthusiastic reception of my work by adults with learning disabilities prompted me to broaden my focus to include education of the adult population—work that, in time, has reached both adults and children of all ages and abilities. That year I studied natural vision improvement techniques with the late Janet Goodrich, who in turn studied with me and became a dear friend, wholeheartedly including a chapter on my work in her first book, Natural Vision Improvement.
In 1981 I published my first book: Switching On: The Holistic Answer to Dyslexia, and taught the first basic workshop in Educational Kinesiology (later to become the Brain Gym® 101 course). In July I presented Edu-K at the Touch for Health annual meeting, receiving warm encouragement for my work. Gail Hargrove was among the crowd giving me a standing ovation.
In 1982 my work was well received as I began teaching widely across the United States, while concurrently developing the Educational Kinesiology in Depth course. In each experiential workshop and private session, I saw adults and children alike make formidable breakthroughs in their goals, including improvements in reading, writing, math, whole-body movement, and pain relief. Parents and educators appreciated the specificity of the activities, the immediacy of results, and the knowhow to teach for transfer, along with the overall playful and celebratory nature of the courses.
Now, in this time of gratitude and thanks giving, Gail and I celebrate our 30-year creative partnership, which began just before Thanksgiving of 1983*. One year previously, on a September weekend, she and I happened to be the only Touch for Health instructors in attendance at a Live and Learn conference for local holistic health and bodywork practitioners. Our meeting and discovery of mutual interests initiated a deep friendship. That year, I had taught my first two Educational Kinesiology in Depth workshops, and Gail was a student in the second. In October of 1983 we two began a correspondence to create a language and body of literature that would make the Edu-K work more available to the general public. In December a friend in Germany, Wolfgang Gillessen, sponsored me in traveling to Berlin for the first of what has become more than 50 international lecture tours on five continents. That first Berlin class was attended by future International Faculty Members Alfred Schatz, Susanne Degendorfer, and Renate Wennekes.
Meanwhile, the readership of Switching On grew with its translation into Dutch in 1982, then into German, French, and Spanish. To my delight, this was followed in subsequent years by the further translations of what would become the Brain Gym® 101, Optimal Brain Organization (OBO), and Edu-K in Depth courses, the books Edu-K for Kids and Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, and, in 1986, the Creative Vision manual and the Movement Dynamics handbook, and so on. During this time, the children at my nine Valley Remedial Group Learning Centers were being mainstreamed into regular classrooms. Periodic balances and the Brain Gym activities were sustaining their learning so that they no longer required tutoring. I began to gradually reduce the number of my learning centers.
And so it has gone through the years:
1984 – Gail and I were falling in love, and entering a time of rich creativity and abundant work. We began writing, traveling, and teaching Edu-K together. With Gail’s contributions, the In-Depth work emerged as a beautifully interwoven system for honoring the learner and drawing out new learning. Combining our knowledge of dance and kinesiology, we developed the Integrated Movements. In September we co-taught in Germany, Holland, and Norway. In November we published the first edition of Edu-K for Kids. And in 1984 I closed the last of my reading centers.
1985 – In January Gail and I were both invited to join the Touch for Health faculty, and we both accepted. In July we published the book Personalized Whole-Brain Integration. Gail added her favorite moves, along with innovations on the Double Doodle and Belly Breathing, to mine, as the movements now known as the Brain Gym activities began to take on a character all their own. Together we refined these simple activities and begin teaching them in a two-part course that would later become Brain Gym® 101 and OBO. In the fall, we two taught our newly developed Creative Vision course in Germany and the Netherlands. In this course we introduced some innovative vision work with great success, including the Dennison Cover Test for Crossing the Optic Chiasm (“the Cover Test”) and Gail’s Homolateral Reflex Balance. On the last day of December, my birthday, Gail and I joined our lives and families in marriage.
1986 – Early in the year, Gail began writing the Visioncircles Teacher’s Training manual for a course in perceptual development that included the Vision Gym® activities she had created. In March we took the Educational Kinesiology in Depth course to Australia and New Zealand and begin training faculty members Glenys Leadbeater and Barbara Ward there. In April we published the book Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning. Envisioned as a “homeplay” manual, it soon became a bestseller beyond our wildest expectations. In June, researcher Ji Khalsa presented the first experimental study on Edu-K: The Effect of Educational Kinesiology on the Static Balance of Learning-Disabled Students, with statistically significant results for the intervention of the Brain Gym activities. This quantitative research would be followed through the years by more than a hundred pilot studies and anecdotal reports.**
In July of that year, Patti Steurer and Colleen Carroll-Gardner of the United States joined us as Edu-K in Depth Faculty Members, while Barry Summerfield, Gillian Johnson, and Tania McGregor of Australia and Coby Schasfoort of Holland became overseas Edu-K in Depth faculty members. In August a group of creative educators joined us in establishing the Edu-Kinesthetics Advisory Committee to disseminate research, provide networking, and support professional growth. In November Gail and I taught the first Visioncircles workshop, with activities offered in an Action Balance format, in San Francisco. Gail and I also taught a basic Edu-K course in Pasadena, and I had the inspiration to teach a laterality balance and a three-dimension balance, which Patti and Colleen would later name the Wonder Balance and the X-Span Balance. In this year Patti and Colleen, along with George Gardner and Gabrell Carroll, begin working closely with us to follow the Visioncircles template and distill the basic Brain Gym material into easy-to-learn Action Balances.
1987 – To this day, I’m grateful that others recognized the value of my action research, and encouraged me. In January we established the nonprofit Educational Kinesiology Foundation (now Brain Gym® International), a 501(c)(3) public-benefit corporation. In April course co-developer (with Colleen Carroll-Gardner) Patti Steurer and new Faculty Member George Gardner taught the first version of a Brain Gym Teacher Practicum. In June the first edition of Brain Gym Magazine was published, with Gail Dennison as its editor. In July the first annual Educational Kinesiology Gathering was held at California’s Murrieta Hot Springs, with more than a hundred people from around the world in our opening circle.
1980 to 2013 – Through the decades, we’ve continued to be blessed to work together with many remarkable people who have shared our vision of a world where learners are free to move and discover sensory integration and self-initiated learning. I want to name some of these visionary educators: The late Dorothy H. L. Carroll, Azasha Lindsey, Marilyn Lugaro, Rose Harrow, Don Wetsel to cite just a few of the early pioneers, freely gave of their time and imagination to help build a community, to set up the Brain Gym® trademark and balance together for the qualities it would represent, to envision how the work might be carried forward, and to support me in opening the work to the world in more than 80 countries and forty-some languages. Our work was furthered by the the insight of biologist Carla Hannaford, author of Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head and several other books on learning and movement, who has been a long-time advocate, and taught us the physiology of Edu-K. Behind the scenes, John Hargrove is our art director and the graphic designer of our beautiful charts and posters. We thank him for designing our new Hearts at Play website and making it user-friendly. And for more than 20 years our editor, Sonia Nordenson, has helped polish and clarify our writings.
Now, in 2013 at this annual time of Thanksgiving, Gail and I give thanks for our partnership, the gift of this wonderful and eclectic work, and our many blessings. Most important, we’re thankful for the opportunity to use the balance process daily in our own lives, and with our grown children and our grandchildren. During this season of rest, restoration, and community, we join together with our dear friends, family members, and associates to remember, honor, and appreciate each other, and to commemorate the challenges and difficult times as well as the rewards and bountiful harvest of so many of our dreams and efforts.
The Edu-K work of movement-based learning has continued to be my mission for 40 years now, and has continually connected Gail and me with a higher purpose. What a life! We have joyfully held the vision, celebrating as people from a multiplicity of cultures have come together regularly in courses and at conferences to play and balance, sharing their enthusiasm for learning through movement. Gail and I are grateful for the hundreds of service projects that instructors have offered in their own communities through the years, projects that have touched the lives of so many—from Croatia to Ecuador, from Indonesia to Poland, from Russia to S. Africa, and also for the gift of time that we two regularly offer as volunteers, so that others who follow us may benefit from the joy possible through movement-based learning.
We invite each of you to join with us in a space of promise and gratitude. Let’s keep expressing our love, kindness, understanding, compassion, and playfulness—our authentic selves—through the gates of thanks giving.
Gail and I send a big thank-you to each one of you for your valuing and participation. We wish you an amazing Thanksgiving Day, full of love, laughter, and gratitude for all that is and can be.
*For more about the story of how Paul and Gail met, click here.
**These statistical and anecdotal studies were compiled primarily by educators—independently, voluntarily, and without benefit of grants. Few of these were peer-reviewed. The intent of making them available was to evoke interest from researchers to do more scientific studies. (To date, there is little research on the relationship between specific motor skills and/or alignment, and sensory ease for academic learning.) Click here to download the Brain Gym® Studies Packet; scroll down the FAQs on this page to read about additional, more recent studies; click here to see further newsletter reports.
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An experiential, movement-based approach to learning, including the Edu-K balance process and the 26 Brain Gym® activities, are taught in Brain Gym® 101: Balance for Daily Life.
© 2013 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in your area.