When I was offered an opportunity to review A Life in Balance from the Learning Breakthrough Program in exchange for an honest review I jumped at the chance.
As the parent of a child who has been treated for Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD and was on the road to being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and several other corollary dx's before my husband and I decided to get him off the traditional "special needs" dx-and-treatment path, I am always interested in learning more about natural helps for children who are gifted with different neurologies.
Further, as the mom of another child who displays markers for dyslexia and as a tutor for a number of children who struggle with reading and other academic endeavors, I love discovering proven ways to make the path to reading success easier for all children.
Thus, when my review copy of A Life in Balance showed up in my mailbox, I dug into it eagerly, hoping to glean new information while reading about the journey Frank Belgau took from being a "slow learner" himself; to dedicating over four decades of his life to discovering what practices and therapies would create immediate, observable improvements in reading in students he worked with; to ultimately developing the Learning Breakthrough Program, which has helped children and adults with:
- Speech and Language Challenges
- Behavior Challenges
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Brain Injury
Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
Apparently, it is not.
Rather, the Learning Breakthrough Program is the result of years of dedication, collaboration, trial, error and refinement, all of which is chronicled in A Life in Balance.
What Is A Life in Balance?
In a nutshell, A Life in Balance is a book I am glad I read and that I would encourage others to read as well.
Within its first several pages I found myself noting, "How Maria Montessori-like" as I read that Belgau would "try anything that seemed it might work, and...would pay attention to the results. When (he) found something that seemed to work, (he'd) keep doing it. If something didn't work, (he) would throw it out and move on to something else."
Later, I delighted in gems about approaching learning (and learning about learning). For example, I found myself smiling and placing a big star next to:
A complete idea can be applied; it has obvious and immediate value, but that does not make the incomplete idea less valuable. An incomplete idea is the ignition switch of creativity...
As a homeschooling mom, I see this in practice every day in how my children learn, how I learn and how we all learn about our learning.
Then, throughout the rest of the 200 pages and 15 chapters of A Life in Balance I found myself continuing to make notes and to write "Yes!" time after time after time as I enjoyed the insightful, and sometimes entertaining, view of how Frank Belgau went from being a "slow learner" who finally caught up and even surpassed peers after a summer of running on the beach to being the founder of a proven program that helps children and adults with a variety of challenges unlock their learning potential.
I also found myself mentally organizing the book into three distinct portions.
The First Portion captured my attention right away and continued to draw me in through its storytelling.
In it, readers, initially, are taken back to Belgau's first teaching job in the 1960's and, then, back even further in time to Dr. Frank Belgau's childhood experience as a "slow kid in a fast family". It then sustains the reader with an engaging, sometimes entertaining and at other times enlightening, chronicle of Belgau's unconventional, yet effective and remarkably simple therapeutic approach to using balance and precise movements to improve individual abilities to learn and focus.
To do so, A Life in Balance fast forwards again to the 1960's, when Belgau accidentally began to research learning disabilities and thereby discovered his passion and then moves forward, taking readers along the multi-decade journey Belgau immersed himself in in order to uncover what practices would create immediate, observable improvement in the students he worked with. As it does so, A Life in Balance treats readers to stories of heartwarming children, daunting challenges, encouraging colleagues and mentors and unwavering dedication. It also shouts with hope fed by success (despite, particularly, roadblocks of academia and politics.)
How Modern Brain Science Applies to Belgau's Decades of Success
The Second Portion of A Life in Balance gets more technical, but remains engaging and fairly easy to digest.
Having shared a memoir of his passionate life work, Dr. Belgau continues on to explain what his years of research have uncovered and how the balance- and movement-based therapies he has developed work to not just to "chase down and conquer a disability, but to discover an ability, nurture it and bring it to its full potential."
After years of not knowing why his therapies involving balancing, hitting balls and playing "brain games" worked, yet experiencing that indeed they did, modern science finally allowed Belgau to synthesize the how behind it all. In turn, Belgau summarizes such modern science in order to offer readers a more thorough understanding.
Through the lenses of current knowledge of neurology and the collective experience from Belgau's decades of hands-on research, Belgau the science of how neurons work, the way neurology plays into learning and how the program he developed capitalizes on brain plasticity to help people learn and focus.
The Final Portion of A Life in Balance as I organized the book in my own head, is actually its Appendix. This portion of the book details what Belgau calls the "Space Walk".
The Space Walk are activities Beglau developed over the years that can be done with no financial investment in material "but which can have a positive impact on academic and work performance, intellectual clarity, and overall well-being. The exercises it details are simple ones which can be categorized into such headings as Walking, hopping, Rhythmic Hopping and Skipping, but the way they are performed and observed is quite precise.
The exercises will help readers see if their children's (or own!) bodies are properly balanced and to understand which movements may be suppressed or exaggerated. They also will help participants get a glimpse of how the brain is processing information and a taste of how well-researched balance- and movement- work can produce positive effects.
I have not yet had the opportunity to test these exercises out with my children (and on myself!) but I look forward to doing so. Prior to reading A Life in Balance, I had already discovered that dietary changes helped my son and made a huge, positive difference in our daily lives. I had also witnessed how concentrated vestibular and proprioceptive activities could regulate his sensory system and keep my other children healthy and happy. Now, I am can see how practicing Belgau's Space Walk, or should we choose to invest in it after saving, Learning Breakthrough Program equipment, could make a difference for him and for us all.
My daughter's dyslexia markers might fade away. My youngest might learn with more vigor and success than he already does. My husband and I might regain some of the focus we seem to have lost as we have aged. (Yes we are old parents of young children). Like so many of the people Belgau has worked with (and like Beglau himself who uses his own program!), we might all continue to discover how to make our brains work more efficiently.
Was There Anything I Didn't Like About the Book?
Only one thing -- typos. I found the book had a number of errors in spacing, spelling, etc. that distracted me periodically as I read. However, when balanced against the the actual information presented in A Life in Balance, these editing errors are rather inconsequential. There are few books that I find myself actually wanting to write in the margins of. This book was one of them!
Only a handful or so of my markings noted edits that might be made to future editions of the book. Many, many more were things such as "Yes!' "I believe this, too!" "Inspiring!" "Interesting concept." "This connects to..." "So true!", "*" and "Try this."
If you'd like to learn more about the Learning Breakthrough Program and the book A Life in Balance (currently priced at $16.94), please visit:
- the Learning Breakthrough Program website
- their Facebook page
- their Twitter page
- their YouTube channel
To discover what others thought about the book, please enjoy reviews at Schoolhouse Review Crew.
I'd love to hear about YOUR experiences with brain training and non-traditional therapies and treatments! What successes have you discovered? Are they are powerful as the ones described in A Life in Balance?