By Peter Payne and Mardi Crane-Godreau
Rational explanations make little difference when a child is wired or anxious. This is especially true for many children on the autism spectrum and can apply equally to many other kids as well. So, is there anything that can help? The parallel discoveries of Dr. Louisa Silva and Anat Baniel have inspired us to develop a set of short, easy to use, and deeply impactful videos that are reportedly making a difference in many families.
Let’s start with some basic neuroscience. The brain communicates on two main levels: the instinctive-emotional-movement level, and the rational-verbal level. Guess which level kids operate on? It should be no surprise that they begin life operating on the instinctive-emotional-movement level. The language of the instinctive part of the brain is movement and sensation!
Dr. Silva discovered that meaningful support and communications could be established with the nervous systems of children with autism, even severe autism, by training parents to use specific and regular patterns of touch and body movements. In a series of scientific papers, she documented evidence of the results from tests of her method (called Qigong Sensory Training, or QST for short). Anat Baniel independently discovered much the same thing; by tuning in to the child’s movements and interacting through touch and sound, the child’s nervous system calms down and re-organizes itself, with improvements in behavior and communication.
Neither system denies the importance of understanding the genetic and brain changes involved in ASD and other developmental challenges; but they have found that despite these issues, approaching the child through movement and sensation can help restore a balanced nervous system and bring calm and presence.
These methods require a highly skilled practitioner, or for the parents to be trained in the system. We wanted to create something more accessible (and less expensive!), as well as something more useful to older kids. Inspired by these pioneers, and backed by neuroscience, we have created Moving Meditations for families with autism, an app that includes a series of short (1 ½ to 2 minute) videos, which show a child doing various simple self-care movements. These images are accompanied by nature scenes, special effects, and music, to create a fascinating and mesmerizing flow of imagery which draw the watcher in to a calmer, more present state, and restore balance to the disturbed nervous system. Parents who watch or move along with the videos WITH their children report benefit for themselves and other members of the family. Teachers have reported similar benefits when they have used the videos in the classroom.
The watcher may be moved to imitate the motions that are shown. Similar to imitating the movements of Tai Chi, this can be very beneficial. The simple movements (with or without the videos) can be used at any time to help to support inner balance. For those striving to find tools to promote self-regulation, we made these videos especially for you.
Moving Meditations for families with autism is now available at the App store and will soon be available for Android devices. It contains 18 short videos that address 6 separate goals. It is suitable for most kids to watch by themselves, but we encourage family participation with parents or siblings also taking part in a brief but enjoyable activity. Some teachers may also find this suitable for classroom use.
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Feel free to contact us with questions or feedback at Bodymindscience4Research@gmail.com