People have asked me Why do Anat Baniel Method (ABM) if you are already doing Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI)? or vice versa. Each makes a contribution, but for me, nothing gives children with special needs the joy of learning that ABM does. Sometimes, turning on learning is such a challenge that it absolutely has to feel that good to be worth it. I know that helping a child experience that joy is what makes me feel my work is worthwhile.
Can you tell I feel strongly about ABM? It’s my primary focus and the foundation of my work with special needs children. Read on and you will see why I also incorporate and recommend MNRI when I feel it can help.
We are very fortunate to live in a time when there are many options for treatments, schools, and helping professionals for children with special needs. Just 60 years ago there were not, and disabled children were kept at home and not included in society. Recommendations and referrals come from many sources and parents of children with special needs have the responsibility to choose who will help their child. There is no one professional who parents can rely on to tell them “THIS is the solution”.
Parents not only have to choose WHAT experience to bring to their child but also WHO will be helping. Professional classifications and certifications are designated to help consumers know how to find specialists and to give some idea about the knowledge and service that person has to offer. No matter what field, there is always a range of experience and specialty to select from and a variety of personalities, people skills, and ways of presenting. Making these decisions is part of the challenge of being a parent of a special needs child. Each helping professional chooses the area they wish to specialize in and offer to others.
I chose learning as the solution out of limitation for my son and it began my journey into the world of movement, learning and brain plasticity. I have always needed variety, creativity, and challenge in my work. At 16 years old I lasted all of 2 days in a library clerk job filing books. What was I thinking to take that job? Well, I love books and didn’t realize that FILING books is far different from READING books. Live and learn. With ABM every lesson with every child is a new puzzle to see what I can offer. No two are ever the same so I am constantly creating solutions. It’s the perfect job for me.
After so many years learning and working with Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel Methods (I can’t believe it’s been 20 years) I became intrigued with the outcomes Dr. Svetlana Masgutova was getting by working with the brain and reflexes and wanted to discover if there was something I could learn from her.
Feldenkrais, ABM, MNRI, Brain Gym, Brain Fitness software have in common the focus on the brain body connection and learning using the plasticity of the brain to help people improve how they feel, act and function. What we previously have learned usually influences our understanding of new information. My understanding of Dr. Masgutova’s work is with that previous ABM context. Other students of her work have often come from other arenas or with less ABM experience so my interpretation and application is somewhat unique.
I learned in the classroom workshops that Dr. Masgutova teaches around the United States how powerful and simple accessing that primitive reflexive part of the lower brain could be. Doing something with intent has a huge impact and what I learned was to have the intent to shift a reflexive pattern by targeting it directly to allow learning to occur. Dr. Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel use the understanding and knowledge of reflexes extensively. Reflexes are not usually focused on in isolation but are built in to the journey toward voluntary organized action. I have found that in some situations that intent and focus on a specific reflex/specific area of the brain can enhance how I can be helpful.
The workshops are a combination of lecture and experiential learning and I actively practiced the “exercises” with my clients and family to see how effective they could be and how I could incorporate them in to what I know and do. During this exploratory time my father had a powerful experience of being able to regain his sense of stability after falling when I applied the work to quiet his foot reflex (babinski) which had been triggered to protect him in the fall. My son reported strong feelings of change in his brain during the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex exercises. I myself had a very powerful reaction to a hip leveling reflex during a workshop when I was still needed to guard my movement after abdominal surgery. Each of these experiences showed me that Masgutova has indeed developed a way to directly access how the brain is organizing itself and it can be powerful.
Masgutova is quite specific in instructing parents and professionals how to do these exercises. She has eliminated the evaluation process for families and any need to adapt what is done by providing the evaluations and changes in program in visits to her team every 4 to 6 months. The home programs give parents a way to contribute to their child’s development and there are a lot of children benefiting.
As I gained familiarity with MNRI I could see that though Masgutova and Feldenkrais have many of the same sources of information their focus diverged with Feldenkrais’ core of learning in gravity and the importance of bones, and Masgutova’s core of pre-gravitational (in utero) reflexes and reflexive protective mechanisms. I find the two perspectives give me more tools to be helpful, especially with children with special needs who are often still so influenced by reflexes that their learning is hugely inhibited.
I am very glad that I experienced Feldenkrais/ABM first and was able to add the reflex knowledge to my understanding of how the human system works. I would like all children to have the experience of the joyfulness of learning and discovering that ABM brings.
I heard a story about an early Masgutova camp in California. 50% of the children were learning quite a bit faster than the other half. When they looked for the common factor it was discovered those were the children who had been receiving ABM lessons before beginning the reflex work. If ABM is the first experience for a child with difficulty learning every other kind of experience will be enhanced.
I recently heard that the words “teaching” and “learning” had negative connotations for people because most have had the experience of feeling bad about their ability to learn. What a shame. I almost can’t comprehend it. I would caution parents to be aware of what their child is experiencing and try to help them have the joyfulness and curiosity of exploring the world that is possible for everyone. It’s a gift you give them that will last their whole life. Choosing WHAT and WHO is helping your child can make all the difference.
NOTE: Portions of this article appear in on the website CP Daily Living. I highly recommend this amazing website as a huge source of information.
Here is a direct link to my contribution about MNRI on CP Dailly LIving
For more about MNRI also see Dr. Masgutova’s comprehensive site Masgutovamethod.com