Written By Lara Gillease
Anat Baniel was working for the first time with a 21-month-old boy diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He would forcefully arch his back and throw his head backwards whenever he was awake. He did this constantly and quickly – even when he was held.
His parents and professionals had tried getting him to stop, but were unsuccessful. His parents felt exhausted from caring for their son while he was continually in this drastic motion.
Anat observed him and then did something with him.
In just a few minutes of her working with him, he stopped doing this for the first time in his life. He became very calm, quiet and attentive to himself.
The parents were amazed. They became emotional at seeing such a wonderful difference in their son.
What was it that Anat had done that allowed him to change when others had been unable to accomplish this?
She used one of the Nine Essentials that she has identified necessary for learning.
You can learn to do them too. Whether you are a parent, caregiver or teacher, you can promote a child’s learning by incorporating one or more of the Essentials in your interactions.
It could be as regular an activity as changing a diaper or picking up the child. The Essentials can also be incorporated when you are playing with the child.
In order to do this, first find a way to enter the child’s world. Or in other words, to see, hear, and feel from their perspective. What is the child experiencing?
Become, what Anat Baniel calls, a benevolent observer.
Once you are doing that, you can:
1) Look for the child to anticipate and participate with you during normal daily activities.
Tell the child what you are going to do before you do it.
For example, when picking your child up, say, “Dan, I am going to pick you up.” Then wait to see if Dan responds in some way that lets you know he is anticipating being picked up.
It could be anything that is within the ability of the child to do easily.
For some children, making eye contact or smiling can be an indication of participating. For others, the child may just flex their muscles in anticipation. Others may be able to reach their arm forward.
If the child doesn’t do any of these things, then you can make a funny noise and say his name to elicit his attention.
If you see anything to indicate the slightest anticipation, then follow through with your action. In this case, it would be picking Dan up.
2) Notice your own sensations while observing the child.
For example, if you are going to change Sheila’s diaper, focus and pay attention to the temperature and moisture of her skin, notice any movements she makes with her legs. When you lift her legs, notice how the shape of her back changes – does she round her spine or does she lift her back as one piece?
Your noticing her and what she does can help direct her attention to herself.
3) Go with the child’s system.
You can think of this as the opposite of correcting.
One example of “going with a child’s system” would be to exaggerate the movement the child is doing rather than trying to stop or correct it.
This is what Anat did with the boy you read about earlier who was arching and throwing his head back constantly.
Instead of trying to stop him from doing this, Anat put her hands on his pelvis while he was compulsively repeating this motion in his father’s lap. She then began to exaggerate the action with him – going with him rather than trying to stop him.
As a result of him experiencing his movements exaggerated, he gained awareness of what he was doing, began to slow down, became calm, and stopped.
The three ways mentioned above can support learning and brain development in a child and can be implemented in daily life. Give them a try and see if you notice a difference.
Valuable information on how to use this Essential called Movement with Attention, and others, are in Anat Baniel’s book, Kids Beyond Limits. It is a fun, easy-to-read guide written for parents, teachers and caregivers.
Lara Gillease teaches special needs children and infants how to learn to do new things, become better learners and thrive. 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: email@example.com. Get more information at https://www.integrativemovement.com/special-needs-children/.
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