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Movement for life a link for children with special needs

Jackie Mason and Cheryl Noble
Special to The Union

Children with cerebral palsy, autism, global brain damage and other developmental disabilities face a multitude of challenges to develop fine and gross motor skills for optimal functionality.

The traditional path to help such children includes physical, occupational, speech and other therapies. But many parents are discovering these options have limitations.

Movement for Life, a Nevada City practice that optimizes mobility, flexibility, and balance was established four years ago by Jackie Mason, who evolved her therapy from the methods of physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. It’s based on the premise that we learn to move in a logical order as babies and beyond. If any part of this order is skipped or missed as a result of brain damage, it must be re-learned.



As movement becomes more complex, the brain processes information in a more organized and logical manner.

Since Dr. Feldenkrais’ work was introduced in the U.S. in the early 1970s, studies have found that optimal brain development occurs when children feel emotionally secure, are in comfortable surroundings and learn to naturally move their bodies with increasing confidence and complexity.




The therapy is without force, constraint or physically limiting equipment. The skeleton is moved in gentle motions to send a message to the brain to re-organize itself for more optimal movement.

Even children with paralysis or permanent nerve damage can learn to move in ways that create optimal functionality.

The story of Benny

Benny is an active 5-year-old with mild cerebral palsy, but no other brain damage. He walked on his toes rather than using the whole foot.

“After eight months working with physical therapists and doctors, they said Benny would have a crouched gait and be in braces for the rest of his life,” stated Elaine Joyce and John Hoopes, Benny’s grandparents and legal guardians.

We observed Benny was using his neck and upper torso to stay upright for walking. Our therapy showed Benny how to move his pelvis forward as he was taking a step so he could lower his heels to the ground.

“After his first session with Jackie, Benny had erect posture,” the Hoopes said. “After session four, his heels came down, and he was unable to go back to walking on his toes, even when he tried.”

Free from the stiffness of his neck and torso, Benny has taken on the challenges of tumbling and aikido classes.

The case of Abby

Abby was born with cerebral palsy and mid-level brain damage. Her legs were contracted and severely turned inward. She had to hold onto another person to walk, she was on her toes and unable to look up when walking. Her right arm was bent and of little use.

Our therapy began by mobilizing Abby’s pelvis to give her brain a different sense of where balance can occur. As her brain re-organized, Abby’s movement began to dramatically improve. Today, she swims, runs, and plays basketball and baseball.


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