The essentials of Alexander work are the same for children and adults alike:
– learning to say “No”
– consciously sending messages from the brain to parts of the body
– going into movement.
FM Alexander was born in 1869; he was born two months premature and was not expected to live. He was beset from birth onwards with respiratory difficulites, which the technique he evolved later solved, indirectly. This personal history caused Alexander to be far ahead of his time in his understanding the obstacles to healthy development and growth of a human being. His understanding is reflected in the hierarchy of the traditional Alexander directions for (1) neck, (2) head, (3) torso, and (4) limbs.
As a child develops, he or she can gradually learn how to say “No” to the sending of unwanted messages — all in the context of playing games and having fun — and to send new messages for the neck to be free, the head to go forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, and the knees to go forwards and away…!
Alexander work can be particularly beneficial for children who were born prematurely (see Alexanderbabies.com); for children with symptoms of dyslexia & dyspraxia caused by immature Primitive Reflexes; and for children who are poor at Listening.
Mike Cross tells Robert Rickover: “Alexander Technique is not as useful for children as it is for adults. If you have children with coordination problems, dyslexia, dyspraxia, I’d recommend Alexander work to help you understand the cause of the problem and how important coordination is.”
“For children, we use movement. For adults, the Alexander work is about saying no to certain ideas and stimuli and thinking of your directions to use yourself in a new way, and then going into movement. With children, the movement is all important. It’s difficult to get them to say no and think in such a considered way, but by doing certain movements, that can help their coordination and development.”
“The really important movement that many children don’t do is crawling on their hands and knees.”
“Children don’t spend enough time on their tummy because of the fear of cot deaths (SIDS).”
Robert: “The pediatric society here has told parents to not let kids sleep on their stomachs because of the danger of SIDS.”
Mike: “The advice not to put babies on their tummies is rubbish. Babies should spend lots of time on their tummies making the movements necessary for the brain to get control of certain primitive reflexes.”
“Children who struggle to write may be quite smart but as soon as they have a pen in their hand, they can’t think. The cause of that is immature asymetrical tonic neck reflex.
“When a baby turns his head in the womb, its arms will go into a fencer position. It’s a fencer reflex or an asymetrical tonic neck reflex. As long as that reflex is in the system, as soon as the child turns his neck to one side, the arm on that side will want to extend.
“When it comes to writing, then, the child will consciously want his arm to flex but his arm will subconsciously want to extend. So a conflict is set up in the child’s system between its conscious intention and the reflex.”
“Most Alexander teachers would not understand the problem as I am describing.”
“Alexander lessons will help you not to end-gain — to not go directly for the target you have in mind before you understand the problem in the broader sense.”
Primitive reflexes are crude automatic responses that a baby has at birth to help it survive. They are the building blocks of all human behaviour.
Often these reflexes are retained in immature form into childhood and adult life, in which case they are the root cause of problems as diverse as:
– irrational anxiety & phobias
– mood swings and emotional gusts
– motion sickness
– inability to write and think at the same time
– inability to sit still
– difficulty with eye-tracking
– lack of left-right coordination
– poor listening skills
At the Middle Way we focus in particular on four reflexes. Each of these reflexes relates (synergistically or antagonistically) to the others, and all four work together to influence muscle tone and head/neck balance.
The baby panic reflex is seen when a new-born is dropped and its hands fly out. Called the Moro Reflex after the scientist who identified it, it is a response to a stimulus perceived as fearful or threatening.