Twenty years ago, Roberta Scherf embarked on a mission to help her daughter, Rowan, who had been diagnosed with autism. Through determination and persistent research, Scherf discovered that a simple exercise of calming arm movements set to music profoundly helped her daughter. That discovery led the Scherf family to create MeMoves, a DVD or digital download of music and visual movements for users, and to establish the company, ThinkingMoves, in 2006. Today, MeMoves is helping thousands of people around the world feel calm and focused.
“[MeMoves] recalibrates the nervous system for the user in a way that allows them to respond to their environment in a more rational way,” says Chris Bye, president of ThinkingMoves. As a result, the program helps minimize anxiety, depression and negative behaviors for people of all ages with various challenges, and not solely autism.
“One of our challenges is that people think it’s too simple,” Bye says. “It’s like nothing they’ve seen. We’re actually redefining how professionals deal with behavioral and emotional challenges. Once you start using it, its effects are profound and immediate.”
In addition to the immediate calming effects, after four to six weeks of regular use of the two-to-three minute sequences once or twice a day, users exhibit increased speech and language, eye contact, imitative behavior and gesturing, and collaborative behavior, as well as a decrease in negative behaviors.
Those who are using the system regularly agree it is changing lives. “I’ll admit I was very skeptical,” says Lisa Pussilo, an educator in Mercer County Special Services School District in Trenton, N.J. Pussilo works in a special education classroom with high-functioning children who struggle with autism, ADD/ADHD and emotional challenges. MeMoves has helped several of her students who are prone to high anxiety and explosive meltdowns. “I’m astounded. Out of all of the teaching tools and strategies that I have, there is nothing that I can do to help that has been more effective.”
MeMoves is currently being used in approximately 3,500 school districts throughout the country, including the Stillwater, Hudson and River Falls districts. “It is also used in many homes, clinics, therapy centers and hospitals,” says Bye. “The thing is, it is still just Roberta and me [working at ThinkingMoves.] We don’t have a sales force. The reason it has grown is because everywhere it’s used, it works.”
MeMoves is also undergoing clinical trials at the Minneapolis Veteran’s Administration Hospital, in conjunction with the Geriatric Research and Education Center and Defense Veterans Brain Injury Center, to measure MeMoves’ efficacy in addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s/dementia, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and trauma due to near blast exposure. MeMoves is also being used to address chronic pain challenges, and Scherf and Bye are working with families with adopted or foster children challenged with trauma and attachment issues.
“You have kids and adults who have gone through so much in their lives that they’re in a really high-anxiety, nervous and angry state,” Scherf says. “Now, they’re able to feel what it’s like to be calm and quiet for the first time.”