Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Integration with Floortime and Whole Brain Learning Modalities.

I have been collecting whole brain learning activities and want to share what I am learning. So much is unknown still about how are brains learn. We are able to see through MRI and imaging so much more everyday but often we do not really know what we are looking at in those images. We know the brain continues to grow and change through out our whole lives and we have made great strides into meta cognitive studies. We are beginning to understanding parts of the story of how are brains learn and retains information. We can follow ideas of learning like Bloom's Taxonomy on observiation of cognition, but still the lines from hearing ideas and to learning to synthesizes and create original ideas is blurry in terms of how the brain is dong this. Not everyone can go from step to step of any method with ease and success.  Enter the sensitive children who abound in our schools, the ones who can't follow the class and get loss along the path of learning. My son is this learner. He struggles to comprehend and understand. It is a constant bombardment for him of sensory overload and intrusive thoughts and in all of that static in his brain he still has a love of learning. Along the way I have heard and seen some methods and tools that I think help him. Here are a few of our methods.

Floortime Strategies to Promote Development in Children and Teens- A User's Guide to the DIR Model
By Andrea Davis, Lahela Isaacson, Michelle Harwell 
This book gives a very simplified version of the principles of floor time. Reads like a conference power points. Big ideas with short to the point definitions.  Turns out I have been intuitively doing floor time with all my kids and did not know it. Basically as the leader, or therapist, or parent and in many cases all the above you get down on the floor with the child, and no real objective other than creating a relationship with that child meeting them right hear and now on their level and being present. Later after a relationship of trust is developed you can use other aspects of this therapy's techniques to teach and work with the child.  You must learn the language of that child's play. Behavior is communication. So get down there and play with your kid, use their natural interest, don't shove an agenda on them (they will know it) or a pre planned structure (this is about making a relationship not making a child do what you say) of what you want them to play at or with. Unlike the more popular treatment therapy Applied Behavior Analysis, Floortime operates in the space of respect for the child and seeing them as doing their behaviors for a reason not just an odd annoyance that must be stopped. You don't ignore negative behavior as is required in ABA with Floortime. You looks at why the child is doing what they are doing. You connect and observe and work with the child through creating a direct relationship. No treats or rewards and punitive damage is needed to implement the Floortime strategies. You follow the child in a way that honors that little person as an equal and whole person as they are. This philosophy is so much more honest to me than tricking a child into obedient by conditioning (modifying their behavior) them to do as they are told by using intrinsic rewards and punishment.  With Floortime's DIR tools of connecting and attunement to what they are doing and  how they play you create a relationship with the child.  If they hum and rock you do too. Acknowledge feelings, meet their needs, follow, adapt to their pace, wait, listen observe. There is a lot more to it but it is a basic organic process of intuitively meeting the kids where they are and observing their needs. Floortime is a philosophy of approach to me. It is how I am going to change me to match them and that is me changing the environment of everything to meet the child's needs right now in the moment.

My next tool is Barry Prizants model of SCERTS. Read his book Uniquely Human-A Different Way of Seeing Autism. In a nut shell Dr. Prizant has created a wheel of support that address a person on the spectrum needs of "social communication","emotional regulations"' and "transitional strategies". Scerts address communication issues, the need to become our own masters of our own self emotional regulation and transitional supports for the person to get to their own level to have self mastery.
If you buy one book on autism buy Dr. Prizant's book.  It has been life changing for our family.

The above photo is of two laminated guides of The SCERTS model  I got from Amazon. They cover pre symbolic and symbolic stage tips and examples for a reference guide that is quick for educators and therpaist. I like when methods and concepts are broken down to small bite size and simplified key points for easy reference. These cards help with concrete examples of transitional langauging and supportive resources for learners. Also a big point that I love about Dr. Prizants work is it is about empowering the learner to self regulate and be self aware. Operating out of the concept of your child is a Whole person and equal. I am all for Empowering them with the tools to regulate their own behaviors but not eradicate their autism to make them into a neurotypical ideal of what is normal. This method gets the holistic need for a person to be. I like that.

Bal-A-Vis-X -Rhythmic Balance/Auditory/Vision eXercises for Brain -Body Integration originated by Bill Hubert. 
I really love this book and use these activities for sensory breaks. My son likes it too. You Tube has a several uploads of people teaching and showing this technique. The rhythmic bouncing of balls in what I would say is a juggling type exercises IS whole brain work. You are cross the mid-line with this work, you also employing hand eye coordination to the right and left hemisphere's of the brain. BAL-A-Vis-X teaches right to left hand movement to a beat, so you learn to control speed, pitch and measure of  your throw from left to right.  You are learning self awareness, listening skills and working in a group if you have the chance too. There are all kids of extensions for these exercises too. Bouncing behind you walking and bouncing spinning it around a circle, or with another person, Fun stuff that with just a few minutes use can clear a sensitive kid of his need to wiggle and gets everyone's brain back on track for learning.  Amazing results in a sensory break.
Waldorf education's form drawing work has also present us with some lessons and extensions into whole brain learning. Exercising the spatial intelligence muscle while coping and executing the forms
in Waldorf form drawing work books also engages these whole brain learning activities. Form drawing and rendering of these simple shapes and exercises helps learners relates to the space around forms, to the context of forms in the big picture, to patterns of continuityand also to awareness of  symmetry of placement All of this learning is working on spatial awareness and the small motor skills of hand to eye activity as well.
The Extended Lessons form drawing of Waldorf  that are found in the Joep Eikenboom's book "The Foundations of the Extra Lesson" is another tool in our tool box for work that crosses the mid-line.  This work which uses either hand to draw spirals or steps of different colors is steeped in Anthroposophy but the implications of crossings the mid-line is obvious. The exercises can be done with either foot as well.   Rudolf Steiner seems to have taped into an ancient knowledge of the value and benefit of movement between either hand while doing these arc typical forms has on our neurological development.  With a focus on the space between the forms, the neurological result of repetitive movements of drawing with either hand or foot is also beneficial for the child and another tool fro Crossings the Mid-line in Learning.

The Dominance Factor by Carla Hannaford Ph.D  is a book that teaches how to determine brain dominance. This  is another book, that I found, that clarifies and explains these concepts of how our brains works and where and how our strengths connect to our dominant areas of our brain.

This book will help you identity your learns strengths and weakness. 

Dianne Craft is another educator who is on to this whole brain learning exercises.  Her work can be found below.
Dianne Craft Here 

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