Thursday, September 07, 2006


Why do physical activities affect reading, writing or attention?

The June 2003 Volume 24, Number 6 issue of Discover magazine includes an interesting article outlining neuroscientist Paul Back-y-Rita’s current research into the plasticity of our senses. His thesis is that our brain is so adaptable that any of the five senses can be rewired. By placing a copper electrode on a subject’s tongue, and sending electrical information in place of visual information, blindfolded subjects can catch balls or pick up objects 9 out of 10 times! Sensory information on the tongue is used by the brain to “see.”

Young children explore the world by manipulating objects and taste-testing them. But if you pick up a piece of paper and put it in your mouth, you can’t get much sensory information from the print. Dyslexics tend to have difficulty translating 3-D objects to 2-D representations or visa-versa. By making tactile memories from feeling 3-D alphabet letters, dyslexic learners create more accurate visual memories for letters and words! Reading and writing fatigue decrease, decoding and fluency increase!

Sandy Roberts teaches kids to juggle, beginning with scarves, using lots of bilateral movements to increase eye-hand coordination. Fifth-grade teacher, Sara Murto, asked for her help when she found she had a classroom full of kinesthetic learners. Sandy helped Sara for a year, integrating juggling activities into the weekly classroom routine. The students presented a culminating performance with all sorts of juggling and the teachers presented data that showed an above-average improvement in reading and writing scores for the year. Typically, students who began the year behind grade level, ended the year above grade level.

Because we use the same neurons to throw and catch balls that we use to write letters, all sorts of directed physical activities enhance learning processes! Dr. Frank Belgau set out to find activities that produce the most benefits for learning processes. Through careful observation, he developed the Belgau Balance Board and the Learning Breakthrough Program, which take advantage of the integration and fine-tuning of the vestibular or balance system.

The Learning Breakthrough Activity program that Dr. Belgau developed over many years is used successfully in schools and private programs. The program can significantly increase the test scores in any school and does not only improve scores of children with difficulties, but also improves the scores of normal and gifted students. The program’s greatest value is that it develops intelligence and improves lives. Many years of careful observations made it possible to select the most productive and powerful activities and materials for the Learning Breakthrough Activity program.

“Dr. Frank Belgau’s Learning Breakthrough Program was an integral part of a most successful three year education pilot study in Seattle. The results of the program demonstrate its value.

  • Student IQ scores increased an average of 24 points
  • Academic scores increased an average of four grade levels in spelling and reading
  • Behaviors negative to learning were almost totally eliminated
  • All children in the study knew that now they had the skills to learn and were eager to do their school tasks.”

---Dr. Jerald C. Winger, Cognitive Rehabilitation Specialist, Seattle School District

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