One of my kindergarten kids made a very clear shift in his baseline brain functioning last week.
I have been seeing him twice a week for 45 minutes in his school since January.
When he was an infant he had an illness that severely affected his absorption of nutrients and he was sick and malnourished for many years. The parents and doctors finally figured out what was wrong and was able to help him get better but unfortunately it affected his brain development.
He is absolutely adorable, but he unsettled and in constant motion and talking all the time in a random, garbled, and disorganized way.
His mom said that one of the old school teachers from the country where they came from called him "eccentric".
He was totally marching to a different drummer, but that drummer, rather than keeping a constant beat, was always changing it before he could sink into that new rhythm.
He couldn't write or consistently recognize any letters and didn't really like writing at all. He could not write his name and would lose his place when counting to 10. He was clumsy in his movement and couldn't figure out how to cross the middle of his body, and naturally had a lot of difficulty learning to run, ride a bike, throw and catch a ball.
He also frequently drifted away into his thoughts or imagination, and when you talked to him, you had to repeat it a minimum of 3-4 times with some sort of tactile cue.
I often felt like he was a kite and I was reeling him in back to earth.
I had been doing tons of brain gym movements, balances, as well as reflex integration with him, and he was definitely changing but still very disorganized and all over the place.
On most days, by the end of the session, the racing thoughts would relax and he would start yawning.
Yawning is one of the signs that the nervous system is relaxing and this relaxed state is when new and organized learning can happen.
He felt better to me, but sometimes I wondered if I was changing some essential part of him that made him uniquely him.
We had been working on this handwriting program called handwriting without tears, which are many different parts and multisensory ways to learn and write the letters.
I started most sessions with an assisted brain warm up, additional movements, and once he was more organized, set up the handwriting program and go through the different sensory practice pieces in the same consistent order.
In the last few sessions, he had been saying, "I want to do it by myself" and I had been letting him.
The day I noticed the breakthrough was when we were working on the letter V, and he went through almost the whole process of set up and clean up by himself.
I also noticed that when asked him about his week, he gave me an answer that made sense. He was still the excited and curious boy that he has always been, AND his brain felt calm, organized, alert, and happy.
We went back to his class, I showed his whole kindergarten class how to do some of the exercises and he was right next to me, proudly demonstrating the movements for all his friends.
I often think about my kids in the future. I imagine how some of the behaviors I see would impact real life adult situations if they did not change.
Random thoughts, disorganized thinking and and garbled speaking in a 5 year old is kind of cute and endearing, but on the first day of a college school year, a job interview or a first date it could be a source of ridicule or rejection from peers, bosses, potential life partners and pain for this "one-day-will-be-older -but-right-now-tender-little-being".
I guess there really is no need to worry because my personal experience with brain gym has been that doing it and calming my brain and changing my compensations and survival patterns actually make me feel more like my true self.
I remember years back, sitting in the front row of a class with the founder of brain gym, Paul Dennison, and he said something softly, almost under his breath, which I think only a few of us heard.
"We are teaching kids to live lives they haven't lived yet."
That thought sticks with me to this day.
And if I had any part in helping this child to have good relationships, good coping skills, independence, self-reliance stemming from an organized brain, then I am happy.