The Anat Baniel Method has given us our son back. The influence this work has had on him is far too great to even try to describe with words but I will try to brush the surface. My water broke at 27.5 weeks and I held onto Gus until I reached 29 weeks. He was diagnosed with PVL, brain damage to the white matter area in the brain responsible for motor control. Eventually the Cerebral Palsy diagnosis came as well. He was not a happy child, which broke our hearts. For a while if he wasn’t eating or sleeping he was fussing or staring blankly into space. Doctors and therapists were noticing some spasticity (muscle tightness) but we just couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t look at us or wasn’t smiling. We had ourselves convinced at one point that he was blind since all we really knew he looked at were lights. He wouldn’t look at or track a toy in front of his face. He didn’t hold or reach for anything. We were desperate to know what was wrong and how to help him. In June of 2011, when Gus was 5 months old, we scheduled 6 cluster lessons of ABM over 3 days. In the very first session, within the first 5-10 minutes, it was like Gus woke up. He had laser like focus for Jon, the ABM practitioner. Our fears of him being blind were way off!! In the second lesson he turned his head from far left to far right to track a toy. By the third, he actually reached for a toy. I cried with joy! He let us lay him down without crying and at one point was just looking at his hand in front of his face like he’d never noticed it was his before. The miracles of those first lessons were amazing. Gus was so much happier. His personality started to flourish.
We began doing 6 lessons every other week and kept that up until about Sept when we backed down to about 6 lessons per month.
In late Feb and early March, we traveled out to California to the ABM Center to have Anat Baniel (the AB of ABM!) evaluate and work with our son. We had 10 lessons while we there - two a day on the weekdays. Anat saw us for 3 of those and we saw Sylvia and Neil for the rest. Here are some of our observations:
Gus started holding his own bottle to feed himself - our message from the folks at the Center was loud and clear - we do too much for him! Let him do things for himself and it's okay for him to get a little frustrated.
He continues to take his own bottle now that we're home, though sometimes it takes some goading.
He's been feeling himself so much better. They really loosened up his lower and middle back and that's helped his head control and comfort a lot.
He's eating so many more foods now. The consistencies don't seem to bother him as much and he's choking a lot less. He wants to try everything on our plates!
He bends his knees up and draws them so much closer to his chest now (I was just about crying for a while there seeing other kids playing with their feet and sucking on their toes because Gus was so spastic his little toes didn't reach anywhere near his mouth.)
He is kicking and moving his legs much more freely
He plays using both hands so much better. His left arm and hand are working much better now.
At one point during the week I was handing him a piece of food and he actually reached for it with his left hand - unprecedented!
We had some pretty exciting news from 2 weeks after getting home from California. Ever since working with the Master folks for ABM out in California, Gus was much more comfortable lying on his back on the floor to play, which is where they want him as much as possible. During his lessons with the practitioners they had been working a lot on rolling and scooting. One of them said, "He has to realize that he CAN move and then things will get easier!" Well, I'd been a little disappointed that he hadn't been continuing to try to roll on his own. He did roll one time outside of lessons on the night of the 4th day of lessons out in CA but that was it - no repeats. I've been working really hard to appreciate the other stuff above and how those are pretty significant but I must admit I'd been hoping for even more miracles!
Then, about 2 weeks home, Maria had laid him on the floor on his back to play and she was busy doing something on her computer. When she looked down he was laying 90 degrees rotated from how she had laid him there. That alone was really big! Then the same thing happened but she was watching him this time. He was actually trying to roll over and in the process was rotating himself around a little bit with each attempt. That was a really HUGE breakthrough for him to be attempting to move on his own. As the practitioner said, he has to first get the concept that HE can control where he goes so this is a great step!
Then the next day he did also get himself onto his side from his back in order to reach a toy. Also big stuff and new for him! Before that where you laid him on the floor was exactly where he was until you picked him up again.
He was also really experimenting with movement then. It was so awesome that he was finally getting some positive results for himself that he was jazzed about and wanted to keep escalating! He was on a roll! Okay, I couldn't resist that one...
Then the big miracle - HE ROLLED AND ROLLED AND ROLLED!!! About 6 PM one night M burst into my office to say he had rolled all the way over to his belly, rested a moment there on his elbows, and then continued rolling over to his side to get to a toy that was pretty far away!
And he did it again the next night. I watched him do 2 complete rotations in a row. And then he did it again and tried to roll the other direction and couldn't quite get it. Amazing - what a breakthrough!
Since California, and at Anat’s recommendation, we are trying to really pick up the pace and have him seen roughly every other week for intensives. We go see our regular guy about 4 hours North of us and then see Marcy. Marcy lives and works mostly in NYC but travels to Chicago occasionally where we're trying to see her about once a month. Marcy has really worked a lot on his left side and hand, his core, and he has been sitting up so much better. He's not getting himself up into sitting yet but is putting more and more of the pieces together all the time. We're really hoping that crawling and independent sitting up are coming soon.
It's a huge time commitment and quite a serious financial one as well but we feel it's best for Gus's long term abilities to get moving. So much of the modern medical approach and outcomes with CP are just terrifying to us. But anyway, with ABM we still believe he will sit, and crawl, and walk, and maybe even run! As the ABM folks say - make the impossible possible!