‘A Life Unbound’ Sparks a Movement of Hope
When Katie Morrell’s daughter Avery was born, she was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Medical professionals delivered the somber news to Morrell, with the outline of a future that didn’t appear to be bright.
“Right away, the doctors told us a really grim prognosis,” said Morrell, an Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement practitioner based at Louisville Family Center.
“I knew in my heart that there was something better for her.”
After going the traditional route of therapies, Morrell went on a search that would lead her to a relatively unknown, innovative practice that would not only transform her daughter’s health, but also send Morrell on a rewarding career path. With the monetary help of family and fundraising efforts, Morrell and Avery traveled to the Anat Baniel Method Center in Marin County, California. In a matter of sessions, significant progress for Avery started to surface. At age 3, Avery was just learning how to crawl, but with the help of ABM she began to plant her feet on the ground, stand and eventually walk. Years later, with continued treatment, she has mastered moves in ballet class.
“In traditional therapy, she was making little gains, but I could definitely see an end point to her progress,” said Morrell. “I wish I had known about ABM when my daughter was in the NICU.”
Created by Anat Baniel, a dancer, psychologist and student of the Feldenkrais Method — which helps with range of motion, flexibility and coordination — ABM is a holistic approach that aims to improve the brain and the body through movement. The cutting-edge treatment views movement as the language of the brain. The advanced approach helps upgrade the functioning of the brain that can organize better thinking, feeling, emotion, movement and action.
Last week, Morrell hosted a screening of “A Life Unbound,” at the Nomad Playhouse. The documentary, by Geordie Trifa, follows a former NFL cheerleader and a young boy, both with traumatic brain injuries, as they navigate their lives with the help of ABM. Showcasing journeys of healing, with end results surpassing expectations, the 53-minute film lights up the screen with its messages of hope, resilience and medical breakthroughs.
Morrell’s daughter’s progress is also tracked in the film, as the 8-year-old makes several cameos. After credits roll, Morrell will lead a Q&A where she will further explain the ground-breaking method and the work she offers local families.
Morrell treats everyone from children with special needs to adults who have suffered strokes. Working one-on-one with clients to form a therapeutic “playlist” suited for their specific needs, Morrell continues to welcome folks to her table in order to improve their emotional, physical and cognitive abilities.
“All work is geared towards helping the brain create new neural connections and pathways,” said Morrell. “It’s about working with the whole nervous system. If you start moving better, you’ll start thinking better across the board.”
Past career endeavors for Morrell included event planning and real estate, but it’s her role as an ABM NeuroMovement practitioner that her friends and family believe she was “born to do.”
“I’m so thankful everyday,” said Morrell. “I’m just in awe of what their brains are doing. Every little change is just as important. Without all those small changes, that fabric, those small neurological processes, they can’t get to the big change. Seeing them move in a little way, that they couldn’t moments earlier, is truly amazing.”
From a woman who suffered multiple concussions who now is able to climb the stairs at Red Rocks without the onset of severe vertigo, to a toddler whose brain injury prevented him from being mobile and is now propelling himself up to stand, Morrell’s clients consistently show vast improvement.
“Being a parent of a special-needs child and doing this work, there’s a whole other connection I have to the parents,” said Morrell. “We can offer a nice bit of support to one another. Having a special-needs child has helped me be a better practitioner. I understand the layers — the years of worry, the PTSD, ultimately it’s the one thing that connects us. It’s an instant bond.”
While current health insurance doesn’t cover ABM, it is Morrell’s hope that word on this life-changing treatment will continue to spread, resulting in the medical world taking note. Dr. Martha Herbert, author of “The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All it Can Be” and revered pediatric neurologist, has conducted significant research on the practice that will eventually be released.
ABM has also been shown to help reverse the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in certain individuals.
“The beautiful thing is that there are so many possibilities,” said Morrell. “The brain has an incredible ability to change. It’s all about movement, adding variation. The sky is the limit.”
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, firstname.lastname@example.org .