The premise of my work is based around neurodevelopment. Through neuroscience we have learned more about the brain and how it can change itself due to neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to form new neural connections and re-organize itself. Under the right conditions, by "speaking" to the brain via different movement patterns, and by inviting movement versus imposing movement, we are able to create new neural pathways and optimize learning even in a system where one might (falsely) assume that new learning cannot occur. So, in order to facilitate change, we must "speak" to the brain.
Anat Baniel's Nine Essentials:
Movement with Attention
The Learning Switch
Imagination and Dreams
How is this addressed in sessions?
Although I am not an Anat Baniel Practitioner, I have taken some of her trainings and do incorporate her Nine Essentials into my sessions. I have seen amazing results incorporating these essentials into how I carry out lessons. The premise of her work is based upon not imposing what a person is not yet able to do, but rather working from the level of their abilities. This spoke to me on a deep level as it is a premise I have personally believed in for many years based on my own experiences working with children with special needs.
You can download her Nine Essentials here.
The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration Program (MNRI®) was created by Svetlana Masgutova, PhD in Poland. She has since brought this program to the United States providing training to parents and professionals.
As an MNRI® Core in Training, I incorporate this reflex integration/re-patterning work into most of my sessions. MNRI® works from the level of the reflexes and the central nervous system.
Our primary reflexes serve as the foundation for all volitional/functional movement and cognitive development, but beyond that, this work supports the nervous system by addressing areas of the tactile system, auditory/visual system, and stress hormones. MNRI® assists the body in creating new neural pathways via the primary reflexes that a) may never have developed and/or integrated, b) may have developed and integrated, but were then agitated due to stress/trauma and became active again, or c) are active or over-active when they should be integrated.
How does MNRI® look in a session?
MNRI® uses isometric pressure, sensory input (tactile), and movement to facilitate integration/re-integration of the reflexes by eliciting a reflex motor pattern. At its core, this work is based on safety and trust in order to ease the nervous system out of a state of protection, and therefore, it will never be forced. I meet each client where he or she is and honor what the client (and body) will allow. For children, often this means incorporating the MNRI® work into play, functional movement patterns, and/or modeling of the work on myself or a parent. For adults, this may mean having them performing modeled techniques on themselves, simply holding and staying with the sensory stimulus and allowing them to process/verbalize how it feels in their body, participating in slow, standing movement patterns and processing how that feels within the body, etc.
Mindfulness means maintaining a present-moment awareness of our thoughts,
feelings, bodily sensations, or surrounding environment. It also includes the
intentional nurturing of positive states of mind such as kindness and compassion.
Three components of mindfulness:
Why is this important?
Attentional stability is the cornerstone of learning. Yet, this is a skill we truly don’t teach and just expect our children to know, and then expect that we as adults are therefore adept at it. Stress, anxiety, and high emotion can compromise parts of the brain responsible for executive function (learning/processing) and leads to reactivity.
The purpose of mindfulness is to develop a deeper sense of self-awareness. Mindfulness helps cultivate the ability to recognize and navigate emotions (emotional balance), the ability to have more of a say in our actions (impulse control), and the ability for more attention/focus. In essence, Mindfulness helps to create space and replace impulsive reactions with thoughtful responses.
How is this addressed in Sessions?
Within sessions you may see mindfulness in the context of mindfully checking in with an emotion, a feeling in the body during a movement, a feeling in the body attached to an emotion, etc.
Can you relate to this scenario?
Ben was an active little 2 year old who wanted to do everything himself. He wanted to dress himself, feed himself, get in the car seat by himself, get out of the car by himself. But, most days his mom and dad were rushing to get to work and when he was trying to do all of these things himself, they would say, “Ben, we don’t have time. Please let me do this for you.”
As he heard this response for each attempt to complete a task himself, Ben became more sad and frustrated. When he got to daycare, various demands were placed on him and he did not fully understand what was expected. No one showed him what they wanted him to do, they just kept saying words. Now Ben is feeling scared as the teachers raise their voices. Eventually Ben lays on the floor and cries.
As this scenario illustrates, often what looks like "bad" behavior is actually a child feeling nervous, overwhelmed, or stressed out. By doing our best to understand where children are coming from, we can shift our perspective and our response. Acknowledging our children's emotions, creating a safe environment for expression, and helping them figure out ways to handle BIG feelings that arise can help to create a kinder, gentler little human—a child who is better equipped to communicate as an adult—on the journey to creating a better world!
How is This Addressed in Sessions?
You will see a lot of play, exploration, emotional “check-in” activities, etc. I believe that we learn by doing, so with all of my clients, I encourage practicing talking about emotions and big feelings. For younger children, we may use puppets or other toys as avenues for talking about the big emotions (and/or situations that may cause big emotions.) This eases the stress level on the child, who may feel pressure that it is “about them,” and often allows them to feel more freedom in expressing themselves.
Ever heard of the concept of mirror neurons? Our children feed off of our energy! So YOUR emotional well-being is also very important to me! I want to empower you, the parent, as best as I can along your parenting journey. In order to best support our children, we must first support emotional intelligence in ourselves. It can be difficult to do something we haven't seen modeled or that we didn't receive as children ourselves. Clients have reported that seeing various strategies modeled—in context in session—has helped them make positive changes more quickly and effectively.
At the core of all of my sessions is connecting and building from the level of
strengths. This is to honor you and your child as well as the brain and its process.