by Beverly Hunter
months after conception to the moment you die, your ability to understand
and learn is linked to how you are relating to gravity.
first sensory system to fully develop is the Vestibular system
- which controls the sense of movement and balance. There are several
small organs involved in vestibular sensation and from them we gather
information about the head's position relative to the ground. These are
the most sensitive of all the sense organs and they lie in the Mastoid
Bone (the lump behind the ear lobe) and are part of the inner ear. As
we take in information through these specific organs in the inner ear,
it goes to the brain. Then the brain monitors and makes corrective adjustments
to our different muscles by telling them when to tighten and when to relax
and very importantly, it tells our eye muscles how to move so we look
in the right direction. All this happens instantly and automatically so
we don't loose our balance or equilibrium.
connection between the vestibular system , the brain, the eyes and core
muscles is very important to the process of learning. As babies,
we move our limbs, head, eyes in the direction of sounds. Then we reach,
grab, crawl, walk and run; we roll down hills and spend long periods of
time on merry-go-rounds and swings. The sensations of gravity and
body movement form a basic reference for all of our sensory experience,
and this is reflected in our neurological pathways.
Integration is one of the most fundamental organizing principles
both of our experience and of our brain. It allows us to piece together
all the different bits of information that we perceive, and to make sense
of it. The smell of an orange, the orange colour, the rough feel of orange
peel, the squishy sounds it makes as we peel it and the taste of it, are
all automatically combined into our experience of a single orange. Without
sensory integration, we might not make the connection between the orange
that we see and the orange that we smell, taste, or touch. Our experience
would be an unorganized chaos of countless separate sensations.
has shown that children who have difficulties coordinating movements on
both sides of the body (bilateral integration) often show
problems with integration of their vestibular system and their body√s
internal sensory receptors, as well as with sequencing. Balance is a bilateral
sense - Just as we have two eyes for seeing and two ears for hearing,
we have two vestibular organs for sensing gravity. In order to maintain
our balance, we need to coordinate input from both vestibular organs at
the same time.
on the Light Learning Centre we use a tool called a
Balance Board. Maintaining equilibrium while standing
on the Balance Board trains coordination of
the two hemispheres. It is impossible to stand still on the Balance
Board using only one hemisphere at a time. Movement and vision exercises
requiring the equal cooperation of both sides of the body are enhanced
when practiced on the board. Various balance board
activities are used to develop rhythm, sequencing, motor coordination,
visual and auditory processing. They can release emotional stress and
trauma; and they can create shifts in behaviour that enhance self-esteem.
to share a story about my older son who is a natural athlete. His sense
of balance and coordination is unbelievable. We asked him to stand on
the board perfectly still with his eyes open for one minute. This he did
without any problems. Then we asked him to stand with his eyes closed
and very much to our surprise, he fell off within 10 seconds. He then
worked on various balance board activities,
including the eyes-closed exercise and quickly added this unknown skill
to his repertoire. The most wonderful, intriguing outcome of this new
skill was that he learned to fall asleep at night! Ever since babyhood,
he had trouble falling asleep. I can remember lying down with him and
I would peek my eye open to see if he was asleep. His eyes were wide open!
I would tell him to just close his eyes and he would fall asleep. His
reply: "I do mom! But they keep popping open." Since the balance
board exercises, he is asleep within minutes. The problem had
been that this child did not have a sense of where he was and did not
feel safe with his eyes closed.
board training is built on the principle of adaptive learning. It
starts with the challenge of balancing on an unstable surface: if you
don't balance, you fall off. As each level of challenge is mastered, more
activities are added: visually tracking a pendulum ball, passing a stick
behind the back, throwing and catching two koosh balls with both hands.
Visual challenges lead to visual brain organization. Movement challenges
lead to motor brain organization Bilateral challenges lead
to better bilateral brain organization. A session of activities on the
Balance Board leaves the brain in a more organized
state. The balance board can be used for learning
any new skill, from studying a new language to learning timetables. Studying
while standing on the balance board increases
the coordination of both sides of the brain to work together with processing,
filing and storing. The more senses that are added to the learning process
the more the brain is used. I personally use it when I am reading new
material because I learn it faster and retain it longer. If someone in
the family is stuck in a bad mood, the balance
board helps to balance out their feelings.
are you relating to gravity? Are you connecting with it? Fighting
it? Working with gravity and using it to our advantage in learning situations
is a gift , which leads to a sense of balance and integration. The more
integrated we become the more we connect with our true nature and feel
that inner direction.
and Gravity ! What a wonderful discovery !
1. Hannaford, Carla. Smart Moves. Great Oceans Publisher. 1995
2. Reycraft, Eva & Associates. Training Manual