Today, Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor of Reader Views talks with Dr. Paul Dennison about his latest book “Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning. ”
Dr. Paul Dennison is an internationally known educator and authority on cognitive skills and reading achievement. A pioneer in the field of applied neuroscience, Dr. Dennison has conducted years of research at his learning centers into reading achievement and its relation to brain development. He has developed the movement-based learning known today as Educational Kinesiology. Dr. Dennison has written eight books, which have been distributed through eighty countries in forty languages, with a total sold of over 415,000 copies. During the last twenty-five years, Dr. Dennison has taught workshops in movement-based learning in more than fifteen countries, being presented with numerous honors, including the Reading Excellence through the Arts (RETA) Award in association with the International Reading Association.
Juanita: Welcome to Reader Views Dr. Paul Dennison. We are honored to have the opportunity to talk with you about your new book “Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning. ” Would you start by telling us – what is Brain Gym?
Dr. Dennison: The Brain Gym® program refers to a physical exercise program which has been found effective to activate and build new neural pathways for improved cognitive readiness and academic performance. It is used daily in schools, offices and playing fields. It is for all who want to realize more full potential.
Juanita: The movement-based learning modality you’ve developed is known as Educational Kinesiology. What does this mean, and what is the difference between Edu-K and Brain Gym?
Dr. Dennison: Education means to “draw out” or “lead out” and suggests that we all have the wisdom to learn in the body. Kinesiology means the study of movement. Educational Kinesiology is a comprehensive science and language of movement as it relates to Learning. The Brain Gym® program is just one of our programs, although the best known. Edu-K is short for Educational Kinesiology.
Juanita: How do movement, learning and brain development affect one another?
Dr. Dennison: All learning includes movement, both physical movement and mental movement along neural networks. As we move, play, interact with the world and master life skills, we are literally building and developing the brain. One does not exist without the others.
Juanita: You mentioned earlier that these exercises actually activate and build neural pathways. How does such seemingly easy movement build these networks?
Dr. Dennison: All movement activates and builds neural pathways. We could not move without them. We all have experienced the building of neural pathways. We know it as “learning. ” For example, we might remember how it felt to learn to ride a bicycle. At first we had no balance or understanding of the process and we may have fallen down. As we experimented and achieved vestibular balance and learned to coordinate our pedaling movements, neural pathways were created to enable us to repeat the action. These pathways were there for us ten minutes later and continue to be there into the future, because the experience created neural networks and the learning associated with these movements.
Juanita: What can readers expect from “Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning”?
Dr. Dennison: My book is a call to all who love children and/or who want a full, quality life to embrace the premise that “movement is the door to learning. ” How we move is how we are in the world. How we move determines how we are creating our lives and our brains. Through story, metaphor and real life case studies I create a space for all to move, grow and take charge of their lives. Readers love the book and find it an easy to read, practical guide for learning and teaching others.
Juanita: How much time will someone have to put into thee exercises to start noticing a difference?
Dr. Dennison: Students of Brain gym® report significant changes within one to six weeks of a regular program of ten to twenty minutes of the movements daily. There is an immediate sense of well-being and confidence that is noticed immediately and that keeps people motivated to stay with the program.
Juanita: What type of learning challenges will your new book help? Will your techniques help readers who may not have a specific learning challenge, but just want to maximize their learning potential?
Dr. Dennison: Whether labeled “challenged” or whether the reader is open to maximize her potential, the book is a step-by-step guide. Starting with the basic reading and writing challenges a student may have to optimization of a company’s potential, the Brain Gym® program is the way to move from patterns that are ineffective and no longer serving us to the integration of effective, efficient patterns which get results.
Juanita: Can your techniques be used at any age? How do your methods keep the attention of children who typically find it hard to do adult-oriented therapies?
Dr. Dennison: Children are natural learners who learn kinesthetically, through movement. The Brain Gym program is not a therapy. It has been called a “readiness” program. When children do the movements together, they are ready to play, interact, teach each other and learn.
Juanita: Comparing your research results of both children and adults, do you find it takes longer for an adult brain to benefit from your techniques? Please explain.
Dr. Dennison: Everyone loves to learn and everyone may find himself “stuck” or frustrated in the process. When the goal and intention to learn is clear, there is no difference between a child and an adult. Anyone who is ready for a breakthrough can learn in a moment.
Juanita: I understand that many teachers through the world are using your techniques in their classrooms. Have you found it a challenge reaching the educational community that may be fixed in their curriculum?
Dr. Dennison: Educators who want results love the Brain Gym® program. The Brain Gym ® program is not a separate curriculum which would jeopardize the current program offering; it is a warm-up program for learning done in homes, schools, and offices every day. It enhances any curriculum by preparing participants who are ready, willing and able to learn.
Juanita: Dr. Dennison, would you explain one of your techniques?
Dr. Dennison: I will explain The Lazy Eight. Effective reading and writing requires access to an effective midfield at the midline or center point of the body where our left and right sides work together, or not. Our survival reflexes move us away from the midline and many students are not prepared to function on the midfield. The Lazy Eight movement, tracing a figure 8 lying on its side, is a continuous movement away from and, then, back through the midfield at the center. This continuous pattern improves near point centralization and focus for improved visual integration.
Juanita: I’m sure that you’ve met many people over the years that have a hard time understanding how these simple activities actually work. What do you say to them, and what comments do you have on the profound results received from such simple, and fun, techniques?
Dr. Dennison: The hardest part is how easy it is. These are safe, natural movements which work. There are explanations and understanding will come later. Just do them! The results will speak for themselves.
Juanita: I understand the Brain Gym will also help readers overcome daily challenges of life including restlessness and memory deficiencies, and most importantly in this day and age – stress. How so?
Dr. Dennison: The Brain Gym® program teaches the physical skills of learning. These skills are seldom taught and are too often taken for granted. When we are not comfortable with the physical aspects of learning, we cannot easily think, remember or process mentally. We cannot learn when we are stressed, trying, or frightened. The Brain Gym® program leaves one comfortable with the physical skills and ready to think clearly.
Juanita: I understand you’ve had incredible success with ADHD and ADD. What are your thoughts on these disorders and how will Brain Gym help with these challenges?
Dr. Dennison: Such labels describe students who are not ready to participate in the academic program due to lack of physical readiness. The Brain Gym® program meets the child where he is and, at his own best pace, prepares him to be safe, comfortable and ready to learn. There are no learning disorders, only behaviors which tell us what a child is needing if we are willing to listen,
Juanita: Dr. Dennison, you overcame your own challenges while growing up. Will you share how your own history has shaped the direction of your work today?
Dr. Dennison: I didn’t learn on the schedule of my peers. I failed 4th grade because I wasn’t reading. I was made to feel “less than” and “broken. ” I have dedicated my career to help students like myself to never have to endure the “shame” of not learning at the same pace as other students.
Juanita: This “shame” has a debilitating effect on children. How prevalent do you feel this problem is with children today, and what are the long term effects in children if these issues aren’t addressed?
Dr. Dennison:“Shame” and “failure” is inherent in present our system that requires grades, competition and evaluation. Most people learn early that they are not good enough and that they do not belong. Even the high achievers are victims of the system. We are left a people who are unable to think for themselves, unable to express themselves and unwilling to take the risk to be creative.
Juanita:What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment in the field of neuroscience?
Dr. Dennison: Neuroscience is daily confirming what I have observed for over thirty years as an educator. The brain is plastic, self-creating and in a state of continuous reorganization and growth, through movement. We learn by doing, not by knowing information. Information is a tool for the experiential learner.
Juanita: How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Dr. Dennison. Please log on to my bookstore web site at http://www.braingym.com for a complete offering of my books, courses and manuals.
Juanita: Dr. Dennison, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you today. “Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning” is a fantastic book for anyone wanting to maximize their potential and we certainly recommend readers look into Brain Gym, and your easy-to-apply techniques. Before we depart, do you have any final thoughts?
Dr. Dennison: I see a world where everyone will be free to move and play in full self-expression and ease. Parents, educators and entrepreneurs who want to draw out the best of the talents, abilities and gifts of their children, students and employees will use these safe, effective and positive tools for transformation.