When you hear “human movement” what you think of? Something kinesthetic, related to the human body in motion. This is a great beginning – and limited.
Play some music that you don’t ordinarily listen to. Play louder than you usually listen to music. Begin to jump up and down asynchronous to the music. Simultaneously, slap your right thigh with your left hand. Now add to that blinking your eyes open and closed very quickly. And finally add in reciting aloud your 13 times tables. Hard to do, right? Now a juxtaposition: lie on your back on a comfortable floor in a quiet room and see if you can, easily and gently, count your 13 times table. Is it easier to do? To do something that is challenging or to learn something new it is much easier to decrease the demand we place on the brain. This is essential to consider if working with children on the spectrum.
Movement is related to everything. Digestion is the movement of food through our body. Speech is the movement and articulation of air pressure through our vocal cords. The perception of speech is the movement of our neurons for the purposes of interpreting that air pressure. The human body breaks down and reconstructs the entire skeletal system over the course of every seven years? Neat, huh? Movement really is everywhere and everything we do. Movement is an entry into the conversation of learning. Whether we’re talking about learning to ride a bike, drive a car, interact socially, eat food, or behave in a way that society deems normal, improving movement improves learning and improves life.
My brain is constantly processing the floor, the air around me, and whatever it is that I can smell and see and hear. If I’m wearing shoes my brain has to make sense of the shoes on my feet. And standing! Standing is complicated; just think about how long it takes babies to learn! If I am lying on my back on the floor I/my brain can take more time and attention to process the feel of my back on the floor, my bottom, my legs, feet and head. Children with autism often have difficulty with their environment and sensory integration. Our brains are constantly organizing and making sense out of all of these inputs – that is a lot of work! The autistic brain is often not able to make sense of the floor, the wind, and all of the rest of these sensations that you and I take for granted. By helping these children to make sense of their own movement patterns through decreasing demand we inherently help them make sense of rest of the world, too!