Essential play for children with anxiety

A new Bootcamp for children with anxiety that started at The Vyne in Knaphill moves to Bisley School in the first week of May. Run by Lesley Ann Penistone, who is trained in a neurodevelopmental movement  therapy, and retained primitive reflex therapy to stimulate the brain, Challenges Bootcamp is fun and is really having some amazing effects on the children. ‘It’s truly heart warming watching the children gain self confidence, allowing themselves to smile and even laugh.’ Lesley Ann told The Knaphillian

Play is an essential part of every child’s life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. state: Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in society.  Facing daily discrimination in the form of negative attitudes, lack of adequate policies and legislation, they are effectively barred from realising their rights to healthcare, education and even survival.

Lesley Ann also runs a ‘one-to-one’ clinic in Bisley carrying out therapies with the child and parent or care giver, showing how the neurodevelopmental movements should be done. Sessions last one hour, where retained reflexes are checked and movements are shown to the parent and the child. The child then tells us which ones he or she prefers and then during the following month the movements are done regularly, working up to daily. Check-ins are done as often as needed during the next month in between appointments. Completion times are different for each client, ‘But’, says Lesley Ann, ‘I am really pleased to share that existing clients have reported back advising me that after just one session, changes have been noted for the better.

‘As long as positive changes are occurring, eg., being able to pay attention for longer, handwriting becoming easier to read, self-confidence is on the up, I will carry on with you until you feel that my job is done.’

The therapy is made up of easy, gentle rocking movements to integrate primitive and postural reflexes, done regularly these can help reduce the impact of ADD/ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, PTSD, speech and language delay, cerebral palsy, anxiety and stress… without medication.

The group sessions that are held in Bisley on Sundays and Frimley on a Thursday, offer an hour of fun for children who have anxiety and/or extra needs… this is like a boot camp/sports day but non-competitive and non-judgmental. Sessions are based on the need of the child and who they would fit in alongside. ‘It is a fun, relaxing and enjoyable place to feel free to express whilst learning.’ says Lesley Ann, who also recommends parents should stay to make friends with other parents.

Asked by The Knaphillian why the move has been made from Knaphill to Bisley, Lesley Ann replied, ‘The children that have been coming to the Vyne needed to have some more challenging areas to play, hence the move. The Vyne have asked me to return at any time assuming availability, so I hope to do this in the future.’

Lesley Ann also runs a seated or standing Exercise&Socialise group in Pirbright. ‘I work with a Knaphillian called Lou Rose. She is a well known and respected Pilates and yoga teacher and works with all ages and abilities. Her yoga and Pilates background works well with my neurodevelopmental movement therapy. 

‘Following the 45 minutes seated exercise programme, we all have a natter over a cup of tea and biscuits. The combination works well and it is really wonderful to watch people make new friends.’  Classes are held at 2pm on Tuesdays in Pirbright and a new session is planned for Fridays at 2pm at the Generation Centre in Goldsworth Park.

The Knaphillian Asked Lesley Ann about her background and how she came to be running her businesses in these valuable therapeutic areas:

The Knaphillian (TK):  What did you want to do when you were at school?

Lesley Ann:  I had always planned at being a nurse but sometimes life progresses and you just get carried along!

TK:  What other jobs have you had?

Lesley Ann:  I also did a short stint of caring for the elderly in their own homes. A couple of chaps used to be so excited when they went out and it was a shoes day and not a slippers day. They used to go to an exercise class for an hour and then left. So this was the motivation behind the Exercise&Socialise classes. We finish the exercises then stay for tea afterwards. My group love it. 

TK:  How did you come to train as a neurodevelopmental movement specialist?

Lesley Ann: I worked for the Halifax for 31 years and after taking voluntary redundancy,  trained in Rhythmic Movement with Rhythmic Movement Training International. Gaynor Ralls from Knaphill was the one who taught me the therapy. Through my own family’s experiences, I was made aware that movement is essential to childhood development. Rhythmic movement is a movement therapy that works on retained primitive reflexes with a neurodevelopmental movement programme. 

TK:  Who are the people that inspire you?

Lesley Ann: Those that go against all odds and achieve their goal. The children that struggle in their childhood, who combat their overwhelm and go on to lead the life they deserve. Not only these children but the supportive parents too who work tirelessly helping their children. Those who never expected such hardship in bringing up their children. 

The best part of the Rhythmic Movement Training therapy is seeing how the client progresses over a period of time. The therapy takes around 5 minutes a day. I teach the parent how to do the rhythmical, rocking movements on the child. They help build neural pathways in the brain and help the central nervous system. Neuroplasticity has helped us all come such a long way.

TK:  How did Challenges Bootcamp and your clinic in Bisley start?

Lesley Ann: I was very fortunate enough to be offered voluntary redundancy. I got in touch with a consultant at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and asked how I could get involved working with children who were suffering with anxiety and other diagnoses and also their families. The answer was to go to university.  

Then I heard about Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) and the theory behind it and I realised how much sense it made. There are movements that the embryo makes called primitive reflexes that emerge six weeks in the womb after conception. They are movements that are designed to protect the embryo in the womb with feeding and movement in general as it’s movement that builds muscle tone. These reflexes or movements help with the baby being born and coping with going from a waterborne environment in the womb to living on land, breathing in air. Bearing in mind that whilst the brain is perfectly formed it’s not yet developed sufficiently to cope with this transition.  It’s when these reflexes don’t emerge or become stuck and don’t do their job, problems in childhood development can occur.  I have now qualified in all aspects of RMT together with some other educational movement therapies, can put a plan together to help the child who struggles with anxiety, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, bed wetting etc. 

I always wanted to run a happy place for families to come along, where everyone could relax and there’s no judgement.  Whilst Rhythmic Movement Training is a therapy taught for a clinic, I added the availability of the group session too. Each activity, whilst fun, has been chosen specifically for development too. 

I am now working on finding venues to hold Challenges Bootcamp during the six week holidays. Parents in Berkshire and Hampshire have asked for sessions there so this is all work in progress.

TK:  What is the one piece of advice you would offer your younger self, knowing what you now know?

Lesley Ann:  That life isn’t typical and generally adds twists and turns when you’re not expecting them. Who’d have thought I’d be doing this now?

TK:  What do you like to do on your days off?

Lesley Ann:  LOL… what days off! I have a golden retriever called Cookie, she’s nearly 13 and the centre of our family. So a car ride to somewhere different with her in the back for a lovely walk is one thing I do. I like exploring different villages and towns and meeting up with friends. I’ve just moved house too so lots of improvements planned. 

Contact Lesley Ann on 07540 139602, or email

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