Breakthrough Treatment for Autism in Children with NeuroMovement®

autism and movement with attention essentialThe Anat Baniel Method® is a breakthrough NeuroMovement® approach in the understanding and treatment for autism in children. The job of the brain is to put order in the disorder and to make sense out of the nonsense. The brain of the child on the autism spectrum has great difficulty in doing so.

The Anat Baniel Method® (ABM) sees autism as a disruption in the brain’s ability to perceive differences, which disrupts the brain’s ability to differentiate, i.e., create new connections in the brain that would lead to integration of new skills and a healthy process of development—physical, cognitive, social, and emotional.

This disruption can be observed in the way children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) move from as early as three to six months old. Children diagnosed with ASD vary from the norm in how they roll over, crawl, and sit up, doing so with greatly reduced differentiation (Teitelbaum, 1998; Phagava et al, 2008; Segawa, 2010).

Yet, Autism Spectrum Disorder is most commonly thought of as a brain disorder in the areas of language, communication, and social behaviors. It is. However, with ABM, we have observed that children with ASD often clearly exhibit movement developmental delays and disorganization.

These movement disorders are often labeled and discarded as “clumsiness.” We think this is a greatly missed opportunity to help the brain do its job better. Instead, the focus of therapeutic intervention is primarily, if not exclusively, placed on cognitive, behavioral, and relational challenges.

After starting lessons with Marcy and Anat at 15 months of age and continuing for 4 years, my son, Jack, no longer has a diagnosis of Autism.

—Patty, mother of Jack (diagnosed with child autism)

Autism Spectrum Disorder Starts As a Movement Disorder

We contend that ASD starts as a movement disorder (Chester and Calhoun, 2012) which leads to the typical symptoms in the areas of cognition, communication, and behavior. The movement disorder itself results from a disruption in the fundamental underlying neurological process of differentiation in the brain (Merzenich, 2003).

The way the child on the autism spectrum moves indicates that his or her brain’s ability to differentiate and create new connections and patterns is compromised. As a result the child has a diffuse and unclear sense of her or himself. Because children with ASD move, it may seem that they know what they are doing and that they are aware and know their own body. Not really.

The difficulty in perceiving differences, in differentiating and in creating new connections and patterns in the brain—integration—interferes with the process of the brain structuring itself and acquiring new skills. Language, cognition, understanding math, reading social cues all require a brain that evolves into a highly complex, dynamic system that can match the growing demands on the child.

Refined and highly coordinated movements, intentionality, complex cognitive functions such as giving meaning to words and complex social/emotional skills all require a brain that continuously develops and increases its own complexity and quality of organization. And it all begins (and continues) with Movement!

Tommy is doing just great. His walking is much more grounded… But even more remarkable is his speech and expressions. He’s responding to people—even to strangers. He’s smiling and has many more facial expressions.

—Hillary, mother of Tommy (autism spectrum disorder)

Movement Is the Language of the Brain

Movement is the language of the brain. Movement is a window to the brain and movement opens to us a magnificent opportunity to communicate with the brain of the child on the spectrum and help it heal.

We tend to think of “the body” or “the physical” as separate and not related to thinking, emotions, and social behavior. The opposite is true. It is through movement that children learn to recognize their own body, orient themselves in space, realize that the “I” is different than “you,” and discover relationships within the self and between the self and the outside world.

There is no successfully developed brain without movement, and there is no intentional movement, thought, and successful action without the brain.

Read the Story of Isaac: Transformations in a Young Boy with Asperger Syndrome.

ABM Treatment for Autism in Children and the Autism Spectrum Disorder—From Fixing to Connecting

The ABM approach to treatment for autistic children and those on the autism spectrum is very different from traditional approaches. Rather than try to fix the child’s behavior directly, we understand that in order to help the child with ASD, we need to somehow awaken and support the brain’s ability to differentiate and create new connections and effective patterns.

Learn more in Chapter 2 “From Fixing to Connecting” of Anat Baniel’s book Kids Beyond Limits.

The only therapeutic approach we tried with Sawyer besides joining (and we tried many) in which I had any real confidence was the Anat Baniel Method.

—William, father of Sawyer (autism spectrum disorder)

Read the complete post from this father who discovered how to connect with his autistic child.

How Does the Brain Get Information?

We understand the brain to be an information system. The job of the brain is to put order in the disorder and make sense out of nonsense, and organize action.

Stimulation is not information. Unless the brain perceives differences between one thing and another, such as between a loud sound and a soft sound (what we call discrimination), it does not exist for the child.

A child with ASD that screams loudly a lot of the time actually does not hear that he is loud. It may sound incredulous, but until he can perceive and feel the difference between a loud sound and a soft one, he will continue yelling. Once a difference is perceived, with this information the child’s brain can differentiate, create new connections, and new more effective behaviors.

I think the Anat Baniel Method and Kids Beyond Limits has a great contribution to make to our collective practical efforts to make the best lives possible for children with autism—and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

—Dr. Martha Herbert, MD, Neuro-Pediatrician Mass General, PhD Clinical Psychology, Harvard University, Author of The Autism Revolution

Read our blog posts to learn more about how to help children on the Autism Spectrum.

children on the autism spectrum

1 in 68 American children are diagnosed with autism

Click on the links below.

New Understanding & Hope for Children on the Autism Spectrum – Part 1: Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Child with ASD

New Understanding & Hope for Children on the Autism Spectrum – Part 2: Three More Things You Can Do to Help Your Child with ASD

Ability to Perceive Differences Is Key for Children on the Autism Spectrum

We have observed that the ability to perceive differences for the child on the autism spectrum is compromised. We do not know the cause. But we have powerful tools—the Nine Essentials—to very quickly and effectively help the brain of the child on the spectrum begin perceiving differences better in all areas, resulting in observable changes in the child.

Sometimes these changes are very dramatic, such as the child beginning to speak, and sometimes they are more subtle, such as the child becoming calmer, happier, and more aware of her environment.

If we accept that the underlying functional disorder in ASD is the brain’s challenge in its ability to perceive differences, which compromises its ability to differentiate and learn, the way we help the child on the autism spectrum is by finding ways to help her or his brain become better at perceiving differences. We do this through the use of the Nine Essentials of the Anat Baniel Method.

Teo was paying so much attention for the first time in his life. He began making sounds that I never heard before. At home he became more curious and more aware of his surroundings and was able to figure out how to play with more of his toys. He was exploring the world around him.

—Karinna, mother of Teo (autism spectrum disorder)

Learn more about the Treatment for Autism in Children.