How to use this Course
Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash
This program is designed for children with various diagnoses, especially in the realm of movement delays and sensory issues.
If in doubt, please ask your doctor first. NEVER do anything your doctor advised against.
If your child is diagnosed with medium to severe hypotonia without spasticity, autism without movement issues, or if you have doubts about whether your child might profit from this course, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].
Before you start...
... take a video. Do not aim for anything special, just put the camera or mobile phone up and shoot some everyday actions. How does your child move and behave without your prompting, or trying to achieve?
This will help you remember where you started. You will be surprised to watch it later on - some changes (like growing) are so small we rarely notice one day at a time.
How to use the program
Each week corresponds to a chapter or topic. Please read the overview and background information for the week.
Watch the video of the day, and read the explanation/summary first. Then try yourself and work at your own pace. The summary will help you remember, but feel free to do only parts of it, or linger where your child is showing the most interest. This will help you adapt to the needs of your child and find an individual approach. If you feel insecure, following the video will help you remember what to do step by step.
All you will need to join is some time, simple household items like pillows and blankets, and one vibrational toy.
There are some important things to remember... please read carefully.
You know your child best
I know what experiences help us learn, but I don't know your child. You might have to adapt some exercises to your personal situation. There is only one rule: Safety first! If your child has a tracheostomy tube, you will be careful with some movements. With a shunt, you shouldn't do reverse postures for too long. Your child might dislike or fear some specitic sensations. But you already know that... you are more than a therapist. You are a parent or caregiver that has known and loved your child for a long time.
Perhaps your child is too heavy or too small to easily implement some suggestions. In such situations, try to perform the movements in a different position - sitting or lying on the side. Examples of this can be found throughout the course. Do only what you feel comfortable with. Very often, calm breathing is much more beneficial for your child than discipline or effort.
As a parent or caregiver, you have huge advantages over conventional therapies: many sensory experiences are intensified, for example, on bare skin or in water. Trust, fun, and a relaxed atmosphere will provide for the perfect learning experience - they stimulate the neurotransmitters for the growth of synapses in the child`s brain.
Just sit in the bathtub with your child. Do you want to do a very relaxing perception exercise? Postpone it to the evening when the child is already tired, and incorporate this part of the program into their bedtime ritual, instead of fitting a stressful therapy session into your schedule. You would like to try moving in water? Great idea. Finding the appropriate context will make practicing easier for you - and provide the child with a profound experience. If you or your child come up with better ideas - you know best!
What if I cannot do it?
The program is primarily based on movement experiences. The lessons don't have to be perfect or precisely executed! It`s more important that you and your child feel comfortable with them. The experience is more valuable than the result. Touching a knee can be as profound an experience as reaching your foot if it happens for the first time, and the movements of the spine in both cases are basically the same.
If movements or experiences are associated with joy and pleasant feelings, odds are that children will try to repeat them on their own. "Normal" for a child is not getting something perfect - it is playing. And exactly this state of playing - or the state of "Flow" - is considered one of the best conditions for the growth of synapses - the development of our brain. The more play and laughter you are able to incorporate into the program, the better it will work.
Do I have to follow the program and do a new lesson each day?
No. You could certainly spend more time with it if you want, if you feel that some parts are very beneficial (or funny) for your child, or if you feel overwhelmed by the information. But please don`t try to get it perfect - variations are more important than repetition. You can come back to that lesson any time later.
Or you could repeat the whole week.
Do I have to do the lessons only once?
This course is structured to provide you with lots of new ideas, in a short time period, every day. This should make it very easy for you to follow through. The first time you do these lessons, they will stimulate your child, but also improve your handling skills and understanding.
Not every lesson will be a perfect fit for your child. Some will be brilliant. I suggest following the program once, adapting where it is necessary. After one month you will see general improvements in your child, possibly without knowing what caused them. You will also know what worked for you, and what was most beneficial for your child.
Some of these lessons are part of normal child development - like touching oneself or rocking. Children repeat these movements several hours per day over a period of months. One lesson is definitely not enough to provide your child with all these experiences, even if we target them in a very precise and specific manner. But tiny parts of them - like helping the child to interlace the hands - can be done anywhere, anytime, even if it is just a minute waiting for the bus.
After finishing this course, you will be able to decide what to repeat, and where to go.
Can I do too much?
All of these lessons can be done in a way that is pleasurable for the child. Nothing should hurt, so please take tears and pain seriously! "Too much" in this respect might mean something like too hard, too scary, or too fast. (Don`t worry, I rarely see parents making this mistake ;) )
We basically want a happy brain - that is when learning works best. You can always stop or go back to another lesson. Then again, I know children. They might be cranky, or not in the mood. They might resent anything new. You can go on working with a not perfectly happy child. But real distress or pain will teach a child to prevent or avoid certain actions - this is not what we want the child to learn.
In very few lessons I state explicitly to let your child rest. This usually concerns very small muscles - like the eyes or breathing. Apart from that, rest whenever you feel your child might benefit from it - in regular Feldenkrais lessons we rest about every three minutes. These breaks will make the work more, not less effective.
Other lessons - like touching yourself - are mimicking self-stimulating behaviors of small children, you basically cannot do them enough. The child will show you whenever it has had enough.
You are building up a knowledge base here. I suggest you take a fixed timespan every day for new lessons. The fun parts, play, little in-between movements you can do whenever they fit in. Children cannot have too much fun!
Is it a problem if I cannot practice every day?
No. This course is about learning experiences, they can basically happen throughout our whole life.
However, I personally find it easier to stick to a program if I commit myself to it. Working daily allows me to see results fast enough to keep me going, even if the going get`s a bit rough.
If you would prefer to pick another timetable - for instance doing it every Wednesday when you work as a caretaker with a child - it will work just as well. It will just take longer.
My child is already able to do that
If your child is already able to reach for an object, grasp a spoon, or hold a pen - does it make sense to practice movements of the hand, or find out "how long an arm is"? The answer is a definite yes. You can never know too well how to use your body. Many of these lessons I also offer for athletes and healthy young grown-ups - and they benefit as well. (Some of the athletes I was working with were at the top of their fields in Nationals, one came second in World Championships. We did the same small, simple movements).
The crucial difference between doing a task just well enough to cope or doing it joyfully and with ease can be found in seemingly very simple, inconspicuous movements. In this case, success does not show up immediately - but it could make the difference whether your child can later take notes quickly and easily at school without stiff fingers or getting painful tension in the hand. Or whether it can walk with arms that are relaxed and swinging with ease.
An action is only superfluous if we are bored with it - then there is nothing new for us to learn. And all humans love to learn!
What if I have to skip lessons?
This will happen, life never goes according to plans. In most weeks, you have one rest day per week. You can use it as needed.
If you had a very busy day, or you or your child are not feeling well, give yourself a break - just continue with the program where you left of on the next day as if nothing had happened.
If that happens several times in one week, you might think about repeating lessons you have done previously for the rest of this week (either the easiest ones that were most fun, or the ones that were challenging, and you would like to improve). Then start over at the beginning of the interrupted chapter whenever you are ready. Otherwise, skipping might become a habit - it does with me. :)
If you or your child are ill, rest.