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Rehabilitation Conference Extract

The following are extracts taken from a presentation given by Katherine O’Neil, ABM for Children Practitioner, to the "Advancements In Rehabilitation" conference, Philadelphia, PA in May 2010

 

“If any one part of our body could be described as the most important it would have to be the brain.  More or less all of the body depends on the brain to control operations.  Whether it is Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury or any number of other neurological disorders, for children with special needs, an improvement in brain function can have dramatic effects on their ability to move, think, and relate to the world around them.

In my work with children my focus is on the brain.  More specifically I focus on helping the brain to form new neural patterns and pathways.  This ability of the brain to rewire itself is called brain plasticity and I strongly believe it is the future of rehabilitation therapy in the 21st century.

The technique that I use is the Anat Baniel Method.  It is based on movement and how movement organizes the brain and improves brain function.  It has helped thousands of children exceed their limitations and reach levels that were thought to be beyond them.

I believe this work will change the face of rehabilitation therapy in the future as it addresses the brain and current findings in the field of neuroscience.”

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“In the past – from the early 19th century until as recently as the 1980’s, the brain was believed to be a map in which a specific part of the body was related to a specific part of the brain.  Language here, motor there, emotions there, etc.

If you lost one part of your brain, it was thought to be gone for good and that function was over.  This localization theory as it was called, was taken as fact until it began to be challenged by scientists in the last few decades.

Through theoretical and practical experimentation it was found that different areas of the brain, under the right conditions, can take over the work of other areas and literally change the map.  This is the basis of brain plasticity.”

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“Today, neuroscientists, such as Michael Merzenich and writers such as Dr. Norman Doidge are seeking out the work of Anat Baniel in California.

She is world renowned for her success working with children and infants with developmental and neurological difficulties and has helped them achieve goals well beyond their prognosis.

She is one of the leading experts in the field of movement and the brain and more specifically, the Anat Baniel Method for Children has risen to the top of the field in its direct application of neuroplasticity.”

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“Brain plasticity is at the heart of my work.  In this work we seek to create conditions for the brain to become plastic and create new neural connections, patterns, and pathways.  This then leads to new possibilities for movement, thought and feeling.

Many diseases, disorders and injuries interrupt the normal process of pattern formation in the brain and disrupt communication that needs to take place between the child’s body, the world around it, and the child’s brain.   Whether it is a traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy or any number of brain disorders, movement therapy has the potential to change their lives.

Well organized movement originates in the brain and the brain controls movement.  If we are going to improve movement, or indeed any function, changes must occur in the brain. The potential for reorganization is powerful because the brain is structured to organize action.  It is structured to create order out of disorder.

Under the right learning conditions, the brain is capable of forming 1.8 million new connections per second.  We must get the brain into a learning state to improve its ability to perceive differences so it can differentiate and grow.

ABM facilitates for the child new ways to move with the minimum effort and difficulty.  With the formation of new patterns of movement, the child’s brain is upgraded into that learning state and begins the process of differentiation - which is the basis of intelligence.”

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“The better we perceive differences in one area, the better we perceive them in other areas.  This is the basis of intelligence and it is why mental function and the ability to relate to the world improve when movement improves.

In some traditional therapies, there is great emphasis on trying to get the child to do what it is supposed to be doing based on his or her age, but with ABM a very different approach is taken.

This method does not try to fix the problem by focusing on the child’s limitations or missed physical milestones.

When a child cannot do something, I look for the brain to become more skillful because that is where the solutions lie.

Repeatedly having a brain injured child go through the same motions of crawling, or putting a child in a sitting position before he can get himself there, or standing a child up before he has learned all of the components is presenting disorder to the brain which it cannot usually resolve.

When you have a baby that cannot roll from its back to its belly or sit or stand … due to a stroke or cp or any unnamed cause, it is because THAT brain doesn’t know what it takes to do it.

And in order to do it, there need to be a lot of changes happening in the brain so that the patterns, pathways and connections necessary to perform the movement can be formed.”

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“As a practitioner, I do not focus on the child’s limitations and try to directly fix the presenting problem on the level of the muscle, bone, joints, and soft tissue.  My focus is shifted to where the solutions actually lie –within the brain.”

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“The child’s brain takes the information and makes the changes.  Sometimes the changes are seen immediately, but often the most profound changes occur in the time between the lessons as the brain and nervous system integrate what it has learned.

What I hear most from parents is that there are so many changes it is hard to list them.  There always seems to be more outcomes than what is expected.  Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes they are subtle, but they are all significant and can make a huge difference in the life of the brain injured child. “

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“As physical abilities improve or change for children with special needs, so does the ability to process information, form intention and take action.  The world begins to make more sense, the brain functions better and the child is able to more fully experience life.

I am very excited about this work and its place in the field of neuroscience and rehabilitation therapy.

The Anat Baniel Method for Children is groundbreaking and effective in addressing the whole system of the child to take them beyond their current limitations regardless of the diagnosis.

By connecting the brain to development and the learning process, through movement, brain function improves due to its plasticity.

Dr. Michael Merzenich, a leading neuroscientist and researcher and developer of the Brain Fitness Program from Posit Science spoke to the most recent graduating class at the ABM Center in San Rafael, CA.

He stated that the work we are doing with movement is exactly in the right direction – the strategies we are applying is bringing a relatively powerful form of recovery of function when function hasn’t developed in a normal way.

When we are able to harness neuroplasticity and get the brain to work better, fantastic things happen.  Children learn to do things that may have been thought impossible because of brain injuries or other challenges.”

Copyright 2010, Katherine O’Neil, Evergreen Integration.  This work may not be reproduced without the author’s permission.

Kathy may be reached at kath@evergreenintegration.com.  Her website is www.evergreenintegration.com


 

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