Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Anat Baniel Method

Enter The Anat Baniel Method...
I have been praying for God to reveal a path to healing for our little Ava. I found this website on the internet and found this one particular testimony very interesting. You can read more about Anat Baniel at www.anatbanielmethod.com

Elizabeth Diagnosis: Cerebellar Hypoplasia
Elizabeth's mother speaking to a group of therapists:
Many of you may know of my daughter Elizabeth… Some of you have met her personally and others of you have watched Dr. Feldenkrais and Anat working with her those early years through the practitioner training tapes. The reason that I want to speak to you today is that it is impossible to fully imagine the miracle of who Elizabeth has become unless you know how far she has come from where she started out in life. When she was born, Liz had no movement in her body. When I say “no movement,” I mean that her condition was so severe that she could not even move her eyeballs, and for a time we believed that she was blind.
My husband and I were determined to leave no stone unturned to help her. We started with the “low incidence” early intervention services provided by our local school system who offered physical and occupational therapies…all were painful and unproductive experiences for her. Adding insult to injury, therapist after therapist told us "There is nobody home inside this child." When she was four months old, the chief of pediatric neurology at the University of Chicago told us that she was globally brain damaged, that there had been no brain development since birth, and that he saw no reason to believe that there would ever be brain development in this child. He felt that the best we could hope for would be profound retardation. He suggested that she probably would need to be institutionalized and that we should “prepare” ourselves because he did not expect that she would ever be able to sit up on her own, to walk, to be continent, or to feed herself.

You understand that the brain cannot develop if the body does not move, and vice versa. This child’s body was rigid, at the same time as it was floppy and hypotonic; she was virtually imprisoned within the confines of her damaged brain. It is my belief that had we not found the Feldenkrais (later: the Anat Baniel Method) Method when we did, had we done nothing to bypass the damage that had occurred in utero, had we made no effort to re-route and create new and healthy neural pathways, she would in fact have become more and more disabled and would have fallen more and more behind intellectually, true to the doctor’s most dire predictions.

I am happy to report that today, this same little girl has become a beautiful young woman who is not only walking, but at age 25 is in graduate school getting a second master’s degree in social work, after having received her first master’s degree in Judaic studies from Brandeis University… a thousand miles away from her family. She has become, in other words, a totally independent and happily well-functioning, highly educated human being with one of the strongest and most positive senses of self esteem of anyone I know. You know there is an expression in Yiddish which says that “God slaps you on one cheek and kisses you on the other.” My husband Lou and I have been profoundly kissed.
I must tell you that regarding the Feldenkrais work, we were very fortunate to find Moshe Feldenkrais himself… and when Elizabeth was so young. By 13 months of age, Liz remained virtually paralyzed; the only movement she could muster was to roll over on one side. Within her first five 20 minute sessions with Moshe, however, she had begun to make the reptilian movements of creeping. Here was the real beginning of this child’s life, the real birth and awakening of her brain and body. Moshe says, “Movement is life.” From that moment on, this imprisoned, in pain, and truly miserable infant was snatched right out of the jaws of Hell, as were we, her parents and family. Though it was I who gave birth to my daughter, I believe that it was Anat and Moshe who truly gave her life… and life quality.

We followed Moshe everywhere that he happened to be in this world until he died, when Liz was three years old. We traveled to New York, to Washington, to Toronto and to Massachusetts. We would pick him up at the airport in Chicago when he would be passing through en route to California, we’d take him to a near-by motel to work with Elizabeth, and then would deliver him back for his connecting flight. We even took Liz and her three year old brother Adam to Israel to work with him and spent as much as a month at a time there, on three separate occasions, to receive his work.

One of the most precious legacies that Moshe left to us was this beautiful, incredibly gifted and talented woman, Anat Baniel, a practitioner trained by him, who was no more than a girl herself in those days old when she first began to work with Elizabeth side by side with Moshe. When Moshe died, he bequeathed Elizabeth to Anat as her sole caretaker and therapist, and this she has been to this very day. Lou and I followed Anat in the same way that we had first followed Moshe, taking time from our personal and professional lives to bring Liz to her wherever she was, for one week out of every eight weeks throughout Liz’s growing up years. At one point, we even brought Anat to Chicago from her home in Jerusalem to work with our daughter. The optimistic results were well worth the personal and financial sacrifice; there was simply no question about it. To this day, Liz still sees Anat for lessons whenever possible

Regarding Anat, - I am going to go out on a limb now to make a statement which I hope is not inappropriate to say - I believe that she is, without question, the most talented human being on this earth in terms of what she has been able to accomplish with children through her work. As an expert in the Feldenkrais Method, she developed, expanded and evolved this technique into her own Anat Baniel Method for children based on the work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais… in my opinion, taking the work even BEYOND where Moshe had been able to go in terms of diversity of function, technique, child and parent relationships, and professional training.

It is always interesting for me to hear the parents of Anat’s child students speaking about how they can observe differences in their child after a single lesson, because we did, too… as amazed as we were to observe Liz’s continuing perceptible gains, it never ceases to amaze me that such miraculous results happen so consistently for so many other children as well. Our lives together with our daughter… which started out with such fear and depression, such disillusion and trauma, not knowing what was to become of us all… became so full of hope. To this day, I am always a little taken aback when anyone perceives or refers to me as the mother of a handicapped child. I don’t see myself this way at all, nor do I see Liz that way. To me she is simply one great girl who has had so much to offer us and to everyone who knows her …and we are the luckiest parents who ever lived to have found Moshe and Anat. Our entire family moved from a state of darkness into the light as Moshe and Anat released and nurtured the human being inside of Elizabeth.

We did what we did for our child, because it was her due and our responsibility, because we loved her, because we felt there was no alternative. Quite honestly, we did what we did, too, for ourselves. Living with despair is an intolerable way to go through life. Replacing despair with optimism and hope, the achievement of potential, the energy to keep moving forward, the motivation to not stop till you are there, the knowledge that you are upgrading your child’s existence day to day despite her limitations and that tortuous first year was of invaluable benefit for us. Without hope there would have been no life to speak of… for her or for us.
Abigail Natenshon