MARSHALL - Although a program called MeMoves was only released a year ago, it has positively affected countless lives already. Marshall High School special education teacher Julie Kent started using the program in October and quickly became an advocate after seeing the results in her own classroom.
"It's the best $60 I have spent in a long time," Kent said. "It's been good for all of my students."
When organizers for the 27th Annual Special Education Day of Excellence conference asked Kent to be a presenter Monday on the Southwest Minnesota State University campus, she agreed. And, she brought proof of MeMoves' success - her students, who were all clad in matching blue T-shirts that displayed their support for MeMoves.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall High School students Stephanie Haney, left, Sami Hey, Salina Vue, Jennifer Haney and Theresa Grassmann demonstrate actions for MeMoves, a program that helps students be more attentive and calm. Along with special education teacher Julie Kent, right, the students helped present at the 27th annual Special Education Day of Excellence Monday.
"It relaxes me," Jennifer Haney said.
"It calms me down," Sami Hey said.
"I like it for the exercise," Theresa Grassmann said.
"It's really fun to do," Salina Vue said.
Haney, Hey and Grassmann designed the T-shirts, while the entire class helped to select the color.
"I had three wonderful students who designed the shirt," Kent said. "I was supposed to just pick one, but I couldn't do it. I just made them smaller and put them all on there."
MeMoves was originally created by Roberta Scherf for her 5-year-old daughter Rowan, who was labeled with terms like sensory integration disorder, autism spectrum, alpha child and pre-dyslexic. Scherf struggled with finding ways to help Rowan.
"She didn't like to make eye contact or be touched or held," Scherf said. "What I was looking for was something that would calm her and allow her to filter out because she'd walk into a room and be completely overwhelmed and shut down."
Scherf explored the relationships between mind, body, music, movement and learning and eventually came up with the initial version of MeMoves, something she and Rowan did for a few minutes every morning and evening.
"Rowan went from not being able to remember a single letter to reading letters, then words, sentences and chapter books," she said. "She's graduating from high school this year and she's in a very different place than she was before."
Scherf said the journey was difficult, which prompted her to want to help other people in similar situations.
"You're praying to saints that haven't even been created yet," Scherf said. "MeMoves came about because I saw amazing changes in my daughter."
Working with co-founder of MeMoves, Chris Bye, Scherf tried to replicate the success Rowan had.
"We found that every child is different, but that across the board, everything we did in this was designed to activate and support a calm and attentive state," Scherf said. "That's really the outcome we're looking for, to use it as a self-regulation tool."
MeMoves is a brain-based activity where participants watch either a CD or DVD and follow the hand-guided motions, set to music. There are 13 sequences, divided into three categories: joy, calm and focus.
"It's not about doing the movements correctly," Bye said. "The movements are just an avenue to calm their system. Everything on the DVD from the faces, to the shapes to the music is designed to fully engage the user."
Kent said that Haney used to avoid eye contact and wouldn't focus on anyone else in the room. She also got frequent headaches.
"Now when she comes in the room, she says 'good morning,'" Kent said. "Last year she was trying to leave school more than she was here."
During the presentation, Haney led the other MHS students in a demonstration for the conference attendees.
Afterward, attendees were instructed to try one of the sequences themselves. No one noticed that Bye was walking around the room.
"Everyone is so fixated on the movements," Bye said. "There's really no bandwidth to pay attention to what is going on outside, so anxiety drops, tension drops, heart rate drops and breathing drops."
That allows teachers like Kent to teach, or occupational therapists to work with patients. Scherf and Bye have also found that 80 percent of the time, MeMoves is being used in mainstream classrooms as a primary activity or a transitional tool.
"It's used at the start of the day, after lunch or recess or before testing or teaching a new or difficult concept," Scherf said. "We're not fixing or curing anyone, but what we do is make everyone else's life easier. Julie is just super-amazing and these kids are absolutely remarkable."