Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Pajama Revolutionary

If this past weekend were a person it would have shoved a mirror right up to my nose and screamed "LOOK!!!"

"LOOK how far you have come in six months!"

"LOOK how much you've grown!"

"LOOK at what you've accomplished!"

As I wrote about earlier, on Sunday I held a book release party at Annie Bloom's Books in Portland for my board book Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White. (Frequent readers will know that this board book is not only awesome and a fabulous addition to any book collection but that all the profits are dedicated to my son's medical costs.) This was the culmination of an effort that started in April to bring Dark & Light to print, something that six months ago I thought was very doubtful.

But that's not all that was going on six months ago. Last April I went to a workshop by Anat Baniel — founder of the Anat Baniel Method, our primary form of therapy for Malachi. The workshop was up in Seattle and it was there that my husband and I decided to fully commit our family to following her philosophies in the hopes that Malachi would progress faster and perhaps even learn to crawl.

(Also of note: It was only in January that Malachi said his first word. Today he speaks in full, spontaneous sentences such as: "Mama, pick-er up, pease," "Climb on Daddy, pease!" and his personal favorite mealtime game where he asks himself to read the digital clock in the kitchen: "What time. Is it? It's! Eight! Twennnnny-Sis! Eight! Twennnnny-Seven! Eight! Twennnnny-Eight! Eight-twenny-eight. TWO eights!")

 (Yes, he says all of that. In a constant stream. For the entire meal.)

So on Saturday, I went to another of Anat Baniel's workshops, this time here in Portland. The eight-hour workshop was not just a lecture, but experiential. Most of the day was spent on the floor and much of it was doing very small, slow movements that really made you feel how babies learn to move. We spent an hour or more figuring out how to roll over. You would be amazed at how many adults have forgotten how — at least forgotten how without unnecessary stiffness and pain.

Photo courtesy Ed Dassie


Indeed, I'm one of them. Part way through a lesson on rotating the shoulder, Anat pounced on me for an opportunity to show the whole room how much easier I could be doing it. She told everybody to gather round as she grabbed my fisted arm and fairly threw me back and forth on the ground with almost no effort whatsoever, even putting me up to sitting before I fully realized what was going on.

I have no idea how she does it but somehow she was able to completely by-pass my muscles and talk directly to my skeleton. Even now as I think back on my memory of the event, I remember only being a skeleton and only vaguely aware of the muscles and organs and other normally perceived parts of my body.

By the end of the workshop, everyone was buzzing and excited about ABM and wanting to know more. Me too, I was reinvigorated with our choice of ABM. A huge missing piece of the puzzle for me fell into place during Anat's presentation on the idea that there are two different types of brain plasticity — one that is ingrained through repetition and one that is ingrained through variation and that it is the variation plasticity that is missing in special needs kids. Kids with special needs can only do something, like pick up a ball, a limited number of ways, whereas typical kids can pick up a ball in any number of ways and only after hundreds of experiences of picking up the ball do they settle on the best way. This means that the last thing caregivers and therapists should do is give their disabled children repetitious tasks.

I was also riveted by guest speaker Dr. Christina Bethell who gave a very enlightening talk on the efficacy of mind-body treatments, the reasons they are not currently recognized by mainstream medicine and how to overcome those obstacles. I made a beeline to her afterwards and hope to work with her to get ABM covered some day in the future.

But what struck me over and over again at this workshop was how far Malachi and I have come since the one in April. Perhaps it struck me so hard because I really haven't felt like I was moving forward very quickly at all towards my goals. It took being in such a similar situation to realize how really different my circumstances were from the last time we were there.

For starters, I felt like I knew almost everybody at the workshop and if I didn't know them, they sure knew me. One woman stood next to me in line for the restroom and said she'd read all of my blog and that my honesty had helped her immensely to feel like she wasn't the only one feeling the way she did about being a special needs mom. Another cluster of a half-dozen people came from Malachi's Early Intervention program. Another man I met on Malachi's very first trip to California told me that during the group luncheon (that I didn't attend), Anat was singing my praises for creating dialogue among parents and caregivers on a forum I started — again, about six months ago — that has since swelled to nearly 500 members. In fact, the whole damn workshop was orchestrated by Malachi's primary practitioner Joanna Cutler who wouldn't have even been trained in ABM if I hadn't introduced her to Kathy Shean Jones, our other practitioner.

In so many ways that I could see and probably other ways I couldn't see, that event would not have been possible without me.

You may think I'm being very arrogant and egotistical when I say that. After all, I had zero part in what I'm sure was a ton of work to put on this workshop.

But in fact, for me, this realization of how many waves my little drop has made is incredibly humbling and awe-inspiring. Why? Because, and I mean this very seriously, almost every single one of the things I did to set those balls rolling I did in my pajamas.

I mean it. In my pajamas, I whine online. In my pajamas, I argue with Early Intervention therapists who come to my house early in the morning. In my pajamas, I drag myself and my two sons to ABM lessons and whine and argue some more with them.

Let me tell you. I don't feel a divine edict. I don't feel like anything I'm doing is making a difference. And I certainly never feel like I'm doing enough or doing it well enough.

And yet, somehow over the course of time, all of these little droplets came together and joined with other people's little droplets and before we knew it we were riding a river of action.

It's so remarkable that I want to run outside — in my pajamas — and shake people by the shoulders. "Don't you see what this means?" I want to yell at them. "I'm nobody! Nothing! I have no special power at all to make any sort of change and yet I did! All I did was tell my story over and over again to anyone who would listen. That's it! That's it. And look what happened! Look what you — yes, YOU! — can do just by telling your story! Isn't it amazing????"

I mean, isn't it?

Who knew how much power there was in simply talking about your own experience? And that is one thing that almost everybody can do.

Try it yourself. Tell the full truth and nothing but the truth and see where you get six months from now. Just try it. You'll be amazed.

11 comments:

  1. I love the inspiration behind this post! Now having a son with special needs, it has ignited a passion in me to see him develop to his full potential, but I constantly worry that I alone have no idea how to acomplish that.

    So I constantly tell his story to EVERYONE I meet, and any situation I encounter sometimes bring me full circle to realizing that it can help my son in some way. Whether it is in the form of knowledge, inspiration, networking, or just plain encouragement.

    Continue to lead the movement, and I will be one of the many mothers following behind you....in my yoga pants! :)

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    1. Thanks, Arianne!! That's awesome. And yes, it's so true. When we talk about where we're at and what we need, often the universe comes back to us with an answer albeit not in a form we might expect!

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  2. Sounds like a great workshop! Hope your doing well. Sorry things are busy and the family has all been ill for the last month so getting catching up to all my friends in the blogging world hasn't been easy to get to.

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    1. Please don't feel sorry, Ross! I love to hear from you, but you don't owe me anything, so don't feel any sort of obligation! Be here when you can, and don't feel bad when you can't! :)

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  3. So cool that you are impacting other people's lives.

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  4. I'm clapping and cheering IN MY PJS!!! This is it exactly - telling our story over and over and becoming a river of action. This was brilliant. Well done!

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    1. Thanks! Glad to know there are other PJ revolutionaries out there!

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  5. Great Post! Thanks for continuing to share your story! Go Malachi!!

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  6. Great Post! Thanks for sharing your story and especially for feeling yourself in the lessons Anat did! It's transformational. Thanks for continuing to share your story and bring hope to other parents!

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    1. Hey, thanks for the photo!

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