Friday, July 25, 2014

Alphabet 8s for Reading

Eight year old “Mark” arrived for his second Brain Gym® session with an enthusiastic report: reading and writing were much easier since his first session, three weeks prior.

Mark had been diagnosed with “dyslexia and dysgraphia,” and, despite his clear intelligence and precocious verbal language skills, had struggled in school. Now, following his first Brain Gym session (which had included Dennison Laterality Repatterning), he found that he could read much more easily, and understand what he read. His handwriting had definitely improved, as well. Mark and I shared a high-five to celebrate these changes!

When I asked Mark what he’d like to work on now, he said that he was still “kind of confusing d’s and b’s” in both reading and writing. He said he could mostly figure them out, but he wanted to know them “instantly.”

To create a pre-check for this goal, I pulled out my small whiteboard and wrote d’s and b’s all over it. I pointed to one letter after another, in random order. Mark correctly identified each one, but his face was stressed and it looked like he was barely breathing, signs that a lot of effort was going into this activity.

Making reversals like this is common among young children, most of whom grow out of it as they mature. When reversals persist into a child’s school years, it could indicate that certain kinds of patterning were not complete, perhaps the outcome of not going through the crawling stage, or not actually crawling-on-the-floor frequently enough, and with sufficient duration.

Crawling is a significant process that helps to pattern the child’s brain for fluidly using both hemispheres together. Without this kind of patterning, we may struggle to perceive the difference between such things as b and d, or p and q, or 3 and E. 

The Cross Crawl 
Indeed, I had learned from Mark’s mother that he had skipped the crawling stage. When he began his first Brain Gym session, he had great difficulty with the Cross Crawl movement, where we raise one knee and reach over to connect the opposite elbow to it; then the other knee with its opposite elbow, etc., back and forth (requiring cooperation between our two brain hemispheres). It was much easier for Mark to bring his elbow down to his “same-side” knee, rather than crossing over to the opposite knee.

By the end of that first session (which, as I mentioned, included Dennison Laterality Repatterning), he could easily and automatically reach for the opposite knee. Immediately, his reading showed a dramatic improvement. He was reading easily, with expression.

Back to today’s session…
This time, Mark’s learning menu started out with doing the Lazy 8s. This is an activity that calls on both the right and left hemispheres simultaneously, and requires the learner to “cross the midline.”

I made a sample Lazy 8 on my big whiteboard and asked Mark to begin tracing over it, until he felt “done.” This took quite a few repetitions, as his mind-body system was absorbing this pattern. When he felt finished, I asked him to switch the marker to his other hand, and do the same thing. With his non-dominant hand, he was less coordinated, and it took longer for him to feel like he had the flow of the Lazy 8. Then I asked him to hold the marker with both hands, and again trace the 8. He took some time with this activity, as well.

When he finished, I asked him where the “d” would fit, and where the “b” would fit, if they were part of the flow of the Lazy 8s. He immediately identified the “d” as belonging on the left side, and the “b” as belonging on the right side. I drew them on the board, and suggested that he trace over what I’d done.

This method of blending letters of the alphabet into the Lazy 8s pattern is called “Alphabet 8s.”[1]

I showed Mark how to do three Lazy 8s, and then, from the midpoint of the 8, flow into the letter. Again and again with letter "d," and again and again with letter "b." He did this intently, experiencing how different these two letters look, and how different they feel to make.

The letter d begins with a curve up to the left, around, then a straight line up and down.

The letter b begins with a downstroke, then a curve up to the right and around.

When Mark felt finished with his Alphabet 8s, he said he was ready to repeat his precheck. This time, when I pointed to each of the letters – d or b in random order – he not only immediately knew each one, but he supplied his answers breathing easily, and with a smile on his face.

He said, “Wow – that was easier!” And when he read a bit of a storybook to me, he again said, “Wow – that was easier, too!” And he went away, happily, with his mother.

Mark may have fully balanced for his entire goal of reading easily, or he may still have other aspects to resolve. Time will tell. But I love knowing that, if he identifies new areas where he'd like to improve, we can address them with Brain Gym balancing!

Warm regards,
[1] The Alphabet 8s activity includes patterns for all 26 letters of the alphabet. For more information about Alphabet 8s you can refer to Brain Gym® Teacher’s Edition, by Paul and Gail Dennison. 

Click here for a link to the website for my book, Educate Your Brain
Copyright© 2014 by Kathy Brown. All rights reserved. 
Photographs copyright© Laird Brown Photography. All rights reserved. 
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of Brain Gym® International, Ventura, California •

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Brain Gym® - For a "Brand New Brain"

“Amanda” is a sweet, intelligent young girl, and she was about to be retained in third grade. She had come to this country speaking only Spanish, and had learned English over the last two years. By now she was fairly fluent in English, but somehow, she could not read easily in either Spanish or English, and the director of her school described her as being “language-confused.”

This was the story of the first child I was to work with at a visit to a local school I visit once each month for a “residency day,” to work one-on-one with students the director has identified as needing special help.

Amanda arrived for her Brain Gym session and we chatted a bit, and I went on to ask her what area she’d like to improve in. We talked about her learning of English, and she told me how difficult it had been to come to school that first day knowing only three words of English, and how hard it had been to learn. She showed me a book she had with her, and said she wished she could read more easily. She read one paragraph out loud – awkwardly, straining to recognize certain words, and stumbling over punctuation.

Somehow, the goals, “I know where to go in my brain for the Spanish,” and “I know where to go in my brain for the English” popped into my head. I asked her if this was what she wanted, and her whole face lit up. “YES!” she said. I told her that her two languages might be stored in her brain in ways that made them hard to get to, and that a Brain Gym balance might help her go more directly to the language she wanted. She was thrilled with that idea.

The Cross Crawl
Amanda’s "learning menu" called for Dennison Laterality Repatterning (a specific balance protocol that's learned in the Brain Gym® 101 course). Following this, her Cross Crawl was transformed (very awkward before, and now very smooth) indicating that the two sides of her brain may now be cooperating more efficiently. When she read out loud again it actually didn’t seem much different to me, but Amanda said that reading was indeed a “whole lot easier.” She returned to her classroom, delighted – and I wondered just what change had occurred, and how it would unfold.

One of the challenges of working one day per month in a school is that I have to wait quite a while to find out what changes may have occurred. But this time, I found out about Amanda’s outcomes sooner, and in a surprising way: 

Two weeks later one of the teachers at the school called me on the phone to ask, “Did you work with a girl named Amanda on your last residency day?” It turned out that Amanda’s mother was a close friend of this teacher’s, and had quite a story to tell.  

The mother reported that Amanda had come home from school and said, “You’re not going to have to follow me around and make me do my homework anymore.”

“What?” asked the mother.

“I have a brand new brain!” Amanda said.

“What? What do you mean? How did that happen?” asked the mother.

A "Brand New Brain"!
“I don’t know – they fixed my brain,” Amanda said with a big grin.

Very confused, and wanting to know what Amanda could possibly be talking about, the mother finally called her friend the teacher, who suggested that Amanda might have experienced a Brain Gym session that day, and that it might have made a big difference for her.

And indeed, overnight, homework had gone from a battle to something that Amanda did on her own, easily, every day. Not only that, both her ease in expressing herself in English, and her ability to write in either language blossomed overnight; and a check of her reading skill showed that in two weeks she had gone from reading at grade level 2.3 to 3.0. Amazing, what a “brand new brain” will do!

Six month update
The balance described above took place late in the third quarter of the academic year. At that time the school expected to have Amanda repeat third grade, as she was having such a challenge in showing competency in core areas of the curriculum. Up to that point she had earned almost all D's and F's, mostly due to incomplete work.

Her report card of the fourth quarter, following her Brain Gym balance, was almost all A's and B's! Needless to say, everyone was delighted, and this year Amanda is working beautifully in fourth grade.

Warm regards,


Please post your comments! 
If you see a comment space below, please enter your thoughts there. 
Otherwise, click here to access this article as a separate page,
and scroll down to the comment space. Thanks! 

Click here for a link to the website for my book, Educate Your Brain

Copyright © Kathy Brown 2014 •
Photograph copyright © Laird Brown Photography
Clipart images copyright © 
A slightly different version of this article was published in 2005
in Notes from Center Edge, Kathy Brown’s newsletter that 
predates her creation of this Whole-Brain Living and Learning blog.

Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of Brain Gym International •