TTEAM News International October, 1989 Vol 9 No 3 Pp. 21-23
Bonnie Lieuwen of College Station, Texas attended a workshop with TTEAM Instructor, Copper Love who encouraged her to write about how she had been using TTEAM in her special education classroom.
FOCUS: As a special education teacher I am most concerned with my students increasing their focusing skills. As we all know, if a person can focus & concentrate their focusing skills then they can expand academically, emotionally, socially, and physically. Sort of like a snowball effect, expanding in their skills, independence, and self-esteem. In my thirteen years of experience, this was the first year that I taught at the elementary age level (ages six - ten). Due to the students' handicaps, young ages, and extreme amount of energy, focusing was not one of their strong qualities. I tried many different techniques to increase their focusing skills with very little growth for the effort that was expended. It was not until I began using some TTEAM techniques that I started to see notable growth.
Other areas that I saw results from using TTEAM with the students were: body-awareness/use/carriage, relaxation, and decrease in hyperactive behavior. Increase in socialization, increase in behavioral self-control, increased awareness of self, others, and the environment, increase of following directions skills, decrease in aggressive behaviors, increase of willingness and enjoyment of being touched and touching others, the skill of waiting, increased feelings of acceptance, increased feelings of bonding and trust between student and teacher, and more I'm sure.
In special education there are so many variables and different specialists that work with these children (speech, adaptive p.e., physical/occupational therapists, counselors) and everyone has good input into the growth of these children. It is always difficult to pinpoint the most effective techniques and many times it is a combinations of everyone's input. But I do know that when I began using TTEAM, I began seeing exciting changes and other people (plus parents) were reporting these changes too. I will not be working with these students next year so I will have no idea of the lasting effects in their growth. Please remember these are only my observations and feelings. It is my gut feeling that TTEAM had a crucial positive effect on these children.
In the following paragraphs I will briefly tell you about the TTEAM activities and adaptations I used and the five students that received the most TTEAM energy. The time span was about two months, but not on a daily basis. In fact I found myself becoming very frustrated that I did not have the time I wanted to spend doing TTEAM. I saw the benefits and ached with the thought "if I only had more time to spend individually with each student."
In a school setting I thought it might look odd to use my horse wand so I substituted the wand with a drum major's baton. I found it worked well because it has the two white rubber ends and I could remind the kids to look (focus) at the white tips (we called then marshmallows). There are many stick things that would work well (is conductor baton, a painted stick, etc.) I just happened to have the baton.
With the baton we did:
- open the gate
- walk, turns, backward walk, run
- wave to stop
- dagger; this was especially for "J" who I will tell you about later.
Obstacles: I used sticks that were about 6 ft. by 1 inch (they were light weight and easy to arrange).
- Labyrinth (varying the pattern)
- cavaletti (arranged at different heights/distances)
- the "pick up sticks arrangement
- a tic-tac-toe design. I would use the baton to point to a square for the student to step into, this one worked very well for teaching them to focus on where the baton point, for increasing the awareness of space and feet placement, and for waiting in one place.
- Box Lids. (I'm sure you have seen when stores cut in half, all the way around, a case of canned soda and each box part is about 2 inches high, well that is what I used). I would arrange the boxes on the floor in varying patterns and again I used the wand to point to the box I wanted the student to step into.
The boxes and tic-tac-toe were terrific for a group because I could direct one student and while the one student learned to wait in one space I could direct another, and so on. This really helped my students that were very compulsive in their movements, They had to think in order to control their bodies. It was a great exercise!
Labyrinth - when the students became skilled in these (in the beginning they would plow right through the sticks, absolutely no awareness of the sticks or that they were plowing through) I made the addition of two labyrinth patterns. We used chairs with wheels and without. It was really neat to see the students expand from plowing through, to thinking their own bodies through, to having enough control to push a chair through the pattern.
Flashlight - After they had learned to focus on the baton I would sometimes use a flashlight beam instead of a baton. I would turn down the lights and shine the flashlight to direct them in the obstacle patterns. This is interesting: I had used a flashlight all year hoping to increase their focusing skills, but it was not until they had learned to focus on the baton that they finally were able to truly focus on the flashlight beam.
I did not get a chance to use the following ideas but I thought they might be good.
- Rope: Take a long rope or several ropes to make varying obstacle designs.
- Tires: Substitute the large tires (used with the horses) with bicycle tires or tubes, hoola -hoops, or some other light weight circular shapes.
- Rag squares pattern.
- Pulling a wagon
- Varying the body movements through the labyrinth: while crawling, hopping and running.
And of course I used the wonderful "CIRCLES"!
Students: J., N. , K. , M. , C.
J. (10 yrs, he has a mental retardation handicap, very hyperactive) - when J. came to
my class in late October he walked with his shoulders hunched over, head down towards the ground, and his hands hold in a wrapped position on top of his head. His body language told that he was hiding within a shell. He did not talk, he only made a very occasional vocal sound (but he had Used words occasionally throughout his life). He was shy and withdrawn socially, would not focus on anything or anyone. He would not follow directions and when he was corrected on behavior he would fall to the floor with tantruming, crying and screaming. He frequently hit peers or tried to play too aggressively. He would often, just out of the blue, take off running away from staff. He was very hyperactive and easily over excitable.
I tried many techniques to improve his posture, nothing had much effect. In the month of February I tried doing circles on his shoulders, neck, and back. These areas were extremely tight, by my feel and by his own reaction. It was interesting that while doing the circles he would lower his arms but they would return minutes after I stopped doing the circles. Daily I did circles on his shoulders, back, and neck and daily the length increased that he would leave his arms down. At the end of March, after I had attended a TTEAM clinic, I began increasing circle time/ body areas and incorporating TTEAM activities. With the increase of TTEAM I began to do, J. really improved in all areas. His major growths were truly observable by the end of May. He walked upright, hands down with only an occasional verbal reminder, he learned to walk and stop which greatly helped staff because it decreased the number of times they would have to run after him. He made great leaps in his ability to focus and attend to tasks, and he began using words to state his needs i.e. water, bathroom, ball, play, others' names, bus, etc. Socially he became more aware of those around him and he was interacting non-aggressively. At lunch time all my students had a regular education student for a lunch buddy. Each of my students would sit with their lunch buddy at the lunch buddy's class table. Daily I watched J's interactions with the lunch class/ buddy become more calm and appropriate. He became more calm/relaxed and he definitely increased his ability to follow directions and to accept correction calmly. I feel sure the TTEAM obstacle activities had a great effect on his self-control, focusing, increased awareness of' his environment, and the decrease in his compulsiveness. J. loved the circles so much that he would take my hand and show me where he wanted circles, he also would try to do circles on others. It was a total joy to watch the growth he was making.
N. (6 yrs. mental handicap, slight degree of' cerebral palsy). M. had extreme baby behaviors: he refused to follow directions by excessive tantruming, hitting, spitting, crying, and throwing himself on the floor. He was extremely dependent on others to do things for him. Very low focusing abilities and very short attention span. When N. first came to my class in October I thought if this child learns to remain in his seat for five minutes it will be a miracle. Well N. passed that goal up by far. He made wonderful progress with a lot of physical guidance and verbal direction. He had already come a long way when I began doing TTEAM with him in the end of March. And once again I don't think it was coincidence that this student began to make progress more rapidly when I began the TTEAM. N. resisted the circles at first so I had to stick to the 'flick of the bear's paw" for the first week. After that he was very receptive to the circles and by the end of May he would ask for circles. I feel that N. made a lot of emotional progress in body awareness and use. It's as if he had discovered his body and its movements. N. also grew in independence and in following directions. I could see him improve and feel good about the TTEAM obstacles and learning these simple task directions seemed to carry over into following directions in other areas.
K. (7 years. Learning Handicap, hyperactive). K. was my speed student. He sped through everything just to get it done. His focusing ability was very poor. K. was in my room only in the morning so the only TTEAM I did with him was the Circles and the baton, open gate, walk, stop. I feel this greatly improved his ability to slow down and to focus. I would also let K. run in a circle around me plus focus on the baton and verbal directions. This seemed to be effective in releasing his excess energy, increasing his focusing, and increasing his following direction skills. K. seemed to react to the circles very emotionally. Some days he was very resistive to the touch. He was a child that did not feel comfortable with touch. Several times after I began circles on him he would have crying episodes (not within the circle session, but at later times). I took the circles very slowly with K. in case they were causing the crying. In time he became more receptive to the circles and the crying episodes ceased.
M. (10 yrs., Mental retardation handicap, very cerebral palsy, Used a walker to walk). M. came to my class the last month of school so he did not participate in a lot of' TTEAM. I observed some progress that I feel was a result of TTEAM. M. was not happy in our class when he first came. He had recently moved from another town where he was very happy in his class. I feel the circles helped him feel more trusting and bonded in our class at a more rapid speed than he would have without the circles.
C.* (9 yrs., regular education. student that was placed in my classroom due to severe emotional and aggressive outbursts within his regular classroom. C. is very intelligent, creative, and sensitive.) A teacher's aide worked with him in a partitioned off area of my classroom. I worked with him for 30 minutes a day. We worked on social/personal skills, breathing, guided imagery, and of course CIRCLES! C. loved the circles, especially on his face. He told me the circles made him feel relaxed and peaceful. We used the circles many times when he was feeling upset. Every time he would feel better and refrain from inappropriate or aggressive behavior.
I hope that I have at least been able to cover the highlights of what I feel TTEAM did for my students. I'm not sure who benefited the most from TTEAM - my students or me. I do know that now I have seen the benefits with my horses, with my students, with myself and I thank you for sharing TTEAM with the earth.
NOTE: TTEAM is an acronym of "Tellington TTouch Equine Awareness Method." Since this article was written, Linda decided to use a brand name for all the facets of the TTouch organization. Currently, that is Tellington TTouch® Training.