Development Possibilities for Special-Needs Children By Jackie Mason

Development Possibilities for Special-Needs Children


By Jackie Mason


One of the biggest challenges for a child born with cerebral palsy, autism, global brain damage, and other similar conditions is to develop fine and gross motor skills for optimal functionality. Children often go through many therapies such as physical, occupational, speech, and others that attempt to address this. However, many parents have found there are limitations and that their child develops slowly.

One approach to functional development is based on a method originated by physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. The foundation of the method is based on how we learn to move as babies and beyond. If there are gaps in that learning, we can fill in the functional pieces to help children become more independent in their movements.


Since his work was introduced in the United States in the early 1970s, scientific studies have found that optimal brain development occurs when children learn to move their bodies with increasing complexity. We cannot separate brain development from how we move; they are part of an integrated whole. In fact, as movement becomes more complex the brain processes information in a more organized and logical manner. The result is that children develop better concentration and a more sophisticated ability to think critically.


The method does not use any kind of force, constraint, or device to teach children; instead the skeleton is moved in ways that send a clear message to the brain on how to reorganize for optimal movement. When the learning is this profound, children will initiate movements on their own and integrate what they learn extremely quickly. Even children with paralysis or permanent nerve damage can learn to move in ways that create better functionality for them.


Incorporating movement education into any special-needs program greatly increases the possibility of children’s becoming more independent later in life.



Benny is an active five-year-old with mild cerebral palsy but no other brain damage. He walked on his toes rather than using the whole foot, fell a lot, and was crouched over and stiff in his torso.


Benny came to Jackie to learn how to walk with his whole foot meeting the floor. She observed that Benny was using his neck and upper torso to stay upright for walking. She showed Benny how to move his pelvis forward as he was taking a step in order to lower his heels to the ground. How Benny balanced himself with his neck and torso is switching to balance from his pelvis so that he is not working so hard to stay upright.

“After his first session with Jackie, Benny had erect posture,” recalls Elaine, his grandmother and legal guardian. “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.”


Elaine recently took him to the doctor and when they measured his height they were astounded to see that he had grown five inches in two months! Elaine attributes his growth spurt to Jackie’s work that has freed up his neck and torso so that he moves with greater flexibility, fluidity, and ease.


Additionally, Elaine says, “He rarely falls now and his concentration levels have improved dramatically. This is not just my noticing; his teachers at school and at his Aikido studio have all commented on remarkable changes in Benny, physically and mentally.”


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