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 •

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