Thank Feldenkrais!

A road much travelled, but on no ones road map – Cerebral Palsy found me when my son was born – we might have prayed to Buddah or to the universe but we Thank Feldenkrais everyday! This is our journey.

“Make the impossible possible, the possible easy, the easy elegant”

– Moshe Feldenkrais

Image: Famous photograph of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion doing a headstand taught by Moshe Feldenkrais. Press Photographer Paul Goodman 1943-61

timing is everything

I tend to be on the nostalgic side,
Which is probably interesting for someone who has had so much trauma in her life,
Or perhaps that is just part of the process,
To look back on,
And be able to conjure up predominantly the treasured moments,
From the heartbreak.

I get particularly sentimental during moments of big change.

And while the last twelve months have been a continuous epic leap forward for Isaac,
These last few weeks have been yet another game changer.

And I do get misty-eyed,
Forget to breathe,
And find myself completely dumbfounded,
Because the journey has been extraordinary.

And perhaps Moshe is looking down on us laughing,
Because he knew the inside joke,
And exactly just how far Isaac would come following his Method.

But I look back over his lifetime of footwear,
Starting with his tiny red “Astro-Boy Boots” that now fit in the palm of my hand.

And I’m somewhat lost for words.

Because fast forward almost ten years,
And it seems we have left all of this behind us,
And replaced it with an inner sole,
No one would know he’s wear,
Inside a trainer his dad is jealous of.

And this is significant,
Not only for Isaac socially,
Or emotionally,
But functionally,
It’s phenonminal.

And for the first time in his life,
He’s walking with ankles.

And our homage to his feet continue.

And with ankles comes so much more.

The flow on effect through his system,
Is nothing short of incredible.

Now, I’m not saying we’ve cured Isaac of his cerebral palsy by a pair of Nike Air Max’s,
Because he will never have a single typical neurological exchange in his system,
Ever,
But he’s getting pretty close to some finesse in movement,
I can’t pull off.

And with ankles that can allow his foot to shift weight across all points of the sole,
While the knee moves side to side,
That can hinge as he moves his foot in and out of dorsi-flexion,
And push through a heel as he extends his leg in space,
And reaching for the ground off a high bench,
With two sets of toes yet landing with planted feet,
(All beyond remarkable in itself)
We see it,
Everything else,
Begins to move.

The rotation in his spine is enviable,
The grace in which he can rock his pelvis,
Or bring one knee to the side while on his tummy,
Is the markings of exceptional organisation.

And it’s because,
It can now all flow together.

Isaac’s self image,
Has integrated his long lost friends.

His ankles.

Who were primarily held hostage in an AFO most of his life.

And now they are united,
For truly the first time.

Hello there.

And while hindsight is a wonderful thing,
This is exactly the trajectory we had to take,
Despite Mr Feldenkrais himself dancing an I told you so dance,
Somewhere out there,
He would also be the first one to tell us,
Timing is everything.

And it would appear for me now,
That the timing is right,
To box away sixteen pairs of boots,
That represent a significant chapter in our journey,
And use my own gloriously free ankles,
To skip along side Isaac,
Into whatever comes next.

to walk him further

It’s a known fact,
That Isaac hadn’t truly bared weight on his feet,
Until he took his first breath-taking independent steps in November last year,
At eight years and eight months of age.

There were brief stints as a three year old,
While in stationary standing,
That began to look like he’d found his feet,
Then once again after Botox injections,
Followed by successful serial casting as a seven year old,
But these were few and far between,
And fleeting.

The result,
Isaac has never developed his feet.

With crawling his primary mode of moving through space,
For over seven years,
His feet never had the apprenticeship required,
To develop shape,
And structure,
Associated with a typical foot.

And add in eight years of AFO use,
Holding his feet rigid and flat,
Albeit for stability,
Movement within the feet,
Were never possible,
Or required.

It’s form following function.

And in this case,
Lack there of.

I’ve seen over the years with Isaac,
Unfolding in front of me,
Ever so subtly,
His face slightly twisting to the left,
As his speech developed alternative movements to get his sounds out,
And more obviously as his knees became wide walking-pads,
From year after year of crawling on hard surfaces,
And his calves so slight I can wrap my thumb and pointer finger around them,
Because they’ve never had a function to build muscle bulk.

And until Isaac stopped us all in our tracks,
As he walked across that Californian lounge room nine months ago,
His feet too had another purpose for him,
And the structure tells that tale.

And until he were to use them,
As design intended,
There was never an opportunity for it to be any other way.

Footwear plays its role,
Absolutely,
But our self image,
The parts available to us,
The way we use them,
That give meaning and purpose to our lives,
Our movement,
Is fundamentally the determining factor.

And so now here we are,
The pivotal moment,
Where Isaac has emerged from an non walker,
To an independent walker,
And an increasingly more competent one by the day,
We must pay homage to his feet!

We seek to transition away from an AFO,
And while we cannot remedy some malformation already done,
We sure can assist in preventing new ones.

We seek dynamics beyond what an AFO could ever allow,
With alignment support for the bones and muscles never used,
To have their turn to act.

We seek an ease in balance,
Through stacking the weight accordingly,
Voiding the need to ferociously grip with the toes,
As if hanging on for dear life.

We seek to take the pressure away where it’s problematic,
Relieve the over-stretched medial border with support,
And allow the lateral border space to extend.

And at nine years old,
And Feldenkrais Method,
Thankfully keeping him primarily off his feet,
Until he was ready,
His beautiful little feet have not been thrashed beyond repair,
They do sport a hint of an arch,
Are still baby soft,
With a lot of time for receptive feedback to work it’s magic,
And access to the learning,
To bring them more comprehensively into his self image,
And to a deeper understanding of what’s possible in their use.

And as I said,
The timing couldn’t be better.

But what is the ultimate way to support them,
To walk him further,
Faster,
And stronger,
Well into his future?

The Method,
Undoubtedly,
As he’ll continue to explore contact,
Weight shifting,
Wiping,
Pushing,
Twisting,
Kicking,
Turning at all angles,
On all sides,
And surfaces,
Unlocking all possibilities of his feet.

But in footwear?
That,
We are desperately hoping to find out!

sophisticated and complete

“As a scientist I found the Feldenkrais approach to human movement and learning the most sophisticated and complete one available to date. The Feldenkrais comprehensive approach encompasses the role of the nervous system, its plasticity, developmental and autonomous aspects, the role of the gravitational fields as an external force as well as aspects of the internal constraints dictated by the skeletal body mechanics. It is not suprising in this respect the consideration that the method is gaining amongst the new generation of neuroscientists. There are many aspects of human learning that are still beyond our current understanding and we should not be mistaken by thinking that this approach can deal magically with all the issues that we can experience but, based on my experience, I can certainly tell that it is an invaluable tool to find in ourselves resources to help us during our life journey.”

Quote and image by Dr. Alessandro Bombardi

Interlude

why Feldenkrais?

I had the privilege of being a guest author for The Flowing Body

in close proximity

There is definitely something to be said for the quiet life.

And never seen more so,
Or more obviously than for Isaac,
During this global pandemic.

His system has lived a life of over-demand,
From the moment his blue little oxygen depleted body arrived in the world,
He has been efforting.

He had to fight to stay here,
And his every action since has been bombarded with excessive challenge.

Stemming directly from his brain injury,
As his messages and neural pathways sparked,
Spluttered,
And misfired in all directions,
His system was hijacked,
And everything manifested exponential effort.

From the moment he began his Feldenkrais journey,
He has learnt how to quiet his nervous system,
To reduce the tension indistinguishable from trying to do,
In order for his intentions to translate into a successful function.

And he has done this over nine years,
Slowly,
Yet remarkably well,
With the consistent and continued reminder,
And guidance through The Feldenkrais Method.

But certain environments,
Placing layers of expectation on him,
Building an increase in demand,
Can as quickly undo all the learned behaviour of limiting the squeeze of tension.

And none more so than being at school,
For a boy as determined,
As passionate,
As sociable,
As academically inspired as Isaac.

Because he never wants to miss a beat.

He’s always seen himself as one of the group,
Ready to participate,
Absorb,
Contribute,
Explore,
Engage,
Experiment,
Just as any other,
And he remains in the drivers seat to make that happen.

And to his credit,
He can do this well,
And his way,
But the greater the expected outcome,
The greater demand on Isaac’s system,
And thus the more his patterns of tensing up,
Of over-efforting,
Return,
Because his system is being overloaded.

More specifically,
And most obviously seen,
When attempting fine motor tasks,
Such as writing,
Typing,
Or navigating a touchscreen.

And talking.

Which by the time you’re in third grade,
Are the biggest components of your schooling day.

The issue then becomes,
Not purely that attempting fine motor tasks,
Or verbally contributing to the class,
Becomes less successful within themselves,
But the spill-over effect,
Of attempting these tasks,
Day in day out,
Have on all of him.

His entire movement organisation,
Is under undue stress.
His system once more becomes a slave to old patterns of tension,
And suddenly parts of himself,
And functional actions that are otherwise available to him,
Under the right circumstances,
Become virtually impossible to perform.

And then there was home-schooling.

During the Covid 19 lockdown period,
Where Isaac was working from home,
He was in close proximity to his work/play environments,
He was given much more time to complete tasks,
He was scribed for on a more regular basis,
He took more breaks,
He was under no pressure to perform,
And the improvements within his system as a whole,
Were remarkable.

His walking,
Which had been improving,
Jumped leaps and bounds,
To where he was on a nature walk of over half a kilometre without a walking aid,
He was negotiating hills,
And uneven ground like we’d never witnessed.
The freedom within his shoulder girdles was unprecedented,
And suddenly we’re seeing movement within the wrists and fingers,
We’d never seen before.

His speech was the clearest it had been since he was saying single word replies,
He was again able to produce a “t” sound at the ends of words,
He was saying “Dad” instead of as “Yag” as it had become,
He was able to bring his lips together to form a “p” sound,
And I was hearing his beautiful little voice saying “mummy” with both clarity and ease.
His tongue was mobilising,
His jaw was softening,
And his face in far less tension.

And all this manifesting from an environment,
Albeit forced upon us,
That reduced the demands,
And that allowed him to work at his own pace,
Not according to a predetermined schedule.
And completing his much loved school work,
In a successful balance between independence and support.

Independence in thinking,
Solving,
Generating ideas,
While supported in the physical production of content.

And now,
We’ve returned to fulltime face to face schooling,
And within a week we’ve seen the creeping in,
Of old tension,
As the demands on his system build once more.

And we need to find a balance,
Once again,
Of how Isaac can be at school,
Where he is at his happiest,
Without undoing all this gains.

What this looks like,
We don’t yet know.

We must tread delicately so Isaac doesn’t feel like we are taking away his independence,
We must be tactful so he doesn’t feel railroaded by others taking over,
We must be clever in our approach so he doesn’t feel isolated socially,
Or self conscious among his peers,
And we must do it quickly,
Before another set of expectations becomes his norm,
And he refuses to do it any other way.

And we are back on the CP merry-go-round once more.

But until his fine motor,
Or talking loud enough for a classroom of kids to hear him,
Is available to him in all circumstances,
Which is absolutely the end goal,
We must limit them now in order to preserve the possibility for their longevity,
And the possibility of improving beyond their current ability.

To many, this philosophy may seem contradictory;
Do less to achieve more,
But I’ve been immersed in The Method long enough now,
I’ve witness enough wow moments with Isaac,
To vouch wholeheartedly for its merits.

And while the negotiation,
In finding the balance that satisfies Isaac,
Is the delicate piece to this puzzle,
I’m confident we can find it.

Because after all,
Isaac can understand when we say to him,
What we hope for,
Is for you to be able to perform all tasks,
As effortlessly as it is for you to put your finger on your nose,
While resting on your back.


“You mean like this?”

Exactly.


The End of Chapter Twenty-Nine.

subtlety

“Any force greater than the minimum needed to perform the intended action will interfere with your child’s progress.

The more you can create the conditions for your child to perceive subtle differences, to feel more of what there is to feel by ensuring ease and comfort – that is, by reducing force and excessive effort – the more the brain can change and (the child) will improve.

Subtlety – is one of the most potent and immediate ways to increase creativity and intelligent action exponentially in.. your child”

kids beyond limits

Quote: Anat Baniel – Kids Beyond Limits – page 116

life pause

The blanketed comfort,
Of home.

Where we stay,
Secure by the removal of choice.

Validated in its absence of accomplishment.

A Legitimate,
Life pause.

Like a long awaited holiday.

New read in hand,
Hammock strung,
Laughing children,
Devouring a rainbow of fruit,
Warmed by the safety of their proximity,
Content by the ease of simplicity.

A goal of merely being.

A truly rare gift.

But the strangeness,
Of such an abrupt life tilt,
Begins to taint rose coloured glasses.

The appeal of pyjamas-all-day,
Is soon replaced with a simmering panic,
Of treading water,
Over and over,
Making no gains.

Purpose confused.

Direction diverted.

Lost is the feeling of satisfaction,
Niggling in its place,
Is the yearning to move forward.

Structured days,
Covering the cracks below the surface,
That seemingly didn’t heal as completely as thought.

Not without constant demand,
So days don’t drag their feet,
Or present time to dwell,
Yet you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’ve lost your footing slightly,
And your sense of self is suddenly off-balance.

It’s wrapped in the dread of week after week,
Of cancelled therapy,
Routine ingrained in my own sense of purpose,
As much as it is written directly into Isaac’s progressions.

My life-line for nine years,
An addict for it’s reassurances,
The balm soothing the constant burning need for him to keep learning.

It’s smothered with the irrational,
Yet is the pulse of my life,
Once removed,
I feel the suffocation begin.

And all else becomes much harder to enjoy.

The four walls begin to close in,
And I’m scrounging for the sense of fulfillment I’d become accustom to.

And yet media cannot remind me more,
Of just how fortunate we are where we are,
That we’ve remained healthy,
Safe,
Cared for.

Perspective,
Loud and clear.

But the derailing of your internal freight-train,
Does impact,
Becasue of,
Despite of,
A global pandemic,
So I reach for what is a steadying,
Stable rock,
And that is Isaac.

While contact therapy,
Is replaced by Zoom meetings,
Or not at all,
His fierce longing to see his friends,
And get back into the classroom,
He takes it all in his stride.

Tech savvy,
And a curiosity to learn,
Across whatever platform possible,
I just have to marvel,
Time and again,
At his resilience,
His utterly inspiring life-take.

And for a nine year old boy,
Who only learnt to walk five months ago,
Who now knows how many moons each planet in our solar system has,
How long it’ll take our galaxy to collide with another (roughly 4 billion years! phew),
Or that that galaxy is called the Andromeda,
What a prokaryote is (first life on earth!),
Or that fruit flies were the first animals sent into space (1947!)
There is no life pause.

Because every moment of every day,
Presents wonder,
The never ending opportunity to learn,
To share as many new-found-facts as humanly possible, 
Or take a walk around the neighbourhood in the sunshine.

(And I will never ever get tired of writing those last words,
Or thanking you, Isaac,
For every lesson you have ever or will ever teach me).

where do we go from here

Rightly so,
Isaac’s self image dramatically changed,
The moment he took those first independent steps.

Now,
He is someone who walks.

He’s rarely succumb to sadness,
For what he could not achieve,
Barely questioning the unique workings of his body,
Over that of his more-able-bodied counterparts,
And instead rather tactfully fending off external provoking’s as to his difference,
With strength of holding his own,
(“It’s just the way I talk” age 5.)
While always tolerating,
The constant intervening,
And swagger of demands that are life with CP.

But this is different.

In his mind,
He has arrived.

And what’s happening around him,
Doesn’t quiet match up.

And for probably the first time ever,
He is outwardly cross.

Demanding with frustration,
And thrown with accusation,
Why do I need a wheelchair?

I can walk now.

Why can’t I just walk to class,
Out to lunch,
To the library?
Quick to mount his defence,
(Having copped onto my usual placating!);
It won’t take too long,
I won’t get tired,
I’ll just go straight up the stairs.

And I applaude,
And credit him his new self,
His confidence,
His drive,
Having played a major role in his successes.

And honestly who are we to enforce a version of him,
Onto him,
That he no longer identifies?!

Although of course,
We on the peripheral can see the time constraints,
Fatigue factor,
And safety concerns,
Validating the use of a wheelchair,
In his day to day life,
But he cannot,
Or will not,
Now he walks.

So where do we go from here?

How do we negotiate the reality of restricting his walking,
Which directly interferes with his new identity of self?

He now knows what walking is,
Means,
Feels like to do,
And he wants more,
It has become part of him.

And this is imperative to foster,
Not squash.

Everything Isaac is telling me,
Is loud with self-drive,
Choice,
Personal decision-making,
An
assertiveness we’ve not before seen.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

But it’s never that straight forward.

And I’m heartbroken at having to be the one who tells him,
No I’m sorry,
You need to use your wheelchair.

But what I didn’t say,
Couldn’t say,
That keeps me up at night,
Is;

Because time cannot wait for you.

Life doesn’t allow you to go at your own pace.

Because we just don’t know how else to make this work.

Shamefully it’s as if I’ve asked,
So can you just be your former self a bit longer…?

I assure him,
We will continue to build,
Work his way up to greater distances,
Varied surfaces,
With the ease of reliability,
And safe-independence.

I watch his little face buckle,
Like I’ve taken away a favourite toy from a toddler,
And I tread very carefully,
About promises I suddenly become very aware if I say,
I must be able to keep.

Holding back my own tears,
At how unfair it is,
That it’s always him who has to adapt to the world,
And never the other way around.

And that we are taking away from him,
His right to choose.

Even though it’s justifiable,
In our eyes.

But I do hope I can help Isaac understand,
That we don’t need to see ourselves at a crossroads of an old self or new,
But rather a point where we can say goodbye to fragments of the past,
But without creating a roadblock,
That prevents us from going back,
If we choose to,
Or need to.
Being committed to taking the direction of all-directions,
Growing multidimensional;
Adding to self,
Without replacing it.

And that we may not always know where to go,
Even if it seems obvious to him,
But so long as we hold onto the momentum of change,
We make gains.

Either as the ones driving it,
Or being pulled by it.

 

And the rest of us can only hope,
To channel the confidence,
Of a nine year old boy,
Who may fall one thousand times,
But always wants to get back up,
Finding his footing to propel himself into the bright opening of whatever comes next.

Isaac,
I still have so much to learn from you.

when i grow up

I know I often note,
Just how far he’s come,
And struck by sentimentality,
I scroll through old posts,
From where it all began,
To reminisce,
To put to me once more in black and white,
The phenomenon that is Isaac.

But as I read the words,
It’s like they don’t belong to me.

And suddenly this post takes a very different path.

I weep for that mother.

And while I shake with the tell-tale-tremors of post traumatic stress.

Because she is me.

She is somehow foreign to me now.

In that power-of-time way,
That separates you from pain.

Understanding recently I had reached acceptance,
Finding a version of myself I never dreamed could be possible,
After life shook my image of rainbows,
And replaced it with blackened skies.

As I let the words of years of my life,
Wash over me,
As tears roll from me,
I’m woken again to her no longer being the only me,
Or all of me.

She is the foundations,
Of the me I am today.

Holding me up,
With the strength of structural integrity.

Life is still a mixed bag,
Of rough days,
Of heartache,
And stresses,
But my underpinning keeping me stable.

She is me.

And she always will be.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

A life goal realised;
Believe in yourself,
Own your story,
Be the best version of yourself.

I got there the hard way,
But arrived nevertheless.

And I can reflect on the life I’ve led from the day I became a mother,
Laden with special-needs,
But also blessed with the array of neuro-typicals,
In the shape of two subsequent daughters,
And the bonded bustle of sibling life.

But without doubt the disability element,
Has pulled my focus,
Almost all-consuming-obsessively so,
Which isn’t an uncommon theme,
Without doubt for families like ours,
But on the cusp of nine years of that fateful day,
That changed the trajectory of my life dramatically,
There he stands,
A strong willed,
Humour riddled,
Glowing kind hearted,
Star reaching,
Walking,
Talking,
Self feeding,
Story writing,
Climate activist,
Infectiously smiley,
Bright curious eyed,
Spark of a boy.

And I know,
I can be what he needs me to be,
Continuing to walk this path with him to find his more,
And more,
And more.

But can I also walk a path that is my own?

By diving back into my written words,
On a rainy day,
Where I feel pride for the distance I’ve cried and crawled,
Fought and found,
I am also compelled to ponder,
How much longer do I have,
To ride on the coat tails of my unpaid-stay-at-home-special-needs-mum status?

Is it nines years?
Or maybe ten?

Or have I missed my chance?

Or can I still be more?

Separate from the special-needs-mum,
From the therapist,
The advocate,
The educator,
The inclusion campaigner,
The equipment specialist,
Or the support coordinator –
The many hats I already have to wear.

And if it is possible,
Where do I go to from here?

What opportunities lay within this framework,
That allows me to wear yet another hat?

A hat I can call mine.

IMG_5383

And a question,
Seemingly lost to me in the haze of my mum-story,
Pops into my head,
Almost tantalizing me with possibility of newness,
Yet stirring me with fear from doubt;

What do I want to be when I grow up?