Matt Overcomes Hyperactivity and Learns to Read

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. 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Meeting the Young Learner’s Needs

Parents can support young learners in discovering their needs and gifts.

Parents can support young learners in discovering their needs and gifts.

I often hear from parents who are discouraged about their child’s learning progress. Sometimes they’ll tell me that their youngster is bright, and that he or she shows interest in learning at home during weekends or vacation time. Yet at school, they say, that same child is bored or struggling, slower than others in completing work, looking for ways to avoid assignments, and—once home—often stalling on homework or forgetting to do it.

In any case, when parents make an appointment with me for a balancing session, I tell them that the ideal situation is for me to work with the whole family on the first visit. I explain that there will be “homeplay” for the whole family to do together. Homeplay, usually drawn from the Brain Gym® activities, is not something that the child does because he has a learning problem, or that he should be required to do. The purpose of these activities is for everyone to move and play together, becoming more balanced as a family, and research shows that synchronous movement is one vital way by which we connect with our surroundings and create social bonds.

Most parents understand, and are delighted to participate. Often, during that first balance for their child the parents themselves make profound shifts in their own ability to read, write, relate, or organize—shifts that exemplify for the child what learning can be like. Through such experiences, parents gain insight into the sensory skills actually involved in the learning process, and so develop empathy for the challenges their child is facing. Often a parent discovers that he or she has the same mixed-dominant(1) learning profile as the child, and discovers how to more effectively use this pattern. I might also share with them the finding that, in a study done with 461 high school students, 80% were found to be weak or inadequate in one or more of three key visual abilities(2). Now parents can better understand why moving and accessing the whole body is essential for addressing one-sided habits, and they can advocate for their child’s gifts and abilities, as well as their own. Nearly always, the whole family discovers how much fun it is to move together, lengthening muscles or dancing around with The Cross Crawl; mirroring one another with The Double Doodle, drawing soothing shapes on one another’s backs, or self-calming with Hook-ups or the Positive Points. 

I’ve found that, when the parents are aligned and in balance, the children immediately do better—even before I work with them individually. I believe this is at least in part because stress contracts muscles and restricts movement patterns, and children imitate a parent’s body posture, whether that posture appears dynamic or stressed. Most often, in one to four sessions a child will no longer feel left behind in his classroom. At schools where I’ve served as a consultant, I’ve found that, when the teachers are balanced, the students attend and focus better. If the teachers are stressed, the students will act out.

A child can do his best when he knows his parents hold a neutral space for his learning.

A child can do his best when he knows his parents hold a neutral space for his learning.

For more than forty years, I’ve worked with those of all ages who have been diagnosed with such labels as dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and learning disabilities—and even with children as young as nine months who were “failing to thrive” or slow to crawl. I’ve worked with children one-on-one, with their parents or caregivers participating or looking on, and also during courses, teaching the children in front of a group of adult students.

While teaching in Europe, I’ve had parents talk with me about a son or daughter who, they said, was hopelessly far behind and completely unable to learn. I’ve done balances with these same young people, teaching them simple Brain Gym, Vision Gym®, and other Edu-K activities, and have seen them discover how to learn on their own—often in that single session. Movement is a language in itself, one that somehow communicates beyond culture and instructional translation. Once youngsters realize how they can bring attention and movement to their learning process—purposefully waking up their eyes, ears, and whole body to the joy of learning—they begin to transform not just reading, writing, and math, but also how they interact with family members and friends.

Here are three of the reasons I believe the Edu-K work is so effective:

  • I ask people what they want to improve. Human beings are natural learners. But when they are overwhelmed by what they can’t do, or by analysis and information, they often forget their own interests. When we can support a person in rediscovering her innate curiosity, she naturally regains the confidence and motivation to explore the world and reclaim her place as a ready learner.
  • I teach from whole to parts, providing a personal, big-picture context (such as movement itself) with which to associate specifics. I engage learners through movement and play. It’s part of our innate intelligence, as seen in infancy, to learn through movement and exploration. Infants are tremendously motivated to take the micro-actions that, done repeatedly, will eventually become a visible movement such as rolling over, turning the head, reaching, or grasping. Toddlers continue to learn sensory and motor skills, best acquired with the support but not the interference of their caregivers. Pioneering educator Maria Montessori, MD, referred to such play as “the work of the child.”
  • I help learners to identify a next learning step—the specific aspect of the learning process that is challenging to them, and to understand that aspect in terms of underlying physical skills. I help a child to focus on that aspect only, until it has been mastered and integrated into the child’s functioning. Learners’ joy and pride in learning a specific ability is exciting to behold. They can readily see the commonsense logic of developing the physical skills needed for learning. This approach helps alleviate the shame and blame—any perceived need for judging skills or their lack—that has so often become associated with learning. From this more neutral place, children are able to appreciate the simple movements that help them experience the physical skills of learning and that give them the time to integrate these into function.

Learning is a lifelong process. Yes, it has its accompanying frustrations and difficulties. The pleasure is in turning such challenges into capabilities. Every person has within himself all that he needs to experience success, happiness, and the joy of learning.

Through the years, I’ve developed many learning models, sequences, and protocols that support this movement-based approach. These include the Dynamic Brain (a working model of the brain), the Learning Flow (that makes visible “the high and the low gears” of learning), the 5 Steps to Easy Learning, and the 3 Dimensions and 5 Principles for Movement-Based Learning.

I love teaching parents and educators how to do what I do. There’s nothing more wonderful than seeing the light go on in a young person’s eyes—or in the eyes of any learner, at any age!

 

1Rowe A. Young-Kaple, MS. Eye Dominance Difference Connection to LD Learning Disabilities. World Journal of Psychology Research, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 2013, pp: 01- 09: (mixed dominance with left-eye dominant: n= 54 LD (15%); mixed dominance with right-eye dominant: n=12 LD (6%); all right side dominant: n=38 LD (12%); n=119 or 12% of the total population of n=998 were identified as having a reported learning disability (LD). Available online

2David Grisham, OD, MS, Maureen Powers, PhD, Phillip Riles, MA. Visual skills of poor readers in high school. Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric AssociationVolume 78, Issue 10 , Pages 542-549, October 2007. © 2007 American Optometric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc.

For more research on interpersonal synchrony and its effects on social bonds, see:

Cirelli, Laura K., Kathleen M. Einarson, and Laurel J. Trainor. 2014. “Interpersonal Synchrony Increases Prosocial Behavior in Infants.” Developmental Science: This study of 14-month olds  “. . . support[s] the hypothesis that interpersonal motor synchrony might be one key component of musical engagement that encourages social bonds among group members, and suggest[s] that this motor synchrony to music may promote the very early development of altruistic behavior.”

Shaw DJ, Czekóová K, Chromec J, Mareček R, Brázdil M (2013) Copying You Copying Me: Interpersonal Motor Co-Ordination Influences Automatic Imitation. PLoS ONE 8(12): e84820. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084820

Hove MJ, Risen JL (2009) It’s all in the timing: Interpersonal synchrony increases affiliation. Social Cognition 27: 949–960. doi: 10.1521/soco.2009.27.6.949 PubMed/NCBI

Photo Credits: ID 16450697 and 17770996 © Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.co

© 2013 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.

Cramming, or Relaxed Test Taking? Succeeding at the College Level

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-college-student-reading-over-grass-image28690289Tyler, a third-year college student, summarized his recent private session with me in this way: “I’m thinking about the midterm now without having a knot in my stomach. I can see that it’s only a test—no problem. I know the material in a new way.”

According to the American Dream 2.0* report, 46 percent of college students fail to graduate within six years. Many of these are gifted individuals with much to offer society, yet apparently the stress of competing in an academic environment with tedious reading assignments, driving demands for term papers, and the need to cram for comprehensive exams can be so overwhelming that it breaks the spirit of many.

Tyler was referred to me by his college advisor, who had suggested that a Brain Gym® session might help him get back on track with his academic program. On the phone, Tyler said he had been an all “A” student who consistently did well in his reading and test scores throughout high school and his first college years. Adept at using his iPad and computer, and a fast typist, he had recently hit an impasse and was rereading his nightly assignments two or three times in order to understand and remember the material.

When Tyler arrived for his session, he explained that in the last few weeks he had felt tense and often unable to sleep at night. Before exams, he needed to stay up all night rereading his books and cramming, yet when an exam was in front of him he often couldn’t think what to write: “It’s like my brain shuts off and I can’t think or remember.”

Tyler’s goal for the session was to enjoy his studies and remember what he learned, especially during tests. I asked him to read aloud from one of his history textbooks. He read the words without thinking, and then was unable to tell me in his own words about what he’d read.

I used Edu-K’s 5-Steps to Easy Learning, including seven in-depth assessments, to help Tyler become aware of key aspects of his sensorimotor intelligence. Surprisingly, he was able to cross the midline, which is usually the challenge for readers who word call without thinking. The mechanics of information processing were easy for Tyler. Clearly he had integrated the physical skills for reading, yet he was still finding challenges in meeting the demands of the academic world.

Next I asked Tyler to think of his examinations. He immediately held his breath, and then said he was breaking out in a cold sweat.

“Tyler,” I said, “I can see that you’re bright and capable. Is it possible that the stress at school is getting to you to the point of shutting down your senses and your ability to physically participate?” Tyler agreed that this was a concern for him, and that he had lately become fearful about his memory and his health.

I responded: “Do you get that when your stress level goes up, your ability to think goes out?” I explained that when we’re anxious, often we can’t think and remember because the sympathetic nervous system is preparing us physiologically for a life-threatening danger, like a grizzly bear. We have no time to reflect on the situation or analyze it. We must be ready to either fight for our life or run away. Only when we’ve restored the ability to logically process our circumstances can we let go of the negative stress that we no longer need, coming back to a state of body/mind integration that lets us play, laugh, relate to others, and experience the pleasure inherent in our work.

After he did several Brain Gym activities, the big “aha” came for Tyler when I asked him to think of a test again while holding his Positive Points with his fingertips. The Positive Points are two places on the forehead, above the center of each eye and midway between the hairline and eyebrows. Behind these points are the prefrontal poles, the foremost points of the prefrontal cortex—locus of the executive functions of planning, choice making, and intentional social behavior.

According to John Ratey, MD, and neuroscientist Elkhonon Goldberg, when the prefrontal cortex is engaged, it helps to regulate the fight-or-flight hyperarousal response.** Holding the Positive Points for a minute or two increases the vascular pulsations (which are palpable) in this area.

After his Positive Points process, Tyler laughed and said that he felt like he was back in his body.

“What happens now when you think of the test?” I asked. Tyler responded, “It’s no big deal. When I did the Positive Points, I could feel my thoughts getting organized in a more cohesive way.”

As Tyler read for a second time, he was anticipating where the text was leading, and afterward his summary showed good comprehension. He commented that he could also now feel the movement of his body, which he had somehow not been doing for a long time (sensation often diminishes during a long-term stress response).

For homeplay, I taught Tyler two more activities from the Brain Gym 26***—Hook-ups and Balance Buttons—that he agreed he could use in calming himself back in the classroom. The Hook-ups activity helps one to slow down and breathe while experiencing the comforting containment of crossed arms and ankles. Balance Buttons help to release tense neck muscles and reestablish the balance of the head over the torso, and so allow one to feel safe moving in space without losing stability.

“Wow. I’m going to do Hook-ups, Balance Buttons, and the Positive Points every day before I study, and especially before exams,” Tyler declared. “Now I can study without freaking out. Maybe I’ll enjoy learning at the same time. That would be awesome!”

 

* “The American Dream 2.0” report of January 2013 was created by a coalition of educators and leaders and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more information: http://americandream2-0.com/

**Ratey, John, with Eric Hagerman, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008, p.159; Goldberg, Elkhonon, The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 119.

***For more information about the Positive Points, Hook-ups and Balance Buttons, as well as the other Brain Gym activities, see Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Paul and Gail Dennison, © 2010. To see a photo of the Positive Points and description of how to do the activity, click here.

The photo is © Anniwalz | Dreamstime.com, used with permission.

© 2013 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.

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

 

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