He looked at me with one of those “deer in the headlights” looks. It was my first session with this 10 year old client and I was explaining to him about P.A.C.E. (the Brain Gym® 4 step process that we use to settle in).
I was sitting on the floor of his living room with him. His mother was there with us, as was Pam Formosa, the owner/director of Brain Fit. I was trying to teach him a little about P.A.C.E. and why we do it, and this boy’s brain and body had entered “freeze” mode. His brain perceived the information that was coming at him as “threatening” and it activated the Fight/Flight/Freeze response.
So what did I do? I stopped talking. I continued with P.A.C.E., guiding him with minimal words to help him with the activity as best as I could. That worked. He was able to engage better and we continued with the session-with me wary not to overwhelm him with too many words.
Not all of my new clients start out this way, but certainly a fair number. There’s actually a variety of things that seem to happen during a first session- both for the client and the parent.
Brain Fit clients start out by having a screening with Pam before they start with us, the coaches. So they (and the parents) start the learning process then. As she is evaluating the child, she also starts the education about the parts of the brain, midlines of the body, primitive reflexes, muscle checking, and so forth.
Once a coach starts working with the client, we continue the education for the child and parent. It’s an ongoing education that is age-appropriate and also appropriate for the needs of the child and parent(s) we have in front of us.
For the parents, that first session can feel a little daunting. Well, at least I know that’s how it felt for me. And, that’s the sense that I get from many of the parents I’ve worked with. There might be some curiosity, confusion or trepidation about the whole process. Remember- we look at things differently at Brain Fit and much of the information and processes may be new for families. So as a coach, part of my job is to help kids and parents understand what’s happening, and to help them to “trust the process”.
Sometimes, depending on the client, educating the parent at the same time as working with the child can be a tricky process. I find that some kids (especially the younger set) really need my attention and focus all the time in order to keep them engaged, and for me to be able to pick up on those subtle clues that their body is giving me. That’s why I love that we also offer adult education outside of sessions- Brain Gym® 101 and Reflex Integration courses that teach all the ins and outs of what we do. It’s invaluable learning and really helps parents to understand what they see as they observe the sessions.
For the clients- the children, the first session is also about learning. Learning the “structure” of a Brain Fit session. Learning what it means to set a goal, what it means to “notice” and what we mean when we say “work, rest, and play”.
There is also the simple act of getting to know each other. In fact, I just about always set a goal during my first session with a child to just get to know each other better. We’re going to be working together on a regular basis and I want to start the relationship building that day. Sharing tidbits about ourselves helps us to build a relationship and helps the child to feel more safe and comfortable. It can help them to understand that I am just a regular person with likes and dislikes just like them. It’s about starting to build the relationship the first day so that as we move forward we’ve started with a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect.
We have to start somewhere, and the first session is the beginning of a beautiful journey that we take together- the client, the family and me. It continues on from there and we learn and grow together. As we move through sessions, the children become more comfortable with the process, and often by the third or fourth session are able to tell me the five parts to the session as well as engage fully in the learning. The parent(s) also settle in, start to ask more questions and some even join us during the session to “work” and “play” with us.
It’s a wonderful thing, the first session, because it starts the process of change and growth.
From there- it only gets better and better.