BRAIN GYM
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Brain Gym is a system that uses simple movements to stimulate brain function. That is, it uses quick, easy-to-do developmental movements to wake up the brain without stress or injury. Children naturally explore these movements as they grow and mature.
 However, under tension, children learn to rely too much on one cerebral hemisphere of the brain alone, instead of two sides together placing unnecessary and stressful demands upon the whole physiology. Educator Paul E. Dennison Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of learning through movement and the creator of the Brain Gym program calls this the “switched off” state.
Children who have special needs “switch off” more frequently than the average child. Perhaps the stress from neurological damage or simply a more sensitive nervous system creates a need for movements, such as Brain Gym, as well as skills of coordination. The intention behind the Brain Gym is to stimulate the brain so that the child has equal access to all dimensions of the brain. The Brain Gym activities address three specific dimensions of physical movement that correlate with three areas of the brain. Each dimension is described by a key word or function and by viewing postural and behavioral correlates. This means that by observing our child’s behavior or how he/she holds his/her body in space we are lead to the appropriate Brain Gym movements and activities. Other information that would lead to knowledge about which Brain Gym movements or which activities to choose can be gathered by observing or noticing neurological soft signs. These can be eye or head movements, hand or foot movements. Also, if our child is able to move his/her shoulders and simultaneously move the hips, or, if your child can move in a contralateral way though uses only one side of the body at a time, then we are able to gather information about the neurological system. They are called “soft signs” because there is no hard evidence from an EEG or a CAT scan; rather we are relying on the cues from the body to surmise how the neurological system is responding. The three dimensions and corresponding information are as follows:
 
Demension Key Word Brain Gym Movements   
Focus Comprehension Lengthening Activities   
Centering Organization Energy Exercises   
Laterality Communication Midline Movements 
An example of a Brain Gym movement from the Energy Exercises is called the “thinking cap.” Prior to doing it however, I invite you (right now) to turn your head to the left and see how far you can look and notice if there is any tension in your neck. Now turn your head to the right and notice how far you can look and if there’s any tension in your neck. Massage your ears by unrolling the fold of them by beginning at the top and going all the way to the bottom. Do this three times. (In Brain Gym, we call this the “thinking cap.” Now, turn your head to the left and notice how far you can look and if there is any tension in your neck; and repeat with your head towards the right. Most of you (98%) will notice a very positive difference in your ability to turn your head. You’ve just relaxed your mind/body system so that you are better able to organize yourself as witnessed by your body’s ability to subconsciously organize itself so that turning your head is easier. This is how simple, yet profound the Brain Gym movements are. As we experience this gentle, non-invasive techniques for stimulating the brain, imagine how our child might feel.
If you were to do some lengthening activities with your child, the brain will respond and he/she will become more able to focus. For example, in Brain Gym we have a movement called the “calf pump.” It is similar to the “runners’ stretch.” Extend your right leg behind you and as the heel is touching the floor, hold it down for approximately 8 seconds and release. Repeat 7-8 times and then repeat with the other leg. This should take about one minute on each leg. This movement stimulates the brain by using the body and subsequently the neurological flow increases and we are able to comprehend our task with greater ease.
To improve communication between one side of the body and the other (or one person and another), we can do a midline movement. For example, we can do a cross crawl. This movement is done standing, sitting or lying down by taking your left arm and crossing over the midline of your body to touch your right knee and vice versa. Do this for approximately one minute as slowly as possible because the more slowly we go, the more the brain is able to absorb or use the information. When we do this movement the hemispheres of the brain are activated and we are better able to communicate.
After doing these movements and activities, the brain is stimulated and the rest of the body is more relaxed. Through this preparatory experience, we are then able to engage in the learning that is at hand. E.g. if we would like our child to eat with a spoon, drink from a cup, reduce seizure activity, learn to walk, ride a bike or read with greater ease, we might do two or three minutes of Brain Gym designed to stimulate related areas of the brain, and then move into the learning that we intend to accomplish. The Brain Gym activities are best spread out during the day, just as we divide our meals throughout the day. Brain Gym is not a cure-all; it is however a very powerful tool to have as a methods/techniques intervention.
I have seen miraculous improvement in both children and adults who have used Brain Gym. In fact, three children with whom I’ve worked have gone from blindness to sight. One child began to walk independently at age five and, now seven and a half, has never returned to his wheelchair. A nine year old boy diagnosed as autistic who previously used two words to express himself began using functional speech after just three months of using Brain Gym. One five-year-old boy who was having intense and frequent seizures (about three times a week) decreased his seizure activity to twice a month, and the intensity was also significantly diminished.
Given my deep desire to get Brain Gym into the schools, as well as the enormous amount of conversation about the need for longitudinal research on the effects of Brain Gym¨ on academic skills, in 1998 I set out to do a year long research project at an elementary school.
 
    
Fifth-grade students involved in the reading project do Dennison Laterality Repatterning to improve listening and memory skills. 
To accomplish this task, I engaged the assistance of Brain Gym Consultant Joyce B. Sherwood. The report for this pilot project offers data supporting the finding that students in grades three, four, and five who used Brain Gym throughout the year improved their reading test scores on a statewide standardized test (the Stanford 9) twice as much as did the students in the control group who did not use Brain Gym as a part of their learning. These are remarkable results-both academically and statistically.
Having formerly worked as a classroom teacher in a special day class for severely challenged students on this particular campus, I approached principal Paul Jablonowski at Saticoy Elementary School in Ventura, California, with the request to conduct this project with some of his students. I received his consent and was met with open arms and great enthusiasm for the project by the twelve teachers whose classrooms would be involved. These teachers agreed to the following:
1. To meet for one hour after school every Monday throughout the school year.
2. To do a minimum of fifteen minutes of Brain Gym each day, integrated into the daily activities of the classroom rather than in a fifteen-minute block of time.
3. To allow students-selected by each teacher-to leave class one time each month for a thirty-minute session of Brain Gym within a small group, facilitated by a Brain Gym Consultant.
4. To invite Brain Gym Consultants to do classroom consultations a minimum of two times during the school year.
5. To allow students’ test scores to be gathered for data comparison. An equal number of student scores were gathered from the school files to serve as a control group, with the permission of the teachers in those classrooms.
Throughout the school year, enthusiasm and follow-through remained high. All of the above agreements were carried out. We arranged a special Parents Night which drew an astonishing crowd of 120 to inform the parents about Brain Gym and explain how their children were using it in the classroom. In addition, the participating classroom teachers papered their walls with suggested Brain Gym materials, instructed students in the task-appropriate use of the Brain Gym movements, and reminded the young people about which Brain Gym activities to do prior to undertaking a homework assignment. The teachers learned the Brain Gym exercises and subsequently taught their students. As I passed through the halls when we were only three months into the project, I saw children using Brain Gym throughout the school day, even without teacher direction.
The students who continued to have difficulty with their reading skills were seen by a Brain Gym Consultant in small groups of two to four. In these groups, balances* were facilitated to remediate specific difficulties related to such areas as attention and comprehension, fine- or gross-motor coordination, or specific academic skills.
The results of this pilot project were phenomenal. Students' self-esteem improved, the classroom climate became more calm, the students reported how much easier their reading had become, and the teachers expressed deep gratitude for this simple, effective tool that enhanced their teaching strategies.
I also gathered test data from the Stanford 9. The following graphs illustrate the effectiveness of the use of Brain Gym in the classroom. Students in each grade level who experienced the Brain Gym activities improved their test scores twice as much as did the students in the control group who did not practice Brain Gym.
Given these results, I believe that all reading programs would benefit by infusing Brain Gym into the school day. Whether the approach is phonics, guided reading, or Reading Recovery, testing should inform instruction-rather than the other way around. Let us use this research to inform ourselves. We need to encourage classroom teachers everywhere to add Brain Gym activities to their teaching strategies.
One grateful parent volunteer summarized community responses with the following letter: "To Whom It May Concern: I am writing in regard to the Brain Gym Program that is being taught at my child’s school. These small, but effective techniques have helped my daughter excel in class immensely. Her ability to focus, concentrate and complete class assignments increase after each morning’s pace exercise. The class as a whole, in which I volunteer two times a week, seems to calm down and show improvement with listening as well as performing the days’ tasks.
I am sure as time goes by, the children will only benefit from this Educational Kinesiology brought to our schools. Each day a different exercise is introduced and children are evaluated individually to meet their own specific needs in class. Getting in touch with your mind through the body sounds fantastic. What a wonderful way to begin a life‹positive, healthy and strong. The perfect way to create a successful adult."
 

BRAIN RESEARCH
 
 Brain Gym comprises a set of exercises that uses fingers to stimulate neurons in the brain that improves blood circulation.
The aim is to stimulate the nerves in the body and create energy, which he calls `chi.'
 Children with mental disabilities suffer from lack of adequate supply of oxygen to the brain, leading to loss of contact with nerve synapses. Brain Gym helps to build synapses and reactivate the brain by ensuring sufficient blood supply.
Brain Gym consists of simple movements similar to the movements which in fact are natural in the first three years in life.  We can consider it a useful tool in a classroom situation because it does not require sophisticated pieces of equipment or large areas of space
Dunn says that Levine (1987) affirms that writing is, still, an important method of learning and expressing knowledge in schools and that the motor act of writing involves a broad array of fine motor and visual-motor skills. Furthermore, Arter et al. (1996, p26) state:
        "No child will be able to produce the fine motor movements for writing with a pencil until he or she is able to control …….. larger movements."
Likewise, Thomas (1997) noted that the Physical Education curriculum in France plays an important part in the teaching of handwriting and P.E teachers use physical activities which are closely linked to the teaching of handwriting.
Ms. Dunn’s study concludes that normal classrooms depend on activities which utilise verbal or analytical intelligence but that when a child is allowed to use the body, it encourages the brain to make use of a variety of intelligences including rhythmical and visual-spatial intelligence. Further, long-term recall also seems to be enhanced by this kind of practice.
Dr. Dennison was the person who discovered the empowering effects of Brain Gym movements One of the basic references of his model is that of Laterality. This is the ability to coordinate one side of the brain with the other, especially in the visual, auditory and kinesthetic midfield, the area where the two sides overlap. The vertical midline of the body is the necessary reference for all bilateral skills and midfield coordination is fundamental to the ability to read, write and communicate. It is also essential for fluid whole-body movement and for the ability to move and think at the same time.
To ensure coordination in this crucial midfield area Dennison developed The Midline Movements which help to integrate binocular vision, binaural hearing, and the left and right sides of the brain and body. Many learners beginning school are not developmentally prepared for the bilateral, two-dimensional skills of near-point work required in reading and writing, for example. Sometimes a student is coordinated for play or sports activities (which involve three-dimensional space and only demand binocular vision beyond arm's length), yet is not ready to use both eyes, ears, hands, and brain hemispheres for near-point work, such as reading, writing and other skills involving fine-motor coordination. Other students show coordination for academic skills or near-point activities, yet are not ready for whole-body coordination on the playing field. The Midline Movements enable learners to integrate fine-motor and large-motor skills.
Cross-motor activities have been used to activate the brain since our understanding of laterality began over a century ago. Noted authorities such as Orton, Doman, Delacato, Kephart, and Barsch have used similar movements successfully in their learning programs. Dr. Dennison drew from his knowledge of these programmes in developing the Midline Movements series. Some of them have also been adapted from behavioural optometry activities used to increase brain-body coordination. Others are borrowed from sports, dance, or exercise programs. Others are totally unique to Edu-Kinesiology and are the innovations of Dr. Paul Dennison.
Whole Brain Integration Edu-K, helps people of all ages to experience more integrated learning, body co-ordination, sports performance and daily living. The importance of movement across the midline of the body is the focus of Whole Brain used to quickly and easily correct homolaterality – the lack of left/right brain integration,. In order to read fluently and with comprehension; to write creatively; to spell and remember; to listen and think at the same time; or to perform at our athletic peak, we must be able to cross the midline which connects the left and right brain.
It's interesting to note that among the population identified as "learning disabled" we find that 80% or more fall into the homolateral category. Living in a homolateral state leads to frustration and the need for extreme effort, often resulting in "acting-out" behaviours. Academic achievement is very difficult. Brain GymŽ movements help repattern both brain hemispheres to work simultaneously and cooperatively, creating the smooth neural functioning that leads to emotional ease - and academic effectiveness.
A recent study (Dr. Robert Eyestone, 1990) found that more than 95 percent of individuals in groups labelled as "at risk" (teen mothers, juvenile detention, ADD/ADHD, in learning disabilities classes, drug rehabilitation, alcohol support groups) were operating in a homolateral state, as compared to eight to 13 percent in random groupings.
As we saw in the first part of this article dramatic changes in behaviour are seen when this homolateral state is addressed and an integrated neural state is achieved. Whole Brain Integration can help this group to join the laterally integrated population, which is able to learn with the whole brain more easily. Being integrated helps us to remain calm and alert, even in stressful situations (exams, job interviews, performances, etc.). When we are relaxed and calm we make better decisions, we feel better about ourselves, and those we interact with, and we are more productive.
If you feel that Brain Gym could enable your students and would like to experiment by building Brain Gym exercises into your own classroom practice Ruth Schmid has a practical proposal. She recommends you start with the Brain Gym Mini-Menu below. For best results she advocates doing them twice each day in the order outlined below.)
    Water.
    Drink a glass of water. This increases energy, improves production, concentration and test taking ability.
    Brain Buttons.
    This exercise stimulates the blood flow through the carotid arteries to the brain to "switch on" the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading and writing. It also increases overall relaxation.
    Make a 'C' shape with your thumb and index finger and place at either side of your breastbone, just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds while placing your other hand over your navel. Then change hands and repeat.
    Cross Crawl.
    This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension. It also improves left/right coordination.
    While standing, alternatively touch your left knee with your right hand then the right knee with the left hand. Continue for 10 to 15 repetitions. (Variation 1 - touch opposite elbow to knee. Variation 2 - reach hand behind back to opposite foot.)
    Hook-ups
    This works well for nerves before a test or special event such as making a speech. Any situation which will cause nervousness calls for a few "hook ups" to calm the mind and improve concentration. Diffuses stress; improves self-esteem; establishes a positive orientation; promotes clear listening and speaking; aids in ability to function calmly in test taking; improves typing and computer work; helps reading, writing and spelling.
    Sitting on a chair with legs outstretched, cross one ankle over the other, stretch your arms forward with the backs of your hands facing one another, thumbs down lift one hand over the other (now palms face one another) and interlock the fingers roll the locked hands straight down and in toward the body so they eventually come to rest on the chest rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth (the hard palette).
    (This position connects emotions to the limbic system with reason in the frontal lobes of the cerebrum thus giving integrative perspective from which to learn and respond more effectively.)
Another way of introducing Brain Gym into a classroom routine is through balances. A balance is a five-step learning process that models the lesson plan most often used by effective teachers. A short balance can be completed in just minutes; a longer balance may take an hour or more.
A balance involves:
 1. Getting ready to learn,
         2. Setting a goal or intention,
         3. Pre-activities which playfully identify aspects of the learning that need more focus for integration,
         4. A way to integrate the learning into physical movement (in this case, through the Brain Gym movements),
         5. Post-activities to identify the new learning.
The final, unnumbered step is to "celebrate the new learning." This is the step of play, exploration, innovation and implementation that is essential to creative learning, yet often omitted in the classroom, where learners are pressed to begin a new task before even acknowledging the skill with which the previous one has been accomplished.
There is a variety of Brain Gym movements which you can use to integrate learning through movement. The following are descriptions of how to put them into practice with indications as to the way in which they can influence your students’ learning.

Lazy-Eights (or Double Doodle)
Helps with: reading, speed reading, writing, hand/eye co-ordination.
Extend one arm in front of your face. With one thumb pointing upwards, slowly and smoothly trace the infinity sign (Ĩ) in the air. Keep you neck relaxed and your head upright, moving only slightly as you focus on the thumb and follow it around. This relaxes the muscles of the hand, arms and shoulders and helps visual tracking.

Thinking caps
Helps with: spelling, self awareness, short-term memory, listening ability, abstract thinking skills.
With your thumb and index finger, gently pull and unroll the outer part of the ear, starting from the top and slowly moving to the lobe. Pull the lobe gently. Repeat the whole exercise three times.

Calf pumps
Helps with: concentration, attention, comprehension, answering questions, imagination and the ability to finish tasks. This exercise removes the sense of being held back and not being able to join in. It stimulates the reptilian brain.
Stand, arms length away from a wall and place your hands (shoulder-width apart) against it. Extend your left leg straight out behind you so that the ball of your foot is on the floor and your heel is off the floor and your body is slanted at 45 degrees. Exhale, leaning forward against the wall while also bending your right heel and pressing your left heel against the floor. The more you bend the front knee, the more lengthening you will feel in the back of your left calf. Inhale and raise yourself back up while relaxing and raising the left heel. Do the movement three or more times, completing a breath with each cycle. Then alternate to the other leg and repeat.

The Elephant
This activity activates all areas of the mind/body system (highly recommended for children with ADD [attention deficit disorder]).
Place the left ear on the left shoulder extend the left arm like the trunk of an elephant with knees relaxed, draw the infinity sign (crossing up in the middle) in front of you switch arms after three to five signs.

Energy Yawn
A great stress reliever. Massage the muscle around the TMJ (temporal-mandibular joint) at the junction of the jaws.

Brain Gym seeks to balance the right and left halves or hemispheres of the brain. Much of the research related to the complementary functions of the brain's hemispheres has come from scientists studying the effects of severing the corpus callosum - the nerve bundle that connects the two hemispheres - in seizure patients. A by-product of this surgically "split brain" is that each half can easily be made to function independently of the other, revealing to researchers its strengths, weaknesses, and "specialties." Thus, in general:
The Right Hemisphere seems to specialise in
  # nonverbal communication: body language, touch, "sixth sense."
  # perceiving many bits of information as a meaningful whole, as in recognising a face or seeing "the big picture" in a forest of details.
  # recognising and responding to feelings and imagery.
  # artistic and other creative and expressive endeavours that use the imagination and emotions.
The Left Hemisphere seems to specialise in
  # words, names, concepts.
  # examining issues analytically and systematically. It organises information into logical steps and categories.
  # using logic to form conclusions.
  # linear thinking. It keeps track of time and the sequence of events.
Benefits
Brain GymŽ movements have been shown in clinical experience, in field studies and in published reports to prepare students with the physical skills they need in order to learn to read, write, and otherwise function effectively in the classroom. Through Brain Gym students will experience greater self esteem and can experience greater ease in:
* Focusing
* Listening
* Staying Positive
* Creativity
* Decision Making
* Problem Solving
* Communication
* Memorization and Recall
* Comprehension
* Coordination
Brain Gym is a series of exercises designed to help learners coordinate their
brains and their bodies better. This holisitc approach to learning also enables students to find an equilibrium between both sides of the brain and the body.When well-learned, it is a tool for life-lonmg learning.
Part 1
‘Children can learn almost anything if they are dancing, tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, and feeling information.’
Any goal must have the body and mind working together. That's what Brain Gym all about. Breakdown in performance is frequently a breakdown between the mind and body. Brain gym helps bridge that gap.
 This holistic approach has proved successful in education too, according to the study done by Cecilia Freeman and Joyce Sherwood on Brain Gym and its effects on reading scores.
This holistic approach has proved successful in education too, according to the study done by Cecilia Freeman and Joyce Sherwood on Brain Gym and its effects on reading scores.
The researchers worked with teachers and students at Saticoy Elementary School in Ventura, California, over the 1998-1999 school year. Twelve teachers of grades K, 2, 3, 4 and 5 took Brain Gym instruction once a week for an hour after school during the school year. In these sessions they learned how to determine which Brain Gym movements and activities were most appropriate for various academic situations, and how to guide the students in doing them.
 
The teachers then taught the children in their classes how to decide for themselves which Brain Gym movements they needed to implement at any given time. The children became quite skilled in the use of Brain Gym movements for self-help. Each class also did a minimum of 15 minutes of Brain Gym per day. Additionally Cecilia and Joyce gave classroom presentations and initially provided individual instruction for the children who were having most difficulties in school.
      Reading achievement in California is assessed on a standardized format called the Stanford 9 test. Cecilia and Joyce’s study compared the children's reading percentage scores from May 98 (the end of the previous school year), to those of May 99 (the end of the "Brain Gym" school year). They also compared the scores of students from control classes with the scores of students from "Brain Gym" classes. The results are a percentage score which shows the comparative standing of the child relative to others. It works this way: If a child scores 30%  this means they scored higher than 30% of the other children at their grade level (in schools across the country), and lower than the other 70%.
 The results of the study were impressive. During that year, the reading scores of the "Brain Gym group" had got better, rising from 55 to 89 percentage points, while the scores of the control group that received no Brain Gym support improved 0 to 16 points.
 However a more subtle and perhaps more important change noted by all the participants who included teachers, parents and school administrators, was the shift in self-esteem and attitude toward school that came along with the children's developing abilities. Cecilia comments that recently when she visited the school, almost a year after her last student contacts there she saw children here and there doing Brain Gym movements as a spontaneous and natural support for their learning process. She is confident that as children integrate Brain Gym throughout their days, they will take on the experience of personal wholeness and self-esteem that will support them throughout their lives. (Cecilia Freeman can be reached by e-mail at cecilia@jetlink.net. Her website is www.iamthechild.com)
Spatial awareness, a concept of wholeness and closure, the ability to focus attention and perceive an organization or a structure, are requisite learning skills, easily taught yet often not available to the children who need them. He discovered that these skills depend upon an innate understanding of our bodies and how they move in space. Children only repeat those movements which are comfortable or familiar
Brain Gym consists of simple movements similar to the movements that are natural in the first three years of life to accomplish important developmental steps for coordination of eyes, ears, hands and the whole body. The Brain Gym movements have been shown over years of clinical experience, in field studies, and in published research reports, to prepare recipients with the physical skills needed to improve reading, writing, and other goals. The ultimate goal of the use of Brain Gym itself is to create a fully functioning mind/body system, also called an "integrated" state.
 The Dennisons Brain Gym model is based on their knowledge of how the brain works. They describe brain functioning in terms of three  dimensions - laterality, focus, and centring:
- Laterality is the ability to coordinate one side of the brain with the other, especially in the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic midfield, the area where the two sides overlap. This skill is fundamental to the ability to read, write            and communicate. It is also essential for fluid whole-body  movement, and for the ability to move and think at the same time.
         
- Focus is the ability to coordinate the back and front areas of the brain. It is related to comprehension, the ability to find meaning, and to the ability to experience details within their context. People without this basic skill are said to have attention disorders and difficulty in comprehending. At a deeper level, focus allows us to interpret a particular moment or experience in the greater context of our lives or to see ourselves as unique individuals within the larger framework of           our society.
- Centring is the ability to coordinate the top and bottom areas of the brain. This skill is related to organization, grounding, feeling and expressing one's emotions, a sense of personal space, and responding rationally rather than reacting from emotional overlay.
The Brain Gym movements interconnect the brain in these dimensions, allowing you to learn easily through all the senses, to remember what you learn, and to participate more fully in the events of your life. You  are able to learn with less stress, and to express your creativity using more of your mental and physical potential. The movements also assist in clearing emotional stress that can effect you both mentally and physically. Reported benefits include improvements in such areas as vision, listening, learning, memory, self expression, and coordination in children and adults. Teachers
typically report improvements in attitude, attention, discipline, behaviour, and performance in tests and homework for all participants in the classroom
 Dr. Dennison’s initial interest lay in reading skills and in his work with dyslexia he discovered three areas that are all necessary to be a successful reader: crossing the visual midline, oral reading and reading comprehension. Dennison and his wife Gail report in “Brain GymŽ Teacher's Edition Revised” (1994), that the many skills of reading can be summarized within these three areas:
"Crossing the Visual Midfield, that is moving the eyes across the page without inhibiting the receptive brain. The development of visual skills for reading begins with the ability to move both eyes in tandem from left to right across the midline of the page and across the corresponding visual midfield. For reading, one eye must be dominant for focusing, the other eye for blending. Although both skills are available to each eye, stress in learning the tasks of focusing and blending for reading may cause visual disorientation.
- Oral Reading - Expressive reading with emotion and interpretation. The reader must discover that he or she is telling a story and communicating ideas through reading. One must have the concept of verbal code in order for true reading to be possible. In Western languages, the code includes an auditory as well as visual and motor component. All three of these must be used together for reconstruction of the code to take place.
- Reading Comprehension - Focused reading involving anticipation and internalisation of language. Reading is an active reconstruction by the reader of the author's message or code. There's nothing inherently meaningful about the code itself. The success of the communication depends upon the writer encoding something meaningful and the reader recoding it, making it his or her own. Thus, communication through the written word depends on the reader's active recreation of the work as he or she reads it."
In gathering this information, the Dennisons created and refined Brain GymŽ movements and activities that stimulate brain function in general. They found that the blocks which people experience in reading are due to an inability to move through the stress and uncertainty of a new task. It was through dealing with these reading blocks that they also discovered a way to deal with learning blocks in general.
They based the unblocking process on four concepts
- Physical movement to stimulate the brain. The 23 Brain Gym movements are designed to activate such functions as communication, comprehension, memory and organization.
- Avoidance of stress, which inhibits learning. Brain Gym movements encourage the learner to use the whole brain, thereby relaxing the fight or flight response in favour of keeping the memory and reasoning centres of the brain switched on.
    
- Activation of the whole mind-body system to release learning blocks through movement.
- Setting up a personal feedback loop. The learner takes responsibility and control of his own learning by noticing what works and what doesn't as a particular skill is being mastered. The learner can enhance observation through Brain Gym movements to improve performance, thus increasing self-esteem.
                    
            Paul Dennison summarises his basis for Brain Gym by saying, "Movement is the door to learning.”
Brad Robertson’s who is principal of Westvale Public School in Waterloo says that Sharon Robertson, an elementary school headmistress in Waterloo Region, uses Brain Gym exercises with her staff and students. Teachers in Sharon’s school are adapting Brain Gym activities into their daily routine. She firmly believes that movement through Brain Gym activities enables her students to access parts of the brain previously inaccessible to them. She has also found that the changes in learning are often immediate.
The teacher may start the day off by engaging her students in specific physical movements like cross crawls (crossing the arms to touch the knees), brain buttons (applying pressure on specific points near the neck to stimulate blood flow to the brain) and hook-ups (crossing the arms and legs in a way that automatically induces calm). Teachers who use these techniques often report that their classes are more manageable and ready to learn each day.
Brain Gym is different from many other learning support programmes in that it prepares learners to learn. It enhances, rather than replaces other programs or curricula. Until now schooling has been based on the premise that learning is a mental activity. The physical components of learning - the visual, auditory, fine motor, and postural skills - have been almost entirely ignored by educators. A student who has difficulty in the early grades rarely does better later unless the physical cause of the stress is somehow addressed. Moreover, since learning is measured by results rather than process, stressful compensations are often acquired and carried throughout a learner's life.
Despite all the good news, Normand Frenette, associate professor at OISE/UT, cautions that there is no magic science to teaching and learning. He says brain-based learning can be very seductive to teachers, who may rush to incorporate as many strategies as soon as possible. Frenette says long-term studies are needed to authenticate the value of the explosion of research on how the brain learns. Nevertheless, many teachers like the ones cited are responding to brain-based educational innovations in the way good teachers have always done – they’re reading, learning, experimenting and using whatever works well for them and their students in the classroom.
 
Brain GymŽ  (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article we talked about the background to Brain Gym and the success stories that it has made possible in sport and education. In this article we want to give you the references and tools to enable you to try out Brain Gym for yourself.
In her review of the literature on Brain Gym in a study done for Strathclyde University, Scotland, (http://www.xtec.es/~jmaguire/teachers.htm) Margaret Dunn states that Brain Gym consists of simple movements similar to the movements which in fact are natural in the first three years in life.  She says we can consider it a useful tool in a classroom situation because it does not require sophisticated pieces of equipment or large areas of space.
Dunn says that Levine (1987) affirms that writing is, still, an important method of learning and expressing knowledge in schools and that the motor act of writing involves a broad array of fine motor and visual-motor skills.  Furthermore, Arter et al. (1996, p26) state:

 “No child will be able to produce the fine motor movements for writing with  a pencil until he or she is able to control …….. larger movements.”
Likewise, Thomas (1997) noted that the Physical Education curriculum in France plays an important part in the teaching of handwriting and P.E teachers use physical activities which are closely linked to the teaching of handwriting.
Rosenbaum, (1998) also suggests that studies of the development of children with disorders of motor functions afford opportunities to understand the importance of motor function to overall child development
Ms. Dunn’s study concludes that normal classrooms depend on activities which utilise verbal or analytical intelligence but that when a child is allowed to use the body, it encourages the brain to make use of a variety of intelligences including rhythmical and visual-spatial intelligence. Further, long-term recall also seems to be enhanced by this kind of practice.
 
Dr. Dennison was the person who discovered the empowering effects of Brain Gym movements One of the basic references of his model is that of Laterality. This is the ability to coordinate one side of the brain with the other, especially in the visual, auditory and kinesthetic midfield, the area where the two sides overlap. The vertical midline of the body is the necessary reference for all bilateral skills and midfield coordination is fundamental to the ability to read, write and communicate. It is also essential for fluid whole-body movement and for the ability to move and think at the same time.
 To ensure coordination in this crucial midfield area Dennison developed The Midline Movements which help to integrate binocular vision, binaural hearing, and the left and right sides of the brain and body. Many learners beginning school are not developmentally prepared for the bilateral, two-dimensional skills of near-point work required in reading and writing, for example. Sometimes a student is coordinated for play or sports activities (which involve three-dimensional space and only demand binocular vision beyond arm's length), yet is not ready to use both eyes, ears, hands, and brain hemispheres for near-point work, such as reading, writing and other skills involving fine-motor coordination. Other students show coordination for academic skills or near-point activities, yet are not ready for whole-body coordination on the playing field. The Midline Movements enable learners to integrate fine-motor and large-motor skills.
Cross-motor activities have been used to activate the brain since our understanding of laterality began over a century ago. Noted authorities such as Orton, Doman, Delacato, Kephart, and Barsch have used similar movements successfully in their learning programs. Dr. Dennison drew from his knowledge of these programmes in developing the Midline Movements series. Some of them have also been adapted from behavioural optometry activities used to increase brain-body coordination. Others are borrowed from sports, dance, or exercise programs. Others are totally unique to Edu-Kinesiology and are the innovations of Dr. Paul Dennison.
 
Whole Brain Integration Edu-K, helps people of all ages to experience more integrated learning, body co-ordination, sports performance and daily living. The importance of movement across the midline of the body is the focus of Whole Brain used to quickly and easily correct homolaterality – the lack of left/right brain integration,. In order to read fluently and with comprehension; to write creatively; to spell and remember; to listen and think at the same time; or to perform at our athletic peak, we must be able to cross the midline which connects the left and right brain.
It's interesting to note that among the population identified as "learning disabled" we find that 80% or more fall into the homolateral category.  Living in a homolateral state leads to frustration and the need for extreme effort, often resulting in “acting-out" behaviours. Academic achievement is very difficult. Brain GymŽ movements help repattern both brain hemispheres to work simultaneously and cooperatively, creating the smooth neural functioning that leads to emotional ease - and academic effectiveness.
      A recent study (Dr. Robert Eyestone, 1990) found that more than 95 percent of individuals in groups labelled as "at risk" (teen mothers, juvenile detention, ADD/ADHD, in learning disabilities classes, drug rehabilitation, alcohol support groups) were operating in a homolateral state, as compared to eight to 13 percent in random groupings.
As we saw in the first part of this article dramatic changes in behaviour are seen when this homolateral state is addressed and an integrated neural state is achieved. Whole Brain Integration can help this group to join the laterally integrated population, which is able to learn with the whole brain more easily. Being integrated helps us to remain calm and alert, even in stressful situations (exams, job interviews, performances, etc.). When we are relaxed and calm we make better decisions, we feel better about ourselves, and those we interact with, and we are more productive.
If you feel that Brain Gym could enable your students and would like to experiment by building Brain Gym exercises into your own classroom practice Ruth Schmid has a practical proposal. She recommends you start with the Brain Gym Mini-Menu below. For best results she advocates doing  them twice each day in the order outlined below.)
Water. 
Drink a glass of water.  This increases energy, improves production, concentration and test taking ability.
Brain Buttons.
This exercise stimulates the blood flow through the carotid arteries to the brain to "switch on" the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading and writing. It also increases overall relaxation.
Make a 'C' shape with your thumb and index finger and place at either side of your breastbone, just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds while placing your other hand over your navel. Then change hands and repeat.
Cross Crawl.
This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension. It also improves left/right coordination.
While standing, alternatively touch your left knee with your right hand then the right knee with the left hand. Continue for 10 to 15 repetitions. (Variation 1 - touch opposite elbow to knee. Variation 2 - reach hand behind back to opposite foot.)
Hook-ups
This works well for nerves before a test or special event such as making a speech. Any situation which will cause nervousness calls for a few "hook ups" to calm the mind and improve concentration. Diffuses stress; improves self-esteem; establishes a positive orientation; promotes clear listening and speaking; aids in ability to function calmly in test taking; improves typing and computer work; helps reading, writing and spelling.
Sitting on a chair with legs outstretched, cross one ankle over the
other, stretch your arms forward with the backs of your hands facing one another, thumbs down lift one hand over the other (now palms face one another) and interlock the fingers roll the locked hands straight down and in toward the body so they eventually come to rest on the chest rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth (the hard palette).
(This position connects emotions to the limbic system with reason in the frontal lobes of the cerebrum thus giving integrative perspective from which to learn and respond more effectively.)
Another way of introducing Brain Gym into a classroom routine is through balances. A balance is a five-step learning process that models the lesson plan most often used by effective teachers. A short balance can be completed in just minutes; a longer balance may take an hour or more.
A balance involves:
1. Getting ready to learn,
2. Setting a goal or intention,
3. Pre-activities which playfully identify aspects of the learning that need more focus for integration,
4. A way to integrate the learning into physical movement (in this case, through the Brain Gym movements),
5. Post-activities to identify the new learning.
The final, unnumbered step is to "celebrate the new learning." This is the step of play, exploration, innovation and implementation that is essential to creative learning, yet often omitted in the classroom, where learners are pressed to begin a new task before even acknowledging the skill with which the previous one has been accomplished.
 
Physical movement stimulates brain function
Specific body movements stimulate particular aspects of brain function. An example is "Dennison Laterality Repatterning", which achieves neurological integration between the vestibular system, the gross motor movements of the cerebellum and the basal ganglia, as well as equal activation of the left and right hemispheres of the neocortex - particularly the sensory cortex of the parietal and motor cortex of the frontal lobes. The twenty-five Brain Gym movements are designed to activate different cognitive functions, including communication, comprehension and organisation.
Stress inhibits learning
Under stress, activity in the mind/body system is centered in the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares the body for a fight/flight (aggression/fear) reaction. As a result, activity in the limbic system, where memory occurs and in the neocortex of the cerebrum, where abstract thinking and reasoning take place, is minimised.
In addition, the learner who is stressed in a learning situation can go into a homolateral learning state, in which the dominant brain hemisphere takes over most of the mental processes. As a result, the learner no longer has full access to the functions of the non-dominant hemisphere. One-sided learning occurs, thus handicapping performance.
Learning blocks can be released by Brain Gym
Learning blocks can be general or specific to particular information, subjects or aspects of subjects. We are all learning-blocked to some extent, having 'switched off' maximum cognitive functioning for certain tasks.
The Brain Gym movements consciously activate the whole mind/body system, stimulating nervous system activity equally in all parts of the brain and lessening the fight/ flight reaction. When learning is easy and stress free, the learner regains his/her innate interest in learning and is again motivated to achieve learning goals.
Noticing is a personal feedback mechanism
All new learning depends on the ability to notice what works and what doesn't work in the mastery of the skill addressed. When the learner is able to become aware of various learning blocks and to take action through effective tools (Brain Gym) that improve performance, self-esteem is heightened. The tools gained through the Brain Gym process show the learner how to interact with and control his/her response to the learning environment.
Theory behind the Educational Kinesiology Process
How children learn to use the whole brain
Infants are in a natural state of learning. They are totally responsive to their immediate and care-giving surroundings, taking in tremendous amounts of information and transforming it into speech and action in a remarkably short period of time. If the infant is free to move, explore, see and make sounds, learning occurs to the extent that the child receives the love and feedback which reward its efforts. The infant's brain is in an open and receptive state. Through this whole-to-parts process, discriminations can be made, modified and internalised.
Movement is the child's first teacher. The child moves instinctively in response to the unspoken question: where am I in space? The answer to where is achieved through co-ordination of muscle proprioception and brain receptors in the inner ear. The child's eyes and hands open to the surrounding world. Where am I in relation to objects in my environment? Only through movement can the body store the spatial mapping information that will answer this question. What is it? The child asks. To know with ease, the what must build on the where. The visual, auditory and tactile senses must work together in concert with the kinesthetic intelligence. As these questions are answered through movement experiences, the child can free his or her intelligence to explore who am I?
How Brain Gym supports whole brain learning
Brain Gym movements are offered in four categories, each addressing a different function of the brain and a different one of these four developmental areas of awareness: Where am I? Where am I in relation to objects around me? What is it? Who am I? Brain Gym can help the learner to reactivate the innate visual, auditory and motor patterns that make learning easy and natural.
How children learn one-sided behaviours.
The child is uniquely designed to be either bilaterally integrated (two-sided) or homolaterally specialised (one-sided). Our two-sidedness for seeing, hearing or hand-eye co-ordination allows us to compensate with one side when the other side is lost or injured. If a child relies too much on one side alone, instead of two sides together, unnecessary and stressful demands are placed upon the whole system.
When learning is acquired under stress, the lateralised brain recalls only the one-sided aspects of that learning. When this situation is repeated and reinforced, the learning is anchored to stress and the "teachable moment" for integration is lost. Brain Gym movements re-establish the natural learning pattern and return automatic, integrated movement to a whole brain state.

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