Sunday, February 12, 2017

Balancing for Reading Success

If you follow this blog, you likely know how much I care about supporting children in reading easily, and how much I value the tools and techniques offered through the Brain Gym program that are so effective in doing just that. If this is new information, you can refer to these links for a start:
You may also know that I dedicated an entire chapter of my book, Educate Your Brain, to the topic of reading. In that chapter, titled "Ready for Reading," I cover many challenges to fluent reading: issues with eye-teaming, eye-tracking, reading comprehension, and more – and and how using Brain Gym can help to overcome them. 
I’m posting here the concluding portion of this chapter, which brings together many of the topics I've covered, and offers a compassionate perspective on those who struggle to read.
And at its end, I share some exciting news about my next writing project, and ask for your feedback, stories, and suggestions, as well.
An excerpt from “Ready for Reading”
In my own practice, I work regularly with clients of all ages who want to address reading issues. Many adults have struggled their whole lives with these challenges, and their outcomes from balancing may be life-altering. And the same changes can turn around a child’s experience of school, and of life, as well.
When I work with youngsters, I always have the parent on hand to observe and participate. It’s often a real eye-opener for a parent to see how much difficulty her child may have with the Cross Crawl, for example, especially once I explain the correlation between lack of coordination and academic challenges. And if we discover that he leads with his left eye, or has other eye-teaming issues, it puts a whole new perspective on the battles over reading she may have had with him, for example.
Then the parent is amazed to see how easily the child may be
 Cross Crawling after his session, and how his reading improves. She is in a perfect position to appreciate changes in her child’s academic performance and attitude in the days that follow and to do Brain Gym movements with him at home.
A very concerned grandmother brought Clark, age eight, for a Brain Gym balance session. Nightly reading practice had become quite a battle at his house. His parents said they could hardly get him to sit and read at all. So I turned to Clark and asked, “Why don’t you like to read?” Clark told me it made his stomach and head hurt.
When I asked Clark to read out loud from a very simple storybook, he read haltingly, miscalling several simple words and completely ignoring the punctuation. He was extremely awkward in the Cross Crawl portion of PACE, and almost fell down as he did it.
At the end of his balance (which included Dennison Laterality Repatterning and a few additional Brain Gym movements), perhaps forty minutes later, Clark picked up the book again and read without hesitation, and without stumbling over the words. He even read with inflection, pausing or stopping at the appropriate punctuation—indicators of true comprehension.
I heard later from the grandmother that when Clark came home that night he had his nose in his book until bedtime, and the next day he enthusiastically read thirty more pages! A note from the grandmother concluded, “His self-esteem is so much higher now. I have never seen such a turnaround in my life. I am a very enthusiastic believer in Brain Gym. Thank you for giving Clark so much hope and help.”
I love telling this story for several reasons. First of all, it shows the profound effects that one Brain Gym balance can have.
Secondly, this is a perfect example to share with teachers. When I finish telling this story, I often mention, “I did no reading practice with Clark; he did no comprehension worksheets. We simply did Brain Gym movements and processes after Clark set his goal to improve his reading. The reading ability and comprehension were waiting to emerge, once his mind-body system was truly prepared.”
Lastly, and most importantly for me, this story illustrates the belief I strongly hold: all children really do want to learn, do well, and get along in school. Think of Clark’s headache and stomachache when he tried to read. Of course he avoided it—wouldn’t you? How many of us sign up to do things that make us feel ill? I would certainly be surprised if someone with motion sickness said, “Oh, boy! We have a long driving trip coming up. I think I’ll sit in the middle of the back seat!” We’d think that person was crazy. But if a child avoids something, we may call him “contrary” and just make him do more of it, because it’s so “good” for him. Perhaps not. Perhaps it’s time to look at why he’s avoiding it and do something about that.
Exactly what shifted for Clark?
It’s impossible to know for sure, but I can certainly make a guess or two based on what Clark told me, what I know about learning challenges, and what I observed in his session.
If someone’s eyes aren’t teaming properly, he can feel uncomfortable (stomachache, headache) trying to bring them to focus on a specific object, like a letter or word. Trying to follow a line of print that seems to move around on him would be extremely disorienting. Think: vertigo.
If the two sides of his brain aren’t sharing information easily, it’s hard for him to create meaning out of words on the page. Attempts at this would require a tremendous amount of effort, leaving him frustrated, confused, exhausted, and with a tendency to avoid it at any cost.
With Clark’s two hemispheres now sharing information more fully, his eyes would find it much easier to cooperate with each other. His right eye would be a stronger lead, or a strong blending partner, and focusing with both eyes would be much more comfortable and require less energy. The “squiggles” of written language would automatically become the meaning of the story.
Just like that, reading can be so much easier. And what’s easy is often fun or rewarding, so we end up doing lots of it. Sometimes, it’s actually just that simple.
So imagine this scenario: you’re the student who simply can’t read (or comprehend, or understand math—and on and on) when others all around you can. How long will your good nature hold before you stop trying and start doing something that’s easy for you? So you begin to draw (or play with your shoelace, or fidget, or find patterns in the ceiling tiles—anything!) and you get into trouble—again, and again, and again. And you keep getting farther and farther behind. Your self-esteem is in shreds, but your energy has to go somewhere; you end up acting out and reap the consequences.
Before long, you begin to think that you really aren’t intelligent, that all the negative messages you’ve received over time must be true, that the wonderful confidence, imagination, joy, and dreams you had as a young child must be false. Years of this create students who end up in alternative schools or juvenile detention, on drugs or alcohol, or pregnant. What career choices does life hold for them? Only the most unusual of students are able to rise above these circumstances.
Now imagine this scenario: again, you’re the student who simply can’t read, when others all around you can. Your teacher recognizes your struggle and introduces integrating movements that help you build the inner capacity to make sense of what’s on the page in front of you. As your ability grows, so does your sense of accomplishment, and you see yourself as someone who can overcome challenges and confidently pursue your studies. Now what’s available to you? A whole world filled with career choices and the means for a happier, more fulfilling life.
The “aha!”
Perhaps now you see why I was so incredibly excited to learn about all the elements that comprise reading and, especially, learning to read. Once I understood the elegant complexity of the systems involved, I had a greater appreciation for where so many learning challenges originate, and I valued the Brain Gym movements and Edu-K balance process even more.
Now, when I explain these concepts during workshops, I love seeing the “aha!” on participants’ faces as they begin to realize just why some of their students or children are having such difficulties. I’m happy knowing that this new perspective will change forever how they view these learners and the issues they’re struggling with, holding the door open for greater patience and compassion in working with them.
I hope your new awareness of these key concepts will inspire you to use simple Brain Gym techniques to begin addressing the source of reading challenges. I look forward to the day when all children read easily—and naturally—because integrating movement has prepared them for learning and achievement.2
I have long considered this chapter on reading to be perhaps the most pivotal of the entire book. 

Now I find myself inspired to begin a new writing project: expanding all these concepts into a whole new book, to be titled Educate Your Brain for Reading

My goal is to create a single volume that focuses entirely on reading, which will include more explanations, more stories, and more specific ideas for movement activities that can truly make a difference for struggling readers. 

To that end, I welcome and request your participation and feedback, in response to any or all of these questions:
• What have you read in my blog or my book that means the most to you?
• If you’ve used Brain Gym yourself, or with your own children or students, what has the result been? Could you share a story that illustrates your experience? 
• If you haven’t noticed positive changes, or have had challenges using Brain Gym, would you consider sharing that story with me as well?
• What questions do you still have?
• What would you like to see included in a volume about using Brain Gym to improve reading?  
• What message would you offer to parents, administrators, and teachers – or to the children themselves?

You are most welcome to use the Comment feature below, or to send your thoughts by email, at

I truly look forward to your comments. You are part of a growing community of people who understand how vital physical movement is in developing the capacity to read, and I deeply value my connection with you. 

Thank you for being here, and for spreading this important information, so it can transform the lives of children everywhere.

With warmest regards,

Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain
1] Dennison, Paul E. Brain Gym® & Me. Ventura: Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc. 2006. 119. 
2] Brown, Kathy. Educate Your Brain. Phoenix: Balance Point Publishing LLC. 2012. 112-115. 
Brain Gym® movement photographs Copyright© Laird Brown Photography. All rights reserved
Photograph of wooden figures with acupuncture points Copyright© Claudio Curro, through iStock/Getty Images
©Copyright 2017 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation  •  Ventura, CA  •
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  1. Kathy, I have done two brain research school projects for re-certification; comprehension and fluency using the Brain Gym exercise Hook Ups. I would be happy to share the word docs with you if interested.

  2. Mark, I would love to see those studies! You can send them to my email address, kathy (at) centeredge (dot) com. Thank you!