Monday, June 08, 2015

Working with Special Needs Children, or High Performers: The whole person, not the "problem"

When I was 55 I took a weekend workshop in the Feldenkrais Method.®
I knew and loved this work. It had helped me with back and shoulder issues for years and I always recommended it go someone who had a movement issue.
I thought it was great stuff.

AND, after the weekend workshop I realized: THIS COULD BE ABOUT ME!! I  felt and moved as if I were ten years old again.

This was an invitation to a four year training, which I enhanced with a doubled up first year of training with a man who combined Zen and Feldenkrais.
Then I discovered Anat Baniel, whom I think has advanced what is already one of the most amazing systems on the planet.
Another 4 years.

So 9 years of training and I know this:

A high level musician or a special needs child come in.
They have a brain.
They can learn.
A rock can’t learn, a tree can’t learn, a car can’t learn.

Many “body work” systems treat the person as a car, with a wheel or carburetor that needs to be fixed.

In the Anat Baniel and the Feldenkrais system, we are working with a whole person, whose brain and hence whose life can change.

The change happens a number of ways, and a simple version is the change comes from using these three essentials of radical listening:
Deep presence
Non-habitual options

So, an autistic boy who answered “Not Quite” to every question was not fixed, by being told his answer was wrong or nonsensical.
I looked at him in presence, connected with him by touch, and played with non habitual wordings.
How about
Not not quite
Not quite quite
Not not quite quite quite

At first he was confused. Then delighted. He started to hear what he was saying and realizing that there were other choices in the world.

And a child with a tight/ spastic fist, from cerebral palsy.

To fix, would be the pry the finger loose and massage or something.
This is nice, but, not any use to the brain.

But, slowly playing with a little little movement in the thumb and then the pinkie and going slow enough the child can feel the difference.
Moving the whole hand in a way that connects to the back and elbow and shoulder.
Moving the hand in many patterns, many options, all with tons of presence and searching for opening up connection in the child’s brain between that hand and other parts of the body…

This is transformation for the whole person.

Works just the same with the highly skilled fingers of the best violin player or pianist in the world.



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