National Ability Center will present world-renowned therapist Anat Baniel
Park City resident Liza Howell’s 9-year-old son Andy is on the autism spectrum.
When her husband moved the family to Park City from North Carolina two years ago, they wanted to see if Andy could attend a public school after home schooling him.
"We needed a diagnosis and our psychologist said he was suspicious about Asperger syndrome and nonverbal learning," Howell said during an interview with The Park Record. "I went and bought a whole bunch of books."
One of the books, "Kids Beyond Limits," by clinical psychologist Anat Baniel, touched a nerve.
"My husband read it first and told me to stop reading whatever I was and to read this book," Howell said. "It was such a paradigm shift in what we were thinking."
So, the family called to make an appointment.
"We thought she was in Chicago, but found she was in San Francisco," Howell said. "A year and a half ago, during Thanksgiving break, we took Andy to see her."
From the first session, Howell knew Baniel’s methods were different.
"Her theory is that the child’s brain at birth didn’t properly map the body, so it’s somewhat detached from the body," Howell said. "If she gets their body to relax, and move their body with attention, they will begin to be aware of their bodies.
" doing this, she’s had children who were told they would never walk start walking," Howell said. "And we knew this was something special."
Anat Baniel will be in Park City to discuss her method, which is focused on the relationship between movement and thought, increased mental awareness and creativity that accompany physical improvements, with a free presentation on Friday, June 20, at the Prospector Theater. On Saturday, Baniel will present a hands-on workshop from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sunday, Baniel will be at the National Ability Center at Quinn’s Junction to work with the center’s equestrian staff and do other demonstrations involving rock climbing.
Howell said her son has responded well to Baniel’s method.
"We had tried everything from occupational and speech therapy to listening programs," she said. "We also tried various dietary methods and began eating gluten free and dairy, but after one session with Anat, we were blown away."
Howell likes that Baniel doesn’t use medication in her work.
"It’s just changing our interactions with your child that is very different," Howell said. "The practitioner will engage Andy in conversation, while moving his body. That way, he becomes aware of what his body can do."
The core of Baniel’s work is comprised of what she calls "Nine Essentials," which Baniel spoke about with The Park Record earlier this week.
These essentials are:
"I started in the field of psychology and was studying to be a clinical psychologist," Baniel said. "Since I have background in dance, I also wanted to find a way to communicate with people more directly through their immediate physical movements."
That quest led her to Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, a form of therapy that uses the mind, body and spirit to reduce pain and limitation of movement and improve physical function.
"He was a physicist and an athlete who developed this method to recover from some serious injuries," Baniel said. "I remembered doing some of his works through my dance teacher and then I reconnected with him in San Francisco and spent years learning from him."
During that time, a child who was diagnosed with brain damage was brought to Feldenkrais.
"Her parents were advised by two top practitioners to institutionalize her," Baniel said. "I was there when the parents brought her to Dr. Feldenkrais. She was crying and I picked her up."
The child, whose name was Elizabeth, stopped crying and Baniel held her while the doctor worked with her.
"After that, Dr. Feldenkrais started referring all of the children to me, without telling me what he was doing," Baniel said laughing.
Baniel enjoyed the work because she felt it was magical.
"Having very little training about how to work with children, especially those with cerebral palsy and genetic disorders, I didn’t know what was possible and what was deemed impossible."
When parents brought their children to Baniel and told her their child wouldn’t ever move his or her arm, she would always say, "Says who?"
"I had began wondering what the difference was between a low-functioning child and an aging adult, and what the difference was between a low functioning child and a limited child," Baniel said. "That’s how I came up with the concept of my Nine Essentials.
"The brain is created through experience," she said. "It’s not a linear thing and it’s very complex, and I realized there is not one way to get to an answer. That’s why I can get a child with a paralyzed arm to get their arm to move."
Anat Baniel will present a free overview of her method and its benefits at the Prospector Conference Center, 2175 Sidewinder Dr., on Friday, June 20, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Baniel will also host a workshop on Saturday, June 21, at the Prospector Conference Center from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The cost for the workshop is $179. Lunch will be ncluded. The cost for a second family member or caregiver is $140. Workshop participants can register online at the http://www.discoverNAC.org or by calling 435-649-3991 ext. 605 .
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