Movement Enhances Learning Behaviors

Appropriate behavior for learning is enhanced by engaging sensory activities that teach rule based inhibitory movement control.  Behavioral problems frequently involve inadequate inhibitory control of movement involving the arms (e.g., punching, slapping, scratching), legs (kicking) or mouth (e.g., spitting, biting, threatening, screaming, swearing).  Teachers can collaborate with occupational, physical, speech/language, and mental health therapists to enhance self-control using developmentally appropriate movement activities with children and adolescents who have behavioral, mental health, sensory processing, and/or developmental challenges. 

A major obstacle in teaching youngsters with behavioral challenges is motivating them to participate in challenging activities to enhance their development.  Children and adolescents find movement activities engaging and fun.  Involving students in brief developmentally appropriate movement brake activities enhances academic transitions, self-control and learning. Helpful activities include: playground tasks, parachute games, Simon says, red light, giant steps freeze dance, freeze shake, play plan, play review, obstacle courses, and movement to music (10 little hotdogs, Hokey-pokey, If your happy and you know it, Hot cross buns, We all need somebody to lean on).


Additionally, basic yoga and mindfulness activities provide sensory movement that is useful as a pre-correction technique (e.g., activity used before problematic situations like school assemblies or lunch time).  Pre-school and elementary classes benefit from mindfulness and basic yoga tasks such as the: wall pressing, tensing then relaxing their muscles, mindful clock, body scan, feel your feet, feel your palms, stretching activities, and isometric exercises.


Children with behavioral and sensory processing problems often show improved behavior following movement activities involving slow linear movement and deep pressure (e.g., pushups, wall pushups, desk pressing, rocking onto their hands on their stomachs over a therapy ball).  Helpful activities for students with behavioral and sensory processing challenges who are integrated into a regular education program include: setting the table, moving mats, moving tables, moving chairs, passing out books, and delivering notes or packages to teachers through out the school.


Finally, special accommodations can sometimes be made for children who are academically bright but have difficulty maintaining a sustained seated position.  Sitting on therapy balls, sitting on disk-o-sit cushions, standing in a masking taped area, or using a sensory area in the back of the class where they can do there work without disturbing or being disturbed by others.  Rolling to read and rolling to math are useful activities for children who can’t remain seated but are capable of academically advanced work.  During resource room, occupational and speech/language therapy, and home work sessions they roll across the floor then read a chapter in a book or complete several math flash cards.  After completing the reading or math they are reinforced then roll again and do the next chapter or flash cards.

Particularly for preschool, kindergarten, and all students who have behavioral, psychiatric, developmental, sensory processing, and/or trauma history challenges it helps to include movement activities in the classroom.  Students are initially taught the cardinal rules for movement tasks: “Don’t touch any body or anything with out permission, and resume good learning after so we can do this activity tomorrow (if not we will skip this activity tomorrow then try it again the next day and I’m sure you will do much better”).  Teachers and principles understand that students benefit from movement engaging the bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and musical intelligences.  While the teachers I work with and I am accused of “coddling students” and “wasting time” by using movement activities in the class room, no one can dispute our data showing this method results in increased academic goal achievement and decreased behavioral problems.


Dunn, W. (2007).  Supporting children to participate successfully in everyday life by using sensory processing knowledge.  Infants & Young Children, 20(2), 84-101.

Flook, L., Smalley, S., Kitil, M., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., Ishijima, E., Kasari, C. (2010).  Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children.  Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70-95.

Koester, C. (2012).  Movement based learning for children of all abilities.  Reno, NV: Movement Based Learning Inc.

Riggs, N.R., Greenberg, M.T., Kusche, C.A., Pentz, M.A. (2006).  The mediational role of neurocognition in the behavioral outcomes of a social-emotional prevention program in elementary school students: Effects of the PATHS curriculum.   Prevention Science, 7(1), 91-102.

Warner, E., Koomar, J., Lary, B . & Cook, A. (2013).  Can the body change the score?  Application of sensory modulation principles in the treatment of traumatized adolescents in residential treatment settings.  Journal of Family Violence, 28(7), 729-738.


FAB Pressure Touch Strategies

FAB Pressure Touch Strategies reduce anxiety, promote communication, and improve behavior in clients with behavioral and developmental challenges.  FAB Pressure Touch Strategies are a unique approach synthesizing evidence-based massage, bodywork, and scrub brushing strategies.  FAB Pressure Touch Strategies help children, adolescents, and adults with behavioral, psychiatric, sensory processing, trauma history, and/or developmental challenges.

Distinct from commonly used therapeutic brushing, massage, and bodywork “sensory stimulation” strategies FAB Pressure Touch Strategies are individualized to achieve specific therapeutic goals.  FAB Pressure Touch Strategies are a goal-directed component of a comprehensive FAB “Functionally Alert Behavior” Strategies intervention addressing problematic hypo-responsiveness, hyper-responsiveness, anxiety, social skill, behavioral, and developmental challenges.

An individualized program of FAB Pressure Touch Strategies is developed by trained occupational, physical, speech/language, and/or mental health therapists to achieve functional goals.  Goals may include increased: attention span, seated attention, communication skills, social interactions, and/or use of safe hands (e.g., decreased physical aggression).  Therapists can teach the individualized FAB Pressure Touch Strategies to parents, teachers, and other team members embedded in the clients’ daily routines. Once implementation of the FAB Pressure Touch Strategies is found to improve behavior clients are taught and reinforced for independently engaging in FAB Strategies providing equivalent pressure touch and resistance exercise input.


FAB Pressure Touch strategies include the: Head Crown, Shoulder squeeze, Spine roll, Back protocol tap, Back protocol press, touch on the back, as well as touch and joint compression through the arms, legs, and feet.  The FAB Pressure Touch Strategies form can be attached to the FAB Strategies form to provide more detailed touch strategies.  In my FAB Strategies workshops for therapists and teachers goal-directed development and implementation of FAB Pressure Touch Strategies is learned.  A clinical example of using FAB Pressure Touch Strategies with a preschooler who has Asperger’s Syndrome and behavioral challenges is provided at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8fMdJ6l0AM


Beider, S., & Moyer, C. (2007).  Randomized controlled trials of pediatric massage: A review.  Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4(1), 23-34.

Field, T., Henandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. (2005).  Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.  Intern. J. Neuroscience, 115, 1397-1413.

Kaufaman, L.B., & Schilling, D.L. (2007).  Implementation of a strength training program for a 5-year-old child with poor body awareness and developmental coordination disorder.  Physical Therapy, 87, 455-467.

McCrory, E., DeBrito, S.A., & Viding, E. (2010).  Research review: the neurobiology and genetics of maltreatment and adversity.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(10), 1079-1085.


A Spiritual Perspective on Healing

Since I was a teenager I have felt led to be a healer.  I’ve always sensed a connection between healing, caring, and spirituality.  However, I have also always wrestled with three spiritual questions regarding healing: Why do many innocent and good people suffer, how do I deal with the difficulties I face in healing, and what do I need to convey to clients and students? I don’t have the answer to these questions, but want to offer three poems that guide me in wrestling with these three sequential questions.  The first question came early when I was struggling to find meaning in the life and death of an infant who died in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where I was working.

Intensive Caring

The next question is the meaning of healing in an uncertain and often painful life, answered in this Poem revised and posted my Mother Theresa

Do It Anyway

Finally, I want to share this Marianne Williamson speech that was given by Nelson Mandella, discribing the reality I hope that I, my clients, and all my students realize in themselves

Speech by Marianne Williamson