Jo Anna Shaw, author, poet, and Mind-Body coach, incorporates Brain Gym and other movements in her transformational work.
After doing a few Educational Kinesiology balances with Matt’s mother, which included Repatterning* and other activities from Brain Gym**, I was invited to her home to see what I might be able to do to help her six-year-old, Matt.
She wanted to take him off Ritalin, which had been prescribed to manage his hyperactivity. More importantly, she wanted him to be reading at grade level when he entered the first grade at the end of the summer. I made no promises and suggested she invest in several balances to see if he would be willing to do some Brain Gym activities.
An important factor in getting cooperation from a child, as well as the desired results, is the child’s willingness to be better at something.
Matt wasn’t interested in reading or sitting still. In spite of his taking the Ritalin, I had to follow him around the house and yard as I got to know him. Matt was climbing in a tree and I was sitting on the grass when I asked him what he thought I was there for. He responded with an “I don’t know” shoulder shrug. I told him I was there to help him grow a more powerful brain. Then I asked him what he would like to be better at. He said, “Gymnastics!” and came down to show me how he did cartwheels.
A sample of Matt’s artwork – April.
As part of our play, I handed him one of his books and asked him to show me how he reads. He looked at a page, put the book down and proceeded to show me some more of his gymnastics. We took turns doing activities. Mine were all Brain Gym activities and neurodevelopmental movements. Eventually, he was able to do a Three Dimension Repatterning process* with my guidance.
The Results were Remarkable. I played with Matt, once a week in the month of May, in much this same way. His mother played with him a few minutes every day as well, doing some of the Brain Gym activities I taught her—what we in Edu-K call “homeplay.” In a short time, he began sitting more comfortably for longer periods of time and sharing daily reading time with his mother as well.
In addition to this remarkable shift from April to June of the same year, his mother reported that she took him off his meds in the summer and never started him back on them. By the time he returned to school in the fall he was reading at grade level. Δ
Notice the before (above left) and after (below) artwork from Matt’s journal.
A sample of Matt’s artwork in June.
*In Edu-K, Dennison Laterality Repatterning and Three Dimension Repatterning—both processes taught in the course Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life—is used in teaching learners to notice and integrate side-side, up-down, and back-front movement skills.
**The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition (2010), by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Inspiration for the activities was drawn from many sources, including Developmental Optometry, dance, long distance running, child development, the postural work of F.M. Alexander, the Touch for Health process, and the Dennison’s own inventiveness. The Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition and Brain Gym activity cards can both be purchased at Brain Gym Bookstore.
About Jo Anna Shaw
Jo Anna’s joy is empowering adults and children to move through life and learning challenges into their full potential. The foundation of her Mind-Body Coaching® practice is Educational Kinesiology (Edu-K for short). An author and poet, Jo Anna published Design and Live the Life YOU Love: A Guide for Living in Your Power and Fulfilling Your Purpose (foreword by Paul Dennison, Ph.D., and Gail Dennison). This self-empowerment resource is designed to enhance a reader’s ability to see and communicate with love. Learn more by visiting www.joannashaw.net.
© 2017 by Jo Anna Shaw. All rights reserved.
* Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.
by Deborah Scott Studebaker
Deborah Scott Studebaker teaching a small-group poetry workshop to middle school youth.
Drawing a Lazy 8 helps coordinate the eyes for smoothly crossing the visual midline.
I love Lazy 8s! Tracing this simple, flowing infinity pattern connects the eyes to the hands to the hemispheres. As a poetry teacher, I have seen it encourage writers of all ages to release their ideas onto the page. As a Brain Gym consultant, I have watched the movement literally transform behavior. But I had never felt the extent of its physical power until I started working with a very unique young man.
“Vincent” is a 13 year-old who came to me for issues of focus and attention. He loved books and stories, and his imaginative drawings showed the mind of an inventor. Vincent’s inner life was his safe haven. His mother said she was looking for creative ways to help him manage his tasks and confidently interact with the world.
Creative writing tools (pen, notebook, and poetry magnets) are laid out to use as pre-checks for a writing balance. Selected Brain Gym activity cards provide the “learning menu,” intended to invite a sense of curiosity and choice.
At our first meeting, Vincent quietly explored my office, head down. He was polite and cooperative; willing to engage in all sorts of movement pre-checks. Sustaining eye contact or conversation was harder; “I don’t know” was his default response to any question. With verbal noticing* and goal-setting clearly unavailable in that moment, I turned immediately to the drawing out model: a magnificent Brain Gym method that engages both client and facilitator in curiosity and discovery.
Vincent used objects in my office to turn it into a construction zone.
My job was not to “fix” Vincent, but to empower his self-awareness. I would offer him choices, and follow his lead. I knew that Vincent’s mind/body system would chart our course. Where to begin? With movement and play!
Our first session took us into PACE**, onto the balance board, then over to observation and word games. Vincent was drawn to my wooden Lazy 8 track, and began to guide a marble around the pathway. He then chose a Dennison Laterality Repatterning from the learning menu (a process that invites core stability and contralateral movement.) After the balance, Vincent was newly aware of his hand position, and the pressure of his pen. He observed: “I’m usually going at a faster pace, but now I have more time for the ideas.” At the end of our first appointment, I noticed that he seemed taller. Were his eyes a bit brighter too?
Our work together had begun. Each week, I would offer Vincent his choice of movement games and activities. We tossed beanbags and bounced balls; we batted balloons around the room. He jumped on my mini-trampoline, drew fanciful characters, and arranged magnetic poetry tiles.
Vincent drew the Lazy 8s horizontally in the air, but always drew them vertically on the whiteboard, without creating a lateral midline.
When it came time to pick a Brain Gym movement, Vincent usually chose Lazy 8s. And while he could easily draw the horizontal pattern in the air, he would draw it vertically on my white board (see image at left). I resisted the impulse to correct him, waiting and watching his mind/body intelligence at work.
Vincent selected other Brain Gym activities too: Earth Buttons, Neck Rolls and Belly Breathing. I sensed that this young man was searching for physical grounding.
So we turned my office into a virtual construction zone! Vincent built dens, hideouts, and passageways using tables, chairs, blankets, buckets, blocks and anything else in the room that could be repurposed.
Vincent’s “hideouts” illustrate a grounding, self-organizing kind of play, calling on new spatial/motor skills.
I saw that, by arranging and moving around in his surroundings, Vincent was developing skills of grounding, centralized awareness, and self-organization (see Editor’s note).
“…he controlled the wooden Lazy 8 track with his hands, his knees, even his head.”
Over time, Lazy 8s continued to be Vincent’s go-to movement. He walked the pattern, enlarged, on the floor, drew it on paper, and controlled the wooden track with his hands, his knees—even his head (I’ve noticed that, when exploring sensory and motor skills, people are often led to do surprising things!)
On the day of our fifth session, as Vincent stood at the white board, his Lazy 8s became horizontal! With each loop of the marker, I saw a newfound ease and grace settle into his body: 8s made with one hand, then the other, then both hands. It was a breakthrough moment.
Suddenly Vincent began drawing horizontal Lazy 8s—a breakthrough moment!
Vincent’s growth has continued. Now, when he arrives, he comes in with a sense of purpose. He sits across my table, fills out a written pre-check form** and we chat. While I still initiate most of our conversations, I get a kick out of his quirky sense of humor. He draws his pictures, and frequently looks up and smiles. He seems happy and relaxed in his own skin.
A few weeks ago, we talked about school starting up again. Vincent said he was excited. I felt an opening in which to ask what he might like to work toward achieving in 7th grade. He told me that he’d “like to feel good about this year, and solve problems as they come along.” I was heartened by his wisdom—and the fact that he was able to articulate a goal.
Vincent’s Lazy 8s keep on evolving too. Recently, I asked him to draw a picture, do some 8s, and draw again. He created his horizontal 8 on the white board with a large, fluid, full-body motion. But it was the difference in his picture afterward that astonished me. Where his fanciful pre-sketch was cute and comical, his highly detailed post-sketch was drawn in a much more grounded and sophisticated style! And he wasn’t finished yet.
Vincent’s drawings before (left) and immediately after (right) doing some Lazy 8s.
Vincent then went back to the board and erased the center of the 8, leaving an empty space between the two sides. I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Moments later, he cross-hatched the opening, as if to build up a bridge between the two sides—just as we teach in Brain Gym, that the Corpus Callosum can be seen as a “bridge” between the brain’s two hemispheres. I was flabbergasted—it’s nothing Vincent and I had ever discussed.
A close-up of the cross-hatching marks he drew at the precise center of the 8.
Vincent’s Lazy 8s on the whiteboard, showing his crosshatching in the middle.
Perhaps Vincent’s most dramatic experience with Lazy 8s immersed him in the movement for a full 15 minutes. The rhythm, flow, and the sound of the marble on the wooden track took him into “the zone.” Slowly, it transitioned into a shared activity: we each held one end of the wooden track in the air between us. We operated it together, sensing the shifts in tempo, weight, and hand position required to keep the momentum going. I was literally “in the loop” with Vincent, a part of his creative process. I will never forget that moment of collaboration.
In Educational Kinesiology, we learn that doing Lazy 8 is an opportunity to define the left and right visual fields and the point midway between them, where the two visual fields must overlap. Using both left and right sides of the body this way appears to connect the two hemispheres. We often see improved eye-teaming skills and a lessening of letter reversals and transpositions. I’ve also seen how doing the 8s can relax the muscles of the hands, arms, and shoulders, and support balance and coordination.
Working with Vincent in this organic, collaborative way has shown me that drawing Lazy 8s can have a profound social, emotional, and creative impact that grows alongside the physical skills of learning.
Before I came to Brain Gym, I thought that everyone had to live with struggle and limitation. And even though I had experienced blissful moments of mind/ body integration, I didn’t have reliable tools to help get me back there when I drifted out of sync. Now I understand that movement, self-awareness, and intention bring enormous gifts for positive change. This happy sense of possibility fuels the work I am lucky enough to do with Vincent and my other clients.
Vincent chose the Lazy 8s for a reason unique to his own mind/body intelligence. I can’t wait to see what he chooses next.
Deborah Scott Studebaker is a Los Angeles writer, educator and speaker who is deeply curious about the link between language and movement. She is a Licensed Brain Gym® consultant and a certified Touch for Health Kinesiologist. Deb serves as Poet-in-Residence at The Willows Community School in Culver City, and also holds a certificate in Social Emotional Arts Education through UCLA Arts and Healing. In her workshops with young people and/or adults, Deb presents the physical skills of learning as a powerful context for creativity and social/emotional development. Deb is the founder of Inner-Genius, a consultancy that helps clients of all ages imagine, achieve, and succeed. To learn more, contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org or read about her work at www.movedtowrite.com.
*Working with Vincent has inspired me to find alternatives to spoken noticing, a process we learn in Brain Gym 101. One fantastic way to elicit a client’s thoughts and feelings is with a written pre-check/post-check form. Karen Petersen uses this technique with seniors in her lovely book, Move with Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body. I modified her form to use with clients of all ages.
**PACE: An acronym for doing four simple Brain Gym warm-up activities that help connect with a state of feeling Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic.
***The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition (2010), by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Inspiration for the activities was drawn from many sources, including Developmental Optometry, dance, long distance running, child development, the postural work of F.M. Alexander, the Touch for Health process, and the Dennison’s own inventiveness. The Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition and Brain Gym activity cards can both be purchased at Brain Gym Bookstore.
Editor’s Note: Author, educator, and researcher David Sobel, Antioch University, writes about children’s building of tents, dens, and hideaways as a way to expand their sense of self and their knowledge of the social and natural world.
© 2017 Deborah Scott Studebaker. Adapted from an article in the Educational Kinesiology Foundation Newsletter, Volume 1 Issue 6. Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym International www.braingym.org.
by Amy CHOI Wai Ming, Hong Kong
I’m very happy to share with you that, after 16 years as a Brain Gym Instructor, last summer I taught my biggest course* ever—a five-day class held in Shanghai in July, 2015. There were 40-some people, and for the first time I taught the course for parents and children without using any Power Point! I taught by pure noticing*. It was a body-oriented, drawing-out experience, and one that I especially enjoyed teaching.
The Brain Gym Instructors who reviewed the class or served as teaching assistants also enjoyed it very much. We sometimes let the kids get up and run around, and they were happy to get involved in all the movements, activities, and balance* processes.
We also used the figure 8 graphic of the Learning Flow* Chart from Brain Gym Teachers Edition. With the Dennisons’ permission, I made two teaching posters: one about 1.5 meters wide (you can see it in the background of the group photo) and the other a big floor mat (photo 10, link below), so that participants could walk on it and notice when they were in integrated high and low gears and when they were in stress. The students appreciated these posters, which many reviewers and Brain Gym Instructors who attended the course said helped them really “get it” for the first time.
Amy CHOI (2nd row, center) with parents and children at a Brain Gym 101 course she taught in Shanghai, July 2015.
After the course, I put together some photos to share with this article (read on for detailed captions of these). (For those who don’t have a yahoo/Flickr account, you can see the photos at https://www.flickr.com/x/t/0092009/gp/brainbodycentre/MqT7R2/)
CAPTIONS FOR THE PHOTOS AT THE LINK
Title Photo: July 7, 2015 Brain Gym 101 course – Students gather for a class photo!
Photos 1 & 2: Teaching assistants in the Shanghai course make class posters using the Double Doodle activity, drawing with two hands at once.
Photo 3: Students notice what they emphasize or omit in their own learning as they refer to Edu-K’s three learning dimensions.
Photo 4: Class assistants prepare teaching aids for the class: Amy finds that rubber band ropes are excellent tool for noticing whole-body movement in the Dennison Laterality Repatterning*** balance.
Photo 5: Amy’s enlarged draft version of the Learning Flow chart makes discovery of high and low gears more visceral.
Photo 6: In the group circle, parents and children discuss what they notice about how they learn, and about the impact of stress on their sensory perception.
Photo 7: The children are exuberant in their play and explorations as they do a group balance for crossing the midline for whole-body movement.
Photo 8: A mother and son do Brain Gym Hook-ups together. In the background: Double Doodle drawings, Lazy 8s, a goal chart, and Brain Gym posters.
Photo 9: Participants do the Positive Points.
Photo 10: Doing pre-activities for an Action Balance for Focus; noticing whole-body focus.
Photo 11: A mother and son do the Footflex for ease of focus and attention.
Photo 12: Participants do the Owl to release shoulder tension.
Photo 13: The Grounder helps release hip tension and restore flexibility.
Photo 14: Art can be play!
Photo 15: Two teenagers from two different cities become friends after joining the Brain Gym 101 course.
Photos 16 and 17: Student’s notice their personal reference points within the Learning Flow, using Hook-ups to connect with a new learning response.
Photos 18 and 19: Discussion (left) and games (right).
Photo 20: Fun and playfulness during the class photo! Amy CHOI is in the second row, center.
Photo 21-23: Student drawings of the three dimensions: The Robot, The Swimmer, and The Penguin are the metaphors we use to describe three aspects of integrated learning.
Photo 24: a young man assists his mother in noticing her hearing/listening via her left ear.
Photo 25: Amy with two young students.
Photo 26: Participants note their learning process, then do the Elephant activity for relaxed listening.
Amy CHOI (center) and a group of kindergarten teachers share some results of their two-handed artwork from the course Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Learning, held in Hong Kong in the fall of 2015.
I’m grateful to my sponsor, Mr. Shi Jian Ping of Shanghai Sunflower Studio, who provided the space for this wonderful course to happen. I would also like to thank Gail and Paul Dennison for their visionary work, Glenys Leadbeater for guiding me to join the International Faculty, and my many wonderful Edu-K teachers, including my first instructors: the late Zale Giffin of California, Flo Johnasen of Hawaii, and my close friend and teacher Carla Hannaford of Utah.
Amy CHOI Wai Ming, a Brain Gym International Faculty Member in Hong Kong, became a Brain Gym Instructor/Consultant in 1999. She uses Edu-K’s PACE (emphasizing rhythm and timing) and space (for proprioception and spatial awareness) activities to explore new ways to play and move. Amy says her best tools to support others in finding authenticity through whole-body movement are her Kinesiology training and listening to her own body and intuition. She teaches all the core subjects of the Edu-K curriculum, and especially enjoys facilitating the Double Doodle Play basic and Teacher Training workshops. To find out more about Amy and her work, visit www.brainbodycentre.com. ∞
* Students of Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life experience the 26 activities and 11 Action Balances related to basic functions, such as reading, listening, writing, moving. Participants explore the process of “noticing” in terms of the Learning Flow.
** The Double Doodle, the Footflex, and other activities mentioned here are part of the 26 Brain Gym activities detailed in Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition © 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison, which also describes how to use the Learning Flow.
***Dennison Laterality Repatterning is a short movement process that teaches learners how to shift from avoiding the visual and movement midline (and thus using one side of the body excessively) to functioning in terms of this midline and the two-sided midfield that it makes available.
© 2016 Amy CHOI Wai Ming. All rights reserved
Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym or Double Doodle Play instructor near you.
Liisa Korhonen, Brain Gym Instructor and psychologist, Helsinki.
Liisa Korhonen, Helsinki
In Helsinki in 2014, I took a course in two-handed drawing called Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, taught by Glenys Leadbeater, RN. During the course, Glenys explained that, as a nurse, she often teaches Double Doodle drawing as a rehabilitative measure. Following her example, I started double doodling with my youngest sister, Ritva, 68, who after a stroke in 2010 was diagnosed with hemiplegia, aphasia, epilepsy, and you-name-it. Having lost her native Finnish language, Ritva now uses “Emotionalese.”
Ritva’s first Double Doodle (Dec, 2014). While Ritva draws with her left hand, Liisa motors her right in a mirror-image.
For our Double Doodle process, I choose sturdy paper, 56 x 65 cm in size. While Ritva uses the crayon or brush in her left hand, I motor her right side to mirror what she draws. Now I could better see the importance of mark making as stated by Gail Dennison in the Double Doodle Play manual. In this case, I’d say that the most constructive activity has been Ritva’s and my collaborative planning and executing of movement. This first picture (right) is from December 2014, and we have doodled together on and off ever since.
Ritva drew this while playing the Double Doodle “Nines” game for the first time.
Our next step was the Nines, with both of the images at left drawn in February 2015. To do this, I first put nine symmetrical dots on the paper, then we start negotiating the directions. We do half the paper like that, then I turn the paper around in order to ease the strain of Ritva’s right arm and we do the other half. Ritva’s contributions are seen diagonally in the final products, as in the examples at left.
For a time, the emotional aspect of mark making became dominant. Ritva became self-critical and, since she wanted to avoid negative moods, her willingness to doodle subsided.
Ritva begins a more playful exploration in this 2nd image based on “Nines” (both from Feb, 2015).
”Why does the changing of letters raise so much feeling?” asked a reporter when Finnish television showed the latest change of model letters for schools. The letter designer referred to the lifelong personal experience of using letters in handwriting.
Writing really creates an intimate relationship with marks and letters, and through them with the whole of human civilization, as Gail says in the manual. After my experience with Ritva, I would even view the emotional development as an aspect of its own right in the Double Doodle process.
Ritva’s playfulness becomes more apparent in Harmony of the Nines (May, 2015).
In May, our use of big brushes and poster paints brought positive changes to Ritva’s Double Doodle process. As you can see, the paintings had become more harmonious.
More May Nines with Ritva
This harmony of the Nines was accompanied by a generally positive mood. If Ritva felt lonely during the day and phoned me to complain, she always accepted my response that she was the only person who could control her feelings. According to her friends, her Emotionalese has recently become more nuanced.
Ritva Korhonen discovers new ways to express herself using Double Doodle Play.
In July, with Liisa’s assistance, Ritva paints her first portrait‚ one full of expression.
In July we made our first portrait of a face, which became quite expressive. It was my birthday, and we were both in the best of moods, which reflects on the face we drew.
July Nines with Ritva
The July Nines also show the changes to be consistent. I’m happy to report that the balancing effect of Double Doodle Play stays in Ritva’s moods, even if we don’t have time to doodle very often.
I think that the pleasure of looking at beautiful objects—all objects, actually, continues to increase for her, as it does for me.
A portrait with Ritva, July 11, 2015
Discovering a new center with Ritva, July 12, 2015
Thank you from my heart, Gail and Glenys!
Liisa Korhonen, 76, is a Brain Gym Instructor and psychologist in Helsinki, Finland. Lissa says, “Brain Gym has been my delight since the 1990s, and in it Double Doodle Play is my latest joy. I especially like it because it gives an opportunity to practice a stress-free state of being.” ∞
The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities, from Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition © 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison.
For a translation of this article into Italian, click here.
© 2015 Liisa Korhonen. All rights reserved
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International/The Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym or Double Doodle Play instructor near you.
You might also enjoy:
Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play
A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of All Ages: A Short Tutorial
Five Double Doodle Flowers for Spring (a tutorial)
Double Doodle Holiday Play (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)
Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)
Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play!
Make Double Doodle Pumpkin Faces for Halloween Fun (a tutorial)