After our daughter was diagnosed with left hemiparesis, Jennifer spoke with us about the possibilities of the Anat Baniel Method®. Our daughter had very limited use of her left hand and leg. Her muscle tone in her face was very low. After just one session with Jennifer, we noticed a remarkable improvement in her cognitive awareness, the movement of her left arm and leg were more noticeable, the muscle tone on the left side of her face appeared more balanced and functional and we noticed 2 additional words/sounds she began to make. I highly recommend this method for anyone who has experienced any sort of neurological challenge, infantile spasms, seizures, cerebral palsy, etc. It will truly make an significant difference in movement and cognition.
Our daughter, Mabrey, was one year old when we heard the diagnosis “cerebral palsy”. No matter how and when you learn about your child’s challenges, it’s like a punch to the gut. In the middle of my grief and just trying to survive, my mom began researching therapies on the internet. God led her to a non-traditional therapy approach and she threw herself into the YouTube videos and books available. Even though she had no formal training in it, she taught Mabrey to be aware of where her knees were, how to bend her head forward…She said to me, “Tonya, I feel like this is God’s answer to us.” I tried to be enthusiastic but felt overwhelmed because most practitioners of this therapy lived in different states such as California. Traveling with 4 children was not going to be feasible for us.
About a year later, my friend told me of a “life changing therapy” she wasn’t sure I had heard of. I was so excited when she said the name of the therapy- it was the same one my mom was already learning about- Anat Baniel Method® (ABM). I was amazed at God’s hand when my friend said, “Oh yeah did you know there is a practitioner in Birmingham now that just got trained last year?” I feel like it’s just God showing off His love and grace that this therapist, Jenny Helenius Ault, lives in our same neighborhood, 5 minutes down the road.
Mabrey began working with Jenny when she was almost 2 years old. Before she started sessions, she had the gross and fine motor skills of under a 6 month old. She could not sit unassisted, unclench her left fist to manipulate toys, or get around on the floor other than army crawl (and the army crawl was frustrating for her as her left arm continually got stuck under her body in attempts to move.) In her first month of working with Jenny, I got to witness for the very first time Mabrey using her arms and upper body to pull up on a toy. Her arms were suddenly free enough to do this- something had connected in her brain, there was no splint or force used in this new development.
Before we were able to work with Jenny we were helped by many wonderful people in traditional therapy. This is the world of splinting, standers, walkers, “practicing” sitting/standing/ movement. The theology behind ABM says things like…No child ever learned to stand by standing. Think of a baby- they move their body in thousands of ways all over the floor before they get to the place of standing. But never do they learn to physically stand up by someone placing them in a standing position to just practicing standing. Instead of practicing and forcing the movements we wish to see, ABM focuses on the true issue in cerebral palsy- and that is that we are dealing with an injury to the brain. Can we encourage movement in a child that would allow them to recreate these connections? Could then natural and unforced movement become reality for that child?
I didn’t want to hear from a therapist that Mabrey’s slow and frustrating army crawl was “functional” for her so we should move on to other things. I wanted to see her crawl- up on all fours, moving her arms and legs in fluid motions. I wanted more than “functional.”
Mabrey is now 3.5 years old. She has had ABM sessions with Jenny every month of her life since she was 2. She can now- get to a sitting position unassisted. Sit unassisted. Pull to stand. She is aware of her feet enough to put her heels down when standing instead of being “tippy-toed” from her severe tone. She “corrects” this without orthotics or splints forcing her foot down. She uses her left hand to manipulate toys. Unless she is overly excited or tired, she does not fist her left hand- this has “corrected” without the use of a hand splint. She can color, brush her teeth, eat independently with a spoon. She crawls beautifully and has recently even begun choosing to walk on her knees for mobility.
Brain injury is a serious thing and healing takes time. However, whenever Mabrey gets to the place of a demonstrating new or improved movement, it’s done so beautifully and naturally that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s been solidified by a new connection in her brain, not by an outside force of muscle manipulation. And that is worth everything to me.
Theology is wonderful but without a dynamic practitioner it’s merely words on a page. Jenny has a true passion for the work that she does. She is extremely knowledgeable, intentional, very in tune to both the child and caregiver’s emotions/ well-beings. Jenny is also so valuable in that she holds an Occupational Therapy degree in addition to her extensive, ongoing ABM training. She understands the traditional therapy world and I believe that gives her a unique perspective and edge when applying ABM. Also, because of her OT standing, we are able to file for insurance reimbursement for this therapy and that is not true of all ABM practitioners.
I know you as a parent/ caregiver/ patient will consider all things when looking for help for your child or maybe even help for yourself. I ask that you seek out those people and places which tell you- the sky is the limit. Look for those who hold the premise that our bodies and brains are incredibly designed and created- that even following trauma they are capable of healing… capable of new, unforced connections. We searched and found that place- right here. It’s an irreplaceable, valuable gift to have local access to the groundbreaking, life-changing work of ABM. Thank you, Jenny!
My child has been attending lessons with Mrs. Jenny for over a year for a severe physical disability. The changes we observed in the first month were more than we saw in over 5 years of conventional therapy combined. She saw and felt things in my child's body that no one else had ever observed or mentioned. Traditional therapy methods were all working to manage the disability my child had, while making no effort or progress to retrain his body to move differently, and in some cases were creating un-natural movement patterns that were making life more difficult for us. That is where ABM is different, and where we personally feel Mrs. Jenny is the best. She knows where to put her hands, apply pressure, and move muscles to make the brain wake up to them even existing. I could never adequately put into words the milestones my child has achieved since we started seeing her. There are so many life-skills he is now able to achieve that were never considered possible before. I highly recommend WonderMovement to anyone who thinks they could benefit from a different approach.