What became the Brain Gym program began when Paul Dennison took John Thie’s Touch for Health training around 1970. Dennison worked as a public school teacher and reading specialist in the 1960s, researching more effective ways to help children and adults with learning difficulties. He worked in East Los Angeles with the innovative educator Dr. Constance Amsden, Director of the Malabar Reading Project for Mexican-American Students, which focused on the development of individual sensory modalities (visual, auditory, and tactile skills) for reading instruction. In the early 1970s, Dennison observed how challenged readers at his learning centers had less access to whole-body movement and postural awareness than more adept readers. He realized how some learners used one-sided motions (such as handwriting) at the expense of the non-dominant side, rather than in coordination with it. Seeing how even successful classroom learners were often tense from relying on primarily one-sided motions, he sought simple ways to teach both coordination and differentiation of movement in the classroom.
In 1975, at the University of Southern California, Paul received the Phi Delta Kappa award for Outstanding Research; he was granted a Doctorate in Education for his research in beginning reading achievement and its relationship to cognitive development and silent speech (thinking) skills.
Initially Dennison used Touch for Health muscle testing to assess sensory and neurological stress. Later his familiarity with research from behavioral optometry and sensorimotor training showed the effects of movement upon learning ” . . . led him to extrapolate this information into quick, simple, task-specific movements.” These movement “solutions” became Brain Gym.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Dennison began a teaching and writing partnership with Gail Hargrove, later to become Gail Dennison. They call their field of study, which they founded during this period, “Educational Kinesiology” (Edu-K). They define Edu-K as “learning through movement”.