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27
Aug

Side-by-side Learning: A Mother and Daughter in MBS Foundation Training

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A report from Ingrid Kecerin Kasumagić, as told to Danielle Hill

For both of us, this work has allowed maturation and a change in the quality of life. It happens through a difference in awareness and through learning how to solve problems. In conventional therapy, there is no such model that also helps children to become aware, doing things for themselves. In that way, this work is really something on a higher level.

 

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 Ingrid Kecerin Kasumagić is a Movement Intelligence/Bones For Life teacher and coordinator and a professor of kinesiology based in Zagreb, Croatia. Together with her daughter, Ema, Ingrid is attending the MBS Foundation course in Bad Toelz, Germany. Here, she describes the experiences that lead her to MBS, how she and Ema were able to learn side-by-side during the latest training segment and the new possibilities Ema is experiencing.

I think Mind Body Studies is a wonderful opportunity, for myself, to learn. For Ema, too, spending eight days with Mia and Leora was overwhelmingly good. As parents, we often have limits in our own heads of what our children can or can’t do. But, when you’re in a situation like an MBS training, where the learning is so open, many things become possible.

My daughter Ema, 19, was born with a heart condition. During the first examination of the heart condition, she had a major brain stroke, suffering from hemi-paresis and learning difficulties as a result. Before she turned four, she had had two heart operations and had experienced a lot of health issues. There were many life-or-death situations. Not only the diagnoses themselves, but the stresses of being in hospitals can play a big part of what happens later on.

In the early years, Ema did lots of physiotherapy. At first, my husband and I didn’t know anything about it. We listened to the doctors, whose approach always focused on the quantity of exercise and mechanical repetition.  Ema mostly didn’t accept that. We tried different possible therapies, including Vojta. It was really very frustrating. As parents, we didn’t imagine that playing with your child at home in engaging situations could actually be more helpful than going to all of these therapy appointments. To build these situations where she will learn, not cry. Just a fraction of MBS knowledge would have made a difference.

After going to so many therapists, Ema built up her resistance to it, along with negative patterns in her body. At the time, we didn’t realize what was happening. Of course, later, we started to be aware. She wouldn’t want to get in the car, because that was related to going to these appointments.

For parents, I think it’s very important to see how to create a situation in which children can learn. In my country, at least, I see how parents go around, taking the child to this therapy to that therapy, as if the child were something, like an object being carried around. And it’s as if the parent, too, is not allowed to be a part of the learning process. 

 

Exploring Alone and Finding Community

I am a teacher of physical education and in search on new methods  I found out about Moshe Feldenkrais from a book. I started to explore on the Internet. I learned about amazing discoveries and the experiences of children with special needs who improved through this kind of work. There were no practitioners in Croatia at that time, so I bought some books and DVDs and I started to learn by myself.

That was about 11 years ago, when Ema was about eight.

Then a fantastic teacher, Gerlinda Haase, gave the first Feldenkrais Method workshop in Zagreb. She really helped me a lot in that workshop. I had been exhausted, physically and altogether. After three days, I felt like the process had begun. It was different than just learning by yourself from books and DVDs. This was the first workshop where I could really be a part of the process and the experience.  After the workshop I felt no pain. I was permeated by a strong sense that life can be easier regardless of complex situation.

Gerlinda suggested that I by a book by Ruthy Alon.

From then on, I thoroughly studied a book all the time and  Ruthy Alon’s videos were playing on our television at home. I remember my younger daughter, who was very small at the time, saying to me, “Okay Mom, Ruthy is great, but please can you give us a cartoon?” I would put it on while I was cooking, and I was always trying things out with the wraps. Ema would sometimes jump with them, but generally she wasn’t very interested. Once later on, though, I mentioned the wraps, and Ema asked me, ‘Oh, is that the thing where you feel so light afterwards?”

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ingrid-wbaby.jpgI continued investigating things mostly on my own, seeing how they worked. But I was really hungry to learn more and to learn faster. Somehow, I decided to write to Ruthy Alon. It had been as if she were in our home all those years. So, I wrote her a letter. She reacted fantastically, inviting me to a workshop in Italy and sending me some materials. That started a huge learning process. It ended up being an important moment for me, professionally, but also for Ema and for our family.

I started learning how to create situations in which Ema could get better. I went with a physiotherapist friend to a workshop that Nancy Aberle gave in Zurich. There, I saw this possibility that parents and professionals can learn together as they work with children. I asked Nancy Aberle if she would like to come to Zagreb, and I offered to organize a workshop. For the last four years, we’ve held these workshops for families and children. Fantastic, informative events. It’s only four days in a year, so it’s not so much, but parents and professionals can start somewhere.

  

From Object to Subject

Nancy Aberle was Mia’s student, and she was how I found MBS. In fact, I came to the MBS training in Bad Toelz last year after Nancy Aberle and others from her workshop gave me a gift – an envelope with money for the trip inside! That’s how it started.

Then it was Mary Morrison, the MBS Course Coordinator and an Advanced MBS Practitioner, who came up with this idea that Ema could join the training. I had always had the wish that maybe, someday, she could experience this kind of class. And somehow, Mary organized that. She told me Mia and Leora would be glad to invite Ema to join. Part of what makes Mia and Leora’s work so fantastic is that they make their training in such a way that my daughter and I could be there learning, together. That’s unbelievable – it’s really not usual.

I think our history and experiences also helped prepare Ema to learn so well, somehow it offered us a foundation, in a sense. Ema had had quite a lot of experience receiving Functional Integration sessions over ten years.

Before the training began, I wondered, “Will it be possible for Ema?” I thought it could be like going from Kindergarten to college. And to go with her mother! She is turning 19. At the start of the training, I think some part of her wanted to be there, but I also thought at first, “We’ll have to go home in a few days. The whole nine days won’t be possible.” But, by the third day into the training, something had changed. I knew that we would not go home. It’s really good to notice such change happening after just two days. On that third day, Mia did a demo with Ema. She said to me afterwards, “Mom, I don’t have pain any more.” Normally, it’s always there, in her shoulderblades – at least a rigidity and sometimes quite intense pain. It was as if it had unlocked.

From day to day, Ema was also more involved. Her touch while working in pairs became more subtle and she was more connected with what she was doing. At one moment, as Mia demonstrated with a skeleton, Ema said to me, “I feel like I’m learning something. Like I’m at a university.” The skeleton was there, so she felt very important. It was as if she saw, “Okay, I’m not this object any more. I’m starting to be a subject. I’m learning like older people learn.” The group has people from all different professions, with all different reasons for being there. So, it’s easy to recognize, okay, I can be part of this, too.

It’s not just the lessons. It’s the atmosphere of the training. Mia would just sort of jump into her world, so very briefly and directly. When the trainers see that some hint is needed, they help out, but never too much. It’s possible for Ema, and each of the students, to experience a challenge. The trainers observe each of us this way, and without treating Ema differently. She’s used to being treated as special, as a “child with special needs.” But that’s a really nice part of the group and of how the workshop is organized: this atmosphere and this kind of interaction. On the night of the final celebration, Ema stayed out dancing with the group until half past one.

 

The Necessity of Challenge

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ema.jpgDuring the training, I noticed how Ema sensed things I couldn’t sense. Her right hand is probably much more informative than mine. While we were doing partner work, she placed her hands on my pelvis and ribs. I asked her, “What do you feel?” and she described to me, “Well, this is rotating and here the ribs are going this way.” For her, it was perfectly normal, matter-of-fact. At another point, Mia was doing a demo with a man. Ema said to me, “Look, he can’t do this, because of that.” Moments later, Mia described the same thing to the group.

So, she is starting to make these comments to me. Maybe the observations were already normal for her, even before – but I don’t think she knew about them. Now she knows and is secure in saying what she senses. Usually, in everyday life, you don’t think to do that.

As a parent, you don’t always know what your child actually can do. There must be some kind of challenge to recognize what is possible. I would say that learning all that we do in the training is actually quite a huge challenge. But, with the particular atmosphere and with Mia and Leora’s huge knowledge, Ema could take on such a challenge. We can take on such challenges.

I’m really learning a lot now, everywhere I can. Of course, MBS is also very good for me, personally, as I can be there without any worries, since Ema is also there. It’s a space of its own, where I can really get to the fundamentals of Feldenkrais’ teachings with such special teachers. I’m very grateful.

  

After Nine Days Away

After we came home from the Foundation, Ema went to school the next day. An assistant who works with Ema at school called me. She hadn’t known anything about this work or about what Ema and I had been doing during the past week. So, there were no expectations. The woman told me she just needed to call and tell me that Ema is like a different person. She behaves more like an adult. She communicates with her classmates differently. She started to speak English in English class, which was not possible before. In the MBS training, she had started to talk in English.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ema_19-yrs-old.jpgThe difference from those nine days was so obvious that everyone  who is in contact with Ema was amazed. Ema started to take the bus to school, which was also before not possible. It had always been a wish, because she knew it was part of being self-reliant and independent. Ema has also noticed that she learns better. She is faster, mentally more agile. She is in better control of her body, her spasms decreased, her balance has improved, she can reason more clearly. She is mindful and more attentive and aware of herself and her surroundings.

For both of us, this work has allowed maturation and a change in the quality of life. It happens through a difference in awareness and through learning how to solve problems. In conventional therapy, there is no such model that also helps children to become aware, doing things for themselves. In that way, this work is really something on a higher level.

After the completion of the segment Ema was inspired: “Now I know and feel that I can make something out of my life”.

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