Primary Movement

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

Hickory dickory dock it's an old nursery rhyme - that, believe it or not it could hold the key to the future of kids' education. These simple exercises are having quite a remarkable impact on children who struggle with school. Debbie Callcott says “we were quiet astounded when we saw the significance of the results” What's it time for? Primary movement! Before reading, writing or arithmetic, these pre primary students start their day with a subject called Primary Movement.

Never before taught in an Australian school, it's a trial program using basic movements, to help kids who have trouble learning. “They're not as distracted, they concentrate better” since starting the program, Perth teacher Jackie Hutt's seen massive improvements. “We had a lot of children with speech and language problems and a lot of children with OT fine motor skill problems and we saw a lot of changes in those children”

It's estimated at least one child in every classroom across the country suffers from something the experts call Developmental Cognitive Disorder, or DCD, the rest of us call it clumsiness. “If a child is clumsy in pre primary we often say oh they'll grow out of it, but unfortunately some children don't” with clumsiness blamed for kids falling behind in class, Edith Cowan University's Debbie Callcott is leading the first ever study of primary movement in the country. “We expected to see some improvement because the studies that had gone before in Northern Ireland”

“In Ireland all schools would comment on that their children are much calmer, more focused“Dr Martin McPhillips from Queens University in Belfast is the brainchild behind the program. “It's a movement program based on copying or replicating the very movements the foetus used in the womb” Babies are born with natural reflexes which automatically switch off around six months after birth, experts aren't sure why, but in some bubs the switch is broken.

Dr Martin Phillips says “if you place your finger into the palm of a babies hand it will immediately take hold and hold on very tight if you imagine that grasp reflex persisting into early childhood so when the child arrives into school when they're given a pencil or crayon to hold it they want to grasp it like this” Cute as a button on a bub, but clumsy for a five year old. Dr McPhillip's found when children repeatedly mimic these reflexes; it sends a trigger to the brain to turn them off.

“He was writing words backwards and things like that and we were concerned and going to send him for a series of tests to see what was wrong” when Melanie's son Declan started school he held his pencil in a classic reflex fist...and it wasn't long before he started playing up in class. “When he was distracted he was disruptive to the other kids in class” Since the daily 15 minute sing alongs, Declan's a different boy. Also gone is the clumsy grip. And he's not alone; little buddy Daniel's also come along in leaps and bounds. “He was very anxious, didn't want to go to class, even held onto the bag racks and didn't want to let go” Within months of primary movement classes, Colleen Wetherbee's also notice a dramatic change in her little man. “Every day I used to not like bringing him to school and worry when he's at school but now he's breezing through and doing well in everything he's doing” These Mums can hardly believe something so simple can make such a difference. But what's really got researchers excited, are the changes they've seen in children with ADHD.

Dr Martin Phillips says “it has helped calm them down, helped them to settle and to concentrate” In Ireland the program's so successful, it's part of the school curriculum. While Aussie kids who struggle in class are often sent to specialists, at great expense to their parents, supporters of primary movement reckon teachers could hold the key, for free. Debbie says “I'd say all children benefited from participation in primary movement”

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