Written By Lara Gillease

I worked with a child recently that had a serious trauma that resulted in an illness and set back in his ability to do things. The family was sorting through the many interventions available to find the ones they felt would most help their child.

Certainly, there are many types of interventions to choose from. Often times families can feel overwhelmed by all of the choices.

The bigger question is –

What kinds of interventions will help a child learn and become more independent? Although the type of intervention that’s chosen is important, how the intervention is done is equally important.

Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement’s Nine Essentials is a roadmap of the “how”. Her method identifies the process that is necessary for positive brain change and, therefore, what we want the child to be doing.

You can read about them in Anat’s easy to read book, Kids Beyond Limits, which is a guide for parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists.

All of the Nine Essentials are important. I’ll highlight a few of them here to keep in mind in finding effective interventions:


We learn by slowing down and feeling and thinking. We can only do something fast when we already know it.

The adult needs to slow down their interaction to give the child time to understand what is being asked of him. And time for him to respond.

It can take longer than you might imagine. Maybe even a minute. By asking slowly and touching slowly, you give the child’s brain time to process.

If the intervention is too fast, it is unlikely the child will begin doing new things.


Think of repetition as the opposite of variation.

Often times interventions involve repetition instead of variation. This can look like forced movements, drilling the child, commanding attention, or trying to correct the child to get him to do it “right”.

With variation, it’s all about allowing, and even guiding, the child to explore many different ways to do something – even ways that aren’t the “right” way.

By doing the “not right” way, the child can begin to feel the outcome of the “not right” way. And through continued exploration, he can find a way that works better or discover the “right” way.

It becomes all about trial and error – not repetition – until the child finds the way that works.

Movement with Attention

Is the adult calling the child’s attention to the adult? Or is the adult helping the child call attention to himself and what he is feeling?

This is not about “paying attention to the teacher”. It is about paying attention to movement – the  child’s own attention to his own movement – whether in the form of physical movement that can be seen, movement of mouth and tongue for speaking, or movement of neurons in the brain for thinking.

Also, just because a child is doing something – some activity, action or movement – we assume he knows he is doing it. However, he may not know it.

So by the adult noticing and speaking aloud what the child is doing, the adult can help the child begin noticing himself and his inner experience.

An intervention that calls away the child’s own calm, quiet, inner attentiveness to himself won’t create the kinds of positive changes we want.


The concept of a child to ‘try harder’ is the opposite of Gentleness.

A child’s brain won’t adopt doing most activities if it is hard for them. However, a child will adopt it as it begins to feel easy and safe for him to do.

One major goal of incorporating gentleness is to help the child find an easy, or easier, way.

As we all know, learning different ways of doing things can be challenging.

Some intervention strategies rely on “forcing” solutions rather than gradually leading up to them.

A gentle leading is accomplished by working with what the child is already doing and building on those successes.

An adult who gently touches a child, and even looks to reduce the force of their touch further, can help the child become more sensitive and aware of what he is feeling. This can lead to gains for the child in making distinctions between this way of doing something and that way – in other words, learning.

Reducing the force of interactions such as touch, communication, etc. with a child so that it is very gentle is essential for making positive brain changes in the child.

Flexible Goals

Can you imagine building a roof of a house before building a foundation?

Often interventions can hold a goal that is unattainable because the building blocks to attaining it aren’t established yet.

Consider a child that is not crawling yet. We know we’d like the child to learn to crawl. Some approaches would manually move the child in a crawling motion.

This would be an example of the adult focusing too rigidly on the goal. Instead, have a flexible goal of knowing the long-range vision of crawling, but, in the meantime, helping the child to master the components that go into crawling.

And once the child knows and can do the necessary components, the activity of crawling can then emerge spontaneously. Which means the child will start crawling on his own.

The adult can help the child learn the components by taking the child through a process that incorporates variation, gentleness, and moving the child slowly and with attention to himself.

To find effective interventions for making positive brain changes, look for types of interventions and the adults that do them who apply Movement with Attention, Slowness, Variation, Gentleness, and Flexible Goals in their interactions with the child.

*Gentleness is called Subtlety in the Nine Essentials.

Lara Gillease teaches special needs children and infants how to learn to do new things, become better learners and start thriving. She is an Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement Practitioner/Teacher as well as a Teacher Trainer to certify new practitioners in ABM NeuroMovement. She is President & Founder of Lara’s Integrative Movement since 2000. To learn whether the child in your life could benefit from one-on-one lessons, set up a Free Get Acquainted Call with Lara by emailing: lara@integrativemovement.com.

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