It is interesting how life has a way of laying out a path for you especially when you are seeking a road less travelled. It was last June when I stumbled into the “Special Needs” section at Barnes & Noble…a store I rarely visit, but just happened to tag along into that particular day. I perused several titles and one title in particular stood out to me: Kids Beyond Limits– Breakthrough results for children with by autism, Aspberger’s, brain damage, ADHD, and undiagnosed developmental delay by Anat Baniel. I flipped through several pages and knew instantly it was a book worth purchasing. I loved that the focus of the Method was to work with a child’s abilities rather than sequestering them based on their dis-abilities. At that point it had only been a few weeks since Lola’s lissencephaly diagnosis was retracted and she was now in the “undiagnosed developmental delay” category which meant my mind was seeking new information. I had become a self-taught expert on lissencephaly and now that knowledge did not pertain to my child. Knowing the chances of us finding a diagnosis for Lola were slim, I wanted to set her up for success not failure. We had stopped using should-be milestones ages ago and vowed to let Lola blossom into the child she would be…just at her own pace. But even with this motto in mind, I still sought out various therapy alternatives as a way to exacerbate all options to help Lola and her developing brain. So when I found Kids Beyond Limits on that rainy day in June, I felt like the path was being laid only to have that Alice in Wonderland moment when the path gets erased by a dog made out of a broom.
I spent countless nights reading about Anat Baniel and her gift to essentially unlock the mystery to hundreds of children with various special needs. I watched YouTube videos of miracles taking place and I read parents testimonies of the change they witnessed within their children after just a few sessions with Anat and her practitioners. I eagerly searched the internet for leads on practitioners in the Indianapolis area and became devastated when my leads lead to several dead ends. I exacerbated every effort to take Lola out to California to have personal sessions with Anat and even went as far as to try and take the course to become a practitioner myself. But unfortunately, both were so ridiculously out of our budget that I had to just accept that I may not ever know the type of impact the Method would have on Lola. It wasn’t that I was hoping for a miracle (in fact, I’m quite realistic about the miracle of miracles), but I wasn’t going to sleep well not knowing the answer to the “what if” question. And then…just when you least expect it…the universe aligns just right for a path to be laid to bring a woman named Eli into our lives.
Eli is a physical therapist who has been studying the Anat Baniel Method (ABM) for some time now. Most people wouldn’t understand it (or believe it) simply by watching, but Eli has that same gift Anat has. She gets how to manipulate the body in ways to give the patient a better understanding and awareness of their body. I believe one of Lola’s greatest challenges is that she doesn’t identify with her own body which is why I was so convinced the ABM would help her. She is constantly seeking so much input from her body that her brain doesn’t stop to recognize the movements she is creating. The sought out input essentially suffocates her ability to learn as you or I would. The ABM helps the brain connect with the muscles through different patterning techniques. Every time this connection occurs, it helps to unlock the next natural sequence which in turn helps the child progress.
Rob and I went into the first appointment with skeptical optimism. We had heard wonderful things about Eli and her gift from Lola’s occupational therapist. We were told about one patient (12 mos old) who was unable to hold her head up yet after three sessions with Eli, the little girl began to crawl. We sat back and watched as Eli guided Lola’s body into various positions and movements. We exchanged hopeful smiles when we saw how welcoming Lola was to Eli’s guidance as Lola can be resistant to touch. Yet Eli explained she was simply suggesting to Lola’s body where to move, not forcing her. As strange as it sounds, it was like watching a dance. Lola continued to play with the various toys and Eli simply followed Lola’s lead. Eli commented on how well Lola’s body was responding. She pointed out the natural arch in Lola’s once extremely stiff back. She showed the new bend Lola demostrated in her knees…knees that once were so stiff they could hardly be manipulated. Again…not miraculous changes…but changes Lola would greatly benefit from.
Lola has now had three sessions with Eli and will continue to see her once a week until Eli’s schedule allots for Lola to begin intensive therapy. Eli believes in several sessions in one week so that the child’s brain will absorb the new information. We then take a few weeks off for the brain to adapt and begin intense sessions again until we feel Lola has gained the tools she needs to continue on her progression. The only problem we have with Eli is that her secret is out! She has so much talent that even her supervisors have been trying to figure out why she is in such high demand. Luckily for Lola, I stalk Eli’s secretary until Lola is able to be seen. I think the secretary has realized I am one determined mama and will stop at nothing to get what’s best for my kid. I even went as far to bring cookies to the last session in order to butter everyone up. Hey – a mom has to do what a mom has to do!
Lola is still being seen by her First Steps physical therapist who has been very respectful about our desire to try different therapy methods. Rather than forcing Lola to learn to walk, she now has redirected her sessions to helping strengthen Lola’s core. I look at the two therapists as two talented women working in tandem to better the life of my child. One does the “physical” part while the other helps Lola put it all together. It was hard not to hurt feelings in the beginning, but at the end of the day…everyone wants what is best for Lola. And as you can see…Rob and I will do just about anything (even bribery) to make sure Lola is taken care of. Who knows…maybe our determination has paid off as Rob has taught Lola how to take baby steps with a toy bin!
I’ll be sure to post a video soon!