Ramon, 11, walked into my office with a positive attitude, ready to learn. He was there with his mother, to get help with his reading. I told him that our session would be about him and his life, and that his immediate goal could include more than reading comprehension. When I mentioned sports, his eyes lit up. “Can you help me with soccer? I’d really like to do better when I play.”
I often find that improvement in a sport serves as a motivating goal for those who also need to improve an academic skill. “The very same skills that you need for reading, you need for soccer,” I replied. “You need to be alert, in tune with all your senses, and continuously moving forward and looking ahead—anticipating what will happen next.”
Ramon’s mother, Monika, had told me on the phone that her son had been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. According to his teachers, his main difficulties were with memory, organization, and receptive and expressive language. Ramon worked so hard, she said, that he made the honor roll despite mediocre test scores.
I had responded that in Edu-K we focus on learning as a dynamic process. We’re interested in what a child can do, not what he can’t do, so we don’t have any reason to refer back to static measurements, such as test scores or a label that’s been placed on him. We help the learner acknowledge what he’s already able to do, and guide him in taking a few solid steps forward. Our work is to draw out each individual’s natural abilities through movement-based education that allows him to continue learning on his own.
Ramon had been introduced to the Brain Gym work when he was in kindergarten, with encouraging results, both academically and socially, at that time. As a five-year-old, he had eagerly done Brain Gym activities in the car every morning on the way to school. Monika was now revisiting Brain Gym because she and Ramon had seen such good results before.
Ramon’s new goal was “To play and read with active attention to what’s happening all around me.” During the pre-activity of kicking the soccer ball, he was hesitant and unsteady on his feet, losing his sense of balance and kicking the ball off to the right.
When reading, he pronounced every syllable accurately, reading in his right visual field and using a finger to point sequentially, from left to right, to each word. According to Edu-K assessments, he was not accessing his left visual field.
Many parents and educators interpret this kind of excessive phonetic analysis as good reading, and assume that children will grow out of it. My finding is that youngsters who first succeed in reading in this analytic way rarely make a shift to whole language without being given express instruction to do so.
For example, when I asked Ramon what the paragraph he’d just read was about, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Can I read it again?” Such a request isn’t unusual. I find that, prior to a balance for comprehension, people of all ages often need to read a paragraph two or more times to understand it.
I asked Ramon instead to do an experiment with me by choosing an activity from the Learning Menu wall poster. He selected Three Dimension Repatterning*. I knew this process would be well suited to his goal, as it would help integrate his proprioceptive “movement map” in all three dimensions: left and right, up and down, and forward and backward.
The pre-activity for the repatterning gave me a chance to show Ramon that, while being attentive, he was able to cross the participation midline in the forward-and-back motion, but not when grounding himself in the up-and-down motion or when moving laterally, as he needed to do when tracking the ball (or reading left to right). I explained that, on the playing field, this overfocused movement pattern might make him feel hypervigilant, unstable, or easily confused. Similarly, when he was reading or simply sitting, he might be zeroing in too much, at the expense of feeling comfortable and secure in his body. Ramon seemed to understand.
After the balance, I kicked the ball to Ramon and he kicked it down the center of the room with focus and precision, without falling backward or losing his balance as had happened the first time. I could see that he was more alert, eager to participate, and more ready to move in any direction.
The visual assessment now showed him to be accessing both left and right visual fields, as well as the midfield, where binocularity occurs. When he read this time he was actively involved in the story—both receptively and expressively—clearly listening to the words as he spoke them and anticipating their meaning. He read fluently without finger pointing and elaborated on the story, in his own words, with accuracy.
Monika was thrilled about the difference in Ramon’s understanding and approach, saying how grateful she felt for such an incredible system, and how happy she was to see him “really reading now!” She and Ramon promised to do Brain Gym Homeplay** together every day, including PACE, Neck Rolls, Lazy 8s, Think of an X, Balance Buttons, Earth Buttons, Space Buttons, the Energy Yawn, and the Positive Points.
*Three Dimension Repatterning, taught in Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life, offers a simple movement experience in which learners discover habits of “switching off” one of the three planes of movement in order to use another.
**The Brain Gym activities are described in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA.
Photo Credits: © Dreamsnjb | Dreamstime.com – Boy With Soccer Ball At Sunset Photo and © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com – Young Boy Reading Book At Home
For a Spanish translation of this article, click here: Leer es como jugar al fútbol
© 2015 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
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