I have been reading A Life in Balance. It's a book for parents about how Frank Belgau came to dedicate his life to researching the brain/body connection when it comes to learning disabilities in children and what that research has taught him about reversing those difficulties. It was out of this research that he founded The Learning Breakthrough Program.
Take a deep breath, because I'm about to get technical on you.
The Learning Breakthrough Program is an unconventional system of full body movements that help to better organize the brain's pathways of information processing. They call it "serious brain training". Amazingly, it seems that the way to overcome many "learning disabilities" may involve retraining the brain and body to move in a more balanced way, rather than just medicate, drill and push through yet another workbook. Who knew?
Well, actually, I did. I haven't had the science and research to back up my gut instincts, but I have kids. I can observe what works and what doesn't. I have been using odd teaching methods with my kids for years. When something doesn't work, I change it. I ditched conventional textbooks a long time ago, because my kids retained information better with other methods. And here is the real kicker -- some of my kids exhibit the markers of dyslexia and one of them shows signs of dysgraphia. I never bothered to have them tested because we simply altered our teaching methods. And it worked. I knew my kids were crazy-smart (as proof that I'm not just an over-proud mama, which I am, not only are my kids doing well with their schoolwork, all my kids that are old enough for standardized testing have tested in the 98th percentile or above every year), so I did not consider what we were dealing with to be a learning disability. I look at them more like learning differences. Most conventional methods don't work well for my kids, so we do things unconventionally. Without realizing it, I had stumbled onto many of the brain training methods that are proving so effective.
The Learning Breakthrough Program has been successful with the following learning difficulties:
Dyslexia (reading issues, etc)
Dyspraxia (coordination issues)
Dysgraphia (handwriting issues)
Dyscalculia (math issues)
CAPD (auditory processing issues)
Speech & Language
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Sensory Processing Disorders
Brain Injury & Stroke
That's quite a list, but in my experience, pretty much everything on that list involves issues with the way the brain processes information, so it seems plausible to me that retraining the body to work in a more balanced way will help rewire the brain to work in a more balanced way. We now know that the human intellect is not a static thing and that the neurons in the brain are constantly re-firing and re-wiring according to what we require it to do. The brain is not rigid. It is elastic and will stretch to fit the need.
Here's a little aside about the tremendous elasticity of the brain: A few days ago I was listening to the radio -- either the BBC or NPR -- I don't remember which. They interviewed a lady who'd had a severe infection that affected her eyesight. The infection put her in a coma. When she woke up, she was blind. The doctors gave her no hope of ever seeing again because the part of the eye that sees images was destroyed. Time passes, and she thinks she can see moving objects, but not stationary ones. They think she's absolutely nuts until a research scientist gets ahold of her, does a whole bunch of tests and finds (irrefutably, I might add) that her brain is rewiring to process images in a new way. Her brain is bypassing the rods and such in her eyeballs and coming up with new ways to see. The researchers told her to buy a rocking chair so she could rock and look around -- that way things would always be in motion. Her sight has continued to improve as she has exercised it and allowed it to see objects in motion. Her brain is literally rewiring itself based on the demands it is facing. The brain is an amazing thing.
But back to A Life in Balance. The book basically comprises three parts, in my mind. The First Part goes into Dr. Frank Belgau's childhood (he couldn't learn to read like his siblings), his school experience, his (accidental, at first) research into the brain and learning disabilities in children, and the mentors and colleagues who believed in his unconventional work. It is a fascinating story full of amazing children, daunting challenges, incredible successes and unwavering hope. And when you are facing a learning disability, what you need more than anything else is hope. If anyone has ever told you that you or one of your kids will have to live with a learning disability, you need to read this book. You will walk away from A Life In Balance knowing that there are alternatives to a life of frustration, remedial bookwork and medicines. You will know that there is hope.
The Second Part explains what a lifetime of research has taught Dr. Belgau about how the brain works and why his methods are so successful in treating and often completely reversing learning disabilities. He goes into the science of how neurons work and what is going on when learning difficulties occur. For many years, he only knew that his methods had immediate, measurable results in kids with learning disabilities, but he didn't know exactly why. It wasn't until later in his research journey that brain science began to explain what was happening in the brain while those kids were busy balancing, hitting balls and playing "brain games".
The Third Part explains how the Learning Breakthrough Program works. It explains each component of the Learning Breakthrough Program kit and why it was included. To actually use the program, you would need to order the kit, but by reading A Life in Balance, you will understand the research and science behind the kit and know if you need it. The Appendix, which I think is an integral part of the book, gives you some brain training that you can do right now without any added equipment. Of course, the full kit would be much more effective, but by doing these exercises you will be able look at your child (or yourself) and see how the body is moving. You will see if the body is properly balanced. You will begin to understand if parts of your child's body movement are suppressed or exaggerated. By watching key areas of the body's movement, you will get a glimpse into how the brain is processing information. You will be able to test, limitedly, Dr. Belgau's methods to see if they help your child. And the best part? Your kid will think it's a fun game. Instead of being told to, "sit still, for heaven's sake", you'll be saying, "get out there and move." That alone has got to be liberating for a kid who struggles with ADD/ADHD or who is tied to his schoolbooks longer than everyone else because he struggles to read or write.
If you would like to purchase your own copy of A Life In Balance, you can get it from the Learning Breakthrough Program for $16.94 (current Amazon pricing at the time of this post). And don't forget to read some of the other reviews by clicking below.
Have a great day!
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