What is Anat Baniel Method (ABM) for Children?

 

All movement originates in the brain, and many challenges that children face that don't seem phsyical have essential movement components as well.  Calming down, attending, or vision for example, actually depend upon ones ability to physically self regulate well.  This is why ABM can positivly impact so many different aspects of a child's life. 

 

I love this parent's explanation from the website CPdailyliving.com, so I am quoting heavily from them.  While they write about the experience of their child, who has Cerebral Palsy, the information about what a lesson is like and how the process occurs is much the same for any child in ABM lessons.  There is a link to the entire text on the bottom of the page.  

 

 

"ABM evolved from the work of Anat Baniel’s mentor, Moshe Feldenkrais. It is grounded in the principles of neuroplasticity. In the simplest terms, neuroplasticity is the science supporting the brain’s ability to change itself, grow, and form new neural connections. ABM is a non-medical movement modality based upon Anat Baniel’s “Nine Essentials”. Through her work over 30 years and with thousands of people from five days old to ninety years of age, she has found that these “Essentials” repeatedly provide the optimum environment for the brain to notice, accept and integrate new information. This in turn, allows the brain to create more efficient movement, and allows the individual to feel more in-tune with and comfortable in her body. These are precisely the issues I have seen Maya struggle with daily.

 

In CP the brain, not the muscles, is the problem. So the concept of getting the brain’s attention and providing an optimum environment for it to make new connections makes lots of sense to me. Improve the quality of information getting to the brain, and in turn you will improve the quality of movement and the person’s experience of the world (Move Into Life, p25). Not only does it make sense, I have seen it work.

 

Here’s how you might begin think about the child with CP. Imagine that you are planning a trip and you decide to use a paper map. The first thing you do is to locate yourself on the map. Right? When you travel by car and you are at a rest stop you typically see a “You are here” pushpin. This helps you get your bearings and determine where you are going by knowing what is around you, what lies ahead and behind, etc. Well, now imagine that you did not have a “You are here” pin and you did not know where you were.  Also, half of the map was missing. That would be pretty tough. Perhaps you could figure out part of the information you needed to get where you were going but you would have to improvise along the way.

 

Your child’s brain is like the incomplete map with the pin missing. Each child develops a mental image or map of his/her physical body by interacting with her environment and defining themselves in relationship to it. Because children with CP have fewer and more limited interactions with their environment and themselves, they are missing pieces of information to help them complete their map.

 

The following example clarifies how this limited experience can manifest in a child with CP. Let’s consider a child with CP whose legs are often scissored (crossed). For this child Anat Baniel may say that the child’s neutral position is scissoring, in contrast to the typical child whose legs would be uncrossed in a neutral position.

 

That missing information—about what is a neutral position for the legs— may be a problem for the child with CP. First, because the child’s brain probably does not know that the legs are crossed and what this means, the child cannot learn to uncross her legs (the child does not know where she can go because she does not know where she is). The second problem is that the brain is actively sending signals for the child to cross her legs, even though it is dysfunctional for any organized or comfortable movement. This means that the child is not in control of the movement.

 

When presented with scissoring of the legs, a physical therapist may work on stretching and pulling apart the leg muscles (manually and/or with equipment) to uncross the child’s legs. This is contrary to the way an ABM practitioner would approach the child. He would look at the child and ask himself, “What is the brain doing right now?” and try to meet the child in the moment (an important element of ABM). The ABM practitioner would try to find a way to engage the child’s brain and bring awareness to the child that she has two legs that can move independently from one another as well as together. Starting from the child’s perspective is completely different from starting from the idea of “This is where I am taking you”. If you start from considering what the muscles are doing rather than what the brain knows, the child’s brain may not have enough information to get from crossing to uncrossing.

 

How does an ABM practitioner make sure the child gets the information she needs? Basically, (very basically) the practitioner gently moves the child in ways that offer hints or clues about body movements that the child may not be aware of presently. The practitioner might ask the child to do more intense scissoring and then less so that the child’s brain can identify degrees of scissoring (more and less and none). Communicating with the brain about what it is doing in the present moment, along with offering clues about new ways the child may move with ease, allows the brain to create the pathways that hold the intermediary steps. Lots of these steps, gradually assembled by the child herself, lead to new and more efficient movements.

 

When this is done something wonderful starts to happen. The brain, and hence the child, becomes aware of new possibilities. Now there is a point of reference or a “You are here” pin to let the child know not only where they are starting on the map, but also where they may wish to go from here. I am not a neurologist and I don’t study brain plasticity, but I have my child transformed through the application of these principles. As the child becomes internally more organized, their world does also because they see, feel and relate to it differently."

 

This is an excerpt from http://cpdailyliving.com/filling-in-the-pieces-the-anat-baniel-method-cerebral-palsy/