Stimulating Brain Growth – News Article

New Sunday Times, 8 Apr 2011 – An interview with Phoebe Long by NST reporter Chandra Devi Renganayar.

MOVEMENT: There are many programmes available now which addresses learning and behavioural challenges in children through natural body movements.

Phoebe Long (left) and Paul Dennison, founder of Brain Gym(R)


The early reflexes or muscle movements of an infant are critical for the development of his or her brain functions, and ability to learn.

Under normal conditions, all reflexes will appear during the appropriate stage of a child’s development.

According to experts, when these reflexes are not initiated, integrated or inhibited in a child, they will prevent the natural maturity of the neural systems, leading to postural and behavioural problems, and learning difficulties in children.

Phoebe Long, an Educational Kinesiologist and consultant specialising in helping children with special needs, says the early childhood experiences of movement and play activate the brain and develop its neural networks.

She says that many children who do not have sufficient and adequate sensory experiences and physical movements during their childhood may experience learning gaps.

Many factors, Long says, can disrupt the normal progression of natural infant reflexes and developmental movements.

“For example, a baby delivered through a normal birth undergoes primary motor reflex patterns but when the child is delivered via Caesarean section, he or she does not engage these reflexes. “When a baby crawls, he or she develops connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, strengthening their corpus collosum. These movements develop the neural networks in the brain, which are essential to learning. Placing the child in a walker will hinder his or her natural progress”

She says allowing children to watch television for long hours or spend time on computers instead of interactive play with family members and friends may cause delay in speech and other developmental issues.

“The more we hinder a child’s natural developmental movements, the more we create a learning gap in the brain. The more a child moves, the better connected his or her brain is,” says Long who has been involved in teaching special needs children for more than five years.

In order for children to respond well to learning experiences, she says, the issue of retained reflexes should be addressed.

An approach that has gained recognition to deal with this problem, says Long, is movement-based learning.

According to her, movement-based learning approaches like Brain Gym, Rhythmic Movement Training and Sensory Integration have been widely used to support not only children with learning disabilities but also all children to discover their true potential.

Brain Gym, for instance, is based on the philosophy that the brain will develop via certain body movements. It emerged as a result of clinical studies since the 1970s by Dr Paul E. Dennison, an educational therapist who was looking for ways to help children and adults with learning difficulties.


(The Lazy 8s movement uses a drawing of a figure eight to increase integration between the two side of the brain.)

Brain Gym addresses three specific learning dimensions called Focus, Centering and Laterality, all of which serve as neural ‘bridges’ of the brain.

The Focusing dimension deals with the coordination of the front and rear brain, and is connected to the ability to focus and comprehend.

The Centering dimension is linked to the coordination of the upper and lower brain and is related to emotions, relaxation and organisation.

The Laterality dimension, on the other hand, deals with the coordination of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and is useful for activities such as reading, writing and communicating.

“These movements facilitate the connection between the key areas of the brain. It engages the whole brain. When the three dimensions work together, the whole system is balanced, allowing a person to comprehend, communicate and organise better,” says Long.

She says there are 26 basic Brain Gym movements. “All the movements and activities are introduced based on observing the postural and behavioural patterns in a child.

“The Lengthening activities, for example, may be done to help children with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders who often have problems sitting still and staying focused. One of the exercises used is the ‘calf pump’ which involves stretching the child’s right leg backwards while the heel is held for about eight seconds. It is then slowly released.

“The movement is repeated with the left leg for about a minute to lengthen the tendon in the calf. This is done to discharge the fear reflex,” says Long.


Other preparatory exercises which may stimulate the brain and relax the body include the “Cross Crawl”, “Lazy 8s” and “Double Doodle”

The “Cross Crawl” involves taking the left arm of a child and crossing over to the right knee as it is raised. The same is done with the child’s right arm.

It is done to access both brain hemispheres and improve left-right coordination, vision and hearing.

The “Lazy 8s” movement uses the drawing of a figure eight to increase integration between the two sides of the brain, and the “Double Doodle” requires children to draw using both hands at the same time to improve visual perception and creative expression.

She stresses that for proper neurological development to take place, these activities must not be forced but incorporated smoothly throughout the day.

“The improvements in learning and behaviour among children are progressive and sure. However, it is not a panacea to solve children’s learning difficulties or cure neurobiological disorders,” says Long.

Read more: Connecting the brain – General – New Straits Times

Does Asperger’s make you a better software coder?

source ZDNet.

Aspiritech, a non-profit software testing firm hires people with Asperger’s syndrome exclusively, then trains and employs them as software testers. Though a non-profit, Aspiritech performs for-profit work for Websites, software developers and application designers. The company performs compatibility testing, functional testing, regression testing and test-case & test-script development.

Aspritech founder Brenda Weitzberg, told ERE’s Todd Raphael that employees with Asperger’s syndrome are the perfect software testers.

The proof of concept came from Danish company and recent research from Harvard Business School and others showed that the strengths of people with Aspergers and high-functioning autism actually make them superior at software testing. They’re ability to focus, good memory, their high intelligence, their strong technical skills, their ability to detect details and also to stay focused over lengthy periods, really makes them ideal for software testing work. People w/ Aspergers can become ideal software testers.

That’s not news. Researchers have speculated that some of the qualities and behaviors associated with Asperger’s syndrome can be benefits to have as a software developer. High intelligence, a strong memory, attention to detail and extreme focus are good traits to possess in the trade. And characteristics of a life studying and working in technology are appealing to those with Asperger’s. From a 2008 ComputerWorld article:

Why do Asperger’s individuals gravitate to technology? “Adults with Asperger’s have a social naiveté that prevents them from understanding how people relate. What draws them in is not parties and social interaction, but work that allows them to feel safe, to feel in control,” explains Steve Becker, a developmental disabilities therapist at Becker & Associates, a private practice in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines, Wash., that conducts ongoing small group sessions for adults with AS, among other services.

“What’s better for that than a video game or a software program?” Becker asks. “When you’re designing a software program, there are rules and protocols to be followed. In life, there is no manual.”

Rumors often fly about the high occurrence of Asperger’s among the children of Silicon Valley and even some of it’s greatest stars are rumored to be afflicted.

But other behaviors like an inability to multi-task or read non-verbal cues were seen as unfit for the workplace and unwelcome on a job interview, Weitzberg told ERE.

It’s illegal to ask an applicant about a medical condition including mental health conditions, hiring managers are attuned to behavior during the interview. While many may be turned off by what they see while interviewing someone with Apserger’s, if the job is in software, the interviewer should think again, said Barbara Bissonnette in the same ERE Podcast.

From a recruiter’s perspective, people w/ Asperger’s really are the specialists and technicians in the workplace. There are lots of jobs where you need skills methodical detail, oriented in their work. We’re predicting a real shortage in the next decade of skilled workers. Here we have a talent pool that is underutilized of people who can be filling in some of the gaps in the right kind of jobs with the right kind of support.

US students stressed out: study

First-year students on US campuses are experiencing record levels of stress, according to a study showing increasing financial and academic pressures on young people entering university.

By Agence France-Presse, 27 Jan 2011.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study, which surveyed 200,000 students entering their freshman year on American campuses last year, was released Thursday and found that just under 52 percent reported their emotional health was very good or “above average.”

That figure represents a major decline from 1985, the first year of the self-ratings survey, when nearly two-thirds of incoming freshmen placed themselves in those categories. It’s also a decline of 3.4 percentage points from 2009.

Female freshmen were more likely than their male peers to report feeling stressed. The UCLA researchers said just under 46 percent of females ranked their emotional health as very good, compared to 59 percent of males.

Women were more than twice as likely to frequently feel “overwhelmed by all I had to do” as high school seniors preparing for their first year of university.

“Stress is a major concern when dealing with college students,” said John Pryor, lead author of the report.

“If students are arriving in college already overwhelmed and with lower reserves of emotional health, faculty, deans and administrators should expect to see more consequences of stress, such as higher levels of poor judgment around time management, alcohol consumption and academic motivation.”

America’s economic crisis adds to the stress, according to the study, which said 53 percent of students rely on loans to help pay for college. In addition, nearly three-quarters of students reported receiving grants and scholarships, representing a nine-year high.

“The increasing cost of higher education poses a significant barrier to college access for today’s students,” said Sylvia Hurtado, co-author of the report.

“Students and families are now charged with the task of becoming more resourceful and strategic in finding new and creative ways to pay for college,” she added.

Parents of students are also more likely to be unemployed: nearly five percent said their father was out out of work — a record high; and the rate of unemployed mothers, nearing nine percent, continued to increase.

Economic concerns seem to have influenced students’ political views. Nearly two-thirds of students said wealthy people should pay more taxes, compared to just half of the students surveyed in 2002.

via msn

Improving Self Confidence of a Dyslexic Child

I have been working with many children with different level of learning difficulties. They are between the age of 5 to 8 years old. Most of them have very low self confidence and behavioral problems. I’ve discovered beside encouragement and motivation (which are very important), there are other practical ways we could apply to help these children to build on their self confidence. Hope you find the article below useful for your pursuit to make a difference to your child or other children with learning difficulties.

Ways to improve a dyslexic childʼs self confidence

by Phoebe L


Self-confidence is having confidence and being sure of oneself own value and abilities. In view of the difficulties a dyslexic child maybe experiencing peer pressure and familyʼs expectation on him/herself, a dyslexia child usually has low self confidence instead.

In order to help the dyslexic child to overcome their difficulties, firstly we need to help him/her to build a basic foundation to be secured and have self confidence.

A dyslexic child needs to be accepted as who he/she is. Itʼs important that adults i.e. parents, care taker and teachers who are in direct contact daily with the child need to be positive, encouraging in words and actions.

The followings are some of the ways the adults could help to improve a dyslexic childʼs self confidence:

Read more “Improving Self Confidence of a Dyslexic Child”

How to help a dyslexic child to improve in math/s – part 2

Many dyslexic children also have problems comprehending the vocabulary and symbols used in mathematics. It is also a common problem that these children will be confused with math symbols that look similar. Likewise, they often reverse numbers, which lead to errors when performing simple calculations and arithmetic.


Despite facing the above mentioned difficulties, a dyslexic child could further improve in math/s if he/she begins to feel more confidence about it and enjoys the process of learning math/s. Below are some strategies parents and teachers could apply:

Set up a specific time to do math together

Sit down with the child to help him with math homework/assignment.

Build a connection between math and his/her daily living

Using examples of math from bills and home repair projects can show the child the relevant role that math plays in a grown-up world.


Learning math/s in fun ways using

Snacks i.e. candies, m&ms can be used to add or subtract parts.

Games that involve math concepts e.g Board games, computer/online games.

Online Tutoring lessons that combine fun math games with personalized instruction so that the child get to have fun and lots of extra help with math.

Individualized Independent activity sheet

Prepare appropriate individualized independent activity sheet for the child that allows him to succeed at every attempt of working on the math questions.

Help the child to discover his/her own error

Help the child to discover any errors by saying, “Why don’t you check that one again?”

The math children use in school is just a formal application of all kinds of daily experiences. A dyslexic child who struggles with math at school doesn’t need constant drilling of specific problem. He/She needs varied experiences that allow him/her to work with numbers in a hands-on and fun ways. When the math/s concepts have been woven into his/her perspective, he/she’ll be better equipped to handle the formal arithmetic encounters in the classroom and his daily living.

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A day with Dr. Paul Dennison, Founder of Brain Gym International

IMG_7782 IMG_7790

Wow! Today is a great day. I have a great learning experience with Dr. Paul Dennison, the Founder of Brain Gym International in Petaling Jaya.

Dr. Paul, you are really a remarkable person, sharing with us the heart beat of Brain Gym. I greatly treasured the hand-on experiences we had in going through the 26 movements with you. Thank you for giving me new insight and answering to all my questions so that I could help the children I work with more effectively.

Two things that you said impacted me today :

“When the children play (doing the movement), you can’t see the teacher, because the teacher is playing with them”

“It’s all about love.”

What a privilege to learn together with some other Brain Gym instructors in Malaysia. Sally, Marie Helene, Elizabeth, Thava, Ang Nei and of course, my instructor Mdm Goh Siew Siew. You ladies are so humble, gentle and just great! Your experiences really inspired me. Cecilia and Hasanah, I am sure glad we can move on to be instructors, one day.