This past month I have had the pleasure of reviewing a book published by Learning Breakthrough Program entitled A Life in Balance by Frank Belgau as told to Eric Belgau. What a fascinating book. Mr. Belgau started researching the concept of a multi-sensory learning system back in the 60's when he noticed a correlation between balance of the left and right sides of the body with the ability to read. Since then he has developed his theory into one that covers a broad range of learning disabilities, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and speech impediments.
I have found this book particularly interesting in light of Eli's speech delays and stuttering. Although I have read the entire book, I am still combing back through it, ever so slowly, pulling together lots of ideas and my own theories based on Eli's prior speech pathology experiences and my observations as his primary teacher. Mr. Belgau spent roughly 30 years developing his theories with the aid of several professionals.
Mr. Belgau said, “You would be surprised by how many children are destroyed by the prognoses of dumb psychologists who have spent only thirty minutes testing them before labeling them and sending them to a class that the child should never be in. Testing should be designed to provide information on how to teach the child." ~ page 38.
This is near and dear to my heart as I believe that all children can learn, and learn a lot, if they are taught properly. Children are not cookie cut. Each child learns differently and has different needs. It's up to the teacher to determine what those needs are.
I cannot even tell you how stale I think my teaching has become because I have slipped back into the box of teaching a "normal" child. Reading this book has opened my eyes. My 8 year old daughter is a typical student and learns in the typical ways. She loves learning and learns in any way presented to her. My 10 year old son, however, approaches learning completely different and has some challenges to learning that I have tried to squish into a box. He still continues to learn, and learn well. But is he being taught in the best way for him? Is he enjoying learning? I don't think so. He does it because he has to.
The Multi-Sensory Learning System proposed by Mr. Belgau began with children learning through, what he calls, The Space Walk. This is a series of physical activities, mapped out on a sidewalk or parking lot, that has the children learning balance in his or her physical body. This involves integration of the two sides of the body. Once balance is achieved, the learning improvements follow.
In his early studies he found that "in order to learn to read, students must be able to hop on one foot, skip and tie his or her own shoes." ~ page 40.
Let me tell you why this statement caught my attention.
When Eli stutters, it helps him to pretend he is stretching out a slinky while he is saying the sentence. He "stretches" his sentence out from beginning to end using the pulling motion. This is an exercise that a former speech pathologist had him do. This concentration on a physical task while he is speaking distracts his brain patterns and interrupts his stuttering. It works every time. When he starts to stutter, I can say, "Eli, stretch your words," or just give him the slinky motion. Then he his able to state his thought without stuttering. It embarrasses him to do this in public, so I am trying to teach him to just visualize the stretching of the slinky when he speaks.
Learning Breakthrough Program sells a full program of materials and products to aid in this integration process. The total cost of the products is around $400. But the book also provides a large section at the end with physical activities that can be done without any additional materials. Mr. Belgau wanted parents and teachers to be able to work on this integration process without any outside cost.
I am seriously looking into these activities with Eli to see if it helps with his stuttering. I just have to believe there is a correlation.
If you have a child with a learning disability, I highly encourage you to pick up this book. It can be purchased at Learning Breakthrough Program in paperback for a cost of $16.94. Although this book is primarily for adults, older teens would enjoy it, as well.
You can follow Learning Breakthrough Program on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. You can also read other reviews of this product at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.