Learning New Skills
When we were children, the world was our oyster. We were always learning new things and developing new skills to help us survive in the world that we were born into.
But not all children learn in the same way. Some children are wired differently – what some take for granted as the norm can be totally confusing for others. Children are resourceful and some can adapt by using their own coping mechanisms. However, a large number struggle until they are given tools to decode life in a way that makes sense to them.
Labels and Learning Difficulties
Labels can be useful to help us understand certain conditions. Problems arise when the boundaries associated with the labels become set in stone and we are not able to see beyond them.
Autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and cerebral palsy are examples of labels used to describe conditions that can cause learning difficulties.
There has been ample research to show that our brains are plastic and can learn, change and adapt however a condition may have been labelled. This will be the topic of another blog and is the real cornerstone of the Feldenkrais Method®.
A Girl Born Without Part of her Brain
Take the case of Elizabeth, who was diagnosed at the age of 6 months as missing a third of her cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls the central nervous system. The doctors gave her a grim prognosis of never being able to speak or move, let alone feed herself. They told her parents that she would be completely dependent on them for the rest of her life.
Incredibly, she is now in her thirties, married and has two University degrees. You can watch a video made when she was 21 – it documents her inspiring journey of self empowerment through using the Feldenkrais Method®.
My own personal story
I wasn’t diagnosed with learning difficulties as a child. I was very good at certain subjects but others were more elusive.
Decoding language was not my forte. Even now, I get overwhelmed in a room full of people when the conversation is going too fast for my brain to cope with. Certain activities requiring co-ordination such as sports would leave me feeling totally inadequate and stupid. However, I could play the piano rather well. In fact, music became my saving grace.
Movement, Perception and Attention
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos in my late thirties that I began to put pieces of the puzzle together. And, when I started my Feldenkrais® training in my mid forties, everything slotted into place.
Although I hadn’t been diagnosed as being dyspraxic, I now realise that I have elements of that ‘label’. Children with dyspraxia not only have to face challenges with learning, but they also often have difficulties with movement, perception and attention that can muddle their co-ordination and development.
With my EDS and hypermobility came a lack of sensory awareness and an impaired ability to perceive myself in space. This impacted on how I related to the outside world. My nervous system was working in overdrive to keep me ‘safe’ – hence the fatigue that constantly plagued me through my life.
Feldenkrais® and Using Movement to Teach the Brain
Learning is inextricably intertwined with movement. This is particularly evident as we watch babies and young children progress through their early developmental stages. For children with learning difficulties, some of these developmental movement patterns may have been missing as they were growing up.
The Feldenkrais Method® uses movement to switch on the learning process by awakening the brain’s fundamental ability to learn, modify and refine function. You can read about the definition of movement in my previous blog Healing through Movement.
People I have worked with
I work with many young adults diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and hypermobility. As I work in the music profession I see a lot of musicians. These highly talented young artists sometimes struggle to keep up with the pace required at music institutions and in the music industry.
They often develop anxiety and confidence issues, suffer from stress and quite often are in physical discomfort or pain. Their whole emotional and physical well-being may be compromised.
Often, these people highlight to me the issues they are struggling with, and have a list of things they would like to improve. Whilst I respect the diagnosis that they have been given, I focus on the individual rather than the problem.
Opening the Door to Freedom
Through my hands, I use their body to teach their brain. As their kinaesthetic sense becomes more acute, more neural pathways are often opened. This can be likened to the opening of doors, allowing for more freedom in movement and thinking.
Labels and diagnoses are important but I try not be bound by them. This way of working often leads to more confidence and personal growth for the person.
The Feldenkrais Method® helps people to gain more awareness of themselves and their condition. They develop new skills which transcend the boundaries and labels they have been given.
“What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains.” – Dr Moshe Feldenkrais
To find out how the Feldenkrais Method® can help you, click here.
For weekly classes in South East London, click here.
For individual lessons in Essex and South East London, click here.
And for monthly workshops in Essex, click here.