The Movement Method: Overcoming Learning and Communication Challenges Faced by Children

Published on: November 06, 2020

Children learn better when they move and are surrounded by a nurturing environment. Premrudee Pantrat explains what the ‘Movement Method’ is, and how they use it on the farm to help children struggling in social and academic settings.

 

By Premrudee Pantrat (Gaye)

 

Parenting these days can be very challenging as social dynamics have rapidly changed with the evolution of technology impacting the way we live, learn, interact and communicate. This evolution has led to urban and man-made developments replacing nature to fulfil human needs. Life may seem more convenient and sophisticated now, but the more we are disconnected from nature, the more prone we are to having a dysfunctional life. These rapid social changes can also disrupt family life. Especially in the case of children, it may lead to ineffective learning, poor communication or social skills, and behavioral issues. This article looks at how the Movement Method can be used to offset these challenges, and how the work being done at an outdoor educational farm and equine centre in Nakhon Nayok, helps parents, caregivers, and educators to tackle the problems caused by disruptive environments.

Developed by Rupert Isaacson, the Movement Method is based on the idea that children learn better when they move. It is an evidence-based therapy model for neurodiverse children (such as those with autism), but is equally applicable for neurotypical children (children of typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities). Neurodiverse children are often more stressed and overactive in comparison to neurotypicals. Increased stress levels are a result of overactive brains producing more cortisol, the stress hormone, than is actually needed. Stressed and overactive children can feel uncomfortable, restless, frustrated, and often appear to be generally disinterested in participating in activities that they may otherwise have enjoyed. Stress undermines their ability to learn and socialize with others. Similarly, a lot of neurotypical children in unhealthy and hostile environments can suffer from stress and/or psychological disorders, and thus find themselves struggling academically and socially.  

The tools used in the Movement Method to overcome these challenges are the ‘environment’ and ‘movement’. The ‘environment’ refers to both the physical and human environments that surround a child. It is where he/she lives, learns, plays, and makes connections with the world. The space and materials the child is exposed to form the physical environment. The physical environment should be as natural as possible since natural environments help create calmness and reduce stress. Also, to create a nurturing environment for children to learn and grow, attention should be given to the human environment. This refers to all the people that play important roles around the child—parents, teachers, caregivers, friends, relatives, and the wider community. Movement is used to create a happy and healthy brain that is ready to learn, accept and communicate. It optimizes the production of oxytocin, the happy hormone, which helps balance or reduce cortisol to make one feel happier, relaxed, and hence more open to learning and communicating better. Any movement that has a rocking effect around the hip is encouraged for this purpose. 

Farm de Lek serves as a platform for all the services and therapy models provided by Spark Centre, a social enterprise in Thailand whose mission is to destigmatize special needs, and promote a message of neurodiversity and inclusion. In line with the core concepts of the Movement Method, the farm offers various outdoor activities and recreational programs against a natural setting. By combining natural space, experienced practitioners, and movement on horses, neurodiverse and neurotypical children suffering from depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and other such neuro-sensory disorders are taught how to cope with and improve their conditions. Parents, teachers, caregivers and anyone interested in learning about child development and therapeutic approaches to help children struggling socially and academically can also participate in the Movement Method workshops. The farm operates on the belief that by consistently treating children according to the principles and guidelines of the method, sustainable improvements in childrens’ development, intellectual and cognitive abilities can be achieved by anyone. 

It must be noted however that while the method guarantees the sustainability of these improvements, it does not guarantee a specific time frame within which improvements can be observed. Hence, those employing this method are encouraged to be patient and persistent. Kim, a 15-year-old boy diagnosed with mild autism, joined the Movement Method programme in February, and has been receiving weekly treatments since then. The initial sessions with Kim were challenging as the change from his usual routine and environment were very unsettling for him. Counsellors then decided to simply shadow him and observe his interests and comfort level. It took four sessions for Kim to finally feel more relaxed and comfortable in the outdoor setting with the people at the farm. In other cases however, it has taken up to ten or more sessions for the child to feel comfortable and open to learning. Once they are comfortable though, remarkable improvements can be observed in the child’s behaviour and abilities. Kim, for example, can now perform basic mathematics, is overcoming separation anxiety from his mother, and learning how to self-advocate. Farm de Lek and his family are especially proud of the fact that he can now help other children cope in social settings as well. 

Overall, the Movement Method has proved to be an effective way to help children of all abilities to learn and thrive in any social and academic setting. Proponents of the model are confident about it’s success in improving childrens motivations, attention, communication, social interactions and emotional regulation, and hence, it is now being used widely across the world.

 

About the Author

Gaye Pantrat is the vision and force behind Spark Centre. As an entrepreneur and business woman, she has a passion for children, education and special needs. She has always intuitively known that the outdoors is critical for a child’s well being, and that skills are best gained through experiential learning. This has been the impetus for Farm de Lek and Spark Centre. Contact her via sparkcentre.net.


The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.

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