Brain Gym is a program designed to incorporate activities that harness development of auditory discernment, visual flexibility, and self-regulation skills. Through the use of 26 skills, which the program refers to as “The 26”, these skills are integrated into the classroom with the guidance of educators and therapists.
The 26 are categorized into 4 different groups, all of which have to do with the 3 primary types of movement (equilibrium, locomotion, and sensorimotor coordination):
- Energy Exercises: to center and align, for planning, and creating order
- Deepening Attitudes: to relax, calm, and physically or emotionally stabilize; for sharing, playing, cooperating, and sensory memory
- Lengthening Activities: to release held tension and enable action; for focusing, understanding, expressing oneself, and taking initiative
- Midline Movements: to encourage sensorimotor coordination and information processing necessary for reading, writing, listening, and speaking
When children enter their school day, they usually haven’t had enough movement at the start of their day to sit still and focus, which is why doing the Brain Gym activities can help coordinate their structural alignment, spatial orientation, and fine-motor abilities.
Let’s break these 4 different groups down to learn more about the benefits of incorporating these activities into your child’s daily routine and explore the impact they can have on learning within the classroom.
The Energy Exercises and Deepening Attitudes: Organization, Stability, and Sensory Memory
The body is designed for alignment and the exercises in the Brain Gym program help the body stabilize itself as well as encourage the skills needed for the body to be at equilibrium. These skills are needed for directional tasks, such as reading and writing.
Skeletal position can impact force placed on the joints, stress on ligaments, neurological confusion, and decreased oxygen flow, all of which can impact healthy cognitive function. Children in the classroom become accustomed to slouching and excessive sitting positions, all of which do not aid in the body’s natural desire to be in alignment. The body’s discomfort with positioning will impact the ability to pay attention, access language skills, and children’s ability to be an active participant in the classroom. To combat this shift out of equilibrium, students utilize the Energy Exercises for restoration.
There are two Deepening Attitudes activities that address calming and composing strategies. The ability to stabilize oneself is impacted by a student’s ability to express internal feelings in an appropriate manner, as well as how they react to fight-or-flight responses. The activities Brain Gym offers, allows your child to self-recognize and respond.
The Lengthening Activities: An Interplay of Spatial and Focal Attention
There are six Lengthening Activities that help learners focus and engage in higher-order thinking tasks. Attention is commonly seen as a child’s ability to sit still and focus on the task directly before them. However, there are two different types of attention that allow your child to sit and complete their homework and to be a willingly participant within the classroom. Spatial orientation and sensorimotor awareness are important factors as well to mental processing.
To help engage sensorimotor awareness, The Lengthening Activities incorporate movements that stimulate proprioceptors, which tell the brain how to react motorically. The Lengthening exercises increase focal point attention which is an important aspect of fine motor coordination.
The Midline Movements: The Mechanics of Communication and Information Processing
There are eleven Midline Movements that help develop the skill of coordination between the right side and left side of the body. Being able to integrate midline movements is essential, not only for gross motor and fine motor activities, but also the ability to read left to right or properly form letters.
Think about taking a marker and drawing a line down the center of your body. Now consider all the pairs that have become separated. Your eyes, ears, arms, and legs have all been separated by this line drawn, otherwise known as the midline. This means that the visual and auditory systems both have a midfield, that point in the center of the body where the two left and right side of the brain unit to process information. All hand-eye activities are midfield operations, which is why integrating two-handed activities will help develop midline integration within the body.
The integration of The 26 can be adapted for all ages. Additionally, The Brain Gym offers different ways of incorporating these brain movements into the classroom routine in a way that is best suited for learning.
Finding your PACE
The pace at which tasks are completed is different for every child. Each child has their own unique timing that allows them for optimal learning within the classroom. PACE stands for “Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic”. Although the acronym is PACE, the order of the activities works backward (ECAP).