By Wendy Harron - January 31, 2012
Clapping to a bell? …That sounds boring. How is this going to actually help my child?
This is a question that I hear from many parents as I try to explain to them what IM is and how it works to make changes in the brain’s mesh of neurological connections. “I don’t think my child would do that for a whole hour” or “I think you are going to lose them during the session” are common responses, and there is always the “My child already knows how to clap, so how would this ever help them? These are actually all really good statements, and a parent should never hesitate to ask what it is that we are doing and why we think it will help.
Yes, we do use clapping as an exercise during IM sessions. When you break it down, it’s a GREAT repetitive activity. You are using both sides of your body so both sides of your brain will be stimulated, you get great range of motion in your arms, and you also get great sensory feedback from your hands connecting as they clap. But actually, this tends to be one of the activities the kids love the most as they learn how to earn “bursts” during the program. So honestly, it’s not bad or boring!!!
Another reason that I use clapping for part of my session is that for many of my patients it’s one of the easiest ones for them to perform. So as they do 500 or 1000 repetitions of clapping, it takes from 10 -20 minutes. As I observe them, this gives me a better picture of the quality of their attention and focus. They don’t have to worry about complicated patterns (which are good for other reasons) or memory or motor planning – clapping is something one has been doing since he/she was a toddler. When your attention and quality of focus is good, you are able to attend to a teacher giving a lesson and an assignment without missing critical parts. Your motor skills will improve during sports (there is a reason the pro sports teams and golfers have been involved with IM) and you can concentrate enough to play a game with your family. Good attention and focus allows you to have conversations and interact with peers without impulsively grabbing a toy or interrupting people as they talk.
During our sessions, we also deviate from “just clapping” quite a bit! We are able to use switches in so many ways to stimulate the brain and response times. We not only work to stimulate both sides of the brain, but to have both sides of the brain communicate together (crossing the corpus callosum) making the “wiring” more efficient and fast. Your child will end up participating in exercises, which have them alternate hand and foot patterns or sort items into categories to the beat. We also can include sensory strategies for organization or NDT strategies for strengthening. The IM program is just so adaptable and can be used in so many ways.
Please don’t be afraid to try IM because you think it will be “too boring” for your child to clap for an hour, because it is so much more than that! There are some demonstrations in the IM and IM-Home website (www.interactivemetronome .com, www.imhome.org) and also some examples of various exercises for various needs on youtube (www.youtube.com/imetronome) that you can view and see just how diverse the program can be. It’s a new year – could it be time to try something new for you and your child?