Brachiation and the Doman Method
Often when teaching parents of children with special needs, I get the question: “What is brachiation and why do you use it?”
The dictionary defines Brachiation (from “brachium”, Latin for “arm”), as a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb, using only their arms. During brachiation, the body is alternately supported under each arm.
A Gibbon brachiates
But for the staff at Doman International, brachiation is a form of treatment for children diagnosed with autism, ADD, developmental Delays, Trisomy 21, learning problems, cerebral palsy and other special needs. We have used this treatment for over 50 years.
Why use brachiation for children for special needs?
Children with special needs often have chests that are smaller than average, and Glenn Doman found decades ago that these children often had smaller lung capacity. He had the chests of children with special needs measured for decades and found that most of these children had chests much smaller than the average child.
Why is a small chest a bad thing for children with special needs?
A small chest might mean smaller lung capacity. Oxygen is the food of the brain and essential for brain function and development. If breathing is less than optimal for these children, it can impact their overall development. Any issue with breathing can impact cognitive and speech development, as well as physical stamina, and make an individual even more prone to respiratory illnesses.
The staff of Doman International have many respiratory programs for special needs children. These programs are designed to improve the rate and depth of breathing. Brachiation is designed to strengthen lung capacity and chest size, along with these respiratory programs.
A secondary result of brachiation is strengthening of the hands and improved hand-eye coordination. Brachiation can be essential for improving fine motor skills, independence for children with the use of their hands, and even developing writing and typing skills.
Teaching a Child to Brachiate
While I cannot give you all the details in this blog post about how to teach a child to brachiate, you can find an entire program and schedule in the book “Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby!” This book was written by my father-in-law, Glenn Doman, along with my husband Douglas. The book gives you all the instructions you could need. Instead, I want to give a few tips that I have seen that help parents immensely in the 40 years I have taught this program to families.
TIPS TO WIN WITH BRACHIATION:
1. Get a brachiation ladder: This is fundamental. You need a ladder in your own home, rather than having to travel to a playground or school to do this program. Just having the ladder in your home is the biggest step you need to take to make this program a success.
2. Read “Fit Baby , Smart Baby, Your Baby” by Glenn and Douglas Doman, the schedule outlined in this book for some parents is enough. Many children have learned to brachiate from their parents, just because parents read this book.
3. Have your child watch other children brachiate. Don’t skip this very simple step. Sometimes I send a family home and tell them to focus on teaching a well, older sibling how to brachiate. When the younger child sees older brother or sister brachiating, they say, “I want to do it!” and it makes parent’s life much easier!
4. Begin by having your child hang from a wooden dowel. This will build up the strength in your child’s arms and hands, and make brachiating much easier for them.
5. Always take a 5 minute space between sessions of hanging or brachiating. This will allow your child’s hands to rest properly. If you don’t, your child might experience discomfort or tiring in their hands throughout the day.
6. Always stop before your child wants to stop. It’s always best to stop a session with your child wanting more, than forcing them to go longer than they want!
7. When your child hangs well, between 20-60 seconds, then your child is ready to starting brachiating. Begin to teach your child to swing. Begin slowly, and spot your child from the hips.
8. Doing this program with a high frequency is important, so make up songs and games to get your child to want to get back up on the ladder. A tip I used with my four children – I placed a favorite book on the top of the ladder, at the very end. My kids would swing down the ladder to pull the book down, and enjoy reading their favorite book with mom and dad.
As a mother of four children, brachiation was a large part of our daily routine as my children grew up. For years our brachiation ladder was in the middle of our living room. In the end, it was cheaper than living room furniture! We always had other children coming to our house to brachiate. There is one thing I have noticed with my children, and all other children who learn to brachiate. Once a child can brachiate independently, they never want to stop. Once they have the wonderful feeling of moving from rung to rung on their own, it will be impossible for you to keep the off the ladder!
Enjoy this wonderful process with your children. Implementing these simple, but crucial tips, will help your child learn to brachiate independently as soon as possible.
Grains 101 - Which Are Best and How to Cook Them
Whole grains are a key part of any well-balanced Doman Method Nutrition Program. These carbohydrates are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals that our body and brain needs to function at its optimal level. Some grains are also a great source of protein and can be beneficial for our families who are on a vegetarian diet.
As part of the Doman Method Program, our families are encouraged to cut all gluten grains out of the diet completely to make sure the digestion is optimal, and to make sure that certain issues, like abnormal behaviors, are not aggravated. The following are gluten grains:
- Durum Wheat
- Bulgur Wheat
It seems like that doesn’t leave a lot of options, right? However, there are lots of great and healthier options for gluten free grains. Here’s a full list of all gluten free grains:
- Rice (all colors, and wild)
- Hato Mugi (Job’s Tears)
Of the gluten free grains there are two you do need to be careful of: oats are technically gluten free, but because they are processed in wheat factories the cross contamination is really strong. Therefore, it’s important that the package says the oats are gluten free. Corn is also technically gluten free. However, this food is also eliminated for the Doman Method diet due to the fact it’s highly GMO and more susceptible to fungi growth. If your child has any digestive issues, small or large, best to steer clear from corn.
For many families on the program, simply eliminating gluten grains and giving whole sources of gluten free grains they can see the positive changes in their child – constipation is eliminated, brain fog clears, behavior improves, etc. However, for many children on the program this isn’t enough.
For children who continue to have constipation, dysbiosis, loose stools, gas, etc. additional soaking of grains can be very beneficial. Not only does it make it easier for the body to digest whole grains, it also gets rid of mineral-leaching phytic acid. Each grain may have a little or a lot of phytic acid. Although known as an antioxidant, phytic acid can also deplete the body of calcium, zinc, and iron.
Soaking is one of those extra steps that doesn’t take a lot of time, and is easy to do. Here are the steps to soaking your grains before cooking:
1. Place dry grains in a glass bowl and cover with warm water.
2. Add some acidic agent to the water (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or coconut kefir). Ideally it should be around 15mL (1 tbsp) of acidic agent for every 250mL (1 cup) of warm water. The acidic agent helps further the release of phytic acid.
3. Soak for up to 12 hours, sometimes more!
4. After soaking is complete, rinse grains quickly and then cook as usual. This final step is not absolutely necessary, as phytic acid will have been removed at this point, but can help with the flavor of the grains.
The above recommendations will not only benefit your brain injured child, but the whole family! It is very simple changes like this one that can yield great results with regards to your child’s health and development. Feel free to comment below on how a gluten free lifestyle has helped your child!
Glenn Doman Changed How the World Looks at Children with Special Needs
Adopting a Positive “Doman Viewpoint”
The entire “system” for children with special needs is rigged. The viewpoint toward these children is rigged. The general viewpoint is that children with neurodevelopmental conditions are hopeless and that little or nothing can be done for them. Imagine if you were born and everyone had the viewpoint that you were hopeless and little or nothing could be done for you? How would your life be today?
Because of this viewpoint children with neurological conditions are denied even the opportunities of average children. Even when we know that they need far greater opportunity than average children. So the viewpoint and label placed on these children limits them and pushes them down, down, dow, throughout their lives.
Doman International exists because Glenn and Katie Doman never agreed to this viewpoint. They and the early team of staff that worked with them disagreed with the prevailing viewpoint. They created a new viewpoint, that brain injured children could become well. Glenn realized that all children with neurodevelopmental conditions had suffered an injury to the brain before, during or after birth, and so he called all these children “brain injured” to accurately describe their issues.
It was no longer the objective for brain injured children to be well. Brain injured children have the potential to be way, way, way above average. Every week when we report the results of the brain injured children we are seeing, we report facts. Brain injured children are reading, doing math, having general knowledge, problem solving, and understanding foreign language, far superior to their average peers. Children are running, brachiating, doing gymnastics, swimming, and biking far superior to their peers. Two, four, six, eight year old severely brain injured children have had perfect health for twelve consecutive months. This is unheard of for average children.
It is essential that everyone in the lives of our brain injured children have the viewpoint that the children can be intellectually, physically, and socially excellent. The more people in the child’s environment that agree with this the better the child’s progress will be.
The system is rigged to try to convince parents to adopt the viewpoint that the child has little or no potential. Staff come to Doman International because they have already understood the great potential of children with special needs, and they want to help parents achieve it. Parents come to us having met other parents, or having seen our social media, or having read What To Do About Your Brain Injured Child (1974). In their hearts they know their children have great potential.
It’s important that parents make sure there are no naysayers in the environment of their brain injured children. Anyone who does not believe in the potential of the child are negative influences and their presence can be bad for the child. Our children need all the help they can get. They cannot afford to be in the presence of individuals who are not on their team.
Years ago, my wife Rosalind, the clinical director of Doman International, was seeing a family for the first time and teaching them their physical program. The child was learning to creep on his hands and knees. Rosalind gave them a goal of building up to 400 meters of creeping a day. The mother burst into tears. Rosalind was concerned that the mother felt the goal was too difficult. The mother said “no”. She said she was crying because, for her child’s entire life she had been told the things her child will never be able to do. Now Rosalind was telling her what her child could do, and exactly how much. This is our viewpoint, our parents viewpoint, and the viewpoint that the entire world needs to adopt.
Please help us make this positive viewpoint of children with special needs prevail. You will be improving the results for these children around the world.
Teaching Children with Special Needs Reading with the Glenn Doman Method
Five Ways the Doman Method Revolutionized the Teaching of Reading
Concerns about cognitive development are common for parents of children with special needs. It is common for kids with special needs to have difficulties with reading, math, following instructions, and speech. Glenn Doman realized over 50 years ago that children with autism, cerebral palsy, trisomy 21, ADD/ADHD and other special needs often failed to learn to read in school. Instead of new methods being pioneered that were tailor-made for teaching the children how to read, it was assumed these children were failing because of their learning problems, and the school system often gave up on them.
Glenn Doman did not agree that certain children were “uneducable”. In 1964, he wrote “How to Teach Your Baby to Read”, a landmark book that taught parents how to teach their children how to read. While this book was written primarily for parents of neurotypical children, Glenn explains that he learned about the potential of young children when he saw a 3-year-old brain damaged boy, Tommy, read aloud for him. He realized that children were much more capable (especially kids with special needs) than the educational system was giving them credit for.
He developed a system for teaching reading that is ideal for kids, and especially children with learning difficulties. What makes the Glenn Doman Method of teaching reading so special? There are various elements to the method that are important:
1. The Glenn Doman Method involves the teaching of words on flashcards: By teaching children how to read words, instead of teaching phonics, this method made reading easier for kids with reading difficulties. First, it did not require children to read aloud — a great difficulty for kids with speech problems. The vast majority of children with special needs have speech difficulties, and so requiring them to read aloud makes reading more difficulty and frightening for them. Having the children passively learn to read the words as the adult reads them aloud makes it a relaxed and easier way for the children to learn.
2. The method emphasizes short teaching sessions, done frequently: Many children dislike having to sit for long periods of time while being taught, especially hyperactive children who are easily distracted! This method keeps sessions short (less than 10 seconds), but frequent enough throughout the day that children can learn how to read. Often, words are shown up to 15 times daily. This high frequency helps the children learn to read, but the sessions are short enough that they enjoy the sessions.
3. The method focuses of joyous learning: Glenn’s reading program is tailor-made for each child. The words that the child learns to read are based on their favorite things — names of family members, favorite foods, their favorite activities, and their most beloved animals and places! Who wouldn’t love to learn if it’s based on their favorite things? The method also avoids testing, something kids often hate. By personalizing the program and reducing stressors (like reading aloud and testing), the child’s enjoyment and commitment of the program is greatly enhanced!
4. Glenn Doman realized large print size was essential: By making the size of the print of words large and bold, it made it easier for children with visual problems to learn to read. It is very common for kids with special needs to have poor vision, and to have difficulty reading tiny print. Making the words large eliminated this issue and made reading easy!
5. Text and pictures are separated: Glenn Doman pointed out that well-meaning authors of kids books often include text and pictures all on the same page, and that sight words in school are often coupled with pictures. The problem with this is that images distract the child from the text. Separating text and pictures was crucial for helping kids learn to focus on the text and learn how to read it.
There are many reasons that Glenn Doman’s Reading Program was a landmark achievement in early reading and literacy. These five advantages to the Glenn Doman Method are some of the many reasons why this program is ideal for children struggling to learn to read. In addition, it allows parents to educate their own young children before they are even school age. This can create great developmental changes for a child with special needs, and provide a lasting impact for that child’s education and future.
Why the Floor is So Important for Your Child With Special Needs
The first time I saw Glenn Doman, he was teaching the parents of children with special needs. He was lecturing to parents about the importance of floor time for children with mobility problems. I fell in love with Glenn almost instantaneously, and I also fell in the love with the floor as a treatment program for children with special needs.
As a graduate with two degrees in special education, I thought of myself as an expert in child development. I had taught children diagnosed with autism, learning problems, seizures and cerebral palsy. I had learned tons of techniques, but never about the crucial role the floor plays in mobility development.
Glenn explained as he lectured that he felt foolish when he finally came to this realization! Kids with special needs benefit greatly when they are given ample opportunity to move on the floor.
Forty years ago, sitting and listening to Glenn, I felt just as silly. The children with special needs that I worked with were constantly in chairs, wheelchairs, strollers and other contraptions. I immediately realized that these children were greatly restricted in these devices, and that the floor meant they could learn to move much more quickly.
Here are simple truths about why the floor is so important for the development of children with special needs.
1. When children with special needs are placed on the floor and permitted to move on the floor, they get the best opportunity to improve and get well. There is no other treatment that can come close to providing this.
2. Some kids may not be able to move forward and crawl just by being placed on the floor. Glenn learned that by giving these children an inclined floor, they could learn how to crawl. This device was created to teach the child if that if you move your arms or legs, you will start to move forward.
3. Children who walk or run poorly and who have a diagnosis of developmental delayed, hyperactivity, reading problems, and autism can be greatly helped when given unlimited opportunity on the floor to crawl and creep. Crawling and creeping as activities were positive for brain development.
4. When a child with special needs crawls or creeps, they should be picked up and hugged and praised for their accomplishments. In short, parents must make it clear that the child did something very special and their child is wonderful. There should be no doubt in any child’s mind that the effort was worth it.
In 1952, Glenn Doman discovered the importance of the floor. In 2019, there are many new and wonderful program as part of the Doman Method — but the floor remains paramount to help kids start learning to move.