Both parents and their children with developmental disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Autism, global brain damage, paralysis and Down syndrome, face unique challenges. The children struggle to develop fine and gross motor skills, and parents are challenged with finding resources that address the specific developmental needs of their child. While physical, occupational, speech and other therapies offer good solutions, many are turning to Designed for Movement, a Nevada City practice that provides parents that critical link between the child and the medical specialist.
Designed for Movement’s approach to functional development is based on a method originated by physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. Of particular importance is Feldenkrais’ premise that we learn to move in a logical order as babies and beyond. If any part of this order is skipped or missed as a result of brain damage, it must be re-learned and integrated in the development process.
According to Jackie Mason, founder of Designed for Movement, we cannot separate brain development from how we move. ‘The two are part of an integrated whole,’ says Mason. ‘As movement becomes more complex, the brain processes information in a more organized and logical manner. Children develop better concentration and a more sophisticated ability to think critically when they are introduced to innate movement.’
Working with children 3 13 years old, Mason moves the skeleton in gentle motions to send a message to the brain to re-organize its logic for more optimal movement. Without the use of equipment, force or constraint, children are very receptive to Mason’s hands-on approach, and quite often they will begin to initiate movements on their own.
Since opening her practice four years ago, Mason has evolved as a specialist for children with special needs and developmental disabilities. Parents are discovering the tremendous benefits of incorporating the movement therapy into their overall program with doctors and other therapists. ‘The efforts on a variety of levels, including Designed for Movement, greatly increases the possibility of children becoming more independent later in life,’ Mason states.
Three case studies below exemplify situations where parents and child, as well as a physical therapist, found Designed for Movement a promising option in overcoming their challenges.
Three years ago, nine-year-old Abby, who has Cerebral Palsy and mid-level brain damage, came to see Mason. Her legs were turned in, she walked on her toes but was able to walk independently. However, on uneven terrain her balance was challenged and she usually needed some assistance.
Mason taught Abby how to move her pelvis to achieve balance rather than using her upper body. As she made progress and used her pelvis more effectively, walking became easier and she even began to run a little.
Recently, Abby’s physical therapist, Jim Cunningham of Grass Valley, had an opportunity to see her. ‘I have seen wonderful results in Abby over the last few years. Not only is her range of motion and function much improved, but also her whole demeanor and way of presenting herself in the world has transformed. I attribute this to the hard work of Abby and her other therapists along with the excellent help that Jackie has given her.’
Benny is an active 5-year-old with mild Cerebral Palsy. He walked on his toes rather than using the whole foot. Benny came to Designed for Movement to learn how to walk normally. Mason observed that Benny was using his neck and upper torso to stay upright for walking. Her therapy simply showed Benny how to move his pelvis forward as he was taking a step in order to lower his heels to the ground.
‘After his first session with Jackie, Benny had erect posture,’ state Elaine and John, Benny’s grandparents and legal guardians. ‘After his second session, his neck extended off his shoulders making him significantly taller. After session four, his heels came down, and he was unable to go back to walking on his toes, even when he tried.’
Dominik has global developmental delays. At 3 years old he did not walk or talk. Mason showed Dominik how to be an infant – to roll onto his belly, lift his head by arching his back and bring a leg up from his hip to initiate crawling.
‘After initial therapy sessions in Jackie’s workshops, we noticed immediate improvements in our son’s ability to move. He quickly became more mobile with a strong desire to explore his surroundings,’ recalled Jan and Carol, Dominik’s parents. ‘His body was less rigid, he had more flexibility and his appetite improved.’
Dominik’s advancements have extended beyond motor skills to verbal communication. According to his parents, Dominik’s cognitive skills are now very much age appropriate. ‘Most importantly, Dominik seems to be a much happier little guy since he has discovered a new freedom in movement.’
Designed for Movement offers learning workshops in Auburn and Nevada City that teach children and parents movements that they can continue at home.
Sign up through the Auburn Recreation Department at 916-885-8461.