Ever since No Child Left Behind was introduced in 2001 there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of physical activity that children across the United States have access to on a daily basis. Schools have become so focused on ‘teaching to the test’ that they have cut physical education programs across the board. This has not only led to increased concerns over childhood obesity but also to exactly what the schools were trying to avoid in the first place – increasingly poor academic performance particularly in the STEM subjects of science of math. And this is where Movement Method comes in. Based on the simple premise that KIDS MUST MOVE in order to learn it combines the most recent science with creative minds to create a kinetic learning program that works for all children whether or not they have an autism diagnosis.
When Rowan Isaacson was diagnosed with autism his parents were told by his speech therapist that he would never use expressive language. That was almost ten years ago. Rowan is 13 now and earlier today told us that he wanted to open his own zoo to provide ‘a forever home for animals that are abused and neglected.’ He is ahead academically, has friends of all ages and wants to help other “special” (his word) kids like him learn to talk, read and write. He has also recently started his own web-based television show called ‘endangerous’ (a word he invented) which aims to highlight the plight of animals that are endangered and dangerous. So what changed? How did this happen?
When he was almost four years old Rowan met a horse called Betsy. The first day he rode on her back with his father Rupert he pointed at a heron flying up from a pond and said – 'Heron!’. It was the first proper expressive language he had ever used. From that moment onwards Rowan and Rupert literally lived in the saddle together. And the more they rode the more Rowan talked.
Around the same time that Rowan met Betsy his parents were grappling with what to do about Rowan’s education. The school he was at was causing him to retreat further and further into himself. On one particularly bad day his parents made the snap decision to pull him out and begin homeschooling. Betsy was a huge part of that. They did everything from learning letters and numbers to reading and writing to basic arithmetic and fractions right there in the saddle together. And Rowan took it all in. For some reason Betsy’s back seemed to be the ideal position for him to receive and retain information. But why?
To read more about Rowan's story click here and for updates on his progress click here.
Whilst much of our evolutionary history remains a mystery there is one fact that every paleontologist on the planet accepts – we moved. Our direct ancestors, Homo Sapiens, were thought to have walked and run between 10 and 20 kilometers every day all the while constantly encountering new food sources, predators and physical dangers. And their offspring moved with them meaning that we are evolutionarily programmed to learn on the move. Which is why this is how we learn best and there is a vast body of research to prove it. Imaging studies, for example, have shown that when we exercise there is increased blood volume in a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus which is a part of the hippocampus deeply involved in memory formation. What’s more, studies also indicate that exercise stimulates the brain’s most powerful growth factor, BDNF, which is responsible for creating new brain cells and encouraging neurons to connect with one another, both essential components of learning.
But it goes so much further than this. Studies are also showing that the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is primarily responsible for motor control, directly connects to a region of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for higher level cognitive tasks such as decision making and emotional control. The research goes on to conclude that movement, and in particular the type of rhythmic movement that you get when riding a horse, activates the cerebellum and leads to an increased number of purkinje cells which are responsible for connecting information from the cerebellum to the pre-frontal cortex. What this suggests is that movement leads to the production of purkinje cells within the cerebellum which in turn activates the pre-frontal cortex and over time leads to an increase in flexibility and emotional control.
Luckily for those families that don’t have everyday access to horses it is not just the movement of the horse but movement in general that stimulates learning. The research shows that any type of rhythmic movement, such as riding a horse, swinging, rolling or bouncing on a trampoline has this effect on the brain. These types of movement also stimulate the vestibular system located in the inner ear which is critical for attention and learning.
Allowing a child the chance to explore in a natural environment is as important as the movement itself. So too is teaching a child through, rather than rewarding them with, their interests and obsessions. Babies are born with an intense and unrelenting curiosity and desire to explore the world around them. So intense, in fact, that some scientists describe learning and discovery as a drive, just as hunger and thirst are drives. Discovery brings joy. We never outgrow this desire to learn and our brain retains the ability to learn in this way throughout our lives BUT we can become anesthetized to the joy of discovery. Children learn that education means getting an A, and start to acquire knowledge only in order to get something rather than because it is intrinsically interesting. Children should be given the freedom to explore with no agenda other than discovery on a daily basis. If they are they will learn to love learning for its own sake.
To access the research behind Movement Method click here.
We offer half and full day seminars and workshops in Movement Method. During these workshops we will go in depth into the science behind why movement promotes learning. We will also show you how the entirety of the national curriculum, from counting to multiplication tables to learning equations and beyond can be taught through movement.
For further information please contact email@example.com or click here.
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Information deemed to be reliable but not guaranteed. Check for pricing and trainings. Terms subject to change.
The Horse Boy Method is not intended or offered as a cure for autism. Ameliorative effects may or may not occur. The method was found to be very useful with Rupert's son Rowan and with other children subsequently. We simply follow what worked for Rowan and others but there is no guarantee of outcome.
By participating in a Horse Boy Method session or training or applying them at home you accept full personal responsibility for any injury or death that can follow any equine activity. The Horse Boy Foundation accepts no liability.
Just as a reminder… The Horse Boy Method Training is an intro into the methods including but not limited to back-riding. We do NOT suggest that you go home and start back-riding with children. Practice, practice, practice! Seek professional advice from your trainers to deepen your skills as a rider and horseman/woman. Take lessons! Again, after the training you are probably NOT ready to ride with a child. Practice until you, your horses and your property are ready for back-riding! HORSE BOY LLC, IT’S MEMBERS, OFFICERS, TRAINERS ETC ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY, DEATH OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY YOU BACKRIDING WITH A CHILD OR OTHER PERSON.
We do suggest you and anybody you work with wears protective gear like protective riding helmets etc.