Recently I was asked to provide childcare services for the National MPS Conference that was held in Buena Park, CA. We were providing services for the children, many affected by various stages of this crippling diagnosis, several in wheel chairs, some as young as age 2 while their parents attended various critically important seminars. There were also several siblings covering a wide range of ages, 2-15.
During the conference a surprise SoCal Thunderstorm took out the hotel power several times, the first couple only briefly, a minute or so at most, but the third time the power went out and stayed out! Now we were in a conference room that had been set up as a child care play area, there were tables, games, audio-visual equipment, over 30 children, about 7-8 in wheelchairs and suddenly the lights are out and the emergency floodlights were inadequate at best to provide good lighting throughout the space, in fact causing more shadowing issues.
Outside of the room the event organizers were panicking, thinking they needed to evacuate the children, trying to find flashlights and glow sticks and look up parents to have them retrieve their children. The children were also starting to get restless, crying etc. I assessed the situation, loudly but in a calm voice, firm yet soothing, I got the attention of the entire room “hey everybody, listen up, it looks like we all get to pretend that we are camping! Everybody gather around”
I called out to the staff assisting me, directing them to assist the children, and to set them all in a circle as I simultaneously pulled out my phone and said “I bet none of you knew that I am the fire god and I can create fire - as I blew on my phone I opened my flashlight app and ‘lit’ a fire, gently placing it down on the floor and directing the children to sit around it” the other adults caught on quickly, also adding their own lit phones to the new fire, the kids ohhing and ahhing, someone handed glow sticks to several of the young boys in front who added to the fire and suddenly we had a raging bonfire, with the kids all giggling as they listened to the night sounds of owls and coyotes (us silly adults and the older teen siblings) and then I suggested that they start singing campfire songs, asking the kids if any of them knew any songs to sing.
All of this took place in the span of about 2-3 minutes, and as it was going on I was able to hear the increasing panic levels of the adults out in the hall who as yet had no idea what was going on in the room, assuming that the children would be scared, crying and screaming. I quietly stepped into the hall, and obviously when the door opened the sound of happily singing children filtered out to the gathering parents and event organizers, the door closed and I firmly, but again soothingly requested that the parents and staff please calm themselves, that their children were fine and I explained what we were doing. The lights came back on eventually, after about 45 minutes and the children all blew out the fire then went back to whatever they had been doing earlier.
This is an example of an application of Behavioral Sensory Integration (BSI) by an experienced BSI coach in an environment outside of the gym - I recognized that the sudden change to the external environment from light to dark was causing a fear response in the children, and that the response was escalating quickly, a natural physiological response to suddenly changed conditions that the brain had no control over and was therefore an unknown. I also realized that I could not change the new conditions, but that I could modify them and use the modification as an opportunity to teach the kids something new, to distract them and replace the fear of the unknown with something fun and stimulating. I used leadership to redirect the adults in the room to their new tasking, I used knowledge from the field of anthropology to implement a pseudo-fire, which for humans is an unconscious ‘safe zone’. I also recognized that if the adults outside of the room continued to escalate and enter the room that their stress and fear would be picked up on by the now calm and happy kids so I kept the two groups separated and again used leadership and a calm but firm voice to bring down the worried parents and staff, explaining what was happening inside the room. I added physical behavior in the room by getting the kids to clap and sway to the songs they were singing, thereby causing the brain to focus more on the auditory and physical inputs it was getting versus the sensory input of darkness and shadows.
BSI is an extremely complex coaching technique that employs a variety of knowledge from multiple areas, such as the fields of Psychology, Anthropology, Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Leadership, Occupational and Physical Therapy, along with several different tools from each field. Let me emphasize that the BSI coaching technique takes time to learn, typically 6-9 months if a coach is coming to work for me (Coach Jerry)! It takes even longer to master, and to be honest I don’t know that I would consider it something that can be considered ever truly mastered since even after 4+ years of using this technique I am still learning something new every day! However, the learning of what forms the framework of BSI and the ability to utilize the different tools of the BSI technique can be mastered.
My point is that there is no way for me to really explain everything about BSI, but I can give you the reader a better idea of what it is about and why I think the BSI technique is different from any other coaching technique that I know of.
The Behavioral Sensory Integration (BSI) coaching technique is a revolutionary coaching approach developed by myself, Coach Jerry Bennett, and my wife Tonya Bennett, M.S. that integrates and interleaves knowledge and tools from a variety of areas into a whole technique.
The technique is robust, scalable, contextual and can be utilized to coach a broad spectrum of clients, from the very young to older adults with or without specific special needs, in a variety of environments. Having an understanding of what constitutes a behavior is the key to understanding BSI.
Now I realize that entire books have been written covering just behavior - but for my purposes I will try to break down what I term as behavior. A behavior is defined as the response (verbal, physical or non) of a person to any external (sensory) input, and it can be either a learned behavior (being employed to serve a specific purpose, such as getting someone out of their chores by faking an illness) or a conditioned behavior (we see that it is raining outside so we put on a rain coat before going outside).Either condition requires the brain to to form a response to a sensory input (visual, auditory, tactile, and so forth) to something that the brain has interpreted.
The next key to understanding BSI is having an understanding of what constitutes a socially maladaptive behavior. A maladaptive behavior can best be defined as any behavior that is non acceptable within a given societal norm for a given context (screaming and throwing yourself on the floor when asked to do a chore, or hitting someone when they greet you for instance). So the first part of the BSI coaching technique is for the trained BSI coach to be able to do what is termed as root cause analysis of a given behavior at any given time within a dynamic environment and context - in other words, the coach needs to be able to quickly identify (assess) the elements that may be causing the behavior and determine whether or not the behavior is maladaptive for the situation.
If the behavior is maladaptive, then the behavior needs to be replaced with a socially acceptable behavior, perhaps an adaptable behavior. There are many ways to replace socially maladaptive behaviors with more adaptive and acceptable behaviors -and this is the teaching aspect of the BSI technique. After a BSI coach identifies the external input causing a specific or set of maladaptive behavioral response(s), the coach then needs to teach a new response and replace the maladaptive response. This process may take only one or two times, or it may take hundreds of positively reinforced attempts, and it is the coach’s responsibility to be patient and to help the client to continually practice the new behavior until it has been mastered.
The BSI technique also uses physical movement to develop and improve a variety of synaptic connections within the brain utilizing a series of different but highly complex combination body movements within the gymnastics environment that combines use of a person’s muscles with various midline movements, thereby increasing overall body fitness and conditioning while simultaneously increasing the client’s number of synaptic connections on a variety of neural networks (improving the capacity for increased cognition tasking, faster retrieval of stored memory, ability to multi-task and so forth).
The BSI technique also takes into account the biology of a person’s sex - i.e. testosterone and estrogen, the two hormones that form a framework for a multitude of unconscious behavioral responses, along with many other chemicals produced by the human body which have specific functions (adrenaline and serotonin for example). So an adolescent boy who is starting into puberty is a child who is now experiencing increased levels of the hormone testosterone, a hormone which helps boys become bigger, stronger, faster - and more aggressive. If the boy does not learn that aggression within his society is not acceptable then that child may find himself on the negative end of a lot of attention! What can be done? Perhaps we could provide an appropriate outlet for this boy to adapt the aggression into a physically demanding workout that uses the muscles and gets him what he needs to utilize the increased testosterone.
The BSI technique takes this into account and has interleaved this knowledge into the other knowledge areas. So as you can see from the very short narrative above, the BSI technique is an extremely complex coaching model that looks FIRST at a Behavioral response and Integrates the root cause of that response with the Sensory (external) input that elicits the behavior to determine whether the response is socially acceptable or maladaptive for a given context and society, and if maladaptive provides for the tools necessary to teach or implement a more socially acceptable and adaptable response to the input.
I hope this helps!