INPP run a ‘One Day Course for Teachers’ that teaches “the use of a simple test battery to detect Neuro-Developmental Delay, and in the administration of a series of remedial exercises which may be used with the individual child, a small group or a whole class of children over the course of two to three terms”. I attended the July 2004 course run in Chester, UK by Sally Goddard Blythe.
No prior knowledge is required before attending but the course is aimed at teachers and professionals allied to education. Of the twenty or so people who were attending all but myself and an osteopath were teachers. Some were mainstream classroom teachers but many were already involved in special needs in various ways. The variety of backgrounds made the training more interesting as each person brought a different set of experiences and point of view to the group.
The morning session started off with some background on INPP and an overview of the research that has led INPP to develop their testing and treatment programme. In a nutshell INPP believe that primitive reflexes that babies require between birth and about 18 months, which in normal children are replaced by more sophisticated postural reflexes, are retained in children with learning difficulties. Because of these reflexes, that for example prevent head and arms moving independently, being retained children literally cannot sit up straight, hold a pen correctly or filter out distracting noises. The objective of this INPP course is to help teachers identify when a child has any of three key reflexes are still present and to learn an exercise routine that will supress these reflexes. There was a brief discussion as to how the INPP approach differs from that used by DDAT or by BrainGym. DDAT and similar therapies concentrate on more advanced postural reflexes. The ones used whilst standing and walking which generally develop at about 2 years of age. The INPP approach is to ensure the primitive reflexes are correctly developed before worrying about the postural reflexes. The analogy used was the primitive reflexes are the building’s foundations and without ensuring those are sound, the building will be unstable. [NOTE: It occurred to me when this was discussed that this may explained why some people fail to progress with the DDAT scheme and some people get great results. If your primitive reflexes are too underdeveloped you cannot improve you postural reflexes.]
The second part of the morning session moved onto practical demonstrations of simple tests to identify children with problems. These test involve simple balance tests, some visual tests, a phonic test and tests specifically for the three key reflexes: Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) and the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR). Most time was spent on the reflex and balance tests as these were INPP tests where as the visual and phonic tests are more ‘standard’ and were taken from other sources. The techniques were clearly demonstrated on members of the class and generally two versions of the test shown. One was suitable for use in a classroom were you may not be able to or wish to touch the child. The second hands-on version was the one used in a clinical setting where the parent would be present.
The reflex test are scored on a scale of 0 to 4 with zero indicating there is no evidence of retention. For the purposes of the demonstration I volunteered to be tested as having been through the DDAT programme I wanted to see if I still retained any reflexes. I scored 1 to 2 on the tests. There was some discussion about how you scored, e.g. what constituted a score of four. Sally Goddard said that after testing about ten children we would have a good understanding of the range of possible responses. This highlights one of the few short comings of the training, the use of an overhead projector rather than a laptop and LCD projector. It would of been very useful at this stage of the training to have seen a few brief video clips of INPP conducting some testing on children and what scores they gave. Being able to see real example, and ideally being able to take the clips home, would of been a nice touch.
The tests for the retained reflex are fascinating and I suspect many of the teachers attending this course rush out and try them out on as many children as they can lay their hands on. The tests also allow you to assess the children at the end of the programme and compare a child’s academic progress with changes in their reflexes.
After lunch, which isn’t provided, the training moved onto the actual exercises. For these the chairs were cleared to the side of the room and we all tried out the movements. All the exercises involve lying on the floor and consist of simple movements, such as a ‘back stroke’ type action using just the arms. It is clear from the movements and the sequence in which they are done that the programme is designed to mimic the normal movements of a child first year. The exercises should be done daily for about ten to fifteen minutes over the course of a school year. Starting with four very simple exercises and as the weeks progress the easier exercises are replaced with more complicated ones, gradually working through the entire programme. Sally Goddard was very clear that the pace at which exercises are dropped and new one introduced most be dictated by the slowest, weakest child in the class. The purpose of the programme is to allow those less able to build a solid foundation of movement skills, something the more able students probably already have. The teaching of the tests and the exercises was aided by a very good 35 page handout that has clear and simple instruction for each test and exercise.
The course cost £99 and was run at the Queens Hotel, Chester, UK, which is conveniently located opposite Chester railway station. Booking is via INPP web site.
This is a well run and well practiced training session and recommend to any teachers interested including movement into their classrooms. Unlike other methods, such as Brain Gym, this course gives a complete general purpose programme for use with children. Its not an approach that allows you to pick and mix your own exercise routines.
Whilst I’m sure that INPP will not appreciate this, there is nothing stopping the parent of a dyslexic attending this course, learning the programme and applying it to their own child. However INPP make clear as part of the training that the routine is a ‘one size fits all’ approach which its clearly weaker than a custom designed programme for a specific child.
Sally Goddard Blythe has writtern two books: Reflexes, Learning and Behavior which is aimed at teachers and professional and is a good companion to the course. The Well-balanced Child is aimed at parents and covers a wide range of areas relating to children’s development. Full reviews of both books should be appearing www.myomancy.com soon.