K has had Cerebral Palsy since birth. As many of you know, K walked–for the first time in her 13 years-during our second intervention on Sat. April 24, 1999. K had stood unsupported for the first time, during our first intervention in March. One week prior to K’s second intervention, I informed many of you that she would take her first steps on Saturday, April 24. This is often something I do to set a congruent presupposition in my own physiology as an NLP interventionist, thus forming a congruent direction for my intervention to come.
As we discussed [on the web conference] the latest research on the cause of CP, I had learned that CP is a result of the cerebellum not having a chance to fully develop during the fetal stages. I discovered that with K, the cerebellum was fully developed in all ways except motor control. Her ability to coordinate thoughts was incredibly high for her age group but her ability to coordinate muscle control and movement was at or below that of a 6-12 month old from the waist down, including her right torso and arm. She considered her left hand a helper hand to her right hand, and her left leg was markedly less functional than her right leg. When asked to move, (while sitting) her right leg would flex approximately 10 to 20 degrees and then be stuck and take about 1 minute to extend. Her left leg would flex approximately 10 to 20 degrees, and would not function independently–her right leg would move when she moved her left leg–and would take about 2 minutes or more to extend. When startled, both legs and her right arm would delay in reaction time, and took about 5-10 minutes to extend.
K had been on all fours most of her life. She could get around by dragging her self with her hands. She had had corrective surgery, approximately 8 months ago, to straighten her legs. She then was able to learn to walk with crutches, however, she primarily used a wheel chair. She was struggling with this as well.
To give you a picture of K when the hour started; she had the ability of the minimal movement described above, in her lower extremities. I explained to K how the nervous system and brain work, and showed her an illustration of a foot stepping on an object. I explained how the signal that is sent to the brain is: the foot stepped on something, and the signal is sent back to the foot telling it to respond by lifting and flexing the muscles, then the foot deciphers that it is OK to relax, sends that message to the brain, the brain then sends the message to relax back to the foot, and the foot relaxes. From this, we mutually determined that her feet are sending the messages to her brain, and her brain is currently unable to send the response back to her feet. I then showed her an illustration of all of the nerves in the legs, and we traced (with her fingers) along the illustration a path through the nerves from the hind brain to each foot. This enabled her to get a kinesthetic path through her fingers, as well as a visual path through her eyes. I also had her saying la la la la la la la, to get an auditory path that would be taken by a signal from her brain through her legs and to her feet.
We then closed our eyes and imagined traveling through her own body on the same path, paying extra attention to parts’ objections and parts’ statements, along the way. The first block in the path was an objection by a part located somewhere in the vicinity of her gut (relating to the head/heart/gut) area. It had the positive intention of “safety”. K noted that often at the end of her day, her legs would twitch, as if excess energy had built up during the day, and this same part would object by saying, “What about safe?” Physiologically, the “safe” was in the behavioral level of the logical levels. The part was approximately 3-4 years old, and exercised the “learned” behavior of “withdrawing” when it was not “safe.” The part’s definition of “safe” had been defined by what the behavior of the school system’s special education department had demonstrated to K as “safe” behavior for a “disabled” child. These were behaviors such as; not getting too near the other kids during activities because she might get injured; not using her crutches in school because she might fall and get injured; not participating with the group, etc. (Hint to the school system’s language pattern management out there!)
Six Step Reframing was extremely effective. We added a step of redefining the word “safe” by having K, who is 13 years old, teach the 3 year old part what “safe” meant to her, and having the part walk through an experience–as a third person observer– in which K took on the physiology of “safe.” K replaced “withdrawing” with “self-trust” and grew-up the part to her current age and abilities. We also attended to the ecology of the positive intention of the school system’s responsibilities to student safety. Next, as we continued along the path of the nervous system to her feet, we discovered another block. To determine what it was, we decided to use creative thinking and metaphors by creating an animal that could travel as fast as a nerve signal. We also determined that a pulse signal is faster than a current, because it would jump and bound from synapse to synapse, thereby reaching its destination quicker.
I then paused in the intervention before choosing an animal because I noticed K was “trying” to choose the right animal, rather than “choosing” the right animal. This is something I often encounter with children her age, and I love to bring in one of the lessons of Milton Erickson–the lesson of how the unconscious interprets the word “try” as implying “fail”. So, I pulled out the old pencil! I put the pencil on the floor, and asked K to “TRY TO PICK UP THE PENCIL.” K reached down and picked up the pencil. I again put the pencil on the floor, and said “NO, TRY TO PICK UP THE PENCIL.” Again, K picked up the pencil. Once again, I placed the pencil on the floor. I then demonstrated to her in my comical, idiosyncratic way, how to “try to pick up the pencil,” doing everything I could to exaggerate, and almost pick up the pencil, but not actually picking it up, because I wasn’t picking up the pencil, I was “trying to pick up the pencil”. I then had K again, “try to pick up the pencil”. She enjoyed very much taking on the comical role of the “Tryer”. I then told K, “NOW, PICK UP THE PENCIL.” She grasped the pencil ever so quickly and was greatly pleased at the results of it being so much easier to achieve.
I was amazed at how quickly she chose her animal immediately following this exercise. K chose a cheetah to represent a nerve pulse to her feet. I then had K step first person into the cheetah, and make her starting place her cerebellum. We asked ourselves, “What would be something compelling to get the cheetah to run super fast to get to it?” K decided that the smell of raw meat would do the trick
We worked with he right leg first. My reasoning for this was that there was a slight codependency, so to speak, of the left leg to the right leg. If you recall, the left leg would not move without the right leg moving as well. If we were able to get the message to the right leg first, the left leg would follow more easily. We had her right leg flex and decide it wanted to move, and imagined the foot sending the signal to her brain. When it was received by the brain, we allowed the brain to decide in what way it wanted to communicate to the foot how to move. K’s brain already knew how to walk–she had spent 13 years observing other people walking, and had dreamed of herself walking. We decided that the only thing stopping K, was that the legs were not receiving the information that was stored in her brain. Once her brain had decided which information was appropriate to send to her right leg, we passed the information on to the cheetah, and opened the gate to the path. It smelled the raw meat, and took off in a bounding sprint along the path. The cheetah ran into a fairly large tree trunk, in the thigh just above the knee. We then paused, and stepped back into our own shoes for a moment. The cheetah could not see the meat beyond the tree, but it could smell it. The tree had no sound and felt massive. K needed to figure out what were some of the possible ways the cheetah could get around the tree trunk. Being very creative, she came up with several possibilities. The first option was to knock over the tree. “Thunk, ouch!” Nope,–it’s too big for that. Second option: use its claws and climb up the tree, find a narrower portion of the tree, and climb around it to get to the meat. Nope, it was still too big, and the cheetah had to climb too high. OK–third option: cheetah was pissed, and decided he wanted the meat so badly he would just claw half of the tree out of the way so he could get to the meat. This one worked. The cheetah was now chowing down on a dead zebra. The cheetah looked behind himself and noticed that the entire tree was gone.
Now the question was: How do we get the cheetah to want to get to the foot? Hmmm, K thought, “What is more compelling to a cheetah than raw meat?” K decided that at the bottom of her feet she would place a meadow in which there were female cheetahs in heat, with big eyelashes and wearing lipstick. They would be wagging their tails appealingly, and saying–with kind of a May West attitude–“Com’on, big boy!”. (Pretty creative kid, huh!) The second the cheetah saw those hotty girl cheetahs down there, it zoomed to K’s feet as fast as it could, and held tails with the girl cheetah saying, “Oooohhh, baby,” all along the way.
Now that the path was clearly marked, I asked K, (who was giggling her brains out) to kick her foot out as fast and as hard as she liked. K, still sitting, was able to kick her foot hard, as if kicking a ball. She could fully extend her right leg and then cock it back quickly and kick again and again. She demonstrated smooth, effective, quick movements and reflexes. We did this repeatedly, and had the left leg observe. Next, we created another male cheetah for the left leg. Again, allowing the leg to decide that it wanted to kick, imagining sending the signal to the brain, and allowing the brain to decide which information was appropriate to send back to the leg and foot. Note: The left leg was still not operating independently of the right leg.
We opened the gate and released the cheetah, who smelled raw meat. The cheetah again ran into a tree around K’s thigh area. This tree was skinny and frail. The cheetah could squeeze its face through a small gap next to the tree and see the dead zebra waiting to be eaten on the other side. The cheetah decided right away that given its size and speed, and considering Newton’s law, it could easily knock down the tree by ramming it. So, the cheetah backed up and ran into the tree at 60 mph, demolishing it. He then began eating the zebra. He looked up for a second when he heard, “Com’on, big boy.” When he saw the hotty girl cheetah in heat, wagging her tail, and seductively blinking her long eyelashes, he zoomed to the meadow at K’s feet saying, “OOOOOOHHHH, baby.”
Giggling, K decided on her own, to kick with her left foot. She was able to kick a hard, fully extended kick with her left leg and foot, independent of the right leg. She cocked her leg back and kick again and again, with strength, smoothness and quick reflexes. I then had her kick both legs at the same time. Then kick one leg at a time. Then kick each leg repeatedly and quickly, while alternating from right to left.
She immediately imagined herself running, and said her legs just want to RUN! It was instantaneous, and it was awesome!! We decided we would walk on her crutches outside and find just the right spot to walk without them. We chose a semi-flat area with grass and trees, since one of K’s outcomes was to run in the park and climb a tree. When we found just the right spot, we asked her legs if this is where they would like to walk for the first time. The response was an excited YES! Standing next to K, I placed my arm around her waist, and had her hand me her crutches, allowing her to support her weight on me. I had her mom stand at a distance of arms-length from K, to assist her with balance. Knowing that K’s most looked-up to person is the character Dana Scully from The X-Files, I asked K, “How would Dana Scully stand right now?” She immediately adjusted her posture from a slump to the proud stance of a woman with power and confidence. I then realized that she was still holding her weight in her torso, and gave her feedback. She adjusted by imagining how a skier holds their weight, and bounced flexibly with her weight on her thigh muscles, as if she were going over a mogul.
We then imagined we were like Forest Gump, when he ran for the first time and his braces fell off. I threw her crutches away, one at a time, with added sound effects and exaggerated motions. I asked, “Are you ready?” She excitedly and congruently said, “Yup.” I said, “OK, lets do it!” I then guided her in her first steps. After two steps, I gradually released my arm from her waist, and let her go. Let me tell you, SHE WENT! She took two steps on her own, and started to lose her balance. Her mom guided her safely. She was BEAMING! She said, “MOM, I did it! I’ve never done this in my life, and I DID IT.”
She was ecstatic and she wanted to do more. We again helped her achieve her balance, and let her go. She took three steps! And then four! For the next 15 minutes, she did nothing but excitedly walk in circles. It was as if she couldn’t keep up with her feet. She was correct-her legs did want to run! It was like 13 years of energy bursting through, all at once. She fell only one time. Her mom worriedly asked her, “Is it still safe?” I’ll never forget her response. She said, “MOM! IT’S JUST GRASS!” She was so excited, the only thing she wanted was for mom to pick her up so she could walk again.
When I first began working with K, I asked her what she might look like when she walked? She couldn’t imagine herself walking. At the end of our first intervention, she had set her goal for walking by December 31, 1999, so that she could walk into the new Millennium. When we came back into the house and sat down for a moment, I asked K, “So, what do you think about walking now?” She said, “It’s done, did it, 100%. I can’t wait to go hiking with my Dad!”
I have to tell you, as a human being, this definitely fits into the category of the top experiences of my life. I can only imagine how Christ must have felt the first time he gave a blind man sight in an instant. In my life, and my work, when I am presented with challenging interventions like K’s, I am often reminded of something I learned in Sunday school as a little child. I live every day of my life with the strength of this simple parable that Jesus said, “With the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.”