The key to successful learning may be up in the air…

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GALASHIELS’ Jane Oliver is making it her mission to help people having trouble learning – and part of her solution is throwing bean-bags and tennis balls.

The learning differences practitioner is the first person in Scotland to be trained in Bal-A-Vis-X. She’s so impressed with the simple system, she has invited its inventor, Bill Hubert, to run a course in Melrose next month.

BalAVisX Technique. Jane Oliver with her children Christopher and Eloise who are practising  some of the BalAVisX programme.

BalAVisX Technique. Jane Oliver with her children Christopher and Eloise who are practising some of the BalAVisX programme.

The former fitness centre manager said: “It’s a remarkable programme.”

It is a mix of balance, auditory and vision exercises and uses little sandbags, tennis balls and balance boards in a rhythmic way. It looks like children playing but its simplicity is deceptive.

Key to the programme is visual tracking said Jane. Sometimes learning difficulties arise because people can’t follow something with their eyes. The throwing and bouncing improves hand-eye co-ordination as well as helping visual tracking as those taking part follow the ball’s movement to catch it.

Helpers assess the person’s eye tracking on a scale of one to 10 and, within a few weeks of the exercises and short practice times at home – a minute two times a day – they can see marked improvement, says Jane.

“I’ve seen someone go from a four to a 10 in four weeks and the effect in terms of reading and writing skills is huge,” she said.

A teacher and martial arts instructor in America, Bill noticed many first-graders did not function well or have good balance or rhythm, so he taught them basic physical skills such as throwing, catching, walking on balance beams, and skipping.

He also noticed that the students who didn’t have basic physical skills were the ones who struggled academically. And, he says on his website: “I noticed, as we all worked on balance and rhythm, that now and then when a struggling student’s balance and rhythm improved, his/her academic performance also improved.”

He fine-tuned and Bal-A-Vis-X is the result.

Jane said: “When children first come through the door, they don’t know what to expect. I will show them a sandbag exercise and some say ‘I can’t do that’ but after 30-40 minutes they are. I love seeing them do that, I love being able to help children unlock their potential. Bal-A-Vis-X is fantastic for children’s self esteem and confidence.”

Another part of the system is that children who have been having trouble learning and who learn Bal-A-Vis-X exercises then go on to help their peers learn the exercises.

“It enables children who are potentially not high achievers to then teach the high achievers,” said Jane.

Jane, 43, has worked with her own children, Christopher, 10, and Eloise, eight. Christopher said: “It’s pretty cool” and Eloise added: “It’s fun.”

Jane worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years as a personal trainer, qualified swimming teacher, fitness centre manager and relaxation teacher. For the last three years she has also been using the multi-sensory Raviv method to help people with learning challenges.

She trained with Bill in November last year and has been using the system since. It can help people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder and autism, those who hear but don’t seem to understand. It can also be useful for gifted students – their physical co-ordination improves and their stress headaches diminish – and regular students, who, Jane says, find academic success requires less effort.

She said: “The feedback I’ve had from parents and occupational therapists has been very positive.”

So far about 30 people have signed up for the three-day course open to parents, teachers, health professionals, occupational and physical therapists and support workers on June 22-24.

For more information visit www.ravivworks.co.uk or speak to Jane on 07512 311317.

z Visit our website www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk to see a video of the interview with Jane, and Christoher and Eloise showing Bal-A-Vis-X in action.