(WASHINGTON) -- Roberta Scherf has figured out how to bottle lightning. She's cracked a puzzle that has challenged countless parents and teachers over the years -- how to calm down children.
Her secret is a remarkable combination of hand movements set to soothing music, which she has packaged onto a DVD set that is now quickly growing in popularity across the country. She calls the technique "MeMoves."
Scherf developed the program after struggling to communicate with her young autistic daughter. She noticed that repetitive movements and soft singing helped her child to improve her attention span and relate to others, and she thought the technique might help other parents.
"My daughter struggled with communication, with social interaction, with being overwhelmed and frustrated," said Scherf. "I needed to find a way to help her to sort-of navigate through the world more easily."
The program has made a difference for mainstream children as well as those struggling with autism. Since being formally introduced in Jan. 2010, the MeMoves DVD has been adopted in hundreds of classrooms across the country, propelled by word of mouth. The program is now also available through an iPhone application.
One case study "showed a significant change in brain waves in a very young, severely autistic child, as well as changes in behavior," Scherf said, adding that other indications suggest that "within a normal, mainstream second-grade classroom, 70 percent decrease in off-task behavior."
So what's the secret to this seemingly magical program?
"You're not just looking or watching. You're seeing. And you're not just hearing, you're listening. And at the same time that you're moving, your brain is also thinking about the next movements that you're planning to do." Scherf said.
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