Today we start a week-long intensive therapy program for Madison! I’m so excited to see how she handle’s it and if it makes a difference in her body awareness. One of Madison’s biggest struggles from her brain injury is her brain’s ability to recognize and move her own body. We all know the brain controls everything, but it literally controls everything. Imagine not being able to move your arms or legs? For Madison, something this simple takes a lot of work. Her brain has to realize, what her legs are, where they are, what they do, how to move them, and how to transfer all of that information from brain to body.
Madison is enrolled in the state’s Early Intervention program which is offered to families with children under the age of 3 who have developmental concerns. The services are designed to address a potential problem or delay as early as possible. We had a team come and assess her skill level and after we put together an IFSP or Individualized Family Service Plan. This plan puts together goals and describes the services needed and how to implement them. Services can vary from Occupational Therapy to Speech to Vision based on the child’s needs, and for us take place right at home! The great thing about Early Intervention is the cost, which is determined by household income, size, and on a sliding fee scale, making it cost efficient for most families; I’m talking anywhere from just a few dollars a session to maybe $30 a session. For a family with an income below 300% Federal Poverty Level, services are free of charge.
While I appreciate these services, and love Madison’s therapists, I felt we weren’t seeing enough of a change in her development and I decided to seek out additional forms of therapy. During my search I began reading about the Anat Baniel Method (ABM). In the past I had seen other parents mention this alternative program throughout the various online support groups I am a member of, but I hadn’t looked too much into it at the time. Then I met up with a friend who was planning to take her daughter, who has similar diagnoses to Madison, to an ABM practitioner in New York. When she said she saw some changes in her daughter post the session, I decided to further research it for myself.
Anat Baniel Method
According to the ABM website, “The Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement is a cutting-edge, scientific-based approach that transforms the lives of children and adults, helping them move beyond pain and limitation.” The brain’s job is to create billions of new connections and neurons and organize them into effective patterns of movement, emotion, thought, feeling, and action. ABM focuses on the plasticity of the brain and its ability to change through innovative movements using what it calls, “The Nine Essentials.”
The Nine Essentials
- Moment with Attention
- Flexible Goals
- The Learning Switch
- Imagination & Dreams
What I found interesting about the Anat Baniel Method, and why I thought it was worth a shot for Madison was the fact they do not focus on milestones, like traditional therapy does. Traditional OT might not be working for Madison because the underlying neural networks needed to successfully perform particular milestones, like rolling or sitting, are not yet formed due to her injury. Therefore, trying to get her to perform those skills, doesn’t make sense. And that made sense to me. According to ABM, “the brain needs to first reach a level of maturity that makes it possible for the child to do whatever skill she or he is ready to learn and to master.” I found this approach really interesting.
Repeatedly putting a toy in a child’s hand and trying to get he or she to hold it, might work for a typically developing child, but doing the same thing for Madison is likely not to work when her brain hasn’t made the connection to that part of the body. She can’t understand how to hold something if she doesn’t understand what her hand is and how to transmit information from the brain to it. In essence I’m hopeful ABM will help her become more self-aware, creating new neuron connections to her own body, and in turn making the traditional therapies she takes more effective. I’m hopeful that ABM will help awaken her brain with new information so that she figures out alternative solutions and skills that she might not have been able to figure out due to the damage to her brain. Now, could this all be a load of shit? Absolutely. But, we figured it was worth a shot. It couldn’t hurt, right?
I looked up local ABM practitioners from the website, and reached out to Marcy located in New York first, since she is also who my friend had seen with her daughter. I learned that Marcy has been doing the work for quite some time, learning from Anat herself, and also teaching with Anat currently to future practitioners. She’s super knowledgeable in the technique and we’re lucky to have someone so involved so close to us. Madison had her first session with Marcy in early August and she seemed to really enjoy it! It can be tough to get Madison to wake up or participate in her typical therapy sessions, but for some reason she seemed to really respond to Marcy. She was awake, smiling, her eyes just looked like she was really feeling herself and taking it all in. John and I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t know what to expect, and it was a nice surprise to see our daughter really enjoy this new technique. The method uses very slow, simple, and gentle movements to shift the focus on connecting rather than “fixing.”
Following our session with Marcy, we also scheduled one with a New Jersey practitioner named Amy. It’s definitely more convenient for us to travel within Jersey and Marcy even recommended us meeting with someone else so that we could see who the best fit for Madison would be. It’s also great to work with various therapists because they all have their own style and strengths. During Madison’s session with Amy she seemed to come alive yet again. To us, this meant it was no fluke; Madison was responding to the ABM technique in a way she didn’t typically respond to traditional OT or PT.
While treatment varies by child, underlying issue, and developmental needs, ABM typically recommends that children begin by having an “Intensive”, which involves 2 lessons a day over a 5-day period, and then continuing with ongoing lessons once or twice a week. Another “Intensive” would then follow after about a month or so of ongoing lessons. So that’s what we’re about to embark on with Madison! Our first Intensive! We actually had it scheduled for the end of August, but with Madison landing herself in the hospital, we had to cancel. What’s even more exciting is the fact that Madison’s seizures seem to be at a better place currently, which should in turn allow her to respond to the method even more. We’re splitting the Intensive sessions up between both Marcy and Amy, so that Madison gets a well-rounded experience. Amy is actually one of Marcy’s students, so the two work really well together! It’s going to be a busy week, but I can’t wait to see how Madison responds. Will she be tired? Probably. Will I be tired? Definitely. But anything is worth a shot! Wish us luck!
PS- If you’re interested in learning more about the Anat Baniel Method, there is a book called Kids Beyond Limits (available here), that I highly recommend. It’s written by Anat and discusses all of the nine essentials, as well as cases of success. You can also search the method on YouTube.