From birth most children with neurological conditions have a heartbreakingly difficult time. They are constantly frustrated in their attempts to do what they want; and when they reach school age things get even more disheartening since they have to learn how to live with the fact that ‘normal’ people regard them as ‘different,' i.e. abnormal. Labels like ‘special needs’, ‘disabled’, ‘handicapped’, ‘brain-damaged’, and the patronising attitude that often goes with them, make these children feel even more excluded from life.
Moshe Feldenkrais saw that kind of predicament from a more positive angle. He used to stress that some of the so-called disabled he had met were actually the most highly developed human beings he had ever come across. With no chance of succeeding in the usual rat-race, these individuals had concentrated on meeting the challenges imposed on them by their condition and - with appropriate support - achieved absolute miracles. The video-recordings of Feldenkrais in his late seventies “play-working” with smiling and giggling babies and toddlers are amongst the most touching and convincing testimonies to the power of the Method. They show Feldenkrais’s masterly skill in assisting these children’s nervous systems to create order, thereby empowering them to move in a more co-ordinated and fluid way, and ultimately begin to be more successful in realising their intentions.
In the face of all damning medical diagnosis: “I belong to the ‘infirm’ who are healthy.”
Some of the most extraordinary testimony comes from Paul, one of Feldenkrais’s pupils who learned to create order in his chaotically spastic movements. As a result Paul managed to leave his wheelchair and became an inspiring Feldenkrais practitioner with a particular mission: “For me it became a necessity to ‘convince’ others of the possibility of a more pleasant existence”.
Although Paul was already an adolescent when he had his first lesson with Moshe Feldenkrais, he quickly demonstrated that all the medical predictions had been utterly mistaken. Just before seeing Feldenkrais, Paul had been much discouraged by hearing a famous neurosurgeon tell his parents: “In his case there is nothing to be done any more. He is too old...It is to be expected that his condition will continue to deteriorate.”
However it soon became apparent that avoiding an operation was a blessing. In fact Feldenkrais’s assessment was just the opposite to the neurosurgeon’s: “As long as nothing is cut in his body, he can learn anything.”
Three passages from an article say more than any outside observer could:
a) about the situation of a spastic patient faced with conventional medical treatment; b) about the liberating impact Functional Integration lessons can have on a person with cerebral palsy. c) about the outcome somebody with cerebral palsy may enjoy, thanks to exploring what the Feldenkrais Method has to offer.
If the doctor knew what to do he could help effectively
“The helplessness of a doctor in the case of a spastic patient...is a sign that he or she is potentially as ill, as spastic, as the patient. The doctor has as little idea as the patient about how to change and improve that particular situation...
To illustrate what I am trying to say: Just think of a non-swimmer falling into a swimming-pool. His movements would be at least as uncoordinated, tense, and inappropriate in terms of his intention to get to dry land as those of a spastically handicapped person. But nobody would recommend a surgical operation to get that non-swimmer to perform appropriate swimming motions. As a swimmer one would simply teach that person how to adapt to the new medium, i.e. how to move in it instead of drowning”.
Every touch was a surprise for me
“On Feldenkrais’s work-table my physical condition was completely exposed. I became aware for the first time of the convulsive, chaotic movements that prevented me from gaining control over myself and experiencing a state of rest. The manner in which he supported me...made me understand that I needn’t tell him anything. He had already come to inhabit my body with all his mind, and was guiding my awareness from inside in the most unpredictable ways. Every touch was a surprise for me. I was amazed about the extent to which the other person was capable of feeling my whole being, of empathising with my physical situation. In a way I experienced divine love during that session. I couldn’t help bursting out laughing at each touch of Feldenkrais’s hand. It was as if he were playing hide-and-seek with me and kept saying: “I’ll find and catch you in any corner of your being!” I wanted to shriek with laughter, but was too timid and ‘civilized’, and had to resign myself to suppressed, convulsive, and idiotic giggling instead...”
A healthy person is one who realizes his most hidden dreams
“The universal truth Feldenkrais incorporated in his system is the inherent inclination of all living beings to act according to some distinctive intention whose concrete realization leads to some kind of satisfaction...
...If I describe my instinctively correct attitude to the ‘problem of spasticity’ here, it’s not to show how clever I was as a child, I am writing as one of the privileged who was given a chance – by Feldenkrais and thanks to his Method – to follow his instinct and is now enjoying the results. Today I am in a position to express what every spastic child senses and hopes – something that represents the seed of any positive solution, but is in most cases tragically crushed”.
(For the full version see “Ask HIM if he can be helped!”, Resources, Articles from FELDENKRAIS JOURNAL U.K. )
Helping children with cerebral palsy