Vale Barbara Pheloung – Move to Learn

The way you measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Kidz Newz no. 140 – 9th March 2015

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Vale Barbara Pheloung – Move to Learn

It was with great sadness (and shock!) that I read of the passing this week of the legendary Barbara Pheloung. Being a long-time supporter of Move to Learn which Barbara initiated, a few years ago I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a 6-day training program on the Move to Learn methodology held in Fiji. It was conducted by Paediatric OT, Veronica Steer, and overseen by Barbara herself. At the end of each day, we all adjourned to the bar and enjoyed a glass of red and a natter with Barbara before dinner. She was always the genial host. Most training days finished around 1.00 or 2.00 pm so after lunch, we had the afternoon free. One day some other attendees and I went out on a motor-boat with Barbara so we could go snorkelling. I have vivid memories of Barbara diving over the side of the boat and later clambering back on board like a teenager! She was in her eighties then! Fond memories indeed.

Barbara was decades ahead of her time. She knew about learning difficulties long before the term had even been invented. Her interest was piqued while as a mature-age student at university studying remedial education, the lecturer started talking about LD as a concept. She felt as though he had been talking about her daughter who, as a youngster, and to some extent even later, displayed all the traits he mentioned.

Nobody had ever picked up why her daughter struggled at school, despite being very bright. Now the light was starting to switch on for Barbara, and from then on it became her life-long mission to help other parents of LD children, so that at least they would be able to be helped.

Traditionally, when a child appears clumsy, or day-dreams, is hyper-active or doesn’t appear to hear what is being said, along with many other symptoms, the child will be scolded, then the parent called in and finally the child is tested variously by the school psychologist, an audiologist, a paediatrician, an optometrist and of course by the class teacher. Usually all these tests turn up nothing. Everything appears to be normal. And so it was with Barbara’s child and many like her. To this day, this is often the case. But these days we have Ritalin! (Don’t get me started on that little chestnut!)

What Barbara discovered is that there are so many other factors that are usually overlooked when a child displays LD traits that are actually the root of the problems, and in many cases these symptoms can be addressed through specific movements, music therapy, sound therapy, dietary intervention, chiropractic adjustments and other treatments. For example, a teacher may suspect a child has vision or hearing problems and recommends the parent send the child for testing. The parent panics, but is relieved to find the results show a negative – nothing wrong. Everything is normal. The teacher, however, is left feeling like a total dill. (It is important to remember that parents always blame themselves if their child is not behaving absolutely ‘normally’ as they feel this reflects badly on them somehow. For this reason it is always important to reassure parents and not get them off-side. Your intervention is because of concern for the child, not an implied criticism of the parent’s parenting style.) The child who goes in for auditory or vision testing may well have perfect sight and hearing but have a serious perception problem, that is, the messages are not being transmitted properly and processed properly by the brain. That is why superficial testing and leaving it at that can often do more harm than good.

Perhaps the child has retained primitive reflexes, or allergies or food and chemical sensitivities? And so the list goes on. It is easy to see why the busy teacher and overly-sensitive parent fail to correctly work out what could be wrong with the child. It is all too easy to dismiss what appear to be minor inconsistencies as simply, ‘that’s just the way he/she is’, thus dismissing the symptoms. Well-meaning professionals who can’t identify the problem often tell the parent that the child will simply ‘grow out of it’. Usually they don’t, without intervention, but they become expert at avoiding potentially embarrassing situations or hiding their symptoms.

If you have children in your midst that you suspect could have LD, please do persist if initial tests prove negative. I have sent parents off to paediatric OTs for assessment where their movement was not where it should be, only to find the parent initially offended (of course) but then astounded that their child did have quite severe problems. ‘But the teacher didn’t pick it up’, is usually their surprised reaction. I tell them that movement and health are my areas of expertise and I deal with a small number of children (my classes had a maximum of 8) whereas a teacher is not necessarily a specialist but a generalist and has much bigger class sizes (at least 16). It would be surprising, therefore, if a teacher did pick up a movement dysfunction. A teacher, however, will pick up when a child is not at the same level in classroom activities. Usually the two are connected.

There are wonderful organisations now, such as SPELD, that deal with LD, as well as some wonderful practitioners in a variety of fields who can help. The point is, there is seldom one single cause and one single treatment. A variety of approaches is needed.

If you are interested in learning more about this vital area, please get in touch with me directly ( for some excellent books written by Barbara Pheloung which I’m happy to heavily discount, in memory of her and her wonderful legacy. These specials will not appear on my website.

Help Your Child to Learn – RRP $29.50 – now $15.00

Help Your Class to Learn – RRP $29.50 – now $15.00

School Floors – RRP $39.95 – now $20.00

Additionally, go to the Move to Learn website if you’d like to learn more, at

Quotes of the Week

You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.
– Babe Ruth

Wait for a miracle and it will never come. Take responsibility and you’ll invite a miracle.
– Laura Berman Fortgang

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.
– Tom Brokaw


“I have your scarf DVD and book. I love it!!!!!”
BAVCEVIC Katarina, Port Hedland, WA

What was the most useful thing you learned today?

Meshing music with stories.
Dance and movement ideas.
To be comfortable with gentle music, we don’t need our voices always.
How to make classical music interesting and imaginative.
Some classroom management strategies (e.g. wake up fairy)
Use of classical music incorporating movement.


Special Observations on Life ..

  1. I live in my own little world but it’s OK, everyone knows me here.
  2. I don’t do drugs ’cause I find I get the same effect just by standing up really fast.
  3. A sign In a Chinese Pet Store: ‘Buy one dog, get one flea’.
  4. Money can’t buy happiness but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  5. I got a sweater for Christmas. I really wanted a screamer or a moaner.
  6. If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the ‘terminal’?
  7. I don’t approve of political jokes. I’ve seen too many of them get elected.
  8. The most precious thing we have is life, yet it has absolutely no trade-in value.
  9. If life deals you lemons, make lemonade; if it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Mary’s.
  10. I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
  11. Shopping tip: You can get shoes for $3 at bowling alleys.
  12. Every day I beat my own previous record for number of consecutive days I’ve stayed alive.
  13. No one ever says, “It’s only a game!” when their team is winning.
  14. Ever notice that people who spend money on beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets, are always complaining about being broke and not feeling well?
  15. How long a minute is, depends on what side of the bathroom door you’re on.
  16. Isn’t having a smoking section in a restaurant like having a peeing section in a swimming pool?
  17. Marriage changes passion…suddenly you’re in bed with a relative.
  18. Why is it that most nudists are people you don’t want to see naked?

From Dennis Moore’s newsletter ‘The Circus of Life’ June 2010 (

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9355 4890 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

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Until next time … continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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