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Moving to Learn, Learning to Move: An Exceptional Approach for Special Children by Lynn Kenny

Anyone who loves a child with special needs wants to see that child grow and develop to his or her full potential. Many parents go searching for ways to bring this about but, instead, may be faced with professionals who are focused on the child’s limitations rather than what is possible. This is when the search often begins for natural alternatives that concentrate on more hopeful outcomes for the child. The Feldenkrais Method® for learning is just such a method that can make the seemingly impossible possible by tapping into the vital relationship between movement and learning. Feldenkrais practitioners foster an approach that focuses on what the child does successfully so as to begin to embrace each child’s full potential.

The Feldenkrais Method actually wakes up the child’s brain and promotes learning from the very first lesson. Parents often notice that their child’s eyes become brighter and that he or she is more alert and happier after only a couple of sessions. During a Feldenkrais lesson, the child becomes more aware of him/herself and the relationships between all of his/her moving parts. He/She will gain mobility, coordination and function, giving him/ her new opportunities to explore his/ her environment and keep on learning. This gain of independence can greatly accelerate new learning not only in the way the child moves, but in the way he/ she communicates, explores, makes choices and learns.

Learning through Movement

Children, from their first days, begin to learn through movement. From figuring out how to roll from side to side, to getting their thumbs in their mouths, to examining their hands and feet, babies explore and interact with their environment so they can learn. The Feldenkrais Method taps into this vital process of learning through movement. Practitioners use small movements that engage the child’s nervous system, in a sense, turning the learning switch ‘on’. The practitioner moves a child very slowly and gently, presenting important relationships between different parts of his/her body and encouraging the use of better movement patterns, thereby promoting healthy development.

In other modalities, a child might be put into a standing position to give him/her the experience of standing before being able to do it on his/her own; the Feldenkrais approach is to only work on movement patterns that are accessible to the child at that time.

When children are forced into situations they are not ready for, there is actually very little learning going on. Instead, children begin to understand their limitations more clearly rather than discovering new possibilities. However, a Feldenkrais practitioner works with a child at his/her level, suggesting new ways of moving so that the child will have options rather than developing compulsive movement patterns that leave him/her with only one way to move. More options lead to a better sense of independence and selfconfidence, which, in turn, leads to a happier child.

Typically developing children are ready to learn at any given moment, absorbing so much so quickly that it is sometimes astounding. Feldenkrais helps ‘otherly-abled’ children to jumpstart this learning process by giving them the tools to examine and interact with the world around them. This method helps them to find the joy of learning and, once that learning switch is turned on, a whole new world becomes available to them.

Lynn Kenny is a Feldenkrais practitioner at Move Be Well Studios in Bloomingburg, where she teaches weekly Awareness Through Movement® classes for adults and gives private Functional Integration® lessons to both children and adults with special needs, pain issues, neurological disorders, movement issues and much more. She also is the mother of four children, including a beautiful daughter born with Down syndrome. Kenny can be reached at 733-1277 or 978-6506. Visit MoveBeWell.com.

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