MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For our Minnesotan to Meet this week we cross the border to Wisconsin — Hudson, Wisconsin to be exact.
Twin Cities native Roberta Scherf founded Thinking Moves as a result of her experience with PTSD, and raising a child on the autism spectrum. It’s how she’s having an impact in schools across the country that makes her a Minnesotan to Meet.
When she was pregnant with her now grown son, Roberta Scherf’s life was changed forever.
“We survived an unsurvivabale fire in the middle of winter in Wisconsin. I knew how lucky we were, but I never felt safe,” said Roberta Scherf as she recounted the moments of that horrific night.
Seven months pregnant, Scherf and her husband walked a quarter mile to their nearest neighbor’s home. Scherf said since that day she’s never been the same.
“After that, you can’t say to someone ‘don’t be depressed, don’t be anxious’, you can’t override that you need to do something different,” she said as she recalled how different she felt after that night.
Then, after the birth of her daughter, Rowan, who has autism, she immersed herself in neuroscience research. In 2006, she founded Thinking Moves with her business partner Chris Bye.
Then in 2010 came MeMoves, a patented sensorimotor program.
Link: Science Behind MeMoves
The program uses music, patterns, emotion and movement in a unique way.
“It’s a very simple self-regulation system essentially it helps you to manage your nervous system, how you feel, how you act,” Scherf said.
She tested it out on her daughter for five minutes in the morning and at night. Scherf saw an immediate change in daughter Rowan, including increasing in her reading level comprehension.
“The changes in my daughter were overwhelming and that’s why we felt we had to really do something,” said Scherf.
The programs has now been implemented in 5,000 school districts across Canada and the United States.
That includes St. Paul Schools, where according to Scherf after 6 weeks of using the program the district saw a 58 percent reduction in off-task behavior.
“What we have found is people feel an immediate change in terms of feeling calmer, alert, more attentive, but overnight we will see changes where it might not even be present imitated behavior, eye contact,” she said.
Scherf hopes that MeMoves not only brings calmness to classrooms but also gives others perspective.
“We can work together as a community and build each other up,” said Scherf. “So many kids that we work with go to school in this state a fight or flight, panic stricken not able to relax and part of that is they come from these traumatized situation . They’re used to having tell them what to do where to go. We’ve heard from a lot of teachers and therapists those faces are the only faces that look at them in a non-demanding way.”
“I have been an Occupational Therapist for 38 years. I have worked with people of various abilities and disabilities, ranging in age from 3 months to 101 years…. I have not seen anything like this in all my years of work,” Sharon Gregoire, Occupational Therapist at Edina high school, said about MeMoves.