In 1995, The US National Institute of Mental Health estimated that one million American children were taking Ritalin. It is usually prescribed for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), a disorder that actually has no proven genetic or pathological background. The American education system, and that of many other countries, is skewed towards a certain style of learning and classroom behaviour. Anyone who doesn’t fit into this model is considered a problem.
While the child involved undoubtedly has a problem, the real question is what that problem is. It may be a developmental disorder that has come about because the needs of the child were not met at the appropriate time. It may be because the diet is inadequate. Or maybe just because the child has a learning style different from the expected one. These are all issues that can be dealt with without drugs.
The concepts in the book Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford don’t apply to just children with learning problems. You will find this book of great interest if :
your child is hyperactive or has behavioural problems
your child has any kind of mental or physical disability
you home school your children
you want your children to be more active, creative or happy
in fact, if you are a parent at all!!
you are an adult student yourself
you want to enhance your own creativity
you suffer from writers block in your work
you have any kind of neurological damage
Smart Moves covers a wide range of information useful for an educator or parent, including:
how the brain and body develop
how they are connected
why movement is important to the brain
the timing of the development of different neural pathways
how this ties in with a child’s stages of physical and mental development
how this corresponds with (or in many cases, is at odds with) expectations in education
the different ways in which people learn (dominance of hand, eye, ear and brain), and
ways to enhance the learning experience
To immediately improve a child’s ability to learn, she recommends :
no TV till age 8 (to allow imagination to develop), and limited viewing thereafter
daily use of an integrative movement system such as Brain Gym ®
elimination of all sugars from the diet, along with other dietary measures such as allowing adequate protein and drinking lots of water (in other words, a whole food diet)
Brain Gym ®
This is a system of body movements especially designed by Paul Dennison to activate the pathways of the brain, integrate the right and left hemispheres, enhance creativity and facilitate learning (amongst other uses).
The movements are fun and easy to learn. To get good results, use Brain Gym ® regularly before school (or work), after lunch or any break, and before bed. Also as needed when you have a mental block or feel stuck in any way, when you want to remember something, to give yourself a break when using the computer a lot and to refresh your mind at the end of the day.
Some of the basic exercises are covered in Smart Moves, but it is well worth checking out one of Paul & Gail Dennison’s books to get more information. Here are two of them :
This book is designed for children, with pictures showing how to do each exercise. In the back is a quick reference guide for educators showing what exercises to use when. This book is designed for teachers, and includes detailed instructions on how to do each exercise, and the science behind them.
I have only just started using Brain Gym ® myself, but have already noticed that I can get more writing done if I use Cross Crawl before I start. The first time I did this exercise I could hardly stand on one foot, but now find it much easier to balance.
Cross Crawl involves marching or walking, lifting one leg and touching the knee with the elbow of the opposite arm. It is very beneficial to do it slowly, but also can be done rhythmically to music.
For more information about Brain Gym ® in New Zealand, see www.braingym.org.nz
I highly recommend reading Smart Moves and any of Dennison’s books to anyone who would like their own brain or that of a loved one to work better.
To finish with a quote from the book : “If there is any doubt about the efficacy of providing a safe, personally valuable learning environment and doing Brain Gym daily, I offer a list of the skills developed by all children labelled with learning disabilities in a matter of no more than six weeks. The learners I observed were able to :
- relax and have fun in the classroom, enjoying the learning process,
- carry on intelligent conversations and think about things that are important to them,
- focus their attention on a task for a long enough period to complete it well,
- show care and concern for other learners, teachers and themselves,
- listen quietly and attentively as others shared their ideas,
- work and play well with others (fights decreased dramatically),
- come to an equitable understanding following a fight,
- stand up for themselves in a confident, positive way when being abused by others,
- confidently express their creativity in myriad ways, through music, art, poetry, dance and interpersonal relationships,
- appropriately express anger as well as affection,
- attain fine motor coordination and balance,
- exhibit use of inner speech for deductive reasoning and control of their own behavior,
- experience success and celebrate the success of others,
- implant themselves within my heart as incredibly wondrous human beings and magnificent survivors.
Can any drug treatment offer these results?”