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FeldenkraisĀ® and the Anat Baniel Method(sm) for Children with Special Needs

art11_AnatBaniel_imageFor a parent finding out that your child has special needs can be fraught worry, fear and lots of questions as to what type of intervention is most likely to be helpful. This was certainly the case for the parents of Elizabeth.

Children with Special Needs

As an infant Elizabeth did not move at all- not even her eyes. Because of this it was believed that she must be blind. A pediatric neurologist at the University of Chicago said she was globally brain damaged. Physical and occupational therapists said, "there is nobody home inside this child". Unwilling to accept Elizabeth's dismal prognosis her parents found Moshe Feldenkrais.

Feldenkrais® & the Anat Baniel Method(sm)

Neurotypical children develop by way of the fact that random movement periodically produces some desirable outcome that reinforces that movement, so in effect movement helps the brain to development. For the special needs child with limited or absent voluntary movement this does not happen. What Moshe Feldenkrais did with Elizabeth, and what practitioners of the method do today is to use gentle hands on work, as well as movement and language if possible and appropriate, to help children fill in gaps created by their conditions. By the time Moshe died, when Elizabeth was three, her body and brain were into the process of awakening. He had promised her parents that she would dance at her wedding.

Fortunately before he died, Feldenkrais entrusted Elizabeth's care to his young student Anat Baniel. As Baniel continued to work with Elizabeth the child continued to improve. By age seven Elizabeth walked independently. Of course this is far later than neurotypical children, but extraordinary for a child who was not ever supposed to sit up on her own or feed herself, let alone walk.

Rather than do the best to simulate "age-appropriate" behaviors even if the path to that is painful or frustrating for the child, Feldenkrais and ABM practitioners start where the child is regardless of age. We look to help the child organize the components of the desired action before having the child actually do that action.

Elizabeth now in her thirties is totally independent, has two master's degrees and runs a business. She plays sports and she danced before her wedding. Anat Baniel evolved Moshe Feldenkrais' work into the Anat Baniel Method(sm).

You can watch Anat Baniel work with Elizabeth as a young adult and hear the work described at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNVw4ZISLMs&feature=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh+div-1r-7-HM

This way of working is helpful for children with a wide variety of special needs including cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, and autism spectrum disorders.

More information is available at www.feldenkrais.com click on children, and www.anatbanielmethod.com click on help children.

Marsha Novak PT, Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, Anat Baniel Method (sm) for Children certified. Marsha practices at Moving Well.