Danny and the Birth of Brain Gym

Danny surprised himself by reading with fluency for the first time.

Children are often surprised to understand the words as they read them after doing some Brain Gym activities.


Learning is about doing. Children become self-initiating learners when they connect or re-connect with the movement patterns that call them into action. As a reading teacher once indoctrinated in the idea that learning is a mental activity, I first wrestled with this paradoxical point of view in the early 1970s. I saw struggling learners at my reading centers make their biggest leaps in reading, writing, and processing language, not through repetition and memorization, but by mastering physical (sensorimotor) skills related to the integration of perception and action.

Over time, I developed a system, Educational Kinesiology: Seven Dimensions of Intelligence*, based on a simple principle: Create learning opportunities so that students can connect with the physical skills.

I helped learners discover how to integrate their movement patterns in terms of left-right, up-down, and back-to-front directions. I further found that by prioritizing these dimensions I could more readily create a teachable moment for engaging skills of centralization, spatial awareness, holding a tool (like a pencil) effectively, and so on.

Gail and I in 1986, around the time we published our little orange book. This is a rare photo from that time of me without glasses.

Gail and I in 1986, during our early days of co-teaching.

I asked my friend and colleague, Gail Hargrove (later to become my wife), to help me organize my processes into a course manual. We soon found that it was our great joy to teach the work together.  In the early 1980s, Gail and I began teaching throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. We often stayed over for a few days in one location to give private consultations.

We would end each session by showing a few self-help activities from our repertoire that would take just minutes to do and serve as reminders of the goal, drawing stick-figure illustrations.

We chose movements that re-enforced any skills of balance, coordination, eye-teaming, and centralization learned in the session. We found that repeating these each day helped students to anchor new habits of movement, learning, playfulness, and self-calming.

Danny Discovers Reading

Our little "homeplay" book - Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning

Our little “homeplay” book – Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning

One afternoon in the spring of 1986 we had the good fortune to work with a woman, her husband, and son Danny*. Danny’s mother expressed her goal for him to improve his reading. When asked what he would like to learn to do more easily, seven-year-old Danny said that he wanted to be able to catch a ball better (he had been diagnosed with a mild cerebral palsy, and his movements were somewhat restricted).

While we were doing the Edu-K in Depth menu with him, Danny improved his hand-eye coordination with his right, previously shortened and “useless,” arm, which through muscle-relaxing activities now extended to the same length as his left.

Along with his mom, we joked around with him as we played catch with a crumpled paper “ball” and asked Danny to write his name and draw a picture. By the end of the session, Danny’s eyes had come to life and he read fluently and with comprehension for the first time. His mother listened with tears streaming down her face. We laughed and chatted with Danny, confident in our good rapport, for we had become pals. 

Then I mentioned “homework” and Danny promptly got up and left the room, not to return. It was at this moment that Gail and I, realizing that our movements deserved a more playful name, coined the term “homeplay.”

My thoughts continued in this vein. In the context of the educational system of the ’70s and ’80s that referred to learning challenges as “minimal brain dysfunction,” and perhaps anticipating the ’90s and “the decade of the brain,” and further, given my understanding of cognitive science and the relationship between learning and movement, the name “Brain Gym” came to me. Gail and I both immediately liked the name.

“Brain Gym” clearly speaks of what our work is all about: bringing together the thinking intelligence and the coordination of the body.

Gail took this photo of me in Brisbane on our first trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Gail took this photo of me in Brisbane on our first trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Gail and I envisioned putting our best activities into a small book that we could give away to students as “homeplay” after a private session, and began working on that project. Our booklet, Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning included 26 easy-to-do physical movements that enhance learning.

A few weeks later, we sent our paste-up version to the printer, just as we boarded a plane to teach our first courses in Australia and New Zealand. A draft of the booklet went with us, and as we shared it with students, we suddenly saw that these quick and simple activities could become as important as our in-depth work. Soon after, we reworked some of our course material into what is now Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life, which included the activities.

We didn’t then imagine that our “little orange book” would eventually be translated into 20-some languages, used in more than 80 countries, and, thirty years later, still be bringing play and ease to the learning process for people of all ages and abilities.  Δ

 

*Educational Kinesiology in Depth: Seven Dimensions of Intelligence, uses a priority system to explore left-right, up-down, back-to-front directional movements, as well as motivation, breathing, self-regulation, and cranial movement (habits of teeth and jaw). For more about how Paul chose the Brain Gym activities, see Freedom in Learning: The Gifts of a Child-Centered Education.

**Danny is not his real name. This story is excerpted from Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, by Paul E. Dennison,©1986.
***The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, 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 our own inventiveness. More and more, we realized the value of this collection of movements that so effectively facilitate learning, enhance the enjoyment of daily life, and help individuals attain more of their potential.

 

Photo Credits: Boy reading – ID 1158000 © Michal Bednarek | Dreamstime.com

 

© 2016 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.

 

Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.

 

You might also enjoy:

The Cross Crawl: A Remarkable Movement

Discovering the Reading Midfield

How Reading Is Like Playing Soccer

 

In Celebration of Handwriting

Honoring Move-to-Learn Pioneers at the 2016 Edu-K Conference

Paul and Gail do "The Give and Take" from the Integrated Movements menu.

Gail and Paul do “The Give and Take” from the Integrated Movements menu.

Dear participants at the 2016 Annual EKF Conference,

Our thanks and congratulations to the board, staff, and all who are coming together to move, play, and share in this year’s 4-day June event in Portland, Maine.

The  theme—“Port of Potential”—with its invitation of holding new possibilities for our lives and exploring “all things capable of becoming real,” is an invitation to explore the arts, wellness, movement patterns and sensory skills, business development, and much more.

As we envisioned an annual conference, we saw the value of developing the profession of Educational Kinesiologist. Our dream has come true as our language of learning through movement has been validated and recognized by educators, kinesiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and many neuroscientists across the planet. Edu-K and the Brain Gym program represent excellence and professionalism. We’re proud of all of you and extend our humble gratitude for your steadfast loyalty over these many years.

The two of us, having attended 25 plus Edu-K conferences over the years—beginning in 1989 at Murrieta Hot Springs, California—know these gatherings as rich opportunities to connect with dear, longtime friends worldwide and to meet new ones, exchange Edu-K balances, and deepen our inner listening to the needs and desires for our own lives. We’ll be thinking of all of you as you call upon your dreams and visions and discover new ways to embody them; we are with you in spirit and we’ll be calling in our own.

Celebrating Keynote Presenters:
Carla Hannaford (presentation title yet to be announced), is an award winning biologist and educator, and an inspiring and knowledgeable speaker. The author of four books, all of which have been translated into many languages, her work is quoted in more than 1,000 books and journals. She is the creator of the Physiological Basis of Learning/Brain Gym series of courses and a Visioncircles Teacher Trainer. Dr. Hannaford is truly a pioneer of learning through movement, having taught in 48 countries world wide.

Rose Harrow, “Charge What You’re Worth – and Get it!,” is another longtime Edu-K  trailblazer. An International faculty member of 30+ years, she has served many roles within the Foundation, including that of Network Coordinator and Executive Director. A certified business coach, Rose currently mentors Brain Gym Instructors to “take the lid off of their success, increase their income, joyfully create a sustainable business and expand their service to more people.”

Dionne Kamara, “Jamaica Brain Dance – Laying the Groundwork,” is a teaching artist in NYC, where she works with people of all ages. She began learning traditional Kumina dances, under her great-grandmother’s tutelage, as a child in Jamaica. A professional dancer for many years, she has toured internationally with the renowned dance company Urban Bush Women. She co-teaches with her mentor Anne Green Gilbert at the Summer Dance Institute for teachers in Seattle, Washington.

More Edu-K Pioneers
We’re thrilled to see that many other move-to-learn pioneers among the International Faculty members—some who have been faculty for 25 years or more—will also be presenting this year:
Don Wetsel, MA, LAc, BCTMB, Virginia –  “From Stress to Creative Success”
Renate Wennekes, Germany – “Brain Gym Activities in a Developmental Perspective”
Colleen Gardner, Colorado “Come to Your Senses, All 12 of Them!”
Glenys Leadbeater, RN, New Zealand – “Port of Potential, Double Doodle Style”
Barbara Wards, New Zealand – “Working With Facial, Tongue, & Throat Muscles to Improve Communication”
Cindy Goldade, MA, Minnesota – “The Art & Science of Storytelling”
Sharon Plaskett, Utah – “Five Elements and Brain Physiology”
Paula Oleska, (Emerita), New York – “Your Secret Brain, the Key to Your Potential”

We were moved to read of the many other innovative professional development presentations and breakout sessions that have been scheduled—many of them being given by leaders who first became Brain Gym Instructors in the mid- 1980s. We would love to thank each of you by name; since the list is long, you can read it here. Click here for information on post conference events.

Our Current Focus
This year we celebrate the thirty-year anniversary of our little orange book, Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, written initially as a “homeplay” handout for Edu-K students. Paul continues teaching local courses here in Ventura, California, and taught this spring in Belgium, France, and Switzerland. This fall, he’ll travel to Japan for the third time. Click here to read about his course last year in Dubai. Meanwhile, Gail continues working on blogs, digital product updates, and our latest book project.

Gail and Paul Dennison

Gail and Paul Dennison

As we continue to grow the presence of Brain Gym and Educational Kinesiology 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 teaches both near-point overfocus 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 connect with us through 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 we all keep finding balance as we progress in our personal and professional goals, and may we all keep moving with joy!

Love and hugs to all,
Gail and Paul Dennison

For more about the Edu-K approach to whole-brain learning, see Paul’s article: Why I Chose Research Over the Ivory Tower.

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in your area.

 

 

 

Confluence at the 2015 International Kinesiology Conference

Gail and Paul Dennison

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.

 

Reclaiming the Big Picture: How I Improved My Vision

Paul Dennison, reading specialist.

Paul Dennison, reading specialist.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. —Hellen Keller

I received my first pair of glasses after repeating the fourth grade because I’d failed to learn how to read. The eye doctor told my mother and me that my nearsighted vision was hereditary, and that I could expect it to get worse every year. My mother, an artist with excellent vision, didn’t understand the prognosis, as no one in our family had ever worn glasses. She said she suspected that it might have something to do with my long-time struggle in learning to read.

After I got my glasses, I did finally learn to read. The stronger lenses helped me to point my eyes on words, one at a time, and to focus primarily at near point (what I now refer to in my work as overfocus). In order to read with my corrective lenses, I inadvertently tuned out my “big picture” distance and peripheral vision. Years later, to improve my eyesight, I would need to relearn these and other important visual and motor skills.

Wearing glasses to school wasn’t easy. Other children taunted me, calling me “Four Eyes,” and I daily dreamed of seeing without my glasses. In high school I bought The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses,©1940, by Dr. William Bates, which inspired hope and gave me a view of vision that was more oriented to relaxation and process. I did the suggested exercises as best I could, yet didn’t perceive any changes, as I still needed my glasses to see.

At age 12, Paul was unsuccessful in improving his eyesight.

At age 12, Paul was unsuccessful in improving his eyesight.

Throughout my school and university career, I needed stronger and stronger glasses, as predicted by that first optometrist. In 1967 I became a reading teacher, and in 1975 I completed my doctorate in education. Around this time, I came in contact with several developmental optometrists who further influenced my understanding of vision as dynamic, rather than static.

It was the optometrist Gerald N. Getman(1), a remarkable man I had the pleasure to meet, who said that vision is “a learned skill of attention.” Dr. Getman made the distinction for me between eyesight and vision, noticing that such skills as identification, association, spatial relationships, and the ability to derive meaning and direct our thoughts or movement to act on that meaning, all occur in the brain, not the eyes.

In 1978 I attended classes with author and natural vision improvement teacher Janet Goodrich(2), who taught the Bates method that I had attempted, years earlier, to do on my own. Janet wanted her students to remove their glasses, yet I couldn’t do this because it made me dizzy.

While working with children and adults who had reading challenges, I found myself focusing on the physical skills of learning, such as eye movement, head turning, pencil holding, and sitting comfortably. I discovered specific physical movements (later to become the Brain Gym®(3) activities) that helped students to organize information in terms of their body’s midline (the sternum), and so learn to read and write without neck tension or visual stress.

Since the early 1980s, when I began to develop my Educational Kinesiology (Edu-K) work, many students have made spontaneous improvements in visual acuity after experiencing Edu-K balances(3) and such Edu-K processes as Dennison Laterality Repatterning. Yet, when I first met my wife and partner, Gail, I was still dealing with severe myopia.

To give you a sense of what this means, the healthy eye can instantly adjust to either a small or an extended focal length (using what’s called the power of accommodation), and so has the ability to view objects at great variances in distance. At that time, my prescription was -8.00 diopters, which meant that without my glasses I could see clearly only at a distance of up to 0.125 of a meter, or about five inches (at -3.00 diopters, a person would be unable at 20 feet to read any line on the Snellen Eye Chart, the traditional method of measuring acuity). Put more simply, my loss of visual acuity was considered severe.

Paul, from the inside cover of his first book: Switching On: The Whole-Brain Answer to Dyslexia.

Paul, from the inside cover of his first book: Switching On: The Whole-Brain Answer to Dyslexia.

In order to see distant objects, the ciliary muscles of my eyes would need to relax so that each lens could return to a flatter shape, yet the muscles no longer had that flexibility. At that time, I never removed my glasses and didn’t feel comfortable eating or even talking without wearing them (see the photo of me, at left, wearing that prescription).

I told Gail that I didn’t believe I could improve my eyesight. Although I was helping many people discover ways to improve their visual acuity, I believed that any such help was too late for me. Gail encouraged me to become an explorer of my visual experience, and we did a balance for the goal “To succeed in life with my natural vision.” The learning menu was what we now call Total Core Repatterning, and included pre-activities that challenged my acuity at various distances. We followed the body wisdom and also did some vision training from the course Educational Kinesiology in Depth: The Seven Dimensions of Intelligence.

Standing after the balance, I couldn’t believe that I could see without my glasses! I had an immediate vision improvement that was quite profound, and my habits of moving also went through a remarkable shift for the better. Gail and I ran up and down the street—me without my glasses, excitedly reading to her as license plates and street signs came into focus.

The challenge then was how to continue work when my eyesight had improved but it wasn’t yet clear enough to let me read or work comfortably without any lenses. Luckily, I had an old pair of glasses with a lesser prescription that I could wear to function. Meanwhile, I did Brain Gym activities every day, as well as Positive Point Palming and other Vision Gym® activities(4). Within two days, I was seeing clearly enough through my old glasses to put the newer ones aside for good.

Through the years, I’ve continued to balance, sometimes using the In Depth or Creative Vision work. Each time, there’s a substantial improvement, after which I use my older glasses (I’ve kept them all in a box!) or go to a developmental optometrist for new 20/40 glasses, for which I then balance until my vision is further improved. In other words, I use the old glasses as a pre-activity for “learning” to see clearly at that prescription level. I nearly always make an immediate leap in motor skills as well, and usually feel completely at ease with the older glasses prescription within a day or two.

Today, my vision continues to improve. I wear glasses for night driving, but for most daily-life activities, including reading and looking at horizons, I can see without any lenses or glasses.

Achieving the perfect visual acuity of 20/20 or 6/6 (the metric measurement) isn’t my goal. Just as shifts in movement habits can affect the visual system, every small vision improvement supports shifts in my ease of movement, also relaxing and expanding my thinking. When I notice myself thinking in too linear a way, I can now call on the more naturally integrating whole-to-parts approach to problem solving.

Studying and teaching vision has awakened both Gail and me to the need to make lifestyle changes by way of daily habits. Some of the important shifts we’ve made are:

  • making vision a priority
  • using Brain Gym or other activities to provide a whole-body context for movement of the eyes
  • relaxing the eyes and enjoying beauty
  • crossing the visual midline and centralizing in the midfield
  • looking near, far, and all around
  • taking more vision breaks, all day long, to do the above

I love my eyes and vision, and I take care of my eyesight as I would a precious gift. Having reclaimed the joy of good vision and the multi-dimensional perspective that goes with it, I wouldn’t want to return to corrective lenses that limit my range of focus and my flexibility to move and play. Cultivating my vision is an ongoing process, and I invite all who want to see without glasses and to see the big picture to explore that process with me.   

 

(1)    Gerald N. Getman, O.D., Your Child’s Intelligence.

Note: The optometric research over the years has consistently shown, for better and lesser readers alike, a relationship between reading difficulties and vision challenges (which are not always hereditary); a connection that I validated time and again using my own work with students. Another clarifying point, a person is considered legally blind if their vision is 20/200 (or worse) in the best eye with the best available correction.

(2)  Janet Goodrich, Natural Vision Improvement.

(3)  The 26 Brain Gym activities are described in Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition by Dennison and Dennison, © 2010. The 26, Dennison Laterality Repatterning, and the Balance process are taught in Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life.

(4)    The video “Move to See with Vision Gym®” offers descriptions of the 34 activities we do regularly to maintain and improve our vision. A Vision Gym kit is also available.

A translation of this article into Italian is available here: LA LETTURA E’ UN MIRACOLO DI PAUL DENNISON

A translation of this article into Chinese is available here.

© 2014 by Paul 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.

 

A Celebration of Thanks Giving through the Decades

dreamstime_m_23150638Last 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.

ID 23150638 ©  | Dreamstime.com, used with permission.

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.

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