The Anat Baniel Method

A couple weeks ago, I was moseying around the “Special Needs” section at Barnes and Noble. While I don’t exactly know what Lola’s special need is, I was up for a bit of insight and what better place to look than at books. A midst the overwhelming stacks of books about Autism – that seems to be the most written about diagnosis in the special needs world, I found a book crammed in between. It was called, Kids Beyond Limits – Breakthrough results for children with autism, Asperger’s, brain damage, ADHD and undiagnosed developmental delays. Perfect, I thought. Lola is now classified as a child with an undiagnosed developmental delay since her lissencephaly diagnosis was retracted. I read the back of the book and I read a couple of reviews in the very front. I was immediately sold when I read, “By shifting the focus to connecting rather than “fixing”, this powerful yet simple method helps both children and parents de-stress, focus and grow. Most of all, it helps all children maximize their potential, no matter what their diagnosis.” There was and is something about this sentence that moves me. I’m not trying to “fix” Lola. Lola is not a thing that needs fixing. She is a living, breathing human being and a beautiful one at that. All I want to do is what any parent would want, I want to understand Lola. I want to understand her so I can help her. I immediately purchased the book and have yet to put it down.

Anat Baniel is a clinical psychologist who has now worked with special needs children for over thirty years. While she has developed her own method, much of her initial practices came from what she learned under the great movement scientist, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. Its main principle is focused around neuroplasticity and the ability for the brain to change, grow and learn through forming new neural connections. Kids Beyond Limits uses “Nine Essentials” to help awaken the child’s brain. Rather than focusing on what the child cannot do, it focuses on the current abilities and how to help the child grow from what they already know.

I’m still learning much about the Anat Baniel Method (ABM) but I am already committed to exploring this with Lola. We have tried traditional methods through medicine and therapy and this is simply adding another method to our regime. It is expanding our way of thinking and opening our eyes to new concepts so that we don’t get bogged down by only one way school of thought.

In the first chapter, we learn about Elizabeth. Rather than explaining the entire chapter, I found a YouTube video of Elizabeth that left me damn near speechless.

I have always dreamed big for Lola. Even when we were given a lissencephaly diagnosis, I never once held the possibility of Lola’s capabilities back. I have always looked at her as if she could very well be the next Einstein or an astronaut or whatever it is she strives to be in her life. So this first chapter, just confirmed to never believe the miraculous can’t happen.

For me, one of the most powerful aspects I learned in the first few chapters of ABM is “If he could, he would. If she could, she would.”

If Lola could stand at this point in time, she would. If she could hold her own bottle, she would. I love this because it takes the pressure off of Lola and what she should be doing. There are all of these developmental milestones she is supposed to be achieving at a certain age and truthfully, I’m over it. My daughter should not be written off as an individual simply because she can’t walk at 18 months old. She shouldn’t be deemed an idiot because she won’t consistently put a ball in a bowl. That doesn’t mean she is less of a person or that she isn’t worthy of the greater things in life such as love. She’ll walk, she’ll just do it when she is able. She’ll hold her bottle, she’ll just do it when she can. I don’t know why I didn’t allow myself to free us of this pressure before. When people stared as I fed Lola while out to eat, I would quickly jump to her defense, but why? What does it matter to an outsider? I know I was defensive for Lola because I didn’t want people to judge her. But honestly, who the fuck cares? Perhaps this book is exactly the bitch slap I needed to wake up and realize Lola will not be conformed to the should-be’s in life. I never wanted to be and I most certainly don’t want that for my daughter. All she needs is time, space and a lot of love. Now when someone asks me how far behind Lola is developmentally, I’m simply going to say “I don’t know and it doesn’t matter”. Because really, does it? She’s happy, she’s improving, she’s right where she needs to be at this point in time. I’m relieved I’ve shed this burden of pressure. It wasn’t helping her and it most certainly wasn’t helping me. Now this doesn’t mean I won’t keep pushing her to reach her goals, but rather than focusing on what is holding her back, we’re going to look at what she can do and how she can move forward with it.

There are many other subjects touched on in the first few introductory chapters. Anat shares stories about other children she has helped and explains the processes in which she used. Then you begin with the Nine Essentials. Each week, I will share an Essential and how we have applied it to Lola’s life. I will comment on if and what changes we have witnessed after applying the Essentials. I have absolutely no idea if things will change, but if anything we will gain greater insight as to how the actual brain works and the power of brain plasticity. I am also actively looking for a practitioner of ABM or the Feldenkrais Method. While there are many principles to apply via the Book, children also benefit from the movement provided by practitioners. It helps to create an awareness of the body and helps the brain awaken to its self.

I’m curious, have any of you tried the ABM? If so, what results have you seen? I’d love to hear!