“Everybody is handicapped one way or another. We all have areas in which we are not as strong or secure as others. Some handicaps show and some do not.
There are people who are not as smart as others, but perhaps they make up for it by being able to enjoy every hour of the day. Some people are highly intelligent but have trouble getting along with other people. There are people who have marvelous figures but lack coordination, and others who are so heavy they can scarcely get out of their chairs, yet once on their feet they are light and graceful. “ —Your Baby Can Swim by Bonnie Prudden
“IT GIVES ME the greatest pleasure to give our special Most Courage Award to …Harold Krents.” “Over fourteen years have passed since that never-to-be forgotten day in June. To this day that huge gold cup sits in my room.” To Race the Wind by Harold Krents.
Harold was eleven when he first met Bonnie and he was blind. Harold was a good swimmer and chess player but he wanted to do more. And with the help of Bonnie’s classes, which provided him with a strong and flexible body, and the “Most Courage Award,” Harold did indeed do more. He went on to become a prominent D.C. lawyer advocating for the rights of the disabled. And his struggle to overcome blindness and become independent was the inspiration for the Broadway play Butterflies are Free.
Harold was Bonnie’s first blind student and she prepared for his arrival by going around blind folded. She wanted to know what she could do and what she couldn’t do. What she found was “if I could get my hands on it I could do it.”
No matter your problem, equipment that allows you to balance on it, climb and jump over it, crawl beneath it, chin yourself, swing and so on develops the gross motor movements which when used often and well become refined coordinated movement.
In the early 70s I received a call from a principal asking to meet with me. One of his responsibilities was for a very small, old, four-roomed school, which housed two special needs classes and two regular classes. He told me he would like to pay me out of his own pocket to come in once a week and work with the children.
The equipment that Bonnie built was simple and was designed after the things of her childhood: fences and railroad tracks for balancing, hummocks and walls for jumping from and over, ladders and ropes for climbing. I had this equipment built and took it with me to the school. Each week I left one piece of equipment in each schoolroom and then next week we rotated it so a new piece of equipment arrived along with anticipation of a new learning experience.
In order to use the equipment (jumping ramps, ladders, balance beams and saw horses) productively and with precision and good form, I taught the children word patterns such as walk, run, jump, hands down, head down, over. In other words, walk across the beam, run up the ramp, jump off the ramp, put your hands down, put your head down, turn over (somersault). It was no time at all before the special education teachers noticed differences. The physical patterns and thought processes were carrying over. Classroom routines were performed in an orderly fashion, the kids found their places without pushing, they focused, their classroom skills improved, discipline problems disappeared. Bodies were strong, flexible and upright. Not only did the teachers notice, the parents and kids noticed. And when it came time to attend the Special Olympics they outperformed themselves. There is nothing so good as feeling good about yourself.
Wonderful Water: Common Ground
We all have the same muscles and the sooner they are put to good use the better… like at seven days. ALL babies need exercise. ALL babies need a head start in order to reach their potential.
Some children have muscles that don’t obey for simple movements. Some children don’t hear well, some don’t see and some don’t talk. But ALL can swim.
Water provides a happy environment, dancing bubbles, rainbows of light, freedom to move, and release of tension. Water builds strength, curiosity, adventure, bonds, social skills and self-assurance. Water is very therapeutic.
No one ever outgrows water and everyone is equal in the water.
Music, Bed Ballet and Hugging
“When a child (or anyone else for that matter) is injured, whether that injury occurs at birth, before, or after, the problem is not what has been lost but rather what is left that can be developed.” —Fitness from Six to Twelve by Bonnie Prudden
Just like love, Music makes the world go ‘round. Music makes all movement more enjoyable. Music tells you what to do and how fast to do it. It tells you how many times to do it and how you should feel. Most everyone and their muscles respond to music even when the brain finds it difficult to direct.
The Bed Ballet and Hugging were born in the late 1970s out of “right now needs.” Mark had been hit by a car. He was twenty-three when he was carried into Bonnie’s living room by his Dad and put on the Myotherapy table. “What works?” asked Bonnie. Mark wiggled his thumb. Following the Myotherapy treatment Bonnie and her assistant put Mark (still flat on the Myotherapy table) through a series of range of movement exercise to music… and thus was born BED BALLET.
Later that year Bonnie and her staff were invited to what was then Laconia State School for the Handicapped. After a weekend of working with the staff and higher functioning residents, using the equipment already described earlier, 30 residents – each with a caregiver – were wheeled into the gym. They were blind, deaf, dumb and with contractures.
As Bonnie used to tell the story, I said, “Oh God what shall I do now?” The answer came back, “Hug them.” To the music of Nadia’s Theme, Bonnie led the caregivers, each standing behind a wheelchair, through a series of full range of motion passive exercises designed to stretch and strengthen those in the wheelchairs.
At the end of the music, all the residents were smiling and the caregivers were crying. A most beautiful thing had happened.
Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®
Whenever there is muscle tension leading to pain, contractures and limited range of motion, use Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy first. This will loosen the muscles making it possible for better range of motion. The longer the problem has been there the longer it will take to fix. But over time and with perseverance the muscles will eventually say…”OK, I give up. You can move me now. I won’t resist, I’ll behave, I’ll stay relaxed.”
“A handicap is a challenge, something to outwit. Outwit it, and don’t complicate it by adding other, even more serious handicaps: a sedentary body, unrelieved tension, and the feeling of inadequacy that accompanies poor performance.” Fitness from Six to Twelve by Bonnie Prudden
A small leak is easier to fix than a big leak. A small muscle spasm is easier to fix than a contracture. The sooner you get at anything, the easier it is to fix. Don’t wait. Start now. Don’t forget to use the music. And if you need help, I am here.
- Use Pain Erasure The Bonnie Prudden Way and Bonnie Prudden’s After Fifty Fitiness Guide for instructions on Bed Ballet and Hugging.
- Use How to Keep Your Child Fit from Birth to Six for instructions on how to make ramps, sawhorses, ladders and beams.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®