Every teacher knows that their time is precious, and quite frankly, they don't have enough of it to cover what is in their standards. But like good instruction, addressing the sensori-motor needs of your students will pay off in the long run. And to be quite honest, in this day and age, more students than not have some sensori-motor related issues. We may recognize them as difficulties with auditory or visual processing, sitting still and/or paying attention, following directions, copying from the board, or fine motor skills, such as handwriting or using scissors - just to name a few. As a specialist, I am able to look at my students and assess their sensori-motor needs in depth and prescribe them an exercise diet that will help address their individual needs. A classroom teacher, however, does not have the luxury to do this. We would like to think that the students with more severe needs are getting some attention through an IEP, but what about everyone else that obviously have difficulties, but not enough for services. Doing exercises that the entire class can participate in together will not only help at addressing some of the needs that exist within the class, but helps to bring unity and develop a positive culture within the classroom.
Start with 5 minutes
The first rule of thumb is not to overwhelm yourself with too many things to do. Be strategic and purposeful about what you choose to do first. One option is to pick one reflex to work on at a time, for approximately one month. You may choose to add on to each exercise per month or to replace one for the other. You might choose to keep addressing the Moro while rotating through the other exercises since the unintegration of the Moro reflex is considered to be responsible for the inability to integrate subsequent reflexes.
When addressing primitive reflexes, I would work on them in the following order: Moro, TLR, Spinal Galant, STNR, ATNR, headrighting, and palmar grasp (but this one may be worked on simultaneously with the other reflexes since fine motor skills is so prevalent in the classroom). Exercises for each of the reflexes should only take a couple of minutes. You can couple this with a vestibular exercise (such as helicopter spins, about 10-15 seconds in each direction or less if dizzy) and eye exercise (such as tracking a pencil or thumb in a variety of directions, including the Lazy 8™).
Encourage your students to continue these at home and to teach them to their parents and/or siblings. When you teach them how the movement is meant to address certain changes in the brain, children become intrigued and excited.
Transition time in the classroom can be difficult, especially for children with problems with sensory integration, processing, unintegrated reflexes, etc. Purposefully Choose an exercise that not only addresses a specified need, but is fun and helps children deal with transitions easier. The following are other tools to use during transitions. There are many transitions throughout the day and many opportunities to incorporate movements that help support brain development.
PACE, from Brain Gym™, is series of 4 exercises that help prepare the brain for learning: sipping water, massaging the Kidney 27 points under the clavicle while the other hand is over the navel, cross crawls, and hook-ups (a relaxation exercise where the arms and legs are crossed, tongue resting on the roof of the mouth for one minute, then legs and arms uncrossed with finger tips touching those of the opposite hand for about another minute). One of many videos of PACE that I found on YouTube is seen below:
The Brain Dance by Anne Green Gilbert is a 6 minute series of 8 movement patterns that address a variety of sensori-motor needs as well as reflexes. It is in DVD format and I play it on the interactive white board so that she is leading my students and not I. As a bonus, it allows me to get my attendance done. Note: The video has routines for infants, school-age children and seniors. The section for school age children is approximately 6 minutes.
Me Moves™ by Thinking Moves is another excellent tool to use during transitions. The program immediately calms and organizes children. Users have noted that within minutes it "calms even non-verbal autistic children in distress! Increased eye contact, decreased self-stim, increased vocalizations, increased arm awareness, strength, and alert state are common and consistently seen." I personally use their older version called "SMART moves," similar to Me Moves, and my students absolutely love doing it. It takes just a couple of minutes and immediately helps focus students and gets their brain ready for learning.
noodle.com is an online program that gets the class moving while earning points. Kids love it.
Brain Balancing Activities for the classroom 11 great exercises (many based off of brain gym exercises) to do with the students.
A Movement Room
For those of you with the luxury of an empty classroom or extra space within your classroom, you might want to consider setting up a movement room where you can dedicate 10-30 minutes at a time to a variety of movements that are beneficial to brain development. See the Movement Room tab for more details.