Pen-and-pencil marks can often be a visual representation of stress. What’s the antidote? For any age group, the Double Doodle offers a unique expression, and can also bring more ease and fluidity to drawing and writing.
In examples of students’ two-handed play on paper, you can see the centralization and imagine the fun and relaxation, all part of the signature of Double Doodle play.
*The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities described in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Photo Credits: Gail E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
© 2018 by Gail E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International/the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an 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
Using Two Hands to Engage Centralized Focus and Attention After a Stroke
Double Doodle Holiday Play (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)
Gail and Paul Dennison
Confluence, the theme for the 2015 International Kinesiology Conference to be held in beautiful Banff, Canada, literally means to flow together. We send our hearty congratulations on the many and diverse streams of Specialized Kinesiology that will be meeting and joining together there, September 23 – 27, to celebrate mutual cooperation, body wisdom, and wellness through movement! We offer our deep appreciation to the CANASK network, Educational Kinesiology Foundation staff members, and to all who will be contributing to make this year’s conference an outstanding event.
We’re excited that you’ll be experiencing keynote presenter Dr. William Tiller, as he speaks on “The Power of Human Intention.” Dr. Tiller is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University and the author of ground-breaking books on psychoenergetic science.*
The program will include presentations from many wonderful leaders in the world of kinesiology, including numerous Educational Kinesiology Faculty Members (click here for names and topics).
We’re sending our wishes to participants that all will find hearty ways to celebrate throughout the five days of conference events and additional pre- and post-conference workshops. Like the rivers and hot springs that come together in Banff, may the diversity of offerings there flow seamlessly together to create a confluence of health and healing!
To update you on our own focus this year: Paul taught here in Ventura, California, as well as in Australia, Indonesia, Montreal, Brazil, and will travel (this fall) to Japan and Dubai. Meanwhile, Gail continues working on blogs and the latest book project.
As we continue to develop a Brain Gym® and Educational Kinesiology presence in the social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), we appreciate these avenues as a grassroots opportunity to update parents and educators with the latest research on movement, play, and learning, as well as a way to connect with so many of you. Thank you for your support!
In today’s technologically driven world that requires both near-point focus and passive sitting, the Edu-K work is becoming more important than ever—not only for schoolchildren but for people of all ages. Research daily calls each of us to action by way of bringing increased movement, play, and structural alignment to our everyday activities, and especially in the learning environment. Where Edu-K once pioneered the field of movement-based learning, there are now many “move to learn” programs. The 26 Brain Gym activities, the Brain Gym 101 course, Seven Dimensions of Intelligence, and our other fine courses remain unrivaled in scope, simplicity, and a regard for the learner through self-actualizing activities. Research in neuroscience continues to catch up with our commonsense recognition of the interrelationship of the human body and optimal brain function.
Please acquaint yourselves with our learning resource site, Hearts at Play: Move, Learn, Bloom, that offers blogposts and videos to answer many of the how, what, and why questions about the Edu-K work that you’ve asked us throughout the years. We trust you’ll find this site useful in creating immediate interest in your courses and private sessions. May your lives be touched by the “confluence” of moving to fulfill your personal and professional goals, and may we all keep moving with joy!
Love to all,
Paul and Gail
*Dr. Tiller is the author of Science and Human Transformation: Subtle Energies, Intentionality and Consciousness, Conscious Acts of Creation: The Emergence of a New Physics, Some Science Adventures with Real Magic and Psychoenergetic Science: A Second Copernican-Scale Revolution, as well as more than 150 published papers. Continuing his psychoenergetics research, he currently directs the William A Tiller Institute for Psychoenergetic Science in Arizona.
This blog post was written for Hearts at Play by educator Thomas Armstrong, whose innovative work we’ve advocated for many years. On his own site he adds: The Dennison’s are the co-founders of Brain Gym® which has helped so many kids with learning difficulties achieve success in school, home, and life. I am happy to connect with them on this very important topic of the misdiagnosis of millions of children as ADHD:
In May of this year, the American Psychiatric Association released a new revision of its “sacred text”—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—used by mental health professionals, insurance companies, HMOs, and other power brokers in determining whether a person has a psychiatric disorder.
In the DSM – 5, they have expanded the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to include children who began showing symptoms of ADHD as late as twelve years old (the previous criterion was seven years old). This is going to open the floodgates for many more children to be identified as ADHD, and millions will be diagnosed and stigmatized with a negative label (the label has three negative words in it: deficit, hyperactivity, and disorder).
While it’s true that these kids do have neurological differences when compared to typically developing children, these are developmental differences only. The best research we have suggests that the brains of kids labeled ADHD mature on average three years later than the norm (Shaw et al., 2007).
This finding from neuroscience makes sense. Kids diagnosed with ADHD generally seem to act younger than their years. Among other things, they’re more playful than kids their own age. The larger question here should be: Is this such a bad thing? Play, after all, is one of the most important activities that human beings engage in. Great scientists, artists, and thinkers have frequently compared their own creative process to that of children at play.
When children play, they inhabit the fertile world between actuality and possibility. They take something that is from their own fantasy (say, a trip to the moon) and combine it with something real in their environment (perhaps an empty cardboard box), and out of that encounter they create something new (like a “rocket ship”). This is the creative process. And the fact that kids diagnosed with ADHD hold on to this playfulness for a longer period of time than the average child should be regarded as a mark of strength, not disability.
Recently, I’ve been writing and lecturing on the topic of neurodiversity, and I think this new idea is tailor-made for making sense of the abilities of so-called ADHD children. Neurodiversity says that we should look at brain differences such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism in the same way that we regard diversity in nature or diversity in culture. Instead of using a disease-based paradigm focused on deficits, we should be using a strength-based approach that regards these kids as part of the wonderful diversity of life.
This approach puts the emphasis on the positive. In this instance, it places the focus on the playfulness, curiosity, imagination, and other childlike characteristics that kids with ADHD seem to hold on to for a longer period of time than “neurotypical”’ kids. There’s actually a term that’s useful for describing this youthfulness: neoteny. It means “holding youth’” and refers to people who act younger than their age. Eminent thinkers like Harvard University evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and Princeton University anthropologist Ashley Montagu have pointed out that neoteny is a positive evolutionary step in humanity. It’s the direction toward which evolution is moving. These children identified as ADHD are not disabled; they’re actually the vanguard of our species!
With play being under attack these days from a culture steeped in too much technology (kids sitting in front of a screen instead of out playing cops and robbers), too much testing in the schools (tests don’t reward students for creativity or playfulness), and too much fear of litigation (playgrounds are getting more and more minimal because of fears of lawsuits), we need the playfulness of kids to renew us, to keep us flexible, to bring us alive. It’s only a testament to the times we live in that we take the very children who are the most alive and playful, slap a medical label on them, and say they have a disorder.
The disorder is in our culture, folks, not in these children. We need a paradigm shift so that children who are being labeled ADHD can be recognized for the amazing kids that they really are. We should take the cue from them and learn to be more playful in our own lives, whatever our age. We should regard these kids not as disordered but as wonderfully diverse children who can wake us up from our dogmatic slumbers and transform the society in which we live.
Shaw, P., et al. “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation.’’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 4, 2007, Vol. 104 No. 49, pp.19649–19654.
Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., is the director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development and the author of 15 books, including Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life. You’ll find more information on his website. You’re welcome to contact Thomas with your response to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gail and Paul Dennison
Previously published in Touch for Health Education Newsletter
“Chairs, chairs, chairs!” a playful voice said. “Why don’t we include more movement in the learning process? Don’t we want our children to learn with movement and curiosity?”
Who was this woman with long, dark hair, standing in the back of the room and gracefully doing exercises that would someday become the Calf Pump and the Grounder from the Brain Gym® program?
The year was 1982, and two previously unacquainted people, educator and Touch for Health graduate Paul Dennison and Touch for Health instructor Gail Hargrove, were at a conference on Alpha Speed Learning at the Live and Learn Center in Sherman Oaks, California. The conference, offered to leading health educators in Southern California, gave participants an opportunity to network with peers and experience the speed-reading and learning process developed by Steve Snyder. As fate would have it, Paul and Gail were the only two Touch for Health people invited to participate.
A deep friendship—and, soon, a joyful partnership—ensued between Paul Dennison and the woman who had so boldly sprung from her chair at Live and Learn. The more Paul and Gail talked, the more they recognized the similarities of their life paths. Their unique backgrounds and research now prompted them to collaborate, in the shared hope of making a difference in the field of education. Together they dreamed of inviting play, art, music, storytelling, and process-based learning back into the classroom. Little did they know that they would someday write a book entitled Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning that would be translated into more than forty languages, or that they’d develop a program by the same name that would touch the lives of children and adults in more than eighty countries around the world.
Paul was a reading teacher who, in the 1960s, had established the Valley Remedial Group Learning Centers in the San Fernando Valley: eight successful reading centers, including one that happened to be right next door to the Live and Learn Center. Once a slow learner who had failed the fourth grade because he couldn’t read, Paul had made it his life’s work to help others with early problems like his own by teaching reading instruction. He had grown up myopic and unathletic in a family of artists, dancers, puppeteers, and musicians, and he strongly sensed that something important was missing from our schools.
Born into a family of educators, Gail had grown up as an artist, dancer, poet, and child actor. Always exploring new ideas in movement, in the mid-60s she had read the work of William Bates on natural vision improvement and begun using the activities. A current student of acupuncture and postural integration, she was exploring the relationship of movement and consciousness to natural vision improvement while enjoying a successful career in West Los Angeles as a Touch for Health and holistic health instructor. Through a study of Montessori education, Gail had become clear that sitting still for long periods of time in a windowless classroom was not the answer to healthful learning and visual habits.
Paul had studied the innovative movement and sensory integration work of educators Newell Kephart, Ray Barsch, and Jean Ayres, among others. In his learning centers, along with other sensory modalities he actively used the balance beam, balance board, tachistoscope, and rebounder with eye-motility exercises such as tracking. He also routinely checked the eye and hand dominance of his students, and offered extensive testing of brain-dominance profiles.
Paul’s Movement Mentors
In 1971, Paul had learned from Richard Tyler, a parent of two children enrolled at one of Paul’s reading centers, about how holding the frontal eminences eases stress. Tyler was a chiropractor who had attended a workshop with George Goodheart, the father of Applied Kinesiology. As Richard and Paul became good friends, they began to share work and ideas, eventually collaborating on research that Paul would include in his first book, Switching On: The Holistic Answer to Dyslexia.
In 1972, Paul began working with Dr. Louis Jacque, a leading pioneer in vision training who taught him the importance of pointing the eyes and of visual recovery. Paul was soon after asked to share the space at one of his reading clinics with Dr. Samuel Herr, O.D., and Herr’s wife, Margaret, both associated with the Optometric Extension Program. Sharing clients with the Herrs provided Paul and his staff with daily observation and in-service vision training from experts in the field of behavioral optometry. Inspired by the work of Dr. G. N. Getman (How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence), Paul used bilateral drawing (the two-handed tracing of shapes) to help alleviate students’ visual stress; this activity would later evolve into the Double Doodle.
In 1974, after teaching at all grade levels, Paul received his school administrator credential from the State of California. Yet his career now took a different turn, as he resigned from public school education to devote his time fully to his doctoral research and the reading centers.
In 1975, majoring in Curriculum Development at the University of Southern California and with a minor in Experimental Psychology, Paul developed a research study for his doctoral dissertation on the relationship of covert speech to the acquisition of beginning reading skills. Drawing on the latest brain research, including that of Sperry and Ornstein with split-brain patients, Paul realized the impact upon academic achievement of the neurological development of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic abilities. He was awarded his doctorate and also received the Phi Delta Kappa award for outstanding research.
In 1976, Paul completed a course for optometric-vision-training assistants sponsored by Richard Sowby, O.D., with whom he shared an office. Paul now began to explore the use of contralateral movements to help students align eye, hand, and body midline while hitting a ball. He also began a personal self-improvement program, including body therapies, movement training, and long-distance running. He studied with sports kinesiologist Bud Gibbs, whose work would inspire the movement-reeducation process used in the Educational Kinesiology In-Depth and Movement Reeducation courses.
In 1979, Paul completed the Touch for Health courses with Gordon Stokes at the TFH Foundation in Pasadena, and was also inspired by meeting John Thie. Upon receiving his certification, he wrote a letter to himself stating the goal that he would write a book and start a new method known as Educational Kinesiology. While working with students, he made the intuitive leap to use noticing as a teaching and anchoring tool.
As a doctoral student and public school teacher in the early 1970s, Paul read about recent innovative research using sensorimotor integration with brain-injured children. To determine the possible effects of contralateral movement on the beginning-reading readiness of regular-ed first-graders, he introduced movement within his classroom. Later, in view of the work John Thie was doing with cross-crawling, Paul searched for a way to maximize the effectiveness of the Cross Crawl by making it a more active, intentional movement. By 1981, shortly after he completed his first book, Switching On, Paul had discovered the Laterality Repatterning that now bears his name.
A New Collaboration
Gail had completed her Touch for Health certification during Easter week of 1977 with teachers Gordon Stokes and Shanti Moore. Having volunteered for the Positive Point demonstration with Dr. John Thie, she was so impressed with the Touch for Health work that she felt inspired to take it out into her community. Gail began teaching TFH at Creating Our Life, an adjunct to Antioch University, and later taught through Santa Monica Community College and the Santa Monica Health Integration Center, as well as at conferences for women and in private session work.
In 1983 Gail was a student in Paul’s second Edu-K in Depth course, and the two began a collaborative correspondence to create language and literature that would make the work even more accessible and multidimensional.
In March of 1984 the two began traveling, writing, and teaching together. With Gail’s contributions, the In-Depth work emerged as a beautifully woven system for honoring the learner and drawing out new learning. Combining their knowledge areas of dance, education, and kinesiology, Gail and Paul developed the Integrated Movements for balancing the meridians. In September, they taught together in Germany, Holland, and Norway. In November, they published the first edition of Edu-K for Kids, and Paul concluded his work at the reading centers.
In 1985, Paul and Gail joined the Touch for Health faculty as Instructors of Educational Kinesiology, and shortly after they published Personalized Whole-Brain Integration. Paul coined the term “Brain Gym,” and they separated the new, self-help Brain Gym work from the facilitated In-Depth course. That fall, Paul and Gail presented their newly developed Creative Vision course in Holland and Germany. They introduced their innovative vision work, including Paul’s Optic Chiasm Balance (the cover test) and Gail’s Homolateral Reflex Balance, with tremendous success. In December, Paul and Gail were married in Los Angeles on his birthday.
In 1986, Gail developed the Visioncircles course in perceptual development, which includes 34 Vision Gym® movements and the Friendly Chair Balance (which was how she came to like chairs again!). Her contributions to Edu-K coursework also include Movement Dynamics and, more recently, Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision. Gail also developed and edited the Brain Gym Journal.
In 1987, Paul and Gail left the umbrella of the Touch for Health organization to found, with a group of other innovative educators, the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, now known as Brain Gym® International. The Dennisons maintained an enduring friendship with John and Carrie Thie, who mentored and encouraged them for many years.
Through the years, Paul and Gail have coauthored a series of books and manuals and traveled together to teach the Edu-K in Depth course countless times, in dozens of countries around the world. They have headed up many annual international conferences in the United States, Canada, and abroad, and trained more than forty Edu-K International Faculty Members. Their work has inspired other educators to develop Edu-K courses: the foundation they cofounded now offers more than 800 curriculum hours.
And, in many classrooms around the world, the chair is becoming less of a central focus. More and more children are now being encouraged to speak up when they’ve done enough sitting. They can then freely rise to their feet to do a Brain Gym movement, ease any visual or muscle tension, and reconnect with their best learning pace.
© 2012 Paul and Gail E. Dennison
All Rights Reserved
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International, www.braingym.org.
. . . Teaching children is like training animals. For each task you want them to do, you must offer them a carrot. . . .You get the student to do the assignment because of some reward he’s going to get, not because he realizes that the assignment is valuable or interesting to him.
— From The Way It Spozed to Be by James Herndon,
one of the Innovations in Education series
When I was in school, the carrot on the end of the stick was ever-present as I was driven by an external pressure to succeed, instead of by the intrinsic pleasure of learning. Just as Herndon cautions in his quote, the midterm and graded report card, as well as the need for promotion, college acceptance, and lifetime opportunity, all lingered in the back of my mind as promised rewards for any current strain or discomfort. As I studied and learned, there was always the threat of the absence of these rewards as potential measures of failure.
As an adult, looking back on my education, I saw that I was cheated by the system. For those alluring carrots, I was denied the joy of learning that is my birthright. Long ago I made it my goal to overcome this way of thinking about life, and I was eventually able to free myself and return to a mental approach that is honest and immediate and that reflects my own self-knowledge in interaction with the world. That is, I have returned to the authentic nature I had as a child—full of curiosity to learn and explore without being sidetracked by a need for “carrots.”
I have not come easily to this place. I had to learn to be suspicious of carrots, to ask myself constantly to what end I was moving in my life, and whether the end justified the means; in other words, whether I was being honest and straightforward with myself.
The honesty to which I refer is an intellectual and emotional integrity typical of an individual committed to living life to its fullest. To me, life is a process, a highly individual agenda—a curriculum, if you will. We are here to experience, learn, and grow. Honest behavior is committed to this purpose; dishonest behavior denies it. To behave honestly, one must have self-knowledge and the ability to take responsibility for one’s own life. One must also be able to evaluate one’s own behavior and respect the right of others to do the same.
When I mentioned the topic of this article to a friend, he replied that my subject should be dishonesty rather than honesty, as he felt that he had always been too honest at school. The deceitfulness he did learn, he said, had not been enough for him to get good grades. This startling reaction to my subject is the very reason I have chosen it. If our system of education succeeds in convincing young people that dishonesty is necessary for survival, then the system has indeed failed!
Intrinsically Motivated Learning
Can children learn without dishonest measures to drive them? More than forty years ago, John Holt attempted to answer this question in How Children Learn, a book about preschool children who had not yet been exposed to learning institutions. In this book that has become a classic on child development, he described children in natural situations where their curiosity had free rein. They were not yet afraid to fail, and could learn from their mistakes as one must be free to do. Holt described them as assessing a total situation, deciding upon a course of action, teaching themselves methodically, and trusting insight as well as logic in figuring things out. They knew their own limitations. They grasped the structure of a learning task and, when sufficiently motivated, had long attention spans.
By the middle of the first grade, what happens to this enthusiasm for learning? What Holt described was learning anchored to dynamic self-initiated movement and interaction, as compared to the stress-anchored learning that now often predominates in our schools. Classroom teaching for informational responses—particularly at the elementary level, where the measure of success is the reaction of the teacher—is conditioning or training, not true teaching to develop young minds.
Educator Barbara Clark, writing on this subject in Optimizing Learning: The Integrative Education Model in the Classroom, stated: “The use of external rewards is another practice resulting in different effects than those desired. Research has shown that external rewards (any reward that is not the natural consequence of an activity) often become goals in and of themselves.”
John Abbott, in his thought-provoking book Over Schooled but Under Educated: How the Crisis in Education is Jeopardizing Our Adolescents, says that “Inquisitiveness drives human learning. . . . The asking of questions is, for the brain, what strong, vigorous exercise is to the athlete—it strengthens the brain’s neural-networks, and makes cognitive processes far more effective.” Abbott cites research showing how children naturally progress from inquisitiveness to authentic knowledge, that is, “the broader and more diverse the experiences are when (children are) very young, the greater are the chances that, in later life, the individual will be able to handle open, ambiguous, uncertain and novel situations.” (pages 199-200)
Abbott describes an ideal learning process where children discover how to think for themselves by building new ideas on earlier ones, instead of memorizing answers to questions they have yet to ask. This engaged learning process allows them to experience life and its challenges first-hand, thereby developing personalized knowledge.
Educators can facilitate such learning, and, when children are stuck, give them active opportunities to gain the intrinsic rewards of learning and problem solving. Children learn most effectively through their senses—by touching and manipulating their environment as they move within it. Accomplishing mastery of his own body is far more important to a child’s identity and self-concept than is the approval of a teacher. As the psychiatrist William Glasser pointed out in his book Schools without Failure, a person, “regardless of his background, his culture, his color, or his economic level, will not succeed in general until he can some way first experience success in one important part of his life.”
Honesty is first instilled through a parent’s or teacher’s trust in the child’s ability to learn. A child senses that the teacher wants to treat subject matter in such a way that the pupil can incorporate it into herself and draw from it what will be important to her particular life. The teacher also wants the pupil to be able to develop her own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs based on genuine concern and research. A good teacher doesn’t want to simply hear his own words parroted back to him. He wants his students to realize that they are capable of making their own choices, free to make these choices, and responsible for the results of such choices.
Movement—An Honest Language
Such decision-making skills require the freedom to move. Walk into any classroom of high achievers and observe the level of movement there. The children who are the best learners are alive and active in their bodies. They physically reach for information and for opportunities to express themselves, barely containing themselves in their enthusiasm for knowledge as they write, turn pages, and interact with their peers. The children who are not moving as they learn appear stressed, passive, and uninterested. In both cases, children can’t hide their unspoken attitudes about learning, which are apparent in their movement and body posture.
Why is the honesty inherent in the movement of the capable child not nurtured and encouraged in all learners? Why discourage the very behaviors that are so obviously a part of the learning process?
The simple answer is fear of change. Most of us have come through the public school system, which has become an institution in and of itself. If we have survived (and some have not), we have been shaped by it and we believe the myth that we must perpetuate the system as it is. That is to say, we must teach children to conform, adapt, and play the school game, even though we know these qualities to be profoundly lacking and not representative of the real world in which we move as adults.
In childhood and adulthood, we learn best by practicing and doing, putting our new knowledge into action, and feeling the process of growth. Educators have nothing to fear from an honest acknowledgment that motivated, self-directed learners with high self-esteem will naturally move about and make sound as they learn.
We need the courage to trust today’s children to learn actively, in an honest way, with all of their senses, instead of being passive listeners who “learn” by rote memorization.
The children who have the benefit of short inclusions of movement—especially the Brain Gym® and Vision Gym® activities—love to go to school. They’re allowing their teachers to rediscover the joy of teaching for which they chose their profession. Following the natural dynamics of integration, these children know when to move, when to rest, when to practice their skills, when to ask questions, and when to create. There is no need for extrinsic reward for children who live in a world based on the naturally honest and intrinsic joy of learning.
© 2012 by Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International, www.braingym.org.