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The Anat Baniel Method and NeuroMovement is a type of movement and brain-based therapy that triggers changes in the brain. Children with cerebral palsy may benefit from this type of therapy when led by a trained practitioner.
Who Is Anat Baniel, and What Is the Anat Baniel Method?
Anat Baniel is a psychologist and dancer. She took an early professional interest in the connection between movement, the brain, and wellness. She worked with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais method, to develop her own unique approach to change the brain.
The Feldenkrais Method is a type of movement therapy used to change connections in the brain and between the brain and body. Baniel built on this method to develop the Anat Baniel Method (ABM), also known as NeuroMovement.
The ABM uses movement to change the brain and trigger its learning process and ability to adapt. Baniel and trained practitioners work with special needs children and adults with limitations, such as those caused by injuries and strokes. They also work with athletes, musicians, and others to help improve performance.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
The basis of the ABM is the neuroplasticity of the brain. Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of the brain to change in response to experiences.
Neuroscientists once believed that only infants had a significant degree of neuroplasticity. At this early age, the human brain is remarkably adaptable. Babies learn, grow, and develop rapidly.
Scientists long thought that this plasticity decreased significantly with age. Current research is proving this assumption wrong. Adult brains can change, both for better and for worse. By understanding how to harness this ability, people can make positive changes at any age. This is the foundation of the ABM.
What Are the Nine Essentials?
The ABM outlines the conditions the brain needs to harness its plasticity and create new connections and patterns. These are known as the nine essentials and underly NeuroMovement therapy: 
- Movement with Attention. Movement helps the brain change but only when accompanied by focus and attention on the body.
- Slow. To learn something new, you must do it slowly. A slow pace focuses the brain and stimulates neural connections.
- Variation. All learning requires variation. This is why children play as they develop. By trying all kinds of new things, they learn.
- Subtlety. Movements and activities should be subtle so the brain can focus on minute differences.
- Enthusiasm. By engaging in activities with enthusiasm and joy, the brain understands what is essential.
- Flexible Goals. The path to achieving a goal is not necessarily straight. As with children learning through play and experience, anyone using movement therapy tries many things and adapts as they go along.
- The Learning Switch. The brain can be described as being in either a learning or a non-learning mode. Effective therapy requires switching into learning mode.
- Imagination and Dreams. To see changes, it is important to imagine and dream of the possibilities.
- Awareness. You cannot learn without being aware. To trigger the brain to learn and change requires being fully present and aware of surroundings and the body’s sensations.
How Does ABM NeuroMovement Help Children with Cerebral Palsy?
There is limited published research into how this method helps children with cerebral palsy. Evidence from other studies and individual stories indicate that it could be a powerful way to reverse some of the disabilities caused by it.
A healthy baby learns and develops by trying many different random movements. For a child with cerebral palsy, movement is limited, which in turn limits development.
The ABM stimulates the natural, random movements healthy children use to help those with cerebral palsy improve. The practitioner helps the child move in ways that will lead to positive brain changes and greater mobility.
How Is NeuroMovement Different from Other Treatments?
Most treatments for cerebral palsy focus on fixing a specific area of the body or physical deficit. For instance, massage and physical therapy for the legs may help reduce spasticity and pain and make walking easier. A child may be fitted with a brace to correct the position of the feet or legs.
What makes the ABM different is that it focuses on the brain rather than on one specific physical issue or deficit at a time. The idea is that the brain can change and learn. As the primary organizing structure, the brain’s ability to adapt impacts physical, emotional, cognitive, and social functions.
If the brain can change, learn, and form new neural connections, a child may be able to overcome some of the disabilities caused by cerebral palsy. The therapy used by ABM practitioners replaces old neurological patterns with new ones.
Another difference is that the ABM does not try to slot children into predetermined developmental milestones. The approach treats each child’s development as unique. Every child goes at their own pace.
How Can I Get This Therapy for My Child?
If you’re interested in trying the ABM NeuroMovement for your child with cerebral palsy, talk to your pediatrician and specialists. They may be able to help you find a practitioner.
When searching for a practitioner on your own, be sure to look for someone who is certified. Certified practitioners go through a movement and brain science-based training program. You should only rely on these trained professionals to work with you and your child.
The Anat Baniel Method and NeuroMovement are growing in popularity as more people see the benefits of the therapy. For a child with cerebral palsy, this may be a useful complement to other medical treatments.
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- Anat Baniel Method. (n.d.). Meet Anat Baniel.
Retrieved from: https://www.anatbanielmethod.com/about/anat-baniel/meet-anat-baniel/#
- Voss, P., Thomas, M.E., Cisneros-Franco, J.M., and de Villers-Sidani, E. (2007, October 4). Dynamic Brains and the Changing Rules of Neuroplasticity: Implications for Learning and Recovery. Front. Psychol. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01657.
Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01657/full
- Anat Baniel Method. (n.d.). NeuroMovement and the Nine Essentials.
Retrieved from: https://www.anatbanielmethod.com/about/neuromovement/neuromovement-and-9-essentials/
- Anat Baniel Method. (n.d.). Cerebral Palsy: How NeuroMovement Can Help.
Retrieved from: https://www.anatbanielmethod.com/children/brain-trauma/cerebral-palsy/
- Baniel, A. and Sharp, N. (2013). . Leveraging the Power of the Brain to Change Itself to Transform Clinical Outcomes With Adults and Children With Special Needs With the Anat Baniel Method. Global Adv. Health Med. 2(Suppl), 11.
Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.7453/gahmj.2013.097CP.S11