Professionally, I’ve spent more than six years working with children and adults with various neurological, mental, and developmental disorders in a variety of settings.
While I was never a medical provider, I became a jack of all trades for assisting providers. I was a chaplain on an acute care psychiatric ward, a sensory-motor coach at a neurology-based tutoring center, and an on-site caregiver to adults with developmental disabilities. Of all the treatment modalities I saw in use in all of those settings, those which focused on neuro-plasticity were far and away from a step ahead of the rest.
For that reason, I highly recommend what Joe Kleman does at Neural Movement therapy. I’ve been seeing him for care for myself for the past several months and have been really pleased with the results. I’ve been impressed both practically and intellectually, as someone with an above-average appreciation for the skill he displays.
His major invention, the cube room, focuses on skills like coordination of bilateral movements, sequencing of movements, motor planning, proprioception, balance, etc. In laymen’s terms, it’s all about, “Where is my body in space?”
I find the motor planning in the cube room more challenging than any of the exercises I’ve ever done or assisted someone in doing (for example, more challenging than the Interactive Metronome or eye-exercise software like VisionBuilder). I don’t mean “harder”, I mean more progressively challenging in the way that keeps me always on the edge of growing.
Because the cube room uses so many skills as once (vs. something like optokinetic exercises that focus on one very specific skill), I could see the cube room being especially useful for patients who are trying to integrate a lot of isolate changes they have already made with other treatment modalities. Or, for patients who have never tried a neuro-plasticity based treatment model, have co-occuring physical limitations, and need to focus on growing skills “in three dimensions”.
Unique to Joe’s setting is his insistence on “games” — not “treatment” — to help the person learn that movement is fun, normal, and part of who they are. Neuro-plasticity treatments are different than say, taking a pill for an acute infection because the challenge is to convince the patient not only to do the exercises but to let doing the thing that makes them grow to become part of who they are, what their habits are in the long-term.
When I worked with providers, our hardest challenge was getting patients to do their home exercises. Joe’s approach — presenting things as “games” — is much easier to follow through on. Even when I know it’s a trick!
I had a full evaluation at the Carolina Brain Center right before I started therapy with Joe. I will go back to them for follow-up evaluation in a few weeks, but I can tell that I’ve improved on most if not all of the neurological metrics they tested me in. Without knowing what their results were or having the benefit of all their computerized test equipment, Joe easily pinpointed the same weak places in my brain and how to strengthen them. He did it by observing how I moved and how skilled I was in my movements.
Respect for the man whose intuition is as honed as that!
Why we need to place more importance on, play. In a world full of tasks, when do we find time to not do any, and relax. As we continue to glamorize being busy, seeing how many plates we can keep spinning while riding a unicycle balanced on a basketball. The idea of play is quite simple, play is in of itself. It is something you choose to do, that no matter how great, or terrible you are at it, nothing in the world changes. If you blow air through a trumpet and it makes noise, its either going to make beautiful sound, or a terrible sound, and the only thing that changes is how you feel.
I recently had a client that came to me for anxiety, and we spent some time discussing play. She mentioned to me that she tried arts and crafts, but it made it worse. Why is that, you think? Well even though it may seem trivial it isn’t play, it is a task. You are still comparing your work to someone else, the person that you copied. Yours doesn’t look as good as theirs, now you feel terrible again. If you chose to do arts and crafts because you were called to do it, and you enjoy creating something unique then that would be play. She could have chosen to do arts and crafts and create her own one of a kind work of art, this may have made her more content.
One of my favorite scientists, Nikola Tesla once quoted “Most people are sick because they forgot how to play”. Nature is playful, and we are part of that plan. We are simply grown up children that still need time to run, and play. This allows our muscles and our minds to continue to grow, long into old age. If you really stop and think, how many diseases that are affecting our elderly could be prevented by continually engaging in play, play that is filled with discovery, learning and struggle.
I encourage you if you have children, drum up some creativity and imagination, sit down on the floor and play with trucks, and answer the plastic phone when it rings. If you don’t have kids find yourself out in the forest, my suggestion is to take a day off from work and head to the forest in the middle of the day. I play this game where I run around like a little kid, singing “Nobody can hear me, nobody can see me”. If you want to throw rocks, or pick up sticks, sing a song that makes no sense, then who cares. No one can see you anyways, and the birds surely don’t care.
I will include a great excerpt from a book about growing up. The book is called “Somatics: Reawakening The Mind’s Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health” Thomas Hanna
“To become an adult means that we no longer have to do the things we did as kids. Kids run, but we adults walk. Kids climb, but we take the elevator. Kids scoot under bushes, but we go around them. Kids stand on their heads, but we sit on our bottoms. Kids roll on the ground, but we turn on the mattress. Kids jump up and down, but we shrug our shoulders up and down. Kids laugh with joy, but we smile with restraint. Kids are exuberant, but we are careful. Kids want to have fun, but we want to have security.
In short, to become a successful adult means to cease acting like a kid. It is the customary sign of adulthood to cease functioning like a young person. But this conception of adulthood has an unavoidable result: As soon as we stop using these functions, we lose them. And we lose them because our brain, which is a highly responsive organ of adaptation, adjusts to this lack of activity. If certain actions are no longer part of our behavioral inventory, our brain crosses them off”.