Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Brain Gym® "Residency Day"

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to do Brain Gym® “Residency Days” at various schools. It’s very rewarding work.

I developed the concept of “Residency Days” to offer schools a full day of direct student services, presentations, and/or demonstrating use of Brain Gym in classroom settings, though most are focused on direct student services – one-on-one "balance" sessions[1].

Each Residency Day begins with a quick discussion with the principal or instruction specialist about the students on my list for the day, after which I set up my materials in the space provided. Then I go the classroom of my first student, check in quickly with his teacher, and walk with him to my work area.

As we walk, I begin with a quick get-to-know-you conversation, eventually leading into a discussion of what the child wishes was easier about school. I explain a bit about the Brain Gym balance process, and support the child in selecting one specific area to focus on. Together we go through PACE, the four-step Brain Gym warm-up.

I notice that many students on my list for services have significant challenges with the Cross Crawl portion of PACE. They’re much more inclined to bring their elbow down to their “same side” knee, rather than the opposite knee. This indicates lack of coordination between the two hemispheres of the brain. No wonder they’re having academic problems! It takes fluid coordination between both brain hemispheres in order to be what I call “academically agile.” 

Therefore, it’s also no wonder that balances with these students often call for Brain Gym activities from the “Midline Movements” category, such as the Double Doodle, Lazy 8s, and the Cross Crawl itself. Of greatest notice is the fact that Dennison Laterality Repatterning (DLR) is frequently called on. DLR is a specific Brain Gym process that supports development of effective communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. (This DLR process is learned in the Brain Gym® 101 course.)

Important note: I may not always take the time to express it this way in these brief descriptions of my student sessions, but each movement activity we do is something chosen by the student, from a “learning menu.” The child may either select it himself from a printed or illustrated page of options, or I’ll facilitate a “muscle check” (a kinesiology technique) to elicit a response from their mind-body system.

Whatever the process, we move quickly but effectively through the balance session. My goal is to focus fully on each student and his balance, while holding the awareness that there are many students to see that day. I’ve found that it’s possible to see wonderful results with students, even though their sessions are relatively quick.[1]

The following are brief descriptions of sessions I did with seven children in a single Residency Day.

Mariella is a sixth grader who has been having significant difficulties with reversals in writing, and was reading two years below her grade level. When I asked her to write her name she used small, cramped printing. When I asked for a reading sample she chose a simple story book, and mechanically read one word at a time, hardly pausing at punctuation. When doing the Cross Crawl during PACE she had great difficulty getting her elbow to the opposite knee – she kept bringing it down to the “same side” knee. Mariella’s learning menu called for the Dennison Laterality Repatterning (DLR) process after which I asked her to read again, and this time her reading was quite fluent. She was so pleased with herself! Now she effortlessly and automatically connected her elbow with her opposite knee when doing the Cross Crawl, and when I asked her to write her name again, she chose to write much larger and in cursive, which is a much more whole-brain activity than printing. When asked Mariella if she had any questions, she asked, “Are you coming back tomorrow?”

Ernesto is in eighth grade and I was surprised to learn that he was reading on only a 2.8 grade level. His oral reading from a very simple Dr. Seuss book confirmed this. He stumbled and stumbled, miscalling several very basic words and ignoring the punctuation. After his learning menu (DLR plus Lazy 8s) Ernesto’s reading improved significantly. He read much more fluently, and when he made mistakes, he self-corrected. He often backed up to re-read sentences with feeling once he figured out the context, and commented on the rhyme of the lines: “That’s funny!” The humor had completely eluded him in his first reading, when he was just calling one word at a time. He was very pleased and said he’d like to come again. His reading teacher tells me that Ernesto now loves reading quiz questions out loud to his classmates – something very new for him.

Curtis is a first grader who was not yet reading, despite much loving and careful attention from his teacher. The morning of his Brain Gym session he had been able to read only two of his eleven “practice words” for the week. We talked a bit about reading, and then went directly to his choice of the DLR process, after which his Cross Crawl was smooth and even. At this point he had to quickly leave, as it was lunch time. I learned later that when Curtis returned to his classroom he proudly and excitedly read nine of his eleven words!

Warner is a seventh grader with many parent/home issues that have caused a lot of disruption in his life. He told me he was very good at reading words and sentences, but had a hard remembering what he’d read. He chose to read from the hardest book I had with me, an “adapted classics” collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, modified for middle school students. He read fluently, but remembered few details from the paragraphs he’d read. His learning menu called for the DLR process, after which he read again. This time his reading was even more fluent; he said he’d understood much better than the first time, and recalled every detail of those paragraphs. He said he was looking forward to his next reading comprehension test.

Sanford is a fourth grader who’s having challenges with many aspects of school curriculum. He said he’d like most to improve in math. A pre-check showed that he knew few of his multiplication facts. As we did the PACE warm-up, it was clear that Sanford had significant issues calling on both sides of his brain at the same time, because even with repeated guidance he kept going back to a pattern of bringing his elbow to his “same-side” knee, rather than reaching for the opposite one. His balance called for DLR, plus The Double Doodle and Positive Points, after which he was still extremely awkward in doing Cross Crawl, consistently reaching for his same-side knee. He was happier about doing multiplication facts, and did a bit better, but I can see that Sanford will require more Brain Gym balances in order to improve significantly.

Clara is struggling through first grade. She read to me from a very simple book for beginning readers and she did very poorly, consistently using picture clues to guess at the right word. I led her through the steps of DLR after which she read again. This time she looked only at the words as she read, sounding out many of words correctly, a few with a bit of help. Her teacher joined us at the end of the session and Clara read for her. The teacher said that she had never heard Clara really sound out words before, that she’d always guessed using clues from the pictures. By the time Clara finished reading for her teacher, she was easily reading or sounding out every word, reading with voice inflection and meaning.

Martin is a third-grader who really wanted to improve his reading. He read aloud from a simple second-grade level book and basically read adequately, but not well. He didn’t stumble, but read slowly and carefully, without much expression. His learning menu called for DLR, followed by two of the many advanced Brain Gym processes: “Core Activation,” which activates the core muscles of the torso, and “Vision Re-Education,” a process that supports coordinated teaming and smooth tracking of eyes. When we completed this he read again – fluently, and with great ease and inflection. What a lovely, resonant voice! I suggested that he go right back to class and read for his teacher. At the end of the day I checked in with the teacher, who said the class had been working in such a focused way on math that she didn’t take time to hear Martin read. But she did notice that when she gave him a page of division problems that normally would have taken him an hour (with much resistance) that he was finished in ten minutes, with all correct but one. When she pointed out his one error, he nodded and said he saw exactly what he’d done wrong. Then she observed Martin happily reading to himself during the rest of math time.

When I complete a balance with a student I typically ask, “Was it worth the time?” and students answer “YES!” My Residency Days at schools are very rewarding. It’s great to see students make such quick progress in academics and attitude! While you can see that not every Brain Gym balance does everything we’re looking for, the results often affect much more than the “target” issue, especially considering how much a student’s attitude improves when his or her academic abilities improve.

My vision for our education system is to have a fully trained Brain Gym consultant on every school campus so he or she can do ongoing work just like this with students every day. Interested? The first step is taking Brain Gym® 101, where you learn to facilitate many kinds of Brain Gym balance processes, including Dennison Laterality Repatterning. 

If you'd like to take Brain Gym® 101, and live in Phoenix or want to visit, I have an upcoming course on November 10-11-12. Click here for course details! 

And if you'd like to read related articles, some of which may help to explain why such dynamic changes can occur in so little time, here are some links for you:
Henry and Reading - Revisited
Ready for Reading
"Thank you for teaching me."
Brain Gym for a "Brand New Brain"

With warm regards,
Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain

[1] The Brain Gym session process, known as the "balance" process, consists of five specific steps. I previously described this process in a blog article, which you can read by clicking here. I also describe the balance process in Chapter 12 of my book, Educate Your Brain. You can learn how to facilitate Brain Gym balances, and the Dennison Laterality Repatterning process, by taking the Brain Gym® 101 class.

©Copyright 2017 Kathy Brown.All rights reserved.

Original article ©Copyright Kathy Brown 2002. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation •

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