An Introduction to the Work I Do With Children

An Introduction to the Work I Do With Children

If a child has not fully integrated their reflexes when they start school, learning is more difficult.

For the last 28 years I have  been studying and practising Educational Kinesiology and more recently Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) and Movement Explorations. I am a licensed Brain Gym© Instructor/Consultant. At the Priddis Early Learning Program, I combine developmental movements, dance, poetry, Brain Gym©, RMT, and reading or telling stories in my classes.

On the day I left kindergarten, I told my classmates that one day I would return and teach them all how to dance Spanish dancing. I have learned very little Spanish dancing, nor have I taught my kindergarten classmates, but I did begin to study dance seriously when I was ten. I danced with the Minnesota Dance Theater until I was 20, went on to study and dance in New York and then joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

In 1977, I co-founded Sun.Ergos, A Company of Theatre and Dance. We started training a young company of actor/dancers, but when we realized that they did not share our commitment, energy and vision, we decided to continue as a two man company. We have toured to 22 countries, performing in festivals, theatres, schools, and several times went to Croatia during the Balkan War, performing for refugees, soldiers and villagers. For over 20 years we have also worked in schools as Artists in Residence.

For the last 28 years I have also been studying and practising Educational Kinesiology and more recently Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) and Movement Explorations. I am a licensed Brain Gym© Instructor/Consultant. At the Priddis Early Learning Program, I combine developmental movements, dance, poetry, Brain Gym©, RMT, and reading or telling stories in my classes.

Here is some background on childhood development as it relates to Brain Gym©, RMT and Movement Explorations:

All children are born with reflexes. These include primitive, postural and dynamic reflexes. The purpose of reflexes is to initiate movements which help develop neural networks in the brain, neuromuscular co-ordination, muscle tone, and core stability. When the movements are repeated enough, they are integrated into the whole body movement system, and then the particular reflex no longer controls the movement and we shift to controlling our movement consciously. This leads to our being able to control our behaviour, to learn and realize our full human potential.

It should also be noted that the first senses to develop and most important to our early development and survival are the vestibular (balance), proprioceptive (movement) and tactile senses. They are stimulated by touch, rocking and making movements, and this causes the brain to mature. Lack of stimulation and movement may result in lack of muscle tone, sluggishness, inattention to sensory signals and hyperactivity.

If a child has not fully integrated their reflexes when they start school, learning is more difficult as energy is used to suppress the unintegrated reflexes. An example: children who wrap their legs around their chair legs when doing desk work, or sit on their legs, or “W” sit do this because an unintegrated reflex to extend their legs is triggered by looking down. They try to keep their legs bent by the above means. This takes an enormous amount of energy which is then not available for learning.

Another reason for developing movement co-ordination and balance before academic learning is that without a stabile core and an integrated sense of balance and proprioception, we use our eyes to stabilize ourselves in space. However, for effective, efficient reading and writing, our eyes need to move freely, independent of our need for stability.

Brain Gym© and Rhythmic Movement Training are effective tools to integrate reflexes and stimulate the development and myelination of neural connections in the brain.

Brain Gym© is a series of simple and enjoyable movements that enhance the capacity for whole brain learning. The physical movements enable children and adults to become alert, focused and ready to learn. They remove stress, thereby supporting success, selfconfidence, creativity, organization and communication.

Rhythmic Movements are specific movements done on the floor that mimic developmental movement that infants naturally and automatically make as they grow.

In Alberta, there is much pressure to push reading at an early age. In Scandinavian countries, this is not done, and they have very low rates of learning problems. From my work as an Artist-in-Residence in Alberta schools, I know first hand that learning problems are prevalent. I endeavour to help our students integrate as many reflexes as possible, to develop good neuromuscular co-ordination and a stable core, and to be able to cross-crawl and cross their midline so that they will be able to learn academic subjects without stress and compensatory accommodations.

I also seek to develop children’s imaginations and creative abilities, their social skills and capacities for self-management, empathy and co-operation. Creativity, problem solving and the capacity to work together have been identified as the skills most needed for success in the 21st century.

In the words of Paul E. Dennison, who created Brain Gym©, “Movement is the door to learning.”