The Padovan method: a method of neurofunctional reorganization

Neurofunctional reorganization (NFR) or the Padovan® method takes into account human development globally and stresses the interdependence of three basic steps: walking, talking, and thinking. Each of these steps is necessary for the harmonious development of the individual. Thus, a delay or disorder (language, motor, articulation, learning, etc.) reflects a dysfunctional and compensatory organization of the nervous system that prevents the individual from optimally developing their skills in motor, sensory, cognitive and social aspects.

Historical point of view

This method was created in the 1970s by Beatriz Padovan, teacher and speech therapist in Brazil. Mrs. Padovan became interested in the relationship between learning difficulties and other difficulties, such as body language or motor coordination.

This method is mainly based on the theory of the interrelationship between walking, speaking and thinking of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner as well as the work of the neurosurgeon Temple Fay, who demonstrated that neurological organization of development was the same for all children.

Famous writers such as Jean Piaget, and many current researchers such as J.M. Iverson (2010), D. Grissmer et al. (2010), A. Diamon (2000), K.E. Adolph (2005,2008), A.J. Fawcett et R. Nicolson (1999), M.A. Ecket (2003), 2004) came to a consensus and confirmed that the development of the higher functions of the nervous system is dependent on the motor functions.
Today, this method is shared by practitioners worldwide: each year, university students carry out research papers on this method so that it is always updated.

Theoretical point of view

The brain and the nervous system are central components of the human being and develop in a natural, dynamic and complex process that leads to the neurological maturation. This neurological development allows the individual to fully use their following capacities: motor, cognitive, sensory, social, behavioural, etc.
But this maturation may be altered by various factors and lead to compensational imbalances that may hinder primary learning and basic skills. These primary learning and basic skills point to the following three neuro-evolutionary movements: walking, talking, thinking.

However, a dysfunction is not a life sentence. Indeed, thanks to the neurofunctional reorganization, it is possible to contribute to a more functional organization of the nervous system to promote the development of natural capacities in humans. It is up to the therapist to undo what has been naturally created by the individual and allow the brain to install patterns conducive to harmonious development.

This reorganization is possible due to the plasticity phenomenon of the brain that occurs throughout life and is responsible for the organization of the fine sensory and motor area of the brain as well as the learning and memorization areas in children and adults. It is most effective during the developmental period, but is still effective for adults.

Major human neuro-evolutive movements

The NFR is based on three interrelated human activities: walking, talking, and thinking. Chronologically, development occurs in this order. If the first step, walking, is not properly put into place, it is likely that the following steps will be unbalanced or dysfunctional. Indeed, these three major neuro-evolutive movements are linked: the motor and sensory basis of walking creates the neurological basis of speech and thinking.

The path is explained as follows:

  • Walking is not only about movement. The development of walking allows us to situate our bodies in space, to find our balance, to overcome gravity, to mobilize various segments of the body (legs, arms, head) in a coordinated manner or to separate jumping, writing, manipulating, dancing, etc. However, to complete such activities, the child will need to go through various essential stages: rolling over, crawling, walking on all fours, etc.
  • Speaking, or moving from gross motor to fine skills. This is the result of gross motor development of a child and their ability to not only orient themselves in space, but also in a smaller space; that of the facial area mobilizing various “stages” needed for speaking (diaphragm, larynx, jaw, tongue, check, lips, resonant cavities, articulation points, etc.) Here again, different steps precede speaking such as, screaming, first cries, babbling, unstructured expression, and then the structured language.
  • Thinking is also imagining, creating, symbolizing, reasoning, and may be abstract. Thinking develops as a part of language, then the two phenomena, language and thinking, complement one another: speaking reflects thinking, but thinking is constructed by speaking. The child has to go through different phases of structuring thinking and it is essential to ensure that these phases are implemented: imaging, creating, observing, deducting, judging.

These three activities are the foundation for the normal development of an individual. The Padovan® method repeats each of these steps and ensures that their connections are taken into account and respected to achieve the desired harmony. This is a natural and physiological method which respects the logical sequence of human development and the benefits of which are recognized today.

Practical point of view

A series of global and fine motor movements associated with a series of oral-facial and eye movements are repeated at each session according to the logical, normal development of an individual. The repetition of these stimuli is necessary for the proper formation of connections between each neuron to create functional networks. These movements are passive and are executed by the therapist onto the client. A minimum frequency of twice a week is recommended to allow the brain to register the new movements and deprogram previous compensations.

Each exercise is accompanied by a poem, a song or a rhyme recited by the therapist. The poem aims to materialize the rhythm that is in the human body (heart rate, breathing, blinking, etc…) and aims to pervade the individual and his nervous system. In addition, hearing and language stimulation allows the integration of syntactic and lexical structures, but also enables the patient to think of something else and to relax during the execution of movements.

The duration of the treatment varies from one patient to another and from one problem to another. The minimum duration of treatment is three months with two-therapy sessions per week.

Finally, it is important to clarify that the body will react differently to interventions from one individual to another. The changes observed are not necessarily directly related to the initial reason for consultation, but other areas of development may change before reaching the expected goal.

Depending on the nature of the disorders, the results and effects of the neurofunctional reorganization procedure are different: in the case of autism spectrum disorder, we can see the emergence of various precursors of language and communication (eye contact, babbling, imitation, sensory regulation, etc.). In the case of disorders of language or learning, we can see better attention-paying skills, an improvement in decoding while reading and in understanding, improved morphosynatic and lexical skills, etc.

It is important to understand that the observed effects of intervention depends on several factors. In simplified terms, these factors would mainly be the initial level of motor and sensory organization of the individual and the nature of the disorder that hinders the development of motor, sensory and cognitive functions.

Should I consult?

The Padovan® method addresses a range of people of all ages (from babies of six months to the elderly), since it allows a neurofunctional reorganization by working on different levels of neurological treatments essential to the development and sustainability of the human capacity to walk-talk-think. It may be offered to children and adults who consult in speech or occupational therapy for different reasons.
For more information, contact us or consult your therapist.

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Méthode Padovan