Stand Up . . . Sit Down . . . Can You Do It?

Paul_0511_web3Michael had heard about my work helping people achieve improved balance and coordination, so he brought his father, Joe, to see me. In the last few years, Joe, 85, had become almost completely sedentary. His recent fall had prompted increased concern about his condition. Whenever he got up to walk, he was using two canes to keep his balance.

When Joe arrived at my office, he seemed tired and preoccupied, and made little eye contact. He needed assistance to seat himself. As Michael and I began to talk with him, Joe immediately closed his eyes, lolling his head sleepily to one side.

With Michael’s help, I facilitated the setting of a goal with Joe: “To move, laugh, and enjoy life.” From the learning menu we chose Dennison Laterality Repatterning (DLR), a simple movement process at the heart of my work.

Lying back on a massage table, Joe was at first unable to raise his arms or legs without assistance. So I asked him to look up to the left as we helped him do the contralateral Cross Crawl movements, alternating in the lifting of each leg and opposite arm. At first the process was difficult for Joe. Yet after some repetitions he suddenly began to lift each leg and opposite arm by himself. “Good job!” we said, as Joe reclaimed the movement pattern and participated with increasing vigor.

When the repatterning was complete, we all three laughed as Joe looked around the room, boldly slid off the table, and walked across the room without reliance on his canes, moving in a rhythmic gait and swinging his arms reciprocally. I asked if he could seat himself without help, and he did so. “Now stand up,” I requested, and he easily rose to his feet.

I told Joe that the best exercise he could do for himself was to stand up and sit down again often throughout the day, finding his balance, walking from place to place, and looking into the distance for destinations to move toward. I also gave him a few Brain Gym® homeplay activities to help him integrate the new movement patterns.

Michael and I were happy to help Joe “wake up” to more movement, laughter, and enjoyment. For the restoration of his whole-body movement map, Joe’s repatterning seemed a strong beginning. He now seemed better able to keep his balance, locate himself spatially, and hold up his head as he moved his eyes to look around.

Scott McCredie, in his book Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense, hypothesizes that the sense of balance is so essential to human survival and functioning that we have evolved with three distinct balance systems: (1) the visual, for locating ourselves in space; (2) the vestibular of the inner ear, for monitoring our head movement as we turn left and right; and (3) that of muscular proprioception, for continuous awareness of body movement in space. Good balance, says McCredie, depends upon the interrelationship of these systems.

When, in 1981, I had the inspiration to create the DLR process, I was focused not on how to activate vestibular balance but on helping an adult nonreader learn to read. Yet today I believe that one reason DLR is so effective is that it helps coordinate vision, proprioception, and vestibular balance for cross-motor as well as one-sided movement. I also see how, after doing DLR, people are better able to access coordinated movement, visual flexibility, and clarity of cognition. It makes sense to me that organized sensorimotor programs help free the eyes and mind to seek new information, rather than be always seeking balance.


See more about Scott McCredie’s book.

© 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.


Vision, Proprioception, and Tickling

I’m frequently reminded of how vision can be grounded through touch and movement. This morning I worked with a nine-year-old boy I’ll call Todd. His goal was to enjoy reading (he hadn’t yet learned how). The first part of the session centered around his learning the Cross Crawl to help him develop a sense of his whole body working as a unit as he walked and moved about. I used Dennison Laterality Repatterning, a 10-minute-or-so movement sequence, to help him become aware of his reciprocal movement and then distinguish that from stillness and the articulation of a single area, such as the hand needed for drawing and writing. Todd quickly made an improvement in his awareness of proprioception, what Paul calls the brain cells in the muscles, and seemed to settle more into his body.

Another important shift occurred when I traced Lazy 8s and the Double Doodle on Todd’s back. At first he pulled away as though he thought I was about to tickle him. So I asked him to trace circles on my back first, and showed him how by tracing lightly on his arm. Then I traced the Lazy 8s and Double Doodles on his back, and asked if he could tell what shapes I was making. Todd clearly enjoyed this activity, as he seemed to drop out of a mental space, quiet down, and relax enough to stop his fidgeting.

Todd then drew large Lazy 8s and Double Doodles on a flip chart. After that, he read with confidence and ease, even though I had given him no reading instruction per se. His mother commented that this was the first time she had heard him read with fluency.

The sometimes relentless tickling of children by parents and siblings is not uncommon, and I want to make a plea in this regard. Young children are still developing the proprioceptive awareness that lets them relax into their muscles and gives them spatial information about how different parts of their body relate. Tickling—especially when it’s unwanted—is now widely considered an unwise practice. It disrupts the steadiness given by the proprioceptive system and leaves a child ungrounded, as you can see when children pull away. Tracing the Double Doodle and Lazy 8s on a child’s back soothes and brings awareness to the muscles, developing trust and proprioception, as happened with Todd, and guiding the visual system into a relaxed state.

© 2012 by Gail E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved

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



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