Dr. Neil Sharp Shares His Perspective on the Anat Baniel Method
I recently read Dr. Neil Sharp’s response to an email inquiry from a research fellow about the Anat Baniel Method for children with special needs and would like to share it with you. Of course, it applies to all the kids we work with, not just kids with cerebral palsy. I would love to hear what you think. —Anat Baniel
Inquiry: I am a researcher based at the University of Exeter in the UK. I work for a research unit which responds to questions from parents of disabled children, about the effectiveness of treatments and therapies for their children. I have been asked about the Anat Baniel Method by the parent of a child with cerebral palsy.
I was wondering if you could tell me if there are any peer reviewed research studies published about the Anat Baniel Method and its impact on children with cerebral palsy.
I have also been reading your page on brain plasticity, and would appreciate it if you could direct me to any research evidence that the information on this page is based on.
Thank you very much for your enquiry….
I trained in medicine in Cambridge and Edinburgh. I subsequently left medicine to pursue a career in music. I came to the US from the UK when I found Anat Baniel’s work, initially to study and now to collaborate with her. The work that she does and teaches is in my opinion more effective than any widely available traditional therapy for cerebral palsy.
I came across Anat’s work as part of my own physical therapy but when I felt it in myself, I realized that it had a neurological basis the understanding of which my medical training had not prepared me for. Prior to starting the training I learned of the application for children with cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders through a DVD of Anat working with three children. The first of these was a 6-year-old boy called Carter. If you have not seen this video I would suggest you take a look here: The Anat Baniel Method and Cerebral Palsy: The Story of Carter.
I too questioned its veracity because the changes were beyond what I thought was possible. However, when I arrived here, I quickly realized that not only was the video genuine but that she was getting such results repeatedly and was training others to do at least some of what she does and thereby to make a big difference in the lives of so many children and their families.
At present there are no formal studies although we have a number in preparation. We are collaborating with Dr. Michael Merzenich, Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience at UCSF, in a study on the effectiveness of the work with Traumatic Brain Injury, and two studies with Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist from Harvard, one on the work with brachial plexus and another with autism. Children with cerebral palsy are so varied that they do not lend themselves to randomized double bind trials so the protocol itself is proving to be a challenge. We are looking at various n of 1 models in conjunction with Christina Bethell of the Oregon Health Sciences University. These studies will take some time to come to publishing.
There is a huge amount of research behind the principles of the work and much of it is in the notes sections of Anat’s two books: Kids Beyond Limits and Move into Life. I would certainly recommend looking at the book on the work with children and recommending it to your parents. Although not a “how to” book, it has a huge amount of information that can completely shift the approach of a parent, caregiver, or therapist so that their interactions with their children are much more effective….
However, no amount of research is a substitute for direct experience which is how I was convinced. So often children arrive with parents who have been told not to hope and that their child will never be able to do anything. I am not saying that every child we see ends up walking, far from it, but those children we see whom we can see are able to learn end up doing way better than they were predicted to do and end up much more content, both during the lessons (in contrast to much of their regular therapy) and in their lives in general. The parents also do better.
I am sending you another couple of links. The first video is of a mother talking about her son’s progress and is followed by a clip of him: Amy Shares the Story of Cypress. (You can also view other videos of the progress that children with special needs have made on our ABM Foundation website, as well as on our Anat Baniel YouTube channel.)
The second video is of Michael Merzenich speaking about his belief in the work. (View this video below).
Hope this gives you enough to ask more questions! That is how we approach working with any client questions and curiosity about what they are doing and where they are at, rather than assuming that they are or should be doing something in particular. That shift alone, “From Fixing to Connecting” is the major part of the effectiveness of our approach.
Dr. Neil Sharp
For more information on Neil Sharp: Anat Baniel Method Center Practitioners