Home | In The Classroom | The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 2

The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 2

“I will leave you two boys to it; I’m off to the kitchen. If you need me give me a call.” With that, Glenys was on her way. I placed a footrest at the side of John’s lounge chair, his left-hand side. I started the conversation by again telling John that it was a great privilege to meet him. With much effort and with associated heavy breathing, John lifted his head and smiled. This time John began to speak. His speech was an almost inaudible whisper. The effort was extremely burdened and strained. I would even describe it as being excruciating. However, even for this obvious energy sapping difficulty, John was trying to formulate words.

Click here to read part 1. 

“Aaarrrgghhh, aaarrrggghhh, aaarrrggghhh, aaarrrggghhh … ohhh … kkkaaayyy,” John whispered in response to my statement. I could barely hear what John was saying. Then the tonal balloon of John deflated again. John’s head returned to his chest, his body slumped. There was silence. I wanted to continue with our conversation, however I was struggling, and not knowing what to say. I now at least had the experience of John’s speaking response, and so, with that knowledge, I again repeated my greeting: “It’s a great privilege to meet you John.”

John looked up again, he had a smile on his face, and again with much effort he began to whisper: “Aaarrrgghhh, aaarrrggghhh, aaarrrggghhh, I, I, I, knoooooow.” It took me a moment to appreciate the power and important and profound insight of this response from John. I began to laugh.

I’m laughing? And I’m feeling guilty. I am feeling guilty because I’m laughing. John’s response, even though it was extremely slow and agonisingly effortful and belaboured, caused me to feel confused. However, even with this feeling of confusion, to my way of thinking there was a deep insight on the part of John taking place. I could see and I could hear from John’s perceptive response that John’s mind was the mind of the alert champion that he was. He was clearly aware of his status. He was using his intellectual skill of irony and wit, just like he used his mental and outstanding physical skills in the ring, which were magnificent. I now felt that I was able to continue with my conversation with John.

“I remember the time you knocked Fighting Harada out of the ring.”

John replied. “Aaarrrgghhh, aaarrrggghhh … sooo … aaarrrggghhh … do I, I, I waaassss thhheeerrre.”

I burst out laughing again. And even though I am still feeling guilty and confused, I am now beginning to feel good. This response also informed me that John’s episodic memory was intact.

“What do you remember about that fight John?” “Aaarrrgghhh, aaarrrggghhh … I, I, I … aaarrrggghhh knocked him, argh … out of … the … aaarrrggghhh, rrring.”

“Yes, I remember that too.”

“Aarrgh … sooo … argh … do I … I diiid the knockiiing out.

“Argh, you’re aargh umm slooooow. I, er, ahhh, um, already told you thaaaat!”

I laughed again. This time with less guilt and I laughed much louder. John smiled. He clearly was aware of what was taking place and the immense perceptive and highly sophisticated insights he was presenting.

Exhilarated and exhausted

Three hours later, I was exhilarated and exhausted. John continually had me in fits of laughter with his absolutely unrelenting irony and profound intellectual twists he was constantly presenting. Perceptively, and self-evidently John had clearly replaced his extraordinary physical ring craft and boxing brilliance with his now amazing intellectual and ironic utterances.

He never ‘missed a beat.’ This meant he not only understood the conversation that was taking place, he was able to filter social conventions and words that were being expressed into these constant insights of double meanings and twists of delightful irony.

Here is another profound example: There we were, talking, the conversation was flowing. At times both of us were laughing. I was laughing at what John said, and I believe John was laughing because he seemed to be enjoying that I understood the paradoxical subtleties of what he was saying. At one point in time in our conversation, there was again a regular period of silence. However, during this one particular time in our collective shared silence, I began to laugh.

Aaarrrggghhh, aaarrrggghhh wh-wh- whhhy are yoooooou laaaaughing?”

"It’s what you said previously, I’ve only just understood the twist and the irony of what you said."

"Aaarrrggghhhh iit toook you long eeeenough.” With that John smiled a big smile. And I laughed even louder.

In my life’s journey, I have met with a wide variety of high achievers and what could be thought of as experts and authorities in the fields of traditional and sports karate and education. This also includes some of the highest level of sports administrators, high-level academics, and this also comprises high achievers in the theatre and the arts. I have met exceedingly talented people however never had I met, until this time, in relation to John, a person whose every utterance (under the most of extreme circumstances) was of such an extraordinary and profound intellectual presentation of insights, which were, more often than not, wrapped in a delightful hidden covering of creative ironic enchantments.

In the presence of greatness

I was unequivocally, at so many levels, in the presence of greatness. The body and the brain had been broken, but this was making no difference to what I was witnessing and experiencing. To put this in boxing parlance: John was continually pounding me from pillar to post; and he was, just like he was in the ring, unrelenting. It is important to note that at this first meeting, no multimovement therapy took place. However, clearly and unequivocally, neurological, cognitive, speech, and most certainly, emotional and psychological therapy was taking place. Multimovement therapy did not begin until the following week, that of December 18, 1993.

December 18, 1993. No guarantees

I informed John and Glenys that there were no guarantees that any of what I had in mind would ever work. John and Glenys said they understood. However, I was still very much of the opinion that neurological changes should take place in John’s brain. I explained, how in play theory, that play theory informs that children need to move for their brain to develop. This would mean, I explained, that John would have to move, and this movement had to take place through his own deliberate effortful thinking.

Complex and complicated

I also believed (and I emphasised this to John and Glenys), that any such movement and related deliberate thinking, had to be as complex and as complicated as possible, even up to the point of it creating immense and prolonged confusion. I remember John then saying: “Aarghhh, it will beee eeeasy to confuse you.”

Self-directed effortful thinking

My thinking was that more self-directed effortful thinking and more self-initiated movement would lead to both new and more neurological connections being formed. All of which, I explained would, more likely than not, lead to associated physical motor improvements. I had no evidence for any of these statements. Intuitively, however, these statements simply made sense me.

We all agreed

However, and again, I reinforced that there simply were no guarantees in relation to anything I was saying, nor in relation to what was to take place. I also told John and Glenys that if we didn’t try, nothing would ever happen. And if something were to happen, even a one per cent improvement was better than no improvement. We all agreed, and with that the multimovement therapy began.

Small, gentle steps

It was small and gentle steps that now needed to be the order of the day for John. With that I lifted up John’s left hand. It was in a tight tonal fist. I massaged John’s left arm and fist, slowly and ever so gently I began to loosen the fingers of John’s left fist. The hand felt cold. Ever so slowly John’s fist began to open, single digit at a time. John’s hand eventually opened. The hand felt a little warmer. I interlocked the fingers of my left hand with the fingers of John’s left hand. I then began to flex and bend John’s hand at the wrist. After quite a few gentle ‘flexes and bends’ I then massaged John’s hand and forearm. I again placed my left hand in John’s left hand. I then asked John to lift his right arm up and down. What we had now was that I was flexing and bending John’s left hand and wrist. John was lifting his right arm up and down, and then I asked John to lift his knees up alternately. Four actions were now taking place. I then asked John to turn his head from side-to-side. While all this was going on, I was explaining to John what I was doing and why I was doing it, with added emphasis that every micro and macro movement would, in my opinion, be bringing about complementary neurological and neuromuscular benefits. It just made sense.

What’s the matter?

As the weeks progressed, each session at times continuing for some three hours, with the average being two hours, these initial single movements became more complex and complicated multimovements. During these times, and for the entire four years of this weekly therapy, John never asked for any therapy session to stop because of tiredness. In fact, John never complained about anything. During all of these therapy sessions we only paused and/or stopped when I became exhausted. And each time I said to John, “It’s time to have a rest.” John’s reply was always “what’s the matter, can’t you hack it?”

Naturally abled

Multimovement Therapy, with its stretch goals (see, for example, Dweck, 2017) and hard goals (see, for example, Sadler, 2014) that ‘overloaded the brain’, was carefully monitored and included ongoing explanations of what was taking place with additional debriefing throughout. Focused talk was also considered as being critical, i.e., talking therapy.

Event horizon

It was time for John’s therapy to advance in its complexity. It was my intuition that if John was to ever even try to walk, he needed to crawl first. However, before John could even try to crawl, I needed to see if he could roll, because crawling was profoundly much more complex than rolling. Conversely, in and of itself, I knew rolling was complex. For John to roll he needed to be on the floor. To be on the floor, he need to stand. John’s seated therapy had involved hands, arms, had knee and leg movements, all being activated in extremely complex and complicated sequences, which advanced to what I referred to as the ‘event horizon’.

Overwhelming firing and rewiring

The event horizon was where the activity was at the edge of where the thinking and the complex movement sequences that were being experienced (both successfully and unsuccessfully), until the intellectual and physical workload became impossibly overwhelming. This holistic brain and body ‘overwhelmingness' thinking and movement cusp was the event horizon of MMT. When this brain and body sequence ‘overwhelmingness’ event horizon process was taking place it was my contention (that the lead up to this overwhelming event horizon), and then, being at the event horizon itself, was where the neurons and all of the associated connections in the brain and body (the hólos) would be firing and rewiring, at their maxim, along with all of the associated neurological recruiting that would also be taking place from all parts of the brain and body (the hólos).

It just made sense

I absolutely had no evidence for any of these suppositions but these inferences certainly made a lot of sense to me. It was my thinking and my contention that if these brain and body (hólos) improvement were not taking place, then, irrefutably, none of John’s presenting cognitive and overall holistic improvements to this in time would ever have taken place. Therefore, all of these improvements and progressions, and all of this undeniable empirical evidence informed me that John was now ready to roll. It just made sense.

That concludes part 2 of The Brain, Multimovement Therapy and Education. Part 3 will be describing what took place when John was asked to stand roll, crawl, and then walk, for the first time in nearly three years.

Dr Ragnar Purje is adjunct lecturer in the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University. Under the supervision of Professor Ken Purnell, Purje’s doctoral dissertation focused on the success of his neurologically focused acquired brain injury rehabilitation therapy.

Professor Ken Purnell is from the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University.

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