For many parents finding the time and knowing how to kit out their homes with everything that we suggest in the Movement Method course may seem daunting at first so I asked Anna to share her experiences with us. Her son Alex, who was diagnosed with autism loves to move and I wanted to know what she has used and why, how it has impacted upon their lives and any advice she has for us from a parents point of view.
'Alex will always find a way of moving. If he isn't on a swing trampoline, he will be on a gym ball while looking at a book or inspecting a toy (and they say the male of the species can't multitask ????). During times when Alex is still, he still needs to feel what I call, the vibrations of movement... So even when he's having quiet time on the ipad while snuggled up on the sofa, I'll be tickling him or massaging his feet but if I'm not there, he will find something to put his feet against and tap. Alex seems to be most comfortable when he is in or on a vehicle... He loves being in the car, train, boats and even aeroplanes it would seem and I can only put this down to that gentle vibration that passes through you from the engine and the whizzing of the still world around him.
Looking back, the importance of movement to alex was always there... Ever since the jumparoo days but for some reason, as parents I think we somehow reach a point where this stimulation seems less important. Maybe because we just get tired and our children outgrow our ability to pick them up, swing them or just rock them or perhaps when we think academics are a priority in the run up to nursery or school and we've always be told to sit down to do this. It's sad really because at such a young age, we condition our children to do what is quite simply unnatural to them in return for an education.
It's difficult to say if Alex learns more when he's moving but he certainly seems to express himself better and words are clearer. If Alex is indoors without the option of movement you can see that his stimming, both physical and verbal become stronger and louder. His communication shuts down and you can see the confusion in his face from trying to fit into a environment which to him, just doesn't make sense without the ability to move. What I do know for sure is that Alex is happiest when he's moving and that's enough for me to know that it has to be a good thing. These methods aren't just for children with additional needs either... All children like to move and all children love sensory toys and environments.
Alex laughs more as a result of having the option to move, swing and bounce. He loves any kind of movement... Even watching the waves in the ocean which, I think it makes you feel as though you're flying, even when you're standing still or the movement of the rain falling. He likes seeing movement all around...which is why I think he doesn't like me to sit down for too long.
If Alex is tired and still, then he needs deep pressure (big hugs wrapped in his blanket or having his feet massaged) He needs to understand where his body is in the space around him. I'm not sure if I'll ever truly be able to understand why, but I respect the fact that this is what he needs to make him happy. For anyone who hasn't tried it. Get yourself in a trampoline and bounce like you haven't a care in the world.... It soon becomes apparent what the benefits are even if it's not so easy to put into words.
Alex moves fairly constantly. He uses outside like an assault course. He can spend a long time bouncing on the trampoline and then will run between the other movement methods...swing, slide and hammock. And now we've introduced the wheelbarrow, he's in heaven. I'll sometimes play trains "next stop... Hammock!" and he will jump in and have me do a circuit of the garden before arriving at the next activity. He has very very quickly learned to say 'wheelbarrow' and is pointing at or telling me what he wants to do next when I ask him. Using these methods of movement also require social interaction... Being pushed on the swing, the wheelbarrow and hammock or having someone bounce on the trampoline to make him go higher. I've also seen his best interaction with other children while on the trampoline. A good friend of mine has the most amazing boys who really take Alex under their wings and will bounce with Alex for as long as he goes on. It's something very special to see. I try to guess what Alex is thinking.
If any parents are not sure where to start then I'd say go with a gym ball in an area that's safe and see how your child uses it. If their balance isn't so good, then use a peanut therapy ball where you can sit with your child and use your own body to move theirs (much like sitting in the saddle with a child) and just sing or count or talk about something they love to the rhythm of the movement. And laugh... Help them to understand that this is fun. Gym balls can also move from room to room. Alex did this when we first started, he'd roll the ball between rooms and use it as his bouncy seat wherever he went. You can see by doing this, where your child wants to move and where they may prefer still, quiet time, before putting anything more permanent in to place. We made the mistake of filling the room with toys..hundreds and hundreds of toys because we thought Alex needed them to be able to learn and play. In hindsight, he just didn't know what do do with them. Having less to choose from and various ways to move while using them has had an almost instant impact on his interaction.
Given how Alex uses his trampoline outside, meant that it was just common sense to have one indoors too and when he became too bug for the toddler trampoline, we invested in a better quality item. We also gave balance boards which Alex is only just starting to use as his coordination is improving. But there are so many things you can purchase that aren't permanent fixtures which means you can also have a move around to recapture your child's interest.
We started with an outdoor hammock on a stand which could be nice around the garden but we have now invested in an indoor hammock for those rainy days (Alex doesn't like getting wet which can be restricting if the weather turns bad). You don't need a big space and you can easily make an area safe (I padded wrapped wadding around the radiator and covered it with a large blanket so not only is it safe but it has become a nice texture for Alex to put his feet against. Of course the radiator is permanently switched off.
Don't become fixated on making an 'area' for your child, instead try to make the house a place in which your child can always find what they need..again, the gym ball is a great start... You want to help your child know that their need to move is just fine and absolutely acceptable, not that they have to rely on one safe place to be themselves. Trial and error.... We can only hope that one day, we have an indication into these incredible minds but in the meantime, we can just try and inevitably, we will sometimes (often) get it wrong before getting it right... just keep trying and never give up.'
Thank you so much Anna for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts with us, I know everyone at Horse Boy and the Movement Method team are so impressed with all that you have achieved and done with Alex. A perfect example of The Movement Method working well in a family home.