When you are visually impaired, the world can be a scary place. Maria was afraid to touch, explore, and interact with her surroundings. Moreover, Maria exhibited repetitive behaviors observed in severely visually impaired children. It wasn’t surprising that Maria was withdrawn and nonverbal when coupled with a painful neurological condition. Yet Maria’s parents had hope. They found a therapist who is working with Maria, and she is now experiencing exceptional gains. She is becoming a confident young lady.
Maria received a scholarship to Senses in Motion, where she gets a specialized type of therapy, the Anat Baniel Method, which is opening a whole new world for Maria. When Maria started her therapy journey with Rene’, her body and brain were not regulated. Maria spent much of her time in “fight or flight” mode. She wasn’t talking, reaching out to touch, or exploring her environment. As a visually impaired child, these things are critical to learning.
When Maria’s body and brain are not regulated, she experiences pain. She also endures frequent viruses when her system isn’t connecting neurologically or hormonally. Maria consistently has random painful, red swellings throughout her body and trouble sleeping. Rene’ has shown Maria ways to lessen her pain, remain regulated, and be happier through the tough times. During a session, Rene’ helps to make Maria aware of how her bones can move, guiding her hands to areas where she experiences pain. This allows her to relax and help herself to feel better. The swelling will visibly disappear during a session. Since Maria’s autonomic systems often fail her – such as temperature regulation, potty control, and circulation – it has been invaluable to learn how to trigger Maria’s bodily functions through ABM so they resume their jobs and make her more comfortable. Maria can focus on learning with her system in order and feeling good.
Maria has also learned to control the repetitive behavior associated with blindism, a behavior often observed in children who are severely visually impaired. Rene’ has created awareness in Maria so that she can limit or overcome finger flicking, teeth grinding, eye rubbing, and rocking back and forth on one foot. While these habits are self-soothing, they impede the learning process. More often than not, Maria now interacts with purpose – rocking only to music, walking evenly towards an intended destination, and maintaining calm hands and body.
When Maria is grounded in her body, she can focus on speech. She has a fifty-word vocabulary that continues to grow, and she hums along to her favorite songs. She gets excited when adults or friends recognize the song she is humming and wants them to sing with her. Rene’ explains “that Maria’s body is seeking symmetry and rhythm. Music enables Maria to do more, especially now that it motivates her to make choices and initiate activities.” Maria now enjoys meaningful verbal exchanges, including phone conversations. She is delighted when she finds something funny and can giggle along with others. It is huge for Maria and all of those who love her that she can express herself verbally and through music. These gains allow Maria to experience joy and enjoy playing!
When her body is regulated, Rene’ describes Maria as a sponge, capable of absorbing new information and having the courage to try new things. Maria now intentionally explores and interacts with her world. Perhaps the greatest joy is how Maria touches and snuggles her new baby brother Sammy and other siblings. Maria has been able to use the hand-under-hand technique. Through this, her brain follows what people are teaching her. Recently she initiated telling friends about a favorite activity. She independently pushed the shopping cart a short distance on a recent shopping excursion. As Rene’ says, “Maria is smart and learns quickly. ABM has unlocked Maria to feel better and be aware of her own body and capabilities. It has paved the way for Maria to make new brain connections, allowing her to express what she understands, communicate, and do more!”
Maria’s parents are overjoyed and so proud of her for her progress. She is a hard worker, and they are in awe of the fast progress and giant leaps of improvement they are seeing. When Maria returns to the classroom after therapy, her teachers refer to her work with Rene’ as “magic.” Says Maria’s mom, “We are extremely grateful for the scholarship. It has helped tremendously with the cost of ABM, a therapy not covered by insurance. Therapy and the cost of gas to travel to Grand Rapids are expensive for us. Our scholarship is allowing Maria to attend therapy more frequently. It is a gift to have funding for the therapy that unlocks Maria’s full potential.”
Maria’s mom describes her as pure joy. People will comment that when she smiles or laughs, it is sunshine. Patience and bravery are her strengths when she is sick or at medical appointments. Maria is an affectionate, sweet, brave, and beautiful girl. She loves hiking, beaches, horses, and experiencing the outdoors in all seasons, and, of course, she loves music. She delights in interacting with people and has a great sense of humor.
Hope doesn’t put limitations on one’s freedom to explore, and Maria welcomes the opportunity to try new things. Hope is changing Maria’s outcomes, and hope is giving her a future that is wide open and full of possibility.