This weekend Charlie had a visit from Bill.
Bill is an Anat Baniel Method (ABM) practitioner, ABM is a non-medical process of learning through gentle movement. It is a VERY child lead therapy designed to help ‘the child become a better learner’- although it is 30 years old it is now becoming increasingly supported by neuro-plastic science. Please see Anat Baniel Method link for more info.
ABM looks to ‘meet the child where they are and move them forward from there’. It is not typical in its approach- it is not a session rather than a lesson; Bill is a teacher rather than a therapist and Charlie is a student rather than a patient. This might appear to semantics and splitting hairs but actually these core values epitomise the therapy.
Within moments Charlie was helping Bill set up his therapy table and routing around in his bag to see what he could find. Bill quietly and responsively attended to Charlie- therapy had started but Charlie was completely unaware…
Bill spent time gently and subtly moving Charlie, a squeeze here, a lift there. Quietly and reactively, Bill encouraged Charlie to lead the session- there appeared to be no structure, just Bill adjusting, holding and teasing Charlie’s body into different positions- giving his body more options of movement by him becoming more aware of himself.
Due to Charlie’s brain damage, his high muscle tone means many of his muscles are constantly activated- never in a state of relax. ABM helps teach the brain that contracted muscles are active muscles- the idea is to try make the brain aware that there is another, easier state to be in. The body always looks to maintain efficient, effective work- simply it will do the least amount possible to provide the biggest response. If the brain doesn’t know it can relax certain muscles it simply wont- ABM uses movement feedback to help position the body in such a way that it re-organises itself.
Simple, subtle movements allowed Bill to have Charlie sat more comfortably, climb more effectively and giggle uncontrollably! One of the nicest things for Lou and myself was that Charlie seemed to enjoy the session- there was no big bottom lip, whining and importantly no arching his back. In fact, the longer the session went on he even appeared to be more lucid!
ABM is process orientated- it is simply designed to provide an opportunity for the BRAIN to learn. It is not goal orientated, it is not aimed with outcomes in mind- the aim is not to get Charlie walking- it is to help learn the movements and feelings required to spontaneously do it himself. Many of the terms used are much more holistic than in the hospital setting- Bill mentioned on a number of occasions that the idea is to ‘enter the conversation at Charlie’s level’, ‘to create a learning brain’ and to ‘improve the trajectory of development’ – this might seem disconcerting to many of us parents that have been enveloped by the very empirical doctrine of western, medical science but don’t let it be- ABM seems great!
Due to the neuro-plastic nature of ABM the sessions are best structured in clusters- Bill came on Saturday and did a 35-45min session then packed up and left for 90mins before coming back and doing another 35-45min session. He repeated this process on the Sunday. It might not sound long but by the end of each session Charlie was visibly tired. It is suggested to use this type of structure every couple of weeks for about 3 months- this allow the gains made in a session to be consolidated.
Word of warning– the nature of a BRAIN related therapy means that as the brain attempts change it can mean that other skills or behaviours can temporarily deteriorate. The brain only has a certain amount of available attention and learning and consolidation will take an increasing amount. We found that in the afternoon of both days Charlie was particularly boisterous- quite poorly behaved and even had a few ‘accidents’ (Charlie has done extremely well to potty train, in spite of his CP and hadn’t had an accident in months). This is quite normal and temporary! In fact it very much fits in with a stage of neuro-plastic change- neuro-modulation (described at a later date) suggesting this therapy really does effect the brains learning ability.
We have noticed quite immediately that Charlie’s tone on his legs has reduced, my parents have noticed Charlie comfortably and spontaneously in positions that appear new. He also appears less tired (d’oh!) wanting to get about much more. This seems reasonable- if Charlie’s tone has reduced he will require less energy and effort to move!
Thanks Bill- needless to say, we are looking to book some more sessions!!
The Anat Baniel book Kids Beyond Limits is available to buy and I would highly recommended it (along with a number of others of the Resource Page). I would very much suggest that someone considering a therapy like this reads the book first- it really does help to understand the principles before attempting the therapy. This therapy is not just for those with CP- its principles can we broadly focused to all sorts of movement related brain issues.
As this was a private therapy it was not available on the NHS. This was funded by Charlie’s Challenge– so thank you very much!
If anyone would like more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.