Sunday, October 13, 2019

Watching the Need for Compensation Strategies Simply Fall Away

“When there isn’t integration,
there is compensation with stress.”
~ Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D.

During my years as a classroom teacher a common viewpoint was, “If a child struggles with reading, the best we can do is to teach him various compensation strategies to make his reading a bit easier.” For years, that’s what I thought, too.

I now know that this is not true. There’s much more that we can do: we can resolve the learning challenge at its core. Then the person simply doesn’t need the compensation strategies anymore.

Through using the Brain Gym system for the last 23 years, I’ve learned that once a child (or adult) has developed more coordinated movement patterns, he automatically has greater access to the physical skills of reading. He becomes a more capable reader, and there’s simply less need for compensations. I have seen this time and time again.

Reading compensations

Take nine-year-old “Micah,” for example. His mother asked me to work with him to improve his reading. Micah had difficulty focusing on one word at a time, and in going left-to-right across the page. Sometimes he would even skip from the line he was reading, to the line above or below it, without even realizing it. This would create a truly disjointed story, but he didn’t seem to notice the difference. His mother wondered if he even knew what it was he was reading.

Micah had had three years of special help at school, from caring professionals who worked diligently with him; still, he was not improving very much.

His teachers had taught him several techniques for focusing on the “right” word as he was reading along. He could use his finger under one word at a time. He could put a card under the entire line, and use his finger to remind him to go from left to right. Or he could use a special card with a slot cut into it, which would show only one line of print at a time.

Micah used these techniques at different times, with varying degrees of success.

After a bit of “getting to know you” chatting, I asked Micah what he wished was easier. He said that reading was “not fun” and he wished he could read like the other kids in his class. I told him that I would be happy to work with him on this project, and it would very likely help a lot. His face lit up with a big smile!

I asked him to show me what his reading was like. He pulled out his story page, and used the card with the cutout to showcase the first line. He laboriously moved his finger along the line of print, and then carefully moved the card to the next line down. This was a story he had read before; still, he stumbled over simple words, miscalling several, reading in a flat tone that told me there was limited comprehension going on.

Moving into cross-lateral coordination
I told Micah that, now that his mind-body system could feel just what part of reading was hard for him, it would know what kinds of movements to pick, to make reading easier. I showed him a listing of Brain Gym movements and processes, and asked him to notice what was getting his attention.

He pointed immediately to a box at the bottom of the list, with the words “Dennison Laterality Repatterning,” and said, “What’s in this box?” I said, “I’ll show you.”

Dennison Laterality Repatterning (DLR) is a five-step protocol developed by Brain Gym co-founder Paul Dennison, Ph.D. In my experience, the DLR process is one of the most profound elements in the Brain Gym “menu” of offerings. Simply stated, it supports the mind-body system in developing more coordinated cross-lateral movement patterns. Once these new, more coordinated, movement patterns are in place, many things are easier – most notably in this context, reading.

I took Micah through this five-step protocol. Initially, his movements were awkward and uncoordinated, especially those that included the Cross Crawl (elbow to the opposite knee, back and forth). However, after he completed the entire five steps, he could Cross Crawl easily – effortlessly bringing his elbow and opposite knee together. (I wasn’t surprised – this is a frequent outcome of this repatterning process.)

Watching compensations disappear
When we were finished with this I asked him to read again. He positioned his card over the print as before, with just one line of print showing through the slot; he put his finger at the beginning of the slot, moving it along as he read. And he read almost every word correctly. He continued this way for three more lines; by now he was self-correcting the few mistakes he made.

He looked up at me, with a surprised look on his face. I asked what he noticed, and he said, “I’m reading!” I said, “Congratulations! I can see how excited you are! What do you want to do next?”

He picked up his card and looked at the whole story. I got the feeling that he was really seeing this page of print for the first time. He positioned the card in a new way, putting just the top edge of it under the line he was reading, and again moved his finger from one word to the next, more quickly this time, still reading correctly.

Finally, he set the card entirely to the side, and read again. At first he used his finger under one word at a time, then he stopped doing that and simply read. Line after line. Correctly. 

Not only that, but he read with feeling – pausing for commas, stopping at periods, with the kind of music in his voice that shows real comprehension. He wasn’t reading words, he was reading a story.

He looked up at me again, and said again, “I’M READING!” He was thrilled beyond belief. And the look on his mother’s face was certainly something to behold. After years of effort to help Micah improve his reading, it all seemed to come together in this single session.

I realized I was watching Micah’s need for compensation techniques simply fall away.

Micah didn’t need the “crutches” anymore – he was up and running on his own. 

With warm regards, 

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

©Copyright 2019 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation •

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Making Lazy 8s Boards - Tools for Classroom Fun

I’ve written a number of articles that mention the Lazy 8s activity from Brain Gym®, and thought it was time to add this information about making Lazy 8s Boards to my blog postings.

A Lazy 8s board is a handy aid for those just learning this pattern, and fun for anyone who wants to play with this pattern. I keep several Lazy 8s boards in my office, some with the pattern simply painted on, and others with a Tactile 8, or Musical Marble 8, to enhance the experience of this movement.

Each Lazy 8s board has an arrow reminding the user to start in the middle and flow first to the upper left, and a smiley-face at the bottom, to help him or her orient the board (and therefore the arrow) correctly. I remind learners to “line up the smiley-face with your middle.” That way, the center of the 8 is directly in line with their midline.

Templates for making these boards are available at this link, as a free download. One template has a single line; the other has a double line, creating a “track.” You'll see both these Lazy 8s models in the boards illustrated below. Each template is only half of the total pattern.

Print out two copies of each template and rotate the duplicate 180 degrees and overlap with the sides of the original, forming the complete Lazy 8s pattern. Smooth out the lines where they overlap, if they don’t match exactly.

Most of my Lazy 8s boards are just under 12 x 18 inches in size, with the 8s themselves being about 8 by 14 inches: this is the size of the templates I provide.

I typically use foam-core board, which is lightweight, and tends to hold up better to regular use than simple cardboard. 

One way to transfer the Lazy 8s pattern onto your surface is to create it first out of lightweight cardboard, cut it out, and use it as a tracing template. Or you could tape the pattern securely over the foam-core board, and use a pencil or pen to mark the line firmly enough to press a line into the surface of the board, and then copy over it with markers or paint.
Some learners may benefit from different size Lazy 8s boards; it’s fine to adapt the template for any size you choose.

Young learners love to trace these with their fingers, a toy car, or their favorite stuffed animal or plastic movie-character toy! 

I have also made Lazy 8s boards on solid-color vinyl placemats from the discount store. 
Puff-Paint Lazy 8s
I took the “track” template and traced it onto foam-core board. I painted the track blue, then used gold “puff paint” along the inside and outside borders of the track. (Puff paint is squeezed out of a bottle; as it dries, it actually puffs up a bit, leaving a raised line. Your local craft store will likely have it.) When learners use this track, the raised outline engages more of their sensory apparatus, and helps guide them to stay on the smooth track.

I make single-line Puff-Paint Lazy 8s boards, too.  

Musical Marble Lazy 8s
I came across a wonderful Lazy 8s board adaptation at an Edu-K course. I wish I knew whom to credit for its creation! Trace your double-line “track” Lazy 8s pattern onto a piece of wood. (I bought a finished shelf at my local home-supply store and had them cut it into pieces for me. I sanded the cut edges and was ready to go.) Paint the space inside the track; after the paint dries, hammer in small “finish” nails all along the entire pattern. 

To experience this Lazy 8: Place a marble inside the track and, holding the  board in both hands, angle it so the marble rolls around the track. This makes the most delightful, musical sound! For some learners, a marble moves too quickly, so I also offer a piece of glass that looks like a flattened marble. (I buy these by the bag in the floral department of my local discount store.) A small rubber ball might slow things down, too, but it might not sound as fun.

Scribble-Board Lazy 8s

I made a tactile “scribble board” by covering a piece of foam-core board with window screen (purchased by-the-foot at my local home-supply store), and taping the edges down all around (I used blue “painter’s” tape). Then I used a large clip to hold a piece of blank paper in place over the screen. When learners select this process, I draw a simple Lazy 8 on the paper as a model, and then have them trace over and over it, using a pencil or ballpoint pen. The surface of the screening material underneath the paper creates a vibration in the hand of the learner, offering additional tactile and proprioceptive input—plus the auditory input of the great sound it makes!
This board is also great for Double Doodling.

Tactile Screen Lazy 8s

For this project I cut a large Lazy 8s pattern out of window screening and glued it to some foam-core board that I had edged with blue “painter’s” tape. I ended up using glue-stick to adhere the 8 to the board, which discolored after a while. Perhaps some other kind of adhesive would work better. This board is a bit larger than the others. (Sorry, I don’t have a template for this Lazy 8.) You could also use sandpaper or some other textured material instead of screen.

Wooden track
I’m showing these wooden Lazy 8s tracks, though I have never made one. They are available through various sources. If you’re good with woodworking, and have a router, it’s possible to make your own.

Using wooden tracks: Learners can simply trace along these tracks with a finger. More challenging is to place a marble in the track and, holding the board by two ends, tilting it to move the marble. It takes considerable skill to move the marble without it flying off the track! To slow things down, try using a small rubber ball.

I hope you enjoy these Lazy 8s boards. If you make some, and use them with your students or clients, I’d love it if you’d share your experience with me!

With warm regards, 

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

©Copyright 2019 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.

Photographs copyright© Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation •